[ Quiet Friday ]

VA-11 HALL-A

VA-11 HALL-A

So, after quite some time, I had a nice and quiet night in. I live in a new house, (sharing it with 3 other humans actually) which is something I have not done since Manchester (but turns out, it is quite fun so far).
I was looking forward to spending a night like this. The last few weeks were pretty intense, I was in Berlin for Jenny’s birthday last week, spend quite an exhausting Friday out two weeks ago, so staying in this weekend actually makes good sense.

I am playing VA-11 HALL-A, a really nice cyberpunk… bartending… game. That description alone was enough for me to buy the game, turns out, the game is pretty awesome. You are Jill, a bartender in a bar in Glitch City, you wake up every day (not necessarily morning) , check your phone for news while you have something to eat, and head down to the bar. The people that walk in the bar are characters one might glimpse walking with glowing umbrellas in Bladerunner, or hanging our in the bars case used to go in Neuromancer.

One of these characters walks in a bar...

One of these characters walks in a bar…


The generic origins of the characters is perfectly counterbalanced by the writing, which is quite sublime so far, way better than what I expected. The customers, if you give them the drinks that they need (not necesserily the ones they ask for) pour out their heart, and tell you their stories and sorrows. Your only input as a player is the correct mixing of the drinks.
The art style is delightfully like 80s sci-fi anime, and the music is 100% appropriate.

Speaking of cyberpunk, or at least sci-fi, while playing this game, I was also on a call with Paris and Aris, two old friends of mine, one in the Netherlands and the other currently in Washington D.C., we were watching the Quarterfinals of the League of Legends 2016 World Championship. This whole setup, me playing a game while talking to friends half across the globe while playing a game really makes me think how sci-fi our lives actually are. The future creeps up on us!

~Garret

[ Enter Ukanef Mk. V ]

Well, today I ordered a PC.
Getting back in the start of the new cycle of owning a PC, last time I was in this phase of the PC Ebb and Flow was in 2009.

Two thousand and nine! What was I doing back then? Third year of University. Twenty-one years old. Playing Bioshock, Portal and World of Warcraft.
Ukanef Mk. IV ended up lasting me quite a few years, although I have to say that after moving to Manchester a couple of years ago I kinda left him to decay. The coup de grace to my faithful old cyber companion was dealt last summer when I took one of his monitors to be used for the future pc, the pc I ordered today.

Saving money has proved to be way harder than I thought it would be. The super high rent of course is not helping but I have not been frugal in my expenses either. I haven’t cooked a thing (something that in Manchester I used to do at least twice a week), I have not resisted the odd board/video game purchase or the second (or N+ in anyway) drink in the weekly night out. It was with the help of a generous birthday present chip-in from my parent’s that I managed to get Mk. V.

Still got lot’s to learn it would seem.

Anyway, tis a time of celebration, the dawn of a new machine. I haven’t been able to get excited about new game releases for a while now, at least for the cutting edge ones. I am gonna enjoy the feeling of knowing I can play a modern game in ultra settings.

Truth be told, I am kinda thankful (did someone say thanksgiving?) for my lame PCs over the past few years. If it weren’t for them, I would probably have ignored games like Life is Strange or Her Story.
But now is the time to indulge in Anti-Aliasing, High settings on shadows and smooth 60-fps framerates.

More updates once the thing is actually here.

Probably.

~Garret

[ Life is Strangely Nice ]

Έχω μία εβδομάδα άδεια. “Αναγκαστική”, είχα 5 μέρες που έπρεπε να πάρω γιατί ο νόμος λέει πρέπει να πάρω 20 το χρόνο. Αν δε τις πάρω δε ξέρω τι θα γίνει, ίσως η Riot πάει όλη φυλακή; Με θυμάμαι να σκέφτομαι πως δεν είναι δυνατόν να φτάνουν 20 μέρες μόνο το χρόνο, δουλεύω για να ζω, δε ζω για να δουλεύω. Και να που με βρίσκω σχεδόν Δεκέμβρη να “πρέπει να πάρω άδεια”. Δε ξέρω τι ακριβώς έγινε, αλλά έγινε.

Τέσπα, αυτή την εβδομάδα την περνάω με πολύ απλούς στόχους: Να μείνω σπίτι. Να παίξω παιχνίδια. Να βάλω σκούπα.

Με ευχαρίστηση αναφέρω πως έχω πετύχει και τα τρία, και η εβδομάδα δεν έχει τελειώσει ακόμα.

Life is Strange is Nice

Life is Strange is Nice

Μιλώντας και πράγματα που τελειώνουν, έπαιξα το τελευταίο επεισόδιο του Life is Strange αυτή την εβδομάδα. Θυμάστε που είχα γράψει ένα ποστ για το πρώτο επεισόδιο όταν είχε βγει; Πως περνάει ο καιρός.

Το Life is Strange έχει μπει με περίσσια άνεση στο top 10 των παιχνιδιών που έχω παίξει. Με εξαίρεση μια-δυο περιπτωσούλες που το gameplay γινόταν χαζό, το όλο παιχνίδι είναι μια υπέροχη ιστορία με χαρακτήρες που είναι αληθινοί και μια αισθητική που είναι τόσο ειλικρινής που ακόμα και όταν δεν “συμπαθούσα” τους χαρακτήρες, ήταν τόσο καλογραμμένοι που τους αποδεχόμουν όπως είναι. Όσα πολύγωνα και να έχουμε στη διάθεση μας τη σήμερον, πόσα λίγα παιχνίδια μπορούν να το καταφέρουν τέτοιο καλό γράψιμο ρε παιδί μου. Αναρωτιέμαι γιατί. Η κοστίζει πολύ ή δε πουλάει, πολύ φοβάμαι το δεύτερο, για αυτό και χαίρομαι που το Life is Strange χαίρει τέτοιας μεγάλης, για τα δεδομένα του, επιτυχίας.

Είναι μια ωραία ιστορία, μια ιστορία που μόνο μέσα από ένα βιντεοπαιχνίδι θα μπορούσε να ειπωθεί. Η τελευταία επιλογή του παιχνιδιού είναι σπαρακτική, μέχρι και ο τρόπος που είναι γραμμένη, ενεργητικά και όχι παθητικά είναι εκεί για να ενισχύσεί το impact του παιχνιδιού.

Ταιριαστή μουσική, ωραίοι χαρακτήρες, ιστορία που δε πατάει σε κλισέ. Πολύ μεράκι βαλμένο μέσα σε κάθε γωνίτσα του παιχνιδιού.
Μπράβο στην DONTNOD που το έφτιαξε και στην SQUARE ENIX που το έκανε publish, θέλω και άλλα τέτοια.

Τα λέμε,

~Garret

[ Θεσσαλονίκη με Θεσσαλονίκη ]

Πριν απο δυο χρόνια είχα πάει στην Θεσσαλονίκη να δώ, μαζί με άλλα πράγματα, και τους τελικούς της Season 2013 του League of Legends. Είχα περάσει πολύ ωραία, είχα δει τη Νικέλα και είχα φάει στο Κουρδιστό Γουρούνι. Θυμάμαι πως το βράδυ μετά τους τελικούς χάζευα στο PC της Νικέλας το blog του qb και το Fully Ramblomatic. Τότε ήταν που πήρα και την απόφαση να φτιάξω το Attic, κάτω απο τη στέγη του οποίου βρισκόμαστε αυτή τη στιγμή.

Χωρίς να μπορώ να το τοποθετήσω ή να το εξηγήσω επαρκώς θεωρώ πως αυτή μου η απόφαση ήταν η αρχή μιας πορείας που κατά κάποιο τρόπο με οδήγησε εδώ.
(Βέβαια θα μου πεις, όλες οι αποφάσεις μας είναι οι αποφάσεις που μας οδηγούν στο σημείο που της συνειδητοποιούμε, ο Ντετερμινιστής μέσα μου θα συμφωνούσε στη στιγμή). Έζησα στο Manchester, συνέχισα να γράφω σε αυτό αυτό το blog.

Πριν από ένα χρόνο είχα γράψει αυτό εδώ το ποστ. Ήταν ένα ποστ μέσα στην αχανή ερημιά που έχει περιέλθει στο blog ετούτο δω η οποία συνεχίζει ακόμα. Η αρχή της ερημιάς ήταν γιατί δεν ήθελα να γράφω για της συνεντεύξεις μου με τη Riot, η συνέχεια, που φτάνει μέχρι και το σήμερα, είναι γιατί… δε ξέρω ακριβώς. Το έχασα; Μπορεί. Δεν έχω χρόνο; Δεν ξέρω κατά πόσο ισχύει αυτό, αφού όταν γυρνάω από δουλειά βλέπω καμιά ταινία μασουλώντας McDonalds ή παίζω κάνα game με τα παιδιά. Ίσως είναι απλά κούραση, who knows? Not I.

Ένα χρόνο λοιπόν μετά από το τελευταίο ποστ του Mancunian Garret, είμαστε εδώ. Κλείνω ένα χρόνο στη Riot Games.

Έχω γνωρίσει κόσμο, έχω κάνει καινούργιες παρέες, έχω μάθει ένα σωρό πράγματα. Οι γονείς μου είναι ήσυχοι και χαρούμενοι που έχω βρει δουλειά και που “στέκομαι στα πόδια μου”. Γενικά η ζωή πάει καλά για τον Garret.

Πριν από λίγες μέρες είχα πάει Θεσσαλονίκη να δω τους τελικούς του της Season 2015 του League of Legends. Πέρασα πολύ ωραία, είδα τη Νικέλα και έφαγα στο Κουρδιστό Γουρούνι.

Αν μου έλεγε κάνεις στους τελικούς του 2013 τι θα κάνω στους τελικούς του 2015, θα τον κοπάναγα με έναν πυροσβεστήρα.

Και δε θα τον πίστευα επίσης.

Here’s to next year!

Πάμε να το κρατήσουμε ζωντανό το μπλογκ ρε!

~Garret

[ Star ]

Citizen scientists, and the rest of us, will have to content ourselves with longing looks at the sky, aimed between the swan and the lyre, where maybe, just maybe, someone is looking back, and seeing the sun dim ever so slightly, every 365 days.

~Garret

[ My story of Her Story ]

So, turns out I really like mystery stories.

The past few months, more often than not, I’ve caught myself binging on Sherlock Holmes (the ones with Jeremy Brett of course!),Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, the Midsommer Murders, Columbo. True Detective is easily my favourite show of the year so far and that is just scratching the surface.

If last year was the year where I was going through every horror “thing” I could find, then this year is the Year of the Poirot.

This latest interest of mine has been reflected in my video game purchases too. L.A. Noire was a game I am currently playing, and even though I admire its atmosphere and tech, so far it has failed to make me feel like a hardboiled police detective in the 40s. Video games are, in my opinion (although this is my blog, everything is in my opinion, anyway) at a disadvantage when it comes to the mystery genre. You see, you can simulate the aim of a soldier with a keyboard and mouse, you can execute acrobatics with a controller, but all the interesting juicy stuff of a good murder mystery, happens in the mind. The player, or viewer/reader, is invited to try and solve whatever mystery Miss Marple or Lt. Rust Cohle before they do. That was something that the new Sherlock Holmes mini-series have failed to deliver for me. Too much showing off, too much “let’s look cool” and too little mystery.

Video games though are all about the player doing things. And how can gameplay deliver the mostly cerebral process one goes through when trying to solve a mystery (This is not counting Puzzle Games)? L.A. Noire’s answer to that was a , so far, lackluster “Press X to investigate”, “Press O to solve mystery”. I was not feeling it.

That is when a little game came along, a game called Her Story. It is an FMV game (of all things) a genre that rose and fell in the 90s. In Her Story the player basically searches through an old database of videos of 7 police interrogations of a woman about a missing person case. The nearly 300 videos can only be found by searching for words that are said in them (A search for “Pub” would result in videos where the woman talks about their local pub etc.) Every new video you see, will probably give you enough information to search for other videos.

The interface through which all of this happens is a Windows 3.1-esque one, with screen glare from the lights bouncing on the CRT monitor. The whirl of the fan and the buzz of the neon lights of the old police station are enough to create an extremely immersive experience.
The only gameplay is searching for new videos.

And this is why magic happens.

You see, to a casual observer, searching for videos might be a fairly unengaging experience, but trying to figure out what the video you just saw means, how it fits to the greater picture and what you should try to find next is probably the closest any game has made me feel like a true detective.
There are no checklists with “Find the suspect, find the weapon” that get ticked, there is no progression tracker. You don’t know if you have figured out the truth. All you have, are the words of this woman. There is no indication whether you have reached the correct conclusions, there is no game over. It is all up to you. There is no “proper order” you should see the videos. You will see the videos in the order that make sense to your brain, through what terms you decide to search for.

And that is probably what makes it so real.

The woman is played by Viva Seifert, and she delivers a fairly demanding role admirably. It won’t take many videos to forget you are not looking at actual old video tapes.

All in all, I really really enjoyed Her Story, it is a game with characters that will stay with me long after I have stopped playing it. It is a game that reminded me that immersion does not come from ultra realistic graphics, it doesn’t need expansive worlds with a working ecosystem, it can be achieved with a rudimentary interface, a woman talking to an unseen detective and the sound of neon lights flickering.

With good characters and a good narrator a story can leap out of the imaginary and sit in our brains, almost indistinguishable from “real” memories.
Combine that with a small nudge from gameplay that actually enhances the experience in a creative way, and our “fake” stories, characters and situations, become as real as you and I. All this is the kindling for our imagination.

And as Terry Pratchett said, it is our imagination, not our intellect that makes us human.

~Garret

[ It follows is a great horror movie ]

Last year I was on the lookout for great horror movies. Mostly because I was in the process of creating a horror adventure game, a game that is still unaware of what the light of day looks like.Tonight I was reminded of those Manchester days.

Continuing the 2015-great-horror-streak that Babadook started, It follows is one of the coolest horror movies I have seen lately.
I was always of the opinion that good horror comes from shaking us to the core, that frightens us as humans, not as viewers.
It follows is a multilayered and elegant horror movie, with minimal budget that manages to look really cool and be very effective as a horror movie through great pacing and amazing cinematography. The shots are beautiful, the characters are very realistic and there are no silly horror-movie-checklist things in it. No jumpscares, no shaky-cam, no lame annoying endings (I am looking at you Mama).

It Follows

It Follows

It is a refreshing and effective horror movie (not insanely scary though so fear not, my feeble-hearted readers) that I would recommend to anyone who would enjoy a more cerebral and multilayered descent into the darkness that is our horror fiction.

P.S. Do not watch the trailer, I feel it gives away too much. Something I have tried to avoid in this post.

~Garret

P.S.2. Should one put a P.S. after the signature or before?