Keyboard Geniuses


Cyberhack The Gibson

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • January 25, 2013

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

The Storied Past Of The Future

Last April, a Kickstarter campaign to create a new digital iteration of the cyberpunk tabletop RPG Shadowrun was successfully funded four times over, an impressive feat considering its initial goal of $400,000. Drew Toal revisited its wild success and went into the history of the game’s vision of the not-so-distant-but-way-off future. Wayfinder went into a little more detail about how the future plays out in Shadowrun, and where it could be heading:

I found it interesting that Weisman decided to go back to the aesthetics and setting of Shadowrun’s first and second editions (TWO MOHAWKS AND A CYBERDEEEEECK ON THE MATRIX). The fourth edition of the setting (which the article uses art from, strangely) radically advanced things to a much more plausible and cool future and lost the cheap ’80s veneer, without sacrificing the core feeling of the setting. It’s still terrifying and awesome, but very plausibly, thoroughly, and even-handedly so.

For example, while the “old” vision of the future (2050s) was very much Gibson’s cables-and-chrome, the fourth edition included things like ubiquitous augmented reality alongside the full-immersion virtual reality. Recent advances in low-level mesh networking and augmented reality alongside the miniaturization of computing devices mean we’re likely headed for Shadowrun 4’s world more than a concrete-and-chrome CYBAHHHHPUNK reality. I suppose Weisman’s decision is more “go with what you know,” since he worked on the first and second editions.

Mattman Begins imagined a perfect world with a faithful Fallout-esque adaptation of the Shadowrun property:

I always thought the Shadowrun universe was ripe for a Bethesda-does-Fallout style makeover that made the setting come to life and made the corners intriguing to new gamers. Much like Fallout, there’s the fun sci-fi element of “this is an alternate future that’s not possible now, but it was once” that’s somewhat rare in gaming. And can you imagine picking up contracts, sneaking through ultra-high security skyscrapers, even flipping into the astral plane with such a game engine? Ah, the mind tingles.

Even $2 million is way short of making that dream possible, though. But I ain’t complaining. Hey, I’ll settle for a good story with some variable elements in an interesting location instead. Weisman’s got a few of those items already in the can just by promising a faithful adaptation.

Final Fantasy X

Yesterday, much of Gameological’s staff wrote about a games that, for one reason or another, they abandoned mid-playthrough. A bunch of quitters we are! We got a host of stories, ranging from moments of rage to complete physical breakdowns. As always, we bounced the question back to the readers. It’s The Shadsy beat every Myst game but left one expansion pack a bit unplayed:

I’m an enormous Myst fan. Call them slideshows, but I find them irresistible. I’ve finished all five games in the series plus the pseudo-spinoff Uru. But there’s an Uru expansion pack, The Path Of The Shell, that I haven’t touched. The reasons are twofold:

1. One of the puzzles in Path is absolutely heinous and involves hours of idling to solve properly. It’s such a timesink, and I can’t stomach it.

2. From what I understand, Path ends with a massive, complicated, world-spanning puzzle. I sorta like the idea that I will never solve it. Games like Myst are in such low supply, and I like having a small piece of the original artifact left for me to revisit one day.

The last room in Path Of The Shell is also the last room in the original Myst. It’s perfectly cyclical, and I’ll never experience it. And so I close, realizing that perhaps the ending has not yet been written.

Duwease powered through almost every virtual inch of Super Meat Boy but decided to stop short in the final moments.

Oh, I’ve got an odd one that I’ve never quite been able to explain. Super Meat Boy. I beat that sucker, and then I went back and I beat enough Dark Side levels to unlock the “FINAL final” level and get the true ending. I was playing through the final level—the second part of the final level, even—and I just… stopped wanting to finish.

I still don’t get why to this day, but I still also don’t really care about doing it. It wasn’t the hardest level, it wasn’t the longest, there was nothing particularly stand-out-ish about it. Considering the length of Super Meat Boy levels, I was literally 60 seconds or so away from the end game—although, like the final “60 seconds” of a basketball game, it was probably going to be more like 30 minutes. But in spite of all that, the compulsive, competitive part of my brain had just decided that it had had enough.

As a person very interested in the behavioral psychology of game design, it really intrigues me. None of the common knowledge around the art would indicate why it happened. Do people have reserves of patience that eventually wear out, even in tiny increments at a time, no matter how close the goal is at hand?

And hey, while we’re here, Gameological’s always looking for more interesting topics to tussle over. HobbesMkii supplied us with this last topic, and so can you! Just drop us a line at brilliantquestions at gameological dot com, and we promise not to spam your inbox with pictures of cats.

Run DmC
DmC: Devil May Cry

Capcom recently gave the Devil May Cry series the reboot treatment and delivered DmC: Devil May Cry fresh with a brand-new Dante. Anthony John Agnello praised the game for its treatment of adolescence, even if the execution wasn’t always perfect. In the comments, a discussion emerged about the series’ over-the-top legacy, and Mizo The Squiz argued for the wisecracking, white-haired Dante of old:

The goofiness was the central foundation of Devil May Cry 3. The opening scene had him killing demons with a pool break and backflipping off their heads while firing a gun with one hand and eating pizza with the other, screaming something about crazy parties.

He was supposed to be completely ridiculous, and toning it down seems like a weird move. They could’ve just made him less irritating without making him look like Generic Video Game Protagonist #2566, at least.

The most common accusation leveled at the new Dante on the internet at large is that he’s too “emo.” Citric observed:

I find it funny that a guy with a sensible haircut is somehow emo while a man with silver hair and dramatic bangs is not. Note: “Emo” has basically lost all meaning outside of haircuts for me.

Lil’ ’Bastion
Bastion - The Kid

(NOTE: Plot details of the Bastion ending ahead!) Drew Toal delved into one of the best game endings of recent years, the closing moments of Bastion. In the ending, you face a choice to undo a cataclysmic war by pushing the “reset” button on a time machine or to evacuate and forge ahead into the vast unknown. Caspian Comic talked about a circulating theory on a few subtle details from the New Game Plus mode, which kicks in when you replay the game:

A lot of people believe that the evacuation is the “true” ending, and that if you choose the reset option, the Calamity just happens all over again anyway. This is supported by alterations to the script in New Game Plus: Periodically during his narration the second time through, Rucks will stop himself and ask if he’s already told this part. The theory is that no matter how many times you reset, it never takes, and the Calamity always happens. The only way to break the cycle is to choose evacuation. Personally, I don’t subscribe to this notion, since I think it weakens the choice you’re given at the end of the game, but it’s an interesting idea all the same.

Cloks questioned the need of having one ending be more correct than its peers:

Man, the idea of a “true ending” in pop culture seems kind of reductive. They’re all endings, so why does one have to be more valid than the other? I think that Elder Scrolls dealt with this by folding every possibility into one and kind of ignoring the quibbly bits, which might be the way to do it in a continued universe.

You’re right when you say it weakens the choice—if one option is fated, then to pick the others becomes meaningless, especially in a game like Bastion where there would be endless cycling until the “true ending” is reached. If I want a world that is broken and will continue to break, I don’t want to know that eventually my choices are meaningless.

Speaking of endings, that’s all, folks. As always, thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you next week.

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