Trouble Thinking

April 25, 2012

King City is honest

King City, by Brandon Grahm, is a good book.

It’s pretty, for one. Black and white and clean and almost sparse for all the detail packed into every panel. It reminds me of Stokoe, without the organic growth crowding around everyone. There are a surprising number of shots of an empty, near cloudless sky, like a fisheye lens poking up from the street. There are shots of shocking scope and detail thrown at you to explain a small amount of a single character’s backstory. It’s decadent. It’s soft and curvy and complicated, every few pages there’s a lazily meandering scene with dozens of little puns waiting to be discovered in the folds of the page. Front and center, the hero of the whatever story is being told is usually in a small puddle of calm in the middle of an insane city. Brandon Grahm calls James Stokoe his “daywalker” (all of his strengths, none of his weaknesses) but fucking, he’s wearing some amazing sunscreen himself. He doesn’t have the sort of bubbling fractal madness that Stokoe manages, but he brings so much energy to even his sparest page. And in his most complicated pages he’ll drop in 90 puns to pepper the background (Jose and his friend Hose B made me laugh longer than I should have), a dozen little stories ending in a dozen little jokes because why the fuck not do that?

Which is the next point, it’s funny. It’s consistently funny, like it isn’t trying. Like a friend who says things with just the right timing but you had to be there only you are there so it’s all good. I’ll spoil one, don’t worry there are hundreds. Maximum Absolute is a guy who lost a leg fighting against the Xombies in Korea, at a certain point in the story Cat Master Joe offers to grab some shoes for him at a Sneaker Soul machine and asks his size. “13 left”, get it? There are setups and punchlines and weird little half-puns scattered around the book. There’s Big Weird like the communist sasquatch running a spy hotel and there are fart jokes because farting is funny. And that’s another thing I love about this book, it’s honest.

I knew it would be honest when Joe picked his nose and flicked a booger. It’s gross! Blegh. But it’s true, we pick our noses when no one is looking, because no one is looking, because it’s just a thing we want to do and so why not who does it hurt? (I should do a post on MRSA and freak people out) But you never see it because of that. No action hero picks his nose between fights because gross. But it’s a part of our life and I mean I guess I’m making a bigger deal out of this than I should but the whole comic reads like an action flick that realizes part way through it can be more honest than that, it doesn’t need to show you a big fight sequence as the climax, it can show you some friends chilling in an apartment because by now that’s all you actually care about. Joe’s u… I was going to say “ugly, too” but he’s not. He’s slightly rat-faced, a little. But he’s not bad. He’s normal. So’s his friend Pete and so’s Max and so is most everyone, even the freaky weird people. It just feels better. It feels like a story told not because it will make someone look good but because it happened and you should know it happened. These people were around when shit went down and here’s how it turned out.

Every world-changing event happens, even when you’re not there to help out. The things that change you can only happen when you’re around, so you need to show up. It’s a good book, find it. It’s $20 too for like 450 goddamn pages, a complete steal.

April 19, 2012

Taking Questions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Durandal @ 12:07 am

Hey, I’m pretty sure every view on this blog is still looking at one picture from Minecraft I posted a couple years ago, but in the case that anyone alive is reading this: Feel free to email questions to me!

Specifically, questions dealing with my area of expertise, the human mind and various thinking troubles! I will do my best to answer them with decently written if likely kind of haphazardly sourced articles!

Things You Didn’t Know You Needed To Know About But You Totally Do

So hey, sometimes you think you’re done looking at things, reading things, listening to things, whatever. You figure you’ve put in your time and you don’t really need to pay attention to anything ever again. I get that, but I have to break your reverie. I have to shatter it with excellent things.

-James Stokoe, who I fucking adore, is doing a Godzilla comic. It’s worth checking out because well. Look at this goddamn incredible artwork:

James Stokoe's Godzilla

I want to rub it on my face, feel the texturessss

– You should read this cute, sweet comic called Sweet Thing by Melissa Duffy. It’s also got some murder and violence so you know, it’s still cool.

– The Abbadon is a great comic that is basically Sartre’s “No Exit” but like, an ongoing series. It’s interesting and pretty to look at and creepy, you’re going to like it! Also, totally NSFW.

– 4thLetter’s David Brothers continues to write the only articles about comics worth reading. Addressing “Before Watchmen”, he talks about the actual shit that actually matters with regards to this comic, and asks why the entire media devoted to comics contains about .5 critical examinations of what’s going on, and 20 billion “hey look at this art the DC PR department gave us!” posts

– The various and sundry Kickstarter campaigns that have been heating up, mostly for large projects by established teams, there’s an interesting new one: Grim Dawn‘s Kickstarter is another by, yep, an established team (the guys who made the generally beloved Titan Quest) making a new Action RPG just in time to again be sadly forgotten as Diablo erases everyone’s memories with eldritch magic. They’re asking for a paltry $280,000 because they’re essentially done with the project, they just want to make two free-time dudes full-time and maybe hire an animator so they can get this thing polished and out the door. It really looks lovely, a deserving entry into a field that’s usually lay kind of fallow between Diablos, even though it’s pretty fun. Check out their awesome preview movie, you can see some basically complete gameplay! They’ve got nice features, too. Like an open world that you unlock at whatever pace you choose, and NPC factions. I’m hoping for ARPG Stalker. Oh man now I’ve made myself sad because nothing can be that awesome.

– I’ve started to really enjoy the musical stylings of Dr. Dog:

– And these German 60’s pop stars:


April 12, 2012

PAX: The Stuff You Should Have Checked Out

First of all, check out PAX if it’s at all feasible. It’s a good convention, makes you feel a little less like every person who likes video games is a weird jerk, an antidote to comments section of any website. Lots of neat stuff was on display.

I am almost certain I wasn’t imagining the fact that the Far Cry 3 booth had a tattoo artist. Which just… I’m not certain who, on the Friday morning of PAX, thinks to themselves “oh yeah, a tattoo. yes gotta get that done today” what the hell. There was also the typical mix of cosplay, from the amazing, like this Doctor Who thing or this incredible Mordin Solus to the weird like anyone dressed as Tingle. Oh, and I think I’m going to say anyone in a utilikilt counts as being in weird, horrible cosplay. Also some of the panels were cool I guess good times on the whole.

But! The important part of PAX is: to what games should you focus your rapt attention? What things will go from unknown to complete must haves right now?

Well… I’m hoping it’s absolutely none of the big names because I only had a Friday ticket and fuck waiting in lines. Seriously, they have to realize waiting in line for a preview trailer is the equivalent of beating your child, right? Like… it’s just… of course I know what it’s going to be like. That’s why I waited in line! I don’t need to wait in line to get PR material!

The Indie people on the other hand are desperate hardscrabble youths willing to put out. They all had extensive demos that I spent way more time with than expected.

The BEST GAMES AT PAX in no particular order:

Spelltower: So, I really dislike the iOS. It’s somewhat irrational, mostly it has to do with Apple being just this side of madly cackling with every product release. They just definitely seem up to something and it makes me uncomfortable to give them money. And the nice bit has been that until recently it didn’t matter. The iPad is either a shitty computer or a giant version of your phone. This game though, so fun. It’s like Scrabble but good. You have, in the “real” Puzzle game mode, a few lines of random letters on the bottom. You need to make words in order to get the tiles to disappear. Every time you make one, the tiles rise another level. So like scrabble crossed with Tetris but more fun than that sounds.

A Valley Without Wind: Okay I will admit I was incredibly wary of this one. I’m an AI War/Tidalis superfan so Arcen has my good will but it seemed like the art for this one was wicked wonky and it went from top-down to 2D platformer overnight for some reason. Really dodgy seeming! BUT then I played it. It’s a randomly generated metroidvania set in a weird post-apocalyptic world and you can shoot lightning at skeleton robots. AND every time you die, “you” stay dead, you pick a new character and can find your old shit and you can build towns over time and it’s just in general really neat. Also, I may have accidentally told the artist that I didn’t like his work at first accidentally. I like it now though, guy! It’s cool!

Lawnmower Challenge: Another tablet/phone thing! This is just a simple, nice puzzle game. Straight up: mow lawn in the fewest steps. Adds complexity like keys and needing to cut down trees and etc etc as you go, apparently the largest level takes something like 800 steps for a perfect, which seems cool!

Antichamber: This just is the bee’s goddamn knees. Alexander Bruce is the only man in games who understands what you can do with games. It’s a puzzle game which fine isn’t that innovative, but it’s in space that cannot exist. It requires you to think weirdly, it rewards you constantly with strange experiences, and it’s beautiful. It’s so much easier to do these weird escher worlds in a game than in any other possible medium and god damn this is a slap to the face of all other games, a slap wearing a glove that reads “try making something interesting booooom”.

Guacamelee: So this is a pretty solid action/platformer that did not light my world on fire but also was just … happy. It was a happy time with a friend in co-op. Everything is designed so that whichever of you sucks never holds the good one back, you just sort of pop happily along suplexing skeletons and shifting dimensions. Playing around with switching between fire and water in the Temple of Fire/Water was pretty cute. Also! You can turn into a chicken if you want. And it’s even surprisingly funny.

Super T.I.M.E Force: So I didn’t get to play too much with this but! It’s a game where you fight left to right, as tradition dictates, but when you die and restart, you fight along your past self. And you can save yourself in the past to grant an extra life in the present! It’s… super cool.

Monaco: Holy shiiiiiiiiiit. It’s beautiful. It’s so cool. It’s like an action arcade robbery game. It’s a massively underused setting, that of robbing shit as a gang of gentlemen thieves, and it does it so fucking well. The map on screen is a blue-print, until you enter a room, and everything in your line of sight becomes “real”. I know that’s not the most important part of the game but making it look that cool says something about how much thought it’s had put into it.

Skulls of the Shogun: So basically 4-player ghost-skeleton chess, but the movement rules seem more like Warhammer? Like, you get units at the start, you move them about in a certain circle radius, you fight other units, first to kill the general wins. After that there are tons of other minor and major tactical considerations, but the most important part is that it’s a super nifty board game essentially, with up to 4 players on one screen. Good times with good friends killing undead samurai.

Miegakure: The only game Antichamber didn’t slap. It’s a reasonably simple platform/puzzler with the twist that you can move in 3 dimensions, but swap out one dimension with a 4th spatial dimension. So basically, you can travel through time/walls by moving through a dimension we don’t normally see. Like if you were a 2D person, the fact that a 3D person can’t be stopped by a circle would be weird. In Miegakure you get to experience what it feels like to look at 3 dimensional beings trapped in a cube and go “haha dicks just step around the walls”. Super cool.

Kairo: A game about exploring massive, strange spaces and solving massive strange puzzles. It’s… I don’t know. If you’re like me you’re at half-mast just from the description. It’s all well and good to shit on Myst and everything, but I just have a real love of exploring strange spaces. STALKER, for instance, was less about shooting shit for me and more about finding weird old soviet structures warped by strange radiation. Same with Fallout. Looking at something in the distance and finding out why it’s there is just super cool. Like archaeology but with the boring edited out.

Retro/grade: A shooter played backwards, and on the guitar. You move through “space lanes” by using the frets, you strum to pick back up the shots you fired, and you dodge the enemy shots that you’re backing into. It’s really neat. And surprisingly pretty! A fun rhythm … not shooter, catcher?

Snapshot: Puzzle platforming again, but you can take pictures of things and drop them in the level to progress. It’s not like, crazy, you basically get a good way of teleporting small devices around to help you solve a puzzle, but it was solid fun stuff.

Not Without You: I didn’t get to play it! But, it was a game about moving two little creatures in unison in order to get them into two escape hatches at the same time so they can escape a place! It’s cute, and insanely hard.

Girls Like Robots: Simple fun slide-puzzle game. It’s really just a game about placing things in the right spot via a combination of trial and error and clever thinking. It’s hard to make it sound fun but I basically played until strong hints were dropped that I should stop playing because seriously stop taking up the booth jerk. Engaging, is the word.

Nexuiz: Unreal Tournament. But… slightly different. Mutators that you can choose to activate, that’s fun. But basically jumping shooting fun times.

Dragon Fantasy: A game starring the creator’s recently deceased father, that he obviously put a crazy amount of love into. Fun old-school RPG with a strange and affecting protagonist, a chubby ex-hero learning to hero again. He’s already developing the 16-bit sequel that looks cool as well!

And that is literally every game there. Because if you had a booth larger than my apartment with a single screen playing your preview trailer your game wasn’t really there, ass.

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