The best way to sum up my experience with Paratopic is this: The first time I played Paratopic, I didn’t like it; the second time I played it I liked it a little more, but the only reason I bothered replaying it was to get screenshots for this article. Nevertheless it’s an interesting game, with some neat ideas, and some good execution.
So, what’s the deal? Why is this how I experienced the game?
I was hearing a lot of buzz about the game on Twitter so I decided to check it out. (Worth noting is that since I started writing this, the developers have released an update which adds new content. I have not played the updated version. This is all based on the earlier version. You can get the game for yourself on itch.io.)
“Daniel Floyd Is A Fool And Raven’s Will Peck Out His Eyes”
There’s this video posted by Dan Olson on his Folding Ideas youtube channel?/page?/account? It’s Daniel Floyd (writer for Extra Credits) talking about,
“…the very first game that I played that really made me… start thinking and looking for ways that games could do something with the narrative that nothing else could.”
For him, it was the ending to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, which he states,
“… was the moment that lit the spark, that games can do something unique here, something that no other medium can emulate this in any way I can think of.”
Recently I watched a good video by Mark Brown about the Last Guardian. He analyzes how the game communicates story through gameplay and he looks at one specific moment in the game. If you don’t mind mild spoilers on the Last Guardian then go check out the video, it’s pretty good.
This got me to thinking about other moments in games when story is being told through narrative.
Of relevance is an older post I made about Riven and how it manages to merge narrative and gameplay so that they are one and the same. The image at the top of the post is also for Riven, but there’s no storytelling going on there. I just like that view.
[~2700 words; ~1600 on jump cuts; ~1100 going off on tangents towards the end]
I was musing about video games the other day and for some reason, out of nowhere, I got this vision for the use of a sequence of jump cuts that I don’t think has ever been seen in a game before.
And the more I thought about it the more I realized that the act of suddenly, and without effect, cutting from one scene to another is almost never used in games. Almost all games have an uninterrupted, linear sequence of events that play out through an unbroken span of time. The breaks that do happen are between levels, if the game has levels, or through cutscenes that create bridges between two different locations.
The first image isn’t actually a good example of what I want to talk about; it’s just a cool map in a video game. What I want to talk about in this post are maps that actually represent the level or playable space in a game, but which don’t actually serve a gameplay purpose to the player.
Let’s dive in.
Riven (the sequel to Myst) has a game design philosophy in which the gameplay and narrative are the same thing. So, I decided to look at one clever example of this.
Waxing about Myst:
Myst was a great game and perhaps one of the first “art” games (I could probably write a whole blog post about this alone). “Walking simulators” like the Stanley Parable, Dear Esther, and Gone Home owe their existence to Myst paving the path over a decade earlier. Its artistry has been overlooked by most people because at the time of release (1993) no one gave a damn about games as an art form. And then Doom came out and the only thing people cared about were those types of games.
One of the consequences of Myst being passed off as a novelty of its time is that its sequel, Riven, never got the intellectual and academic scrutiny it deserved.
Recently I wrote a post about how I played a different demo of Starcraft than anyone else. To verify a few memories I played the Starcraft demo once again. During replay I noticed a storytelling device that was brilliant. It was so subtly wonderful that I decided to save its discussion for a later post. This is that post.