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Posts posted by Siromatic

  1. Great idea for a thread! Hadn't heard of some of the directors/movies already mentioned--thanks for the edification. Strongly agree that Kelly Reichardt's work is amazing--"Certain Women" is one of the best movies of the decade so far for me, up there with "A Separation," "Ida," "Carol," "Moonlight," "Mud," "Monsieur Lazhar," etc.


    Here's a few great women directors whose work I've really enjoyed:


    Agnes Varda is one of the best directors of all-time. "Cleo from 5 to 7" is her most-known work, and indeed it is the best movie of the entire French New Wave era. "Vagabond" is incredible as well, and she's made a bunch of great documentaries throughout her career, too.


    Her most recent movie, which is currently playing in theaters, is a documentary called "Faces Places" that she co-directed with a young photographer named JR. It's one of the best movies released so far this year, and shows that Varda is as ebullient as ever at age 89. It's a wonderful movie, and she's a wonderful person.


    Lotte Reiniger is the greatest and most important animator in the history of the medium. "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" is the first surviving feature-length animated movie ever made (two preceded it that are unfortunately lost), and it is a remarkable and wonderful movie using a beautiful silhouette animation technique which Reiniger invented.


    Equally as important, she invented the first multiplane camera. A multiplane camera in animation basically achieves the same effect as parallax scrolling does in video games, so not only is her work monumentally important for animation but it also had an impact on other mediums such as video games.


    Sadly many people erroneously cite/think that the Walt Disney Company made the first feature-length animated movie ever made and invented the multiplane camera. Lotte Reiniger did both a full 10 years before Disney got around to it, and did so better. She is the progenitor of all feature-length animation. A remarkable person with a remarkable life and incredible life's work, anyone that likes animation should see "The Adventures of Prince Achmed."


    Gabriela Cowperthwaite's "Blackfish" is an edifying account of the awful and malicious practices carried out by higher-ups at SeaWorld to make their enterprise possible. It forces one to rethink the viability of any and all organizations that put animals in captivity for the enjoyment of humans to gawk at. I expect Cowperthwaite will make many more good documentaries for a long time to come.


    Penny Marshall's "A League of Their Own" is the greatest sports movie ever made. Like all sports movies it can be a bit corny at times, but the acting (and casting) is so wonderful across the board that it elevates even those moments. Based on a fascinating moment in real sports history when there was a women's equivalent to MLB, every time I watch it I can't help but wonder why there isn't one today. (There is a WNBA, after all.) I rewatched this movie endlessly as a kid and it never failed to put me in a bittersweet but euphoric mood. Revisiting it as an adult confirms that it's a genuine classic.


    Marshall also directed "Big," a very funny and entertaining movie that explores the paradox of a kid trapped in an adult's body. Considering most of us grapple with how to retain the best elements of being a kid (creativity, enthusiasm, etc.) while learning to embrace the emotional maturity, wisdom, and appropriate behavior of being an adult, its themes will be evergreen.


    Not to say they're analogous/similar directors, but like John Hughes I think Penny Marshall's work, especially the two movies named, will be overlooked by many "serious" cinephiles as being insignificant. With both directors I think not only is there more depth than seems on the surface, but both captured timeless moments in cinematic history.


    Again, great idea for a thread! There's still many more great women directors' work to cover/discuss, but I also hope this thread becomes a living document for any and all future great movies directed by women. Every time I see a great new movie directed by a woman, I'll do my best to remember to post about it here.

  2. On 10/24/2017 at 10:04 AM, clyde said:

    I started playing a VR game called The Invisible Hours and it is pretty much a Sleep No More kinda thing. There is no interactivity beyond choosing where to be and picking up objects for examination (they settle back into place automatically). I've only played for about an hour, but it is awesome. The performances are better than I would expect, the characters are wonderful, and everyone is a suspect. I'm not only intrigued by the mUUrder, but by the history of the characters themselves and the alliances that are forming in one side of the house while I'm watching an interrogation in another. It's awesome.


    Just watched the trailer for it. Some of the English voice acting seems a bit more humorous than probably intended (though in such a way it might actually add to the enjoyment of the game), but it sounds like some of the voice acting in other languages included is well done. Murder mystery definitely seems like a good fit for a "Sleep No More"/"Russian Ark" storytelling structure. Sounds like you just choose which suspects in the mansion to observe over the course of a couple hours and then at the end enter a choice of who you think committed the crime based on what you were able to notice--very cool!


    Between "The Sexy Brutale," "Rime," and now this, Tequila Works is quickly becoming a studio to pay attention to--some really cool ideas and visual styles. I don't have any of the VR headsets so unfortunately will never get to experience this firsthand, but it seems like maybe they could one day allow it to be played normally. Would definitely be interested in watching a playthrough of it in the meantime. Hopefully the GB folks take a look at it in their next VRodeo. Thanks for the heads-up!

  3. Thanks for all the info @clyde! (Apologies for not responding sooner; been busy with work.) 


    I have no idea if the "Sleep No More"/"Russian Ark" storytelling structure (or a variant of it) would work for your Byzantine Empire game, but it does sound like something to ease/onboard players into the narrative would be great. Straight non-fiction/history can be difficult for some folks to get into, so trying to find ways to best present the material is super helpful. Lots of great documentaries, movie adaptations, books, etc. that have successfully done so. Don't think there's any surefire, simple way to make non-fiction compelling; seems to just be a combination of the material or an aspect of it inherently being so and the way in which it is presented being done well. "Waltz with Bashir" and "Grave of the Fireflies" long ago proved that visually stylized non-fiction can be just as incredible if not more so than live action footage or photorealism, so the same can certainly be done in video games. Best of luck with your project--sounds fascinating!

  4. On 9/9/2017 at 6:32 PM, Jake said:

    They're very hard in realtime if you also expect the player to be able to interrupt/interject at any time. If they are merely there to be observed that's one thing but if a player is also expected to have arbitrary agency over them, then brace yourself for authoring a hilarious amount of content and edge case protections. 


    Oh yeah, it would be mostly to just observe, with some light interactivity for certain scenes where it makes sense/is even possible. The interactivity in these areas would mostly just be examining items that are able to be picked up that would narratively supplement the scene that occurs in the space (whether the player saw it or not) or light interactivity (such as the pool table/darts in "Tacoma," but themed appropriately to the game, of course).


    Even without a large amount of interactivity in the theoretical game we're discussing, it'd still require an insane amount of authored material. Because in order to have it truly adhere to the "Sleep No More" style of narrative events that occur regardless of where the player is or if they see them, there'd have to be a huge amount of narrative events/scenes to make-up for whatever percent of scenes the player misses on their first playthrough. (No matter how well-designed such a theoretical game is at subtly directing the player towards key areas/scenes, obviously some percentage of them will be missed--I'd guess ideally you'd want to make it so on average players only miss 10-20% of major narrative scenes and 20-35% of supplemental side-story ones on their first playthrough.) 


    You also have the absolute worst-case scenarios where the player is deliberately trying to miss most/all of the scenes. So having examinable items with supplementary narrative and other light systemic interactivity is necessary for there to be *something* for the player to do even in the absolute worst-case scenarios. Of course including these in all areas is also great for the game when it's played in best-case scenarios because as noted in such a game no player would be able to experience 100% of the scenes on their first playthrough, and you'd want them to feel like they can at least get something out of walking into an area where the narrative event has already occurred. 


    Don't get me wrong, even as a dummy I recognize what I'm proposing would be insanely difficult to pull off well. Honestly think maybe only a big-budget production from a major studio with a great track record and a huge amount (200+) of highly skilled folks would be able to do so. Personally I'd rather a studio like that try their hand at something like the theoretical game we're talking about rather than relying on tired but tried-and-true systemic interactions like combat, light puzzles, etc. to comprise the 75% of their games that happen in-between the narrative parts. But I totally get why studios like that haven't yet or would be very hesitant to try to do so. Also strongly suspect I'm sadly part of a minority that would even want a studio like that to make the kind of game I'm talking about.


    So yeah, such a game would definitely be incredibly difficult to make and it's unlikely any studio will do so any time soon. One can dream, though!


    (Edit 10/15/17: removed reference to the company Naughty Dog after former employees recently reported awful harassment that occurred while working there.)

  5. On 9/9/2017 at 2:41 PM, Jake said:

    I don't know of many besides The Last Express, but it's a very strong example, even if its a singular one.


    Thanks for the reply, Jake! I remember listening to the "Three Moves Ahead" episode with Chris where they talked about "The Last Express." (Episode 271 from 2014.) Enjoyed the episode and was interested in playing the game at the time, but never got around to it (and I readily admit forgetting about it until now). A 6-page interview/retrospective about it by Chris on Gamasutra also came up when I did a search for it; will read that before playing.


    Somehow didn't recall/was not aware the story events in it occur at specific times regardless of where the player is/whether they see them or not. Will definitely play through it soon. Still wish there were more modern fully 3D first-person exploration games with more impressively choreographed scenes that utilized this technique, though! (Coupled with great stories, of course.)

  6. I enjoyed "Tacoma" (examining the exquisitely detailed items in the game by itself makes it great), but I do wish they had either stuck with having the AV logs work in a "Sleep No More"-esque way (timed to occur at certain moments independent of where the player is located), or provided an option to have the game play out that way. But I understand why they went with what they did considering the scope of the story itself and the fear of players missing highly relevant information, etc. 


    Y'all seemed to indicate games do exist that have a more genuine "Sleep No More" storytelling structure where story events only occur at certain moments regardless of where the player is located/if they see them or not. Apologies for being a dimwit, but what games do this? I honestly am not aware/can't think of any and would love to play them!


    Seems to me for a game with a "Sleep No More" storytelling structure to work it would have to be incredibly well-designed in order for a majority of players to feel satisfied/like they saw enough of the story by the end of their first playthrough, but also be aware there are aspects of the story they missed and/or supplemental story details that would make a second (and third, etc.) playthrough compelling (but not *necessary*). 


    I think analyzing the movie "Russian Ark" would likely be helpful for trying to nail the timing of when story events are timed to occur (along with significant playtesting)--that's a 96 minute one-take (took them three tries to nail it) movie told from a first-person perspective of a character ambling through an art museum (the Hermitage). It's impeccably choreographed so that every new room/place that comes into view of the character already has events/narrative in-motion to be observed. It's so well-done that it gives the illusion that narrative events are transpiring in rooms/places the character never goes to. I think in order for a game with a "Sleep No More" storytelling technique to work, the story events that the majority of players *do* see on their first playthrough would need to feel as rich, well-choreographed, and paced as they do in "Russian Ark" (if not more so).


    I guess an obvious way to cheat around the inherent issues of utilizing this technique would be to just have the main story be scripted to play out when the character passes certain thresholds/enters new areas, and only have supplemental side-story stuff occur at specific, missable times. That seems like a pretty big compromise, though, and would make the technique less impressive and more obvious to the average player. (It'd also seemingly diminish replay value to a certain degree.)


    I think if you're gonna go for this technique, you gotta go the whole way--meaning all story events, whether main or supplemental, are set to occur at specific times, regardless of where the player is located or whether they see them. Of course the creators still can design it in such a way that most players will see the majority of significant story events on their first playthrough--it would just have to be incredibly well-designed. But yeah if this was pulled off well enough to where the majority of players both felt narratively satisfied by what they experienced on their first playthrough but also sufficiently compelled enough to do at least a second if not third playthrough shortly after, that'd be rad as hell. 


    Of course all this said, this is just a technique/gimmick. The story itself has to be good (ideally incredibly good) by itself for any of this to be meaningful. But I do think these unique, underused techniques can be fascinating when coupled with a great story, especially when the two feel like a natural fit. And there's plenty of other techniques games and movies (especially animation) should also be looking at for inspiration--such as in Frank King's "Gasoline Alley," Richard McGuire's "Here," Jacques Tati's "Playtime," Clouzot's "Wages of Fear" and "Diabolique," Kurosawa's "Rashomon," Ophuls's "The Earrings of Madame de…," Altman's "3 Women," etc.

  7. Some silly narrative observations from the "Super Mario Odyssey" trailer: 


    As Ian Hinck pointed out in the Easy Allies stream of the Switch presentation, the scene at 2:05-2:07 where demented costumed white rabbits pull up in an airship clearly has a "Truman Show"-esque transparent geodesic dome in the background. People have picked up on the weird artifice of this game from the initial 5 second glimpse in the October 20th Switch reveal video, with the weird transparent pseudo-ice present on the Dia de los Muertos-themed level. But the transparent geodesic dome, replete with what seems to be a crane or structural support of some kind on the left side, seems to confirm that something very strange is going on with the metanarrative of this particular Mario universe. (This is also a clever way to make the obviously flat, 2D mountains in the background of this scene seem more impressive than they otherwise would. Yes, the mountains are just a fake, flat background and not actually 3D modeled, but that works with the conceit of this game--that every environment Mario is in is a fake construction.)


    Here's a still frame of the geodesic dome just mentioned: Geodesic dome.jpg


    Mario games have long ago established the artificial nature of the worlds in which they take place, the most obvious example being how "Super Mario Bros. 3" is a stage play (canonically confirmed by Miyamoto himself), as well as the fact that Miyamoto considers the characters of the Mario universe to be like a "troupe of actors," playing different roles and adjusting as they need to for the particular production they are involved in. But "Super Mario Odyssey" seems to be taking this concept to an even greater level.


    Consider also the human characters seen in New Donk City throughout the trailer. There are some bizarre things going on with them, *aside* from the fact that they coexist with Mario and are so different to him proportionally. Look at the human crossing the street and the two walking on the sidewalk at 0:27-0:29. They are jittering, running at a much lower framerate than the rest of the game, to the point that they almost look like cardboard cutouts instead of 3D models (although I think they are still 3D modeled). Many noticed this aspect of the game and seem to think it is due to system performance/current build optimization of the game--that Nintendo purposefully made all on-screen humans in the background/not close to Mario run at a way lower framerate, in order to have more on screen and create the illusion of a densely populated world. I don't discount that possibility, but look closely at 0:32-0:36. Most of the human characters in the courtyard (in front of presumably City Hall) disappear as Mario gets closer to them. This seems like an odd reversal of how background details generally work in video games--that being that more detail "pops in" as characters get close to them. Granted, six or so humans still remain (the five or so that vanish also seem motionless, again making them seem more like cardboard cutouts), so maybe it's just a case of Nintendo purposefully putting fake static humans in the background to again create the illusion of density who then disappear as the character gets closer to them, and only the animated, fully realized humans remain. But what if like the geodesic dome the implication/intention of them behaving that way is that they are not supposed to represent real humans at all within the logic/narrative of the game world. (Ha, it can get a bit difficult to acknowledge the obvious fictional aspect of the work itself when talking about the artifice of the universe within the world presented by the fictional work.) 


    Point being: I think there is enough evidence to indicate the humans walking around New Donk City are not meant to depict humans at all, and that like the pseudo-ice, geodesic dome/fake backgrounds, etc., they are meant to be interpreted as fabrications within the universe of this fictional world. Look at the human behind the fire hydrant at 0:39-0:40. He seemingly slowly dissolves into subatomic particles before fading away, instead of instantly vanishing like the humans in the courtyard did in the earlier scene. The humans seem artificial/holographic in most of this trailer.


    So, what is all this leading up to--the pseudo-ice, geodesic dome indicating fake backgrounds/worlds, possibly fake humans? After the trailer ran in the presentation, the game's producer Yoshiaki Koizumi described it as a "journey to an unknown world" and Mario as having "jumped out of the Mushroom Kingdom." Does that rule out Bowser or someone else (Wart/Waluigi/etc.) having built an elaborate "Truman Show"-esque geodesic dome within the Mushroom Kingdom to put Mario through these deliberately constructed trials and tribulations? Would Nintendo possibly do something similar to what 


    Blow did with the secret ending of "The Witness"

    and reveal that this fake world is all just a product of Takashi Tezuka/Miyamoto/the entire development team at Nintendo EPD's imaginations/minds? I think this latter option could come off fairly corny, but surely Nintendo would handle it better and not have it be as


    self-aggrandizing and belittling of everyone else who worked on the game as Blow did.


    Personally, I think it'd be better if like "Super Mario Bros. 3" they just leave this metanarrative element of the world being artificial as a subtle/background element. I think the "Bowser had his minions construct this elaborate geodesic dome inside the Mushroom Kingdom" revelation could be kind of cute/funny and the better of the two possibilities I presented, but I still think just leaving it unexplained/to people's imaginations is probably the best way to go with it. In any case, this is one of the weirdest, most interesting looking "Mario" games Nintendo has ever made. You can throw your magical hat and jump on it, for god's sakes. Can't wait to experience it.

  8. 1:22:13-1:25:04 of this episode:


    I expressed my thoughts/feelings on that specific part of the episode via a popular internet meme video because I am a dimwitted frequent internet user whose brain has been turned into a garbage factory. (Joking/not joking.)


    Seriously, though: enjoyed Jake's thoughts on "Hyper Light Drifter" and the discussion of episodic games and what has and hasn't worked for them. And as always enjoy a Thumbsian tangential farce. Thanks!

  9. I know that posting in a thread about a podcast from two and a half weeks ago is equivalent to a trillion years ago in internet time, but I really wanted to post about my experience with Keita Takahashi games and Panic and am the worst for delaying doing so. *But* with the incredible recent development that Girl has gone all the way back to Earth (her ultimate destination), replete with an absolutely incredible ending sequence, special world and a letter written by the team in 2009, I feel comfortable doing so.


    But first, you must watch the momentous occasion of "Noby Noby Boy"'s denouement: 


    (It's so god damn good.)


    And if you care to read my silly reminiscence of my experience with Panic and Keita Takahashi games, here that is:


    Just wanted to say I greatly enjoyed this episode, especially the discussion of "Noby Noby Boy"/Keita Takahashi and Panic. I've been an Apple dork since seeing an iMac G3 in Wired magazine circa 1998, when I was nine. (I wasn't able to convince my parents to get me my own computer until four years later--an iMac G4 with OS X 10.2. It was a momentous occasion.) Like most young internet dorks during that era, I became obsessed with customizing OS X with beautiful icons and skins made by very talented people (many of whom later went on to work for Apple itself). I regularly visited the now sadly defunct and its forums and was continually delighted by the work of people like David Lanham, Sascha Hohne, Rick Patrick, Louie Mantia, Raymond Sepulveda, Daisuke Yamashita, Philipp Antoni, Brian Zeitler, Jonas Rask, et al., who created the most incredibly beautiful, well-designed icons and OS UI I've ever seen. (My username is merely a portmanteau of two of my favorite OS X Shapeshifter themes--"Siro" by Daisuke Yamashita and "Somatic" by David Lanham.)


    The application everyone used to easily change icons on OS X was CandyBar by Panic. The first application by Panic I ever used (and loved) was Audion, but it was CandyBar that really made me aware of them as a company and all of the great work they were doing (and had been doing for quite a while).


    "Katamari Damacy" and "We Love Katamari" are two of my favorite games of all-time, and I have very fond memories from when they came out (a decade+ ago!). I absolutely loved those "Katamari Damacy" tees that were done in collaboration with Panic--I had the light blue one that said Katamari in white and Damacy in dark blue, the yellow one with the fuzzy black Prince rolling a fuzzy black katamari, and the grey one with the Prince standing next to a giant elephant. Those were my most-worn t-shirts all throughout my high school years; well-worn to the point they became threadbare (and I grew out of them a little bit). I've been diligently checking Panic's Twitter and site every day since Cabel posted on the Panic Twitter account that due to a heavy rain/flooding he found some damp "Katamari Damacy" t-shirts he didn't know they still had, in case they ever put 'em up for sale. If I could I would perpetually wear those three shirts for the rest of my life, Charlie Brown-style.


    I still love the fact that Panic is publishing/funding/helping out with y'all on "Firewatch," and hope that you'll be able to continue collaborating with them in the future. Y'all are the best.



    Addendum: though I've loved Keita Takahashi's games for a long time, I hadn't actually ever heard him talk until I watched a great talk last year by him and Robin Hunicke about their forthcoming game "Wattam." Like Chris said, he seems like the nicest guy in the world. I think everyone would highly enjoy watching this, if you haven't--it's hilarious, smart, and edifying: 

  10. Haven't listened to the episode yet (watching Fantastic Arcade stream at the moment), but just wanted to say Danielle seems like the raddest person ever and she was incredibly articulate, smart, and wonderful to listen to on the podcast. I started listening to "Idle Thumbs" around the time she joined (I think she became a full-fledged part a short while after I started listening), and I'm so glad that I got to hear all the episodes she was on.


    Really glad to hear she will still be on a podcast that's part of the network. I give an exuberant Toad-voiced "Woo-hoooo!" to this great news. (But of course not in as great an impersonation as Danielle can do.) I will listen to it as soon as it starts, and of course in the meantime will still be reading/watching her work, as well as the great Feminist Cabal twitch stream. Best regards to you and Patricia on the East coast, Danielle! Thanks for being wicked rad!

  11. Just wanted to say that Jake (possibly with the help of Chris) is clearly doing the lord's work here.






    ...and by lord I of course mean James Allard, the one true divine, omniscient being--the true magician who has bewitched us all and provided resplendent wonders like blades and Zunes.



    (But seriously those modern blades are looking mighty fine.)







  12. Having now finished the episode the first thing that comes to mind is: Oh my god. Pogs. I... I somehow entirely forgot about pogs. How could I have forgotten about pogs? Unconscionable.


    One of the dumb kids' artifacts that I remember most fondly is Weepuls. Little fluffy critters with adhesive feet. (The wikipedia page for Weepuls has a great story about their resurgence in popularity in 2006 in the Netherlands:


    If you'll excuse me, I'm going back to 1998 with Doc in the DeLorean so that I can play with my Yomega Fireball and Duncan yo-yos, utilize my extensive collection of Gelly Roll pens, play with my favorite Tamagotchi (white with a red border around the screen), play with my Marvin the Martian's Count Down Rock-o-tron "Space Jam" toy, win every race as Tiptup in "Diddy Kong Racing" while humming the "Hot Top Volcano" song from said game, and be dismayed because even though our cool fourth grade substitute teacher wanted to show us "Jurassic Park," Ellen had to be a buzzkill and call her mother to ask permission to watch a PG-13 movie, and of course her mother said no and ruined it for the entire class. (But I was secretly okay with this because Ellen was very nice and cute.) Find me at the intersection of childhood, creativity, and nostalgia, if you'd like to join; the password will be making a dragon and snake with your hands and singing the lyrics to Polaris's "Hey Sandy," the opening theme song from "The Adventures of Pete & Pete."


    Edit--I'm adding this video because it's still the greatest opening of any TV show, ever:


  13. Only ten minutes in so far, but immensely enjoying despite the lack of the winsome messrs. Remo, Vanaman, and Breckon. Patrick Klepek is a great human being. Along with E.C. Segar, Bill Murray, and Roger Ebert, he's one of the only reasons I'm proud to be an Illinoisan.


    Hoping for more Danielle imitating Captain Toad's "okay!" due to the early mention of the game. Much like her Rhode Island accent, it is, as Bueller would say, so choice.

  14. Cushlamochree! I never would have expected to hear the name Uwe Boll uttered. Immediate flashback to 2005-2008, when Patrick Klepek was a freshfaced (well, let's be honest, Patrick still looks like a teenager--I think scientists should study him to divine the secret to prevent aging) news reporter at 1UP, and the poor soul was regularly pumping out news posts about Uwe Boll and Jack Thompson. I think he said on "Bombin' the A.M." that he ended up developing a weirdly friendly relationship with Uwe Boll, and that they still correspond from time-to-time. Madness.


    Now I'm reminiscing about listening to GFW Radio, which greatly helped make the inanity and drudgery of high school more tolerable for me. I'm sure it's been pointed out before, but it too featured smart folks who talked about games in a much more thoughtful, analytical way, with a profusion of hilarious digressions and in-joking. Jeff Green recounting his "Lord of the Rings" inspired dream, Shawn Elliott's notorious "hero of the web" segments, and Robert Ashley's mellifluous voice... ah, good times. Now I'm post-college and listening to another set of smart folks talking about games in essentially the same way. I hope dorks will perpetually have a gaming podcast featuring witty, sardonic, insightful discussion from cool folks.


    Really enjoyed Chris talking about the mystifying qualities of "Desert Golfing," and his articulation of video games' inherent ability to present secrets (whether intentional or not) in a more captivating way than any other medium. I think the spatial dimensionality, interactivity, and visuality of them helps in this regard. Both prose and verse can contain secrets that can be uncovered, but it's much more abstract/intangible. Film, art, and comics do a better job, but in them it feels more like something to be noticed rather than actively discovered. Everyone is aware that Pixar crams tons of visual references, details, allusions, and various bric-a-brac in their movies. (And it seems like a lot of their employees are more well-versed in video games than most other filmmakers, which perhaps partially accounts for why they do so.) Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder filled their paintings with incredible detail and hidden visual gags and secrets. (Breugel the Elder's "Netherlandish Proverbs" is a personal favorite, offering well over a hundred visual depictions of proverbs and idioms, many of them derriere-based.) Will Elder was known for filling his comic strip panels with "chicken fat," or hidden details and background gags.


    And the great Roger Ebert hosted a film analysis event at the University of Colorado Boulder from 1969-2006 called "Cinema Interruptus," wherein a film would be screened normally on Monday, and then for two hours every afternoon from Tuesday-Friday he and an auditorium of nearly a thousand people would dissect the movie nearly frame-by-frame. Anyone in the audience at any time could yell out "stop!" and then comment on something they noticed. Learning this inspired me to more frequently rewatch favorite films and specifically try to notice any hidden visual details. Perhaps my favorite is from Jacques Tati's "Playtime," which presents a futuristic vision of Paris as being cold and sterile, filled with lifeless steel and glass high-rise buildings. There is a scene forty-three minutes and twenty-five seconds into the movie where characters are navigating a "Voyage Tours" travel agency, and there are posters adorning the glass walls which depict various places around the world, such as the USA, Hawaii, Mexico, Stockholm, Holland, Japan, Germany, and so on. Like you would expect at any travel agency, these posters are supposed to advertise the visual differences between all of these places. But in the world of "Playtime," these places are all depicted as featuring only a single lifeless steel and glass high-rise building, which all look identical to one another. It is god damn hilarious and brilliant. There's other incredibly ingenious hidden visual gags in the movie, such as very brief glimpses of a past Paris that actually had some greenery and life, and tons of fake Monsieur Hulot look-alikes wandering around the city (a clever twist on Hitchcock's famous cameos in his own movies). Chaplin, Keaton, and Harold Lloyd all had great hidden visual details and gags in their films, as well. 


    But nothing is better or more satisfying than discovering secrets contained within video games. (Again, because it feels like you are actively discovering them, and they seem more tangible.) Of course everyone recalls stumbling upon secret rooms in Mario, Zelda, and Castlevania games. My favorite games with secrets are actually more contemporary, though: "Super Meat Boy" and Fez." The warp zones and glitch levels in the former felt brilliant. And I'll never forget the experience of decoding the world and language of "Fez" and achieving a 209.4% completion rate. The amount of hidden content in that game, which is deftly implied within the regular, non-hidden world in which the game takes place, is just staggering. The process of figuring it out and seeing it all was incredible. An unparalleled achievement. Also, even though I didn't play "Spelunky" myself, I greatly enjoyed watching Chris play it when he was regularly streaming it and learning about the insane amount of layered secrets within it.


    I hope you Idle Thumbs folks that are part of Campo Santo will consider embedding some of this type of secret content into "Firewatch." In the trailer we see Henry rappelling into a cave, implying that this will be an environment explored in the game. I think at the very least there should be some type of nod/allusion to Chris's obsession with "Spelunky" in this section. Even if it's just a small room that contains some gold bars and rubies in a treasure chest that has the smug Chris "Spelunky" painting hanging on the wall directly behind the treasure, that would be satisfactory. (Perhaps there could be an arrow trap placed alongside the entryway to this small room that the player would have to jump over to set off/get past to obtain the treasure/see the painting? And perhaps there could be some large bees protecting the treasure that you have to somehow kill? And a soundclip of Chris saying "Fucking bees, in the dark!" could play once you jump over the arrow trap and first see the bees? I don't know; I might be getting carried away here.) Would be cool to see something along those lines, though!

  15. Welcome to the forums!


    Please bear in mind that when we discuss Steam Curation, we are not discussing Steam Curation as it is now, but Steam Curation as it factors into the Big Dog Future under the (o course, correct) assumption that Boston Dynamics will establish a method for co-opting Valv3's algorithms and user data, hand in hand, as a crucial step on the way to establishing our inevitable flesh-slave existence in its terrifying new world order.


    Again, welcome.


    Thank you! And ha, yeah, I didn't realize the eventual robotic doomsday implications of Steam Curation. Also, even though I've only been regularly listening to the podcast for a year, I'm already well aware of the recurring robot news in-joking about the cyber apocalypse. Does anyone know when this started on the podcast? I'd love to hear the first instance of it. Perhaps when the charming cyberpunk cyborg Steve Gaynor first appeared on the podcast? (Seriously, have you folks ever administered the Voight-kampff test on Steve? I believe he recently declared via the "Gone Home" Twitter account that "This means war," ostensibly referring to a friendly competition between game dev friends. But how do we know he wasn't in fact referring to... the cybernetic revolt doomsday event. Food for thought.)


    I generally give time travel a pass because it's so messy and not really the interesting part of these kinds of stories (I hear Primer is the only movie to do time travel well, but I haven't seen it yet because I'm garbage). What always bothered me more about BttF 1, even as a young kid, is that Biff tries to rape Marty's mom as a teenager and then years later he's employed as their oafish repairman AND NO ONE IS BOTHERED BY THIS. Seems kind of weird of you, beloved 1980s children's movie!


    I haven't seen "Back to the Future" since I was fourteen and thought that "Arsenic and Old Lace" and "Rear Window" represented the apotheosis of film as an entire medium. (No, I wasn't a haughty precocious prick; my mom, like most moms over the age of forty at the time, simply loved all movies with Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, and made me and my sister watch them all. Which I guess was actually beneficial in an edifying film history way, but she also made us watch the god awful Disney Channel live-action movies "Mr. Boogedy" and "Hocus Pocus" every Halloween, so any potential precociousness was summarily cancelled out.) But I do vaguely recall the scene you're referring to, and (even though I clearly wouldn't have been able to articulate it this way at the time) I remember thinking that it didn't fit tonally with the rest of the movie. It's always a bummer when you revisit something you have vaguely fond memories of from childhood as an adult and notice the overt problematic elements with it. I would still say Chris should watch it, though, because the movie is mostly goofy and endearing, and Michael J. Fox is a charming cutie in it. If I ever revisit it, it'll be out of deference to him, since he seems like such an eminently nice, humble person.


    I enjoyed "Primer" and Carruth's latest "Upstream Color," but wouldn't claim in a million years to have known whether or not the engineering technobabble frequently used in the former had any basis in engineering fact/reality. I much preferred "Another Earth," which felt like it could have been an artsy double-bill with "Primer" in an alternate universe. 


    Also, I wanted to say one last thing about Steam Curation, and then I'll stop blathering about it. I was thinking about it in relation to Steam's other crowdsourced system, Greenlight, and realized that Greenlight was probably discussed on the podcast in the past. And of course, yes it was--so I went and listened to "Idle Thumbs 74: That Meat Boy Sat Me Down" (which is still a great title, obviously). I fully agree with how everyone on the cast felt about Greenlight at that point in time, and even though clearly the Curation system won't impede any developers having their games approved for the service or anything egregious like that (and in fact could do nothing but potentially help a game's sales), I still think Chris's point that Valve could do a better job handling this stuff in-house rather than via their crowdsourcing efforts is also true of Steam Curation. Because the majority of people who follow a Steam Curator are going to do so because they're already predisposed to liking that person's taste in games, and are most likely already aware that the curators they followed like and recommend the games that they included in their Steam Curation list. Whereas if Valve simply did a better job employing people with a good, wide variety of taste in games that highlighted those games on the front page of Steam, a small amount of users might actually click on and discover something they never would have otherwise.


    Gabe's framing of Valve's desire to crowdsource both curation and the game approval process as a way to not have an "editorial perspective" on games seems particularly odd to me. I can understand how Valve circa 2004-2007 might have felt weird about making judgements on what games should be allowed to be sold on their service and which ones they should promote via ads on their front page, but at this point I no longer primarily think of Valve as a game developer. I think of them as a company that sells digital goods and every once-in-a-great-while releases a (usually) great game. I imagine most other people's perspective towards them has shifted this way as well. I mean, hell, there's probably people who aren't even aware that Valve makes games (quelle horreur!), and only think of them in relation to Steam as a store. All companies that sell consumer goods for a specific medium make editorial judgement on what they should select to sell. In fact, it is precisely the editorial judgement of companies like Criterion, Fantagraphics, Penguin Classics, Yazoo Records, and so on that gives them a dedicated fanbase. I don't think Valve should be quite as selective in terms of games they sell and promote as those companies, but they should let go of this notion that they can't make editorial decisions since they also happen to be game developers.

  16. I'm going to edit this into my first post in this thread, but thought it probably warrants a new post, as well.


    Here is Gabe Newell talking about how the front page of Steam functioned, and how they wanted to change it, in January of 2013. Interesting to compare his loopy vision for what he thought the Steam front page/store would become and what they just ended up releasing in the Steam Discovery Update.


    He wanted users to be able to create their own customized stores and present it however they saw fit, and for users to be able to choose what "curated store" they would see and buy from. (He was even talking about the store curators receiving a small percentage cut of sales made via their custom store.) It sounds like Gabe and Valve are tired of spending time managing Steam itself as a store and want to be rid of the burden. The issue being that their solution would have been awful, and that this particular burden happens to net them incalculable amounts of Scrooge McDuck vault money every second. You'd think they'd be willing to employ more people to deal with Steam as a store and curate it themselves (doing as best a job at both tasks as they possibly can) considering how much they profit off of it.


    This link is time-stamped (conversation regarding store takes place from 43:31 to 48:09): 

  17. Hello! I'm new to the forum, and this is my first post, so hopefully I don't come off like too much of a blundering dimwit. Essentially the only internet forum I regularly engage with these days is, so that I can learn arcane information about Criterion and Masters of Cinema releases and weird, inconsequential video distributor information, like the fact that the estate of Jacques Tati was so dismayed that Studio Canal (a bad European video distributor) whisked away the U.S. distribution rights to Tati's films and forced Criterion to put theirs out of print that they fought tooth-and-nail until they got Studio Canal to agree to let Criterion have the U.S. rights again. (And thus, Criterion has a forthcoming "Complete Jacques Tati" box set, which is going to be the most incredible home video release of all-time. Seriously, read the disc features on the product page for it; the amount of supplements and material in it is just gobsmacking. Seeing "Mon Oncle" on Blu-ray is going to be a revelation. So excited!)


    Hope the minor introductory digression is allowed, as it seems in keeping with "Idle Thumbs" parlance. My point being, this forum seems like literally the only other one I've come across that would be worth engaging in. I'm fairly new to listening to the podcast (just started roughly a year ago), but have listened to a lot of past episodes (all of the GDC ones and any that had Steve on). I find it to be an incredibly smart and informative podcast, mostly due to the fact that it transcends its subject matter. I hope you folks never feel bad about going "off-topic" and not talking specifically about video games, because that's often the best and most interesting material. 


    That said, to actually say anything of substance related to video games and the discussion thereof, just wanted to chime in about the Steam Curators thing. Maybe I'll have to re-listen to the discussion of it, but I honestly think everyone is making it out to be way more useful than it actually is. After you follow some curators, the only place that those curator-selected games show up is a small sliver of a section half-way down the front page that says "Steam Curators." And it's just a selection of four different games from the various curators you follow. The new section that Chris talked about (the one which you can endlessly scroll through that is at the bottom of the front page) is much more akin to how Netflix and Amazon recommend content to people (as Jake noted); algorithmically-made recommendations based on games and specific genres of games that you own and have played (as well as games you've recently viewed, added to your wishlist, and so on). I do not think these selections are impacted by the curators you follow; rather, every once in a while you'll see a selection in that new section that says "Recommended by a Steam Curator you follow," differentiating it from all the other algorithmic-based selections. As far as I can tell, that's the only way in which the curators you've followed impact what you see on the front page: a tiny section with four random selections and an occasional curator-recommendation in the new endlessly scrolling section. Oh, and they spam your friend activity feed with games recommended by curators you follow, which feels unnecessary and obtrusive. 


    Honestly, to me it doesn't feel like a very thoughtfully integrated system. I'm sure it'll evolve over time, and perhaps the curator's selections will be more factored into the main "New/Recommended For You" sections at the top of the front page, but even then I don't know how useful or necessary it is. I'd rather just read curator's selections in a list separate from Steam, like Idle Thumbs's articles, and then go about looking into/deciding whether I'm personally interested in playing any of those selections. 


    And if you go back and read/listen to Gabe Newell and other people at Valve talk about their vision of a user-curated Steam (which they've been talking about for several years now), it was a way crazier and unstructured vision. Valve basically wanted to stop employing anyone whose job it was to constantly add new releases and deal with putting new content/ads on the front page. They wanted to off-load all of that work onto users, and stop dealing with it/caring about it. It would have been a god damn hilarious nightmare, because it would have been a discordant grab-bag of content dictated by certain users and groups of people. You could easily imagine certain collectives on the internet banding together and making it so that only certain content was visible on the front page. So even though I just spent a fair amount of time complaining about how lackluster the current implementation of the curator system is, I am glad that it is so tame and pared down compared to what they intended to do. But I guess I feel like it's been diluted to the point of being unnecessary, and I'm not sure there would be a middleground way of implementing it that would be necessary. Oh well. Perhaps after a short while people will forget that it even exists and it will be less prominently-featured, like Greenlight has become. And perhaps then, too, Valve will decide to get rid of it altogether, which they've said they will do with Greenlight. We'll see.



    Edit: Here's a link to Gabe talking about what he envisioned the Steam store becoming in January of 2013. You'll notice what he envisioned and what Valve actually just released are wildly different. This link is time-stamped (conversation regarding store takes place from 43:31 to 48:09):