Rise of the Timed Exclusive: Why a Deal with Microsoft is Unfair for Tomb Raider Fans

LC-rise

Photo: GameSpot

I think I get how the video game industry works: 1) Develop an amazing video game that’s widely available on all consoles and PC; 2) Ensure that said game builds a loyal player base; 3) Sell millions of copies; 4) Plan the inevitable sequel; 5) Secure a sequel deal with the publisher that offers the most $$$; 6) Agree to exclusively distribute the sequel on the publisher’s console; 7) Potentially alienate about half of the loyal player base; 8) … Profit!

The sequel to 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot may be one of the the worst examples of scummy backroom console exclusivity-deals. Several game journalism outlets have discussed that Rise of the Tomb Raider will release exclusively on Xbox 360 and Xbox One for an undisclosed period of time later this year. What I haven’t seen discussed is how this deal is simply unfair for Tomb Raider fans who play the games on PlayStation consoles and PC. In case any gamer needs reminding, the 1996 debut of Lara Croft arrived as a multi-platform release on DOS, PlayStation, and Saturn systems.

What irks me about this unfair deal is that it’s not supported by much logic. Sure, I’ve heard the news that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is also rumored to release later this year and that this last entry of Nathan Drake’s saga risks competing with the sequel to Lara’s re-imagining. Frankly? That’s bull. The genre of both of these games may be similar but they also have the same fan bases – Nathan’s fans are not going to not buy Lara’s game just because the titles are released in the same fiscal quarter. If anything, the original Tomb Raider series inspired Uncharted which in turn influenced the TR reboot; they practically advertise each other!

If my argument hasn’t convinced you yet – here’s the evidence that’s the real linchpin of this whole debacle. Tomb Raider sold far, far better on PlayStation systems than on Xbox consoles – and that includes the PS3 version as well as the ‘Definitive Edition’ on PS4. But don’t take my word for it; VGChartz.com has the numbers to prove it.

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The Xbox version of TR ranked 35th best-selling game of the year on the 2013 global video game sales chart: http://www.vgchartz.com/yearly/2013/Global/

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The PS3 version of TR ranked 21st best-selling game of the year on the 2013 global video game sales chart: http://www.vgchartz.com/yearly/2013/Global/

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The PS4 version of TR: Definitive Edition ranked 98th best-selling game of the year on the 2014 global video game sales chart: http://www.vgchartz.com/yearly/2014/Global/; the Xbox One version did not break the top 100 sales of 2014 global video game sales chart

I’m not “whining” about this particular timed exclusive deal just because I played the 2013 Tomb Raider on my PC. I’m thinking about all of the loyal Lara Croft fans who own PS3s, PS4s, and PCs who will have to wait longer than Xbox gamers to play the sequel. Personally? I won’t have the money – or time – to play the game when it launches Holiday Season 2015. Heck, I’ll be lucky if I have a chance to play it to completion by Holiday Season 2016. This little rant is for all the fans who are dying to play Rise but won’t be able to – not due to a shortage of money or time – but because they don’t own the right console.

The VGChartz.com sales data is the cold hard facts, ladies and gentlemen, why the timed exclusive release of Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox consoles is unfair to the most loyal and dedicated Lara Croft fans. PlayStation gamers were a huge reason why the Tomb Raider reboot was the massive success that it was – to give them the sloppy seconds is simply unfair and unjustified.

Wanted: Generically good-looking brunette male to rescue a damsel in distress.

lol

I recently consulted Google for images of Bioshock Infinite and this fan-made wallpaper appeared on the results page. You know, many female video game characters get a lot of beef for being attractive in very similar ways, but I suppose the same argument might be mounted against male protagonists if Uncharted’s Nathan Drake is similar-looking enough to be confused with Bioshock’s Booker DeWitt. Somehow, I don’t get the impression that this wallpaper is promoting crossover DLC or someone’s fanfiction…

Resurrection Man Overhaul

After several productive conversations with  Evan Meaney, a member of my thesis committee, I’ve decided to overhaul the final version of Resurrection Man.

These changes include:

  • First-person perspective. Evan suggested that I play the first-person stealth game Dishonored. I’ve come around to share his opinion that it can successfully work for this genre.
  • Removal of as much GUI as possible, again, as argued by Meaney, and I’ve come around to realize how distracting it is.
  • No more integrity (health) system. The player either gets caught or manages to escape with the corpse. This simplifies the mechanics and treats the subject material as less “arcade-like.”
  • Larger cemetery to explore, with smaller enclosed plots inside the main fenced-in area.
  • Way pointing! So, making objects in the environment purposeful, i.e. that they “coax” the player to investigate a certain area in the environment. Examples in RM include lit torches (they cue the player visually to the location of the fresh grave).

All in all, it’s already shaping up to look more visually impressive than the first version. I just need to finish the “landscaping” of the cemetery. Soon I’ll be experiencing the ups and downs of coding again!

Bird's eye view

I think this is how you get in...

Also, my thesis defense in Monday, April 7th. Less than one month away! That would be the “due date,” folks. More updates coming in the near future!

 

MART 702: Portal

Here’s my second post for Media-ART 702. Last week, we played Portal and discussed the game’s themes of self and surveillance. My project response to Portal is a mock webpage for an imagined service that provides a new use for data stored to today’s popular social media platforms. The website is available here: familybook.co.nf

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Artist Statement (in case you’re confused, but I think the project speaks for itself):

Portal, a 2007 video game developed by Valve Corporation, shares in common the controls and aesthetics of a traditional first-person shooter. The puzzle-based room navigation as assisted by a portal gun, however, is anything but orthodox. Portal places players in the role of a test subject at the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, a facility that studies the corporation’s experimental (and potentially dangerous) technologies. Throughout a series of tests, players are provided a gun that fires inter-spatial portals that function as doorways. These thresholds are fired onto flat surfaces to provide access to additional areas of the test chambers that cannot otherwise by reached. The game challenges players to become problem solvers as they avoid various obstacles such as turrets, impassable force fields, and poisonous water in order to make their way to the exit area. The creative placement and, at times, carefully timed firing, of portals onto flat surfaces is the main mechanic for play in this game.

In addition to engaging gameplay, Portal also tells a compelling story. As mentioned above, the setting is a testing facility and the portal gun is provided to players in context of a routine laboratory test. When players make progress to new test chambers (i.e. levels), they are encouraged by the melodic, disembodied voice of GLaDOS, an artificial intelligence program, to continue onwards with the promise of “cake” and “grief counseling” upon completion of all test sequences. Each room features several security cameras to signify the all-seeing presence of GLaDOS, who constantly monitors the activity of players to provide instructions and feedback. In this way, GLaDOS serves as the narrator to the game’s events. It is players that move from room to room and advance the plot, but it is GLaDOS who provides the context. Players, as embodied in the character, are entirely mute. All narrative information, including what happened, how it happened, and what will happen, is provided by one character and is, therefore, subject to bias.

Portal is still relevant to gamers and for game critics/scholars years after its release. What has allowed this game to stand out in a saturated market and become a fan favorite in the collective consciousness of gamers is its memorable protagonist and antagonist duo, Chell and GLaDOS.  The player-as-Chell is silent, a common archetype of first-person characterization because it encourages players to suture themselves to the body of the player-character and to become immersed within the gameworld. From the first-person perspective, Chell’s body is not seen until the player encounters their first portal. Looking into a portal, the player is able to see the body of Chell stepping into and exiting from one portal to the other. This allows players to catch brief glimpses of the character’s body. The first appearance of Chell reveals that the player-as-Chell is, in fact, a woman. Chell’s gender plays against the expectations of gamers because many first-person shooter games often, almost ideologically, default to a male character for the player’s control. Chell’s embodiment of the player-as-female is striking not only because it is atypical, but also because she has a counterpart in GLaDOS.

In video games, it is unusual that both the protagonist and antagonist are female, and in this respect, the subtext is worth investigating. GLaDOS is Chell’s antithesis; she lacks a human corporeal form and, for most of the game, remains a disembodied voice. In contrast, Chell has a body but never speaks. Together, but separately, they constitute a “complete” person, or in this case, woman. These characteristics of Chell and GLaDOS conjure to mind the old sexist statement that, “women should be seen and not heard.” Chell, as the seen but not heard woman, ultimately fights against and destroys the woman who is heard but not seen, GLaDOS. The opposition between these two women suggests that Portal might make a statement about the expectations for women in a “man’s world.”

There is also the age-old adage that says that, “actions speak louder than words.” This is also useful for the discussion of these two characters. Players-as-Chell are given the choices/actions that lead to the (apparent) destruction of GLaDOS. Throughout the events of the game, GLaDOS provides a near-constant barrage of commentary. In the beginning, it manifests as lukewarm praise, only to intensify to chiding reprimands, passive-aggressive statements, and, towards the end, snide insults. In Portal, Chell, the index of “action” overcomes the “words” of GLaDOS and escapes almost certain death. This symbolism might allude that it is our choices, not our words, which define who we are and what we become. Words are easily forgotten, but actions rarely are.

Portal may or may not make a statement about sexism or passive and active personalities; the game’s message and characterizations can be interpreted many ways. Regardless of the type of subtext one chooses to read, what I find most interesting about Chell and GLaDOS is that they are both incomplete characterizations. In this respect, gender is a moot point; I place the emphasis on their piecemeal forms. Chell represented as body/action and GLaDOS as voice/words made me consider how “self” is represented (and stored) in the domain of social media, now and in the future. In the relationship between these two characters a variety of symbolic messages may be read; in the context of my project, I view GLaDOS to represent social media and Chell as the user of such a service.

My response to Portal is a commentary on this theme. FamilyBook.com is a mock website and video for an imagined online service that provides users access to data stored on today’s popular social media platforms. I built the webpage using Adobe Dreamweaver and coded it with HTML and CSS; I did not use a template. The video was captured from my laptop using QuickTime and edited using VideoPad freeware. I also provide the voiceover narration. The logo and “family tree” image were created using the freeware graphics-editing program GIMP.

This project envisions that, in the not-to-distant future, popular social media platforms such Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Instagram will become obsolete and defunct. They will likely be replaced with advances in technologies and changes to social mores and practices that occur over generational shifts and population changes. However, the data stored to a social media platform may continue to exist long after the demise of the actual service. FamilyBook.com suggests that the data saved to social media servers might be used in unexpected ways many years from now. It invites people to reconsider how they use such services and their relationship to the social media/corporate entity.

A service like FamilyBook implies that social media data may be available for new uses in the future. It proposes that personal data saved to social media might become searchable as an online resource for family members, historians, and the general public. This envisioned use is not unlike the contemporary service Ancestry.com, which allows users to browse massive databases of census records, city directories, voting lists, travel logs, military service documents, marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, and other digitized data from the recent past.

In this contemporary moment, information is decreasingly stored on the paper document and increasingly saved to a digital format. I am oddly fascinated that personal Facebook profiles, including statuses and photos, continue to exist after the death of the person to which they belong. My bizarre and cynical theory that data from Facebook might become available as a service similar to Ancestry.com; that is, future people (this generation’s great-great-grand-children) might pay to access Facebook as an archive for the retrieval of data about their ancestors (i.e., people who use Facebook today), is not so implausible when understood in the context of today’s methods of genealogical and historical research. During the research process, information is pulled from a wide array of available sources. This assumes that social media will be an invaluable time capsule for the researchers in future generations.

My response to Portal invites a critique of the practice of habitual photo/status sharing via social media and suggests that such activities might have unforeseen repercussions decades after the time of original posting. I was inspired by Portal‘s theme song, “Still Alive,” as sung by GLaDOS during the end credits. I find that the lines “While you’re dying I’ll be still alive. / And when you’re dead I will be still alive” are particularly relevant to my project. In the context of FamilyBook, I take this to mean that social media profiles will “live on” to represent their users long after they cease to exist in the real world. The gaze remains upon individuals long after the demise of their corporeal form; yet, this idea is rarely something that is considered by the average user of social media.  Most people who use social media share information about their lives with friends and family and think only in terms of the present moment.

The FamilyBook.com project reveals that personal data distributed on social media might be “still alive” and continue to represent individuals long after they die. This project asks its viewers to reconsider the long-term consequences of using social media because these platforms store valuable personal information to databases for a period of time unknown to the user. There is also a large degree of invisible surveillance that monitors user’s activities on services like Facebook. For example, data stored via Facebook exceeds that of what is publicly viewable on the profile timeline. According to Facebook’s Data Use Policy, “We receive data about you whenever you use or are running Facebook, such as when you look at another person’s timeline, send or receive a message, search for a friend or a Page, click on, view or otherwise interact with things, use a Facebook mobile app, or make purchases through Facebook” (https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/your-info, accessed February 10, 2014).

In this respect, Facebook.com and similar social media services, are akin to GLaDOS because they too are monstrous, all-seeing, all-knowing entities. Everything posted to a social media profile is saved to massive, comprehensive databases. This is not unlike GLaDOS who oversees and analyzes the series of tests performed by Chell. As an AI computer, GLaDOS has her own database for storing and retrieving information. She even imparts this knowledge to the player about Chell’s past and suggests that she has “no friends” and was “adopted.” GLaDOS employs this knowledge to exploit the insecurities of her test subject to signify data/information as power. Here, there is another parallel to Facebook. When personal data such as a status update, photo upload, GPS check-in, or comment is posted, it is certain that an entity like Facebook, as long as its servers are “still alive,” might have access to it for years, decades, even centuries, after the time of the original submission. Data of the magnitude amassed from social media is indeed a powerful tool for a corporation.

The user of social media is not unlike Chell, who, while actively agrees to the terms of use and openly participates according to the rules, is subservient to the system. It is also relevant to consider that Chell is only useful to GLaDOs as a means to an end: to test the portal gun. Once the test is complete and the data is collected, Chell becomes expendable. But, this is also the moment in which the player-as-Chell decides to fight back at GLaDOS. Once the player-as-Chell becomes aware that they have been used and that they will not be promised their freedom (or cake), they take the initiative to destroy GLaDOS. Similar to the self-serving AI, the all-seeing, all-knowing Facebook Inc. amasses data, not for the benefit of the people to which it originally belonged, but to make a profit.

In this regard, users of social media sites such as Facebook are not the recipients of a product, but the product being sold. It is public knowledge that Facebook reaps revenue from advertising space. Users of Facebook, therefore, are the product being sold to the advertisers. To make for effective audience reach, Facebook allows advertisers to cater to their specific demographics; i.e. certain ads will only appear on the newsfeed for specific locations and vary depending on the age, gender, and “likes” of the user who is accessing the site. In order to do this, Facebook pulls the data about a user’s location, interests, and gender. This method of demographic-based advertising encourages companies and services to place their ad on the website because they will reach niche audiences. In this way, Facebook sells its users’ data and eyeballs to companies who purchase the ad-space. Facebook is like GLaDOS; and a user of its service is not unlike Chell, incompletely represented as various points of data, that may or may not be useful.

Portal is a fascinating game to play and interpret. The incomplete characterizations of Chell and GLaDOS as two very different and oppositional women make them a memorable duo.  My response to the game has taken this theme of incomplete forms, and the messages of surveillance and power, and applied them to contemporary social media services and their habitual use. The imagined FamilyBook service is a critique of social media entities and their practices. The project encourages people to look beyond the present moment to envision a future service that offers personal data posted to social media to the public (for a price). The website is an uncomfortably reminder that personal data might be “still alive” to represent the self digitally, long after the time of original submission of data and that this information may reach unanticipated audiences. It also asks people to consider how beneficial the relationship that one has with a social media platform, such as Facebook, may or may not actually be. This is not unlike the relationship that Chell experiences with GLaDOS in Portal. At first, the AI appears helpful, but the façade emerges once she has what she wants: the cold data amassed from a series of tests performed by the human user, who is only useful as a means to an end.

Indie Bits 2014

Going to submit Resurrection Man to the local, independent game festival in Columbia, SC. SOON.

Also, the poster is RAD (check it out).

Boombox Guy JJ

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We’re back and better than ever!  For the last couple of years I have been working hard to get an indie game festival started up, since we don’t have one in the south east.  Thanks to the Nickelodeon and Indie Grits we have slowly but surly began to grow the community.  We even have support and sponsorship!  Here’s the run down for people who would like to submit a game.

First, it can be a new game that you’re developing and need feedback, an old game you want to promote, or something strange and unique that may test the boundaries of what a game is!

Next register and submit the games here.  $10 for students and $25 for professionals.  Once you’re registered and your games are submitted we will send you all the information you need including passes to get into the exclusive after party.  Trust me you’ll want…

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MART 702: Response to “Invisible Cities”

Download the project, Invisible Boundaries, for Mac OSX.

Invisible Boundaries is, first and foremost, an artistic response to Italo Calvino’s text Invisible Cities. The narrative of the book is about Marco Polo’s companionship with emperor Kublai Khan. Marco Polo tells to emperor Kublai Khan fantastical stories about the myriad cities within his expansive empire. Each city, described to readers (and Kublai Khan) in one-to-two page chapters, is more unbelievable than the last, but with good reason: the cities that Marco Polo describes do not actually exist. In fact, the truth (revealed halfway through the book) is that each city described is actually the same: Venice.

Calvino’s Invisible Cities alludes to many different themes. A reoccurring analogy in the book is one of place and memory. Many of the different cities (i.e. chapters) resonate a sense of longing/nostalgia for a past/place that are impossible to re-experience/revisit. For example, Calvino’s description of Isidora (Cities & Memory) reads, “In the square there is the wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he [an old man] is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories” (p.8). I interpret Calvino to mean that humans never truly appreciate what they have until it is gone. When something is no longer as it once was, like the old men who stare at the city’s youth, one can only remember. It is in a moment of remembrance that humans pine for what they no longer have. Time moves forward and the people, places, and choices that once were present are no longer available. Invisible Cities constantly reminds readers of the ephemeral nature of existence (peoples and places) and the memories associated with them. This is a theme I aimed to recreate in Invisible Boundaries.

Invisible Boundaries is a first person virtual experience in which users explore the personal memories of the artist. These “memories” (i.e. levels) represent the lingering vestiges of her childhood home in Lebanon, Connecticut. The player is invited to walk across a mostly linear landscape for an unknown purpose. Invisible Boundaries never makes its objective clear. Users may find the experience trivial, at best, or frustrating, at worst. This is the artist’s intent. All movement is linear; the scenery lacks contextualization (and possibly coherence) aside from the obvious that there is a sense of similarity between the levels; and the message/narrative is extremely abstract. Is it worth your time to venture into the landscape of Invisible Boundaries? The artist’s response is to break it. The majority of the experience is succinct and obvious; however, there are areas where the seams are broken, much like “real” memories. A glitch may be exploited here or there and something unexpected may occur as result. Memories often conceal just as much as they reveal; similarly, Invisible Boundaries suggests that its users break through the invisible walls that confine them.

The prose of Invisible Cites features hazy, dream-like visuals and thought-provoking analogies. Unlike the book, Invisible Boundaries does not feature hazy, dream like visuals and thought-provoking analogies. In these attempts it is likely a failure. What it achieves, at its most base, is to force players along a predetermined path across one of four landscapes. The first of these scenes guides players towards a lake. A stonewall frames the pathway, evoking the historic New England atmosphere. Once players reach the lakefront, they are presented with a wooden dock. When the player walks on the dock they are suddenly transported to the opposite side of the lake and the sun is setting. What does this sudden interruption signify? Could it be a flash-forward in time and space? Or is it a new memory altogether? The player can only move onward; the interpretation is as good as anyone’s.  When Marco (i.e. Calvino) describes Zaira (Cities & Memory) he says that,

“This city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lighting rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls” (p.11). I take this passage to mean that spaces may be “read” like a text; signs (e.g. scratches, indentations, scrolls) leave a minute trace of what once was. In this way, certain signs in a space may evoke memories. These marks/memories within cities/spaces/landscapes are indexes to the past; a past that is often foreign and unknowable because the past that is known about a specific place/time is limited to that of one’s own experiences. A place has different meanings and associations for each person who encounters it. Invisible Boundaries has it’s own marks that may signify different associations for different people.

Calvino addresses the unknowable in terms of place, experience, memory, and self. Invisible Boundaries attempts to channel these themes without blatantly acknowledging them. In his description of the city Tamara (Cities & Signs), Calvino explains that, “The eye does not see things but images of things that mean other things…” (p.13). From this, I understand him to mean that one’s daily observances are governed by the reading and interpretation of the images around them. In our memories, we remember vague, but selected, images of privilege and give them vital meaning in order to better understand past experiences. The images, or signs, in Invisible Boundaries have vital meaning for me (the maker) in the way that I remember my childhood home. However, for anyone else, the representations are arbitrary (and possibly meaningless). Despite the arbitrary nature of signs, much of the imagery in Invisible Boundaries is symbolically charged. For example, the lake and river, fresh bodies of pure water, may connote purity because of their association with nature and baptism. The cemetery has strong symbolism of death, decay, and even fear and superstition. The bonfire may evoke death/rebirth because it may conjure thoughts of a funeral pyre or cremated ashes. For me, the meanings are more personal than these broad associations. The lake is where I spent my summers; the river is where I used to camp; the cemetery is where I rubbed the markings of old tombstones; the fire represents the giant bonfire my dad made in the backyard on the fourth of July. Calvino was aware of the power of particular signs in memories that espouse feelings and associations, as am I.

While there is an extent of freedom in respect to interpretation of the virtual signs, the design forces users to subject themselves to the rules of Invisible Boundaries. Calvino’s description of the city of Tamara is useful in this respect: “Your gaze scans the streets as if they were written pages: the city says everything you must think, makes you repeat her discourse, and while you believe you are visiting Tamara you are only recording the names with which she defines herself and all her parts” (p.14). In Invisible Boundaries, a player may assume that they have agency in this virtual world; in actuality, there is little. A guided path and invisible barriers prevent users from true freedom and opportunity to explore. The world has a discourse that must be obeyed to “complete” the experience; the user is subordinate to these rules, much like a visitor’s relationship to Tamara.

Calvino continues to explain that, “However the city may really be, beneath this thick coating of signs, whatever it may contain or conceal, you leave Tamara without having discovered it” (p.14). Calvino’s words beg the question: do we ever really know a place? And once we leave, how do we really know that we have been? The more distant our memories are from the real, lived experience, the more dream-like and fictitious they become. People may visit a place, but after they leave it, all that they take with them are the memories. And memories paint an incomplete picture; they are simulacrum of the real. Therefore, it can be surmised that people often leave places “without having discovered it” because they misinterpret/misunderstand it.  At face value, Invisible Boundaries is defined by the invisible walls constructed from “box colliders” and the 3D models of trees, stonewalls, fences, and vegetation that line the perimeter of the virtual world. These objects are purposely placed to structure the experience. They enforce the idea that a user may “visit” this representational landscape, but they will never really “know” it. Furthermore, because this virtual world is a simulation of my personal memories that represent my childhood home, one cannot “know” the real place, either.

Invisible Cities is redundant. Cities share thematic chapters (e.g. “Cities & Memory,” “Cities & Desire,” “Cities & Signs,” etc.); some cities have almost identical allegories and symbolism in the stories as told by Marco Polo. This is intentional. Halfway through the narrative the audience learns that each of the cities is the same; Marco Polo simply describes the city of Venice to Kublai Khan each and every time. This is hinted at early in the book. When Marco (i.e. Calvino) describes Zirma (Cities & Signs) he says that, “The city is redundant: it repeats itself so that something will stick in the mind… Memory is redundant: it repeats signs so that the city can begin to exist” (p.19). It begs me to ponder; does routine habit/practice/experience skew  memories or give privilege to some memories over others? People have a way of explaining a situation or series of events as, “It was all a blur to me.” I understand this in the context of Calvino’s text to mean that certain images/signs are privileged over others in a way to provide an aid to memories. The redundancy in recounting memories allows people to remember, and in the moment one remembers, it is the only instance that the past “exists” again. Invisible Boundaries is likewise redundant. Once the experience is complete, it may be replayed, but only to assume the same cycle. The cyclical experience is not unlike memory recall. Generally speaking, people remember to remember; in remembering, one may remember something that they had previously forgotten. Recollection is an unending, cycle of redundancy; this redundancy is necessary to maintain a semblance of self-awareness.

On his discussion of a “Continuous City” called Trude, Marco Polo/Calvino explains that, “This was the first time I had come to Trude, but I already knew the hotel where I happened to be lodged… The world is covered by a sole Trude which does not begin and does not end” (p.128). I interpret him to mean that people see familiarity everywhere; for this reason, there are some things that are inescapable, especially the past. There is always a sign (a reminder) that may trigger a memory of familiarity, that unusual feeling of déjà vu. Invisible Boundaries imparts a similar sense of déjà vu with each leap forward to a new scene/memory. There is a sense of familiarity of the landscape that each user will come to understand differently based on their unique, individual lived experiences.

Speaking on Tamara, Calvino adds “Outside, the land stretches, empty, to the horizon; the sky opens, with speeding clouds. In the shape that chance and wind give the clouds, you are already intent on recognizing figures; a sailing ship, a hand, an elephant…” I take this to mean that people constantly construct the world around them through signs in order to make meaning… and sometimes, people make meaning where there is none just to make sense of the perceived reality. Sometimes, a cloud should just be a cloud. But for most of humanity, they want the cloud to be something more than the abstract concentration of ephemeral condensation. Humans, in their vain attempt to understand, want to give the “cloud” meaning, an explanation that provides context; e.g. why must the dark cloud blot out the happy, eternal sunshine? So that the sun may be all the more appreciated when it resurfaces. Similarly, deriving meaning from memory provides comfort that life and experience is knowable; that there is some kind of “point” or value in the suffering and pain that life unexpectedly produces.

Similarly, yet differently, Invisible Boundaries aims to recreate these connotations associated with memories of a place. Memory, not unlike experience, is fleeting. When one recalls a past event/place, the memory of it is likely to change with every retelling; i.e. one may depend more upon the “spoke words” that are used to retell a memory because, overtime, the visuals become less vivid and the “images” that account for a memory are rendered unreliable. Recalling and retelling ultimately leads to an erosion of one’s true memories; i.e. the memories that are preserved shortly after the actual, lived experience. As such, all memories become an imperfect recollection. Memories are a large part of what constitutes the self. Therefore, if memories are imperfect it can be surmised that people are also imperfect. If Invisible Boundaries is flawed or pointless it is as an extension of my imperfect self.

RM Update: Version 1.1

Main Menu.

Main Menu.

Download RM v.1.1 Here for MacOsX!

Now Available: Resurrection Man v.2… re-built from the ground up!

This is the version of Resurrection Man that I am making available for download for my graduate school applications. The fixes are minor but valuable for players: revised main menu; more detailed control menu; and more GUI when players approach graves to remind them to press E to “dig” and Q to “axe”. This small update makes RM more user-friendly. I also placed the camera closer to Grandison to make the experience more personal and claustrophobic.

On the downside, there are some problems that require more time to resolve. The “corpse evaluation” that displays when players reach the end of the level only works for “perfect dissection quality” (the best evaluation) and “no bodies, no payment” (if players’ choose not to exhume/retrieve any corpses from the grave yard). The evaluation is supposed to display for skeletons, “skeleton model quality,” and for slightly decayed corpses, “adequate dissection quality.” I am not sure what the issue is because, as far as I am aware, this bug did not effect the previous version of RM that I turned in for my video game design class last month. Other issues include:

  • Tree collider fail: Character controller walks through trees even though I have the terrain set to “generate tree colliders.” No idea why it’s not working…
  • No animation for digging or axing behaviors. I am not an animator but I’m going to try to wrangle something later this semester.
  • Depleting the coffin “health” entirely does not destroy it’s health bar GUI (like the GUI health bar for soil amount).

That said, it is still very much playable and I do like the graphical updates. Here’s what I plan to include soon:

  • Fix the evaluation system so that it correctly displays for all qualities of corpses/skeletons.
  • Expand the grave yard; add more graves.
  • Make the space more “historical;” i.e. accurate to the time period (tombstones, some small buildings, etc.).
  • Fix the coffin health bar GUI bug.
  • Fix the “retrieve corpse?” button so that is destroyed upon being clicked.
  • Tree collider.
  • Include a health item (whiskey, actually).
  • Include a lantern for illumination, with oil resource.

Future ideas include…

  • More enemies, e.g. guard dogs.
  • Different items to use in the environment, e.g. rope and body bags to secure corpses for carrying across the environment.
  • A new level at the medical school that has players “dissect” bodies to learn basic anatomy.
  • Much more, if I had an awesomely talented production team. 😉