Storytelling

Dark Souls Timeline

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WOoow, like wooow! this is such a fantastically researched and fascinating timeline. Seriously, so many people only remembering/praising this game with “it’s hard” as their explanation as to why it became so big. Sure, the mechanics were good, but others did too. More importantly IMO they were good because they fit with the world and story, and WHAT a world and story, so much thinking. In my opinion even people who don’t recognize it and talk just about gameplay, the reason they’re noticing/taking the time to enjoy/discover it is even against their own beliefs the fact that all this back thinking and lovingly crafted world and universe and history is seeping through every orifice and even as they think they’re just “fighting” the reason the area is interesting to fight in is that each corner has in it not just good local level design but more importantly bits of the big picture which dictates and unifies it all.

Mad Max Design Talk

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A nice fireside chat about the game and world design of this often overlooked rough and dirty gem, which despite it’s problems, still did some extraordinary things.

Castlevania & Dante Alighieri

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A nice literary comparison. My experience had a similar journey, with extreme highs and some disappointing lows. In the best moments I was amazed i never heard/played this game before as I found it trully EXTRA-ordinary and wonderful, thinking it might become one of my favorite games everz, but then there’d be the bad design decisions which brought this beautiful angel-bird all the way down through the mud… But the good moments and story were so great it was worth pushing through even in the face of high frustration, and to the extent I forgot the bad tastes it left some one of a kind spectacular memories as an aftertaste.

How Bloodborne Transforms the Myth

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A particularly interesting storytelling/mythological perspective. Can’t say I agree 100%, as I think it could be seen also in the common hero’s journey terms, however the journey of this hypothesis is a literary experience and gripping entertainment in itself.

In Defense of Dark Souls 2

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He makes some very interesting points. Interesting design choices analysis. Also in terms of the story, including the impressive intro movie. Personally I have some mixed feelings towards DS2. On one hand I really value the variety of locations, and DS2 was a unique memorable experience, but on the other hand I find the atmosphere of DS1 is to much much more admiration worthy, as well as some things in Demon’s Souls. To me personally the big impact that DS2 had was also a lot about it giving me the courage to go back to DS1 & Demon’s Souls. And yet DS2 was something special in  it’s own, and made a unique impression and series of memories… And indeed like he points out to me too Bloodborne felt not so radical in it’s gameplay because in many ways as a weak mage in DS2 I often ended up playing Bloodborne style in a dynamic fast way. But I digress, I I found the design analysis very interesting and he makes some very interesting arguments.

 

Soul Reaver – Storyline & Worldbuilding Excellence

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An amazingly rich lore, fantastic world building, interweaving of the story through time (and even time loops), fascinating protagonists with tension and individual motivations… I remember when I played this game, I think it was in college before an exam, it was the one and only time I finished the game in a night and went straight to the exam finishing the game at 6:30am but being so very fulfilled and happy with my choice whatever happened because I knew I had just experienced something once in a lifetime with such a storyline/world. So many original ideas and so many of the things that I like in a story: pre-thought world background where you feel you’re always getting just the skimmed top, of what is much deeper underneath and the brain is always working to figure out more of the hidden stuff beneath.

PS: i have to mention that the world feels much much richer than the video presents, not just due to the dept of seeing it and exploring it, but the great abundance of other story moments told via protagonist dialogue during gameplay or when seeing objects in the environment such as murals/statues.

PS2: Maybe one of the reasons the world ended up exactly how i want a rich world to feel is captured in this development commentary:

 

As indeed it seems that due to development particularities all the planets were aligned for creating the kind of world i like: the kind that has a lot more world in it than is actually shown, as well as one in which in the end a lot of stuff was discarded but remains in the minds of the creators making what is left feel much more real/dense/with history of all the things that could’ve been but were abandoned/closed/changed. It also helped I suspect that it started from a different heritage and then was mounted on another one leading to many wonderful mutations.

7 games in 7 years

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This article is not so much for gamers, as for people who enjoy artwork in all it’s forms. The kind of people who pick up a good book and look forward to the magic how with every page they sink deeper into the wonderful world it describes. To people who like to see amazing paintings that fire up the imagination, and marvel at the beauty of sculptures or wonder in awe at amazing architectural monuments that come to us through time and across the centuries, telling stories of ages past. To people who enjoy listening to immersive music, weather classical or modern, quiet ambiental or engaging, music that moves and creates a great atmosphere. And to people that enjoy movies, with great characters and fantastic adventures, and interesting story twists.

To all these people I write, as I am sad to know that some of them still avoid games even today. Maybe it’s because they have never seen how all those things are present in (some) games of our times, made by possibly the best artists & creators of our generation. Or maybe because they say they don’t know of such games, and all they’ve seen are time wasters where people test only their reflexes or are only worth experiencing when having fun with friends. Or maybe they feel like they don’t have time for the many games, even just to pick the good ones out of the sea of mediocrity and wouldn’t know where to begin this huge field. My attempt to help is to create a list of one game to play per year. Since we are in 2017 I’ll try to thus name 7 years, from 2010 to 2016, with the current year still incomplete. If in each of these years you had experienced just this one game, I believe you would’ve already tasted something fantastic from this great new world we live in and I for one would already consider you cultured in this field where so many are sadly still illiterate. Also I am hoping that going back in time over many years, besides the fun of the journey, there will be games that anybody can play, even people with older computers, access to older consoles only, or simply people who only have a less then powerhouse laptop around to play with. I will also try to name for each year a second-best, in case the main proposed game isn’t found, doesn’t work for you or you simply would like something different… or maybe you feel you could play more than one game per year ?!?

Obviously the list is subjective and is just my best attempt and there are many other great ones, but one’s gotta start somewhere. Each of the titles I picked I think realizes something extraordinary, spectacular for that year and enduring for many years later, a unique experience that you shouldn’t miss if you are lucky enough to live in this wonderful 21st century, where magical worlds exist just for you to explore, worlds more fantastic and more real, more beautiful and more complex than the best best novels of centuries past, painted down to every detail, just inviting you to experience them.

 

This game is a great bringing to life of an old wild west type movie, managing to have a lot of interesting characters, some wonderful story twists, and to tell a moving story from the age when the American wild west was slowly beginning to be swallowed by modernity, but the old world still continued, thus having also that kind of book’s conflict between worlds and ages story.

Backup: Fallout New Vegas. It tells a retro-futuristic post apocalyptic story, the story of a messenger who unwittingly gets involved into a series of events much bigger than himself, and through his eyes you get to discover a whole world, destroyed yet abundant in opportunities, full of choices, including some quite difficult morality questions.

 

Though part of a bigger series, worry not, it’s it’s own encapsulated story and world. And yes, it’s enough to last you a whole year should this be the only game you manage to pack with yourself before you get yourself stranded on an island. The story here manages to be modular enough to allow you to go in any direction and explore anything you want in this original high fantasy world. There’s everything from major story arcs to minor series of stories, to tiny narrations told through journals of text found in lost caves you might wonder into in your curiosity imbued exploration

Backup: if you feel like travelling to the beautiful 16th century Constantinople, at the edge between the western and the Arab world, I’d invite you to try out Assassin’s Creed: Revelations while if you feel like exploring a much darker purgatory-like world and are willing to experience even atmospheric frustration Dark Souls was a gem that appeared in this year, a world in which your own struggles while playing mirror the struggles of the character in this world, all bathing in implied deep philosophical themes.

 

Creating a memorable original universe, happening in a mixture between an artistic vision of a distorted victorian industrial revolution mixing with supernatural elements, this game is remarkable in many ways. The stylized visuals with impossibly high proportions makes one feel like he’s moving through a painting at times, while the fiction creates a wholly original mythos.

Backup: Farcry 3. Essentially a brutal “growing-up” story, the game tells the experience of a group of rich spoiled young people who in their partying travels to a beautiful exotic island find themselves hostages and forced to be either victims or to fight back forgetting their civilized education. The beautiful island, complete with amazing locations and plant and wild life is just as much a character as the friends and their charismatic antagonist.

 

Yes, you’ve probably heard of these games, and if all you know of them is that lame friend who’s just enjoying driving cars and blowing up things I can understand your scepticism to see this game on a list of artistic games. But the reason despite the prejudice that I’d still put this game here as the one special game to play if through some horrible time travel accident you found yourself in 2013 (or hardware of that time) is that on top of all that simulation is built a truly memorable story, with 3 characters which each stand out in his own way. From the old movie loving, problem husband and father, middle age crisis Michael to the more than disturbing chaotic personality of Trevor each of the 3 characters has his own view of the world, and together they go through an adventure worthy of the best action movies, while still managing to have many insightful social and political commentary at modern life.

Backup: Bioshock Infinite. No longer the underwater dystopia of the original Bioshock, this new game manages to tell the story of another man made paradise went mad.

 

You know I was almost about to write down 2014 as a year where nothing truly remarkable came out. I couldn’t find it by year because this game didn’t get the best reviews due to it’s buggy launch, but now if you go back to it, and even then if, like myself, you cared more for the spirit of this almost too ambitious an attempt, I think you may find this is a truly worthy title for the year. Where else do you get to travel back in time and get to see 1789 Paris during the French revolution, complete with buildings that don’t even stand today. The story is good, but it almost pales in contrast to THE CITY, the time, the people on the streets, their clothes, the great monuments, the shouts on the street (IMHO best experienced in French should you know it). And it’s a world that keeps on giving, even past the main game and the great locations, even down to the intriguing little detective stories with subtle hints that you can solve as a total side project. But above all, the city, oh, what a city, what a time… every once in a while I jump back into this world just to wander the streets and to marvel at the beautiful churches and the dynamics of the crowd.

Backup: A split between Shadow of Mordor where you get to experience a personal nemesis simulation in the setting of the Tolkien created Lord of the Rings universe and Alien Isolation, a bringing to life of the kind of story/world that the 1979 invented in the eponymous Ridley Scott movie.

 

A world deeply rooted in the novels of the polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, worth experiencing and exploring due to the the many rich stories and multi-faceted characters. The main story arc, the many secondary and incidental stories, and even the many tens of pages in writing found in little notes and books and writings found across the world, are all worthy of literary greatness. All through one can sense the refreshment of the medieval fantasy through what to me felt like a sense of east-european scepticism and moral choices which are not of the super simplistic black and white variety, but rather often present difficult tradeoffs. Countless stories prove to be deep, for example I particularly remember that of the baron, which manages to touch on difficult themes from familial violence to alcoholism mixed with familial love, and even impossible subjects like abortion, all while keeping it’s medieval atmosphere. And should you find the game too “autumn rainy” it later (2016) even blooms in some wonderful expansions of which “Blood And Wine” particularly impressed by managing to maintain serious stories even while going to brightly coloured lands. But even without that this should be enough for the year.

Backup: Bloodborne. Here we have what may be to date the best materialization of the spirit and mythos inspired by the many wonderful books by H.P. Lovecraft, weather you take movies or games, as even cinefiles have jealously complained. The narrative is told more through experience and mystery than words, but yet one can feel the well developed mysterious lore backdrop that feels consistent even if it took a large online community to dig up the less obvious secrets.

 

For this year we have a split between these two sequels. Neither revolutionizing, or innovating enough to deserve the title alone but both polishing the ingenuity of the predecessors. Dishonored 2 continues in developing it’s universe mixing dystopian industry and magic, whie Dark Souls 3 reunites the existential themes of civilizational and philosophical cycles of it’s predecessors, in some ways polishing, while in others simply returning to roots. Should you in 2016 have had only time for one game, I’d suggest tossing a coin over which, or better choosing based on weather or not you got to experienced/enjoyed their predecessors.

Backup: Hitman. Again just a a return to old form of this Hitman’s story, but a pretty decently done one with good variety of locations and social situations.

2017 … ?

As for the year in course, 2017, we’ve already had big titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn, the story of a tribal young girl in a post-apocalyptic nature overrun world set on a path to discover what happened to earth before her birth, or Prey, a story that takes you onto a satellite research station in space in typical classic sci-fi fashion, only to discover what went wrong, imbued with themes of questioning self identity and the nature of one’s change of self through learning, in this case machine/alien enhanced sudden flash learning. But the year is young, and traditionally the best games come to us towards the end of the year often just in the holiday season, so I have greater expectations for the year to come.

Conclusion

So, this would be the list of games I would personally suggest if you had but the opportunity to play just one game per year for the past seven years. Surely others might pick others, maybe for different story themes, better gameplay, or more social involvement, and luckily we have a lot of choice, but these are my picks for creating fantastic worlds, for excelling in multiple forms of artwork, from storytelling to visuals, be it painterly or sculptural/architectural, all on the backdrop of memorable soundtracks and giving one of a kind experiences. Given this special one game per year limitation I have also chosen meatier games, games that you can sink your teeth into and chew on for a while, with worlds that you can can go into again and again, for weeks, nay months, in the knowledge that each time you go in you will be rewarded by fresh new stories to read or live, places to see and unique emotional experiences to experience.

Did you already play these games in the past years? Then I salute you with respect and look forward to many interesting conversations. If not, may I invite you into these wonderful worlds? Even if you don’t normally play games, and even should you just play one of these games per year… I believe if you give them a chance, you have 7 great years of incredible amazing experiences to look forward to! What a privilege to be living in the wonderful year of 2017!

Game Theory: Dark Souls 3

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The treatment is a bit silly for my tastes (though i did get a few chuckles), however some nice digging around and even some revelations. Oh boy oh boy, today is the release day of the last DLC for DS3, can’t wait to for the first time in my life explore a souls game for the first time in co-op :D

Dishonored : The Forbidden Trinity of Gristol, lore

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What a wonderful philosophical essay! Really thought provoking fictional lore mixed with real-world historical & religious literature ideas.

Debatable Endings

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I like a bunch of those endings/games especially because not in spite of the fact that they’re open to interpretation. Not only is this a form of audience involvement but more importantly I think this is unavoidable whenever you treat deeper themes and can even be a sign of things that can’t be concluded super cleanly.

Dark Souls 2 Announcement Trailer

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An old trailer that apparently I missed in it’s time. What an interesting mind/time trick to imagine this is just announced and inaccessible, cool but you have to abstain until next year for it to be released and all the excitement and anticipation that comes with that + the knowledge that you should totally wait until it gets cheaper months/years after launch but you’re sooo tempted. It’s fun to see time in such ways IMO.

The Corvians of Ariandel

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Another interesting VaatiVidya storyteller tale from this fascinating philosophical universe.

Jedi Outcast – The Movie

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A long time ago, in a galaxy still owned by Lucas….

The 2nd Death Star is destroyed, the Empire is crumbling (spoilers!). A couple of (no ordinary) mercenaries are sent to investigate a remote Imperial Remnant outpost. A menial task, at best… or is it?

Anyone who’s played Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (long title, huh?) remembers the story of the morally-grey, ex-Imperial Kyle Katarn, on his path to enlightenment (only because you can’t choose the dark side in this installment). What if some Australians took it upon themselves to bring the story to the big screens?

The group has disassembled the game’s assets and gave them a modern polish, using Unreal Engine 4 for the entirety of the project (shader, animation, dialogue, camera work etc.). Some assets (such as character animations) are lifted from the KOTOR games.

Apart from the new, modern look, the group has managed to create an “asset shuffler” of sorts, allowing for varied character outfits (Jedi Academy character creator-style).

Adobe’s VoCo is expected to be used for this, and for many such other projects.

It is currently not known when exactly the movie will be released, but, according to the team, “not this year”.

Titanic: Honor and Glory

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It is the year 1912, and you’ve somehow found your way aboard the largest man-made mobile structure on Earth.  Naturally, because it’s a plague-free couple of years, you find time to wander around the ship, bask in its beauty, and overall enjoy the view.

Oh, wait, all of this is about to be on the ocean floor in a matter of hours (spoiler alert).

The dedicated people at Vintage Digital Revival LLC are hard at work recreating the Titanic, down to every last watertight[citation heavily needed] bulkhead. Seriously.

The project is still in its infancy (the game engine seems to be at default settings based on some glitches caused by detail culling in UE4), and at this stage (much like Cameron’s “Titanic”) is devoid of characters. Gameplay should feature both a ship exploration mode, and a story mode.

It is estimated to be available for purchase somewhere in 2018, so sit tight.

There are 2 demos available for download on the developers’ website (alongside a beautiful gallery of in-game shots). The devs recommend having a whopping 8 GiB of system RAM, but it’s worth it.

Dishonored Lore

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Interesting story. Also it’s cool that they use the soundtrack from Demon’s Souls, also probably the origin of this lore tribute tradition.

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