Issues of Emotions: The Gutter of Cutscenes

Exploring subtle emotions in video games actors.

The Gutter of Cutscenes: Pixel v FMV

There is a long-standing personal theory that the increase in graphical fidelity decreased the narrative complexity of video games. I have some evidence to support my claim, but I understand that nostalgia is a powerful effect. However, I question my initial opinion after watching the Youtube group Extra Credits’ video about A Case for Cutscenes. It isn’t that the increase in graphical fidelity has decreased the narrative complexity in games, but that the increase in graphical fidelity has decreased the subtle emotions imagined in earlier games. Where did this shift happen, and why did I amend my theory? Let me take you into the Gutter.

Continue reading “Issues of Emotions: The Gutter of Cutscenes”

Issuing a Break

So to celebrate my acceptance into the Science Fiction Research Association 2017 conference and because I did a long discussion on Stasis (2015) earlier this week with some friends I’m going to take the week off of blogging.

Well, not really. As mentioned, I had a discussion about Stasis (Steam page) with my fellow podcasters over at Ugly Talks (link). Ugly Talks is a monthly podcast created by Matt Campen and myself. The purpose of the show is to discuss various media artifacts, address their issues and their success, then attempt to extract useful design information for creators of interactive narrative. We tent to focus our discussion on how the design of these artifacts can be used to improve the creation of Tabletop Roleplaying games and system.

Lately we have been the amount of guests we have on the show. As such, this month we brought in James and Kevin Colmar from the Drunk and the Ugly podcast (link). Both these individuals, along with Matt, just finished a playthrough of Stasis on their Youtube channel and wanted to discuss the game.

I say all this, but the Stasis episode of Ugly Talks won’t come out for another month. However, if this conversation interests you, you can check out some of the previous Ugly Talk topics on the website or on your favorite Podcast Aggregate. Also, before you ask, yes I’m the tag line we use “We Know Things” is incredibly stupid and intentional. If you listen to a couple of the podcasts you will eventually hear me breakdown laughing at the absurdity of that tagline.

Next week, I will try to type the second half of my Kona review / critique. For warning it might be a bit sloppy as I have an open-to-close shift next week and will probably be delirious trying to recover.

The Issue of Kona (2017) – Part 1

Please note: My laptop crashed and lost this entirety of this post I’ve been working on all week. The original version was about double in length and delved into more the story of Kona and where it failed. However, due to time constraints, I’m going to post this version and try to revisit it sometime in the near future.

Link to Kona’s Steam page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/365160/

Kona is a recently released Kickstarter indy adventure game by Parabole. In it the player takes control of private investigator Carl Faubert as he investigates the vandalism of a Northern Canandian industrial’s home in October 1970. However, on his way to the home Carl gets trapped in a freak snowstorm. Stranger still, the entirety of the area surrounding the industrialist’s homestead is missing. This includes the local homes, logging facility, and general store. Carl must solve the mystery of the disappearances, survive the story, and the case he was hired for.

Now with the introductions out of the way into the nitty gritty. First off, Kona is beautiful. I played the game on my PS4 as I do not have a computer capable of playing anything more advanced than a word document or a Youtube video. Even still, the rich white colors and harsh landscape found in Kona were breathtaking. So much so I beat the game in a single sitting. The small mysteries of the local townsfolk, the exploration of the outlying area, and the drive to get to the source of these weird issues kept me hooked most of the time.

To keep me informed of my investigation, a journal is provided to the player. It contains quest lines, character faces and details, and photographs taken during the game. The journal is beautifully rendered but is hard to read, more on that later. Any missing information on quests and the investigation are large blank areas outlined in red. Usually these areas are filled in once the player takes a photograph of a key piece of evidence according to the quest line or investigation. While I sped through the game, I ended up having to go back numerous times checking my progress on the people and investigation as I explored the area. Small bits of the community coming together to pain a partial image I could understand.

However, complicating your exploration and investigation of this beautiful setting is your characters need for warmth, stress relief, and health. In Kona, the storm I arguably your greatest enemy. As you wander the area you lose heat which causes you vision to slowly blur. If you run out of heat you die. To get more heat you must find a source of warmth. Sounds simple, but in Kona most all heat sources are extinguished. The player must rebuild these sources to gain back heat. This is simple enough, the game provides more than enough logs, fire starters, and matches. But the other complication is Carl’s carrying capacity. In addition to carrying the previously mentioned items, Carl also must carry around other items: guns for protection, health kits, steaks to feed the local wildlife, and other necessary items to solve the game’s mysteries. Don’t fear though, unlike certain other games your carrying capacity is fairly realistic. You can only carry a few things on your person at a time, and the simulated weight of these items are scaled well. To further simplify the issue the game provides an infinite capacity storage system in Carl’s truck. And that is all the interaction the player has with the gaming environment.

I had much more detail to dive into but as noted at the beginning my computer ate it for dinner sometime this week and I don’t have the time to re-write it. Summarily, Kona is good. It has some flaws in its narrative, but as it is a walking simulator in spirit with Gone Home and Dear Ester what it attempts and fails at makes it that much of a better game. To those interested the next two blog post will deal with creation of investigative narratives and Codices within said investigative narratives. All-in-all Kona is a fine first game. It tries new things and doesn’t stick to any safe design save for the end. Also, advice to the Parabole, please don’t reveal you monster in the trailer or in your game advertisements. You game is set in the Great White North, the howling winds of the snowstorm already invokes Ithaqua from the Lovecraft mythos. This is dipping into another article, but if you love your monster let it hide. Don’t reveal it before the game even begins.

 

Kona Score: B+.

Pros: Excellent Atmosphere, Beautiful Environments

Cons: Poor Investigation Journal, Investigation is not solved by so much as told to the player.