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Michael Godesky
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Michael Godesky

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I finished playing Police Quest 1.  And I'll admit, a lot of my enjoyment here is purely based on nostalgia.  The first video games I really got into were Sierra adventure games.  I played a lot of Quest for Glory, a lot of King's Quest, and a lot of Space Quest.  This is the only one of their Quest games that I never really played when they were first out.  So for me, this is like having one last all-new Sierra adventure.

I think it's interesting that the game focuses on following proper procedures rather than the shootouts and high-speed car chases that police stories so often focus on.  As such, the gameplay is very logical for an adventure game.  There's nothing as outlandish as, for instance, the puzzle in Broken Sword 5 where I repaired a broken circuit by training a cockroach to carry a paperclip on its back.  The main challenge seems to come from making sure you're following the proper steps in the proper order.  I had to do the drug bust in the park several times because the first time I tried, I didn't have my gun drawn, so they ran away.  Then I tried clicking my gun on them, and I lost for shooting an unarmed person.  Apparently, I had to click the gun on myself, which isn't super intuitive.  Then I caught them, but I lost because I didn't search the guy after I arrested him.

I feel like this game was probably done around the same time as Conquests of Camelot.  It has a similar problem of just being mired in copy protection puzzles.  So I'm guessing that a lot of this procedural stuff would have been easier if I'd had the physical manual in front of me while I was playing.  Unfortunately, it's not a style that has aged well for those of us getting the game from GOG.

I think my biggest issue with this game is its rather simplistic portrayal of crime.  And I understand that that may be owing to the fact that it was likely targeted toward a younger audience.  But even so, it's a very black and white perspective, where there are just good guys and bad guys, and the "bad guys" are just sort of written off as "low-lifes" or an "undesirable element."  And frankly, that made me a little uncomfortable at times.  Because this is a game where we're not dealing with fantasy monsters or aliens from outer space.  We're talking about real social problems.  I would be really interested in seeing a game in the style of Police Quest with its focus on procedural realism, but with a more modern sensibility to the writing where maybe you can take a more nuanced look at the causes of crime and what leads people to that lifestyle beyond simply painting them all as comic book villains.  Where's Police Quest: The Wire?  I would totally play that game.
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Jason Godesky's profile photoMichael Godesky's profile photo
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Yeah, and that's where I really run into a problem with the Police Quest games.  It's one thing to have a simple plot for the sake of showcasing the elements you want to focus on.  But you don't want to, by doing that, teach something negative.  And unfortunately, I think this is a series that crosses that line.

For example, there's one point in the game where you respond to a call at a diner.  And the owner wants you to do something about some bikers at the bar next door who have their motorcycles parked in front of her place.  And she's going on about how bad these people are and how they're scaring away "decent people like us."  And I'm just thinking, "Well, their bikes are parked legally.  They haven't broken any laws."

So I go over to talk to the bikers.  And they kind of get you off the hook of having to make a real moral decision by having one of the bikers just immediately try to kill you.  Which is absolutely insane.  I mean, I don't care how much of a hardened biker you are.  No one in their right mind is going to try to murder a cop in front of half a dozen witnesses just because he asks them to move their bikes.

So by having the biker be completely irrational, it makes the player feel better about just beating the guy with your nightstick.  But I was just left wondering what would have happened if he hadn't been a total lunatic?  What if he had just calmly said, "Hey, we're not causing any trouble.  We have a right to park there just like anyone else.  We're not moving them."  I mean, we're not given any indication that Sonny wouldn't have still just beaten the guy with his nightstick anyway because hey, that's the solution to the puzzle.

This is a point that the guys on Mostly Walking made when they were playing King's Quest VI that I thought was really interesting.  They pointed out that Alexander kind of just gets lucky that the things he needs to do to complete his quest happen to also be good for the people he's dealing with.  But we're not really given reason to believe that he wouldn't have done those things anyway even if they weren't good.  Like what if Beauty had said, "No thanks, I'm not interested in marrying this beast you just introduced me to five seconds ago?"  There's not much that Alexander does during the game that would make us think he wouldn't just say, "Well, that's really too bad because I need to lift this curse so I can save Cassima since that's the only thing I have ever mentioned caring about."

Now in the case of King's Quest, obviously they're playing off of well-established fairy tales.  And so they can use those tropes as a sort of short-hand.  We don't need to see the whole relationship between Beauty and Beast because we already know that story.  We know how their relationship is supposed to go.  And so, even though from a logical perspective it can feel a little weird, for the sake of the story, all they have to do is a say "Beauty and the Beast," and we all get it.

In the case of Police Quest, I feel like it's a lot more problematic because what they're playing off of isn't tropes, it's real world stereotypes.  And that takes you into a lot uglier territory.  Then the message seems to turn into, "Well, these people are bad because they're the bad guys, and these people are good because they're the good guys."  So then we don't have to worry about things like due process or understanding where another person is coming from.  We already know who the bad guys are.
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Michael Godesky

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I played A Golden Wake over the weekend.  While in some ways it may not be quite as polished as some of Wadjet Eye Games' other titles, it's noteworthy in that it's always great to see a designer doing something unique and interesting to take advantage of the medium itself rather than just trying to make their game more like a movie.

It's not just that it takes place in a cool historical setting that rarely gets explored in games, though that doesn't hurt.  It's the way the game uses commonly accepted conventions of the adventure genre to emphasize the character's desperation with his inability to move up the corporate ladder.

In adventure games, we're pretty much used to having to go through a long series of seemingly random, even menial tasks before finally getting the big reward.  That's just part of playing an adventure game.  In A Golden Wake, the main character Alfie Banks spends much of the game doing similar tasks as essentially the errand boy of a major real estate tycoon, in the hopes of making it big with the company one day.  Only in this case, that big reward never comes.  And since we as the player have been guiding Alfie through these thankless jobs, it makes his situation that much more relatable when he's eventually driven to more and more drastic action in order to move up.  The game uses the format of the adventure genre to examine long-held American ideals about work which see many struggle their whole lives in the belief that one day they will be the ones on top when the reality is that the system is against them.

Of course, the game is not without its flaws.  The choices feel railroaded and, as such, inconsequential, and some of the dialogue is a bit on-the-nose.  Which is kind of unfortunate, because it's a cool premise that you almost get the sense could have been gaming's own version of Breaking Bad were the writing a bit more subtle.  But even so, it's unique enough to make it well worth checking out.
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Michael Godesky

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So one nice thing about having nothing to do over the weekend is that it gave me an opportunity to play some of the games I picked up a while back during the Steam and GOG sales.  I'm surprised it took me this long to discover Wadjet Eye Games, which publishes some really cool old-school style adventure games.

Of particular note was Primordia.  This is one of the coolest settings I've seen in a game in a long time.  It's post-apocalyptic in the truest sense of the word.  Humanity is long gone, but the robots they created continue to scavenge the ruins.  It's like a weird blend of WALL-E and A Canticle for Leibowitz.  It's a surprisingly philosophical game too.  It really touches on themes of religion, war, free will, and individualism vs. community.

This is the kind of concept that is just so cool and unique and intriguing, it makes me want to convert it to a tabletop role-playing game so that I can spend a whole campaign exploring this world.
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Michael Godesky

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So I've been listening a lot lately to The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast. Is it bad that now all I can think about is how I would turn Sparks Nevada into a campaign setting for Fate?

The pulpy scifi/western mash-up seems like it's right up Fate's alley. And all of the characters are defined by a few easy-to-remember catch-phrases. Like Sparks might have the aspects Marsal on Mars, I'm From Earth, Rights the Outlaw Wrongs on Mars, and Riding in the Name of Truth and Justice. Whereas Croach might have the aspects The Tracker and Under Onus to Sparks. And the barkeep clearly has the aspect Don't Want No Trouble in My Place.

Admittedly, I don't know how many people listen to The Thrilling Adventure Hour and also play RPGs. So it may be of interest to just me. Still though... worth thinking about.
Watch the. Documentary Web Series. Get a glimpse of the other side of the stage of the production styled with the feel of old time radio and learn about what goes into each performance. It's energetic, sometimes frantic, but most of all, it looks like a ton of fun.
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Scott Acker's profile photoMike Olson's profile photoMichael Godesky's profile photo
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Wow. And here I thought I was just engaging in some idle speculation on a hypothetical project.  I didn't realize it was a real thing that someone was already working on.

That sounds really awesome.  I know you did a great job with Atomic Robo, so I'll definitely have to keep an eye out for this.  Thank you both for taking the time to respond.
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I recently learned about Conquests of Camelot, a hidden gem in Sierra's classic adventure game collection.  This is a game that never really got the attention of more popular series like King's Quest, but it is so amazing I had to share some thoughts about it.  This is an adventure game where you play as King Arthur going out in search of the Holy Grail.  Which already, I'm sold just on that.  They do take liberties with the legends, as you might expect.  But it's still King Arthur.  You're in control of King Arthur, exploring Camelot and doing all those Arthurian things.

To give you an idea, this is the map that you see when you leave Camelot: http://www.sierrahelp.com/Documents/Maps/Conquests/Conquests_of_Camelot_(England)_-_Map.jpg

All of those little dots you see are actual locations in Dark Age Britain.  But here's the thing.  You can only actually go to three of them.  If you try going to one of the places that isn't directly linked to the plot, you get a message essentially saying, "No, dummy.  Why would you want to go there and explore this vast open world of adventure and mystery?"  In fact, after you leave, you can't even go back to Camelot, the place that you're the king of.  I imagine that Arthur is about to head back to Camelot, and then he's just like: Camelot, tis a silly place

But more than just nitpicking about the game's limitations, I'm absolutely fascinated by the almost single-mindedness of its message.  So at the time that this game was made, one way that they tried to prevent piracy was by having puzzles in the game that you needed to read the manual that came in the box in order to solve.  King's Quest VI, for instance, had a few puzzles like this at the Isle of the Sacred Mountain.  But in this game, there are copy protection puzzles just everywhere you go.  To the point where there are tests of Arthur's worthiness to obtain the Grail that are literally just, "Let me give you a quiz on the assigned reading.  This pop quiz will prove your worth!"

Now by itself, the copy protection wouldn't be that bad.  It's just a relic from another era of gaming.  But then you have the ending.  And by the way, spoilers here for anyone who was planning on playing this game from 1989.  I'm pretty sure we're past the statute of limitations on this one.  But it ends with Arthur finding the Grail--which he literally just picks up out of a hole in the ground--and a thief darts out and grabs it.  And it's the same thief who stole all of Arthur's money earlier in the game.  Only this time, Arthur is able to chase him down and get the Grail back.  And so the last decision in the game is whether to kill the thief or to show him mercy.

And this is where it gets insane.  So you decide to spare the thief because you're all about chivalry and mercy, right?  So Arthur takes the Grail and starts to leave, and the thief runs up behind him and tries to stab him in the back.  So Arthur turns around, and the Grail starts glowing.  Now the Grail is going to judge the thief.  And so you're thinking, "Oh, this should be interesting.  I'm sure the Grail's judgment will be just yet fair."  No.  The Grail decides its going to get all Old Testament on this guy's ass.  It just disintegrates him.  His skin and organs are blasted away, and his skeleton drops to a heap on the floor and turns to ash.  Apparently, God was just like, "Yeah, all that stuff about mercy was just for you.  I really just wanted him alive so I could have the opportunity to vaporize him myself."

So here we have a game where the climax is this thief being obliterated by the righteous judgment of God after Arthur proved himself worthy of the Grail by passing the Sacred Rites of Copy Protection.  This entire game is basically one giant PSA about how stealing is wrong.  I can almost see it ending with Arthur turning to the camera and saying, "Remember, kids.  Stealing video games is bad!"  And then there's just a "The More You Know" animation.
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I think I'm going to cancel my Audible subscription just because I have more audiobooks and podcasts at this point than I have time to listen to.  But I still have 4 credits that I'm not entirely sure what to spend on.  I'm thinking I'll spend at least one of those to finally pick up Dune, which I feel like I really should have read a long time ago at this point.  And The Martian by Andy Weir looks interesting.  Any other recommendations?  Are there any other good scifi/fantasy books out right now?
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Jason Pitre's profile photoMelissa S Cohen's profile photoMichael Godesky's profile photo
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So I get the impression that Name of the Wind is pretty good. I might check that out.
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Michael Godesky

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Reading the latest version of Primetime Adventures: "If it's a 'cop' show, it would be boring--and kind of pathetic--for every cop to be a maverick who doesn't play by the rules and disrespects authority."

Man, I would so watch that show.
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Michael Godesky

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Also, Freedbird Games' To the Moon is a beautiful little game.  It has a cool sort of sci-fi concept where you play two scientists who go into an old man's memories to grant him his dying wish--to go to the moon.  It's a bit like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the video game.  But the real crux of the game is going backward in time through this man's memories and seeing how his relationship with his wife unfolds over the years.

The game really delves deep into this relationship, and it deals with themes of empathy and understanding and loss in a way I've rarely seen in a video game.  As much as we all love shooting aliens and zombies, it's kind of great to play a game that's about something that's so real and honest.  The only reason I don't go as far as to call this the best game I've ever played is that the actual gameplay elements are very light.  It's basically just some minimal interactivity to connect dialogues.  But I don't say that to minimize Freebirds' work here, because it's still an amazing experience.  But at the same time, I can't help wondering what it would be like if they had the budget of a AAA title and these memories were a fully interactive world that you could explore.  I want there to be way more games like this, and it almost makes me mad that there aren't.
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Michael Godesky

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So I played the first episode of +Telltale Games' Game of Thrones series.  Like most Telltale games, it has a compelling story.  And they certainly go for the shocking deaths in classic Game of Thrones style.  Though to be honest, I'm not sure Telltale's usual method of storytelling fits the setting.  Spoilers for Episode 1 ahead.

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Brace yourself.  Spoilers are coming.

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So much of the episode revolves around Ethan, the young new lord of House Forrester, and seeing what kind of lord he'll be as the competing House Whitehill and their allies in House Bolton try to take over their ironwood in the wake of the Red Wedding.  The episode ends with Ramsay Snow stabbing Ethan in the neck.

The problem is that, like most of Telltale's previous games, the players' choices are largely an illusion.  You may get some slightly different dialogue, but no matter what you choose, the major events of the story will unfold exactly the same.  That may work fine for the fatalistic zombie genre presented in The Walking Dead.  But in this case, it says something about the philosophy behind the setting.

After all the hemming and hawing about what kind of lord Ethan will be and whether he'll use force or diplomacy, it ultimately doesn't matter.  Ethan dies no matter what.  It has nothing to do with the decisions he made.  He dies for no other reason than because Ramsey is a bad guy who does bad things.

And by comparison to other deaths like those of the various Starks, the point seems to be that those deaths too were unpreventable.  But while the series' villains like Ramsey are certainly ruthless, it's hard to deny that the Starks themselves had plenty of opportunities to make wiser choices: http://imgur.com/gallery/ygk4c

Indeed, that seems to very much be the point of the series.  George R.R. Martin asks us to challenge our long-held fantasy tropes.  Characters like Ned and Rob Stark end up dying because they act like a typical noble fantasy hero, and in real life, that sort of behavior is far more likely to get you killed than it is to make you king.  Tyrion fairs far better as Hand than Ned did because he's skilled at playing the game.

Thus the series asks the question, is it possible to be both a good ruler and a good person?  And which is more important?

But those questions only bear real weight if the characters' decisions are meaningful.  It would have been far more interesting if the player had the opportunity to prevent Ethan's death, but perhaps that means making him more ruthless or more cunning.

On the plus side, it's very interesting to explore these smaller houses in more depth and see how the war for the throne we've been following in the main series ripples out to effect the lives of those the next rung down in the hierarchy of Westeros.
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Michael Godesky

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So I was mentioning a few weeks ago how this is a pretty great time to be an adventure game fan.  Now to emphasize that point for me, here's Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick's new Kickstarter.
It’s like opening a dusty old desk drawer and finding an undiscovered LucasArts adventure game you’ve never played before.
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Michael Godesky

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So... Marvel blew up the internet this week.

BTW, this post includes spoilers for the Phase 2.

A lot of the emphasis from this week's announcement seems to be on all of the new characters showing up in Phase 3, and like everyone else, I'm excited to see Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel make their film debuts.  But I'm particularly interested in where they're going with the already established Avengers gang.

One of the things that really impressed me about the Phase 2 films was how willing they were to make major, sweeping changes to the universe that will have lasting consequences, which is something you don't always see a lot of in comic books.

We started with Iron Man 3 which had Tony destroying his suits and having an operation to remove the shrapnel from his chest.  Admittedly, he can build a new suit any time he wants.  And even though the Iron Man series seems to be done for the time being, he's supposedly still going to show up in Avengers 2 & 3 and the next Captain America.  It's hard to imagine him going through all those movies without suiting up again at some point.  But it was still a major turning point for the character.  Then we had Thor: The Dark World which ended with Loki displacing Odin as the king of Asgard.  And in Captain America: The Winter Soldier we had possibly the biggest change yet with the dissolution of SHIELD.

So we already saw some resolution to Tony Stark's character arc in Iron Man 3.  It's interesting to see that Phase 3 is including Civil War, a storyline which, in the comics at least,  ended with Captain America's death, and Ragnarok, a storyline that resulted in Thor disappearing from the comics for a while.  Obviously it will be some time before we get to see how this all plays out, but it certainly feels like Marvel is starting to drive their Phase 1 characters towards concluding their stories.

In comics, you don't really get a lot of resolution.  Even when a character does actually die, it's only a matter of time before they get resurrected in some inane way.  But with a film series, you kind of know going in that you're only going to have so many movies with these actors.  You can recast, but that tends to result in a soft reboot at the very least.  And certainly part of this may be Marvel planning for what will happen when the original stars reach the ends of the contracts.  But since you know you have a limited number of films with them and you don't need to maintain some pre-determined status quo for future writers, that means you can actually give their stories a proper ending.  What a novel concept for a superhero story.

It should also be interesting to see how the Marvel movies will continue to tie together after the original Avengers are gone.  They're correct to point out that the Avengers traditionally have a rotating roster, and it's cool to see them play with that in the movies.  But you usually have at least one or two of that core group of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk.  It's a little hard to imagine Marvel eventually ending up with an Avengers 4 with a team consisting of just Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel.  On the other hand, at this point, I suspect Marvel would still make it work phenomenally.

It's also interesting to note the lack of a solo Hulk film.  I know Hulk hasn't had much luck in that department in the past.  The Ang Lee film was pretty awful.  And even though I kind of liked the Edward Norton Hulk, it still ended up being one of the least well received of the Phase 1 movies, to the point where Marvel seems to mostly pretend it just never happened.  But that was all before the much beloved Mark Ruffalo take on the character from Avengers.  If they really are bringing the original Avengers to proper concluding points, this seems like the perfect time for a Planet Hulk movie.
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Michael Godesky

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Good news, everyone!

Despite a few last minute venue issues, GASPcon 15 is still on. It will now be held at the south main hall of the Monroeville Convention Center, making this the biggest GASPcon yet. There's still time to pre-register too. So if you haven't signed up yet, now's the time.

And be sure to come by and check out the Games on Demand table. We'll be running all of your favorite indie RPGs all weekend.
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    Business & Psychology, 2001 - 2005
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    Customer Service Assistant, 2012 - present
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