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    Feb 19th, 2017 at 21:38:35     -    The Talos Principle (PC)

    I've reached a crossroads of sorts. I've become immersed enough in the game world of The Talos Principle that I now have to decide which approach I want to take to continuing to play it. Do I continue to attempt to do things "in the wrong order" (which I've played far enough that I do believe the designers have done a good job of making sure the system isn't abused by picking and choosing puzzles) or do I try to walk the completionist route that I usually tend towards? Decisions, decisions. My main concern being that I don't know if there are branching endings or whatever based on how far through the tower you progress, or based on whether you do everything except the tower, etc, etc. Right now I'm leaning towards continuing to try to "jump to the end" by focusing on the tower and only doing other puzzles as they're needed to ascend. But I haven't decided for certain.

    And gold stars are definitely a number one priority. Because I'm a sucker for extras and I really want to see where those lead. I have the one from A2, but that's it so far. Current puzzle solving status: All of A1 except the star, one puzzle from A2 plus star, and one puzzle from A6. Which is exactly enough to grant access to the A elevator that leads to B, C and the Tower.

    As for ethics/story/so forth, the various computer logs you find are fascinating to me. I absolute love this format of storytelling, where instead of progressing through a linear or branching narrative, you're exploring a space the contains the narrative within it. Gone Home did an excellent job of doing this in a way that made you explore linearly, but it looks like The Talos Principle opens up much more freedom. Not infinitely, of course, I will still have to do much of World A before I can look at B or C or the Tower, and so on, but as a storytelling format I do love it.

    As for what "the story" is so far? Still a little hard to tell. I'm now convinced the little graphical things I saw out of the corner of my eye were completely intentional now that I've had a few happen right in front of my face. Clearly the protagonist exists within a virtual space. That virtual space presumably being the product of IAN, and based on records said product possibly being in anticipation of the end of days. Perhaps humanity faced a crisis they couldn't get out of, so sought to digitize themselves to live forever. Or perhaps they were trying to create a virtual space smart enough to create a solution. Or perhaps they were simply trying to store all the knowledge they could before their extinction, in the hopes that life to come would find use of the knowledge and records. As for Elohim himself, based on what I've found he could either be HIM, an AI watching over everything, or a bug in the code that has persisted and grown and managed to take things over.

    Either way, it raises the question of "is he actually deity within the definitions of this virtual space?" The first thing he said was that he created the worlds and your person, but is this true? Is he the architect within this system, putting things together and creating sentient persons? Or is he a manipulator that swooped in to take control and credit? Either way, he clearly must have some form of motive, benign or otherwise.

    What is the motive of God?

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    Feb 18th, 2017 at 06:25:28     -    The Talos Principle (PC)

    Look at me, being all responsible and remembering to start my class Game Logs before the last minute this time. Gold star me. Speaking of gold stars, apparently there is one somewhere in the game? Based on the locked gate in the temple, and one of the achievements. Alas, I'm getting ahead of myself. I get pretty verbose here, so if you're interested specifically on story/ethical thoughts skip to the fifth paragraph. I started The Talos Principle earlier because it's been on my to-play list for forever and HowLongToBeat estimates its play time at less than Deus Ex, which means I can bash it out fast on top of all my other current projects and then try to tackle Deus Ex for my last OPA. That's the plan, but we'll see what actually happens.

    Anyway, about the Talos Principle. I've been working recently on trying to train myself to play like a designer instead of just someone who enjoys games, so starting out I've been going through kind of slowly, because I'm spending lots of time looking at level design and trying to break the game. Other than finding one place where I could trap myself such that death/reset was the only option, the game has held up pretty well. No camera/player getting stuck or glitching, no other ways to trap myself in unsolvable places, and no success in trying to get to places I shouldn't be able to get to. I have had a couple of moments where I saw a background object instantiate when it probably should have already been there, and I've caught quick glimpses of small graphical glitches, but given the nature of this game I'm not entirely sure whether those were actual bugs or intentional events to hint that in-game the player and map may both be virtual.

    On the note of the player and map being virtual, I find it interesting that death is canonically impermanent. Many games have ways of explaining away the player's death before resetting, and the Talos Principle seems to be one of them. When you die your 'program' restarts, and on one of the first deaths Elohim tells you that you shouldn't hold it against the guardians if they kill you. So that in itself is something I find interesting, as the way a game handles death or a lose state shapes a large amount of the play experience.

    Up to this point, I have played all of Level/World/Door 1, one puzzle from door 6 (reading the signs, it was the furthest puzzle I could solve without going to other worlds to unlock the box and refractor) and I stumbled into an easter egg world that looks like it was an homage to the developers and playtesters. Again, I was looking specifically to find ways to "play the game wrong" to see what would happen from a design perspective. This gave me an interesting insight into what is coming up as I learned a few things. First, the easter egg place showcased some mechanics that I anticipate are upcoming (the refractor, for instance, which I had only seen the symbol do but now think I understand). Second, I was able to completely solve the one puzzle in 6 that wasn't marked as needing the refractor or box. This is interesting to me because, from a design perspective it raises the question of "why was this simple puzzle all the way in level 6?" Normally puzzle games build on the things before it and become progressively more difficult. The entry to level six is biblical Adam/Eve type narration, where "do not eat the fruit" is replaced with "do not enter the tower," so a forbidden location. Looking around within the solvable puzzle in 6, I'm pretty sure if I had the box (which I now realize is probably just a stepping stone) I'll be able to access a part of the map not connected to the puzzles. This would explain the sudden easy puzzle, as from a design perspective the point of that puzzle is not to be "a puzzle to be solved" but rather "an opportunity to get off the rails." Getting off the "correct" path here is clearly intentional in game, but probably a direct violation of Elohim's will. I'm excited to see how that plays out.

    Now, onto story/ethics. Given that this game was on the list of acceptable Analysis games in an Video Games Ethics class, I went into it expecting some degree of moral question or conflict. And I see the potential for that developing, both in and out of game. From the very first Narration provided by Elohim, the game clearly has Judaic/Christian influences as Elohim is the Hebrew for gods and is used as a proper noun in the Hebrew Bible. This face is cited within the first level on a computer terminal. In addition to just the name, much of Elohim's phrasing and attitude are deific, from his introduction as the creator of the world and the protagonist, to his granting of trials and choice and guidance. From a perspective outside of the game, I could see some zealous worshipers finding such reference specifically to the god of the Hebrew Bible blasphemous. I personally haven't seen anything in game that I think would merit such an offense, as so far nothing Elohim has done has struck me as an offensive portrayal or commentary on his namesake, but I still acknowledge the possibility of controversy being raised there. A quick google search of "The Talos Principle Controversy" doesn't seem to yield any results of that nature, though, which I am pleased to see.

    That out of game concern aside, the game definitely seems to touch on Phenomenology early on, with an option at the first accessed terminal being to ask "what am I?" The protagonist is aware that they exist, but doesn't know anything about themselves or the world around them beyond what they can glean from Elohim, the MLA, QR codes, and various local files pulled from terminals. This isn't a moral question, but a definite branch of philosophy that I hope the game continues to explore.

    And while I have only touched it by going to world 6 without visiting 2-5, I suspect the question of "do I obey the commands of god" is going to become a central point of the game. Elohim has forbidden the protagonist from going to the tower, saying that the protagonist will die if they do, so I would be very surprised if going to the tower was not a choice later on. And I will be very disappointed if going to the tower is mandatory, as I think based on the current setup of the game forcing the player to disobey Elohim would remove much of the meaning behind the potential exploration of the relationship between choice and god. I am definitely excited to see how things progress.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Feb 18th, 2017 at 06:38:58.

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    Jan 29th, 2017 at 22:29:19     -    The Wolf Among Us (PC)

    Let it not be said I didn't do three entries, even if the time for grading this one is long over. I've now finished episode 3, and what a show it has been. First, I suppose I was wrong when I said that Faith appears to have been a prostitute but she probably isn't. Nope, she totally was. Noted. Second, I don't care if he wasn't the murder, Ichabod Crane is a sad, sick man. Like, seriously, paying women to dress up as the girl you're sickly infatuated with? And he was obsessed with like, the mundy version of her, not even herself as a person. Like, seriously! What the hell Crane? Sick.

    Man, I had more thoughts, but now all I can think about is Crane.

    Oh, right, I really liked Frogcatcher's loyalty to the Tweedles, because as bad as they are clearly working for the Crooked Man who is the big bad, I'm not convinced that they're /terrible/. I mean, their money lending is a bad business as it's a short term fix with longer term consequences that are probably worse than the original problem, but given my current understanding of the bureaucratic state of the place, they're filling a void. They're who people turn to when there's literally nobody else to turn to. Because goodness knows the people who are supposed to be helping aren't. So if they're as evil as Bigby is convinced they are, they're really only a symptom of the bigger picture. Just a thought.

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    Jan 24th, 2017 at 22:45:05     -    The Wolf Among Us (PC)

    TWAU part two! Well, I say "Part two" but really it was just me continuing episode one at my current pace of a crawl. What I get for being a completionist who can't help but to look at everything. And I know that this is /horrendously/ late for the whole "log it for class", but I think Global Game Jam was a valid enough excuse to move this from "already late" to "unbelievably late". Oh well. Whatever.

    Anyway, So basically all I managed to get done in this past "almost an hour" block was visit Lawrence's Apartment, Visit Toad, and talk to Snow in the cab. I had played this once before (just episode 1, recall), so I remembered there was an option somewhere about saving Lawrence. So I went there first and screwed it up, so I reloaded and tried again. Completionist and all that. So for today's "Ethical Quandaries", I just lost some progress to prevent a man from committing suicide. Is suicide inherently wrong? I mean, I don't call it a sin or anything high horse and religious like that, but I firmly hold there's better options. Is manipulating the truth to try to prevent someone from becoming suicidal wrong? Well, I mean, it's dishonesty, but for a good cause I suppose. I could talk more about it, but eh. Maybe I'll get to it in my paper.

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