Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Back! With an update: The Stanley Parable

Hey folks,

Its been a crazy couple of weeks, and between games coming out that I wanted to play, and things heating up at work, I opted to take a full 2 weeks off of my art, have some personal time, and relax (read: work more).

Anyway, those two weeks are up, and I wanted to talk a bit about playing the Stanley Parable. A great Half Life 2 Mod. Forwarned, if you have not played it SPOILERS AHOY. I truly encourage everyone to check it out. Its free with source 2007 SDK and not long to play, but a great experience none the less.

More about it here:  www.stanleyparable.com

Ok. So hopefully by now you have played it. I won't be summarizing it much, but I will say it is a short multiple choice narrative experience where the player must choose whether or not to interact with the narrator.  I actually went in expecting the game to be something completely different (I went in and played it completely blind). I was pleasantly surprised by 3 different aspects of the game, and those are what I wanted to talk about here.

First, what caught me off guard, was the state of the experience in terms of presentation. When I say the it was a mod, I truly mean it. The world is bsps with tiling HL2 textures thrown on there, and a few props scattered around. Not much more. I was actually expecting something much more visually. The thing is, it wasn't really needed. The experience was such a good one, and the message was so well delivered that literally everything else wasn't necessary. No good lighting, composition or anything. Now do I think that it couldn't benefit from it? That's a different question, but what it did remind me of, was that narrative is and can be it's own pillar. Someone could sit down and explain the narrative of a good story without any game, and it would be just that. A good story.  It was a good reminder, and it got me really into the writing mood. I ended up chasing that idea with a friend of mine, but that's another story.

The second thing that threw me for a loop, was the actual narrative focus. What I was expecting was a brilliantly told mind fuck of an experience, maybe something like Antichamber, but what I got instead, was relatively simple writing with good jokes. The thing was, the jokes hit home super well, and the contextual delivery made things ring even more true (nothing like making fun of choices in games by having the player make them, then mocking them for it).  It was a breath of fresh air in an age where many narrative games push for a higher narrative, and forget that even simple things, done well, kick ass.  Gone home (another topic coming soon) is a great example of that.

Finally, the last surprise was the enjoyment factor. I was expecting to be tested, or forced to use intellect, but what I got instead was, to me, a ride. A short narrative based experience that left me thinking (and it really did). It was the second title I have played recently that reminded me how much I love narrative driven interactive experiences. That idea will probably influence me a lot in the years to come, especially as I start to tell some of my own stories. I would challenge people to think about their own favorite stories in games, and ask themselves how they would hold up with no gameplay. Would the story still have weight? I know it made me think quite a bit.

Anyway, that's a short update. Paintings start tomorrow, and I have some new look dev exercises to get into (aside from the render analysis stuff). I will also be starting work on a new fun shader trick to share with everyone, as well as do a quick writeup about my paintings so far (long overdue)

Bit of a long writeup, but I'm back. Full speed ahead.

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