Death Stranding: E3 2016 Trailer Analysis

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JazzyLament

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Edited By JazzyLament

On June 13, 2016, Hideo Kojima presented a trailer for his new project, now called "Death Stranding". The trailer was at once disturbing, yet strangely beautiful, and very mystifying. I was immediately entranced. I had to know more. I found myself rewatching the trailer several times catching new elements each time. What follows is my findings from my own analysis of the trailer, as recorded on that day.

I am very interested in seeing and hearing what others thought about this trailer, it seems deliberate in it's attempt to draw it's viewers in and let them guess towards it's intentions. There certainly is a method to Kojima's madness and it will be very enjoyable to unravel it. Let me know what your own theories and ideas are, let's put our heads together and figure out this fascinating, strange thing!

Stranded Dead

Right from the get go we already start to see elements alluding to the stranding, as well as death. A lot of marine animals have been washed up on shore, and left stranded, out of their element, and dead. As far as setting goes, unless this this trailer is completely metaphorical in nature, I'm probably going to go with perhaps this is an "in-between" life and death world, where Reedus' character has been cast out from the 'sea of life' as you will, and left 'beached'; unable to return, or really ascend (like those other silhouettes at the end of the trailer.)

Locked On

There are a few symbols of being 'trapped' or 'locked' in this trailer. Reedus' Character (i'll refer to him as The Man) is tethered by what appears to be an artificial umbilical cord to the child. He wears a shackle on one of his wrists, with the other end dangling, clearly closed. He also wears a necklace of six locks around his neck.

I'm not sure what to make of the infant really, other than it clearly means a lot to the Man, so he seems 'tied' to him, in a certain manner. Of course the immediately noticeable thing is that the infant's 'umbilical cord' is connect to the Man's abdomen which is...not how that usually works. Perhaps that reflects some form of natural responsibility that he felt towards this infant? Or maybe it's even more metaphorical, and the infant represents innocence? The trailer did start with a William Blake quote after all.

The manacles are interesting because it appears to me that the one on the Man's wrist and the one that is dangling from it seem different. His has some strange edges to it, as well as a red light that is not present in the other. It's also worth noting that there is a blue flickering light inset on the offhand one. What this speaks to me is that it's not representative of the man being 'free', as the manacle is still closed, and I don't think it's supposed to be locked around his other wrist. I think that it represents that he is also tied to something else, and that it is still keeping him prisoner, or 'stranded'.

The locks around his neck, while also symbols of being trapped, or 'stuck', is interesting because there are six them. We also see the five figures in the end, floating, clearly not 'stranded' like the Man is. It may be a simple explanation, but I am inclined to think that each of the locks represents a connection that is keeping the man 'stranded' and that they need to be unlocked for him to truly be 'free'. Perhaps what can undo those locks are those people? At this point you probably ask me "But Jazzy, there are six locks, and only five silhouettes, what gives?" Good question! I'd wager that perhaps the Man himself has the 'key' to unlock that particular lock, or perhaps it is the infant who can unlock it. Or maybe, what if all the figures are actually different aspects of the Man? Hmmn. Interesting, but I'm inclined to not believe it, because they are in such a different state than the Man is (i.e. not stranded). There is another clue that could also dispel that theory...

Leaving a Mark

The Man is clearly marked with several handprints along his body. However, it seems that these handprints are actually just outlines of hands, whereas the rest of the Man's body is rather dirty with what could be soot or grime. Where we actually see the hands are the cleanest part of the Man's body. The infant, once it disappears also appears to leave inky handprints on the Man which the dissolve to form clean outlines. It's also worth noting the hands are different shapes and sizes.

So what could this mean? The fact that these handprints are of different shapes and sizes, and are actually almost "cleaning" the man, if indeed they all appeared like the infant's prints did, it makes me want to think that perhaps these are all people that left an 'impression' on the Man. Maybe they belong to five silhouettes at the end? If so, then that could tied into the six locks around the Man's neck as stated above, which would make sense, since then the infant would be responsible for one of the locks as it also left a mark on the Man.

No Belly Button

Alright this one is a little weird but it might be simpler than I think it is. The Man has no belly button, instead he has a cross shaped scar where it should be. Considering that he was tied to the infant with an artificial umbilical cord and we never actually see how, perhaps this referring to a 'severance' of that kind of 'connection'? That's as far as I've really gotten into this without googling certain surgeries.

Initial Conclusions

To summarize my current theory then: The Man has been stranded from Death by his ties to his past life. These are symbolized by the locks he wears around his neck, of which he must go on a journey to find redemption and unlock that which binds him. These 'keys' may very well be held by the infant and the five figures seen hovering in the air on the horizon at the end of the trailer. There is clearly some kind of technological bent on this as well. The manacles appeared near-future tech and the artificial umbilical cord were certainly a hint at something.

What kind of game is this then? "Tactical Redemption Journey" would be my fair shake. The font and title at least speak to me like this is some kind of horror game, but I don't think it is something like Silent Hill or Resident Evil. It seems more calm and contemplative. Perhaps there are stealth elements where you are skirting around your inner demons. Perhaps it is an adventure game. Maybe it's an open-world. It's too early to tell. The exciting thing though is that at least to my knowledge, this seems like something far different than anything Kojima has done before, and I am very excited to find out more in the months to come.

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kasaioni

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Kojima said recently that people might be confused about the new project, but that the genre is definitely action. So I have no idea. According the the interview Kojima had with Geoff afterwards, they still haven't decided on an engine; but they are developing a lot of the different aspects of the game in parallel.

As for thematic speculation, your guess is better than mine. The trailer is pretty great though; glad we can still look forward to game trailers from KojiPro.

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Blackout62

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#2  Edited By Blackout62

Do we have to?

Man, I don't want to analyze "Auguries of Innocence". It's probably like every other Blake poem contrasting innocence and experience and I'm going to have to break out three different books to even get an undergrad level of understanding between what the poems about, why it relates to another poem, the unquestionably important contrasts to compare between those two poems, the new criticism analysis, new historicism, structuralist, post-structuralist, colonial, post-colonial, multiple stages of feminist analysis, and queer theory. Especially queer theory it seems like.

And then I can start thinking how the quote applies to the trailer.

Can't I just put Siegfried Sassoon's beautifully snide dismantlings of romanticized ideas of war over Battlefield 1 screenshots? Blake was part of the movement that was one of the causes of that war anyway.

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RenegadeDoppelganger

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I saw an image today with hastily cut and paste pictures that seem to suggest norman reedus' character is the dude inside of the suit in the Kojima Productions logo. Someone uncovered images from the Death Stranded website that show those dog tag things have a bunch of physics formulas engraved on them (something to do gravity, possibly in relation to black holes). Brandon Boyer linked to an article about Cetacean Stranding. Some are even theorizing the entire game is a straight up allegory for Kojima's exile from Konami.

Yup, the internet is in full Kojima-mode.

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LiesToChildren

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#4  Edited By LiesToChildren

Interesting take. My impressions overlap with yours somewhat, if not necessarily in terms of plot then at least in terms of potential themes.

What do you make of the dead/beached animals all apparently bearing similar cords (or "strands", as it were) to Reedus and the infant? (These cords are most obvious with the whales at the end, but you can also see them on some of the crabs too. Obviously, they also appear on the title at the end.) My immediate, if obvious, conclusion is that it's a sort of play on the title Death Stranding. Could the strands/cords connect the fates of all life, thus somehow causing a chain-reaction mass extinction? Did Reedus survive because his connection to the infant/his own innocence was severed? Is all of this symbolic, or is it some sort of weird science?

I'm not sure if any of these questions have rational answers yet, but I am intrigued to find out eventually.

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JazzyLament

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@liestochildren: Yeah I had thought there must have been double-meaning to "stranding" it is a very weird title. The fonts and the title all had strands come from them. Interesting that you bring up fates and lifelines. When I heard death in the title and saw a naked man on a beach my mind immediately jumps to "afterlife". But...considering Kojima, I really want to believe there is some weird science, associated with all this, like you said. This seems like the kind of game where a character will give a 20 minute dissertation on how "the strands of life bind us all together, and need to be severed" or something like that.

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N7

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#6  Edited By N7

Maybe the name Death Stranding refers to this guy being an elite space marine commando spartan who is so badass he has to be left to die, only to be reborn as an even bigger badass elite space marine commando spartan, thus the baby. And then it's like that one Hellraiser movie where the guy's sons are cursed to die terrible deaths and do so far into the scifi future, but he just keeps making babies of himself, and he just keeps getting more badass elite space marine commando spartaner.

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DiamondDave

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I honestly thought one of the underlining messages he was trying to push was man's impact on nature. I mean in all honesty, it looked just like the Gulf Coast oil spill. The dead animals and all of the black oiled handprints were man's handprints that we leave everywhere.

Here's a theory I have for the game though: This man is either the Christian manifestation of God or "Adam". He has no bellybutton, yet had a child, which could represent one of three possibilities: Adam (made from God), Eve (made from Adam), or Humanity itself. The infant had the small handprints that were being left everywhere.

So where does this leave the other floating beings in the sky? One possibility is that it is a race of aliens that act as gods to different worlds and they came to Earth to judge this one alien's job at how he was creating/modeling this world. Another possibility is that he is a deity of a religion that has multiple deities and again he was given Earth and they are here to... perhaps punish him. If they are all powerful beings, he couldn't take them on and win. However, if it were something more akin to Greek mythology minus the ruling Zeus, each deity could have their own special divine power. The Earth deity in the game could have such a power that lets him challenge the rest of the deities. Finally, the other beings in the sky could be the most well known deities of the most popular religions here on Earth (I know I keep calling this planet Earth, but that is my assumption based off of the given evidence) and the man on the beach is the most worshiped deity at the time. Whatever the case may be the deity was not able to fix or save the world, and he lost his deity status because of this. If this last one were true, I could see some easy plot where a couple of deities rigged it so the highest one would fail. However, since this is so easy to guess and has been written time after time, I doubt he would go in that easy plot direction.

Whatever the case may be, I am definitely excited. My mind having all of these thoughts just makes me more desirable for any information on this game. Also, knowing Kojima, there are more beings in the sky that just weren't in the trailer. It could be part of a third act twist, or he is toying with us to make wild theories like the ones I made. Either way, I love this man and his creations, and I hope this game will become another one of his masterpieces.

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AdequatelyPrepared

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Baby is Silent Hills.

The man is Kojima.

The other end of the handcuffs used to be attached to MGS.

The man is now free of MGS and mourns the loss of the child, Silent Hills, but also realises that he is finally free to confront what's ahead, the flying men.

The flying men are flying men.

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Shindig

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No doubt this will all be tenuously explained five games from now.

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davidh219

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#10  Edited By davidh219

Knowing Kojima it's not going to be a completely metaphorical/metaphysical thing, so that rules out afterlife type stuff. Nothing he's done in the past suggests anything as ambiguous as all that. He coats his weird in the familiar. There's also the future tech handcuffs going on, which seems to suggest scifi. Of course, how much does this trailer really reflect the game? Is this trailer representative of "reality" as it exists in the game, or is it something unreal but of the game like, say, Snake's hallucinations in MGSV? There's really no way to even remotely guess at this thing, but it's fun to try!

Kojima has apparently given some information, which can be referenced easily here

Of particular note from the Kojima interview to me is this:

You talk about “mass stranding” when there are a lot of whales or dolphins stranded on the beach. It’s called “live stranding” when they’re alive, and “dead stranding” when they’re dead. The meaning of the title is that something came from “some world” and is stranded.

Here's the best impression of Kojima's crazy storytelling that I can do, based on the trailer and what he's said there. I think the beached sealife carries a strong environmentalist theme, and that the state of our environment will be at stake, and that it will be our fault somehow. I think we never see how the umbilical cord is connected because it's a total bait and switch. The scar on the man's stomach is already long healed, they were never connected to each other, he didn't give man-birth.

Now, you might immediately think supernatural, that the "some world" is the afterlife or purgatory because of the imagery, but as I said before I don't think that's concrete enough for Kojima. I think he's evoking Evangelion here more than anything, and that the story will be firmly science fiction, albeit fantastical and nonsensical science fiction that has religious symbolism in it because why not. Personally, I'm thinking aliens of some kind. First contact.

Let's assume what one of the posters above me said is true, that somebody found evidence that the dog tags have formulas about gravity in relation to black holes (my google fu is failing me, I can't find anything about this). This is Earth (or a human colony on another planet) in the far, far future, after interstellar travel has been invented perhaps. Scientists create a miniature black hole, hoping to use it as an energy source despite the dangers (environmentalist theme, bam). This is not QUITE as crazy as it sounds, I've heard actual scientists talk about this in highly theoretical terms.

A quick aside to talk about cetacean mass stranding. There are, from what I can tell, many theories, but one sticks out as something that would make for a good environmentalist story: the sound pressure waves from human sonar and offshore oil drillling is bursting their sinus cavities and preventing them from being able to dive and navigate.

I think our miniature black hole was like a "sonar" that stranded a "pod" of five alien beings (the floating figures in the sky), just like whales, that they use the radiation emitted from black holes to navigate space, or themselves emit this radiation, and our artificially created one destroyed their navigation and trapped them here.

I think these aliens, perhaps, feed off the iron emitted from stars and an immediate source of iron is in the blood of living creatures, hence the umbilical cords jammed into everything. For whatever reason, perhaps because of our humanoid shape, the aliens use humans as a means to reproduce rather than a food source (there's an episode of Star Trek: TNG where Geordi has something like this happen to him). The large hand-prints on the sand at the beginning are the infant's mother, the man's wife, after she has been turned, coming to say goodbye to her baby while she still has some vague awareness of self. The empty handcuff was attached to his wife, a desperate attempt to keep hold of her even though she already had a cord implanted in her and they knew how this would end. She was pregnant when he fell asleep, and when he awoke to find her gone and an infant present he knew what happened, and grieved for his wife. He knew the cord meant the child would soon be gone too, although he was surprised at how sudden it was, it didn't affect him for long. The hand-prints all over the man are from other people who were with him on the beach, also with cords in them, who desperately held onto him after they were first turned, before losing their sense of self. The man doesn't get turned as well because he was in an accident years ago that required extensive surgery (the scar), and now has synthetic organs that pump artificial blood, making him useless to the aliens, who ignore him, although he probably has no idea that's why he's been spared.

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FlashFlood_29

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This thread, it's great. I love all of this.

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ripelivejam

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i for one welcome our new untethered batshit insane kojima.

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Atwa

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#13  Edited By Atwa

I think Kojima is just fantastic at making trailers, they are always cryptic and strange, but oh so appealing.

I think I actually liked all trailers leading up to MGS 5 more than the game.

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AdequatelyPrepared

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ArtisanBreads

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#15  Edited By ArtisanBreads

Watched this again to try to find reasons to be excited.... only Kojima keeping me hanging in here. Good theorizing guys I just... don't... know. Who even knows what the game will look like given how Kojima can be. Personally I just didn't really want to see anything horror from him. Not to be a downer in here. He can show something else cool and I'll be right in. He gets the benefit of the doubt from me.

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Dussck

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Uhh... I know Kojima said this trailer was running in 'real time', but on what fecking hardware then? These are hands down the best realtime graphics I've seen so far. They nailed the skin shading and the folding of it (what the hell, how). The close up of his face is so close to a real face. Hops straight over the uncanny valley for me. I believed that was a real dude standing there.

They surely did not build an engine from scratch. Cerny arranged an engine from one of the Sony studio's. My guess is he is using either something from Naughty Dog or Guerrilla Games.

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hermes

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@diamonddave said:

I honestly thought one of the underlining messages he was trying to push was man's impact on nature. I mean in all honesty, it looked just like the Gulf Coast oil spill. The dead animals and all of the black oiled handprints were man's handprints that we leave everywhere.

Yeah, my take on it was pretty similar, at least at first... maybe I was being too literal, but up until I saw those things floating in the end, it seems like the ecological impact of men over nature was a big theme in the trailer. The similitudes with the images used for dead sea animals, black sand, and oil spills were just too noticeable, and both the liquid that forms the title and fill the handprints is distinctly petrol-like.

Besides that, there seems to be some scifi elements to it. Besides the obvious one of the creatures/structures floating in the sky, I want to point out that the handcuffs have some weird glow in them. Also, the main character has a cross shaped scar like someone practiced a cesarean on him (which could relate to the baby with the black umbilical cord).

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JazzyLament

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#18  Edited By JazzyLament

Yeah, the literal aspect of Stranding was something I dug into afterwards as well. Apparently lately there have been a lot of strange strandings of really large marine animals, and it is thought to be due to climate change? Something like that.

What if climate change is the new nuke?

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kasaioni

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What if climate change is the new nuke?

I'm thinking some like that is probably the theme. We all know how keen Kojima is to tell people how bad nuclear weapons are, so maybe this time he's looking at the environment.

This is a good video I found of someone speculating that the game will have to do with some environmental themes. It doesn't seem like it'd be too far off from what the trailer shows. But then again, the first trailer we saw from MGSV was entirely of the hospital sequence, and we have no idea what the game part of this game will actually be. Makes me wonder if this game will be going back to old Kojima, and that it will be watched more than played.

Loading Video...

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MarcoSnow

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There are a number of interesting theories here. What do you guys make out of the "strands" dangling from the letters in the title? It may be nothing, but they seem to spell out "EAT" on the first line and "STING" on the second (not counting the strands dribbling down from the first row). Is the otherworldly alien force depicted in the trailer using the strands to ensnare living organisms in order to convert them into some kind of food source?

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JazzyLament

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#21  Edited By JazzyLament

@kasaioni Thanks for that video, he really goes in-depth with the environmental angle which I had glossed over. I guess I just assumed the mass stranding was for effect, and not actually representative of a real crisis...which is oddly very human of me I guess, assuming the trailer is all about us, or the Man.

I still feel for some reason this is a personal story though...absolutely yes the setting and environment seems to really evoke an environmental crisis, but maybe that maybe that's just the backdrop the story takes place in, if that makes sense? Like in MGS, nuclear/viral crisis is the backdrop, and a thesis on a real-world issue, but the core story of the game is about genes, soldiers, memes, control blah blah la li lu le lo.

I can't stop thinking about the handprints, the cross-scar, the necklace lock-like objects, the handcuffs...I don't see how those can tie in to the environmental message.

@davidh219: wow. Now that is a compelling explanation that covers most of what we saw in the trailer, and would explain the presence and absence of technology. Some really great theories there.

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zaldar

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Not looked at the video above yet but the umbilical cord to me looked almost like an ethernet cord of some type.I wonder if he is going some weird anti internet route which would be rather hilarious. I love being part of this though as I didn't get into kojima until discovering the craziness of MGS here. The speculation and such has been very interesting and it hasn't even started yet I bet!

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laxbro19

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@shindig: God, I hope so. I was 3 when the MGS hype train pulled into town and everyone got on board. It'll be nice to have more context for his games when they come out. I think he'll be releasing these things on a faster clip though. I bet this one comes out in September 2018 and we get another one 2 years later, and so on and so forth. I think Kojima learned his lessons the hard way at Konami about being more prolific with releases and getting stuff out there.

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Broddity

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#24  Edited By Broddity

No-one has yet suggested that the baby might be Reedus himself?

He and the baby are literally the only two things on that beach not dead, and they are the only two not connected by a chord.

I speculate that the chords are connecting birth to death. The infant whales etc are literally linked to their dead future selves. Reedus' character has somehow severed the link (belly scar).

Noting the black hole physics stuff on the dog tags, the chords look more like wormholes to me - again, linking birth to death, past to future.

I look forward to us all referencing this thread in a 'see, told you, told you!' fever sometime around 2019.

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Broddity

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Having just gone down an MGS V trailers hole, can I thoroughly recommend anyone looking for a hype nostalgia hit do the same?

Kojima remains the king of teasers and music choices; and dang, the Fox engine still looks good.

Couple of additional thoughts:

  • The fact the ending of MGS V was sort of in plain sight in some of its trailers is what makes poring over the Death Stranding short so easy to get sucked into (MGS V spoilers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03nUMw7japI)
  • What looks like a white whale beached at the end of the Death Stranding trailer - I assume this is a nod to "Moby Dick Studios", Peqod, etc; but I encourage anyone to spin it out into an elaborate uber-theory of their own!

I have had a thoroughly productive day.

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Graveworm

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I wont pay much attention to it until i start playing it. These days to much gets revealed about games leading up to the release. For me that spoils games a lot.