The Outer Journey of Inward

Deep, deep, deep into the shallows of the tide
Did Vera sift through the scum and microbes, searching
For a path. But who is to say he’ll ever find
It? A melody ever so sweet, it tasted of salt
As he licked his tongue. The clouds crooned as he longed
For the warmth of a berg. Oia melted into
A clotted, grey mess, but no one noticed their skin
And bones slipping into the sky. No one notices
Anymore how Allison danced on the table
Coffee and staples spilling onto sand.
She’ll be forgotten soon, like the shaved dust of
Plastic flying through a river of bile, and we will
Remember the name of Space and Fortune,
But she won’t be around to hear a glimpse of it.
The tines vibrate with immensity. Tine, time, tie
Clinching your throat with velvet hooks
As the waves bear against the rocks.


Inspired by Charles Bernstein’s “Gertrude and Ludwig’s Bogus Adventure”

 

Lee and Andrew Play…Various Games

In addition to my review show, I’ve started a Let’s Play series with my co-host Andrew Cornell. Watch us as we play video games, give our own commentary, and discuss life, the universe, and how bad the controls for the Wii are.

This is a different sort of project than I am used to working on. As a writer, I attempt to plan out what I am going to create, and execute it accordingly. With the off-the-wall, improvisational environment of a Let’s Play, there isn’t as much room for planning as there is to just spew whatever nonsense fills my head. Sitting down with the footage afterward allows me to make edits and enhance the humor, but my quick wit and responses to my co-host are what I challenge myself to showcase during our playthroughs.

Please enjoy the first two episodes of our series, as we play Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Until Dawn.

In Defense of The Order: 1886

Preferences are an extremely interesting concept to me. Evolutionarily, there is no reason for humans to really develop a desire for one thing over another, yet nonetheless, each and every person has unique tastes in regards to food, music, clothing, and especially video games. I’ve lost track of the number of discussions I’ve had explaining why I don’t like games like Fallout 3 or Portal. One game I will defend, however, is The Order: 1886. I’ve gotten quite some flak from my friends for enjoying this game, but I feel that many of the criticisms towards it are overly harsh and a product of sensationalism.

Hype is the great game killer. Overhype is what ruined games like Destiny and Watch Dogs. Constant advertising and build-up of an unreleased game creates expectations, and often times developers make promises in announcements that they cannot live up to upon release. The Order’s fall was primarily due to the former. Developer Ready at Dawn claimed that their new IP would be a showcase of what is possible on the then-new Playstation 4. Showing off stunning visuals and the potential for a new universe of stories, it was the fans who began to expect too much from the game. Many people I spoke to said they were expecting a long-form third-person shooter, a la Gears of War. It was never fully stated what the game would be, but players wanted to fill in the gaps with what they wanted out of the game and, when released, their individual visions fell short of the final product.

hype

One of the main complaints I’ve heard about The Order was its $60 price tag on release, which is too much to ask for a game that is as short as The Order. That’s completely fair and valid; asking people to spend $60 on a game is a lot, and players want the most value for their dollar. If a game doesn’t reach a certain length of playtime, one can feel ripped-off. I can understand people’s complaints in that regard. What I cannot understand is why people claim it is not a good game because of its short length.

Games are no longer about racking up points; they involve immersive stories and experiences that get the player to think about what they just played. Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us did not have groundbreaking new types of gameplay, but they’re so well received because of the emotional journeys they bring us on. Journey can be completed in just over an hour, but people play it because of the pilgrimage of discovery and wonderment they embark on. A game does not need to be innovative or long-form to be successful, so long as the experience itself is enjoyable. And The Order is an enjoyable experience. The alternate-history story is engaging and imaginative, the graphics are incredible and push the limit of the types of visuals we can create today, and the gameplay is fun and fast-paced. What The Order does, it does extremely well.

The Order did what any launch title should do: establish the power of the system’s hardware, set up and deliver a new game experience, and leave open the possibilities of what can be done by developers in the future. Galahad’s quest to rid Victorian London of werewolves did exactly that. Lack of replayability and inclusion of quicktime events do not make a bad game in and of themselves. A bad game fails what it sets out to do, delivering to the player an unfinished, incomplete, and broken experience. By that definition, The Order is not a bad game. It did everything it sought to do, and did it well, and I’m looking forward to what Ready at Dawn brings us next.


Originally published at Top Shelf Gaming

Super Han Solo

So I heard you like Star Wars

Well, what a coincidence, because I do, too! In fact, Star Wars is probably the biggest influential piece of media on my personality. A New Hope is one of the first movies I have the memory of watching, so obviously it was hugely fundamental in forming me into the beautiful ball of nerd that I am today. Between that and my excitement towards the then-newly released The Force Awakens, I felt obligated to create an homage to it.

Which leads to Super Han Solo. Beginning as a project for a Level Design class, I created a short platforming level, where you can control Han Solo as he races across the Tatooine desert to reach the Mos Eisley cantina. Along the way, there are Millennium Falcon tokens to collect, falling pitfalls to avoid, and Chewbaccas to placate.

Download Super Han Solo

Special thanks to Derek Prate, for writing the base code.

The Hunter

She stalks the night, until the day shatters
Restless steps circling a verdant grave
Ebon footsteps prowl forward, searching, wandering
Shrouded in mist, she is alone
The woods whisper a song of solitude, roaring in her ears
Leaving behind a memory rusted with age
And nothing else
Dew drops flicker to life and swirl
Empyrean spheres teeming in the night
The darkness blooms forth
As she steps out into the hollow of the soul
The sole among towers
A trickle, faint
She marches, eyes piercing the black
The twilight piercing her

But then, she sees it
A pale silhouette against the night and the silent water
Mist and trepidation fills her lungs
She readies her bow
Ready to strike out into the gloom
A gloom so thick with horror, it ensnares
The arrow tip glows in the moonlight
An effulgence against the shadow
Silence screams
Waiting for her to feel the dark

The arrow flies through the umbral shade
Rending the silence asunder
The wind cries out in anguish
Crimson drops spatter the forest floor
It does not lash out
It does not scream in terror or agony
It merely falls
And silence rises once more
The radiance dying away
She steps into the abyss
And is swept away
The weald weeps
Flowing into the obsidian river
Flowing into the day

Rush’n Attack – Hidden Gems

It took me over a year, but I finally finished my first YouTube game review.

In October of 2014, I resolved to start a YouTube channel with my friend, Andrew Cornell. We wanted to make a channel where we would review lesser-known video games and have our own Let’s Plays. We came up with the concept for the show that night and then created a game plan to achieve our goal. Writing, acquiring the film equipment, recording the footage, and editing was completed over the course of months on and off. And as of today, I am proud to present Hidden Gems, the show where we unearth the unknown classics of the video gaming libraries.

Our first episode explores Rush’n Attack, a Konami game that never achieved the level of fame that Castlevania has. Why is that the case? And why does vodka taste like permanent markers? You’ll have to watch the review to find out.

Opening Cinematic – Spectrals

INT. HOUSE – DAY

Open on sunlight trickling through curtains, a gentle breeze rustling the fabric. DANIEL (28) walks over to the curtains and thrusts them open. Sunlight pours into his bedroom and he gazes out into the farming community he lives in. The houses in the town are small, wooden shacks. It is early morning and many villagers are already awake, tilling the soil of their own fields. Daniel smiles weakly at this sight, before turning back into the darkness of his own room.

CUT TO

EXT. SMALL TOWN – DAY

Daniel closes the door to his own home and walks down a dirt pathway on a hill in his mountain community. He is wearing a mining uniform, with leather straps and long-sleeves; very unlike the denim and comfortable clothing the farmers are wearing. The sun is just barely rising above the mountain ranges. Daniel continues his descent before suddenly pausing, and looking back over his shoulder at his own home.

CUT TO

INT. TRAIN – DAY

Daniel stands in the small gap between train cars, watching the natural landscape pass swiftly by. As the mountains and plains transition into the steel towers of the city, Daniel struggles to keep his head turned and watching the natural world for as long as he possibly can. He eventually relents, sighing as he gazes at the city.

CUT TO

EXT. STATION – DAY

Daniel, adjusting the pack on his back, steps off the train. His stance is enclosed and guarded as he walks towards the quarry, staring primarily at his feet. He looks up to see a group of miners, wearing uniforms similar to his, running towards the quarry. They are eventually enveloped by a large mob surrounding a new, large bucket-wheel excavator. The machine towers over the miners and Daniel can hear excited conversation emanating from the group. Daniel looks at the excavator, then rolls his eyes and continues towards the mine.

CUT TO

INT. WALKWAY – DAY

VINCENT (44) races across a steel walkway, exiting the underground rail system leading to his base of operations as immediately as the door opens. As he walks, he is hurriedly inputting calculations into a tablet, frowning as he does so. He steps into an elevator at the end of the walkway and hectically jams a button leading to the surface offices and control deck. He continues to work on his calculations as the elevator door closes.

CUT TO

INT. OFFICE – DAY

Vincent enters his office, a room which would normally be somewhat roomy and potentially comfortable. It, however, is immensely unkempt. Filing cabinets are left wide open, with the contents haphazardly thrown inside. A desktop computer station on one side is covered in various papers and scraps. The desk in the center of the room is also disheveled and blanketed in notes and papers. Vincent places down his tablet and scans through some papers on the desk. There is a sudden knock and an OFFICIAL (52), wearing a United States military uniform, steps into the office.

OFFICIAL
Good morning, doctor…you look nervous. Aren’t you excited to see what’s on the other side?

VINCENT
(shaky)
I am, but…

OFFICIAL
(confused)
“But?” Vincent, we’re about to start the trials. You can’t be having doubts now.

VINCENT
(hurriedly)
I know, but I’ve been redoing the calculations since this morning, and…something…isn’t adding up.

OFFICIAL
(scoffing)
Doctor, your team, which YOU appointed personally, has assured me that the calculations are accurate and complete.

A light tap emits from the door, and a female ASSISTANT (27) pokes her head in.

ASSISTANT
(nervously)
Excuse me, the team leads say that Project VIRGIL is ready to commence.

Vincent opens his mouth to object.

OFFICIAL
(interrupting)
We’ll be there in a moment.

The assistant closes the door. The official turns to face Vincent once more.

VINCENT
(nervous, interrupted)
Sir, I just need another day, two at the most, just to make sure–

Before giving him a chance to finish, the official leaves the office. Visibly agitated, Vincent chases after him, walking to…

CUT TO

INT. CONTROL DECK – DAY

The control deck, filled with computers and staff, has an aura of anticipation in the air. The personnel sit at their workstations, preparing for the upcoming trials. Vincent enters and sees the official standing at the lead workstation. He gazes out of the window opposite him, looking at the gargantuan machinery in the desert outside. The official leans to the microphone at his station.

OFFICIAL
(somewhat harshly)
Ladies and gentlemen, make your way to your stations. Project VIRGIL is about to begin.

The official turns his head to angrily motion to Vincent to take his place.

VINCENT
(pleading)
Sir, I can’t allow this to–

OFFICIAL
(quiet, angrily)
Vincent, we are out of time and the investors want their answer today! Do you really want to risk everything on the off-chance that your entire team got all of their calculations wrong?

The control deck grows silent as the few people not at their workstations return to their designated spots. Vincent, defeated, walks to his own workstation and turns a key in the corner. Three green lights shine at the official’s station, one after the other.

OFFICIAL
Teleportation trials commencing in ten, nine…

CUT TO

EXT. QUARRY – DAY

Daniel stands before lighting rod three, seeing the indicator lights at the base of the tower flashing red. He adjusts his harness, attaching it to the automatic pulley system on the tower. He opens a panel at the base of the tower, shutting down the electrical flow to it. He firmly grasps the locket around his neck.

DANIEL
(whispering)
Terra firma.

He activates the pulley system and ascends the tower slowly.

CUT TO

EXT. DESERT – DAY

Official
(V.O., continued)
…two, one, begin.

The machinery in the desert begins to glow, and a pulse of light emits from the center, erecting a beam into the sky. The beam opens a small tear in the sky, opening to a black void.

CUT TO

INT. CONTROL DECK – DAY

The official watches the experiment, before turning to Vincent.

OFFICIAL
(confident)
Everything is preceding normally, doctor. Although…

He leans to the microphone.

OFFICIAL
Increase output by four percent.

TECHNICIAN
Increasing output.

A TECHNICIAN (33) types at his station. As he types, the beam glows brighter and the tear opens up even more. Vincent eyes the monitor at his desk, watching the lines on the graphs before him grow exponentially. There is a sudden beeping and a frantic murmur. Vincent looks up.

CUT TO

EXT. DESERT – DAY

The rift in the sky suddenly rends apart, creating a massive fracture in the air. This gash rips through the air as more, smaller tears open across the sky. The initial rift extends out towards the countryside, towards nearby cities, and towards a quarry off in the distance. As the rifts open, massive earthquakes shudder across the land. Electricity tears across the machinery.

CUT TO

INT. CONTROL DECK – DAY

An alarm is sounding inside of the control deck. Much of the equipment is shorting out and failing.

VINCENT
(pointing, yelling)
Shut it down!

The technician he points to runs over to a large series of computers on the left wall of the control deck. As soon as he touches the devices, he screams in immense pain and his body is vaporized, leaving no trace as Vincent looks on in horror. The murmur amongst the crew erupts into panic. The technicians, physicists, and engineers present run amok, with many attempting to vacate the premises.

CUT TO

EXT. QUARRY – DAY

Daniel has ascended almost thirty feet before the equipment lurches to an immediate halt. He quickly scans the pulley system, attempting to find the source of the sudden stop, before looking up to the sky and seeing the vast rift above him. A black rock structure, shaped almost like a hand, thrusts downward to the earth. It sinks its points into the dirt around the mine and quickly begins to ascend into the void. The lightning rod Daniel is on, now standing on uneven ground, creaks, tilts, and falls towards the soil. Daniel braces for impact as he quickly reaches the bottom.

EXTREME WIDE SHOT:

The towering structure lifts the landmass up into the sky and through the rift.

CUT TO BLACK

BEGIN GAMEPLAY