This time on Daft Souls we're joined by the excellent Keza Macdonald to talk about INSIDE and Pokemon Go. No spoilers about the former until the very end of the podcast, at which point a clear SPOILER-ZONE is flagged. Also this week we have a brand new podcast setup, which we now frustratingly won't be using again for a while. Sorry to be such a tease, we're awful!
A short video this week from Matt, who loosely compares the design of INSIDE to Half Life 2. Please note that this video is completely spoiler-free: I've been very careful to cherry-pick footage that contains anything of note - any scenes shown with specifics are from the first few minutes of the game. I'd ask that people take the same care in the comments below - if you'd like to chat about spoilery stuff, I've made a special thread over on the SU&SD forums!
The OLD HUNT continues! JELLYBUBS AHOY, CAPTAIN.
I've uncharacteristically got a bit of free time this weekend, so I'm confident I’ll be able to finish INSIDE. Despite the critical acclaim I approached it sceptically: Limbo sent a lot of people loco at the time, but other than that bit with the terrifying spider I largely found it to be good rather than great. Seems like they've really nailed the style/substance ratio this time, and my word is this game a stylish game - trailers don't nearly do it justice, as video compression on sites like YouTube take away so much of the subtle, exact toning that makes the stark environments pop into life. It's bringing up a whole bunch of feelings that I haven't felt since playing Half Life 2. Gosh, basically.
I've got INSIDE (all caps! crikey) downloaded and ready to go too, but I'm actually having real trouble tearing myself away from XCOM 2. You guys might recall my apocalyptic grumpiness when that game first came out, but I'm thrilled to say that playing it now, with no less and two-dozen recommended mods and all of the DLC, it's finally a phenomenal piece of work. I've also been eyeing up Street Fighter V again, which has just enjoyed the addition of two more characters. Contender Season 2, anybody?
And what have you lot got planned for the weekend?
I promise this is the last time for quite a while that you'll pop over to Cool Ghosts to see a picture of a naked man with a bag on his head, but this is just a final plug for last week's charity stream. It's up on YouTube in three chunks, clicking the image above will begin the playlist. It's a long old thing, but we had a blast doing it and have almost raised £15,000.
Thanks so much for watching and donating - let us know which moment you enjoyed the most, and if you were one of the fine people sharing art in the stream, please do post a bit of it below!
Apologies for using a photo of Britain for the header image this week instead of art from a fun videogame, but it's been a bit of a tumultuous week. After our nation decided to crash the economy so that Boris Johnson could have a cool job, it's been a bit difficult to think about games. It's also been difficult to play any games, as the magic box in my building that does electricity exploded last night. (EXPLOSIONS!)
I spent last night eating melting lemon sorbet by the light of a candle, and awoke to find Britain covered in poo in a flat with no electricity or hot water. Honestly, I can't gripe - it's impeccably thematic. Importantly though, life continues! Tomorrow me and Chris Bratt will be live-streaming Dark Souls III: Pants Man from the Eurogamer offices, because they have electricity and are lovely people. If you'd like to donate to our charity event you can do so here, and if you're near London and fancy watching it with other people - go to Stratford's Loading Bar. 10% of the bar spend will go to charity, so if you're in the mood to drink drinks and peopleize with people - which is wholly understandable - it's a pretty good place to do it. Finally, I adore the fact that a local newspaper has taken my claim of playing Dark Souls till I'm exhausted as a literal, quotable fact. Small pleasures.
JOY. In other news of fiction becoming reality, I am enacting the joke at the end of our Subnautica video and playing still more of the current build instead of waiting for them to finish the darn thing. I’m in love. And speaking of love (and sex, and sex work) I’m absolutely loving the commercial release of VA-11 Hall-A. It keeps making me laugh, making me think and I can’t wait to squeal about it on the next Daft Souls. It’s also available on Steam, but buying it on itch.io will give the devs a little bit more of your cash.
This week on Cool Ghosts Matt and Quinns take a deep dive into a world where everything is apparently wetter and/or better. Subnautica! What a treat. We've specifically only used footage from the early bits of the game, because the stuff that pops up later is frankly a bit stunning. If you're sold on the basis of this video already, avoid reckless googles or even watching the official trailers. Surprises ahoy, captain.
This weekend myself and Mr Chris Bratt are continuing the now ANCIENT TRADITION of playing Dark Souls with a character who is only wearing pants. This is a video talking about what we're aiming to raise money for this year, and why. You can donate to the Just Giving page here, or text "PNTS64 £X" (where X is the amount) to 70070.
We'll be starting at 10am on Saturday, and continuing until we can no longer hack it. The stream will be broadcast initially on Twitch, and then uploaded to YouTube afterwards. Enjoy, thank you, and we hope to see you on Saturday!
Please note that for the early section of the video stream we had the wrong text message number on-screen. it is 70070, not 70700. Apologies for the confusion!
Matt is joined this week by Kate Gray to chat Sherlock Holmes: Crime & Punishment, unusual early-access God game Crest, Human Resource Machine, and Uncharted.
I decided against covering E3 this year, which understandably left many people feeling disappointed. I honestly respect that, and wouldn’t want to ignore it - my original ‘Abridged’ videos are the reason that most of you know I exist. They were deeply silly chunks of snark that hit a nerve back in 2013, and over time then increasingly didn’t.
The deeply cyclical nature of the industry meant the jokes worth making had mostly been spent, and poking fun at presentations had developed into such a widespread thing that some publishers had actively started playing up to it - rolling up with weird moments and pre-baked memes like a dad attempting to infiltrate a party.
Last year I attempted something different - a similar formula with a heavier emphasis on cultural commentary in addition to jokes - but since forming Cool Ghosts towards the end of last year my feelings towards E3 have notably changed. It wasn’t something I intended to talk about, but this week’s events have left me feeling compelled. Culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and yet video game culture seems adamant that it does. While the world around it fractures and changes, events like E3 simply plod on - willingly blinkered.
That a conference this year could showcase a new shooter less than a day after one of the worst recorded acts of firearm terrorism in history? Without so much as having the broader decency to begin that same presentation with perhaps a mention, perhaps a moment of silence? The industry’s inability to have these conversations - to admit the existence of an outside world - has frequently proved to be troubling in the past. In the world we exist in today, it’s almost sickening.
And maybe this wouldn’t be such a big issue if E3 had anything of value to offer.
E3 in not representative of what games can be. It isn’t even representative of what games currently are - it is merely a simple, unflattering window into the current state of mainstream entertainment culture. “Games are bigger than ever” - we’re proud to exclaim - but this celebration of cultural dominance never comes with any mention of fresh responsibilities.
The lavish presentations of violence are an obvious point to fixate on, but in reality we’re looking at a far broader rainbow of macho bullshit: a laser-targeted beam of marketing aimed to please a specific, lucrative audience. Not only are these presentations unrepresentative of games as a medium, they also frequently fail to represent the specific games being shown.
In the past we’ve seen E3 trailers that wrongly made nuanced games seem crass, but the current trend is to engineer the opposite - leading with thought-provoking concepts and issues to justify the following buffet of violence. The specialist press are provided with an angle; the ugly proposition now justified somewhat, perhaps poignant - worthwhile.
Whether wilful or merely a happy coincidence, it’s a trick that consistently seems to deflect the majority of complicated, wider conversations. Two years later the games arrive on shelves, and almost without fail these promises are forgotten. Triple-A games that are rooted in realism consistently share one key trait: they prominently talk about contentious issues whilst miraculously managing to say absolutely nothing. The suggestion in 2016 that the next wave of big-big hits will have some sort of cultural value simply isn’t a convincing facade at this point. I’m amazed it isn’t the elephant in the room. I’m not even sure it’s a massive dog trying to hide behind a curtain.
And then there’s the impetus to keep up with hype culture. In an era where we’re frankly drowning with brilliant games each and every month, many of us still struggle to fight the desire to consistently keep up with whatever feels NEW. It’s a perpetual loop that the industry often relies on, but I fail to see how this culture serves us. When you spend your whole life fixating on the future, what you've got today will always seem disappointing.
And whilst it constantly fixates on the future, so rarely what we’re shown even feels new - remakes reboots HD-’em-ups, fresh dollops of dollar carefully poured into yet another safe, familiar proposition. Bright, unusual suspects appear, but so frequently disappear before they make it to shop shelves. So much of the current business is nostalgia: a trite puppet-show pulling visible heartstrings.
At best, it’s bullshit that everyone goes along with simply because it consistently does decent numbers. At worst, it’s a gaudy celebration of an industry that largely continues to dominate culture whilst actively refusing to admit it might be part of it. And increasingly, it feels like maintaining this bubble is simply an essential part of the equation.
We’re looking at a culture that collectively that decided that it was OK to start marketing shooters less than a day after a man with an assault rifle killed 50 people. That’s fucked. In the wider context of the tragedy, it only gets worse: We live in an era which seems increasingly plagued by violence carried out by men who've somehow grown up to harbour extremely specific, damaging ideas about what they think it means to be a man. And yet the horrors are ignored, the cycle continues, and E3 continues to peddle a carousel of rubbish macho dreams.
In the cold light of a wider world where so much senseless hate and pain is rooted in how people view masculinity, converting E3 into a cheery slideshow of jokes and snark seems like a response that contributes to the problem - this belief that bombastic trade-show fluff is an inherently important part of the medium. The medium doesn't need it, and the world deserves better.
Matt is joined by Joe Skrebels for a chat about racing tiny horses and dabbling in other card-based games. Joe then dives into some of Superhot's bizarrely detailed secrets (expect spoilers) and both boys wax lyrical once again about Steamworld Heist.
At the start of this week I greedily dived into Hearts of Iron IV. I've always meant to investigate this series, with its dedicated simulationist approach to World War 2, endless knobs to twiddle and plans that you sit on and hatch like the chicken at the end of the world. Well, I don't mean to alarm anyone but holy smokes, I was not ready for the amount of knobs present. I'm desperate to play it further but I ended up playing Steamworld Heist all instead, and planning to return when I'm feeling a bit more capable.
This week I finally dipped my toes into Subnautica, which immediately grabbed me in a way I honestly wasn't expecting - such an irresistible sense of magic, tempered with a healthy gulp of fear. Torn now between playing more, or waiting until the game is closer to being finished. For now though, SteamWorld Heist has me for the third time - looking forward to playing through it all again with the Outsider DLC installed. And finally - after a few weeks of failing to click - I'm now really enjoying playing Overwatch. It seems the trick for me was to play it on PS4 instead of PC - the pace feels less frantic, the players are less skilled, there's far more space to enjoy the bright colours.
What are you guys up to this weekend?
A quick video about SteamWorld Heist, a game that - coincidently - also happens to be The Best Game Ever. I'll be tucking into the DLC this weekend. Enjoy!