Author Archives: Patricia Hernandez

Nightmare Mode Is Relaunching

Preface: Nightmare Mode is officially relaunching sometime on Friday night (at which point we will go down for about 24 hours). What follows is the context as well as a detailing of the many upcoming changes that you can expect to see in the near future.

Ah, welcome. It’s been slightly over a year since Nightmare Mode’s inception, and, in that time, we’ve gone through a lot of change. Writers have come and gone, we’ve changed templates more times than I care to count and, my level of involvement and dedication has varied.

Fast forward to about a month ago. Remember this post? Also, this one? Posts thinking about my future, essentially. April and May have been months of much personal turmoil, as I gear up for life beyond college and start thinking about my career. In ‘Resolve’ I mentioned “I would be happiest (and poorest, most likely) writing about games.” In ‘Final Year Thesis’ I mentioned my plans for a paper revolving my senior project at Hampshire College. My old one, anyway.

The more I thought about what I wanted to do with my life, the more I started to panic about how inadequate my skills would be in facilitating that career. Hampshire College does not offer either of the things I am studying–marketing and video game design. Most of my studies have been self-directed and, while that’s taught me a good deal that could not be captured in a classroom…it has piqued a degree of uncertainty in myself. At one point I even considered–seriously considered–transferring schools. At the end of my third year of college, I was considering starting over someplace else, someplace that actually offered what I was interested in studying.

I tried pitching this idea to the people around me, and was met with a lot of resistance. Starting over, with just one year left? Really? I suppose that is the level of insecure I had become; I did not believe that just finishing my degree would be worth it if I wasn’t going to attain concrete skills out of it. I wasn’t sure what to do. The thought of writing a ‘useless’ paper for my final year was deeply troubling, and yet, it was the only thing I realistically could do.

Or so I thought. Talking to people–writers on this site and mentors from First Graduate, my scholarship program–about the issue, one thing kept coming back up. The site. THIS site. I could do something with it. I SHOULD do something with it; devise my final year project around it. Fix it up, make it bigger, better…make it profitable, or at least self-sustaining. Y’know–make it a ‘real’ site? Even if I could not fulfill a business plan to specification in a year’s time, I will have still gained many skills that would be readily applicable to the real world. So that’s the plan, it seems like. Tackling the site seriously. Getting us out there. All that cool jazz.

Now, there are a number of changes that will be up and coming over the next year. The most evident one will have been our relaunch, here. Prior to this, we had been attached to WordPress. This severely limited our options both in terms of template (if my dissatisfaction with the templates wasn’t clear enough with our 5 or 6 changes in the past year), but also in terms of possible sponsorships, partnerships, what have you; things that can only occur if we detached ourselves from WordPress. And, the most ridiculous thing of all: sticking to wordpress meant having to pay to change basic HTML or CSS. That’s…just not happening. Thus the first move seems obvious: detaching from WordPress, going onto self-hosting. We’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but it wasn’t until I actively decided to take the site seriously this April that we actually started setting this in motion. In that regards, many thanks to Grant, Patrick and Greg for lending their hand in re-launching the site.

Aside from this, you may have noticed a few other changes, as well. We have a full-fledged logo now. Fancy, ennit? We’ll have to get business cards next, I imagine. Hell, we have a Favicon now. That shows we’re serious, right? You may have also noticed a plethora of new names. Yes, we’ve grown quite a bit now. You should read our About page to see the full list of people currently on board now. That list is by no means final. I’ve still got about a dozen more applicants to sort through (we have applicants now! Wow!), so do not be surprised if you see even more new names. Hopefully our new writers stick around for a while! Relatedly, you may have noticed a higher level of production unlike anything we’ve done before. As a result, our readership has absolutely exploded in the last month. It’s…frightening but exciting at the same time. Thus I can’t give enough thanks to my writers and the level of dedication they are putting onto the site. They have to put up with very high demands and they workshop their writing as if this was a part-time job. I hope it shows.

I just have to reiterate how amazing the people I’m working with are. Really, you guys are great, and I don’t know why you put up with me. ❤

Lastly, there are a bevy of partnerships, collaborations and affiliations that will be upcoming. We’re republishing material from a few friends and sites, with the intent of widening the subjects we cover. I am happy to announce, for example, our partnership with the soon-to-be-launched Nerd Vice; helmed by the ferocious Viragunn. Aside from crossposting material and promotions, Nerd Vice shall be teaming up with Nightmare Mode to providing you with a great podcasting show. More details on that later this week, I imagine. The other partnership (which you may have already noted!) aiming to bring the more philosophical approach to video game criticism is The Game Saver. There are talks of other partnerships and collaborations with other friends of the site, hopefully great things will come of it. We’ll see!

We’re also in talks with developers and the like to bring you more great material–you may have noted this by virtue of the increase of interviews we have conducted. There are other changes, I’m sure, that either I’m forgetting right now, or simply haven’t planned just yet.

So, yeah. That’s where we stand right now: in a vortex of exciting change. Here’s to another year of the new, soon-to-be improved Nightmare Mode!

New Dragon Age 2 Images Tease Relation to Grey Wardens

Released on the Dragon Age Facebook page are images that, while not outright stated to be DLC or a sequel to Dragon Age 2….well, logic would dictate that it would not be presumptuous to assume that these are most likely DLC screenshots.

“We managed to land some high rez images that Mike Laidlaw claims he “found lying around.” Are those griffins?” teases the page.

The griffins, one might recall, are the emblem of the Grey Wardens.  Notice, too, well…the fact that these look like new locations. Thank god. The question, now, then: where shall the DLC take us!?

The other two images after the jump.

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Persona 2 Coming Fall 2011 To North America

It’s official, folks. Turns out that the email Atlus sent last week dated 1999 was hinting at a North American release for the PSP remake of Persona 2: Innocent Sin. Up until now, Persona 2 was the only title in the Persona franchise which had not made it to western shores.

Check out the official trailer, here:

This version of the game will host a bevy of new features and improvements. To list a few: the visuals and audio are remastered, the UI has been improved and there are new quests.

”In a world in which rumors are coming true, an unlikely team of citizens must discover and harness a hidden power dormant within each of them if they’re to have any chance of getting to the bottom of this dangerous phenomenon and stopping it before it gets out of control.

The official website can be found here.

Looking For Conspiracy In The Dream Machine

Just one disclaimer here: I don’t really play point and click adventure games. My only other experience with the genre is Machinarium. Also…major spoilers for the first chapter of The Dream Machine.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about The Dream Machine. While playing last weekend, I noticed something that struck me as odd about the way I was playing the game. After waking up from the deserted island dream, I found myself in the protagonist’s apartment. Looking around me, there were nothing but normal, ordinary objects: boxes, windows, cabinets, light switches, what have you. Nothing I would normally pay much mind to…except I was given the option to interact with the objects. Upon examination, I hardly ever found anything worthwhile and yet, there I was, in the next room, flipping another light switch on and off just to see if maybe THIS time, something would happen. Of course, nothing did. And yet once again, the next room, I found myself examining more mundane objects. Further: I was picking up items that had no immediate usefulness to me. Why was I doing this, why did I feel such a compulsion?

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LA Noire First Impressions

Despite being only about an hour and a half into LA Noire, boy has the game got me thinkin’ about a million things already. So here’s my gift to you guys: a bunch of disjointed, but hopefully interesting, thoughts!

I am impressed at the difficulty of interrogation and clue finding.

I was initially worried that lines of inquiry would be too obvious–whether by interrogation or by finding clues–but this hasn’t been the case at all. Things aren’t always what they appear. In fact, I’m messing up interrogations or missing clues more often than I anticipated. That’s not a fault; I actually appreciate being able to be wrong and to mess up and having to deal with the consequences of thinking through the case shoddily.

I am not, however, impressed with the facial animations.

It has nothing to do with their quality (though having such intricacy and depth attached to expressions seems misplaced relative to the quality of the rest of the model), but rather how forced it all is. People overact, are way too obvious; even the worst liars I’ve ever met are not as terrible as some of the people in this game. I’m not sure if that’s because this quality demands that we judge the acting, or if that’s because Team Bondi didn’t want to make reading people too difficult (or both!). The thing is…reading in real life people IS difficult, and thus what LA Noire offers thus far is somewhat of a misrepresentation. Requiring us to engage in more inference when reading people–looking at the possible motivation, the evidence and using some good ‘ol intuition–would have been more rewarding despite the possible difficulty hike, though.

The narrative seems too segmented

Is there really no other way to tell me Cole Phelp’s backstory than to interject a cinematic like every 5 minutes? I mean, it’s all engaging and well written but you already have the modular structure of the cases–each one literally segmented by having a title before playing it–that interjecting “the past” on top of that feels a little jarring. Like watching an episode inside an episode of a show, and inside THAT episode is a showcase of segments of an earlier episode that was never aired.

The action feels out of place

The action–chases, anything involving the car or shooting–seem like too much of a stark contrast to the slow, methodical structure investigation. It’s almost like those segments are only there to appease players who would find the investigation monotonous and boring, and I say this not because I can’t appreciate the action conceptually (you’re a cop and, the hard-boiled ideology has a propensity for violence) but because of how simplistic the action seems in execution.

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Interview With Christine Love

I had the pleasure of sitting down with the mind behind the acclaimed Digital: A Love Story and the controversial spiritual successor, don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story, Christine Love the other day. What follows is the exchange between us, where we talk about subjects such as her experience as a writer making games, what she thinks about some of the touchy scenarios and subjects in DTIPB, and more. Enjoy!

To start off with the generic questions first. Why do you make games?

Well… I’m a writer. So primarily, I just tell stories, and it’s happened to be that lately, a few of those have been in the form of games. People seeing me as a game maker just sort of came out of nowhere, although I’m hardly complaining.

Quite a few questions, then: Anything in particular about games that made you want to try telling stories in that medium? And, why don’t see yourself as a ‘game maker’? (I know you just said you’re a writer, but…you made a couple of games, no? Programmed them. Do you just see that aspect as a part of the writing process, something you have to do to tell your stories?

There’s just a lot you can do with interactive storytelling. A story like Digital, for instance, really wouldn’t work half as well in any other medium; the immersion gets you a lot more emotionally involved with the story than you might otherwise. I’m really only sort of learning how to do stories that are a little more interactive, but I think there’s a lot of power there.

Very true. How does your background inform the games you make?

That’s a really general question. How do you mean by that?

 Ah, didn’t want to frame it too much but I suppose, well…would you say that being primarily a writer influences the approach you have when it comes to making/structuring your games? I ask this, I suppose, because…most of the industry puts writing in the back burner.

It definitely does, and probably not in a great way. I’m very much used to writing strictly linear stories, so even DTIPB’s relatively few branching points were… definitely a learning experience, and a fairly difficult one. So figuring out how to deal with that is certainly a challenge.

Next question: What would you say are your biggest influences?

Right now, honestly, I’m not even sure. I’m sort of at a really big turning point in my writing career. That’s weird, normally that would be a really easy question to answer, but for some reason now, I don’t know who to cite at all. Huh.

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Are You Committed? Asks Atlus; Here is the Response

A while back Atlus asked fans to submit responses to the question ‘Do you Want To Get Married?’, and, well…this is the response. A good mix of yes, no and uuuuuh, with an awkward moment between a few couples to boot. Notice, too, snippets of the English voice acting–for Vincent, Catherine and Katherine alike. You can definitely hear the Kanji Tatsumi in Vincent and the Rise Kujikawa in Catherine (only creepier).

Chris Avellone Comments on Diplomatic Problem Solving In Games

Chris Avellone, senior designer of Fallout New Vegas and the older Fallout titles, had some interesting insight regarding diplomatic solutions in games in a very lengthy interview with Iron Tower Studio. On the subject, Avellone states the following;

“It caters to a small % of players, and those players find it meaningful if that’s the power fantasy they want. To cite the best example, in Fallout 1, I think it’s pretty ego-boosting to point out the flaws in your adversaries’ master plan so much that he suicides after talking to you. I really can’t be more of a talking badass than that. It is difficult to implement a speech/sneak path, and the main obstacles to it are many, so here’s my opinion on how to approach it:

The speech path should present more than a skill check challenge – there needs to be some other obstacle associated with it. I usually veer toward exploring conversations (asking about back history, reading lore, discovering evidence to a criminal case), exploring the environment (discovering an enemy encampment, learning a secret path into a fortress, discovering a rival caravan is already sending an emissary to scout a new trade route), or being able to draw logical connections between two topics…

Obsidian has a rule in quest design that any non-violent path has to have a reward that’s comparable to killing and looting everyone in the scenario, and has similar repercussions. Whether this is XP bonus greater than killing the opponent, alignment shifts, barter rewards, or whatever, speech-defeating someone can’t yield you less in the long run than it would if you killed everyone. Often, it can yield more if you’re patient… or if you decide to shoot the person in the face after you verbally crushed them. In some ways, it could be considered a speech bribe. I’ll be honest, KOTOR2 was a huge speech bribe as well – once people figured out that’s how you could make Jedi or Sith from characters by interacting with them, suddenly there’s a lot more incentive in getting to know your allies and playing the influence game. I will say this doesn’t always work (I’ve seen YouTube footage where people simply rapidfire through the FNV DLC1 Dead Money conversations just looking to mine the XP awards, which makes me die a little inside – but hey, it’s more than they would otherwise).”

So, Avellone notes a couple of key  problems with modern approaches to diplomacy in games. It’s mostly skill-check–do you have a high enough stat? rather an inference, and the structure of dialogue as a mechanic in games (XP rewards and all) devolves conversations into just another impersonal way to farm experience.

It’s interesting, too, that he calls it another form of ‘Power Fantasy’ especially within the context of Fallout , a franchise that has multiple instances where one can convince an adversary to suicide via dialogue. Normally I associate combat-heavy games to adhere to a power fantasy ideal, but he’s right, diplomatic solutions are no different. Silver tongues turn you into a sly trickster, capable of convincing people to downright eat their newborns if it came down to it.

Check Out Some of LA Noire’s Tunes

You don’t have to wait until Tuesday to start listening to some of the jazzy tracks in LA Noire, as Rockstar has posted some of the tunes over at Soundcloud. Artists include Louis Jordan, Gene Krupa, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan, Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra, Dinah Washington, Claudia Brucken and Andrew Hale.

A couple of samples (there are seven more over at Soundcloud):

“L.A. Noire Remixed is the fruit of a partnership with Verve Records that provides a modern take on the music found throughout the world of L.A. Noire. This unique EP is a collection of six jazz standards re-interpreted by some of today’s most acclaimed DJs, producers and remixers, including Dave Sitek, DJ Premier and Truth & Soul.”

The album, along with the game, will be available for purchase on May 17th.

UPDATED Watch the first 15 Minutes of LA Noire

Aaaand taken down. Oh well!

Spoiler warning, for obvious reasons.

Will say two thing though: damn is this game dripping with style. Second…gosh does your partner talk at  you incessantly.