Bjorn

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About Bjorn

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  1. I played through and finished Pathologic 2! Only like 5 years after first becoming interested in the original game Whew, what an exhausting, fascinating and engaging game. You can find a lot of more general thoughts on the game all around the internet, but most of what I've seen has been about the mechanics of the game, it's tone, or the disease elements. I want to talk about the games meta elements and its social commentary, neither of which I was expecting. The game is quite literally "theatric", part of its structure is that of a play. I'm not going to spoiler anything here, so reader beware. If you don't know anything about it, you play Artemy Burakh, a doctor in a remote Russian town that is suffering from a plague. You have 12 days to try and save the town and as many people as possible before the army destroys the town to contain the plague. Almost all events, conversations or interactions can be missed, as they are all time sensitive. You have to take care of your own hunger, thirst and exhaustion to be able to care for the people in town. It is worth noting how much I appreciate a game that makes a player routinely question whether violence is the right tool to tackle a challenge. Games have greatly improved in the verbs they make available to players, but "shoot dude/stab dude" is still often presented with little to no alternative. This game makes you question every act of violence, and gives you an alternative to almost all of them. Player as Actor and Death as Rebirth I love games that do something interesting with death or failure. A simple reload or restart erases a player's actions in game. A player may learn something, but the main repercussion of failure is the loss of a player's real world time. Pathologic encourages players to live with mistakes, the game can be finished with a satisfactory resolution to the story even if a player has many failures (in this case, failure can be player death, a major character dying, or missing story events). But it does something with player death that few games do. Death stays with you, you can't reload a save to before you die. Every time you die, the game autosaves and remembers, so that death sticks with you even if you do back up time. Every death delivers you to the Theater, a surreal dream state in which the theatrical nature of the game is reinforced. Usually you have a conversation with the Director, who tells you that each death is real and that with each death, a new actor must be hired to reprise the role of surgeon Artemy Burakh and continue his path. The failures of each previous actor weigh down their successors though, and with each death the game becomes a little harder as the character's maximum health, stamina or hunger are reduced. Late in the game, an exceedingly strange conversation happens with the character of the Inquisitor. The Inquisitor is a woman whose job is solving unsolvable problems for the government. She had been sent in to manage the plague response. The Inquisitor tells you that she has fallen in love with you and asks that you run away with her. There is almost no foreshadowing of this. It's a bizarre and out of character break. She insists that none of this is real, that she has finally understood that her and everyone else are puppets and she wants to cut the strings and stop playing. You can ask her who the puppet master is. Her reply is that they are the person who just put those words in your mouth. It's open to interpretation on if she is meaning society in the context of the game, the writer of the game's script, or the player themselves. If you choose to run away with her, you are both stopped outside of town and she is shot and killed. The player is instructed to return to town. The play is not yet finished, and the actors may not yet leave the stage if they still have a role to play. Right before the finale, the player meets themselves, Artemy Burakh. Time has become confused, the Director has abandoned the play, and an Artemy successor has entered the stage before the previous one left. Which one came first? Who is the understudy? Combined I think these all point to an interpretation of the Player as Actor. Artemy is replaced by a new actor each time he dies because the player themselves are constantly in a state of change, of becoming someone else, the cycle of birth and rebirth of the self as we are changed by the world around us. The player has learned something, the character carries the scars of that learning, and the player will have to be someone else if they do not want to repeat the same actions and die in the same way. That sounds like really stoned cliche philosophy even as I type it out, and mostly life isn't that dramatic, but as a piece of art what Pathologic is trying to do is to highlight that process that happens to all of us over time. Covid-19 and the Plague of Wealth and Inequality The town in the game is divided into two dominant groups. the Kin are an indigenous group living in slavery serving as labor for the Town. Everyone else is "human". The Kin are presented and treated as an other with more in common with animals than people. Some of them look alien, others look like normal people. They are presented as being superstitious and foolish. Some of them are weirdly sexualized in a way that's deeply resonant with how America can sexualize women from other cultures. A half kin/half townsfolk person had spent years trying to incrementally bring the Kin into equality with townsfolk, and ultimately is the person who causes the plague. He decides that the town is unsavable in its current form, and only a radical upheaval of the status quo through catastrophe will change things. The town was diseased before there was ever a plague, and that disease was the enslavement of the Kin. Artemy is the son of this character. The player's final message from their father is to save the children, let the children grow up in a world that is not so painfully tainted as the one the adults have made. This character is presented as more...problematic than that summary though. He also believes that the Kin must abandon their culture and assimilate if they are to survive. There are no real good or bad characters in this game, it is populated by deeply flawed people navigating a society that is unfair and broken in a myriad of ways. But as I watch how America and the world have responded to covid-19, I cannot but help think about how immediately it laid bare the dangers of our own class system. The poor and working class continue to work and expose themselves so that many of us can safely shelter at home, those who were deemed essential and therefore sacrificial to the greater good. The rest are cut loose with little safety net. In game, the Kin are nearly wiped out by the plague. The father's attempt to save them doomed them as they were forcibly locked up and quarantined in their cramped, dormitory housing, while the wealthy and middle class sheltered in homes that had more protection from the plague and they have access to medical help. The dormitory of the Kin is off limits to the player until it is too late. In our real world, we will see the headlines about the famous who die, we will grieve the loss of their talent. But we already know that the people most affected are going to ones who are already vulnerable. And we will likely know few if any of their stories. The same as before. The original Pathologic was written and developed in the early 2000s, and Pathologic 2 is a re-imagining drawing from the original. It feels tailor made to this time. Because the problems it sees predate the disease.
  2. Recently completed video games

    This sounds super rad all the way around.
  3. Stardew Valley

    Hmmmm, weird, I know there was at least one other person I shared this with who couldn't follow it either, and they were outside the US. Here's the full link: http://www.hutchnews.com/632c30f2-bb45-545a-ac83-c539b9ad7ee2.html Maybe it will work that way?
  4. Stardew Valley

    So it turns out I know a guy who is the real life version of the Stardew Valley farmer. He farms in the summer, has a greenhouse and restored the local community center in his time off over the course of several winters. Neat story and pictures in the article in the link.
  5. Okay, so I more or less finished up the story in this tonight. And did it before the end of Summer in Year 1. The balance of this game might as well be non-existent. I wasn't even trying to rush, if someone wanted to min-max a bunch, I'm pretty sure you could get every single upgrade available and see everything by this point (I know I missed some stuff and I had several building and tool upgrades not yet done). The atmosphere and expectations this game sets are great and for big twin peaks fans or people who just like farming games, it's worth checking out, but the story just kind of fizzles into a bit of an anti-climactic mess. But there's something super duper weird near the end. The game has a sin system, which ultimately affects the ending someone gets. There are only 4 or 5 total chances to sin, and I didn't find them all. But the last one I found was on the unsettling side because of how the dev decided what a sin was in this context. Spoilering on the slight chance anyone might want to play this:
  6. Jonesing for more Harvest Moon style farming games after binging on Stardew Valley again, I stumbled across a rough little treasure called Gleaner Heights. It is "inspired" by Twin Peaks in much the same way that Deadly Premonition was, as in, it just rips off some Twin Peaks things whole cloth and runs with them. Including a rather faithful rendition of the RR diner seen above. The Twin Peaks content extends to having a hotel on top of a waterfall run by slightly weird duck with an attractive daughter, with a resident FBI agent living at the hotel investigating the mysterious death of a local teenager. There's an abusive drug dealer named "Lee". A good natured sheriff. And I love everything about this. I wish that people inspired by TP would show some more creativity in their work rather than just repeating the structure of TP, but still, I'll take it. I love the structure of the small town, with an outsider who slowly peels back the layers to discover the dark and rotten core of what otherwise looks like an idyllic community. My knowledge of HM style farming games is mostly limited Stardew, but from Jenna and a few others in slack, it sounds like this is much more in the SNES era version of farming games. Even with the Twin Peaks wrapping, you've got what seems to be a solid farming game. You're an outsider who's recently bought a run down farm and need to clear its fields, fix the barns, plant seeds, buy chickens, befriend townsfolk and do something fishing and dipping into the mines after all the other day's chores are done. Long term, I think this can be a game that's more combat focused than these tend to be. I know that there are actual boss monsters to find eventually. The mines are significantly different than Stardew. Time autopauses when you enter the mine, and you can't just use a ladder to instantly leave, you have to backtrack out of the mine, and each level you go up is randomly generated again, so a deep dive into it has some risk and time when ascending (not sure I'm a fan of this, but it's an interesting change). The game feels like it has a far, far, far more relaxed pace than Stardew. Stardew often leaves me feeling rushed and pushed to get as much done as I want in a day. With Gleaner, days are long enough that I can knock out all the things I want to do, and then still have time to just get some fishing in the evenings once the rest of the town folk have gone to bed. There doesn't seem to be any penalty for going to bed late, so there's plenty of time to do foraging and fishing after nightfall. I'm digging the hell out of this so far, but I'm only on day 13 of spring. It's definitely work picking up if weird takes on farming games is a thing that's up your alley. Oh, and pick of Agent Dale Cooper Deacon Troopel and Audrey Emily standing in the hotel lobby.
  7. Stardew Valley

    Thanks! So the longer we played, the more and more time passing non-stop at all times bugged me. It can be a pretty big annoyance at times, particularly with merchants, cutscenes and end/start of day inventory management. It's particularly bad with cutscenes, since some of them take more than an hour of in-game time, which can end up causing you to miss being able to give someone a birthday gift, miss being able to visit a merchant or just having your plan for what you could do for a day badly thrown out of whack. There's also just no easy way to pause the game when playing on the couch with a controller. The only way to pause is for the host to type /pause into text chat. So I tried modding Stardew for the first time, specifically a time manipulation mod called TimeSpeed. And it's so fucking good. I mapped the time freeze ability to the controller, so I can pause at will now, I can freeze time to let cutsenes play out without messing anything up in a day and freeze time while buying to make sure a merchant doesn't wander away. It's completely eliminated my only real complaint about MP so far. The mod itself can do some interesting things, like making time pass differently depending on whether your indoors or outdoors, so you can configure it to automatically freeze time when you're just wanting to go into someone's house and talk, buy or deliver something. It looks like all the farmhand's game clocks just pull from the host clock, so whatever the host does with time just automatically applies to everyone in MP.
  8. Stardew Valley

    Posted these in Slack yesterday. Stardew MP finally got me to do some research and buy a split screen device (allows 4 inputs to go onto a screen simultaneously) for our projector. This has been on my list of stuff to do forever so that we could do couch co-op with online games in the living room. Screen is normally 150", so we each have our own about 75" screen in co-op.
  9. Stardew Valley

    The lady and I started playing in co-op last night, and its more or less everything you'd expect! One person hosts the farm, and you can build cabins for up to 3 other people to join. The cabins can be upgraded just like the farm house, so eventually everyone can have a huge crib to chill in (or players can marry one another if they want). It looks like everyone gets all the side quests. Each person gets mail, each person gets their own rewards for stuff. Time no longer pauses though, which makes days go by noticeably faster! The host can manually pause everyone, but you can't do anything while paused. In single player, the game pauses all the time (any menu, opening a chest, while in the fishing minigame, talking to people). But time just passes normally in all those now. In a way I kind of like it, as it speeds the overall game up even though it means you might get less done in a day. To adjust the challenge, you can modify the profit margin when creating a game (I haven't looked to see if you can change it on the fly in a game, probably not, as that would break somethings the way its implemented). You can have normal profit, 75 percent, 50 or 25. We set it at 75 percent, as with both of us being reasonably efficient, we'd probably be swimming in cash by the first summer if we didn't knock it down at least some.
  10. Stardew Valley

    Rated M for Mature
  11. Stardew Valley

    The Stardew Valley multiplayer update has gone into beta! At least on PC it has. There's a password in that post that you have to enter in the steam beta options in order to get into it. This patch also has a whole bunch of new general content updates to it as well, though those aren't officially documented yet, a reddit thread has found as much as possible. I was going to wait until the beta was over to jump back in, but I ended up starting a new game last night and I love this game so much is silly. It's so nice to go back to it. I'm focusing on fishing to start with, and it seems like a much more chill and quicker way to build up enough cash to upgrade some things instead of futzing too much with all the basic tools.
  12. Dark Souls(Demon's Souls successor)

    It's been so long, I couldn't remember if it was always there or not, or how it spawning worked.
  13. I think it's been since Spelunky that a game has made me want to ragequit as hard as this has, and yet I have a love/hate thing going on with it where I keep wanting to come back for more. Dying in a single hit to anything is just brutal. Each unlockable character is like their own campaign though, the item stashes don't carry over from one character to the next (so far all the unlockable characters just getting fixed starting gear as their bonus, but at the penalty of harder/more enemies). It makes for a nice changeup after dying on my furthest along character to jump over to one of the others and work on progressing them through an easier/earlier level before taking a run at the level I'm actually stuck on again.
  14. Lol, I've seen several roundabouts in the game already There's quite a few comments in the steam forums about it's launch price, and one of the devs weighed in with this comment: You don't often see a firm number about how much a particular dev or studio is getting from a single sale once all the different cuts have been taken.
  15. I picked up Basingstoke (who's name I keep fucking up as Basingston). It's a new roguelikey thing from PuppyGames, makers of Ultratron and Revenge of the Titans, both of which I liked quite a bit and convinced me the relatively high $25 launch price ($30 normally!) was worth it. I wish I knew more about Basinstoke, it's obviously full of jokes and jabs at a real town, but I have absolutely no knowledge of it at all. It feels somewhat hard to describe this game. It's top down, with graphics very much in line of what you'd expect from the dev if you've played their other games. Roguelike doesn't quite feel right though. There are chapter check points, and it seems like you can begin from any checkpoint you've reached. Checkpoints let you store gear, so when starting from a checkpoint, you can even partially load yourself up. Though the amount you can leave a checkpoint with is limited. It seems like a system designed to let people who might struggle to finish a complete run still get through the game by slowly stockpiling more and better gear at deeper checkpoints until they can push through. But if you want to start over every time, that's an option. So far it is very focused on stealth and running away as dominant strategies over combat. It almost feels like how the beginning of ResEvil2 felt, where avoidance was far more important than shooting (though a very different game). The maps are only partially generated, I think. From having gone through the first two levels multiple times now, it seems like the general layout is the same, but what goodies drop is random and the path through the level can be altered by rooms, buildings, fires and enemies being in different locatiosn. There's what looks like a fairly robust crafting system, where all sorts of things can be combined to give you the tools to get through an area. A basic sandwich serves as a cheap distraction for enemies if you toss it out. Sprinkle that sandwich with coffee though, and a zombie will go on a rampage attacking its fellow undead. Sprinkle it with hot sauce, and the poor sap that eats it will burst into flames. It's quite a bit of fun to be starting up a game like this with no guides or wikis to guide you, which is not something I've experienced for quite awhile, I tend to be terrible about wanting to look things up. But just being forced to experiment and put things together and try to figure out how to unlock more things is all really fun!