Join Club PA

Tycho / 11 hours ago

Helldivers was such a cool surprise.  We didn’t really know about it before it came out a couple days before PAX East, on pretty much every type of Playstation there is.  On the earlier difficulties - the difficulty I crave, the difficulty that consistently reinforces my own godhood - there are periods where you’re just waiting for a timer to tick down, and you may be sort of checking your watch, like, okay.  I guess this is what I’m doing now.  But those spaces completely evaporate on harder levels, and you will long for those Good Times, times when you had nothing going on and were not being sliced into useful parts in the manner of a stolen Maserati.

Oh!  And just because you beat the level, that doesn’t mean you can stand anywhere you want.  You learn this one very quickly.

It’s from Arrowhead, which you may also know as the Magicka people or even as the Gauntlet people.  It’s basically Starship Troopers, the funny movie one, with a metagame that incorporates everyone’s play.  But it also makes some decisions that are oblique to the norm that really give the game its spine.  Twin Stick shooters in multiplayer can tend to feel a little mushy because there’s no friendly fire - they feel less real.  That doesn’t happen here: even automated friendly turrets will cut down your whole team if you don’t hit the deck.  So when somebody opens up the squad automatic weapon right over your prone body, cleansing a world with fire, it feels pretty fuckin’ real.

It does another thing I didn’t like at first: you can make requests of the carrier in orbit, defensive emplacements, drones, weapons, ammunition, that kind of stuff.  You do this by inputting a code similar to those of the Konami variety.  This twist didn’t feel especially necessary to me and felt like they were gilding the lily, or ungilding it, like maybe taking the gild off.  Whichever one is worse.  But that was because I learned to do it in an environment where managing this input was trivial.  It was like having a combination lock on your zipper.  I’m just trying to get in here, guys.  It felt very, very nominal.  It’s the sorta thing I gotta do all the time, in every game, and at first it felt like the most rote fucking don’t forget, you’re playing a videogame! type shit.

But when you are being one hundred percent encroached on by cyborgs, or the warrior caste of some kinda space insect, that “nominal” interaction you need to get more bullets because you are out of bullets is a very different story.  They extruded a very specific state of mind from people with that bit of design, the madness of a man in a trench screaming into a radio which may or may not work.


Gabe / 15 hours ago

Monday Sketchdump!

I’m about to get on another plane in a few hours but I wanted to get my Sketchdump posted real quick before I leave. Here’s some stuff I was working on last week:

-Gabe out


I picked up Bloodborne expecting not to like it. I’ve never played any of the Souls games and from what I’d heard, Bloodborne was the same sort of game. As I understood it, these were brutally hard games that seemed to generate equal amounts of frustration and joy. I’m not an especially skilled gamer and I don’t tend to play very difficult games. I get frustrated easy and I’m usually the first to read a game F.A.Q. when I get stuck. I just sort of assumed Bloodborne was not for me. Boy was I ever wrong.

Today’s comic is 100% accurate. I “quit” Bloodborne a bunch of times but I always ended up coming back to it. Every time I died (and I died a lot) I had the feeling that I could go back and do it better. It’s true that I was ridiculously frustrated and there were times when I had to keep clearing the same area over and over again that I wondered why I was doing this. I remember early on thinking that it must be impossible to fight more than one guy at a time. I avoided the big bad guys entirely. The starting zone was incredibly hard but I kept going back to it over and over again. Eventually I got through it, and it wasn’t because my gear got better, it was because I got better. That’s an incredible feeling.

Playing Bloodborne is sort of like free-diving. I think of the lanterns as diving bells on the”surface”. Each time you venture out into the world you’re sort of holding your breath and diving into an incredibly deadly place. You go a little further each time as you start to familiarize yourself with the area and its dangers. When you are deep into an area, far away from your lantern and carrying a bunch of loot, you feel the weight of the world around you. The thing about Bloodborne is that any jackass can kill you. If you’re not paying attention the dude at the beginning of starting zone can cut you down. Sometimes just getting back to the lantern can feel like an incredible accomplishment. Like breaking through the surface of the water and finally getting a breath. That’s a great feeling but the real thrill is pushing yourself further. When you keep pushing and you go past where you stopped before and then find yourself up against a boss. When you decide to commit to that fight and you beat them and find a new lantern, it’s like nothing I’ve experienced in a game before.

Last night Tycho and I were in a voice chat while we each played Bloodborne. We were not playing together, just talking while we each played our own game. We were sharing tips and I was helping him find a secret area I had discovered. It was awesome and I can’t remember the last time something like that happened. My guess is that no one “sort of likes” Bloodborne. I think you either hate it, or (like me) become completely obsessed with it.

-Gabe out

Tycho / 4 days ago

The first day, he quit on two separate occasions.  This is not weird in any way.  It would be like if you had just gotten a job and your job was to be kicked over and over in places ill-suited to jostling.  You would say, “Maybe this isn’t for me.”  Then I got this text:

I didn’t really want to tell him how to feel about it, I just wanted him to know that there was another camera on this scene and it was returning the same data.  He had unquit, but encouragement wasn’t what he needed; what he needed was to succeed.  I got this shortly thereafter: 

That’s it.  That is what people come to these games for; to seize the whip from your tormentor and choke him to death with it.  The “lows” in this game are the lows of the cemetery - of the grave-yard.  They are subterranean lows; their altitude is represented by a negative number.  They describe half an arc, and when you earn its upper equal, its bright sister, you may not know entirely how to contextualize the sensation.  It is not joy.  And that’s why I don’t super understand why I’m seeing this game written about everywhere.  This is the least mainstream game there is.  It’s the interactive, electronic equivalent of BDSM and the audience for it can’t possibly match the fevered coverage.  But I welcome anyone who wants to test the flesh of their palm against its edge.

Multiplayer doesn’t work in these games the way it works in other games.  You don’t invite your friend to your game and then they come help you.  Everything is very ritualistic, tied into the underlying narrative and systems, so I can’t open the Multiplayer Menu and choose from a list of friendly names and then win.  I will tell you that we tried last night to have him pop in to my game, and it didn’t work.  If it were any other game, I would say, “Well, that’s some bullshit.  Patch it, you fucks.”  But I tried to bring him to me by ringing a bell, and he rang his answering bell; we put a “password” in to make sure we joined each other, as opposed to a rando.  He never showed up, which I chalked up to the strange fluctuations of bell magic.

The game is about being alone; even inviting another person to help you is also simultaneously, inviting strangers to come into your game and kill you.  You are merely opening the door.  If I tried to summon a person from a parallel dimension this afternoon, say, it probably wouldn’t work a hundred percent of the time.  What’s strange is that I still felt, and feel, as though we were playing together; there is suffering enough to go around and it is the same suffering, but because we cannot share it, it is doubled on both sides.  People leave messages for each other, helpful messages, troll messages, all of it.  We’re waist deep in shit, and we are all alone, together.


Tycho / 5 days ago

I was surprised that my cohort went in for something like Bloodborne - he’s never accompanied me on any previous journeys into “From Software Bullshit,” except in one instance, which I will detail later.  The main thing that distinguishes the new one from the old cadre is that it allows (in a way) for a more traditional co-operative multiplayer, which is almost certainly what sold him a copy.

“Traditional” may be a misnomer, come to think of it, because while their work in this vein is traditional in its own context it doesn’t share a lot with other games.  They have their own bizarre width and breadth that maps primarily to themselves.  There aren’t many reviews of a “traditional” sort out there - a lot of previews, but nobody is rushing to affix a number.  I would say that the pressure to like Bloodborne, and to be named among the faithful, is very strong and I’m lucky that I do like it.  Because if you didn’t like it, this would be the worst way to spend your time that I can possibly imagine.

Oh, but review wise.  This review of “Day One” with the game over at Forbes communicates it with precision.  That’s about as real as a review of this game is gonna get.  When you describe what it’s like to play it to someone - let’s say, my wife Brenna - it doesn’t sound good.  It doesn’t sound like something you would do on purpose.  I would say that equipment is important in these games generally, it seems like it may be less so in Bloodborne, but the chief thing you need to succeed is a different, more perfect self.  So, if in a Metroidvania you amass at each juncture a revelatory device which reinterprets the space, here you are becoming something that can withstand the intense heat and pressure.  It’s like those game shows where you have to contort yourself to fit through the shapes in a moving wall.  Or, it is, until you begin walking confidently through wall after wall, in a ballet of flawless keyframes, leave the set through the back door, and squint at the sphere of hot light whose name you cannot entirely recall.

Bloodborne is a Sony Exclusive, which is sort of funny when you think about the history of From’s relatively recent excursions into brutality.  Demon’s Souls, the game that got this ball rolling, was published by Sony in Japan - we wouldn’t have gotten it at all if it weren’t for Atlus, who must have been startled to watch this thing grow.  Dark Souls and Dark Souls II went everywhere - anywhere that could handle it - there was even a weird PC version.  But Bloodborne is back at Sony, and the title screen seems to imply it’s theirs altogether, so this isn’t the illusory “timed exclusive” thing, it’s legit.  Functionally speaking, they have put a ring on it.

But Microsoft…  you know, From Software did something special for you, also.  Chromehounds.  Remember?  A game where people construct their own robots from parts could “activate social,” by which people in your line of work generally mean Social Media, and a persistent, multi-faction online campaign seems ready-made for a cloud-first company.  So, what do you say?  I can guarantee that you’ll sell three, maybe four copies, which I think is better than last time around.


What Club PA Offers

  • Ad Free Experience
  • Full Newspost & Comic RSS
  • Exclusive Content & Merch
  • Club PA Pinny Arcade Pin
  • PA Store Discounts & More!

Learn About Club PA

Follow Penny Arcade


New Stuff in The Store