Don't Look Back

Discussion in 'Now Playing' started by infernovia, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. infernovia

    infernovia Well-Known Member

    So I see it getting referenced a couple of times, and I am going to call it out here. Review:
    1/5. 0/5 if I can help it.

    This game is honestly pretty terrible. It's a series of single screen platforming puzzles with the majority that might be simpler than any game that was released in the last three decades, it also manages to spectacularly get many simple design concepts completely wrong. Not only does it have instant savepoints that are like 1 second away, it manages to ask you to react to a new screen filled with hazards in milliseconds, which would either depend on blind luck or just be IMPOSSIBLE without seeing the screen first. What's the point of this? All it does is break the flow of the game, and now that the user knows about the screen by foresight, he can go through it anyway.

    There is only one solid point I liked in the whole game, and that's the hell boss and the section where you get the girl. Here are some things it does right:
    a) If you make a mistake, you can still recover without having to be instantly teleported to a screen 1 second away. The animal threats can be shot, platforming doesn't need to be like frame precise etc.
    b) The boss creates threats that you can react to and forcefully prevent, and it requires a tiny bit of skill to complete the challenge.
    c) The boss looks imposing in it's limited way (the graphics are terrible, so I am not saying this is in anyway a worthwhile piece of art).

    So what ends up happening is that the screen isn't done and immediately forgotten, you can spend a bit of time defeating it, and it builds up a bit of tension with the release of getting your goal and coming back. It's also reactable and all that, and compared to the rest of the game, balanced. Then that immediately disappears as you have some frustrating puzzles with the restriction of not looking back. The one where you are supposed to dodge the wall crawlies while jumping from vine to vine is especially irritating due to the lack of precise control and being one pixel off means you have to respawn with a terribly long long death animation.

    And what's the point of all this? Even if you pretended that the game was designed well and had good balanced levels and challenges that, idk scrolled, what do you feel? Nothing like Orpheus because looking back doesn't mean you lost your love forever but that you just respawn 2 secs earlier. The end also implies it's all a dream or a fantasy, but this has to be the WORST dream/fantasy where you keep jarring 2 secs prior due to some screwup and some of the most boring and humdrum hell I can think about. To make this story actually worthwhile, I would need at the minimum better graphics, interaction, balance, narration, etc. Anyway, I felt like this was a terrible waste of time.
     
  2. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    Really? Were you honestly unaware of the history here... I thought you'd been around long enough.

    The game gets referenced all the time because of this ancient blog post from Sirlin:
    http://www.sirlin.net/blog/2009/3/5/dont-look-back.html

    Which went on to spawn months of debate on the forums with some people saying they basically agreed with Sirlin, and other people basically saying what you just did. I bet you could dig up some of the old posts still... it wasn't all that long ago. It was not good times, though, let's not start the whole conversation again...
     
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  3. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    The short end of it is it's a game with actual mechanics and win/loss conditions that tells a story (mostly through the mechanics and art) that some subset of the human race had an emotional reaction to. That's all that really matters for how it's being used now.
     
  4. infernovia

    infernovia Well-Known Member

    So in many respects, pretty much what every videogame does. k, cool. I guess I am just surprised that it's being referenced at all, considering it's significant problems.
     
  5. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    Most games don't tie narrative into the gameplay mechanics more than at the most superficial level. Without the turn around mechanic there is nothing to Don't Look Back narratively, thematically or in overarching message.
     
  6. Polari

    Polari Well-Known Member

    So here's a game that tries to build a narrative and an atmosphere with minimal components. Review: it's awful, three paragraphs about how much I hate that it's not Castlevania, continuing to one last paragraph about how I hate everything else about it too. Cool.

    I went back and replayed the game after seeing this topic. It's not like my mind was blown, but I thought the pacing was well done and the game did have a melancholic feel to it. If you look at it strictly as a platforming challenge, yeah sure it's weak, but it holds up well enough for the sake of taking you through the experience.
     
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  7. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    Except... no, obviously false? Name one recent AAA title that actually used a gameplay mechanic as a unique component of narrative. I mean, it's not all that rare... Warp does it, Fez does it. Heck, most of the more successful indie games. But it's still not really the norm. The more standard model even now, is "do some random gameplay thing like shooting a bunch of people > watch a cutscene that states after the fact what your motivation was".

    Given that, it's nice to have a short, free game, which can be pointed to as an example. Although Passage and a few others fall in that same category as well...
     
  8. infernovia

    infernovia Well-Known Member

    What makes this implementation deeper than "superficial level?" I am interested in hearing this as I mostly consider the title only works as a double meaning and not much else, kinda like the word orange stands for the fruit and the color. So essentially, still very superficial.
     
  9. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    Besides some presentation, I really don't like this game much either, though this conversation already happened last time.

    While the game has some atmosphere (and I'd say the best thing about it is the sound/music), I really don't think the experience is very well done either. It's not merely minimalistic, it's simplistic and kinda hammy. "Cute" at best. It seems to more 'pretend' to have a message than actually communicate one. It just sorta cribs Orpheus's story without really using it in the right context. Infernovia is right when he says it's about permanent loss. It's about the anxiety and fear. The game makes it about inconvience and whole 'don't look back' never becomes narratively complete. It'snot like the "True" main character looks at his and his wife's apparitions, destroying the fantasies he harbors about saving his wife. They just see the truth and die and he just stands there to let you start a new game. Having the beginning and end screen relink with the titlescreen is interesting, but in the context, does not work thematically.

    But it is rather superficial. The game never really establishes a meaning or a real message for the whole 'don't look back' thing and the mechanic does not illicit the responses you'd want from such a mechanic. Also the fact that it doesn't mesh well, gameplay wise, also sorta says to me "This game isn't terribly well done".

    I don't want to hate on the game too much. It was an experiment that's pretty low investment. Terry went on to make VVVVVV and is no game design scrub. Making a game with unified message and gameplay is hard. While I'd say the intended experience isn't particularly good, It's a game I'm glad I played because it generates lots of discussion and isn't as offensive as a lot of other sadlets out there. It tried and did well enough to giving the illusion of depth, but it just ain't really there.
     
  10. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    Right I think that's pretty much my experience with the game too Kayin, but the illusion and attempt at least is what makes it worth mentioning in passing as an example. It's something that's enough game (unlike say something like The Path or Dear Esther) while still going for an artsy feel and deeper meaning through the gameplay mechanics that it kinda shows a point or direction games can head that they haven't all that much yet. It tends to serve as a good example because if you bring up something like Dear Esther you just get a lot (valid imo) kickback of how it's not 'really a game' and all that.

    I thought the linking fit thematically, kinda showing this guy trapped in this endless cycle of mourning and never moving on, showing him at the grave again is like he's never moved on and is constantly looking back on what he had. Sort of like a if you keep looking back you can never move on kind of thing.

    And yeah, it's a one off flash game using flixel (if I'm not mistaken), not some AAA game.

    The mechanic is what ties the story to its Orpheus inspiration, and provides context for the whole ending about permanent loss and trying not to get hung up in looking back on what you can never get back.
     
  11. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    My impression is if you think this, then you missed the point? You're saying it's supposed to be permanent loss... but that's what Orpheus about. The game isn't just restating Orpheus. It's making an allusion to the Orpheus story, not trying to copy the exact same theme (and if it was, it would seem ham-fisted and bad, as you guys said).

    The actual point is about the guy's thought process. Making up an adventorous journey to get back something he lost. The fact that the entire effort is pointless *is* the point. It doesn't matter that he can instantly respawn and so on... because he's mentally making himself up to be a hero, so he can do whatever he wants. But you're supposed to feel like it was wasted effort at the end. So.... it succeeded even for you guys?
     
  12. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    Right, sure, that's the point. And the point DOES NOT WORK, THEMATICALLY. What does "Don't Look Back" mean, in the context of the game and how is it reinforced? It basically means "Don't look at the spirit because that's a loss condition and I'm cribbing Orpheus". It doesn't use any of the of the stories central concepts, which can be fine, but it doesn't even tie it to a new meaning. The concept of not looking back hangs there, losely in the air, unconnected to anything. It's not that it doesn't retell Orpheus, it's that it doesn't use the concept in any real meaningful way. It did not take advantage of the strengths of the concept. A concept that can create anxiety, or that requires a strong sense of trust or faith or that can be used to generate all sorts of emotions... and how is it used? It's an inconvenience. It's not an important part of a guy running the same depressed fantasy through his head over and over again. It's tacked on and shallow and only appropriate given the 'descent to the underworld' vibe the game gives.

    The theming between the guy's dream cycle and the guy's wife are practically at odds. You can't look back or else you lose, but thematically that's what you should be doing! It's great to make allusions to other works, but you gotta ask "Why" you're making them and for what purpose!
     
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  13. bbobjs

    bbobjs Well-Known Member

    Mona Lisa 2/5: While De Vinchi isn't entirely to blame for obvious flaws like the smile (at least some responsibility rests on the subject), it's impossible to forgive simple oversights such as missing eyebrows. I understand the artiest is respected is some circles but regardless of your thoughts on the man, it's clear he's simply regurgitating an already jaded formula while shamelessly ripping off eastern influences to create the illusion of originality. This shouldn't be praised as a work of art but rather shunned as plagiarism or at least infringement of intellectual property. Regardless from a purely technical standpoint the piece is sublime... it's a shame the general public is unlikely to see past that.
     
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  14. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    It's an allusion...
    From wikipedia:
    You seem to be looking for something much more detailed and concrete, but you're not going to find it. The game was creating a setting for you to consider. That's all. It doesn't need to thematically integrate with the Orpheus story. It never tried to, and it was successful as is.

    When allusions are used, it's the reader/viewer/whoever's responsibility to make the connections. A work can be stronger by not beating you over the head with it's symbolism, instead offering you the chance to determine whether you feel it's symbolic or not. Obviously, some of us do, and some of us don't. But that's alright...

    What theme did you come up with whereby having Orpheus feel he should look at Eurydice becomes the correct interpretation???

    Btw, side note... I think I disagree with you guys to some extent. Orpheus is actually about humanity's inability to control their emotions. (rather than being about permanent loss, or the value of trust) Depending on which version you're talking about (there's at least 4 popular retellings I know of), either Orpheus is overcome by love and thereby makes a tragic mistake OR Eurydice is overcome by jealousy and gives up her chance to be reborn OR the gods are toying with Orpheus because he claims to have true love, but is unwilling to commit suicide in the style of "Romeo and Juliet", thereby proving he didn't actually have true love. (OR the 4th version which is dumb and has a happy ending... sigh;; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orfeo_ed_Euridice) Which fits better with the game being about a guy stuck in a graveyard/dreamworld thinking about death, when he should probably move on with his life.
     
  15. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    Lemme clear this up. I'm not saying the game has to do any particular thing. It could play up the Orpheus angle more or it can do it's own thing or whatever. I'm saying it doesn't do ANYTHING and sends opposing messages (in a way that seems more accidental than intentional). It doesn't have to tie together obviously or anything either. But it just hangs there, totally meaningless. You can ascribe meaning to it or even find resonance if you really want to find it, but that doesn't mean it's well themed. It's like "Here is a guy's fantasy cycle" + "here is an Oprheus allusion" and then the game shrugs and goes "I dunno, figure it out. Whatever works for you, dawg". That's not even an interesting open ended question or something like the Orpheus story where we can discuss and disagree about what it means or is about. There just isn't a lot there.

    This might sound cynical, but I really feel a lot of people find meaning in a lot of art games because they're desperate to -- because they want to reaffirm to themselves that they're art. On the other hand, I'm already pretty comfortable with the "games as art" thing but if I show someone something, I don't want it to be so shallow that I get laughed at. :|
     
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  16. DredNicolson

    DredNicolson Active Member

    The me the game was getting more of its theme from Ambrose Bierce's short story "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge." In that story a Civil War soldier is about to be hanged for desertion, miraculously escapes, makes it back home against all odds, and just when he's about to run into the arms of his sweetheart...all goes black as the rope breaks his neck. The great escape was just in his imagination all along.

    So it's kind of a mash-up of themes. Take the Orpheus mythos, mix in a heroic fantasy, manipulate the point of view ala Bierce so the fantasy shatters and a mood whiplash occurs at the very end. Still, I find it reasonable to claim that the gameplay failed to execute the themes very well, whatever those themes are.
     
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  17. BeastofBurden

    BeastofBurden Well-Known Member

    Just played it because of this thread. I thought the little mini game experience was cool. Why? Because it had shitty Atari graphics with some atmosphere, decent platforming (I'm a scrub at keyboard platform games), no text aside from the games title name, and it provoked thought and did tell some kind of story once you got the ghost and made it to the end. Also look how ham people are going when discussing this game lmao. Great mini game 5/5
     
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  18. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    "Desperate" seems like the wrong word to use here. I mean, it sort of gets back to the origin of all this... that basically two line blog entry from Sirlin. It wasn't some deep comment on the state of the industry, it was a "hey, I thought this thing was cool relative to the couple minutes of my time it took up". I happen to agree with that sentiment.

    I actually feel the opposite way you do, it seems like you guys complaining are putting way too much thought into an attempt to shoot down someone else's subjective opinion. As much as I clearly enjoy talking about this stuff on some level, remember I didn't start this conversation, and that's because I didn't really think there was a topic here. It was infernovia (and whoever posted a similarly gigantic negative thread topic back in 2009) that seem to think their inability to get anything out of the game somehow means they need to argue about it and prove that those of us who did enjoy it are somehow wrong.
     
  19. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    [​IMG]

    I don't mean HERE in particular, I mean in general and as someone who interacts a lot with the indie community. Anyways I can admit there are also plenty of grumps and old men and I can very well be one of them, but lemme try and say where I'm coming from.

    I try and not ever judge people for the games they like or even why they like them (well, up until they argue with me), I just try and judge games. No one is "wrong" for enjoying DLB, nor can they be. I've liked a lot of games (or bits of media in general) waaaaaaay shittier than that and with a lot less merit! The feelings people have about things are totally legitimate and cannot be voided! People can see art in anything and it cannot be denied.

    But if I'm going to ask "did this do X well?", that's a different story. I do not think it did. I think it's a better example of what not to do with theming than what to do. That doesn't mean it's beyond enjoyment. Whether it be because people are extra receptive to the game, or because the mood of the game brought it together, or maybe they're just starved for anything artist, or because, as a gestalt little thing, it's fine. Maybe they just flat out enjoy it. It's all good, especially in this case. I wouldn't "0/5" it like Infernovia would (I don't even think that's a useful way to talk about a game like this), but there is a lot to criticize and I think that criticism is useful. I think it's fair to say that it's even extra useful criticism because the game was well received in general. "Hey, everyone liked this game that has a hundred different things wrong with it. That's good news for progress!"

    I actually don't want to put anyone down (though my tone may sometimes betray me). I don't really even want to put the game "down". But I do want to flay the shit out of it and look at the things that I don't think worked or made any sense and learn from that.
     
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  20. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    It seems like the wrong question. You're asking "did this do X well?". And we're asking "did this do X?". Where X seems unusual. I mean, read the original quote from Sirlin:
    "Even though games have a potential to SAY things, uncomfortably few make a genuine attempt."

    The value is in that it tried enough to be noticeable. This stuff is somewhat cutting edge. I don't think the question of whether games could "say" anything even existed until this decade. The whole reason it's a topic worthy of discussion is that there probably isn't a single game out there that has done a amazingly great job of this kind of "theming" stuff.

    What's dumb is the attitude that games like DLB or Braid or w/e else people complain about often need to be shot down for being "not good enough". They should be held up on a pedestal as worthy first steps towards something of value.
     
  21. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    Is it unusual? Or is it, superficially, unusual? What is it saying? What is Braid saying? I don't even mean that as a negative. It's almost just a red herring. Games have been saying things things for a long time (Missile Command!) and have been telling stories visually (Mechner games, Super Metroid, whatever) and doing a ton of stuff. I've been playing home grown games that tried to have messages and say things all the way back in the late 90s, in the Megazeux community! As for theming, I'd say the Souls games are the best themed games out there. Indie wise, anything Auntie Pixelante is very tightly themed. If pressed I'm sure I could come up with some older examples too. There are no unique, precious gems, so valuable that you can't skin them alive.

    In Braid's case, it did a number of things very well atop of having a very interesting mechanic. It's an extremely well crafted game and not for one singular reason. There is a lot to praise and some stuff to criticize (though personally I can't make any meaningful criticism). Braid, even beyond it's novelty, still holds up. But even then, nothing is beyond criticism. Nothing should be held sacred. All things are flawed and eliminating those flaws is how we progress. Even if DLB was really progressive, as I said, it's great then to look at something so flawed that people really enjoy. It shows the future. The Souls games are some of my favorite games ever and my Dark Souls review was like, 70% criticism. That EXCITES me. That makes me look forward to the future and what might come next. Almost any artist will tell you that the best way to improve is to get good, actionable criticism. How would that be any different with game design?

    Nothing is sacred.
     
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  22. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    Audience matters, though. Infernovia didn't write this up because he honestly wanted to give feedback to... whoever the designer was (I forget his name). I'm pretty sure he wrote it because of one of Logo's posts here:
    http://www.fantasystrike.com/forums...nomenal-jonathan-blow-interview-article.6244/

    That automatically makes the discussion turn from criticism of the design elements to criticism of the player and their opinion of the game. You're talking about the value of constructive criticism, but it's not constructive because a) noone reading this thread is trying to make an art game (except maybe you, and even then, it's secret?), and b) noone in this thread is actively even attempting to talk to someone making an art game, or else they would be off posting on the designer's blog or something.

    It would be one thing if this thread had started with a post like "I didn't really enjoy the game, why do people talk about?". But that's not what happened, the topic is "This game is garbage, let me tell you why in excruciating detail...". Calling out veiled insults of other forum members as a "bad thing" seems to be a much more productive use of time than rehashing vague ideas about what might make future games slightly better in the eyes of a couple people that I have yet to hear say anything positive about any game released since 1980.
     
  23. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    Oh well okay I can sympathize with some of that. Infernovia can certainly be very.................. Infernovian. :|

    Sadly though. this is one of those times where I ask my self "Why do I bother posting here?" I'm always in design mode and considering most of this community was established due to an interest in game design, that such conversation is to be expected, even in the "Now Playing" board. I know I'm one of the only people around here who work on anything, but always hope people will have some more interest in the nitty gritty. I think arguing whether or not Don't Look Back has good theming has benefit to our ability talk about games and their stories. But instead I get "Oh well we care, but we don't care that much so it's not worth discussing!"

    That's sooooooo laaaaaaaame.~! And so disconnected to say it's about making itsomething better for some old fogies. This is about making stuff sophisticated enough for normal people to give a damn about.

    Either way, I have no interest in "playing pretend".
     
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  24. infernovia

    infernovia Well-Known Member

    That's an argument in bad faith. What I did was give my full opinion on why I think this game does not achieve anything interesting even in terms of "narrative tied to the mechanic" because I don't really see how it is deeply connected at all. This was an opportunity for us to exchange ideas, and we could both benefit from sharing how and why this worked and didn't, what was good, what was bad. I don't think Logo was insulted by me asking why he thinks it is "beyond a superficial connection," I consider such a scenario ridiculous.

    But check this, if the whole thing was just an allusion, without actually implementing the feeling of orpheus's in any meaningful manner, with just a moral at the end, how is it any different than something like... Ikaruga? Or does that not count because it tried to mechanically implement the opposition the hero was facing in a grandiose manner?

    You know, I didn't notice this. I just considered it the end and closed the browser. So basically, it's a way to reinforce repeated playing of the game make sense.

    That is kind of cool, but I wouldn't say this is different than a vast majority of games like Halo where the narrative powers are implemented mechanically. I thought you meant actually having the core mechanic of the game be central to tell the story of the game (which in this game is just used as a way to reference the older story without the significant emotion/anxiety that comes with it), not you know, having the ending and beginning tied together.
     
  25. specs

    specs Well-Known Member

    I played the game once. I enjoyed it that one time. I never played it again. But I did enjoy it.
     
  26. infernovia

    infernovia Well-Known Member

    In the spirit of the thread though, here are some things that I thought would be really cool to implement with actually not looking back, something I expect out of a game that ties the narration in with the mechanics:

    3D. It's required. The fact that the player sees the spirit all the time is a problem, not being able to tell if it's there or not would go a long way to increase the anxiety of the player. Additionally, the fact that I had to look at the spirit by my own volition to instigate the lose condition was very very irritating, and not only because the death animation took forever. This should give the player enough freedom of movement and the director some design space to make it less binary.

    Narration. Have an untrustworthy guide, someone you are always going to suspect but at the same time saves your ass enough time that you are skeptically following. So you are never quite sure if what you are leading is what you want, or it is what you want but you are bringing something terrible along with it.

    Atmospheric tension. Are the sounds you hear the evil of the underworld that are following you to the surface or just the background noise?

    Or maybe you want it more like role-playing? I still can't wrap my head around how to do this, but you would essentially have to get the player to believe the girl is super important, and actually looking back evokes a different story where the girl attempts to trap you in the underworld by asking you to make a pact or something.
     
  27. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    All of those suggestions sound like they're making a game with the same somewhat campy kinda over the top grandiose story that we've been dealing with for as long as video games have existed. Part of what makes a game like Don't Look Back neat is that the motivation or plot is not at all a shell for some heroic, anti-heroic, or questionable world changing act.

    It's not like you kill Hades/Devil and suddenly the world is a better place or something like that, you just kinda get what you were after which only applies to the player and no one else in the fictional world.

    There's plenty of room for those types of stories, and we all have our favorites, but part of the point when mentioning Don't Look Back is that games should be able to be about anything rather than just constantly telling stories of epic purpose and scale (though Don't Look Back has somewhat of a large scale considering the decent to hell and all that).

    ---
    Making it 3d would be a cool way to improve the mechanic though (in general never seeing the spirit would be cool).
     
  28. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    The problem I see with this statement is: Try and imagine playing Halo with all cut-scenes and voice-acting removed. Would you understand the story? If the answer is "no" (and I believe it is), then it *wasn't* implemented mechanically, plain and simple.

    Except we had this conversation already two years ago. I'm not really sure what you're expecting to get out of a "design mode" discussion here that wasn't already covered, at least for me and you personally??? It's a rehash of old material, and I feel justified in treating it that way. I'm sorry if someone new to the topic is mad about that, but there was too much time spent saying nothing back then to make me expect anything different now.

    I guess I also feel it's not necessarily useful? I mean "good theming" is already a pretty vague starting point, and the argument seems to focus on whether or not that's even true, which is kind of boring. If people wanted to talk about why, more precisely, the game was succesful/unsuccesful at this kind of theming stuff, it would probably be much more interesting. But I don't see how we could ever get there when half of us are saying it did everything poorly, and is therefore is beneath consideration.

    Okay, so then explain exactly how bullet skimming is somehow an integral part of this narrative you've created. And then explain how replacing the words "Espagaluda 2" and "butterfly" with the name of any other top-down shooter, and the race of it's protagonist somehow doesn't work...

    It's not a narrative if it's genre-wide or breaks down when throwing in any random specific detail.
     
  29. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    To be fair I like what Kayin is trying to discuss more than the initial topic as well, but it feels he's kind of missing the dots here.

    Yes talking about specifics is good, but in terms of why this thread exists it's (most likely) because I brought up the game as an example of an attempt to combine mechanics with story and I used it as a counter-point to Braid (where I felt that the books were very separated from the gameplay story). So in terms of answering Infernova (the OP of this thread) the nitty gritty or how well DLB succeeded at the claims I/others made isn't as much the point. Though now that we've sufficiently answered Infernova most likely it'd be cool to think more about the shortcomings of the game.

    FWIW I also use it as an example because anyone can go play it right away and figure out what I'm talking about. Not because I think it's the most amazing thing ever or anything. I also like Terry (I'm a big VVVVVV fan) so there's that.
     
  30. specs

    specs Well-Known Member

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  31. tataki

    tataki Well-Known Member

  32. specs

    specs Well-Known Member

    To be fair, Don't Look Back's payoff is in the end, and it's purely a narrative payoff. The aspiring screenwriter/novelist in me likes it. The gamer in me thinks it wasn't so long as to be a waste of time, and since it was free, whatevs.

    Honestly folks, this isn't an affront to gaming or anything. Smash Bros. Brawl is an affront to gaming. Don't Look Back is a short, free game trying more to tell a story than be a game. Yes, that means it's not a terribly great game, but it's $0, short, and inoffensive. All this anger aimed at it is a little silly.
     
  33. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    Not talking about theming when talking about art games? HOW TERRIBLE. Though even that aside, the argument is different. I believe at the time, garcia1000 and I were arguing that naming the game after the central little mechanic sorta hurt the whole discovery aspect and made the whole thing feel sorta cheap. Now, after having a long time to stew on it, I'm saying "Wait, the two central themes do not work together at all". It's funny too, because now I think the game's namesake is that of the game's weaker theme. But whatev!

    Yeah I feel you and Claytus on this one and as more people make posts, I feel it a little more. I certainly think Infernovia and Obscura have some points (I mean seriously, games have been saying things narratively and with mechanics for years), but oh my god does it make it impossible to have conversations about little experiments like this. I really wanna beat some people with a rolled up newspaper right now. :|

    I do think this game does work wonderfully as a conversation piece though. I was able to get a number of people to blow through it really quick just so I could talk about it.

    That's just because we're fat. Lotta places to put all that excess ego.
     
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  34. specs

    specs Well-Known Member

    You misunderstand. I never said Don't Look Back's narrative was amazing. Or bad. Or anything.

    Also, not necessarily aimed at you, but I'm also not saying "don't talk about it." Just saying it's not this monstrously horrible thing, and that's the vibe I'm getting from this thread.
     
  35. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    There's still no consistent topic here. The point of a thread about DLB is showing that mechanic/narrative crossover exists and how to do it. It's not some overall point about how all games need to be made, it's about why that game is (intentionally) different in flavor from a lot of others. And more importantly, it's not actually about "art" games. I'm not sure how that somehow became the focus. Seems like some people decided to describe this "theming" thing that I don't have a better word for as "art" (I'm looking at Obscura...), and then other people decided that was a too limiting definition and so we have to argue about "art" being an inclusive term for other games, too (oh wait, that was Obscura again, wasn't it?). So, seriously, wtf... you showed up to start a semantic argument, and then used it to redefine the terms you had added to the debate yourself?

    I guess Kayin and Logo covered anything else I could think to say.

    You're right, I was thinking of Dodonpachi with the Menace bar for some reason.
     
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  36. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    While I have no doubt Inf and Obscura's venom is sincere (though feel free to correct me if it's unintentional), for my part, while I don't put much value on the game, I don't hate it's existence or anything, nor do I think it's absolutely horrible trash. I think, relative to games that get exposure, it's kinda bad, but I couldn't say any worse than that without being hyperbolic. The game is a mostly inoffensive experiment.

    But when it comes to criticism, it's hard NOT to make something sound irredeemably awful when you can levy a bunch of arguments against it. You're putting magnifying glasses up to every weakness and that magnifying glass takes up your whole view. So of course most targeted criticism is going to sound like the target is awful... but experiences are way more complicated. Even a game like Iji, where I don't think a SINGLE element (well, I'll grant it ONE element) was done particularly well, can be a fun and enjoyable experience. When being critical, I find it's best to sorta 'give up' on being nice to what you're talking about and just pull whatever you're talking about apart. You can put it back together later!

    Also doesn't help when the target is something simple, that tries, or even succeeds, at something interesting, but has many many flaws. The flaws are almost always going to be the most interesting thing to talk about. It's hard to put together analytical praise for something like Don't Look Back, because the concept is more interesting than the execution (unless you wanna talk about sound, I guess. The game has good audio design). That doesn't mean nothing is there (though you could argue it)! Like arguing about the theming. That is something one rarely gets to talk about in such simple terms! We could say, talk about theming in Dark Soul, but it would take forever to get everyone on the same page and there is to much to examine. But here we have a nice simple story to rip apart!

    I think it's sorta important to try and separate praise and criticism on aspects of a game with an overall value statement. Games aren't mathematics, where 5good + 3good + 2bad = 6good. It's more like cooking!
     
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  37. infernovia

    infernovia Well-Known Member

    It's not about world-changing, it's about changing the world through your love. The original story of Orpheus had him sing songs even the gods would cry to. Shadow of the Colossus, Sin and Punishment, Romeo and Juliet etc.

    Regardless, it doesn't have to be this way, although it would be pretty difficult without a grandiose goal. You could have it like a dream sequence used in The Last Express, you could have it established earlier narratively and mechanically so you aren't quite sure at times if you are hallucinating or not. You could have him as a bard in the game who uses spirits to learn songs, and this one being his epic tragedy/comedy.

    I still like the Role-playing aspect of having the spirit attempt to tie you into the underworld, but it would be kind of lame if the player did it immediately from the beginning (which is the reason I can't wrap my head around it yet). Essential to all of this though, and especially the role-playing, is have the player really care about the girl as it would be lame if they like instantly turned around. Would be easy with Aeries lol.

    Edit:
    Dude, the end in this game where you disappear is also a cutscene, albeit a 2 sec one.

    And Halo does implement a lot of things mechanically. Like the visual look and feel of the aliens, the Halo world, the look and feel of the vehicles, etc. And, imo, it's kinda ridiculous to remove voice-acting or the cutscenes (although I wouldn't be opposed to removing the 8 min ones Square is known to do). The Last Express was one of the clear forerunner in implementing a believable world, and having awesome voice-acting goes a long way towards making the whole thing feel like a living breathing world.
     
  38. specs

    specs Well-Known Member

    Loud and clear. And I do understand passionate distaste, if you will. I feel it every time another Michael Bay movie is a smash hit in the box office ensuring more Michael Bay movies WHY DO PEOPLE GIVE HIM MONEY HE'S A TALENTLESS HACK --

    Sorry. Normally I can silence the screams.
     
  39. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member


    It's not even passionate distaste. Passionate discourse maybe, but my actual distaste is pretty mild! I try not to deeply hate games. Every one is a little gift -- an experiment that we can learn from. I reject the idea some people might have that art games, or triple A games or whatever can be 'harmful' to the industry (Maybe social "games", but those are basically traps). They're just all opportunities to learn. I appreciate people working in the avant-garde! We need them to find new little outlets to explore. The term avant-garde is also very fitting. The front line is the most risky position to be in, and most experiments will be failures -- mercilessly slaughtered by history and mocked openly in internet forums! I'm firmly in the polish and iteration camp. If I'm not going to be doing bold experiments, someone else has to!

    Most passion (though not always, don't get me started on Other M or Metroid Fusion) is passion generated by disagreement more than the game it's self. I might not feel strongly about a game, but I can believe strongly in my interpretation and analysis. I can also get passionately annoyed when people blow off what I consider to be very important bits of analysis! But when it comes to games (or any media) themselves, I think it's important to have a cool head. If you get too passionate in your hate, you blind your self and can't learn anything. At which point, you get threads like these!
     
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  40. infernovia

    infernovia Well-Known Member

    You know, I have been pretty much ignoring every single comment that boils down to basically saying I have something against either the people who like the game or the people who designed the game and omg it tried to do something, can't you leave it alone. Mostly because I can't say anything to them that will make them change their mind and mostly because I find such comments pointless to respond to anyway. It's also pointless for me to respond with what you have already said so I am not ignoring those analysis on purpose but mostly as a way to maximize time efficiency.

    But calling this "blind or passionate hate" is amusing to me considering how calmly I have responded to pretty much everything here.
     
  41. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    Pffffffft, that doesn't mean anything! I can keep a fairly neutral position on most things and be a totally frantic scatterbrain! It's what's in your heart that counts!

    But your right, that's an unfair assumption, especially from someone who gets flustered a lot. So how about...

    There, no assumption of emotional state! No one could possibly take offense to that!
     
  42. infernovia

    infernovia Well-Known Member

    Except you are still assuming that I didn't learn anything from this thread, or that I have more stuff to learn from it because most people are saying insightful and deep things that I didn't already think about. So nothing emotional, but still a humorous projection. Whatever works though!
     
  43. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    Oh come on, that's what it SEEMS like! But whatever, you're just a shitty communicator like I've been saying forever and I can't assume anything else. Or I THINK you are a shitty communicator in the context of these forums! :| You're not being very accommodating! That doesn't fit well in the original post at all!

    But to be fair, the whole thread wants me to put my head through a wall, not just you. It's putting me in a bad mood and making me say mean, unfair things!
     
  44. specs

    specs Well-Known Member

    http://store.steampowered.com/app/70300/

    Also, don't rely on straw men, please. It's making Kayin upset, and I'm trying to bromance him on twitter. No homo. Possibly yes homo.

    EDIT - This gives me a topic for the TOTALLY AWESOME PODCAST (sig) my pal and I do, Two Fat Guys Talk Games. Art Games and Their Mechanics. I will credit this thread. With my penis.
     
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  45. specs

    specs Well-Known Member

    I can't tell if you're being venomous or... whatever the opposite of venomous is.

    EDIT - so here are two responses.

    If you're being venomous: it's off-putting. Truth be told, I like to think of Obscura as "the guy that made me rethink platform games via his posts about the various Castlevanias." That guy is rational, thoughtful, explains himself, and isn't always wearing a virtual scowl.

    If you're not being venomous: it also uses up and down to change gravity, if you prefer, so it's kinda like Street Fighter as well.
     
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  46. Atma

    Atma Active Member

    There's more to a game than mechanics, just like there's more to a painting than medium. Although maybe you're right and these new designers really are just hacks... after all, Da Vinci did oil on canvas with his Mona Lisa centuries before Monet did Water Lillies. TOTALLY equivalent, lol.
     
  47. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    imo the top game has better graphics. For the rest of my thoughts see Spec's post.

    The comment about level design seems unsubstantiated, but if you have any actual insight into that I'd like to hear it. The let's play seems like Metal Storm has good levels, but I don't see how you can compare them at all to VVVVVV since one is a puzzle game and the other... isn't.

    There's also little to no mechanical overlap beyond the concept. It's like when people say Braid is just Prince of Persia because they both feature rewind.
     
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  48. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    Idk it's a bit platforming execution-y, but a lot of the game comes down to more puzzely elements as it's not always clear how to navigate a screen given your limitations.

    Some 'quantity' of challenge and # of things to interact with sounds like ludicrous game judgement criteria. Not everyone has the same skill level, I found VVVVVV to be exactly the level of challenge I want from a game, I could complete it, but I had to work at parts of it. The game doesn't feature a lot of mechanics, but it explores them all very well. In some games you get a cool mechanic and you're left thinking, "Oh man how cool would it have been if they did x,y,z or tried this type of level/puzzle". VVVVVV didn't do that, each mechanic felt fully explored and the only way I can see more gameplay would be by adding more mechanics. That's more of how I judge a game on its mechanics, it's not about how many you have, but rather how well you explore and use them.

    VVVVVV has a no death mode fyi which invalidates the last point (as well as Time Trials which also make you learn longer sections optimally). Many of the levels flow well if you don't die (which regardless of checkpoints breaks the flow of a section).

    VVVVVV also has scrolling, but chooses not to use it to arguable effectiveness. The Tower, for example, scrolls.
     
  49. Atma

    Atma Active Member

    THIS
     
  50. specs

    specs Well-Known Member

    I won't be discussing looks, since all I personally care about as far as that goes is if the game's visual aren't obtrusive. Like how I couldn't see the track in JetMoto 1 and 2, making the game nearly impossible to play. Not that I don't get a kick of how pretty Gears of War 3 is, though I'm more into Gears, or VVVVVV, or anything because of how they play.

    As for Metal Storm, it's now on my list of "NES games I somehow missed that I now must play."

    Re: VVVVVV: it has "gotcha" deaths but also infinite lives and incentive to replay. The frequent checkpoints don't kill the level's flow; each area's mechanical theme is consistent, and they mix well in the final area. You can play it for a low (or no) death count or not care and hunt down the collectibles. I liken it more to N+ or IWBTG.

    I do agree re: scrolling screens, and wish Megaman 9 and 10 featured them. Just to pull a tangent out of nowhere.
     
  51. Lofobal

    Lofobal Well-Known Member

    more colloquially known as "acting like a douche"
     
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