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Michael Godesky
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Any recommendations for good zombie themed RPGs?
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Lowell Francis (edige23)'s profile photoJeff Johnston's profile photoMichael Godesky's profile photo
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I know a lot of people really like All Flesh Must Be Eaten, but to me, the mechanics just don't really say "zombies."  It feels more like just a regular D&D game that's wearing Romero's clothes.  I would like to try out Shotgun Diaries though.

+Jeff Johnston, that sounds like an interesting take Psi*Run. I can totally see that working.
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So... the end of Fables.  Is it just me, or was it kind of weird and awkward?

I realize that Willingham's politics seem to run more conservative than my own.  Which is something I actually missed the first time I read these books.  At the time, I just thought he was trying to show how the fables are coming from a different world, so they have a sort of more medieval mindset.  It wasn't until recently when I went back and re-read some of the earlier volumes that I realized that no, those are totally conservative viewpoints.  What can I say?  Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between people from the Middle Ages and Republicans.  But he still tells a good story, and I never felt like Willingham was pushing his politics too hard.  And, at least from what I remember, he never wrote anything that I found outright offensive.  Until...

Well, there are two pages from the final volume that are devoted to an argument about whether some sergeant was right to chew out a female firefighter for refusing to go into the building that just exploded or if he was just being sexist.  First of all, I find it weird that a firefighter, male or female, would be surprised to find that their job involves going into burning buildings.  What's really bizarre about these pages though is that they don't seem to have any bearing on the story whatsoever.  I have never seen these characters before, and this scene has literally no impact on anything.  So then it just strikes me as kind of offensive.  Because the only reason I can see why they would even bring this up in the first place is if they wanted to talk about how women can't be firefighters but then immediately justify it by having the sergeant make a whole speech about why it's not really sexism.  It's just... ugh.

I wish I could say that this was just an unfortunate low point in an otherwise well-crafted ending, but frankly, I wasn't too impressed with the whole war between Snow White and Rose Red either.  The problem is that there's literally no reason for these two to be fighting in the first place other than that some magic people told them it's inevitable that they fight each other.  And for two women who have been very strong-willed and independent throughout the series, it's hard to imagine why they would let themselves get swept along by all of this rather than just saying right from the start, "Screw that.  I'm not going to fight my sister."

Meanwhile, Geppetto has been plotting to rebuild the Empire for how many issues now?  We see that he's finally created a new army of wooden soldiers for himself which he plans to use to take over the mundy world.  And we never even find out what happens after all of that!  That's the last we ever see of Geppetto and his soldiers.  It gets two pages--literally the same amount of page space as a totally random conversation about female firefighters.

Not that it was all bad.  I will say that I did enjoy the short stories showing what happened to all the different characters.  "The Last Christmas Story" was particularly good, and it was nice to see Boy Blue one last time.  Still, reading this just kind of made me wish they had quit while they were ahead and ended the series after the Empire's defeat.
It’s the final trade paperback volume of FABLES! No, wait – it’s FABLES #150, the grand finale of the best-selling, award-winning comic book series! And it’s also an original graphic novel in the tradition of 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL! Yes, it’s all this and more! Join us for 150 – that’s, right, 150! – pages of new stories starring your favorite Fables, all from the mind of Bill Willingham. It all starts with an 80-page lead story illustrated by s...
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I mentioned in my previous post that as I was going back through the King's Quest series, I also played Phoenix Online Studios' unofficial sequel The Silver Lining.  Of course, I didn't realize before I started playing that the fifth and final episode has yet to be released, so that was disappointing.  Still, for a fan-made game, it's very well done.  And there's an interesting story behind how it got made if you care to Google it.

It's great to see all of our favorite characters from the series, and it's fun to visit the parts of the Green Isles that we didn't have a chance to explore in King's Quest VI.  The game has a well-crafted story that ties together all of the previous King's Quest games and even includes a few surprising twists.  It doesn't really feel like a real King's Quest game though.  While previous games have seen a few elements carry over from one installment to the next, King's Quest games have never been this focused on their own past.  They've always been about moving forward to new quests and new locations.  Why is Rosella even getting married in the Green Isles, and not Daventry or Etheria?  Is there any reason for this game to be set in the Green Isles other than that King's Quest VI is everyone's favorite?  Then you have the often overly wordy dialogue that's packed full of in-jokes and references to previous games.  There are parts where it's basically just like, "Remember that time when I rescued Valanice from that tower?  And remember that time when Alexander was kidnapped by Manannan?  And remember that time when Rosella found Pandora's Box?"  It makes the whole thing feel like fan fiction.  Which makes sense because technically, that's what it is.

I wonder now if part of what has allowed King's Quest to capture fans' imaginations for so long is that it doesn't go into this sort of detail.  There's really not that much connective tissue between games, but there's just enough for people to wonder about and start to fill in the gaps in their own minds.

Still, while it may be fan fiction, it's at least good fan fiction.  I thought it was really nice to have a chance to just sit and talk to Edgar and Cassima, the way that real families talk during troubled times.  Frankly, I think the official games could use a little more of the sort of character development we see here.

#KingsQuest #TheSilverLining  
“The game is very true to the original series and features many of the storylines and characters, especially, of King's Quest VI. I found it beautiful to play. I, too, like many other fans, would like to see how this story unfolds!” – Roberta Williams, Game Designer and Creator of the King's ...
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The first episode of The Odd Gentlemen's reboot of Sierra's classic point and click adventure series King's Quest releases this week.  So I've been getting ready by going back and replaying the eight previous King's Quest games.  By which I mean KQ 1-7 and the fan-made sequel The Silver Lining.  And never Mask of Eternity.  Here's my long-winded thoughts on the series.

It's fun to go back and revisit these games that I haven't played in years.  But at the same time, a lot of the appeal is purely nostalgic.  Even I have to admit that these older games have a lot of issues.  Here's the bad.

• Having to restore.  Sierra games in general, and the King's Quest series in particular, were rather infamous for having sudden deaths and dead-ends.  And this was before the days of auto-saving, so you would just have to hope you had a relatively recent saved game or else start over from the beginning.  It honestly amazes me playing them now that there was ever a time when we put up with this.  And I was about ten at the time, so what was that again about how children have short attention spans?  It must have just been that I had way more time on my hands in those days.  Because if I were playing a game like that today, I think I would probably just be like, "I don't have time for your crap, Sierra!  I have work in the morning!"
• Puzzle solutions.  It's not even that the solutions to the puzzles are unintuitive, though many of them are that too.  It's that some of these solution are simply unfair.  In King's Quest V, there's a part where I find a boat on a beach.  And I click the eye icon on the boat, and that narration is basically just like, "It's a boat."  So then I click the hand on it, and Graham starts to get in the boat.  So I think, "Okay, I guess the boat is fine."  Then I get out to sea, and the boat sinks, and I die.  Because apparently, there was a hole in the boat that Graham didn't see, even though I specifically made a point of inspecting the boat before I got in.  Meaning that the only way to solve this puzzle is to first die, hope you have a recent save that you can restore back to, and plug the hole that you now know is there.  If this were a Dungeons & Dragons game, and a DM was vindictive enough to pull something like that, I think I would rage quit that game.  Here's the thing.  I'm generally okay with difficult puzzles, as long as when I find out what the solution is, I can follow how I could have been able to solve it, even if the logic may be somewhat circuitous.  But puzzles where there is no way that a rational human being would be able to figure it out just drive me crazy.
• Lack of internal logic.  One thing that I don't remember noticing when I played these games as a kid but really bugged me when I was playing them again this time was how much stuff simply appears in some random location for literally no other reason than that the main character needs it to solve a puzzle.  I realize that to a certain degree, that's true of any adventure game.  But most will provide an in-world reason for that thing to be where it is.  You need scissors to cut something?  You go to the barber shop.  It makes sense.  It's not the same as just having a magic bowl lying in an otherwise empty field with no explanation as to what it is, who it belongs to, or how it ended up there.  For instance, in King's Quest I, I walked out of the castle and moved a rock to find a hole in the ground.  And in the hole, I found a dagger.  And I found myself wondering, "Who was it that needed to hide a weapon right outside the castle gates?  Is this part of some castle intrigue?  Was someone plotting against King Edward?  Should Graham be looking for a body?"  None of these questions are ever answered, which is sad because I feel like that would have been a way more interesting story than the one I was in.  But no, the dagger only exists because Graham needs it to cut a rope.
• Lack of world-building.  King's Quest is a series that draws heavily from well-known fairy tales for its setting.  And I actually didn't mind the lighter, almost child-like tone, except in King's Quest VII, which just didn't seem to fit with the others.  Now drawing from fairy tales could have worked had they combined those elements in a new or interesting way to create something unique, the way that something like Bill Willingham's Fables comics do.  But they don't do that, and so it just feels like a bunch of fairy tales that have been randomly smashed together.  Which unfortunately, makes it a far less compelling universe than something like Monkey Island, or Grim Fandango's Land of the Dead, or even Quest of Glory's Gloriana.  And as I mentioned, King's Quest VII particularly stands out because they seem to be going for a very Disney-like style.  And there are a couple of problems with that.  One being that they just don't pull it off all that well.  Despite whatever other criticisms people may have about Disney, they've been successful in no small part because they have a lot of very talented people working on those animated films.  Just because it's for children doesn't mean it doesn't take real skill to do well.  And the other thing is that while both Disney and King's Quest have drawn heavily from fairy tales, they do so with very different styles and tones.  And so it's very jarring to go from the classic fairy tale setting of King's Quest VI to the cartoon animals of King's Quest VII.
• Fairy tale chauvinism.  About the only thing I remembered from King's Quest II prior to this was that it was the one where Graham sees Valanice in the magic mirror, rescues her from a tower, and they immediately get married.  And I remember thinking even as a child who didn't really know much about feminism that that was really, really dumb and not at all an accurate depiction of human relationships.  I don't remember now if Valanice even had any dialogue in the original game.  Alexander rescuing Cassima is very similar.  Now AGD Interactive's remake of King's Quest II provides a little bit of an excuse for their sudden marriage by saying that Valanice had been able to magically watch Graham on his adventure through Kolyma and had fallen in love with him along the way.  And in fairness, Alexander and Cassima were prisoners together in Mordack's castle during King's Quest V.  So it's possible they got to know each other a bit there prior to Alexander showing up in the Green Isle to say, "Hey, I'm here to marry you now."  But even so, they both could have taken the ladies on a few dates first.  Creepers.  I think the worst that it gets is the part in King's Quest VI where Alexander has to find a wife for Beast before he's transformed himself.  So he convinces a girl he finds in town to go back with him to the Isle of the Beast to marry Beast.  I realize that they're using a well-known story as a sort of shorthand here, and we're supposed to just think, "Oh, I know.  This is Beauty and the Beast."  The problem is that at this point Beauty essentially becomes like another item in Alexander's inventory, and it's really kind of uncomfortable.  And I'm not even sure we can just chalk it up to the usual excuse of video games being created by dumb men who don't know how to write realistic female characters.  Because thinking about it now, Sierra was actually a bit ahead of its time when it came to hiring female designers.  The lead designer on King's Quest, which was one of their biggest titles, was Roberta Williams, who was also co-owner of the company.  Jane Jensen also worked on King's Quest.  She famously went on to create Gabriel Knight.  And Lori Cole worked on Quest for Glory.  So it would be interesting to know what, if any, conversation was had internally about some of these more problematic elements of the series.  Or was it something that's just so enmeshed in the fabric of the fairy tale genre they were drawing from that it just wasn't even questioned?

That said, I think there is still a lot of like about the series.

• Tone.  As I said, King's Quest has a style that's very light and child-like.  And going into it, I thought that the childishness of the tone and the simplicity of the story might really turn me off because I tend to prefer more in-depth, narratively interesting games.  But I have to say that it was actually kind of nice.  Again, except for KQ7, which I think took it way too far.  But for the most part, I found the setting to be kind of charming, particularly in contrast to today's video games.  It seems like a lot of video games are at a point where comics were back in the '80s, where they want to be taken seriously as a medium, and designers think that the way to do that is to make everything super dark, and grim, and gritty like The Last of Us.  Which, don't get me wrong, is a fantastic game.  But it's kind of a refreshing change of pace to go back to something that's just light and fun.  And it's not the end of world.  It's just, "Here's a quest.  You need to find these three things.  Go."
• Fairy tale based puzzles.  I know I complained that the world-building in King's Quest isn't the most compelling, but one thing I did appreciate about the use of fairy tales was in the puzzles.  A lot of the puzzles are based on being able to connect common elements between stories.  Like in KQ1, I climbed a beanstalk to the land of the giants where I had to get the magic chest from one of them.  And I found a slingshot.  And now that I'm thinking about giants, I know from the story of David and Goliath that the way to take down giants is by hitting them with a slingshot.  Moments like that I thought were kind of clever.
• Escaping Manannan.  I even talked about this in a previous post, but I'll say it again.  I think this is probably the best part of the whole series.  King's Quest III does such a great job of making the player feel like an actual captive.  I could feel the stress playing through it again.  And because of that, it's not a game that I go back to a lot.  But if games are about creating memorable, emotional experiences, it's hard to beat this.  And it's a sequence that has stuck with me and that I continue to refer back to to this day.
• Rosella is kind of awesome.  Since I've already complained about chauvinism, it's only fair that I give credit where credit is due.  We get two games in the series with female protagonists, playing as Rosella in King's Quest IV and as both Rosella and Valanice in KQ7.  And I imagine that would have been kind of a big deal at the time.  This was way before Lara Croft, or Jill Valentine, or Faith Connors, or Female Commander Shepard were around.  I don't know off the top of my head how many female video game protagonists were around in 1988, but my guess would be that it's a short list.  Okay, I did start to roll my eyes when one of the puzzles involved cleaning up after seven male dwarves.  But then I remembered that I did an awful lot of cleaning as Alexander in KQ3 too.  So maybe that part isn't that they're sexist so much as they have a thing against young people.  Seriously though, there are parts of KQ4 that I'm not sure if they would have been included in a "male" King's Quest game like unicorns and the focus on fairies.  But for the most part, I think it's just a solid King's Quest game.  The main villain is clearly based on The Wizard of Oz, which is not a bad place to go for material if you're looking for women in fairy tales.  I really liked how it avoided the trope I complained about with KQ2 by having Rosella respond to Edgar's marriage proposal with, "Thanks, but no thanks.  I have to get home now."  And frankly, even things like the unicorn I can't really find fault in.  Look, I'm at an age where I feel like I don't need to worry about other people possibly making fun of me.  So yeah, I'll say it.  This is a game where I got to ride a unicorn, and it was awesome.
King's Quest VI.  This is the one I would say holds up the most as a complete game, beginning to end.  The older games have some serious design problems.  And KQ6 is not without its owns flaws.  But despite those flaws, it's still a solid, classic adventure.  Sadly, as I mentioned, there are points where it does fall into some unfortunate tropes of the genre.  But at its core, I think it's really just a nice love story, and it's a story that has some heart to it.  Which is something we don't seem to see a lot of in video games.  It's always these over-the-top, blockbuster-style action-adventure stories.  It's rare even to this day to see a video game story that's just about someone who's in love.
• The game promotes prosocial behavior.  There are so many times in KQ5 where Graham is rescued by someone he helped earlier in the game.  Or like in KQ4, where Rosella takes a pouch of diamonds that the dwarves left behind, and she has to go return it to them.  It's a refreshing change from adventure game heroes who come off as just cold, selfish sociopaths.  Like if KQ4 had been a LucasArts adventure, I'm sure the puzzle would have been all about how to steal those diamonds from the dwarves and get away with it.  And it would ruin their lives.  And then Rosella would just make a joke about it as she walked away.  Of course, the downside is that it does raise certain questions about just how altruistic our heroes are.  Does it just happen to work out that helping people gets them what they want?  Like, what if it had turned out that Beauty didn't want to marry Beast?  Would Alexander have been like, "Well, that sucks for you, but I really need Beast's mirror for my next quest."  In any case, I feel like it's at least a step in the right direction.

Things I'll be interested to see in the new King's Quest:
• Will we get to see more of Daventry?  I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see more of the kingdom when we visited it in KQ1 and again briefly in KQ3.  Both times, we didn't see much outside the castle except open woodland.  I even joked that the entire population was apparently just that one woodcutter and his wife.  For its faults, Mask of Eternity at least added a town, but it wasn't exactly functional at the time.  The trailer shows that at least the first episode of the new game will be set in Daventry, and it should be interesting to see how much we get to explore.
• How much continuity from the original series will carry over?  One of the things I kind of liked about King's Quest is that it's not just Graham's story.  They keep expanding the royal family over time as Graham has children, and those children grow up and have their own adventures.  So I really love the idea of continuing that in the new game with Graham's granddaughter Gwendolyn.  Though the main narrative seems to be Graham recounting his own stories, I'm very curious to see how much of Gwendolyn's story we'll get to see.  Also, judging by the videos that have been shown so far, it looks like we may be revisiting the dragon under the well from KQ1.  Will we see any other callbacks to previous games?  Will they acknowledge that Mask of Eternity happened, even though it totally doesn't count as a real King's Quest game?  And of course...
• Will we learn more about the Society of the Black Cloak?  Perhaps the two most popular unofficial projects to see release since MoE--AGD Interactive's remakes of KQ 1-3 and Phoenix Online Studios' The Silver Lining--have both attempted to connect the games by expanding upon the secret society briefly mentioned in KQ6.  And it's not hard to see why fans are so curious about it.  It's this big, juicy plot point that's just left hanging after KQ6.  We know that Alhazred, Mordack, and Manannan were members, which means that whatever they're up to, it spans most of the series.  But we don't really learn much more than the name.  We still don't know exactly who they are or what their ultimate goals may be.  Hard to say how likely it is that we'll see them show up in the new game.  Picking up a conspiracy plot that was last mentioned in a game from 23 years ago may not be the best way to bring in new players.  But it sure would be nice for us old-timers to finally get some resolution there.

#KingsQuest  
The Quest Begins July 2015
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Michael Godesky

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So in anticipation of the new King's Quest reboot that's coming out later this month, I've been playing through the remakes of the first three games by AGD Interactive.  And these are really well done.  First of all, being able to use a mouse makes these games much more enjoyable.  I'm at King's Quest III, and I just finished the segment where you have to collect spell ingredients while Manannan isn't looking so that you can escape being his slave.  And I have to say, I really love the tension that this game builds up as Gwydion is going through this.  Because you have this timer where you have to finish what you're doing before Manannan notices.  And you have to make sure you hide your spell components and that you put everything in his study back the way you found it so he doesn't notice that something is out of place.  It's not a game that I like to keep going back to because frankly, it is a really frustrating.  But that's kind of the point.  It made me feel genuine worry about whether I had all the components I needed and if I had enough time to get back to the house before Manannan showed up.  And it creates this real sense of feeling like a captive in a way that I don't think I've ever experienced in any other game.  And the flip side of all that worry and frustration is that it is SO satisfying when you finally get everything you need, and you have your spell prepared, and you can just sit back and watch Manannan get his comeuppance.
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I finished Andy Weir's The Martian today.  Or as I call it, "MacGyver in Space."  On the one hand, it was nice to get into a good old-fashioned hard sci-fi story again.  It feels like a lot of recent science fiction has been pretty fantastic.  But the writer really did his homework on this one.  In fact, there are a few points where it almost reads like a math textbook.  I also really appreciate when a sci-fi story emphasizes just how incredibly difficult it is to try surviving anywhere in the universe that isn't Earth.  A lot of science fiction seems to leave people with the impression that going to another planet is just like visiting a foreign country--it's like home, but with different weather, and maybe some different colors.  When the reality is that even a relatively slight difference in the environment of another planet compared to that of Earth could be enough to kill us.  So I really liked that this book was all about how surviving on a planet like Mars requires a truly incredible degree of technical expertise and physical endurance.  And even if you have all of that going for you, there are still a lot of times when you just have to hope you get lucky.

On the other hand, I really wish the book had more fully explored the psychological effects of being stranded on Mars.  I mean, this guy is really glib for someone who's in the most dire situation that anyone in the history of the human race has ever been in.  He's alone on Mars for about a year and a half, and it's almost like it doesn't even effect him emotionally at all.  We don't even get like a Tom Hanks Castaway scene where he starts talking to inanimate objects.  And the fact is that aside from the technical issues of space exploration, a serious problem with long-term space travel is environmental psychology.  For instance, we know from looking at cases of people wintering in Antarctic stations that living in an entirely artificial environment can result in abnormal behaviors after a few months.  And we know from cases of people in solitary confinement that spending extended periods of time without human contact can seriously mess someone up.  So I find it a little hard to believe that a person would be totally fine and still coolly cracking off one-liners after spending a year and a half alone on a lifeless planet.
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Yeah, I'm not sure if the sort of communication they set up is really a suitable substitute for face-to-face human interaction.  Would be interesting if there were a way to study that though.

I will grant you that resilience is something that varies widely between individuals, and I have to assume that astronauts are at the high end of that scale.  So if anyone could make it through that sort of ordeal and come out okay, it probably would be someone with that sort of background.  I was just kind of disappointed because it seemed like the author went out of his way to avoid something that would have added a lot of emotional depth to the story.  Oh well.

I did laugh though at the part where the NASA officials are talking about how, "I can't imagine what must be going through his head right now."  And then they immediately cut back to Mark's log, and he's wondering about Aquaman's powers.
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So now that Fables is done, what other non-superhero comics are worth following?  I know I've been meaning to check out Saga for a while.  I mean, it's hard to go wrong with Brian K. Vaughan, right?  So I may finally get around to that one now.

Some of the new titles Vertigo has announced to replace Fables sound promising too.  I particularly like the premise of Survivors' Club.

What others should I be looking at?
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I have heard many good things about both Rat Queens and Locke & Key.

Read a couple of issues of Atomic Robo.  It's pretty good.  I was personally more into 8 Bit Theater myself, but I guess I can't blame Clevinger for wanting to write something he can actually get paid for.  Some people are so picky like that.
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Finished playing King's Quest Episode 1, "A Knight to Remember," last night.  And man, it's everything you could want a reboot to be.  A great way to update King's Quest for a new generation of gamers.

First of all, Daventry looks gorgeous with a wide variety of colorful vegetation on every screen.  I know I complained previously about the cartoon art style of King's Quest VII.  So why is the cartoon style of the reboot better?  I'm not sure if I could put my finger on the exact differences, except to say that the new game simply does it better.  Of course, it's better from a technical perspective, as you would expect from a game being released 21 years later.  But it also creates a style that's very unique.  So it doesn't just feel like a bad Disney rip-off.  If anything, it almost reminds me more of watching a good Pixar film.

The game features plenty of dialogue choices, quick-time events, and story decision, as anyone who's familiar with Telltale's games might expect from a modern adventure game.  But there's actually still quite a bit of exploring and inventory puzzles as well.  Which is great, because it makes it feel more like a real, traditional adventure game.  I really hope Telltale takes a page from their book and adds some more of this type of gameplay to their games.  Still, even the inventory puzzles have been updated.  The solutions aren't nearly as obscure as in those older games.  There were only one or two times when I wasn't sure how to proceed, and then it turned out that I just needed to go somewhere else and come back to that thing later on.  There was never a point where I felt totally lost like in an old-school adventure game.  Traditionalists may say that it's too easy.  But I think they actually strike a good balance where the puzzles are hard enough that they make you have to stop and think for a little bit, but they're never so hard that they bring the game to a screeching halt because you have no idea how to move forward.

The story is fun and funny.  All the stuff about how Graham is always making terrible puns is great.  I think framing it as an older Graham telling stories to his granddaughter is brilliant.  For instance, the game starts with a retelling of how Graham got the magic mirror from the dragon.  And it's obviously very different from what we saw in King's Quest I.  And yet, those difference can easily be explained as just being different versions of the same story.  The story just gets bigger with each retelling.  And who knows if either version that we've seen is entirely accurate?

Love Gwendolyn so far, though I kind of hope there's more to her story as we proceed.  The fencing tournament in this episode felt a little bit like it was tacked on just so Graham would have a reason to tell his tournament story.  Gart comes off as a bit of jerk.  I'm guessing, based on the hair, that he's Rosella's son.  Kind of disappointing to that she raised such a brat.

For all the game's differences from the classic King's Quest games, and there are a lot of differences in both tone and style, I really do feel like they still managed to capture the spirit of those original games.  Certainly far more than Mask of Eternity did, though that's not saying much.  There are plenty of references and in-jokes to the original series as well.  The makers clearly love the series as much as us players, and as fan, it's nice to know that the title is in good hands.

My one complaint would be that it doesn't let you make multiple saves.  Telltale games at least have a number of checkpoints within each episode that you can always rewind back to. Which is nice if you want to see how a different choice plays out.  In this game, I can't do that without starting over from the beginning.

Even so, it's a great game.  Can't wait for the next episode.  What's going on with Graham?  Will Gwendolyn get to go on her own adventure?  Will we see any other members of the royal family?  What happened to Manny?  Will we ever find out what was going on with that Society of the Black Cloak back in King's Quest VI?  So many questions!

#KingsQuest  
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Michael Godesky

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I've been watching Mostly Walking's playthrough of Tim Schafer's Broken Age.  I noticed in this last week's episode that Sean Bouchard in particular is very critical of certain parts of the story.  And I've seen this same criticism from other people who have played the game.  So I thought I might share some of my own thoughts.  I do get into some spoilers below from about the first two thirds of the game in case anyone hasn't played yet.  Though I try to avoid spoiling the ending for anyone who may be following along with Mostly Walking.  Short version is I think Broken Age is a great game that ends up being a fantastic story about learning to empathize with others.

So the particular criticism in question comes from the fact that in Act I, Shay's "mom" and "dad" are only ever seen through computer interfaces.  And it's heavily implied that they are, in fact, computer programs.  But then in Act II, we find out that they are actually real people who were just busy in another part of the ship while Shay played through his space adventures.  And so the complaint is, how could Shay not have known that his parents were real?

Maybe this is just something that not everyone will appreciate, but Broken Age has a lot of narrative red herrings like this that I think are actually kind of cool and funny.  For instance, in Act I Shay's mother tells this story about the "sacrifice girl," which seems to imply that somehow, Vella's story is her in the past.  As it turns out, that's not the case.  That story was a bit of misdirection.  Also, the space traveler that Vella meets in Shellmound is heavily implied to be a grown-up Shay.  But then in Act II, we learn that he's just a traveler from another ship.  I think these are actually really interesting, especially in this era of stories like Lost where everyone is constantly trying to figure things out before they happen.  Here we have a story that intentionally leads players down a wrong path just to surprise them later.  And it does so in kind of a funny way.  I thought it was hilarious when Shay's dad sees Alex and goes, "Are you me from the PAST?"

With that in mind, we can go back and look at the issue of Shay's parents.  Because it's not that Shay thinks his parents are computers in Act I.  It's just that we, the players, are led to believe that his parents are computers because that's how he interacts with them.  Shay even says at the beginning of Act II, "I guess I always knew my parents were people.  It's just been a while since I thought of them that way."  Which I think is such a great way of showing us what Shay's relationship with his parents is like.  Here we have these parents who are content to let the computer raise their son for them while they go about their business.  At the same time, Shay is at a point in his life where he's starting feel smothered by his parents, and he just wants to get away from them and do his own thing.  So he dehumanizes them by talking about them as though they were computers.  It's very angsty teenage stuff.

And I think this all fits extremely well with the overall theme of the game.  In Act I, we clearly have a very classic coming-of-age style young adult story where Shay and Vella both face some sort of authority that they have to rebel against to find their own way.  Act II continues with that idea of growing up, but it takes on a part of growing up that I think is often overlooked in fiction, which is learning to recognize that other people are people too.  And so we have Shay realizing that, "Hey, my parents aren't just these cold computers who are out to control everything I do.  They're actually human beings who also have feelings."  As Sean pointed out in the episode, we had the mother character in Act I who seemed to control the ship very effortlessly.  Then in Act II, when we're put in the position of controlling the ship through Vella, we see that making things work requires more thought than we had previously realized.  All through Act II, we see Shay and Vella exploring each others' worlds.  We see Vella, who had only ever seen Shay's ship as the monstrous Mog Chothra, realize that he's not a monster, he's just a messed up kid.  And we see Shay, who had only ever seen Vella as this helpless, faceless creature on a computer screen that needed him to rescue her, realize that she's actually a fierce, independent fighter who had changed people's lives wherever she went.  And again, without spoiling any details of the ending, it's great to get these two characters, who have only ever actually seen each other for less than minute, get to a point where they're able to work together without even being able to communicate directly.  And I know, that's a bit of a cheat because really, it's just that they're both being controlled by one player.  I'm not saying the game is completely flawless.  But ultimately, I think it's a great story with a message that's kind of beautiful.

#MostlyWalking #BrokenAge  
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Michael Godesky

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As much as I loved the Batman v Superman trailer, I feel like Suicide Squad could be at least as good, if not better.  There's just so much potential here to really delve deep into what the genre is all about.  For a genre that often portrays the "bad guys" as just these two-dimensional cliches, I really hope this film will allow us to get a bit more nuanced view of some of DC's villains.  I love Waller's line in the trailer, "Getting people to act against their own self-interest is what I do for a living."  Just that line alone I think says so much about our political and legal systems.

Margot Robbie looks fantastic as Harley Quinn.  Harley is one of the best comic book characters to come out of the '90s, and I can't wait to see more of her.  Will Smith is always fun to watch.  I think he'll be a great Deadshot.  As for the Joker, I know a lot of people have been complaining about his new look.  I'm not sure I'm totally sold on it myself, but here's what I'll say about it.  The Joker was always going to be a tough character to reboot just because we've had so many amazing, character-defining performances in the role over the last couple of decades from Nicholson, and Hamill, and Ledger.  And I have to give them credit that at least this Joker is totally different from any past version that we've seen.  And at least in the few seconds we see of him in the trailer, Leto does a really great job of making the Joker extremely creepy.
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Michael Godesky

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I finished reading Identity Crisis last night.  That was certainly... different.  I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it, though I can certainly see why it angered a lot of people.  I feel like they wanted to do something like Watchmen for the regular DC Universe characters, but they ran into the problem of not being Alan Moore.  It's okay, Brad Meltzer.  It's a problem we all struggle with at some point in our lives.
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Michael Godesky

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I really want there to be an expansion for a Civilization game that introduces the post-apocalyptic era.  After you spend the whole game trying to develop space travel technology, your science advisor just tells you, "Yeah, we don't actually have the resources to colonize planets in other solar systems.  That's not really a thing."  So then you just have to live with the consequences of the world you created.

Then all of the planet's resources start to dry up because you used them all building your sprawling empire.  Areas along the coast are consumed by the oceans as global warming sets in.  One by one, your cities break away and become Mad Max style warlord enclaves.

And the player will just be like, "This is so hard! How do you win?"

You don't.  When you play Civilization, no one win.
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