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@onemanarmyy: Thank you.
Nice, write up. I remember loving this game.
My childhood laid bare. How I love thee.
My favorite simulation game to this day, unfortunately both sequels moved away from the obsessive detail oriented approach to designing the exhibits themselves and thus just didn't scratch that same itch. I haven't found any comparable zoo management games yet, which is a real shame.
I've not played the sequels, but I always thought it was through the exhibits that Zoo Tycoon could be detail-oriented. When you're placing individual trees and rocks as an essential part of play, it pushes it beyond what games like Rollercoaster Tycoon were doing. Personally, I think we may be due for a spiritual successor to Zoo Tycoon. We got a modern successor to SimCity in Cities Skylines, Theme Hospital returned as Two Point Hospital, and Rollercoaster Tycoon/Theme Park came back as Parkitect. It feels like Zoo Tycoon's time.
maotsethong's painting might be the best bit of Giant Bomb fan art there's been. Excellent stuff.
Good list, and so many of your thoughts on certain games line up with mine. I'm pleased as hell my enjoyment of Agents of Mayhem wasn't due to some faulty circuitry in my head and that you found it enjoyable for a lot of the same reasons. I somehow forgot The Writer was a thing - that was a fascinating experience, one I'm not entirely sure worked for me, but one I am glad I went through anyways as I liked the message and generalities of the story. And you've got three of my all-time favorites on here in Watch Dogs 2, Edith Finch, and Before the Storm, so high five, cool person.
Or both our brains are broken. I dunno, of all the stuff on this list, I feel Agents was the weakest. There's a lot wrong with the game but there's a lot right with it too. I loved Borderlands and Borderlands 2 when I played them, but I'm pretty over the series now and searching for its successor, and even if briefly, Agents scratches that same itch. With The Novelist, I'd seen the name on Steam before but basically knew nothing about it going in. In retrospect, I'm kind of surprised this isn't one of those games that just generally gets brought up when people discuss branching narrative titles.
Nice work on the interview, fascinating to read! It’s weird though reading such a ’matter of fact’ take on the game from it’s developer as someone that had such an emotionally resonant experience with the game. It brings me back to something Jeff Green said on some podcast about how developing games makes you perhaps see them in a different light as a player, which can be both good and bad. Reading this I got that feeling of looking behind the curtain and exposing the strings to some degree, which was equally fascinating and decontructed my own view of the game in some way beyond it’s purely emotional memory. Again, great work!
Thank you. I was also initially surprised by Dallas seeming so underwhelmed by his own game, but when you're working on a game, it's impossible to see it from an outside perspective. It's difficult to get a beat on whether it's good or bad, which is why you need QA people, and as Dallas said, his testers had nothing but mild praise for the title. It's also the case that however emotionally impactful a game might be, a lot of working on it isn't taking in that emotional content. It's staring at screens of code or object renders or other very functional stuff, and the game is going to be broken and unaffecting for most of its development cycle. At some point, game dev is just going into an office and sitting down at a desk each day, but when a game does its job, like Edith Finch does, it hides the seams that suggest the dryer and more technical work required to put it together.
Thanks for this. I love What Remains of Edith Finch. I truly believe it's one of the most facenating story's ever told in a game.
Thank you. I feel the same way.
Glad you asked about the influences. I wasn't aware of those. And as someone who spent years hammering his head against Middle English writing, it's really not the easiest stuff to get into. Rewarding in its own way, as it's an effective glimpse into a period of life that feels almost foreign now,
It was something I didn't initially want to ask about. I knew the influence of Dallas's scuba diving and One Hundred Years of Solitude had been documented online already. I also didn't want to ask such a predictable question, but we got there organically, and I'm very happy we did. I suspect some of those influences haven't been documented before.
That's a great write-up to what is one of my favorite adventure games of all time. If it wasn't for Life is Strange - Before the Storm, it would have easily been my GOTY last year. In retrospect, 2017 was an amazing year for adventure games in general.
Anyways, I really don't have much to add. I think you've broken down the narrative elements nicely. It cannot be said enough how much turning the deaths into pivotal gameplay scenes brought the story closer in a way I've never seen any other game do. It was last year's "nemesis system" and I hope every adventure game developer played it and learned what they can do with the genre - not that all of them should, but it's huge new tool in their toolbox. Giggity.
In any case, it's a fantastic game, and this is a great look at it.
Really appreciate it. I'd love to see more developers pick up and run with this technique Edith Finch uses for conveying text, but it is also the case that a lot of developers reduce story to text or audio logs because they can't or won't put all the production effort into fleshing out the world and narrative that they will into the action. At a certain point, it's not just knowing how to bring your story to life, it's making a decision about whether you want your game to be primary about empowerment fantasy sequences or whether you want it to be about a narrative experience your audience can invest in.
@gamer_152: Gat Out of Hell's problems were legion. I think a do-over of the idea of that game's historical figures (or others) playing with the Saints would still have a certain appeal to me. In any case, I'd ideally love for them to knock it out of the park with a new IP, but I also really just hope we're not entirely done with the Saints yet. Maybe we revisit them in a few years, or maybe not.
I don't think Volition are entirely done with Saint's either. They're a very self-referential company and there's obviously an effort to include people and visual styles from Saint's in Agents of Mayhem, it's just they don't really shine because that game has a lot of trouble expressing itself. I'd be down for another Saint's if they could do it right but my hesitation here is because Gat felt underproduced in a similar way that Agents did. Saint's games are reliant on feature missions, big setpieces, and cutscenes, and Gat couldn't deliver there. It's not a guarantee that a quick stop in Saint's in the future would come up short, but I would be very worried about it.
I feel with more time and money this game could have being better, the things i remember from it was a huge city with nothing to do in it, bland Overwatchesque characters, with boring move sets. Some questionable writing and way to much Uranus jokes.
I hope Deepsilver/THQ Nordic or THQ what ever there called now, gives them more money and time on there next project would be a bummer to see Volition get closed.
I think there were a lot of things to do in the city. There were hostages, lootboxes, shards, really something every few seconds, it's just few of these systems fed back into anything interesting. I'd also be hesitant to call these Overwatch-style characters. I don't think Overwatch invented the idea of 3D cartoon graphics or ninjas, footballers, hardass sergeants, etc. I think they're just both cartoony games making up superhero teams by pulling together archetypes of characters from many different genres.
But I also feel that worry that Volition could be on their way out. The fact that Agents didn't get all that much publicity before launch suggests that Deep Silver might have lost confidence in it long before release.
@gamer_152: Wouldn’t mind a back-to-basics Saints Row that still adheres to the bananas “anything goes” plotlines of the latter games. Imagine time hopping Saints Row 3. Mmmm.
That might be good, I'm not sure. I think there's definitely something to the idea of Volition going somewhere different instead of just going bigger, but Gat Out of Hell was a smaller Saint's that tried to play with these historical figures and I wasn't that into it. I know a lot of other people were though.
Great writeup, and I agree with everything you've stated here. If Agents of Mayhem could have lived up a bit more to its potential, it would have been great. As it is, it's still surprisingly fun and there's a great backbone here that, unfortunately, will probably be never fleshed out. I hope someone somewhere down the line is inspired by it to create a spiritual successor, because with more variation on the missions and settings as well as a more fully fleshed script (probably just focusing on a few characters), a game like this could be something amazing.
Thanks. For me, it's really hard to see where Volition go from here. Saint's Row seems exhausted as a series, but it's probable that they don't have the resources to develop Agents of Mayhem as a series either. I really don't want to see a great studio like this disappear, but maybe the next step is dialling back the scope of what they create, even if that seems fundamentally against Volition's whole design philosophy.
Don't have much to add except for great writeup, and yeah where do you go after you've basically turned the player into a God-like figure over the course of the Saints series? It would be a challenge to top that.
Thank you. I think that plenty of creators in the past have encountered the "We've gone as big as we can go" problem and the answer is always to create something different than their previous work instead of just trying to create something more bombastic than it, and from that perspective Agents makes sense, it's just different things tend to come with a lot of teething problems and Volition picked a really difficult style of game to develop.
That's an inspired Tidehunter screenshot for this subject.
Personly, i signed up with the expectation that i could buy & play 80% of the worthwhile pc games in one place.
Steams tools require further refinement but i think they're on the right track. Spotify, Amazon & YouTube all contain garbage but through the tools they offer i manage to avoid 97% of it.
I just needed a picture to illustrate DoTA 2. It's a little hard to tell but I don't think it's impossible that in a few years time, Steam could have really robust tools for filtering out the garbage; what worries me is they're packing their store with the maximum products possible before making sure they've got the tools for users to sort through those products.
My frustrations with Steam as a user only extend so far. To touch on something you mentioned, I think I might be angrier about how weird my YouTube algorithm has gotten than the nigh-endless supply of recommendations for porn-y visual novels because I played Doki Doki Literature Club and Clannad. (I should say, for the record, I'm still mildly bummed whenever I open the main page of the store and am greeted with a parade of impossibly giant tits and bad anime art.) The discussion about content platforms throwing their hands up and letting robots (and the people behind those robots) curate content is a bigger discussion than Steam, but I have some things to say about what Google thinks I want to watch.
I guess I represent the heavily informed end of the spectrum, because I'm at the point where I buy a game on steam because I've heard about it elsewhere. I have zero interest in trying to dig through the muck searching for hidden gems, and I already have enough nonsense I've never played in my library from years of ill-advised purchases during holiday sales. On a philosophical level, I absolutely dislike Steam's wild-west approach and am way more fond of GOG's curated outlook, but that doesn't change the fact that new games on GOG are often treated like red-headed stepchildren, with late patches and segregated multiplayer. Their focus has broadened over the years, but I still view them as a place to get weird old PC games from the 90s and early 2000s more than anything else.
Certainly, there are significant problems at YouTube. I think it's way better than Steam at returning solid search results and I more often find recommendations through the YouTube system which actually apply to my interests, but I also increasingly see junk in the recommendations. I strongly suspect that the problem over there is less that they can't build tools to neatly filter the junk content on the site and more that they decided to aggressively push popular related content, whether it's relevant to people or not, because that's what makes them the most money.
I think we're the kind of people who are willing to put in extra work to get what they want out of a platform like Steam, although I have found a few hidden gems through its recommendation system. I just don't think that it's going to be speeding headlong towards a clutter of unsortable junk for anyone not doing a lot of extra reading on games, and I'm still anxious about the future of hate speech on that platform.
Use your keyboard!
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