Feb. 12, 2017

A relatively eventful week in the world of gaming, but I’m still going to talk about other things.

Around OnlySP

It was a much slower week around these parts than I anticipated last week, with the highlight being my interview with Danny Weinbaum about Leaving Lyndow. We did cover some very interesting games and developments, though, including Bandai Namco’s investment into new A.I. technologies, which could be a massive boon for the company’s upcoming games; the first whiff of Frontier Developments’s next project, which is apparently based on a world-famous film franchise (could it be yet another Marvel game?); and the revelation that Ni no Kuni II will be coming to PC, despite all previous assumptions that it would remain exclusive to the PlayStation 4. I daresay the last is a good thing. The more people that experience the beauty and whimsy of Ni no Kuni, the better, in my books.

Looking forward, we do have another big week planned, with at least three reviews on the cards, but we are running a little behind deadline with all of those. As mentioned last week, though, matters behind the scenes are far more organised than they have been in quite some time, so I’m hopeful that we will be able to hit our schedule.

Scaling Down

With an interview recently published and a review currently in the works, I have clearly been thinking about Eastshade Studios’s Leaving Lyndow quite a bit over this past week, and I find myself thinking that one of the most intriguing and engaging aspects of the title is its scope and scale. At only an hour long, the game, compared to most others, is flash fiction. Even Gone Home, Firewatch, and Journey, all widely praised for using their brevity to evoke emotions all the more powerfully, last at least two or three hours. Leaving Lyndow’s approach represents a startling shift in thought processes. A game that is shorter than a movie; indeed, on a par with the average length of an episode of Game of Thrones. Many games would barely have loosed players from the tutorial by the time a playthrough of Leaving Lyndow is complete. Yet this highly-contained length gives the game an almost unique selling point.

It also makes me wonder why more developers have not tried the same tack. Forty-hour adventures, supported by hundreds of hours of sidequests and distractions are in vogue, even though a simple ten or twelve hour narrative is often more than sufficient—a symptom of the games-as-a-service business model, no doubt. Perhaps that is why a one-hour game seems so interesting, and has so much potential. In thinking about this, I invariably find myself circling back to the work of Quantic Dream, the development team behind Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and the forthcoming Detroit: Become Human. Heavy Rain and Beyond were both, in my estimation, great games, melding unique gameplay with fascinating characters, an intriguing approach to choice and consequence, and incredible use of technology. However, the overarching narrative of each game failed to live up to greatness of the remainder of the production. In the case of Heavy Rain, that was because of peculiar plot holes, while Beyond was simply disjointed.

Where both games succeeded, however, was in their vignette-styled approach to storytelling. Thinking back, I remember Ethan’s desperate search for Jason and Norman’s fight against Mad Jack more clearly than anything else from Heavy Rain. Similarly, I recall most readily Jodie’s rebellious decision to visit a backwater pub, her battle against a demonic force in the Mojave Desert, and her desperate scrabble to help her newfound homeless friends from Beyond. These scenes were self-contained powerhouses of tension and emotion, each lasting for only a brief moment within the longer adventure. Perhaps those scenes work so well because the last three, five, ten, or twelve hours have prepared players for their challenges, but I think not. I think that a balance is struck, wherein the gameplay is engaging without becoming too drawn out, emotion is sustained without becoming overbearing, and the scenes capture a single, memorable moment, rather than yet another gun battle against a horde of nameless terrorists. The same approach would more than likely fail with more conventional gameplay mechanics, but heavy authoring has the potential to be a great boon in this age of the ascendancy of agency.

What do you think?

Personal Update

It’s time for me to make an announcement. As of today, I have one month remaining in Australia, until my partner and I fly to England to pursue new career opportunities in our intended field of editing and publishing. This means that in a little under four weeks, I will temporarily be stepping aside from my position of Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP to take time to move and settle. In my stead, Mitchell Akhurst and Cedric Lansangan, the current Deputy Editors, will take over to ensure the continued smooth operation of this website. I trust in both of them to continue to push this site forward, and I hope that all of our readers will help them out. But that is still some time away.

This past week, I finished Lirael and Abhorsen, the second and third books of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, and I have just begun on the novella, ‘Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case’, after which I will move on to the two new entries in the series. After undertaking some very heavy reading of late, moving on to a fantasy series has proved to be quite the pleasure, although I do look forward to having the entire series out of the way so that I can (finally) begin Moby-Dick. Aside from reading, however, I have continued to dabble in the same games that I have been playing, so nothing new to report on that front. Finally, I watched Captain Fantastic, and found it to be a very enjoyable film, especially in light of the way that it tended to prioritise the visual over spoken words and speeches, unlike so many other films. Furthermore, after fearing for quite some time that the film would ultimately condemn the away-from-society lifestyle of the main characters, I liked that it did not adopt a dismissive, didactic tone. All things considered, Captain Fantastic is one of the best movies to release in 2016, of those that I have seen thus far.

That’s enough from me. How has your week been?

Damien Lawardorn
Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

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