The EZA Forum Hall of Greats (January 2023)

  • @brannox said in The EZA Forum Hall of Greats (January 2023):

    To @Oscillator for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3:

    Reading through your presentation, I quickly got slightly overwhelmed with the highly technical terminology, and as someone who isn’t into skating, it’s a difficult task for me to become invested when I have no idea what “Vert” and “Street” tricks are. Do you feel THPS 3 is welcoming to newcomers who have no affiliation/knowledge of the shorthand lingo in learning how to play?

    Speaking of which, I didn’t really notice much in your presentation how it feels to play and whether or not it’s easier or conversely more difficult to “pick up and play” without prior knowledge. Regarding gameplay systems, what does THPS 3 do that polishes the experience from its predecessors and conversely, does the likes of its direct sequel and the remake of THPS 1+2 offer an easier barrier of entry from a gameplay standpoint that makes THPS 3 not stand up to them as much?

    1A. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater brought skateboarding to the masses. While it does use a lot of "foreign" lingo, particularly the names of tricks, all you really need to understand to actually play it are the four central mechanics - Ollie (jump), Grab (grab board when in the air), Flip (jump and flip the board with your feet), and Grind (stand on your board and slide along a railing or edge). These are mapped to the four main face buttons on the controller, making it very intuitive. Which specific moves you perform doesn't matter much aside from a small penalty for doing the exact same one repeatedly. The bulk of moves are accessed by pressing a single direction along with one button press. Special moves get you the most points, and they do require more complex direction/button inputs, but you only need them for optional "Pro" and "Sick" scores and getting optional Silvers and Golds in competition levels.

    1B. THPS 2 and THPS 3 each added one additional move to the main moveset, both being linking moves to make longer combos. The manual balances you on two wheels when you're on the ground, and only needs an up/down or down/up direction input. It's typically used to combo together two Grinds whose railings are far apart. The revert is a bit more obtuse, but is the last move you learn in THPS 3's tutorial (which is a fantastic teaching tool for beginners, with a slow pace and explicit directions). When you go up a ramp into the air and come back down, you press the trigger just before hitting the ground to revert (turn the board) and continue your combo, typically with a manual.

    1C. Understanding the difference between street tricks (tricks done on or near the ground, like an ollie, manual, flip, or grind) and vert tricks (tricks done in the air from a upwards ramp, typically grabs and spinning around) only matters to the gameplay in that skaters who prefer street or vert have their initial stats adjusted more in that direction, and the one "trick" objective in each level is more suited to them (like a grab instead of a grind). But any skater can perform almost any move (with some restrictions on special moves), and collecting Stat Point tokens in the levels can let you even out the stats.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    2A. The first three THPS games are a very streamlined adaptation of skateboarding into video game form. You accelerate automatically, and can only lose your balance or crash ("bail") attempting tricks or going out of bounds. You have complete freedom to go anywhere in each level and do anything, and can complete as many or as few goals as you want in any order. Difficulty ramps up slowly with each new level unlocked.

    2B. The manual in THPS 2 and the revert in THPS 3 were the only significant gameplay features those games added, and both are really comfortable extensions to the formula. THPS 3's tutorial mode acts as a super gentle introduction/refresher for every mechanic in the game.

    2C. Aside from extended combos (meaning higher scores) made possible with the manual and revert, the core gameplay is virtually identical through each of the first three Tony Hawk entries. Outside of the revert, the most significant things THPS 3 added are all in my presentation - incredibly improved graphics, bigger and busier levels, slicker presentation including showing you the goals in cutscenes and special setpiece objectives. It's what one always wants in a sequel - the same, but bigger and better, and no disruptions to what made you love the previous entry.

    2D. THPS 4, however, is where the disruption started. It moved from 2 minute sessions with a goal list to semi-open world - taking away the arcadey immediacy - and largely continued in that direction until the final proper entry 6 years later. It also started adding mechanics that didn't integrate as smoothly as the manual and revert did.

    2E. 1 & 2 Remake in 2020 did strip the gameplay back down to the originals, restoring the 2 minute structure, and appropriately taking out the revert, but keeping the slightly lighter physics & smoother movement featured in THPS 3 onwards and the quick turnaround technique "Wallplant" introduced in later entries. It's a semi-hybrid that largely works, but visually it looks darker and more contrasty than even the original 1 & 2 did, sometimes even making it hard to see your surroundings. It's actually somewhat less of a polished/singular product than THPS 3, with an uneven UI and branding, and some minor new mechanical quirks.

  • @ffff0 said in The EZA Forum Hall of Greats (January 2023):

    Question for @Oscillator about Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3.

    I’m a gamer who can’t perform complicated inputs, like long button combinations and time-sensitive actions. I’ve never played Tony Hawk games, but from the outside they seem to require very precise inputs to achieve most of level’s goals. Since it’s a game in which new levels are locked until you clear enough goals on the previous ones, I will be forever stuck of the first level if I decide to play it. It’s perfectly fine to have tough goals and achievement only a few can accomplish but locking less capable players out of most of game’s content seems unnecessarily harsh by 2023’s standards.

    Do you agree that this game’s progression haven’t stood the test of time?

    The original Tony Hawk trilogy actually has fairly gentle progression. And with more space to move around, the goals illustrated in cutscenes, and the most flexibility in combos, THPS 3 might be the easiest of the three.

    The Tony Hawk franchise as a whole doesn't require a ton of precision at its base (and the original trilogy stays closer to this base than later entries). Aside from high scores, the typical goals include knocking over objects that are usually easily spotted, collecting floating "SKATE" letters that are usually easily spotted, doing a basic trick on or over a specific object (THPS 3's goal cutscenes will show the object), hitting/doing a trick on a trigger to wreck something, and finding the "secret tape".

    Those latter two goals do require more precision/timing/hunting around, but your peppy movement speed and tight controls make exploration comfortable, and while getting in position to "hit your line" can sometimes be annoying, a reasonably adept gamer should need, maybe, 25 minutes max for each of them? The most annoying thing you typically do is change position around the same spot & move the camera around, trying to track down the exact line you need to take for the secret tape (THPS's traditionally hardest goal, alongside the "Sick" score).

    But as I said in a previous answer, you can complete as many or as few goals as you want in any order (you need on average, I think, half to two-thirds of the goals on a level to unlock the next?), and difficulty ramps up slowly with each new level unlocked. Collecting Stat Point tokens can help you complete goals by increasing jump height, spin speed, and grind/manual balance.

    I must emphasize, the core gameplay of THPS is NOT absurdly complex and precise like a fighting game. You have leeway in landing tricks - tricks that need rotation in the air can be landed a bit off angle, and you can end a grind or manual at any time and retain your points by just jumping out of it.

    You can also avoid attempting special tricks which are trickier to pull off until the back half of the game. Even then, the input is usually just one extra direction press, you can change them to be quite basic like Up-Down-Y, and sometimes choose a special that executes faster (but scores lower).

    And if watching footage of grinding thin wires spooks you, perhaps the most signature mechanic of Tony Hawk is how you only need to jump close to an edge, hit the Grind button (or just hold it down during the jump), and your board snaps to it. Tony Hawk tends to be an arcadey experience (in the loose, playful sense).

  • To @ffff0 for Apex Legends:

    1. What would you say the biggest evolution Apex: Legends has seen in the past 4 years since its release? I'm only a dabbling Battle-Royale player, so what will make me want to jump into Apex: Legends right now that wasn't present in 2019?

    2. You commend the diversity of the characters in Apex: Legends, but do you think the depth of the characters matches their diversity?

    To @Brannox for The Last of Us Part I

    1. I've always found the gameplay of The Last of Us as brutal and unrelenting as its powerful story of survival and grit. However, there are a few detractors who become wearisome about the game's necessity for forcing you to craft supplies before you can proceed through the game. How would you encourage those detractors to see crafting in a more positive light?

    2. I usually play The Last of Us and think to myself that the story components it possesses have been done before in other mediums. I see elements of the Uncharted series, the John Hillcott-directed film The Road, as well as Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name, The Walking Dead, David Benioff's City of Thieves and other works. Do you feel there's an air of familiarity about The Last of Us when you play it in the sense that you have encountered similar experiences before?

    To @Shoulderguy for Portal:

    1.Portal is a game I didn't hear about until it became an immediate sensation to those who played The Orange Box. I still didn't get the appeal of it, as I don't play many puzzle games and I didn't buy The Orange Box either. How do you think Portal complements the other games in The Orange Box and do you think it could be seen as an afterthought to everything else on offer in the package?

    1. I look at Portal and think it's quite bland. I know Portal 2 fixed this and improved many aspects of the Portal experience, so why would those interested in Portal play the original over the more fully-featured and enriched sequel?

    To @Oscillator for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3:

    1. I see how Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 has a grander ambition than its predecessors, and has the ability to showcase that ambition on a greater scale thanks to the power of the sixth generation of consoles. Do you think THPS3 just ups the ante on its predecessors with new features more than anything else?

    2. I find that completing THPS challenges can be quite an arduous process at times. You're given a few minutes to accomplish objectives, which doesn't give you enough time to do anything substantial. Then when the time is up, your successfully completed objectives get crossed off, but then you have to replay the same level again to complete more objectives until you unlock the next area, where you'll do the same thing again. Isn't this a tedious loop? Do you feel like THPS3 might annoy people who just want to be able to complete everything in one go without being swallowed up and spat out again?

    To @Capnbobamous for Wii Sports:

    1. When I was 15 I saw Wii Sports as a game that ruined what Nintendo had wrought for its dedicated fanbase. At the time, I felt as though Nintendo was betraying dedicated players and letting in audiences who wanted nothing to do with games prior to that. Back then I was a silly sausage, but do you think Wii Sports and the figurative movement of making games more appealing to non-gamers would negatively impact longtime Nintendo fans?

    2. Do you think Wii Sports can appease those who want more meat on its bones? It's after all a slim tech-demo that's meant to showoff the Wii's functional capabilities-is that all there is to it?

  • Here're all my questions (I think)!

    For @ffff0 (Apex Legends):

    Watching footage of Apex Legends, I'm getting a strong sense of derivativeness. The art style & gameplay meta looks like a more mature/busier Fortnite, the gunplay looks like Destiny, and the characters look kind of Overwatchy. What element(s) can you point at that substantially makes Apex 'its own thing'?

    For @Brannox (The Last of Us Part I):

    1. From a distance, as someone not a part of the PlayStation ecosystem, Sony's modern-day tentpole first-party games such as Uncharted, The Last Guardian, God of War, and The Last of Us give me a strong sense of being glorified movies, with the narrative being much more prominent than the gameplay, what gameplay there is being basic, and a general lack of player agency - you follow the path the game lays out for you and little else. Can you dispel these assumptions?

    2. How dismal/depressing is the narrative? Is there ever a sense of hope, or is it like the movie "The Road", where nothing has a point anymore and the characters are surviving just for the sake of surviving? (I feel that works for a movie, where you are viewing it statically like a painting, but a game is hurt by stakes for the player being removed.)

    For @Shoulderguy (Portal):

    While I've yet to play Portal, I've seen a lot of it over the years, and the art style across the game doesn't seem to change much, and seems pretty stark as well; mostly white, grey, black, with quite flat lighting. This is actually part of why it's always been on the backburner of my to-play list - I'm always worried that the visual repetitiveness will make me burn out on it prematurely. How does the game manage to disrupt this potential monotony?

    For @JDINCINERATOR (Rayman Legends):

    What does Rayman Legends do to differentiate itself from Rayman Origins? At a quick glance, they look quite similar to me.

  • @jdincinerator said in The EZA Forum Hall of Greats (January 2023):

    To @Oscillator for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3:

    1. I see how Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 has a grander ambition than its predecessors, and has the ability to showcase that ambition on a greater scale thanks to the power of the sixth generation of consoles. Do you think THPS3 just ups the ante on its predecessors with new features more than anything else?

    2. I find that completing THPS challenges can be quite an arduous process at times. You're given a few minutes to accomplish objectives, which doesn't give you enough time to do anything substantial. Then when the time is up, your successfully completed objectives get crossed off, but then you have to replay the same level again to complete more objectives until you unlock the next area, where you'll do the same thing again. Isn't this a tedious loop? Do you feel like THPS3 might annoy people who just want to be able to complete everything in one go without being swallowed up and spat out again?

    1. All that THPS 3 retains from THPS 1 and 2 is the core gameplay. It looks very different, sounds different, the average level size is significantly increased, the UI is cleaner, and there are a bunch of minor quality-of-life improvements (increased field-of-view, less fine detail to make things easier to spot, slightly faster forward speed, more trick opportunities/less time spent just skating around).

    2. Some newbies might get annoyed at the repetition. It depends on how much the core gameplay hooks you. For me (and many others), it NEVER stops feeling good to do grind combos, get sick air, and find better and cooler trick spots (which the games reward you for with "gap" bonuses). The most purely fun level in all of Tony Hawk might be THPS 3's final competition level, Tokyo, which has SO many rails, SO close together (and with SO many "gaps"), that it feels like no matter where you jump, you can't help BUT combo! THPS 3 also has a great, lightly humorous atmosphere - it's more charming to skate around in than other Tony Hawk entries.

  • Response to @JDINCINERATOR regarding changes in Apex Legends since launch and depth of its characters.

    This will also be a very long response, sorry about that.

    There are lot’s of changes in many different areas, and depending on your interests some may feel more important than others. So let me run through the most significant ones (in my opinion).

    At launch there were 8 Legends and one map, now we have 23 characters, 5 Battle Royale maps and several maps used exclusively in other modes. This may seem like just a number increase, but new maps and new Legends bring significant changes to how you play the game. For example, Storm Point map has PvE areas where you can hunt monsters for loot (or be harassed by them if you passing through) – and it is the only map with such gameplay element. Or addition of Valkyrie to the roster completely changed existing maps as now you can fly over the mountains instead of having to go around them. My favorite Legends and maps are all post-launch additions, and you may easily find something that speaks to you that wasn’t there in 2019.

    There are many changes and additions to game modes. Arenas, a mode where you fight against one team in multiple rounds, was introduced in 2021. Ranked Leagues were added in second half of 2019, but were significantly reworked last year, and those changes enticed me to give this mode a try. New limited-time modes are added each year and at this very moment you can play Control, which is about capturing and holding three zones to earn points. I’ve played it past weekend with folks who don’t play Apex Legends – they loved the mode and thanked me for suggesting playing it. Custom lobbies are also now publicly available, so if you have a lot of friends, you can organize your own private match or a tournament.

    Lot’s of quality of life improvements that may be insignificant on their own but together make for much better experience. Cross-play was added in late 2020. You can reconnect to a match now if your game crashes or your internet stops working for a moment, which wasn’t possible at launch. Last year a lot of new types of combat-related voice lines were added, so battling as a team without voice chat is even easier now.

    For me personally, the most important improvement are character’s stories and interactions. At launch all Legends weren’t very far from stereotypes (which was done intentionally to not overwhelm players of a brand-new game), but with each new season writers were adding more and more layers, so when I jumped into the game in 2021 I’ve discovered a rich world with fully fleshed characters that have attitudes, relationships, fears, who speaks differently depending on whom they talking to. At that time, I wasn’t a multiplayer gamer, I was even convinced that playing against AI is more fun than playing against real people, and I didn’t expect to play Apex Legends for more than one evening (I was just killing time waiting for a new single-player game release). But the narrative grabbed me, I fell in love with the cast and the world and kept playing just for the story. And as I did, I slowly discovered all those things that make PvP games so enticing for so many players, and started to appreciate them too. The lack of such storytelling was the reason why I stopped playing in 2019, and the riches of game’s narrative is the reason why I can’t stop playing it now.

    Which brings us to your second question about the depth of diverse Apex Legends’ cast. First of all, characters aren’t added to the game to check some boxes on a “diversity list” and their origins, genders, sexualities, etc. are presented with a lot of care and sincerity. I’m a straight white guy and surely miss a lot of nuances, but even for me it’s obvious that writers do a lot of research and talk to a lot of people to make sure that they do it right and go beyond the surface. For example, the newest Legend – Catalyst – is a trans woman. There’s a loading screen in the game that comes with a log of her chat with her friends, and in this log she is referred as “he” because this dialog took place before her transition. A small detail but it shows that everyone has a history that shaped them into who they are today.

    Secondly, character’s diversity is only one aspect of who they are and only one of the reasons they have certain relationships. I’ll give you one example to illustrate that: Loba and Valkyrie. Loba is bi-sexual lady and Valkyrie is a lesbian woman, and they currently have very close relationships. Is this in the game just for the sake of having lesbian lovers? Absolutely not.

    Loba’s parents were killed by Revenant when she was a child, and she wanted to avenge them ever since. Years later she discovered a way to kill Revenant for good (he is a simulacrum and his consciousness jumps to another body when his current is destroyed). But right before the opportunity arrived, she learned that he is suffering and wishes to die. So instead of killing Revenant, Loba got rid of the only thing that can destroy him, so that he would keep suffering like she did.

    Valkyrie’s farther was a mercenary and died when she was a child. For years she wanted to avenge him by killing the commander of his unit. But when she met the man and talked to him, she realize that pulling the trigger will make vengeance the defining action of her life, which is not whom her farther wanted her to be. The knowledge that she could was enough for her and she began to live for herself and joined Apex Games.

    The two ladies met and their similar past helped them to bond. Loba kept her distance however as Revenant promised to kill everyone she loves for what she did to him. It took a lot of effort for Valkyrie to ease Loba’s mind and convince her to think about herself instead of the murderer of her parents. They got close, yet Loba was still occupied by the shadow behind her back, making both her and the person who loved her to suffer. Valkyrie tried, but eventually realized that she can’t take it anymore, so she decided to make a deal with the devil – Revenant – behind Loba’s back. And this is where we are now.

    Loba’s and Valkyrie’s relationship is much more that “lesbian lovers”. It’s a story of two women, who were on similar paths and made opposite choices at the most crucial moment. It a tale of revenge and how it can slowly destroy you from inside unless you let it go. It’s about how far we can go for the loved ones and how can we lose ourselves in the process. Yet it also a saga of hope, of how two tortured souls can find piece and support each other though the darkest of times. This is very deep and very emotional narrative, and I literally have tears in my eyes as I’m writing this. And this is just one story of many.

  • Response to @Oscillator regarding what makes Apex Legends its own thing.

    We all have tendencies to categorize things by their looks and put new into familiar boxes. Sometimes this is warranted, as some games are indeed following the footsteps of their predecessors. But sometimes looks can be deceiving and once you play the game you realize that it stands on its own. Apex Legends is without doubt of a second type, it’s a game that is not just is its own thing, but is its own kind of things. And this is the reason why its player base keeps growing and why this game thrives, while many others were relegated to history books, including such juggernaut names like Battlefield V's Firestorm.

    Let’s start with the most obvious comparisons – other popular battle-royale games. Apex Legends is the only one that puts team in the front and center, while Fortnite, Warzone, PUBG and others are designed for solos. Yes, they have modes for duos, trios and four players, but those games are not designed around those modes. For example, in Warzone you go to Gulag when you die, where you fight for your life on your own and earn second chance all by yourself. You may then respawn near your comrades, but you still be just a bunch of solo players who happen to have a voice chat. Fortnite copied respawn mechanic from Apex Legends (as well as many other things, like sliding downhill), but it still remained a game designed for solos, which is proven by the fact that Fortnite e-sport events are for individual players, not for the teams. I’m not saying that you can’t play other battle royale games with your friends and have fun – you absolutely can, but if you want to not just hang together, but be rewarded for playing as a well-oiled team, you should really consider playing Apex Legends.

    It's a bit harder for me to compare Apex Legends to other character-based games as I barely played anything else, and a single play session doesn’t give you a good idea of what game is offering. But what immediately stood out to me is that in Apex Legends is that characters talk differently depending on whom they are interacting with. There are voice lines that you’ll hear only when one particular Legends revives another particular Legend, or when one specific character thanks another specific character for provided loot. Overwatch has many different heroes, but when I played the game, it felt like everyone exist in their own bubbles, like character's dialogs are there only for gameplay purposes. In Apex Legends characters and not just collection of skins and gameplay mechanics – they are fleshed out people that inhabit the same place, have a history and react accordingly to each other both when they are on the same team and on the opposite sides (for example, Bangalore and Newcastle are siblings and there is unique animation and dialog when he finishes her).

    Another differentiating aspect of Apex Legends is movement and mobility. Maybe only Doom Slayer and Faith from Mirror’s Edge can keep up with Legends as they easily climb on building’s roofs, jump across wide gaps and drop down from tall structures without taking any fall damage. Most other games feel slow, even sluggish in comparison – when I’ve played Overwatch 2 I was questioning why it has jump mechanic if even small fences are unsurpassable obstacles.

    You’ve also mentioned the gunplay of Destiny and those are two very different shooters. In Destiny guns have levels that define their performances, so unless you at the right level you’ll either obliterate everyone or be stuck until you’ll realize that it’s time for another grind. In Apex Legends guns are just guns, and there are no better versions of the same gun – attachments can improve handling, give you better optic or magazine, but they will not change bullet’s damage. You have a gun – you have a chance to win, simple as that. Of course, there are shooters with similar weapon systems, but gunplay is the fundamental of the genre, so both on mechanical and tactical levels you can’t change much without becoming Borderlands. The important thing is whether guns feel good to shoot from and in Apex Legends they absolutely do.

    As for art style – this is an incredibly subjective thing, and what looks distinct for some may feel similar to others. So, the only thing I will say here is that Apex Legends’ art style finds perfect balance between being functional and pretty. When I play the game, I have no problem with identifying important elements of my surroundings, like cover and flanking opportunities. When I watch the VOD, I see decorations and environmental details that clearly communicate what was the purpose of this place before it was given to the Apex Games. Was it possible to make each game’s environment look more unique? Probably, but I bet that it would made them harder to play in, so developers made the right call here.

    To summarize, you can absolutely find similarities with other games for each of Apex Legends’ aspects, which may be the reason why game’s footage looks familiar. But a game doesn’t need to assign jumping to unexpected button to be unique as the sum is much more important than individual components. This is hard to show in a short video – you need to play the game yourself or listen to someone you trust. Hopefully, I was convincing enough, and you will take my opinion into consideration.

  • Many apologies for this wall of a post.

    Answering @JDINCINERATOR's question on detractors to the crafting and how to make it more appealing:

    Crafting is a mechanic that I don't see utilized as much (or perhaps it is, but with the games I play/follow/listen about, crafting isn't brought up), and it's a nuance that goes underappreciated. Having to make sure you have the necessary materials to make first-aid kits, shivs, molotovs, and so on puts you in control of how prepared you want to be. Technically you don't HAVE to craft. If you're good enough, you can get by without it. However, I personally feel it feeds into the gameplay loop quite well, because you have to search for very limited ammo and/or weapon parts to make your firearms more powerful, so you're already looking for stuff to begin with. Expanding upon that, having different recipes leveraging the same ingredients gives you pause on what to use. Let's look at two of the examples I provided a second ago: First-Aid kits and Molotovs. They both use alcohol and rags, but one heals you, the other: an offensive area-of-effect attack (that's quite loud I should add). But in that world, rags and alcohol are limited (especially the higher you go on difficulty, the scarcer the supplies), so you have to decide what you value more and what the situation dictates. On top of that, making sure you're in a spot where you can craft to begin with is vital, since it's done in real time. No hard-stop cut to a pause menu to pick your options. Are there still patrolling infected and Clickers? Well you need to hide or stealthily clear out some of the enemies without relying on your equipment, because it's quite frightening as you're deciding what you need when you hear a scream right next to you as you're discovered, interrupting you, causing a commotion, and bringing all kinds of hell upon you. This makes things more believable and engaging, requiring you to always be aware: Of your surroundings, of your supplies, of your strategies.

    Answering @JDINCINERATOR's question on the familiarity of inspirations and other similar games/movies/books/works of fiction:

    Personally, not at all, because aside from Uncharted, I've never experienced any of the examples you gave. Objectively, it would be folly to say the Last of Us is truly unique across any medium before or since. So much out there draws inspiration from something, and The Last of Us is no different. Now, because I have no reference of The Road, never cared to look into The Walking Dead, nor thought about Uncharted when playing The Last of Us (I think the differences far outnumber the similarities), I can't say how close to/far off The Last of Us is from these examples. And conversely, I will not rule out seeing something for the first time (be it a new IP or any of your examples) and think, "Huh, this is like The Last of Us." Ultimately, it comes down to each person's own experience to similar media prior to experiencing the game (or hell, now I can say even the TV show). While I can't say there's a familiarity to those (and other) franchises when I play, I can only speak for me and my interests (and like thereof), whereas using yourself (and PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong) going off your examples, it may be derivative of other things, but that doesn't really mean it's any worse or better, because it's its own thing, and it's critical, commercial, and cross media success speak to that.

    Answering @Oscillator on if The Last of Us is a glorified movie, prioritizing narrative over gameplay lacking complexity/player agency:

    While The Last of Us does stand alongside Uncharted, God of War, Horizon, and others in being Sony first party games with excellent stories, I push back on The Last of Us having a lack of player agency (and I would point out the likes of Horizon, Spider-Man, and modern God of War are not simply following a path with little else as they have large open worlds/zones with many side-quests/activities, but that's another discussion, for another time, in possibly another thread). Looking above to one of my answers to @JDINCINERATOR, I demonstrated above how the crafting system gives you the tools to equip yourself with what you want/need from weapons and healing and it's up to you if you want to kit yourself out or ignore it. Beyond that, in an answer I gave to @ffff0, I touched on several areas in the game where, you can just get from point A to B if you want to, but doing so causes you to miss crucial items from weapon parts to ammo, Supplements to optional conversations, and even collectibles like world building notes, comics, and caches like stuck Shiv doors and safes. Again, bypassing these is NOT recommended, both in terms of gameplay (making sure you're prepared for any situation) and world building (learning more about Ellie and her view of the world), but you have the choice.

    To go even further on an aspect I haven't touched on too much yet is the combat: Stealth is the way to go, because doing so allows you to make sure you're not burning through ammo while making sure you keep yourself healthy. But if you're the type to walk out into a space at the start of a combat encounter and just open fire at the first target you see like an announcement of, "Alright chumps! Come get you some!" then hey, all the more power (and best of luck) to you. The only other thing about linearity is the more frequent level design and while I JUST referenced things like Bill's Town, I do concede there are quite a few segments (the entirety of Boston, Jackson, and Salt Lake City for example) where the paths are many literal corridors, but other places like the University, the Lake Resort, and even some segments of Pittsburgh do have some variety in how you can get through them. But still, as a whole, I'm not thinking about those things as I'm focusing on the enemies and how to get past them.

    Answering @Oscillator how dismal/depressing the narrative is, and if there's ever any hope:

    There's absolutely shades of both, going from the former to the latter. I would say there are three main narrative beats that provide the sense of defeat and a "WTF?!?!" reaction (And because this is cross examination, I feel spoilers are fair game): The opening prologue with the loss of Sarah, the deaths of the brothers Henry and Sam at the radio tower, and Joel murdering Marlene. They serve as reminders, that that world is harsh and dreary, but they sharply contrast excellently with all the light-hearted moments in between. Finding aforementioned collectible comics, and getting to hear Ellie's excitement of wanting to know that story's conclusion. Listening to Ellie through optional conversations as you gain a look through her eyes of the world from a weathered teen movie poster, a long-defunct arcade cabinet, listening to her crack some pretty awful (great) puns, and of course perhaps the most famous scene of the entire game: petting the giraffe, and spending as long as you want staring out at a group of them as they feed on some far trees and walk away. One of the most beautiful things about that moment is it's entirely up to you on how long you want to sit there (tying it back to your first question). Walk up to the ledge, press Triangle, and set the controller down for as long as you like. Soaking in the beauty, and contemplating what you've experienced.

    Which, to that end, the giraffe moment comes right after the showdown with David in the burning steakhouse after some implied AWFUL things David was trying to do, and Ellie absolutely going ape-shit on his face with a machete. In the moment Joel finally reunites her to snap her out of the blood-rage of surviving a horrific experience. I bring this up because you hear Joel call Ellie "baby girl" which comes after such a long journey of growing closer to her and seeing her as a surrogate daughter, as opposed to when they first met when he wanted nothing to do with her. In Ellie, Joel sees a hope to start over: To be a father once more that was robbed from him decades prior. Which brings me back to that moment at the end with Marlene. He dooms the human race (a quite depressing concept), for his selfish hope of not losing someone he grew to love.

    And this ENTIRE time, in both presentation and all the answers I've given so far, I haven't even touched on Left Behind. It's provided completely free as part of the Part I package on PS5, and that short DLC segment is a wonderful microcosm of your question: In the main game, when playing as Ellie, you can open her backpack and take out a Firefly dog tag with her friend Riley's name and get a "I miss you." (Entirely missable by the way) And in the very last cutscene when Ellie is confronting Joel about his decision, she brings up Riley's death as not having any meaning, where Ellie's would have been. In Left Behind (if you played the main game first), you already know Riley's going to die, but the ENTIRE DLC when you're in the flashback sequences up until the very last scene is all about to 14 year old girls finding fun in an abandoned shopping mall and having a good time with another for one last night. Taking silly pictures in a photo booth, riding a merry-go-round, discovering Ellie's love of her pun book, wandering around a Halloween shop trying on different masks and talking about different spooky decorations, having the arcade fighting sequence, the brick throwing contest, and the water gun fight ALL show a sense of joy and companionship excellently written and acted, making you temporarily forget the cruel world you're in, and the inevitability that's to come.

    In short, yes, on its surface, The Last of Us is quite a dreary game, and the biggest plot points are tragic in nature (and as a result stand out more), but all the quiet moments and conversations in between truly shine with their implementation, thus endearing the characters and their story.

    Again, sincerest apologies for how long this got. Many heartfelt and immense thanks for reading if you did.

  • Second question for @Brannox about an The Last of Us Part I.

    In your responses to questions you advocate a lot for the gameplay of The Last of Us Part I. So how do you feel about the fact that this version of the game is missing a huge portion of gameplay that is beloved by many – the multiplayer? And in general, do you agree that it’s a problem that The Last of Us has no definitive version and you will not have the best possible experience no matter which edition you’ll buy?

  • @oscillator In response to Rayman: Legends

    Rayman: Legends is a crazy evolution of what Origins brought to the Rayman franchise. Legends looks marvelous and a is a beautiful visual and artistic upgrade to Origins, but it's also far more exciting and ambitious than Origins was. Go and compare how they both look and witness how ravishing Legends is-it's so gorgeous looking. I feel Origins looks flat next to the liveliness and energy blossoming through Legends-the difference is quite spectacular.

    The platforming gameplay meanwhile, is leaps and bounds ahead of what Origins had to offer, because you bound forward with breakneck momentum and the calamity that can ensue will make levels a thrilling rush to complete. Origins was comparatively slower, even though it still managed to generate some wonderful segments of platforming.

    In Origins there was only a map screen to choose the levels you want to bop your way through, but it Legends you are greeted by this lavish art gallery with many paintings representing the levels and challenges in the game. It's a huge evolution from what Origins did, making navigation more pleasurable and whimsical and not so threadbare and bland like Origins menu navigation was.

    Legends has a wealth of content that Origins can't match. There are so many challenges, teensies to collect and co-op mischievousness to revel in, that Origins is lightweight by comparison. Legends keeps on giving and giving, that's where its strength over Origins truly shines. Oh and you can play Origins levels in Legends too!

    So to wrap it up, Legends has plenty more to offer, looks grander and is more ambitious than Origins was. Origins is a lovely game, but Legends is bursting with content and excellency in platforming level design that I think makes it the superior game.

  • Answering @ffff0 regarding the lack of Factions in this version of the game.

    I actually do not agree there's a lack of a definitive version, for either mode. What I've nominated is the definitive version of the main campaign, as it has updates and improvements the original and Remastered do not have. As far as the multiplayer, the definitive version is coming. If Naughty Dog is to be believed, we'll see/hear about the multiplayer project at some point this year, so that will be its own stand-alone experience for those who have been craving the multiplayer. As someone who has not (and will not) touch the multiplayer, I argue it's a good thing both are their own separate games. And while I would argue the majority who play The Last of Us do so for the main game proper (though I lack quantifiable metrics to support this assumption), the stand-alone multiplayer game will be there for those who are looking for that experience, while those like me can simply choose to not engage with it.

    In summary: The Last of Us Part I via PS5 is the best possible experience for the single player. The coming multiplayer game will be the best possible experience for said multiplayer suite.

  • Just wanted to say that everyone brought excellent games and made strong cases for them. I feel like I will need to re-read every post in this thread to figure out how to vote. GGs!

  • Can I answer someones question as a bystander? I want to hop in so bad on one response haha.

    Nice work everyone. Two of these games are all time classics for me. You all know my #1. I was going to partake but I really didn't have time to make a presentation as I didn't prep ahead.

  • @dipset I knew we were missing one of the key ingredients to this panel.

  • Response to @Brannox and @ffff0 regarding the length of the game.

    I love the fact that Portal's average runtime is under four hours. I play many games and some of them are way longer than they need to be.

    Games like Portal that start, take a little of your time and finish strong are really refreshing. You get a perfect experience without having to spend extra hours doing repetitive side content in order to see the best parts of the game. Portal gives you it's best, without any added filler content. So the shorter runtime isn't a bad thing in this case.

    There's also a modding community that has created some great stuff for those who want more Portal. Some of these mods are practically their own games and are worth checking out.

    Response to @Brannox regarding replayability.

    It's true that Portal doesn't have much replay value after you finish the game. I don't think this is a problem specific to Portal, it's just the way puzzle games are made. Maybe more random elements would've helped but I believe it would also hurt the overall quality of the game. I wouldn't want to sacrifice any of the aspects that make it special only to make it more replayable.

    Response to @JDINCINERATOR regarding The Orange Box.

    I purchased The Orange Box mostly for the Half-Life games so playing Portal was an afterthought for me. Then after playing Portal I was completely blown away by it. I'm not even a big puzzle game guy but it was easily my favorite game in the collection.

    It's possible that Portal not being the main draw of the collection worked to it's benefit. A short new IP puzzle game with little buzz around it at launch probably would've had trouble finding it's audience but The Orange Box allowed it to reach that audience.

    Although it's a well-regarded collection, Portal is the standout game that received the most praise from critics and it's the only one of those games to receive a follow-up sequel. It may have been an afterthought at release but that's definitely changed now.

    Response to @JDINCINERATOR and @Oscillator regarding the visuals and art style.

    The visuals and art style of Portal do a great job to help tell the story. This game doesn't use traditional cut-scenes so the environmental storytelling has to be extra on point. The quiet, clean, clinical look of the test chambers try to hide what's really happening. The claustrophobic areas make you feel uneasy, and the office windows throughout the game make you feel like you're being watched.

    Eventually, you do start to see more of what's hidden and discover areas that are not meant for you to see. Those environments you traverse towards the end of the game are different and look amazing. It also gives you peek behind the curtains of the test chambers you've previously only seen from the inside.

    Also, The overall look of Portal may seem simple but I think it gives the game it's own distinct style.

  • I only have two questions, which are admittedly pretty late into the cross-examination phase so if you are unable to answer them in time, I understand. Was much busier this week than I anticipated, so that's on me. I will answer questions posed to me in a few hours.

    Question for @ffff0:

    I understand that the game is season based, so my question is how do the characters grow and change from season to season? In other words, are there characters who have changed and grown significantly since the game first came out? Have there been any legitimate character arcs, ongoing or otherwise?

    Question for @Shoulderguy:

    I think Portal 2 is one of the greatest games of all time, and yet when I play the first game I find that its scope is severely limited when compared to 2. The second game takes everything the first Portal does and makes it grander and more expansive. Why do you feel like this game is worthy of being entered into the Hall of Greats over its successor?

  • Response to @Capnbobamous regarding character’s growth and stories evolutions from season to season.

    Character’s arcs do evolve from season to season and this story progression is one of the main reasons why I’m playing this game month after month. Firstly, each season introduces new character whose personality or background collides with many members of existing cast. Their interactions often show familiar characters from a different angle or help them realize something about themselves or others. For example, last season Vantage joined the roster. She is a young girl who grew up with her mother on deserted planet, so her social skills are almost non-existent. Her blunt questions and direct observatory comments when she talked with Fuse and Bloodhound helped them realize that both want to be more than just friends but were scared to take the next step first.

    Besides interactions with the newest Legend, many existing storylines and character relationships are also progressing with each new season. For example, Wraith was in the game since launch and her past was a mystery even to her. During season 2 we’ve learned that voices in her head that warns her about the danger are actually other Wraiths from different dimensions. In season 5 she was unwillingly enlisted as group’s way into other dimensions where most of the cast was looking for an artifact that can kill Revenant, and in season 6 other Legends helped her to learn a few things about her past. When season 8 started we’ve learned a lot about her first few days after she arrived in this dimension and how she was desperately trying to figure out who she is. During season 9 she and Bangalore (also in the game since launch) had an honest conversation that helped them to get over their animosity and agree to help each other. In season 12 she obtained evidence suggesting that Bangalore’s brother had died. She brough the news to Bangalore and were there to support her. In season 13 Bangalore’s brother was found to be alive, which also led Wraith to meeting someone who knew her real name. She also discovered that she was in charge of experiment that turned her into who she is today.

    Then I want to mention that some characters had story arcs even before they became playable Legends. For example, simulacrum Ash first appeared in Apex Legends in season 5 as a broken shell, whose head other Legends were assembling to get important intel from her memory. In season 6 she was staying with Pathfinder until Apex Games’ commissioner contacted her. In seasons 7 and 8 we’ve learned a lot about scientist Ashleigh Reid who lived almost 100 years earlier. In season 9 Ash became an overseer of Arenas, and through her interactions with Horizon it became obvious that she knows something about Horizon’s past. In season 10, Horizon cracked Ash’s mind and learned that when Ashleigh Reid was mortally wounded she agreed to transport her mind into simulacrum Ash, but the process caused the split of her personality and her “more evil” side took over. And in season 11 Ash had joined the roster.

    To answer your question about character’s growth – there are many characters who are not the same people we saw initially. Caustic was a sociopath running lethal experiments on human beings, but his continuous interactions with Wattson and his reunion with his mother pushed him significantly towards being humane. Wattson was found by other Legends when she was hiding beneath a table in despair – now she can take a stance and fight hard for what she believes in. It took many seasons for Bangalore to figure out that she is attracted to women, but now she knows. Crypto was paranoic and did everything himself, now he trusts Wattson with his live and relies heavily on her. And relationships change drastically too – Lifeline and Octane were friends since childhood, but their recent actions had burned that bridge.

    One last thing I want to say is that while many story arcs are ongoing, some do reach conclusions and lead to a brand-new narrative adventures. Pathfinder wanted to find out who created him and why since game’s launch – he learned everything in season 8 and is now looking for “his child” - another robot that was created from his spare parts. Bangalore wanted to find her brother and she did it in season 13, but the reunion wasn’t as happy as she hoped. Rampart’s weapon shop was burned down – for a while she had to operate from Mirage’s apartment, but in season 10 she opened up her own place. So while there is a lot of lore and you may not get all reasoning without reading a wiki if you jump into the game today, you will not be completely lost, and should be able to figure out "who is who" pretty quickly.

    To summarize, there are numerous legitimate character arcs both ongoing and completed, and characters and their relationships do evolve from season to season. Many people beg for Apex Legends anime not because they want to get more story, but because what’s already there will make an incredible TV series.

  • Alrighty here are my responses. For the sake of the aggregation list, I am going to answer them each in a separate post.

    Response to @Brannox’s Questions

    1. I think the sports work because they are part of a package deal. I don’t think they would necessarily cut it if they were sold separately. However, I don’t think they should have to. Wii Sports gives you five sports to choose from, each of which are very fun in different and unique ways. They don’t have to stand as individual games because they are designed to be part of a collection. It is that variety that allows Wii Sports to work so well. You’ll do a few rounds of baseball, have a blast, and then switch things up and give golf a shot. None of the sports could possibly overstay their welcome because you can always switch to a new sport, and with each sport comes a new challenge and a new way to have fun. So to answer your question, no they would not work if sold separately, however they make a wonderful game when packaged together.

    2. Wii Sports is a casual game through-and-through. It’s not really designed for three hour long gaming sessions, it’s more designed as something that is really easy to pick up and put down whenever you want, so whilst I understand complaints about it only having five sports, I think that fatigue you mentioned only comes from playing for advanced periods of time. In my opinion, five sports is perfectly adequate for what the game is trying to accomplish, and in fact I think adding more would have possibly lessened their quality. Take Wii Sports Resort, for example. Now, I enjoy Wii Sports Resort quite a bit, however it is bloated with too many sports, and as a result there are quite a few that are forgettable and uninteresting. Wii Sports completely avoids that issue by focusing solely on the five sports, making sure that each one is as fun as possible. Resort sees Nintendo’s attention getting spread too thin, whereas in the original they are able to devote all of their energies into making these five sports great. And they are great. Wii Sports is a smaller package, I admit, however it is because of that that it’s the perfect casual game.

  • Response to @ffff0’s Question

    Great question. I think Wii Sports has plenty to offer to a group of seasoned gamers, and I think it works pretty well as a solo game as well. I truly think Wii Sports can be fun for everybody. It is simple, yes, but it’s far from boring, and it offers an experience that can be just as enjoyable to a hardcore gamer as it is to a grandmother. One of the people that I often played the game with was my older brother, somebody who had been playing games for as long as he remembered. He and I would play it all the time, both of us being well familiar with video games and yet still having a blast with the game’s simple pleasures. So to answer your question, I think a group of seasoned gamers can have a blast with it. It’s just fun, plain and simple.

    As for playing by yourself, I often did that as well! The game’s mechanics are inherently fun regardless of whether or not you have somebody to play with, and I remember being adequately challenged by the AI as well. The game is certainly better with people, I won’t deny that, but it is plenty of fun if you want to tackle it solo. I’ve found that it can also be a very relaxing experience when played solo as well. The stakes are very low, there’s not a lot of buttons or anything like that to worry about, it’s frankly soothing.