I was trying to figure out why Gabriel would be playing Diablo III; I kept seeing his PSN account logged into it. If you’re down with the D or whatever it’s fine. Lots of people play Diorblo, specifically, lots of people not named Mike. Overwatch or Titanfall 2, certainly. I asked him about it, and he said that while his guts are still fucked up, playing “exciting” games hurts too much, and that playing Diablo - a game where you beat back unrelenting waves of hell monsters - is relaxing by comparison. Relaxing for the heroes, at least. It’s less relaxing for everybody else.
I try not to get in your face about stuff generally, I know that you have entire life that is not necessarily about reading my shit and I try to optimize your time. But! Somebody on Twitter asked me if the podcast - specifically, Downloadable Content: The Penny Arcade podcast - had come back. Except it’s been back for years! For years and years! If you haven’t been listening to the podcast because you thought it was over, or you didn’t know we had one, holy shit. I’ve got podcasts for days - and not just euphemistically. I mean that if you started listening to them now, multiple days would transpire before you were done. Even I listen to our podcast, which is is probably weird, but whatever. Get a load of these:
- Downloadable Content records the writing process behind the strip, and any bizarre conversations that get trapped in the amber.
- Acquisitions Incorporated: Season One is available as a podcast now also, with the Live Finale added to the feed. If you want to go way back, Wizards of the Coast has popped our classic adventures into a feed as well!
Now I’m getting paranoid. You know about the store, right? And that we’re making incredible, official Super Mario Bros. pins? And PAX South is coming up next weekend. Did you know that we host as convention?! Dabe and I will be streaming this afternoon at 2pm PST - on the Twitch channel we most assuredly do have. We have YouTubes also! Plural! I’m also going to link the comic page just in case. We didn’t just make the one you see today - there are lots and lots.
So, did sitting up for the amount of time it took to draw the strip feel good, or bad? Some combination? Good enough to offset the rest of it? I’ll ask him when we record the podcast today.
Gabriel doesn’t like Let It Die, and I understand why that would be. You have to read a ton of words, which has historically been my domain. It has what I would describe as fully two introductions, and only after the second one are you playing “Let It Die.” There are aesthetics that don’t parse as “art” for him, and the realities of the algorithmic, “roguelike” environments mean that he sees the same things over and over. It’s not worth arguing about: these things are all True. The difference is the amount of positive or negative charge we associate with each concept. When I think about how much enjoyment it’s given me over the last couple weeks, and how this enjoyment exists in some universe he can’t perceive, sadness is the only word for it.
“F2P Dark Souls” is the truncation, and you’ll see some touchstones as you play. Starting up, the fakeout they throw at you aside, largely involves opening and reading envelopes. Tons of envelopes. Try to imagine Gabriel’s rage. I long for the age of letters, so when I see an envelope I still get pretty cranked up, but that isn’t how he wants to interact with shit. He wants games to IV drip themselves out, that drip and that drop, a progressive revelation. Let It Die doesn’t do that and maybe it can’t. It takes place in a seismically generated spire of urban hellscape called the Tower of Barbs, which I’m pretty sure is a metaphor while also being a literal. Everything is heaped on everything else. You make an unsightly spire of knowledge to contend with the spire in the game. I started to type out a bunch of the things I was taught early on, and it kept going and going. It wasn’t a good time investment, because they’re gonna make you open all that shit anyway. But I need to know all of it. Raiding. Crafting. Character customizing Decals. Storage, timed rewards. Elevators. Haters. Freezers. Bathrooms (?). The game is untoward with its systems, and it doesn’t care if you like it. But if you give it a chance?
You will become trench-brothers.
I would say that the soundtrack is the auditory version of the Tower of Barbs. Everything in this game teeters beautifully, just on the edge of collapse.
You know what else is at PAX South? The Southern Debut of Acquisitions Incorporated - featuring the return of the elven archer Morgaen. We have relied on her in the past, and she answered the call. But do you know what else we have at this show? Tons and tons of rad music.
You know and love The Bit Brigade, and with good reason: it’s a crisp wedge of performance art that could only exist at this moment in time. The OneUps investigate the music of videogames, and report back with their unique interpretations. These two bands have delighted PAX for years, try to get in front of them if you can. But there’s a bunch of new faces this year, and I wanted to handle the intros:
Descendants of Erdrick suggest on the site that their album Advent is “a progressive-metal, RPG/Adventure themed album, inspired by epic soundtracks from epic video games.” What does that mean? Well, this:
Viking Guitar is just… blistering. Hot metal. Do not touch this superheated metal without gloves.
The last one on here is Mariachi Entertainment System. They just… everybody, listen. Listening to MES made me happy when I felt the opposite. See what this does for you:
PAX is, as I have suggested, a bunch of shows all happening in the same place. One of them is a Concert Festival, and it’s a very, very good one.
I’ll be calling Mike Krahulik here in a sec to write new strips; my suspicion is that he will like having something else to do besides writhe on the couch. Or, at least something to do while he writhes, just to leaven the anguish.
But here’s the truth: with Kris Straub at my side, I’ve been unleashed. Do you know how long I’ve been waiting to put the word verisimilitude in a Penny Arcade Strip? However long it’s been since November 18th, 1998. Actually, please don’t look for it, I probably managed to sneak that payload in at some point in the last twenty years.
The truth, of course, is that there are two gates that keep my worst propensities at bay: one is the three panel structure. I originally typed “stricture” there, a deviation that is meaningful. Devoid of art, they pretty clearly represent a prison. A word prison! This represents The First Gate. You can make that limitation a joke, but how many times could you actually get away with that?
The Second Gate is the person of Gabriel himself. He doesn’t suffer fools, and I often comport myself in a manner that is foolish or fool-adjacent. But it’s his labor that creates the strip, and I need to earn that labor. With Kris, and I’m not saying this is good or bad, it just is: I am myself, but with much greater density. If you ever listen to DLC: The Penny Arcade Podcast, (going by the capitalized letters, “The Dulcet Pap”) you know that I’m always trying to jam diagrams into strips, and what’s the first thing I did. Right? Overthinking things is a very Kris Straub trait, a fact I relate in love, and we talked for awhile about how maybe being hernial in some way is vital to performing “gabriel” in an art sense.
Probably not! That’s what I told him. Probably not.