Monthly Archives: April 2009

No More No More Heroes

I can finally remove No More Heroes from the “Games I’m Playing” section of the sidebar and onto the “Games I’ve Played” page. I finished the game tonight. It’s strange, to say the least. It’s an insanely bloody Wii beat-em-up game that just screams for attention. It’s loaded with self-reference, style, and unsubtlety, and I’m still processing a lot of it.

The gameplay is very odd. I realized during the final boss fight that it is as if the developers really liked the swordplay and treasure seeking of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and decided to make a whole game about it. The swordplay has the same rhythmic feel as the GameCube Zelda, and even has a prominent timed dodge mechanic that lets you break past the defenses of vulnerable enemies. Even the way that the enemies’ corpses explode is similar. At the same time, the repetitive “do jobs while driving around an empty city searching for buried coins” sections call back to Wind Waker‘s late-game “try to find tiny treasure chests in a big, boring ocean” activity. The fighting portions are a whole lot of fun, except when the developers make the puzzling decision to subvert the character’s abilities. One late-game boss is immune to the protagonist’s very-useful wrestling moves, and other bosses regularly demand an entirely different approach than the rest of the sword fights.

And the story… it’s tough. The game is simultaneously a celebration and a condemnation of geeky, oversexed, otaku, socially awkward gamer culture. The main character, Travis Touchdown, is almost entirely unlikable; his only redeeming trait is that he is entirely honest about his goals: to be number one and to get laid. Other characters philosophize, or seek money and fame and power. Travis states, again and again, that he isn’t interested in all that. He just wants to be the best.

Sex and gender are strong motifs in the game. It bounces between wry postfeminism, with Sylvia using her body to manipulate Travis, and simple self-aware chauvinism, with Travis’s constant search for sex and his special treatment of female bosses. The phallic imagery is in-your-face the whole game: enormous swords, a bulbous motorcycle, and the need to jack off your Wiimote to “recharge your energy.” Travis takes a dump to save, has a homoerotic relationship with his sword trainer, and has a rather intense love of professional wrestling. Just about every character in the game is defined by sex and gender, from the estranged father to the effeminate pelvis-thrusting superhero fetishist to the sadistic loligoth with projectile men in gimp suits.

The whole thing really hasn’t fit together in my head yet, though. By the end of the game, it’s deconstructing itself, with characters offering ludicrous twists and explanations and openly referring to Travis as the protagonist. It’s just so silly and disjointed that I’m not really sure it has anything interesting to say. The well-read game hobbyist is familiar with the idea that gamers and game developers are “stunted adolescents.” The gameplay is fun but flawed, and doesn’t have much to do with the motifs and concepts thrown haphazardly around. I’ll think about it some more, and if I come up with any sort of synthesis from the game, I’ll post again.

On The Bryant Collection

I learned an important lesson a week or so ago: don’t release games on April Fool’s Day. I thought that April 1st would be a fun day to release The Bryant Collection, with its hard-to-believe premise and odd approach. The result? I think a lot of folks saw the post, said “ha, ha!” and assumed the whole thing was a joke. The biggest reaction I got was a flame from someone who’d evidently had one too many websites change up their CSS stylesheets on him.

It’s a shame, because despite the premise and backstory, The Bryant Collection is a real game, and one that I poured a lot of effort and heart into. But I haven’t gotten a single review, game entry on an IF site, or even a comment from someone who’s played the game. The only e-mail I’ve gotten about it is from my parents.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised. Mixing truth and fiction is risky enough when it’s not on a day dedicated to lies, and the games from the Spring Thing were released at almost the exact same time. The Spring Thing is probably the second or third biggest IF event of the year, so naturally Bryant would be overshadowed by those games, especially if it’s dismissed as a joke.

This post isn’t a cry for attention or anything. I just wanted to share my reactions when a game doesn’t get very well-received, since I always post when a game gets positive reactions.

The Bryant Collection Released

Right on the heels of my last release, here’s my April game, The Bryant Collection. This one is a bit of a cop-out; it’s not actually my game. Instead, it’s a translation of someone else’s work into interactive fiction.

An excerpt from my release post on RGIF:

A few months ago, I found an old strongbox at a garage sale. The box was full of papers written by a woman named Laura Bryant. The majority of the stuff in the box was a collection of what she called “story worlds.”

These story worlds are akin to interactive fiction or roleplaying games; they’re designed for one player and one mediator who serves as the parser or the game master. The earliest date on a story world in the box is 1964, which means these works predate Crowther and Woods’s Adventure, Dungeons & Dragons, or Wesely’s Braunstein. The Bryant Collection contains the five stories that I found the most interesting and feasible to convert to IF:

  • “The End of the World” is a story about lunch.
  • “Morning in the Garden” is a story about dealing with annoying people.
  • “Tower of Hanoi” is a rather interesting little puzzle, but not what you think. It came with a sort of feelie in the strongbox, which is included as an IF object.
  • “Going Home Again” is a story about growing up.
  • “Undelivered Love Letter” is a story about airports.

Download The Bryant Collection.

For more information, including links to interpreters that will run the game, see the game page.

The Bryant Collection

The Bryant Collection is an interactive anthology: a collection of ‘story worlds’ by Laura Bryant. They were found at a yard sale in an old strongbox. Five pieces of interactive fiction written by someone who never used a computer. It is interactive fiction, which means that the player types commands in text, and the game responds with text descriptions.

From my introductory post:

A few months ago, I found an old strongbox at a garage sale. It was part of the effects of a dead and long-forgotten relative of the folks holding the sale. It was weird enough that I felt I had to buy it. But I didn’t expect what I found when I got it home and managed to force it open.

The box was full of papers written by a woman named Laura Bryant. Through some letters in the box, I was able to figure out that she was born in the early 1940s. She worked as a middle-school English teacher, enjoyed Elvis, and wrote poetry. The majority of the stuff in the box, though, was a collection of what she called “story worlds.”

These story worlds are akin to interactive fiction or roleplaying games; they’re designed for one player and one mediator who serves as the parser or the game master. The earliest date on a story world in the box is 1964, which means these works predate Crowther and Woods’s Adventure, Dungeons & Dragons, or Wesely’s Braunstein. There’s no sign that Bryant ever got into computers, or was aware of her works’ similarities to interactive fiction, RPGs, and video games.

The Bryant Collection contains the five stories that I found the most interesting and feasible to convert to IF:

  • “The End of the World” is a story about lunch.
  • “Morning in the Garden” is a story about dealing with annoying people.
  • “Tower of Hanoi” is a rather interesting little puzzle, but not what you think. It came with a sort of feelie in the strongbox, which is included as an IF object.
  • “Going Home Again” is a story about growing up.
  • “Undelivered Love Letter” is a story about airports.

Download The Bryant Collection.

To play the .zblorb file, you will need a Z-machine interpreter, which is like a media player for interactive fiction. If you use Windows, I recommend Windows Frotz. If you use Mac OS X, I recommend Zoom. If you use Linux, I recommend the Linux version of Zoom.