Sunday, March 27, 2011

Apologies, Updates, Tentative Schedule, and Random Thoughts on Braid

I can't say it's unexpected, but having a full course load at college really gets in the way of posting things here regularly. To all (probably zero) of you that actually read this, I apologize for not posting these past two months. And I apologize for my partner not posting at all.

A joint (as in, written by both me and shoofle) retrospective review on the PS3 game inFamous has been in the works for the past month and a half or so, with me having played through the game on the 'good' path and shoofle on the 'evil' path. Hopefully we'll get that out before inFamous 2 comes out, so we can make it look like we planned it this way.

The two of us are also currently in the middle of a video game project of our own. Within the Student Game Developers at UVA, we're directing You Should See Someone About That (YSSSAT), a 2D platformer with a story inspired by the movie Inception and gameplay inspired by Super Meat Boy. Hopefully we can finish it in time (deadline is May 1st) and it'll be a decent game for having been made in a semester.

Tentative Schedule:
In the meantime, in order to make this blog look like it gets a lot more love than it does, I'm going to attempt to post something video game related every other day (or every day, if I'm feeling like I have a lot of spare time) for a while. These may not always be long amazing meaningful posts, but I'd rather take quantity over quality when choosing quality drops quantity to zero.

And now for my video game related thoughts. Recently I started watching the video series Extra Credits on the Escapist. This is a great series, the creators have a lot of meaningful things to say about a ton of varying video game topics. Check them out here:

Random Thoughts on Braid:
After watching their first movie on the Escapist (Video Games and Bad Writing), I couldn't help but think about Braid. The story in Braid is entirely separate from the gameplay, and it is told piecemeal by small books that open as you run past on your way to the actual level. The overall story is extremely vague and confusing, it's roughly about a man (presumably your playable character) trying to correct a past error and save a princess. It's generally what you would consider bad writing in the video game. But then, you play the very last level. And everything comes together. For those of you that haven't played and don't mind spoilers, you can watch the last level here:

I don't consider Braid to be a stellar game. Don't get me wrong, I think it's good. It has fairly solid platforming and interesting takes on time manipulation (and some of the skills required to reach the hidden stars are ridiculous). But it's not great, and the story simply falls short. There's a lot that is interesting, but it isn't told well. More importantly, aside from the last level, there is practically nothing linking the story and the gameplay.  The story is about mistakes and redemption, your character is aiming to right his wrongs. The gameplay has you jumping around on the heads of strange sheep monsters. There's a huge divide, and most of it just doesn't make sense.

(NOTE: I am aware that the ending of Braid is different if the player takes the time to obtain the 8 hidden stars, and numerous things indicate that the story from this perspective is actually about the invention of the atom bomb. But because getting all 8 stars is ridiculously difficult, which makes getting the alternate ending extremely unlikely, and because I don't think the ending changes for the better, I'm going to ignore the alternate ending from here on. I'm also going to ignore the Epilogue that occurs after the last level.)

However, that said, I believe the last level of Braid to be one of the greatest endings ever. The twist is completely out of the blue, and yet makes perfect sense as it plays out. Every single action you made while playing through that last level is suddenly cast in a completely different light, and with a shock you realize that you are not the hero of this story, but the villain.

I think that Braid's last level is a great example of how storytelling could be done in video games. It has its problems: the part of the level where the player has control is a heavily scripted scenario, and the player doesn't have control while the level plays out in reverse. But more importantly than that, it is at this single point in the game that the story merges perfectly with the gameplay. Your platforming suddenly has a tangible story-relevant goal, and the twist makes perfect sense within the time manipulation mechanic. In my opinion, between this merging of story and gameplay, and the shock of the twist, there could not have been a better way to execute the ending of the game. Seriously, just wow.

Anyway, it's 5am and I'm running out of things to say. Not that I really had that much to say aside from "I'll try to post more" and "Braid's ending is awesome". In any case, until next time, which will hopefully only be in a few days.

No comments:

Post a Comment