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    1. Tildes Game Review Journal - September 2021

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I really enjoy reading through the weekly gaming threads where people talk about what they're currently playing. Those often give really interesting in-the-moment commentary, and I was thinking it might be nice to have a spot for more formalized "I'm finished with a game" thoughts and reflections.

      This thread is for when you're done with a game and you want to give your finalized overview of it. Did you enjoy it? What did it do well? What were some of its frustrations? Would you recommend it to others? That sort of thing.

      For ease of readability, please bold the title for the game you're reviewing.

      If this is something the community likes, I'm thinking it could be a recurring monthly thing. Consider this month's post a trial run to see whether this is a concept worth continuing.

      22 votes
    2. The entire plot of The Last of Us 2 and one major cutscene has been leaked

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      This is an image which contains spoilers for the entirety of The Last of Us 2, proceed at your own risk

      A major cutscene also got leaked. This is a link to that cutscene. Proceed at your own risk.

      It seems that QA testers were promised bonuses when the game was going to launch, but with the indefinite delays, those bonuses obviously got pushed back. Considering that the menu language of the cutscene is Portuguese (I think), I wouldn't be surprised if someone from South America, where QA probably got outsourced to (Naughty Dog is infamous for their bad work culture) was depending on that bonus, especially with the covid situation.

      I don't know how to handle this situation discussion-wise right now. If you want to spoil yourself for whatever reason (maybe not planning on buying the game, whatever) and discuss the plot of TLOU2, please mark everything as spoilers (you can use sections to hide sensitive info). Everyone else, tread lightly.

      EDIT: Actually, a lot more cutscene got leaked, here's the links in the section:

      https://streamable.com/fnhdhs

      https://streamable.com/sx0ob9

      https://streamable.com/lguem4

      https://streamable.com/nwkj8g

      https://streamable.com/97ajcx

      https://streamable.com/15lozi

      https://streamable.com/d0jpos

      10 votes
    3. I finished playing through The Witness

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      MAJOR SPOILER WARNING


      What I Did

      The game took me around twenty hours to beat, and I stretched that out over the course of about two months. Sometimes I would dive in deep and play non-stop for an hour or two, but most of the time it was me playing it almost piecemeal, for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Enough to get through one or two panels that I had been stuck on and then stop again.

      I would have liked to do longer gaming sessions with it, but I found that I sort of had finite mental resources to apply to the game. I would hit a panel, be thoroughly perplexed, stare at it for 10 minutes while trying different solutions in my head, on paper, and in the game. Nothing would work, so I'd stop the game. The next day I would boot it up and, more often than not, have the solution in a minute or two--sometimes even the first try! I think my brain was working on these in the background.

      Something that helped me massively was not letting myself get intimidated by the game. As I would work myself farther and farther down a strand of puzzles, I would instinctively start to feel the pressure that they were getting harder and harder each time. Rather than feed into that feeling, I simply reassured myself that each puzzle was its own thing, and each one had a solution right there, staring me in the face. I just had to find it.

      What I Loved

      I think the game is gorgeous. Stunning. Beautiful. An absolute joy to look at. It made me realize that we don't often get vibrant color in games that aren't pixel art. I also think the world is beautifully designed. The island is a memorable place with lots to explore.

      I also loved the game's ability to teach you its rules wordlessly. The line puzzles aren't just puzzles--they're a language. The whole game felt like some geometric force was trying to communicate with me, but first it had to teach me its alphabet, grammar, and syntax.

      Furthermore, I can't tell you how many times I would fight for a solution to a difficult puzzle, feeling it was nearly impossible all the way, only to find the seemingly one right answer. The only way it could possibly work. The next panel? The same damn layout but with an added rule that ruined my prior solution! I loved that the game made me rethink my own thoughts and forced me to see, quite literally, that there is often more than one way to solve a problem.

      What I Felt

      I was probably 12 to 14 hours into the game when I accidentally stumbled onto the knowledge that there were lines that could be activated outside the panels. I can't remember where I was but holy hell can I remember the feeling. I've got goosebumps right now as I type this from revisiting it in my memory. It was the sublime feeling you get from a great plot twist. There was a sense of revelation, the feeling of frission, and a newfound respect and appreciation for the design that went into the game.

      What's sad is that it shouldn't have taken me that long. I saw the circles and lines throughout the environment as I made my way around the island and just assumed that it was a sort of visual motif, or maybe a stylistic flair, much like the game's sort of cartoony, polygonal look. Finding out that I could, in fact, trace them just like every other line I'd been making for the past ten hours was absolutely flooring to me. Experiencing that moment is one of the high points in all of my gaming history. It was the moment the game went from "this is definitely a clever game!" to "FUCK...this game is SO. DAMN. SMART." After that moment I think I spent two hours frantically running around the island hunting environmental lines. Now that I knew what to look for, they were EVERYWHERE. Hiding in plain sight! I was stunned. In absolute awe.

      At probably about the 15 hour mark, I found the movie room and had the input for one movie. It was a scene in which a man lights a candle and attempts to walk across a courtyard, and each time the candle goes out, he returns to the beginning. I took this to be a metaphor for the game--specifically that it is about the journey rather than the destination. As such, this was the point that I realized I wasn't going to get some revelatory story at the end of the game, and that making it to the end of the game, while definitely a goal, was not what gave the game meaning.

      The sub-takeaway from the film was the idea that the effort is worth it. The man in the film could have just crossed the courtyard and lit the candle at the end. The fact that he didn't showed self-restraint and a committment to the rule. I took this to be a comment on how the game is played. I could have looked up solutions to the puzzles online and just inputted them easily as a way of breezing through the game. While it would get me to where I was going (the end), what was the point? My playthrough was the lit candle route--harder because I was forcing myself to put in the work rather than taking the easy way out.

      Oh, and did I mention that the film also had an environmental line at the end you could activate if you went behind the screen while it was running? Genius. This game is SO. DAMN. SMART.

      What I Didn't Love

      Because I didn't pay attention to detail and made assumptions when I shouldn't have, I didn't realize that I could enter the mountain without all the beacons activated. My gamer mind simply saw OBVIOUS GATED DESTINATION and OBVIOUS DESTINATION GATE KEYS and went "yup, gotta get all of these to unlock the end!" As such, I overplayed my game a bit by doing all of that first. I was all set for entering the mountain to be the ending, especially because the village beacon felt like a "final exam" to the game, incorporating all of the other puzzle types. I kept coming back to it after learning a new symbol/rule and would chip away here and there until I finally got through all of it.

      As such, when I got into the mountain and there were even more puzzles I was miffed. My steam had run out. Add to that I'm pretty susceptible to motion sickness in games, so the flashing, scrolling, and color-cycling puzzles were deeply unpleasant for me. I literally had to look away from the screen for the scrolling ones. I solved them on paper and inputted them with the panels in my peripheral vision.

      The double-sided room below those was equal parts brilliant and frustrating, though I was impressed as hell with the room with the four sub-puzzles that fed into the larger one on the floor. Unfortunately, I ended the game on quite a low note, as the pillar puzzles at the very end turned my stomach on account of the rotating camera. I was able to power through those only because I knew I was so close to the end.

      What I'm Left With

      While I didn't love the ending, I, as previously mentioned, don't think it's about that. The game gave me 20 hours of puzzle-solving bliss in a beautiful, rich environment. It gave me legitimate chills when I figured out its secret. It made me think, it made me work, and it made me feel legitimately fulfilled. Good puzzle games make you feel baffled and then they turn around and make you feel brilliant. This one made me feel all sorts of brilliant.

      The game has so many legitimately clever moments. I loved the pagoda area where you have to look through branches at the right angle to see the solution. The last puzzle has two pieces of the answer, but a section is missing. After traipsing around, trying every possible visual angle, I look down and find a branch broken off at my feet. The missing piece. Brilliant.

      It was filled with little things like these. Little thoughtful twists or nudges. Each puzzle strand was an iterative sequence, and each time you thought you knew where it was headed, they'd push it further. Then further. More and more. Often in ways you wouldn't expect. It's not just that the idea of the game is good but that its execution is so rich and thoughtful that it makes me reverent.

      As for post-game stuff (because I know there's a ton I haven't gotten to), I'm taking a break from the game right now, but I might return to it a little later. I kept screenshots of puzzles I didn't solve or environmental elements that I was pretty sure were really activatable but that I couldn't quite figure out (the brown railroad tracks in the white limestoney area, for example).

      I have the inputs for a couple more movies that I haven't watched, so I'll probably go back for those. I know there's a challenge area as well, and I'm presumably equipped for it given that I did all of the beacons, but I don't know if I'm up for that. Not just yet, at least.

      What You Can Help Me With

      For those of you that have gone through the post-game content, do you recommend it? Are there certain things I should focus on? I'm not terribly concerned about spoilers, but if there's something "big" like the environmental line revelation, maybe just give me a hint or point me in the right direction.

      I also have a couple of lingering questions. Feel free to answer them unless you feel that it's better if I try to figure it out by myself.

      • What do the individual, standalone panels lying around the island do (the gray ones with the triangles)? I've figured out the rule, I just don't know their purpose.

      • Does finding all the environmental lines serve any larger purpose?

      • Is there story or lore in the game? Does the island or its frozen inhabitants get explained? I activated a few audiologs, but those were mostly philosophical ponderings rather than narrative.

      • How on earth do I get that environmental line with the railroad tracks? Of all the ones that I haven't been able to figure out how to get, that one's bothering me the most.

      Finally, to anyone who's played the game (which is hopefully anyone who read this), I'd love to hear your experience and thoughts. What was The Witness like for you?


      EDIT: Writing the post inspired me to go back into the game instead of sleeping. I watched two other videos I had found inputs for. One was a woman talking about freeing yourself from want, and the other was a man talking about science and knowledge. Interesting stuff.

      Then I started exploring and I found an environmental line made by the negative space in the sky when properly bounded by a cloud and wall from the exact right angle. This game is SO. DAMN. SMART.


      EDIT 2: Disregard where I said I was going to take a break from the game. I'm diving back in. I want to explore and find these environmental lines. It's so satisfying when you find one.

      There was one on a bridge leading from the village towards the foresty area with the orange trees. I could see it from the ground and knew it definitely was one, but I could never quite position myself right to actually trace it. I tried climbing in the castle area since it seemed like I needed to be elevated, but that didn't work. I tried it from the rooftops in the village, and that didn't work. Then I looked: the tower in the middle of the village! I'd forgotten to try from there because once I got to the top of that I headed straight for the mountain. Sure enough, that was the spot.

      Also, can we talk about how the sound is so satisfying when you get one? So good.


      EDIT 3: The game might be trying to teach me a lesson in freeing myself from want. Now that I'm fired up to dive back into it, it's hard crashing after I start it up. It loads fine and I can walk a few steps, then it locks up my whole system.

      I'm running it on Linux through Proton and tried all the different Proton versions assuming that was the culprit (it has crashed before) but the outcome is the same. I might be technologically barred from going further, which I guess is in the spirit of the game's ending and philosophy, right?


      EDIT 4: My OS had some graphics library updates for me today, and after installing them I'm back in business--no more crashing! (Sub edit: I spoke too soon. It crashed after about half an hour, but that's way better than what I was getting before). I spent a while traipsing around the island, looking for environmental lines. It's amazing how, in hindsight, so many areas or destinations that I thought were just kind of dead space are actually strategic locations for environmental lines.

      A good example is the very beginning of the game. You can get onto the roof of the overhang you first walk out from. At the beginning of the game I got up there, saw some pillows, and just thought it was set dressing in an ultimately useless space. Nope! Not only is there an environmental line you can get from there, but there's an audiolog as well if you're paying attention to detail (which, of course, I wasn't in my first go-around).

      22 votes
    4. What are some of the most emotionally affecting or resonant games you've played?

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Doesn't necessarily have to be that you cried, though it certainly can be. It can also be that you connected with the characters or plot, or maybe you clicked with the game's sense of humor. Maybe it creeped you out something fierce, or maybe it forced you into difficult ethical decisions. Any strong personal response counts.

      • Why was the game so meaningful for you?
      • How did the game use the medium to enhance its resonance?

      Please give adequate spoiler warnings!
      (You can use a <details> block to make a convenient collapsible section.)

      21 votes
    5. What's the best horror game you've played?

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I'm not necessarily asking for the scariest one you've played but for your personal favorite/best, based on whatever criteria you choose. Games that are more horror-lite/spooky still count as well, so feel free to consider and include those.

      With regards to your pick: what made it so good? In what ways did its use of horror add to your experience?

      Given that a lot of horror relies on surprise, subverting expectations, or the unknown, please give spoiler warnings if you plan to discuss important aspects/plot points that might ruin the game for others.

      13 votes
    6. How do you fit a video game's interpretation with its source files?

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Given a movie with ambiguous story, you have multiple options to base your interpretation upon: you have the movie itself, the screenplay if available, what the author said in interviews or books, etc... Now, if we take a video game, you also have additional tools: the source code, the installed file names, unused resources, etc. There are of course a few games that expect the player to check these files but that isn't what I want to focus on.

      Would you say that all these files have the same authority as the game itself when it comes to interpretations?

      I'd like to take an example with SPOILERS FOR LIFE IS STRANGE 1, as this is the game that sparked this topic for me:

      The blue butterfly has a special place in this game, it is what starts the whole journey when Max takes a picture of it and Chloe gets shot. It also shown again in the 'Sacrifice Chloe' ending during that same scene. And later during Chloe's burial that butterfly is shown to land on the coffin in front of Max and fly away. There are some scenes that imply that spirit animals are a thing in the in-game universe. After finishing the game my interpretation was that the blue butterfly was Chloe's spirit animal. Now what a surprise to see in the game wiki that the texture file for that butterfly is named 'Spirit_animal_Chloe' !

      Is there any room left for interpretation when the source makes it explicit text? Or can the source be reasonably be pushed aside?

      8 votes
    7. What are some of your favorite examples of storytelling via gameplay?

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Video game's approach to storytelling usually comprise of mixing gameplay mechanics (gunplay, health system, enemy AI...) and storytelling elements (cutscenes, dialogue trees, environment details...). There are also special systems designed to work both as gameplay challenge as well as narrative carriers (quick time events, the nemesis system in Shadow of War...)

      However, there's also a third approach, where traditional gameplay elements when put into appropriate context within the game gain additional narrative significance (the way Thomas was Alone's basic platforming mechanics are personified via narration, or Undertale's combat system being integral to how the story develops...)

      Have you ever noticed if a gameplay element also doubled as a storytelling device in the games you played before? If so, what was it and what did it "tell" you?

      12 votes
    8. Magic: the Gathering - War of the Spark previews have started

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      War of the Spark is the next MtG set, coming out on May 3.

      They released an official trailer today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5W9t62t10I

      As of the time of posting, there are 32 cards revealed so far, available here: https://scryfall.com/sets/war?order=spoiled&as=grid

      They previously revealed that every booster pack will have a Planeswalker in it, so the set looks like it will have quite a few of these unusual Planeswalkers with no way to add loyalty counters to themselves.

      9 votes