Rick, Morty, & Cronenberg

This is and will always be a gaming blog, but a few months back I declared that this would no longer be an exclusively gaming blog. I even took the time to change the title of the blog from ‘DJMMT’S Gaming Blog’ to ‘DJMMT’s Gaming (& More) Blog’. But to be honest I really haven’t been true to the “& More” part of the title up until now. So I wanted to take the time to write about something not gaming that is still very much important to many if not most of the members of the gaming community today. I’m talking about Rick & Morty.

I, like any sane human being, love Rick & Morty. It’s an amazing show that’s funny, relatable (in a weird way), somewhat educational in the fact that it gets people thinking about scientific concepts even if not being completely realistic about them, and most importantly, it’s expertly written. It’s one of the only shows I can remember watching and saying it has only gotten better over time. Just about every episode is better than the last one and I don’t think there’s been a single episode that I was genuinely displeased with. Really no other show can make that claim for me. Not even Game of Thrones. I recently re-watched the first three seasons and I was impressed to find that there are really no inconsistencies in the writing. Everything is tied up really nicely and even the continuity of the writing from episode to episode and between dimensions is all pretty much perfect . . . except for one episode, that I noticed.

jessica

In Season 1, Episode 6, named Rick Potion #9, Rick creates a special love potion for Morty that will make Jessica fall in love with him. It works but because she had the flu when the potion was applied, it mutated and spread turning everyone into violent, love crazed maniacs, all trying to pretty much rape Morty to death. This potion is based on vole DNA. To counter this potion, Rick creates another potion based on praying mantis DNA, which then turns everyone into giant praying mantises that still want to rape Morty to death. Then Rick makes a third potion that infuses the DNA of several things (koala, rattlesnake, chimpanzee, cactus, shark, golden retriever) including dinosaurs (which are expressed as a single species rather than naming a specific type of dinosaur) and turns everyone into what are referred to as Cronenbergs.

The name Cronenbergs, in my opinion but not verified by a confirmed source, is in reference to director David Cronenberg, specifically because of his film The Fly (1986) where Jeff Goldblum’s genes are accidentally spliced with a fly, mutating him into a fly man and eventually a giant humanoid fly and then in the end splicing in metal turning him into a monstrosity that Geena Davis ultimately shoots in the head. By the end of the film, Jeff Goldblum is a disgusting amalgamation of parts similar to the mutated people at the end of Rick Potion #9.

cronenbergs

If we assume that I’m right about why the writers chose to refer to these monstrous mutants as Cronenbergs then the assumption is that both Rick and Morty have seen The Fly, which is why they are both comfortable referring to them as Cronenbergs almost instantly. This all makes perfect sense. But at the very end of the episode in the post credits scene something odd happens. In the same way that Rick and Morty escape to a dimension where the world hasn’t been “Cronenberged” (and the Rick and Morty of that dimension have died for unrelated reasons), a Cronenberg version of Rick and Morty portal into the now Cronenberged world of our Rick and Morty. Cronenberg Rick refers to Morty as “Cronenberg Morty”. The two go on to say that they come from a world where everyone started off as Cronenbergs and then Rick accidentally turned them into normal people (but for some unmentioned reason didn’t use the process on themselves). The Cronenberg Rick and Morty decide to stay in the now Cronenberg world and take the place of Rick and Morty C-137 in that dimension.

Cronenberg_Rick

There are two problems I have with this ending. The first is that Cronenberg Rick and Morty use the term “Cronenberg” to refer to mutated people. This makes no sense. The term Cronenberg applies to people who have been mutated to look abnormal like in the film The Fly by David Cronenberg. That’s why the term makes sense. But in a world where everyone was born a mutant, there is no justification for the term. In a world where everyone is a freakish mutant, David Cronenberg would not have made a film about a normal looking man mutating into a monster. If anything the film would be about a freakish monster mutating into a normal looking person, and normal people would be referred to as Cronenbergs. But Cronenberg Rick and Morty ignore this logical conclusion and refer to mutants, including themselves, as Cronenbergs. How and why would this be the case?

the fly
The Fly (1986) by David Cronenberg

Now clearly from the outside, the writers did this for the purposes of reference language already used in the episode in order to keep the viewers comfortable. But as far as writing goes, which again is perfectly sensible and consistent throughout the rest of the show, this is a travesty. It breaks an otherwise perfect show. I even tried to think of a justification for it occurring. The only way I could see Cronenberg Rick and Morty using the term Croneneberg to identify people that look like them is that they may have watched The Fly on interdimensional cable, which doesn’t actually get shown until two episodes after Rick Potion #9 in Rixty Minutes. They still would have had to decide to use the director’s name as an inside joke to refer to themselves, but that almost seems like creating a slur to refer to yourself and others with your mutated condition. They also could have traveled to a dimension with regular looking people, saw the film, and then did the same thing, but it still assumes they would decide to make a slur of sorts to refer to themselves. This seems out of character for Rick and certainly for Morty.

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My other issue, which falls into the same episode, is that on multiple occasions, both at the end of Rick Potion #9 and in Season 3 Episode 1, The Rickshank Rickdemption, Morty’s original family from dimension C-137 are shown to have survived the Cronenberg outbreak and continued living their lives as post-apocalyptic scavengers. In both of these episodes Beth, Jerry, and Summer have survived but Cronenberg Rick & Morty are nowhere to be seen with them. It seems odd, considering Morty’s temperament, that they never tried to meet up with their alternate dimension family. Now this isn’t an inconsistency like them using the term Cronenberg as much as a peeve because if the creators took the time to show them enter that dimension it seems only logical that they would have referenced them in some way later, especially after taking the time to revisit that version of Earth two seasons later.

Now of course neither of these issues detracts from the show as a whole. It has and I hope will continue to be of the highest caliber of quality comedic writing. But I wanted to point out these two continuity issues, see if anyone else noticed them and has any theories about them, as well as see if anyone else has noticed any other inconsistencies throughout the show. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Gaming Photography – Xenoblade Chronicles X

Now that I finally finished Xenoblade Chronicles X for the Wii U it’s time for another gaming photography post. I spent 90 hours playing this game and took a whooping 815 in game photos. Obviously I can’t share all of them, but here’s my top 20. Decided that for such a large pool of pictures settling on 10 would be too hard.

Again, I make it a point of only taking natural in game shots. I don’t use photo modes or alter the brightness/color settings except in special situations. This is only my second game taking serious HD photos with my PC so I’m still not a pro but I hope you enjoy my shots. I also post them on my Twitter and Instagram often.

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*If you’d like to see the full resolution image please right click and press “view image”.

Please let me know what you think of my shots. Any feedback is appreciated because I would like to improve my gaming photography skills. Also please let me know what you think the best way to display my photos for these posts is. Last time I just posted them all as single images. This time I wanted to try something more space and loading time efficient.

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Game of Groans (The Telltale GoT Experience)

I’m a fairly big fan of TellTale Games. They make excellent games and more importantly they make games that play differently than just about everything else on the mainstream market today. I don’t own all their games, but I own quite a few. Currently I have all the Sam & Max titles, Tales of Monkey Island, Back to the Future: The Game, Jurassic Park: The Game, The Walking Dead Season One, Poker Night 2, The Wolf Among Us, Batman: The TellTale Series, Guardians of the Galaxy: The TellTale Series, and currently I’m playing Game of Thrones. Now I have to admit that I have not yet completed all these games. In fact I’ve only completed a few of them. But I purchased them because I really like the studio and I enjoy their work, for the most part.

The first Telltale Games title I ever played to completion was The Wolf Among Us (TWAU). This is also the game that made this studio memorable to me. Before then it was just a name I may have heard from time to time but never took to heart. TWAU changed all that. That game is spectacular. It’s one of the most memorable point and clicks, if it can be called that, I’ve ever played. In my opinion, it is perfect in every way except for the inconclusive ending, which was intentional according to the studio. I am so glad they are finally making a season two and I will absolutely be buying it.

TWAU

Currently I’m playing Game of Thrones for the first time. I’m only past Episode 3. A few things to note right away are that I don’t love the art style but I’m ok with it. I love the writing, as per usual with modern TellTale Games titles. The story is weaved into the canon of Game of Thrones, the TV show, perfectly. But I am not happy with the way things seem to be playing out overall. There’s always a question of agency in games that let you make decisions. Whether it’s something epic like Mass Effect or Fable or something smaller like titles by TellTale Games, the ability to make choices must be executed properly or the whole experience is destroyed. In fact, I think that’s why so few games let you make decisions. It’s hard to manage the experience when the player gets to take the reins.

With all the TellTale titles I’ve played in the past that offered plot contingent choices, it always felt real. The decisions and their repercussions were executed correctly. Here correctly shall be defined as giving you an outcome that makes sense to the player based on the decisions they made that doesn’t appear to be the only possible outcome. That last bit is extremely important. Many games that have decisions are actually on rails. This is common knowledge. You make decisions and things branch out but ultimately they weave right back into the same path as everyone else’s choices. But the true art of making a game with decisions is making it seem like your choices actually mattered and led to the outcome you got. Mass Effect does this very well. TWAU does an equally good job considering the scale of the game. That’s one of the reasons I like it so much and why I took the time to platinum it, which required multiple (at least two) playthroughs. Game of Thrones however does not have this same effect when it comes to making decisions.

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I like playing Game of Thrones but I rarely feel like my choices matter that much in the grand scheme of things. I noticed this at the end of Episode 1. If you haven’t played the game please be aware of spoilers ahead. The game centers on House Forrester. This is a house loyal to the Starks that have been plunged into turmoil after the Red Wedding, which is where the game starts. You play as multiple characters who are all members of House Forrester. One of them is the young Lord Ethon. He becomes Lord of the House after his father and oldest brother die at the Red Wedding. When playing as him you are tasked with making serious decisions about the future of the House and its struggles with House Whitehill, a rival house that been in conflict with House Forrester for generations. The Whitehills have the support of the Boltons so they now get to walk all over House Forrester. You make a number of choices and at the end of the episode Ramsay Bolton murders Ethon with no warning. It’s a shocking moment and was perfectly placed for that classic Game of Thrones shock value. But what I didn’t like was that I felt like I didn’t deserve that outcome. I made very conservative and politically minded decisions. Not the decisions I wanted to make but the ones I believed were the best way to prevent violence from breaking out and House Forrester being driven into a war they couldn’t win at that moment. Even with all my eggshell walking, Ethon still got stabbed in the neck.

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I usually don’t look these sorts of things up because I do replay TellTale Games titles when I feel like I could get vastly different outcomes. But in this case, the death felt so undeserved that I had to look it up. To my surprise and disappointment, it turns out you can’t save Ethon. No matter what you do he will be murdered by Ramsay Bolton at that meeting. For a TellTale title that’s a load of crap, and it feels like it. When you play TWAU everything feels authentic. You always feel like bad outcomes are your fault. Even when I played it a second time, making all different decisions, things felt authentic and different. That’s the way it should feel. With each episode of Game of Thrones I have continued to feel like I was trapped within a locked narrative and that my decisions were of little consequence. That’s not how these games are supposed to feel.

Sadly this seems to have become par for the course for TellTale Games in recent years. Upon doing more research, I found out that you get a platinum trophy on PS3/4 just for completing all the episodes in Game of Thrones. The same is apparently true for Batman: The TellTale Series, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, Tales From the Borderlands, and Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series. In all these games you get a platinum just for reaching the end of the game no matter what you do. This is not the case for TWAU and it leads me to believe that not much difference occurs from playthrough to playthrough. Why else would it be so easy to get a platinum? The only logical explanation is that you won’t gain much or possibly any additional plotlines if you replay these games. That’s a shame and goes directly against why I originally became a TellTale Games fan.

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Now I can understand why things like this might occur. All these titles are based on currently existing film and/or game properties. This means that the story has to follow certain paths in order to stay within the canon of the work. For instance, they could never have a scenario in Game of Thrones where Ramsay Bolton dies at the hands of House Forrester because he dies at the hands of Sansa Stark after the Battle of the Bastards. This is show canon. Now that might excuse the more set in stone plot(s), but it doesn’t excuse the execution of them. Even if my choices don’t really matter, they still need to make me feel like they do. Otherwise this is just an ugly, fairly uneventful as far as gameplay is concerned, rails story game. While that might be fine in a game with great gameplay, it’s not ok in what is for the most part a glorified point and click.

I am very much saddened by what seems to be the current and future state of TellTale Games titles. This is especially disappointing if it ends up ruining The Wolf Among Us Season Two. If this change in style is the result of all these big franchise adaptations then that’s terrible news because that’s basically all the studio is doing these days. I’d like to see a return to true form and I hope that one day in the near future they make authentic stories that don’t feel hollow once again.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Same World, Different Games

*This is a piece I wrote several years ago (2014), but for some reason never published. What I think is interesting is that some of the things I’ve called for here have been implemented into modern gaming via patches for certain games (GTAV) and also some modern games are finally allowing perspective choice, such as Star Wars: Battlefront (2015). But in general the industry still has a way to go on this topic.

Quite often there are games released (I’m talking AAA almost exclusively) that I really want to play at first announcement. They have the story, or the graphics, or sometimes even just the right looking character. It’s no secret that marketing can be the difference between record sales and a failed project. Sometimes I even do buy without taking the time to properly do my research. But then once I actually get a look at the gameplay, I’m totally disinterested in playing it. In the moments where I learn this after I’ve already purchased I play the game anyway because I’m not one to just throw money away. But in the times where I’m given advanced notice I simply let out a long sigh of disappointment and never purchase or play the game except in the rare occurrence where I get  a chance to play it for free either because a friend has it or PS+ tosses it out one month. And even then sometimes I still pass on it.

1st vs 3rd

I don’t know if other gamers have this issue, but I seem to be dealing with it constantly. There are certain aspects to the way a game is made that I often think are just wrong and would have been better if done differently. I’m not super picky about certain aspects of a game while I’m a complete stickler about others. My biggest pet peeve is when a game that should have clearly been made in third person is produced in first person. This is obviously a subjective opinion. I prefer third person games to first person just like there are plenty of gamers who prefer first person over third person. The main difference is that first person games are tied directly to esports now so they tend to get a lot more support than third person. This is especially true when it comes to PVP for some reason. I do play games in first person and there are certain first person titles that I really love like Mirror’s Edge (2008). But more often than not games are announced that I’m totally ready to buy and then later on found out it’s in first person and then I don’t even bother. Sometimes I’m on the fence about it like with the upcoming Destiny (here I’m referencing the first one because this was written early 2014), but other times I never consider it again.

Destiny limited ed

*I ultimately did purchase the limited edition of Destiny and if you read my blog regularly then you are already aware that I deeply regret it but not because it’s in first person.

Now obviously some games are meant to be in first person and they wouldn’t be any better in third. Call of Duty is a great example of this. It’s a first person shooter that would be no better in any aspect or even possibly be worse than it already is were it to be made in third person. The same is true for certain third person games such as Sly Cooper. That would be a horrible experience in first person, except for maybe in a very well made VR scenario. But quite often some games are produced in one POV when they would be so much “better” and sensible in another other POV.

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011)

For me, there is no better example than Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011). You give me a super slick looking cyborg with inlaid blades, robo shades, and enough tech to make Raiden (MGS not MK for all you noobs) jealous and then you tell me I’m not going to be able to see him for most of the game. That makes absolutely no sense. That game should without a doubt have been in third person. We know this to be true because of the many moments where the game switches to third person when you do cool stuff like stealth kills or even just climb ladders. And no I don’t care if the past titles in the series were in first person. Clearly that was the wrong decision, at least for this title, and should have been changed. I was ready to pre-order it after watching the reveal trailers, but when I found out it was in first person I passed. Tried a friend’s copy for about 5 minutes and put it down never to play it again. Even passed on it when it was available for free on PS+. It should have been in third with the option to switch to first for more precise gun use.

There are also games that are in the middle that could be very good in either first or third person. Mass Effect is a great example of this. It’s in third person over the shoulder, which works great. But it also could have easily been a first person shooter and been just as good. It would only have needed to switch to third person for cut scenes which is a common practice in first person games. Between games that could go either way and be fun and games that should have gone the opposite way, I have to ask the question “why not?”

mass effect fps mod
Mass Effect First Person Mod

Why don’t we ever see games remade in different gameplay styles? It wouldn’t even be that hard in comparison to making a brand new game. You already have your plot, graphics, level design, and voice acting. You need only remake the gameplay and you have a brand new and sometimes better gaming experience in a fraction of the time. Then you can ship it out quicker and charge less for it without taking a loss so everybody wins.

Obviously I’m not saying this is a practice that should be done with every or even most games. I would absolutely never consider playing a first person God of War game. The thought of that just makes me cringe. But there are clearly titles that can and sometimes should be remade in a different POV or with other gameplay focused changes. Wouldn’t you like to try something like Tomb Raider (2013) in first person? It may not be better, but it could also end up being a much more dramatic gameplay experience.

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The only time in the series I preferred first person. God of War III (2010)

I think a great example is Thief (2014). I was so excited to play it that my girlfriend pre-ordered it for me. But it was actually a pretty boring experience (read about it here). I understand why Thief was made in first person and what it was trying to accomplish. But I truly believe that it would be more enjoyable and less annoying to play in a third person view. Especially when it comes to combat, which is pretty sloppy in that game when not landing exclusively stealth knock outs. Now I can admit that it happens to be a game where stealth knockouts should be your go to means of dealing with enemies, but if you played the game then you know that it’s not made well enough to accomplish that in any practical amount of time. Especially for inexperienced to average level stealth players.

While I’ve been focusing on POV, that’s not necessarily the only change in a remake that could lead to a great gaming experience. There are also contextual gameplay changes that could help certain titles a lot. What if we were to see certain games recreated with an entirely different combat system? Now personally I like Final Fantasy XII (2006) and while I don’t consider it to be the best of the franchise, I was not unhappy with the battle system. It was innovative and attempting to change the experience to something other than the basic turn time which had existed for several years. Whether or not it succeeded in creating a good battle system is up for debate, but I do know that many people were unhappy with it as well as the newer systems in more recent games such as Final Fantasy XIII (2009/10). Why couldn’t we see these games recreated or better yet originally released with the ability to play in the classic turn time style? (Some of them actually do include the choice of turn time, but it’s disappearing with each new title.)

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That would be my ideal scenario, if I’m honest. A game comes out where multiple styles of play and POV would make sense and be enjoyable and they are all included in the release copy. But that’s asking a lot for some games. There’s also the possibility of releasing multiple versions of a game or including other gameplay style options as DLC. If given the opportunity, I would totally play Deus Ex: Human Revolution fully in third person. When it was new, I would have even been willing to pay extra for the privilege.

Again, I’m not saying that this is something that should be done for every game. But there are definitely certain titles where it could be quite enjoyable, profitable, and in some cases useful. I bet certain games would even sell more copies and garner more positive response in an alternate version than in the original. While such a policy does go against the current system of video game development in many ways and may even be insulting to developers, I say “so what?” Gaming is about entertaining the player while trying to make a profit. It’s pretty obvious that such a move to create alternate versions of certain games would do just that. And since credibility is kind of a dead thing anyway what with all the HD remakes and paid DLC for unfinished releases, would this really be such a disgusting practice in the current gaming industry?

game-changer

Here’s a list of some of the games that I would love to play in remade versions. Note that I’m not saying all these games weren’t great the way they were made. I’m just saying that I believe they would be fun to play in an alternate version.

  • Elder Scrolls – Third Person
  • Brink (2011) – Third Person
  • Uncharted – First Person
  • Kingdom Hearts – Turn Time RPG
  • Demon’s Souls (2009) – First Person
  • Prince of Persia – First Person
  • Minecraft (2011) – Third Person
  • Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (2004) – Real Time Action RPG
  • Dragon Age: Origins (2009) – Turn Time RPG
  • Metroid: Other M (2010) – First Person

I’m curious to know if other gamers have similar pet peeves with games and how you feel about the idea of developers releasing alternate versions so please leave a comment below.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Too Many Lives to Live

For the last few weeks I’ve been playing Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U. This is a game I purchased in 2015 at the behest of basically everyone I knew/know who has a Wii U. I had no previous experience or serious knowledge of the Xenoblade franchise but everyone just kept praising the game so I bought it during a Black Friday sale. I have to admit that it’s a great game. It’s by no means perfect and there are a number of issues I have with it, but overall I’m happy I bought it and that I’m finally getting to play it. This is actually the second to last game I still need to beat before I retire my Wii U and move on to the Nintendo Switch. I may still end up buying Star Fox Zero against my better judgement, but only if Nintendo drops it to a fair price.

RIP-WiiU

I’m more than 60 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles X and while the game is quite good, it drags on a lot. Mostly because of the slow grinding system and terrible money acquisition to item cost ratio. I was promised 100 hours to beat this game and I honestly think that will be the case. I can’t remember the last time I played a serious triple digit RPG. I play RPGs all the time but I’m not the type to replay games or buy DLC so games like Dark Souls usually take me under 50 hours. I couldn’t even tell you the last JRPG I completed. But I’m going to complete this one.

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Xenoblade Chronicles X

In the midst of playing this second to last Wii U game I realized that my next/last planned Wii U game, Super Mario Color Splash, is also an RPG. Then I looked at my PS4 library and among my serious considerations backlog are Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy XV, World of Final Fantasy, Dark Souls III, Digimon: Cyber Sleuth, and I started but haven’t finished Bloodborne and Atelier Firis – The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey. Then I looked at my Steam and GOG libraries only to discover that I need to beat Lord of the Fallen, The Witcher 2 (yes that’s 2), and ideally I’ll take the time to go old school and actually play Jade Empire. Plus I’m already committed to buying Nioh and The Surge for PS4. That’s 13 RPGs plus the one I’m currently playing. And it’s not even counting all the non-RPG games in my backlog.

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Suddenly I find myself asking why do I keep buying RPGs? I don’t even have time to finish the ones I have. Who does? How can an adult with a full time job, a girlfriend, not to mention a blog and YouTube channel, possibly find the time to beat all these super long games? My gaming goals for 2017 included 7 RPGs. It’s basically September and I’m on only the second one. What’s a gamer to do in this situation? It’s not like I can just pass on all these highly acclaimed epic games I purchased.

Am I alone in this situation? Is anyone buried in RPGs with no time to play them? Have I been an irresponsible gamer? Let me know how your backlog and 2017 gaming goals are going in the comments.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Don’t Lie to Consumers

It seems like more and more often today developers promise things for announced games and then ultimately don’t deliver. Probably the most notable example in modern gaming history is No Man’s Sky. It was only this month that Hello Games finally released a major update that delivered on some of the promises that were originally made and then broken. But I don’t necessarily believe that No Man’s Sky is an example of a developer blatantly lying to consumers. For me, that particular game is an example of indie developers reaching above their means and getting punished for it. But what about when a larger developer, such as DICE or Blizzard, blatantly lies to the public and fails to deliver what they promised?

Earlier this month, Ninja Theory released a game called Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Now personally I consider Ninja Theory to be a reputable developer of fairly decent size. They publish their own games with multi-platform releases. They’ve created great works over the years that everyone has heard of and most higher echelon gamers have played. I think it’s fair to hold them to a higher standard of game development and management expectations. So for me I think it’s a topic worth discussing when a developer like Ninja Theory lies about a key component of one of their games as part of its launch marketing.

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I have not yet gotten to play Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. But I know I eventually will once the price drops. In fact I was sold by the opening sentence on the game’s Steam page. “From the makers of Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and DmC: Devil May Cry, comes a warrior’s brutal journey into myth and madness.” That sentence and the genre listing (action, adventure) is all they needed to sell an old schooler like me. Action adventure is my bread and butter and I loved each of the games listed in that sentence. So whether or not I was going to buy Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was never in question. The only real question is when? But one thing that turned me off of the game, but ultimately did not change my mind about eventually buying it, which I haven’t yet, was this rumor about permadeath.

I don’t like permadeath. I grew up in the NES/Arcade era and there are still tons of games that I’ve never finished simply because I wasn’t good enough to beat them without continues. Today, gamers have even less patience and time than they did when I was a kid. That’s both gamers my age and older who have been gaming since that era, and new gamers just starting out today. No one has time to put several hours into a game only to have all your progress lost. I don’t discourage developers from putting permadeath as an option in their games today. But like most unconventional mechanics, I believe that it should be optional. We have the technology today to allow gamers of all types to tailor their gaming experiences to their own wants, needs, and preferences. I play games for the story. I don’t like replaying things. Permadeath is a no go for me. Some play games for the challenge. They don’t care about the story. They like permadeath. Neither of us is more or less of a gamer. And neither of us should have to suffer through an experience we don’t like in a game we’re interested in just so the other person can have maximum enjoyment. The technology exists today where a developer can grant us both maximum enjoyment. They need only add a trophy to differentiate the permadeath player from the continues player. Anyone who doesn’t think that’s fair probably voted for Trump and thinks they have a right to dictate the lives of other people.

hellblade permadeath

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice had a huge rumor attached to it during the initial release window that if you died too many times your save would be deleted. This was a huge point of controversy all over the internet. Many forums, blogs, and gaming sites posted and debated this issue quite a bit. Ultimately though it was discovered that this was actually a lie. Ninja Theory put this out to the public and even has it stated in the game as a gimmick. The protagonist in the game suffers from delusions and the story is that she imagined the permadeath thing because her brain was playing tricks on her. Now first let me say kudos to Ninja Theory for connecting a mechanic, or at least the rumor of one, to the actual plot of a game. I love when developers make the story and gameplay work together as equally important parts of a whole. That’s how all games should be made and that belief is why I don’t play games like Overwatch. Also kudos again to Ninja Theory for being able to put out a rumor and keep it a secret until after launch. Even today, I’m sure some people still think the game has permadeath. But ultimately it doesn’t.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice does not actually have a permadeath feature. No not even in the hardest difficulty. Now personally I’m fine with that, which I already expressed earlier in this post. But what I’m not fine with is a developer blatantly lying to the public. Especially not as a way to hype their game. That’s basically false advertising. While it’s certainly not the kind of advertising that increases sales noticeably. In fact, I think it might lower them. It’s still a blatant lie to consumers. No it’s not the same as Hello Games promising multiplayer and then there not being any multiplayer. But it’s still a betrayal of consumer trust. If even one person bought the game specifically because of the permadeath feature, that’s a huge problem.

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Developers should not lie to consumers. Especially not as part of launch marketing. This last week BioWare announced that there would be no more single player DLC for Mass Effect Andromeda. That’s a problem. While I personally am not affected by the news because I never buy story DLC and hadn’t planned on it with Andromeda either, it clearly stated during the release window that the game would have additional single player content added in the future. I bought the Deluxe Edition. Plenty of people bought the game expecting additional content to be added later and now they won’t get it. That’s false advertising which is akin to theft. It’s exactly what happened to me with God of War: Ascension. I preordered the Collector’s Edition because of the promise of additional single player content which I was supposed to obtain with the season pass. Ultimately they never released any, made all the multiplayer DLC free for everyone, and never returned my money or compensated me in any way for having paid extra for a literally useless season pass. Developers should not lie to consumers. It’s not ok. In any other industry we’d be talking about a class action lawsuit. There almost was one in the UK for No Man’s Sky. If a game can’t stand on its own two feet and the developer can’t sell it honestly, then it’s clearly not ready for release or shouldn’t be released at all.

The problem is that developers have forgotten that they are in the business of entertainment. They’ve started to think that just because they make games means they deserve to make sales. That’s not how entertainment works. Making a game only gives you the right to potentially make a profit. It’s the quality of that game and the strength of the marketing that ultimately leads to profit. But if the marketing isn’t honest, then it’s not acceptable marketing. Personally, I think this trend is a serious problem. Look at games like Destiny and The Division. Both games that didn’t flat out lie, but were very dishonest in how they were presented pre-release. I preordered both games and while I don’t regret The Division as much, I do wish I hadn’t purchased either game. Lying to consumers or misrepresenting products to consumers, which for all intents and purposes is lying, is not and should not be considered an acceptable practice in the gaming industry or any industry for that matter.

Have any games burned you recently?

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Daughters and Sons (God of War IV)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time then you know that I’m a huge God of War fan. At one point it would have been accurate to even call me a fanboy because I thought Santa Monica Studio could do no wrong with this franchise. That ended with God of War: Ascension. It was a game that didn’t need to be made, didn’t do anything particularly new or impressive, and cheated me on the season pass. Even though they promised future DLC they actually released no additional single player content and all the additional multiplayer content was released for free. That means I paid for a season pass that literally got me nothing, except some PSN avatars and a dynamic theme. Since then I have not ceased to be a fan of the franchise, but I’m also no longer a diehard fanboy. I now judge the series from a much more objective standpoint and have often been very critical of more recent decisions. A good example of this is that I have been avidly opposed to the upcoming God of War IV pretty much since the announcement.

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I was highly against the idea of God of War IV not because I want the franchise to end. Quite the opposite actually. It’s one of my favorite franchises of all time. I still remember the first time I beat the hydra in the very first game. My uncle was watching and we were both blown away. This was in many ways the moment where I decided I wanted to work in the gaming industry. I wanted to be involved in something that would blow people away like that. The reality is that I want(ed) to see many more games in the franchise but I don’t think they need to make any more starring Kratos. In my opinion, God of War III ended perfectly.  We were led to believe that Kratos killed himself and that his story was over. Now it’s fine that he’s still alive in this upcoming installment because it’s canon that Kratos never stays dead for long. He died in both God of War I and II only to come back and whoop some more ass. But his story concluded perfectly at the end of III. I really see no reason why they felt the need to continue his story. I felt the same way with how they handled Ascension. It was a pointless game that just milked Kratos because he’s marketable. What I wanted was for a new character to be introduced that would take on a similar plot to destroy the gods of his culture that had nothing to do with Kratos or Hellenic beliefs. At most a Kratos Easter egg is all I would have wanted. But instead they chose to once again focus on Kratos but now he’s in the Norse world.

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That fight better happen.

Let me be very clear and say that there is nothing wrong with setting a God of War game in Norse mythology. That’s one of the best cultures to do a God of War series of games in. But making Kratos the star takes so much away from the overall plot. What I like about God of War is that the franchise is not just mindless hack-n-slash battles and large breasted sex mini-games, though both of those things do add a lot to the experience. While some people won’t agree, I actually think the God of War franchise has a great story with a great main protagonist. Kratos is a man plagued by the fact that he was tricked into murdering his wife and daughter and then later his mother as well. His whole life is just one big shit show that was orchestrated by the gods. This motivation makes for a great adventure where a man takes his destiny into his own hands and literally kills all the gods, except Aphrodite, in vengeance. The story is powerful, visceral, cathartic, and most importantly, memorable. But one of the main reasons the story works so well is that Kratos is part of it on a cultural level. He’s not some visitor from another land like William in Nioh. And he’s not some random faceless, emotionless NPC turned playable character like the Dovahkiin in Skyrim. He’s actively a part of Greek culture and starts out as a true believer, actively serving the gods to make penance for his crimes. This is such an important part of the story.

Placing Kratos in Norse mythology makes no sense. There’s no real justification for it and he has no real connection to the culture and gods of that world. He’s just a stranger mindlessly toppling a religion like a conquering Spaniard taking over South America. It’s not personal to him. I think that’s the main reason they gave him a son in this game.

old kratos

I am so avidly opposed to the Dad of War concept. In fact, I even wrote an article about it on Gaming Rebellion. There are a number of reasons I don’t like it. Again, remember that this entire line of thinking follows my original opinion that Kratos should not be the main protagonist of any more games. The trailer makes Kratos seem like this caring father to a less than impressive son. If you’ve played all the other games then you too found his lack of a bad temper, patience, and calm demeanor to be very uncharacteristic of Kratos. His son literally shoots him at one point in the middle of a battle and Kratos pretty much shrugs it off. I’m sorry, but that’s just not Kratos.

Mechanically speaking, the concept doesn’t really fit a God of War game. Obviously having not played it yet, I can’t say for sure, but I imagine the game will have some similarities to Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. You’ll be responsible for protecting and commanding this boy. While this will be a new addition to the gameplay, which can be a good thing for longstanding franchises, it will most likely slow the game’s combat down noticeably. God of War is traditionally fast paced combat. To destroy that general concept essentially ruins Kratos’ legacy. This could have been easily avoided as a problem if they would have just changed main characters so we had no long established expectations of him as a main protagonist. But again, I think the lack of connection and thus emotion in reference to the Norse mythology from Kratos is the main reason they decided to add in a child. It automatically gives Kratos some emotional baggage to connect with the story.  That’s a lazy trick, but I understand it. My only real question is why did they choose a son instead of a daughter?

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Let me preface this part of the article by saying that this is not about to turn into an SJW argument about why female characters should be portrayed more in games. Not at all. The fact is that I genuinely believe that it would have suited this already questionable story better to have made the next God of War game to be about Kratos and his daughter instead of a son. There’s a logical, canon based reason for this opinion.

One of Kratos’ darkest moments and emotions comes from the fact that he murdered his own daughter, Calliope. And the theme of fathering a daughter comes up all throughout the franchise. It’s especially important in Chains of Olympus, III, and Ascension. And in all these instances Kratos never truly succeeds at saving his daughter, surrogate or actual. This is exactly why I think he should have a daughter in IV instead of a son.

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The new story shouldn’t be about him trying to raise a boy who already seems to be weak and useless. It should be about him raising a daughter and gaining redemption for the daughter he lost. But this time he doesn’t just try to protect her. He raises her to protect herself. Suddenly his new found patience and affection would make perfect sense. And it would keep the tension extremely high because you would constantly be expecting something terrible to happen to the daughter, like so many times before. Also Nordic culture happens to be one of the only cultures American males, the main market for the franchise, are familiar with having female warriors so it wouldn’t even be out of place for Kratos to have a girl fighting alongside him. On all counts this just seems like a sorely missed opportunity that would have helped so much with continuity between the Greek games and this new series of Norse ones. I really don’t see how they missed this. I already don’t like the boy and much of the reason for that is because he displays characteristics that would make way more sense coming from a daughter of Kratos.

I’m certainly gonna buy God of War IV, but this will be the first main console title in the franchise that I don’t buy at release. This was an opportunity to tell a powerful story that would have altered the Kratos mythos noticeably without coming off as odd for the character. Instead we’re stuck with this daddy day care scenario where his whiny, useless son just gets in the way and cries about killing deer. I expect better from Santa Monica Studio.

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