Alan Wake EP23: Swan Dive!

By Shamus
on May 31, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

219 comments


Link (YouTube)

This late episode has been brought to you by Saint’s Row The Third and what the heck is it seven o’clock already how long have I been playing this game?!? I should probably do a post about that game. It’s sort of come and gone, news-wise, but it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in ages.

I just want to reiterate what we said in today’s episode: Alan Wake is not a horrible game, and our criticism of it is the result of a game that did a lot of things different, took a lot of chances, got a few things right, and missed on a couple of crucial points. I’m sure I’ll never play through it again, but I don’t begrudge the hours I spent with it. Well, maybe a few of them. The ones in the middle.

Swan dive!

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:



A Hundred!A Hundred!19219 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. JPH says:

    I feel like Alan Wake is like the inverse of Assassin’s Creed 2. Assassin’s Creed 2 has bright, fun, smooth-flowing gameplay marred by a horribly incoherent, messy story. Alan Wake has an interesting and mostly well-written story marred by repetitive, clunky, dreary gameplay.

    And yes, I friggen LOVED Saints Row 3. Glad they put in more effort for the PC version this time.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Also, Alan Wake took a lot of creative risks. Assassin’s Creed 2 did not by comparison.

      • JPH says:

        Assassin’s Creed 1 took risks. AC2 took AC1 and refined/polished it.

        • Mr Guy says:

          And then AC:R and AC:B took AC2 and squeezed every drop of blood from AC2’s corpse.

          • False Prophet says:

            It’s such a shame the writing in those games is so poor. You have this potentially interesting Three Faces of Adam character arc with the Angry Young Man fighting the establishment in AC2, the Mature Adult Man building a new establishment in AC:B, and the Wizened Elder Man impressing his wisdom onto the succeeding generations in AC:R. How often are all those roles explored in one character’s arc in fiction in general, much less video games? It’s like there’s a sturdy skeletal framework somewhere under there, but the flesh is weak and rotted.

            • Aldowyn says:

              I still think that AC2 had the most incomprehensible story of any of them…

              Let’s hope that AC3 is better, story-wise. It’s a big much to hope for (they seem to be going a bit too much towards spectacle), but it’s possible. AC1 was brilliant in a lot of ways the rest… aren’t.

    • Vic says:

      I actually LOVED the gameplay in Alan Wake. It was thrilling, and visually satisfying. Though admittedly TECHNICALLY more repetitive, it didn’t really FEEL any more repetitive than most shooters. I’ve played it about seven times now, primarily for the combat and the atmosphere.

      I also loved the story and presentation, as I did Assassin’s Creed. And I’ve heard AW getting knocked for poor writing, but I’ve seen only a few shortcomings, no flaws.

      Unless we are thinking the manuscript should’ve seemed more like something a famous author would write, in which case we’d be overlooking a huge fact: that the dark presence essentially wrote the manuscript; it was never really his story to write his way.

  2. Amnestic says:

    On the topic of the crumpled up manuscript pages whenever you die, I worry it’d get a similar reaction to the obnoxious resurrection/respawn sequence from Too Human which was universally loathed. Even if it took exactly the same time as a fade to black and respawn, I get the feeling that gamers would react to it because it’d feel like it’s wasting their time.

    I might be wrong though.

    And I died SO many times on the platforming section bit. It encourages you to rush because the narrative says “you’re being chased by a tornado, you’d better hurry up” but if you go too fast then the holes in the platform don’t appear soon enough for you to adequately react, no matter how quick your reflexes.

    In short, if you want gamers to run away from something and feel tense, don’t give bullshit seemingly random deaths from stuff dropping out in front of them because chances are it’s going to kill any tension they feel and just make them angry at you.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      The problem people had with Too Human was that dying took so damn long.
      If the animation to throw away the page was just a 2 second clip of some paper being throw in the basket, then I don’t think it would be very annoying at all.

      • Ben says:

        I think the best implementation would be the first few (say 5) times you died show the entire throwing paper into the basket scene. After that just show an image of a basket filling with paper. You can enjoy the novelty early on and remind the player of it later on without annoying them.

        The big problem is you’d have to rearrange the story or something because otherwise it wouldn’t make sense before the big reveal.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Or just have it a the early sections of the game.
          Resident Evil 5 has an extended death cutscene if you die in the first level (easier to do than it sounds).

          Another method is have something which changes depending on the section of the game you’re in. The Vietnam war game Men of Valor has the letter sent home to your character’s parents as its death screen, which changes depending on the mission you died in. Its narrator even changes depending on your current CO at the time.
          It’s also skippable, so you aren’t ever forced to sit through it, but man does it still hit home when you are subjected to even glimpsing it.

        • ehlijen says:

          ME had animated loading screens, just make the paper discard one of those. That way the player won’t feel like his time’s being wasted (any more than it would be normally be the program anyway).

        • Adam P says:

          A better solution might be to have the screen be crumpled up like a piece of paper and tossed away, with the previous checkpoint ready to go underneath it. Looks snazzy and doesn’t impede the flow of the game.

      • Sumanai says:

        I get impatient in these type of scenes, so two seconds would be too much for me. In fact, two seconds is a pretty long time in a tense moment if you want to get back into the action.

        I think the best would be either the “screen is crumbled up” suggested by PurePareidolia and Adam P or having a a short scene where Wake crumbles up a piece of paper and throws it in a paper basket the first two times after the reveal which then gets replaced by a picture of the waste basket, possibly piling up each time, but if you die after the exact same checkpoint the game just fades to black and back into the game.

        So the first two times an animation is shown, the first one is shown only the first time when dying after the same checkpoint. The second one after dying in another, and again only the first time. Then the first time you die in any checkpoint after that you’re shown a picture of the waste basket, but not in repeats of the same checkpoint.

        But I suspect I’m over-engineering this quite a bit.

    • PurePareidolia says:

      Easy solution: Alan crumples the screen up and throws it into the bin as the continue/load/exit screen comes up, and it stops immediately once you press any button

    • MatthewH says:

      This would have worked even better as a framing device. Then just cut to the basket with the balls of paper bouncing off.

      Until the end. Then, once Alan Wake makes his escape death comes with a kick back to the main menu (of course, the checkpoints would need to stay around).

  3. newdarkcloud says:

    So Shamus, do you feel that the kidnapper plot was shoehorned into the narrative to add a few hours to the game?

    • Littlefinger says:

      Let’s be honest, that was the sole reason it was in there. They didn’t put nearly enough effort into it to function as a red herring.

      • Mr Guy says:

        Disagree that this was shoehorned in. I think the kidnapping was central to the original vision. The whole “my wife has been kidnapped and I have to find her!” is a pretty strong motivation. More powerful than “go to the farm to learn the 6 word secret we could easily tell you” weaksauce.

        The kidnapping was a great early motivator. And the “it’s all in your head – you’re crazy” twist at the asylum works. Then they go off the rails because they have no idea how to keep that motivation moving forward, so they drop it in favor of an “Only you can prevent forest fires!” Chosen One plot that gels badly with Alan’s earlier motivation.

        • newdarkcloud says:

          I was just trying to make a good set-up for a pun, but yeah.
          You’re trying to make serious commentary, and I just don’t see the pun in that.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Well thats what you get when two people start off on the wrong foot.

            As for the kidnapper thing,it wouldve worked if you werent fighting taken from the very start.If it was just the kidnapping,with few weird glimpses of shadows and some obscure manuscript pages,it wouldve been much better.

            • Vic says:

              “Disagree that this was shoehorned in. I think the kidnapping was central to the original vision. The whole ‘my wife has been kidnapped and I have to find her!’ is a pretty strong motivation. More powerful than ‘go to the farm to learn the 6 word secret we could easily tell you’ weaksauce.”

              Well the reason Alan had to go to the farm was to hear the ENTIRE song, so he’d have the entire story with which to win Cynthia’s trust. The Andersons couldn’t remember the whole thing (which, if you ever listen to the song in its entirety, you’ll know is no small feat for anyone!), so he had to go and hear it for himself. He had to know who she was, not just what she was called.

              But naturally, I agree that the kidnapper thing was a nice touch.

              “As for the kidnapper thing,it wouldve worked if you werent fighting taken from the very start.If it was just the kidnapping,with few weird glimpses of shadows and some obscure manuscript pages,it wouldve been much better.”

              Not in my opinion. The Taken’s presence didn’t make me doubt the kidnapper thing one bit; I actually assumed they were all on the same team. The kidnappers were working for the dark presence and they were all out to get ME. Besides, we already knew what sort of game it would be, it’s not like the Taken/dark presence would’ve surprised us at any rate.

      • Phil says:

        It’s good to see Rutskarn back in form. It was quite a feet, I thought, for Shamus to be out-punning him, so now it’s about time he got a leg up over the new competition. Whether he sneakers them in, or just laces the ep with them, he manages to nail it.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        You’re probably right. I would also agree with the cast that putting that plot at the beginning was a mistake. Because of that, the game just started off on the wrong foot, leaving many to quit part-way through like Mumbles did.

      • Eric says:

        I think part of it has to do with the episodic nature of the game. TV shows often have plots that go nowhere or exist to shed light on the world and characters rather than advance the overall story, and I think the kidnapper diversion was an attempt to provide exposition on the scenario and the villains before raising the stakes as the Dark Presence plot really comes in.

        The problem is that unlike TV, you’re probably not experiencing these little diversions 30-50 minutes at a time, but 2-3 hours at a time, and if you go straight from episode to episode the transitions are jarring. And, unlike TV, you don’t have the “viewers could be tuning in at any moment, so we need self-contained stories they can invest themselves in without having seen everything before-hand” excuse for this stuff.

        One other thing to consider is that videogame plots are usually pretty crap because the point is to set up gameplay scenarios that are fun and interesting. “A scene where Alan has to escape police” comes before story justification for that scene taking place. When put into the context of a TV show format, the generally awkward nature of the plot becomes more obvious because we come in with different expectations for the narrative.

        • Thomas says:

          And the plot isn’t even about a TV show, but a writer and a novel manuscript. There was a lot of confusion about what they’re actually doing with this story

    • Gruhunchously says:

      It could be worse, it could have been an hour long platform section!

    • PurePareidolia says:

      And the kicker is it doesn’t add anything because nobody buys it as the real threat anyway.

      • Gruhunchously says:

        Let’s be honest, the whole subplot is ankle-deep in substance.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        Agreed. It’s a shame when a game doesn’t put it’s best foot forward at the start. Alan Wake was a lucky case, things like that can sometimes lead to a game going six feet under.

        • Destrustor says:

          The game tried its best, but it clearly has two left feet.
          The fun gust wasn’t there.

          • Mathias says:

            So, Rutskarn has now turned to both unbearable puns as well as obnoxious “advice, that you already knew.”

            I think it’s official, Rutskarn is turning into Teddie from Persona 4.

            • anaphysik says:

              Teddie’s beary unbearable bearrel of bear puns (the best of which is “Bear-sona!”) are, to me, way more fun than how the original Japanese script handles him. There he’s simply named Kuma (literally meaning just ‘bear’) and simply adds “-kuma” to the end of his statements. Which while certainly a valid syntactical means to humour in Japanese, is super BORING.

              (Curious; comment is being moderated. I wonder why.)

  4. Grudgeal says:

    Now I’m reminded of Sacrifice. Every time you restarted a level: “Of course, that’s not what *really* happened… Let me start again.”

    • Littlefinger says:

      Is that a good game? I have it in my game to-do list. Haven’t come around to playing it yet.

      • Grudgeal says:

        I say ‘definitively yes’, but unless you happen to be my evil mental clone I’m not aware of I don’t know if you hold the same tastes as me. It’s a third-person, over-the-shoulder-cam RTS where you control a wizard as some kind of mobile base and summon your army from thin air on the fly. If that sounds slightly interesting, I’d suggest finding the demo.

      • Chris says:

        It’s available on GOG! You can catch it on sale there occasionally.

        It’s definitely a… weird game. It’s in the same very under-represented “Action RTS” genre that the Battlezone remake and Brutal Legend were in. Unlike Battlezone, though, you’re just one guy with a set list of abilities that grow more powerful as you earn each god’s blessings by completing missions for them. It’s got the same “RTS via time management rather than micromanagement” mechanics that Battlezone did – units need to be told where to go but are mostly autonomous unless you want to heal/buff them, meanwhile you’re a super tank of damage and action.

        The story is simultaneously interesting and a bore. The gods are in conflict and only you can bring peace, etc. But the designs of the gods and their respective worlds is actually sort of unique, and it’s got that Citizen Kabuto style “overly saturated colors and late 90’s graphical fidelity but with a lot of love and charm” aesthetic that somehow gets to me despite being sort of ugly.

        In short: I have really fond memories of the game and bought it when it came out on GOG, but it’s in a niche genre with a weird setting and it might not be for everyone.

        • Littlefinger says:

          You might have misunderstood me, I already own the game (from GOG, no less) and it’s been sitting in my “to play” tray for the last 4/5 months. My question is whether it’s worth pushing to the front of the queue, or can I wait and finish Hitman Blood Money, Dungeon Siege 3, Witcher 2, Crusader Kings 2, Supreme Commander, Freespace 2 first.

          God that’s a lot of games.

          • Jarenth says:

            I’ll just add that Sacrifice sits firmly somewhere at the top of my Guilty Pleasures list. It’s not that great, gameplay-wise, but it’s interesting, well-written and funny enough to cause me to overlook that.

            I still occasionally quote Stratos, to the amusement of nobody in particular.

            • Sleeping Dragon says:

              I immediately thought of the “Of course, this isn’t what really happened” Sacrifice thing too.

              Anyway, the game is good, I really like the personalities of the gods and it was one of the very few games I actually replayed to the exhaustion of all options simply because it was so much fun listening to what each of them had to say, at least for me.

  5. newdarkcloud says:

    For anyone interested, the song at the end of Episode 5 is “War” by Poets of the Fall.

  6. Mr Guy says:

    Mumbles speaks truth. The Lamp Lady is the Twin Peaks Log Lady. This is obvious from the first time you meet her (and she refers to her lamp as somehow anthropomorphic). It doesn’t hurt matters that it happens in the “straight outta Twin Peaks” diner in the first friggin scene…

    • Newbie says:

      On a Mumble related note: When did she become a respectable commentator? I like this new Mumbles… also the old Mumbles… Mumbles for Supreme Overlord of Earth!

      BEEEEEEEEEEEEZ!

      • JPH says:

        She also gave a lot of genuine criticism and insight during the Bioshock season, so it isn’t necessarily “new Mumbles” we’re seeing here. It does make SW more enjoyable, though.

        • Hitch says:

          I don’t think it’s Mumbles herself that has changed so much as she’s gotten her microphone under control. She used to sound really shrill and screechy which made it hard to pay attention to what she was saying. Sorry, Mumbles.

    • Timelady says:

      You guys remember the log lady’s real name, too, right? Margaret Lanterman?

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      There is one thing that I like about this character though. How she is kinda conflicted over her stance with Zane, most of this is in this episode. Basically Zane left her with this somewhat bothersome task of watching over his damned shoebox and preparing supplies for an eventual “Alan” for 40 or so years. Always afraid of the Dark Presence who probably knew that hey, this lady there, she has something that Zane left behind.

  7. Johan says:

    “I should probably do a post about that game. It’s sort of come and gone, news-wise, but it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in ages. ”
    Really? Everything I’ve heard from friends says it’s a cutdown version of SR2

    Maybe I should get it, been holding off

    • ps238principal says:

      Steam has it on sale this weekend for $17.00.

      And yeah, I heard that kind of criticism as well. In the first game, you had to kind of work your way up to really wacky stuff, but in the sequel, it’s pretty much all handed to you. Maybe that appeals to players as you don’t feel like you’re entirely starting over again, I dunno.

      We could always consult Yahtzee’s opinion on the subject.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        What is it with sales tying into Spoiler Warning? First half-off of Alan Wake at GoG, now a sale of SR3 when Shamus mentions it!

      • Sagretti says:

        While I didn’t play the second game, so I don’t have that frame of reference, it seems that the Third starts out wacky and over the top, and then somehow increases the insanity as the game progresses. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with the game “handing you” the wacky stuff. I’d rather play a game that’s ludicrous fun from the start, rather than a game that makes me muddle through blander, generic bits first.

        • ps238principal says:

          I like a balance, where the cool stuff is there, but you have to kind of work for it at least a little. Making it a grind stinks, though.

        • Johan says:

          The problem I’ve heard (and this is just going by the people I talk to mind) was that it was kind of “over-saturated” with the whacky stuff. Like what Shamus said about horror games needing to have a difference in tone at times, the complete “all whacky all the time” of SR3 made all the wackiness become banal

          Again this is just what I’ve gotten from conversations and I won’t know for sure until/if/when I get it

          • Sagretti says:

            I could see that, though I think at that point it’s personal taste. They saw that “serious crime drama (with horribly out of place humor)” was GTA’s new guiding mission, and thus decided to chuck any seriousness out the window.

            One of the big reasons I never played SR2, and didn’t get very far in GTA4, was the dissonance between story and gameplay. The plot is telling you that you’re a monstrous person doing horrible things, yet it’s also supposed to be a game where you joyfully blow up random groups of enemies with a rocket launcher without regard for civilian causalities. If you play that dissonance for laughs, it can be very funny, even at times satire. That’s the path they took with SR3, and I enjoyed the game far more for it.

            • ps238principal says:

              I thought GTA4 had a lot of satire and fun potential.

              But it had Cousin Roman in it, and he’s the single biggest reason I haven’t played it in years.

        • Hitch says:

          The wacky, over the top stuff is what you want from Saints Row. Making you “work” for it serves no purpose other than making it one of those games that “get good X hours in.” At least they realized that many, perhaps most, players don’t want to invest several hours of their life in the hopes that a game will become fun later.

      • Littlefinger says:

        Josh did a newyear stream marathon a while ago. Needless to say it’s hilarious

    • krellen says:

      I wouldn’t say it’s a cutdown version of SR2. There’s less of the variety of activities (and thus less ability to avoid doing things you don’t like doing), and there are a few other undesirable changes (way less clothing), but overall it’s still a lot of fun. Some of the changes are very positive (flying the VTOL is a blast, the “awesome button” is actually implemented well).

      I find it hard to decide whether SR2 or SR3 is the better game.

      • Shamus says:

        Also, the game runs better. I think I get a better framerate in SR3 than SR2, which is pretty astounding considering the latter is a whole graphics generation behind. There’s less hitching. SR3 is also far more stable.

        I think the addition of specialists really made gang wars a lot more interesting.

        But yeah, needs more clothing. A lot more. Where are the bowler hats? The bowties? The old-timey vests? It’s much more about pre-fab outfits, which is really boring.

        Also, the “British guy” voice is different this time around. Last time he came off as smooth. Now he’s gravel-voiced like he’s an old dude in a Guy Ritchie film. That, and the lack of “English Gentleman” attire made me abandon my favorite character design. I ended up playing as psychotic Trinity as voiced by Jennifer Hale. It was funny sometimes, but not as gleefully silly as my SR2 game.

        It’s like they restrained my ability to be silly, and at the same time made the world itself way MORE silly, to bring the two into parity. But the absurdity differential between the player and the world is part of the game’s charm.

        Crap. This should be a blog post.

        • swimon1 says:

          So SR2 let you be crazy in a semi-reasonable world but in SR3 you’re the straight man in a crazy world? I haven’t played either but if that’s the case then it could explain why so many seemed disappointed in it, being crazy is more fun than surrounded by crazy.

        • James Pony says:

          You can get the bowler hat from a DLC. I resent the fact that it is not in the game by default, but I was also positively surprised to see it in the DLC (because I didn’t get the DLC for the bowler hat).

          Still, Stilwater had more interesting locations than Steelport. Not complaining about the realism, but there’s only so much slightly-run-down-urban-environment you can handle before it gets repetitive. The lack of interiors in SR3 in comparison to SR2 is a bit of a letdown.

          Also, my machine doesn’t technically fully meet the minimum requirements for SR3, but SR3 works with only occasional trouble, while SR2 is at times downright unplayable – not as a game, but because it just doesn’t run.

          However, the lack of Septic Avenger is unforgivable. I can do Insurance Fraud as many times in a row as it takes to get from 10 PM to 3 AM, but somehow I don’t really feel like doing the other diversions, even though when “forced” by the game they can be pretty fun and the dialogue is usually above average at worst.

          I’m just hoping we won’t be seeing the “‘better’ graphics means less content”-deal happening with Enter the Dominatrix and SR4. Sandbox games really suffer from lack of content, in terms of locations, minigames and emergent gameplay. When I finish the main game, I just want to run around doing anything I can come up with, but at that point there usually aren’t any locations left to explore, all events and minigames are getting old there’s only so much room for “kill people and blow up cars” before you get tired. And if the game itself is solid, like SR3, you really just want to keep playing, but there’s just not that much to do (except insurance fraud).

        • Irridium says:

          I couldn’t dress up in a pinstripe suit with a fedora like my SR2 character. Made me sad :(

    • Johan says:

      “Really? Everything I’ve heard from friends says it’s a cutdown version of SR2”

      Well, I am now the proud owner of a copy of Saint’s Row 3, and having played it for about a day… this criticism feels spot on

      I’m a fair bit of a ways through act 2, but I keep going back to, and then leaving the game. I’m only every playing it in fits and starts for a hour or two at a time (unlike SR2 where I was enthralled by it).

      It is mechanically exceptional, well ahead of SR2 (gang fights are better, melee is useful and fun, grenades are useful and fun). But the much needed context for it all is simply not there. I’ve completed almost 2 acts and not once have I felt any closer to defeating the main villains, nor have I ever felt like my actions were logically contributing to that, or any other cause. This is nothing like SR2 where by this time I’d probably killed at least 2 of the gangs completely, or killed several of the gang leaders myself. I’ve been killing “Morningstar” and “Luchadors” and “Deckers” for several hours now and not once have I felt like I faced the bad guys for myself. At the end of act 1 I wasn’t even certain how Loren had been killed, had it been the giant metal ball? Or the explosion? And of all two of the named bad guys that have been killed, half of them weren’t even killed by me

      Mechanically excellent though, the best I’ve ever seen

  8. Mr Guy says:

    The two “huge spotlight” sections bugged the crap out of me too. You can just see the way this got nerfed in playtesting.

    I’m sure it was originally designed like a classic “turret” section where you had an incredibly powerful weapon that could mow down enemies, but they come from all directions so you need to be quick at aiming it at the right guys. And the original had a bunch of guys spawning over the whole 180 degree span and rushing you.

    Then they playtested it and people couldn’t keep up – you had to concentrate for too long on a guy to kill him, and it was too shadowy to see all the approaching enemies. So rather than tweak the enemy spawn rate or the amount of damage to kill enemies, they said “screw it – while you’re on the turret they just won’t attack.”

    Or, more likely, they said “OK, for now just have the enemies stand still so players can get past that section. We’ll come back and make it work properly later” and then never got around to it…

  9. Mr Guy says:

    You guys! You guys!

    What if NEITHER Alan Wake OR Thomas Zane are real? And they were both made up by a different-but-just-as-crappy writer?

    Wouldn’t that, like, blow your mind?

  10. Chauzuvoy says:

    Fun fact, from a current Pacific Northwest resident (Eastern Washington):

    Most of our power comes from the Hydro dams on the Columbia. Tornados occasionally happen out on the palouse. There are practically zero places where the two coincide. Ever.

    • BenD says:

      This. I was going to say this, but then someone else did.

      The same more or less goes for Oregon. Most of the dams are west of the Cascade mountain range; most of the tornadoes are east of it. Some exceptions occur for both, but it’s not like you’re going to stand on a dam and have a tornado go by any time soon.

  11. Mr Guy says:

    Also, it’s a little odd that the Lamp Lady found the time to plant crazy supplies and paint graffiti all over town, but never seemed to find the time to get a can of normal paint and paint the well-lit room. Seems like a strange sense of priorities.

    • Atarlost says:

      The point of the well lit room isn’t to be bright, it’s to maximize the number of bulbs so that a bulb going out has minimal effect on the light level in the room. A small room with a pair of halogens will fail if two lamps fail before the first can be replaced. The actual well lit room has hundreds of independent light sources and can probably stand scores going out without effecting the sanctity of the room.

      • Destrustor says:

        Even so, a coat of white paint would still help in regards to that, by maximizing the distance and coverage of the light with reflections and indirect light.
        Dark walls will absorb some of the light, so between two identical rooms, one white and one dark, the white one will always be brighter if both rooms have the same amount of light sources. Also, in a white room, one bulb going out would have slightly less of an effect on the overall light level.
        She could even use reflective paint with glass dust in it, like they use on roads.

    • Hitch says:

      She had more important things than the walls of her room on her mind. As evidenced by the fact she painted pointers to the door where Barry and the sheriff lady went in and the button for Alan to hold to open the door for them. And on top of that, knowing that the door would be blocked before Alan could get in, she had to paint pointers for an alternate path for him. That’s a lot of foresight and painting. Walls don’t matter. Her strings of light work.

  12. ps238principal says:

    Oh, man, the disappearing/falling walkway. Those always give me flashbacks to the one in the original “Alone in the Dark” on the Amiga.

  13. MatthewH says:

    I’m happy to agree that the game would be improved by good editing. What I want to know is, if the game had been hacked down to 6 hours would people have complained that it was too short? I’m trying to think of a 6 hour game I haven’t felt a bit like I got shafted on -alas MW3 is the only 6 hour game I can think of, and it had other problems.

    • Amnestic says:

      Portal/Portal 2 would be the obvious answers, though I did hear complaints that they some Portal 2 was too short for the money they paid.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        Portal had the distinct of coming with the Orange Box, so that might not be the best example.

        Perhaps Heavenly Sword on the PS3 would be a good example. It was short, but the story was so good that I was content.

      • ps238principal says:

        Portal 2’s Infinite Testing Initiative is totally evil.

        Just when you think you can put the game down, you start looking through the 5-star test chambers of all time, then the month, then the week, then you try making your own, and when you’re done, people have uploaded new ones…

      • Sumanai says:

        Yeah, I’ve heard that too. Didn’t Shamus mention something about Portal 2 being short in one of his Skyrim posts?

        I can’t take part in this discussion otherwise, since I’m strongly in the “I’d rather have 6 hours of good experience than have 6 hours of good spread over 20+ hours”. I’d name names of games, but I think I’d just start arguments. (Edit: Haven’t played Skyrim, so I’m not talking about that.)

    • Alex says:

      Shadow of the Colossus couldn’t have been much longer than 6-8 hours. I treasure that time a lot more than the hundred or so hours I wasted on the likes of Final Fantasy XII.

      Getting your money’s worth is one thing, but I think there comes a point where it stops being an epic adventure and just starts being pointless busy work. Until eventually I don’t remember anything but the grind, and no moment truly stands out in my memory.

      • Thomas says:

        I some ways, with story focused games, being short makes it special. Saying that 10 hours is a standard campaign time nowadays and I’m sure a lot of popular games actually only last six or so

      • newdarkcloud says:

        Ugh. I love XII’s story (except Vaan and Penelo), but you’re right. I cannot replay that game without using a GameShark or something because it’s simply not fun to go that long and fight so many repetitive battles.

        • Thomas says:

          I wasn’t a fan of the story so much.

          In fact I wasn’t a fan of the story at all, couldn’t differentiate any of the judges and moreover, a character says ‘ it wasn’t me who betrayed my country, it was actually my evil twin brother framing me’ and it’s true. What world do we live in where they didn’t think there was anything wrong with a serious _evil_ _twin_ plot? (saying that, he was the only Judge story who was interesting and I liked the brother interactions)

          The characters were good, they’re getting good at doing strong female leads. Ashe had so much going for her. Balthier was fun, Bashe was cool… and that’s about all the good I have to say character wise (what was wrong with Vaan?? And Fran.. gee that was subtle character design).

          XII had some of the best environments, some beautiful cities and there was more things you could do in the way of exploration and combat strategy than usual. Have enemies in the real world was good.

          All the same, the story didn’t fit the game type well. FFX was a journey across a broken land, FFXIII was running away cut off from civilisation (although the regen mechanics conflicted horrible with that). FFXII was about great big empires with warships, but you spent most of you time crawling across the landscape with 6 people.

          Actually developing an empire RPG would be interesting. So you travel like an army travels rather than just as one person, with scouting and supplies, but it’s from a close perspective rather than a Rome: Total War style thing when you’re moving around and exploring

          • newdarkcloud says:

            I don’t have the same blind hatred many people do at Vaan. It’s just that, from a plot standpoint, there is no reason for him to be there. Penelo has even less of a reason. You can argue that there’s a reason to have Fran, but despite her much more interesting character and arc, she’s not really necessary either.

            I had Ashe, Basch, and Balthier as my team mostly using Ashe as the leader because the other three could pretty much get cut from the game.

            And I will concede that I was almost completely lost on my first playthrough of the game with regards to what the characters were doing and why. FF X had a much clearer and easy to follow story.

            I will also agree that the locals were all very beautiful and that I would have appreciated more use of the cities, armies, and politics in the gameplay and the exploration.

            • newdarkcloud says:

              What I liked about Final Fantasy XII was that we were starting to get past sappy, melodramatic love-stories and getting into interesting commentary on society at large? I liked FF10, but the Tidus/Yuna started to get a little old towards the end for me personally. 12 was talking about politics, intrigue, destiny vs. free will, and so on. 10 was doing some of this, but 12 was doing this much more overtly and without melodrama.

              • Ringwraith says:

                XIII has no heavy-handed romantic subplot through the game, as the one that is there took place before the events of the game, and it’s the existence of that relationship that drives a couple of the characters and their interactions.
                Otherwise, it’s literally just a diverse group of people on the run, and them trying to deal with that.

                • newdarkcloud says:

                  I’m also one of the people who really enjoyed FF XIII. I liked the characters and the basic plot enough to see the journey through to the end. They handled character development and interaction very well. Also, I was one of the guys who enjoyed the paradigm system and had tons of fun with it. I liked only having to worry about the battles overall flow instead of the details. It added a bit more strategy to the game, as did HP refills. However, it was a flawed game.

                  It was incredibly linear. I know FF X was as well, but XIII felt more linear. Pulse opened up way too late for it to be much help. The infamous “Oh, it gets good 20 hours in line.”

                  Speaking of pulse, the difficulty curve steepens dramatically once you get there. Things become so much more difficult so quickly that it’s jarring.

                  I honestly didn’t like the villains of the game. They were all very shallow with the exception of Cid and they gray-haired dude who eventually side with the party. There is literally nothing to Barty and the woman’s character. (BTW, Barty, you kill-stealer, she was MY target.)

                  I was skeptical of the ending until XIII-2. I think it would have been more thematically appropriate for them to have just stayed as crystals. They fought their fate and won, but at a price. It would have been a touching tale of self-sacrifice. With XIII-2 explaining it a bit better, I can accept the ending as it is.

                  Lastly, I hated the way the crystarium was locked up tight and unlocked as the game progressed. If some people have a difficult time (I didn’t, but some people will) then let them grind. Shamus said something about this is one of his blog posts, but I can’t be bothered to look for it.

                  But despite my complaints, I did enjoy the game and it’s plot. I wonder why it took so long to come out, but I enjoyed it. I wonder why Square is almost incapable of releasing products in a timely manner. It also gets much more of a pass from me because like Alan Wake, it took a few risks. While not all of them panned out, it still something to be applauded.

                  • Thomas says:

                    I’m going to comment on half your post because I haven’t played XIII-2 yet and I stopped reading when I saw the words.

                    I agree the idea of the plot was a nice change of direction in 12 but it’s the actual application and the way it doesn’t gel with the gameplay so well that stops it being good. One of the things people don’t pay enough attention too sometimes is the perspective of the player and if you’re going to be on the ground in a little group, the main story needs to play into that. You can do empire stories, but unless you do a complete overhaul, they need to be personal empire stories. To be fair XII did try that with Ashe and the idea of a person running around helplessly caught between two things trying to prevent a war, but there wasn’t enough impact and it was hard for instance, to get behind the Marquis mind, when you don’t experience the world on the scale he’s experiencing it.

                    FFXIII had probably the best storylines, and the best acting in those story lines of all the FF’s I’ve ever played. It’s literally just Fang who doesn’t have an interesting arc, and she does the most interesting thing at the end to make up for that.

                    But I think they needed some sort of something that progressed and wore down between battles. In X it was like a journey, you’d walk done the road, getting weaker and weaker as it wore at you, you began to hope you’d get to the next checkpoint, which would force you to think of it as a journey, and of the walking as part of the game. In 13 you were running a way and you needed a similar worn down feeling, instead every battle was completed disconnected from the last.

                    Also the corridors needed to be wider. I have no idea why they chose 1 person wide corridors. It can’t be much harder to do 10 metre wide corridors and it changes the feel hugely. I have fond memories of the walk from Luca down the Highroad. I can’t remember a thing like that from XIII

                    Also villains in XIII all time worst. I kept killing people and being surprised that they were characters I was meant to know.

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      You don’t have to worry. I intentionally didn’t say a thing about 13-2’s story.

                      I think you might be onto something with the comments on wearing down and of XIII’s corridors. When I look back, I do remember that the corridors in 13 were much smaller and more constricting. I think it might also be that the roads in Spira were populated with more people than most of the locals in 13. There were many people you could talk to and even have additional scenes/side-quests with. I have tons of fond memories of talking with people on the Highroad, but I was bored of 13’s locals after awhile.

                      I think I’m going to add that to my list of things to write about on my blog. Would you mind if I used some of your ideas as well?

                    • Ringwraith says:

                      Although the lack of people in XIII is rather understandable really, seeing as you’re on the run and all.

                      Actually I preferred XIII’s corridors to X’s as they looked more open, and I think people found XIII more linear-feeling than X because of the lack of loading screens, meaning the map betrays just how linear it is. Whereas X only had a local mini-map which contained very small areas, so felt more sprawling that it actually was.

                      For the free healing after battle decision, some of the better combat systems I’ve played had that, as the random encounters can become actual threats rather than just designed to slowly wear you down and chip away at you all the time. It allows a much more satisfying sense of achievement as you’re being constantly challenged.

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      It’s not like I don’t get why most of the areas had people, but there could have been a few more scenes where Lightning and co slip into a town or something and relax for a little while. Most of the characters have the sense to hide there brands (and Snow could just wear some kind of armband while in town). It would help to really add to the world and make it feel more alive. Spira seemed like a world, Cocoon felt like a long corridor, at least to me. These things are inherently subjective, especially since opinions of 13 in general are very divided.

                      I’m not saying free heals are bad at all. They really do help ease the frustration for me. Wild Arms 4 and 5 used them fairly well. The HEX battle system would be much more annoying without that inclusion imo.

                    • Thomas says:

                      ‘Course I don’t mind :D I agree about the people and locals, I know it doesn’t make story sense to see them too often, but not having them at all makes hit hard to even know what you’re missing. At the very least they should have realised they need to compensate for the interest that’s lost when you remove the people

                      @Ringwraith
                      I understand the free heals, and that’s why I said something has to continue, not necessarily health. It was cool finding each battle a challenge, but they needed some persistence as well. I was thinking maybe a scratch system, where a bit of your health will become permanently damaged, or a magic bar that runs down and is hard to fill up again. You’d be able to keep battles tense because they would still have most of their health/abilities whatever and you’d be able to keep track of roughly where they should be on that and make enemies a little weaker so the challenge remains. It’s quite a tricky situation to solve but there needs to be some solution

                      Also, Ringwraith, are you sure the corridors in FFXIII looked more open?
                      Here’s FFXIII
                      http://hardandsoftgaming.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/ffxiii_screen_corridor.jpg
                      http://i.ytimg.com/vi/HBZwTsGCZ5s/0.jpg

                      Here’s X
                      http://ff10.ffsky.cn/pic/weapon.jpg
                      http://i224.photobucket.com/albums/dd253/ffxlp12/5-1.png
                      http://www.skyrender.net/lp/ffx/12/29.jpg

                      And I chose those X shots to be quite a bit narrower than a lot of the paths you can walk down. On the other hand I couldnt find a shot of the motorway which was probably the widest corridor in XIII
                      (Also seriously, search for FFX screenshots, there is some absolutely beautiful fanart around, I was quite shocked)

                    • The Rocketeer says:

                      The problem I have with the series today is that every story since Final Fantasy VIII has been resolved with a deus ex machina.

                      FFVIII: Ultimecia entraps the cast in ‘time compression,’ which we are assured will end reality. They escape for no reason.

                      FFIX: An omnicidal nihilist curbstomps your party. Then a heretofore unexplained death god appears to finish off all of you and destroy everything. You somehow recover and defeat it, and the psycho from before decides to whisk you to safety.

                      FFX: The party destroys the only means of quelling an unstoppable, endlessly-reincarnating avatar of destruction. They have NO BETTER PLAN at this point. It all works out because… well, it would sure suck if it didn’t!

                      FFXII: A race of apparently immortal, all-powerful superbeings that has controlled humanity’s fate since time immemorial by lending them their superweapons tasks you with doing their bidding. Your party shrugs them off, then openly defies them. This never has any consequences.

                      FFXIII: Your party is more or less enslaved and ordered to destroy humanity. Despite complaining tirelessly about it, you pretty much do this anyway. Then you are all turned into zombies, which has, throughout history, always been an utterly inalterable fate worse than death. You all get better for no reason. Then you destroy humanity anyway. Then everyone is okay anyway.

                      Can we please get a Final Fantasy in which the actions of the characters are the prime factors in the plot? Preferably something beyond ‘travel north, then kill God?’

                    • Ringwraith says:

                      Indeed, Wild ARMs 4 & 5 were the two games I first came across it, and I think it was an excellent idea.
                      It meant they weren’t afraid to challenge you with random encounters rather than making them busywork. You still had to manage your MP in those games too, as that wasn’t restored for free after every battle.
                      Of course, that system doesn’t work unless you offer a free retry option, as otherwise you’ve just (almost) made Dark Souls.

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      One thing I realized when going back to my memories of Final Fantasy XIII was that there isn’t much to do in the game. For the most part, you are going down a linear corridor. There is one part where you’re allowed to explore, but even then, all you can really do is go around looking for monsters to kill. All the side-quests are just go here and kill this. The only variation on that is the part in Fang/Vanielle’s village where you repair her robot.

              • Alex says:

                I like the script to FFXII. I know it’s just pseudo-gibberish trying desperately to sound Shakespearian, but I think it was right for that particular game. It was a nice change of pace from “GO AND SHOOT THOSE GUYS!! RAAAAAAAGH!!! DELTA CHARLIE SIX, FOXTROTS AND WHATEVER”

                But I hate the main cast. I hated the character designs for your main party, I hated their voices, I hated their personalities. And those are the guys you have to spend the most time with. Penelo and Balthier are the only two people who didn’t dress like medieval tranny prostitutes, and they didn’t feel the need to pant into the microphone after every other word. The really interesting characters either only act as temporary AI partners, or never join your squad at all.

                I think it does matter who your main team is, and if they aren’t appealing or varied(or even interesting), that’s going to hurt the game in ways more levels and cutscenes can’t compensate for.

                This game had Pig people. Lizard people. Crab Tusken Raider Midgets. Moogles. And a black guy. None of them become permanent members of your team. Instead you get a bunch of people who look like they wandered out from the world’s worst fashion show.

                That might be why I’m more forgiving of Final Fantasy XIII. Yeah, they still sound like idiots, but at least they aren’t dressed like ’em.

                • newdarkcloud says:

                  That’s fair. The main cast could have used some diversity and I did just advocate culling half of the main party members, so I can’t say I disagree. And I agree that the guests were often infinitely more interesting, particularly Reddas, with Larsa also being a very interesting character.

                  I will agree that the outfits are goofy looking, but are they any less goofy than in FF X? Seriously, Tidus looked like a clown. the scripting problem was also evident in FF X. Remember the laughing scene. That role nearly destroyed James Arnold Taylor’s career. Fortunately, Ratchet helped restore it.

                  • Thomas says:

                    There was a tone difference though in X. I’d say that all of the actual main characters looked like the belonged somewhere in the world. Seymour went waaaay to far though :D

                    I didn’t mind the costumes in XII too much. Ashe, Balthier, Basche all looked right. Fran I didn’t like but it wasn’t jarring (apart from the frickin’ high heels). Penelo and Vaan just looked wrong though. I don’t mind either of them as characters per say but they were dressed way too oddly

                    • Alex says:

                      Penelo might be the only character design, from a visual standpoint, that I liked. Her outfit didn’t seem overly complex or stupidly impractical. She wasn’t wearing a shirt with three sleeves or something, which I wouldn’t have put past the character designer.

                      But then you have Ashe. Am I the only who thought it just seemed out-of-place for a queen, trying to remain inconspicuous to avoid capture, to wear a napkin instead of pants?

                      “Nobody look at me!
                      Except my crotch, you can look at that.”

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      I find it kind of telling that the three characters you dislike for their dress are the same three characters I dislike because they are unnecessary to the plot. Seriously, remove those three and very few things change.

                  • Alex says:

                    Thanks to Youtube Poop, I’ve learned to love the laughing scene ironically. If anything, the big reveal about Yuna later on gets on my nerves more. Not because of what it is, but because the music used during that scene is so cheesy and forced, it kills what should be the emotional centre of the story.

                    That, and I think if we’re ranking cringe-worthy JAT games, Ratchet and Clank is like an entire franchise based around the laughing scene.

                    Can’t complain about the costume design in X though. And even if they did look like goobers, I can let that go if I connect with the cast in some way. I liked the guys and gals in X, so I could forgive the lederhosen.

                    In XII, I didn’t like the characters OR how they looked. I couldn’t even appreciate them superficially. And they weren’t consistent: NPCs in the game all over seemed to know how to dress themselves. It’s one thing to make me play as dudes wearing a cross between a dish towel and a Bowflex, they could have at least hired a decent voice actor or two.

                  • Ringwraith says:

                    No, no NO.
                    Laughing scene is being horribly misunderstood is really irritating to me, as yes it sounds forced, but that’s the entire point. Even the other characters look on with confusion.

                    I also had no problem with Tidus’ outfit, as he’s a self-absorbed celebrity as the game begins, and is as such a complete fashion victim.

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      I get the point of the scene, but I still cringe every time I see it. It’s quite painful to watch, even if that’s the point.

                      I mean, his outfit isn’t really that big of a deal, I just find it silly even in FF 10s world. It’s isn’t really a deal breaker. Nothing in Spira is and I have tons of fond memories of FF 10 since that and Wild Arms 3 are directly responsible for getting me into RPGs. I love them both a big huggy-buggy bunch. To this day, I have nothing bad to say about Wild Arms 3.

                    • Thomas says:

                      I’m with newdarkcloud here, I understand the idea and I even think it was quite a good idea, but they just took it too far and its painful to watch even if you can understand it. A fake laugh was necessary, but a fake laugh that wasn’t ear scrapingly awful :D It’s mean to be a moment of humour collapsing into a moment of tenderness but instead I want to pretend that I’m not with those people :)

                      I don’t think the voice acting in X is as bad as people say though. In general I didn’t mind most, Tidus had a hard line to play, being arrogant but not irritating and the VA wasn’t completely up to that, but he didn’t do a bad job

                    • Ringwraith says:

                      Yeah, it’s Tidus’ transition which works well, as by the end he’s grown into his role in the events.
                      There’s a reason why the narration is so different from his normal dialogue for most of the game.

                      The first Wild ARMs game was what really got me into JRPGs, with only one game I completed before then but that was several years ago. As I finally finished WA1 after years of starting it and then went out and bought the rest of the series. I still think 3 is the best of the series, although it lacks the nifty battle system of 4 and 5, as they flowed really well.
                      The music’s always excellent too.

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      I started at Wild Arms 3 and went on to get 4 and 5 later. Once 1 and 2 were available on PSN, I snagged them up real quick and enjoyed playing through them both.

                      I think 3 was the best in the series. It had a fun battle system refined from earlier entries in the series and a very interesting and stable plot.

                      I have mixed opinions about 4 and 5. I really love playing through them. The HEX system really is unique and well-executed. It makes battles much more interesting than in other RPGs.
                      On the other hand, I didn’t really care for the plots of those games. WA4 had an okay plotline, but it got fairly confusing and didn’t have the “Old-Western” feel I’ve come to love the series for. It went way too Sci-Fi for me. WA5 did make an attempt to go back to the Old-Western feel and succeeded for the most part, but it became incredibly predictable and bland.

                    • Ringwraith says:

                      My lack of access to the second (it was was never released in Europe, still hasn’t on PSN either) has thus far prevented me from playing it, but I’ve seen someone else play through it (and hurl abuse at them while doing so), so I’ve seen most of it.
                      It looks like it had a really interesting plot and the like, but it’s hampered by some terrible localisation (it’s really, really bad), and some truly horrifically-designed dungeons (traphezodron anyone?)

                      4 was definitely the least Western-themed of them all, but the gameplay went a fair way to make up for it. 5 both refined it and took a step backwards with it, as being able to shuffle everyone’s skills around and the fairly similar stats everyone ended up making character selection a bit redundant, not to mention the lack of the different abilities there were. Although the varied battlefields made things a bit more interesting.
                      I do like to describe the HEX system as an SRPG-lite, even though there are some subtleties that it doesn’t do justice to.

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      Wild Arms 2 did have a very good plot. And you’re right, localization was NOT kind to it. The plot still made sense despite that, but some of the dialog is iffy. Also, that sequence where you go to each of the four towers in WA5 is blatantly ripped off from WA2. Since WA5 commemorated the 20th anniversary of the franchise, this could be forgiven.

                      I totally agree with you on the fact that since every single skill was given to the characters through a medium in WA5, the characters all felt the same. It basically came down to who’s combat taunts were least annoying (which is why I rarely used Carol). Whereas in WA4 all four characters had their own skill-set, strengths, and weaknesses that they needed to work as a team to overcome.

                      Also, I don’t know if you’d want to do this, but I know a few people who have accounts from other regions just to buy games from them. You could try making an american account to get WA2.

                    • Ringwraith says:

                      Yeah, I could try and buy it, but it would require having to buy American PSN credit I’m not going to use much of and that kind of headache it will cause.

                      A lot of things in 5 were references, there’s a Mt. Chug Chug, like the one in 2, and even the super-secret armour is a massive Wild ARMs 2 reference, including its related music. As well as Carol’s ringtone being a low-fi rendition of 2’s opening.
                      Although I liked having cameos of all the previous characters, their little sidequests, and being able to unlock some of their outfits, although some of the choices were questionable (Rebecca as Yulie and Carol as Virgina, really? Are you sure that’s not backwards?)

                      Also, turns out block puzzles are significantly harder when done in 2D. Who knew?

  14. Piflik says:

    On the point of cutscenes…I think the worst offenders in this area are JRPGs. And it is where Dragon’s Dogma really shows its roots. I meet the/an antagonist and then instead of putting an arrow between his eyes, my character chooses to let him deliver an endless speech about how much I suck and he will triumph before making his getaway . All the while my character just stares at him, mouth half opened (always), looking mildly surprised…that is really annoying…especially if I am so overleveled that I beat him and his goons to a pulp in mere seconds and he still manages to catch me by surprise and get away…through a door that was behind me seconds before, so he would have gotten past/through me to reach it…

    • Alex says:

      Honestly, that happens just as often in western games as they do in JRPGs. If one side had it more often than the other, I’d say they’re about tied by now.

      What’s especially fun is when a game lets you skip SOME cutscenes, but never the ones you desperately wish would just shut up already, God, I’ve played this part three times already.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Which is why I loved the interrupts in me2.Seriously,we need more speech interrupts in games.

      • ps238principal says:

        Where’s the western equivalent of the Metal Gear cutscene-fest?

        I mean, who else on the planet can run off at the mouth like Hideo Kojima?

        • Sumanai says:

          I’ve heard there were a lot of adventure games that consisted almost exclusively of cutscenes in the CD era of PC gaming. Don’t have a lot of personal experience, since I wasn’t all that interested in most of them. Only ones I’ve played were Harvester and Under a Killing Moon. If you don’t count Bad Mojo. I think Spoony has reviewed some of the worst ones and there are a few in Gog.com from what I understand.

          They’re not as dialogue heavy, but you couldn’t really be with full videos on CDs and smaller budgets.

          Although, the discussion seemed to be about JRPGs and specific types of cutscenes where the antagonist walks off without allowing player interaction more than where someone blabbers on and on.

  15. Spammy says:

    The problem with Alan Wake that started to fix itself towards the end is that it feels kind of like they were afraid to embrace the weirdness of the premise and idea, which is why I think they spent so long on the mundane kidnapper plot. Compare Alan Wake to Deadly Premonition, which is the closest game in terms of tone, I think, and Deadly Premonition is way more embracing of its weirdness, starting with the protagonist, a chain-smoking FBI special investigator who has an imaginary friend and gets oracular messages from his coffee.

    But Alan Wake feels like they were trying to be more ‘realistic’ without doing much to fill in the gaps left by taking out the fantastic. That’s probably why I hated platforming in Alan Wake, the more realistic a game is, the worse the jumping is, if they give you one at all. *cough*FarCry2*cough*

    • LunaticFringe says:

      Imaginary friend? I thought he was talking to the player the whole time.

      • Mr Guy says:

        Actually, since they’re going all “Twin Peaks” on us anyways, why not go further and have him narrating to an equivalent of “Diane” instead of inner monologuing?

      • Syal says:

        The imaginary friend has a fixed name. That makes it a character.

        • LunaticFringe says:

          …Except the developers said that Zach is just a representation of a the player. He has a name, sure, but the sole purpose of him existing is as an information dump. It’s basically the video game version of an aside in theatre.

    • Lovecrafter says:

      A.W. in the coffee?

    • GiantRaven says:

      Throughout this whole series my biggest thought about the game has been ‘Alan Wake is Deadly Premonition but made serious and boring’.

    • James says:

      I’d agree that they probably aimed too much for the undertone of realism, but I’d go further and say they didn’t embrace realism enough either. Since you’re fighting shadow monsters pretty much from the start it’s hard to keep everything in a realistic context. It really should have picked one of the extremes because then it could have had much more focus.

      Honestly though I strangely think that the story would have been much better if it starred Max Pain. Hear me out! lol. What I mean is it should have starred one of Alans characters, perhaps his brooding cop out for revenge against a mob boss for killing his family… Crazy shit would go down and the reveal would be Alans wife telling you that you’re a fictional character, and the picture of your family that you kept in your wallet has been blank this whole time cause Alan never wrote a description for them.

      The end point would be the fictional character taking revenge on his creator, for making his life a hell for the sake of ‘drama’. And thus with Alans death you would prevent the darkness from escaping, but you would also cease to exist.

  16. droid says:

    @15:30
    JOSH: I grew up in the pacific northwest, and I don’t remember any giant tornadoes.

    ME: This is no ordinary storm!

  17. Friend of Dragons says:

    The retelling concept reminds me of Bastion, which has this old guy narrating it(although the VA is actually pretty young and I have no idea how he did it so well); If you fell of the edge, he would say “and then, he falls to his death… I’m just kidding”. was pretty funny.

    • Lovecrafter says:

      Even better: the old man would often twist a death around into a moment of tension, like if you died fighting enemies: “That last one really got him good…” *respawn* “But the kid ain’t no quitter.” (or something along those lines). Occasionally he’d even give some additional info on the environment or little tidbits about the setting. It’s one of the reasons why I really liked the dynamic narrator.

    • Thomas says:

      *Cough humblebundle.com cough* Bastion, Limbo, Psychonauts, Amnesia, all in one bundle …

      Everyone probably already knows but you said the word Bastion and it’s the sickest humble bundle ever

      • newdarkcloud says:

        I had to buy it. At least I know I got my $10 worth and I know exactly who got my money.

        • Thomas says:

          I’ve never bought one before I have Psychonauts (somewhere, I’m not really sure how I’ve got my hands on it? I can’t even remember if it’s a disk or download) and I’ll never make an Amnesia playthrough, maybe not even Limbo, but even then, that price would be cheap for Bastion alone and it’s good causes, well directed money and I get all the other games? It’s just ridiculous :D

    • Sumanai says:

      The guy who did most of the “deep voice narration” stuff for Hollywood told in an interview that his voice turned into that when he was 12 or something. His teachers thought he was doing it on purpose, so he got into trouble.

      What I’m saying is, though it always surprises (at least me) to hear someone young have a low voice, it really shouldn’t.

      The narrator in Bastion got on my nerves, though. In the beginning he talks like an avatar of a smartarse.

      • Alex says:

        I could not finish Bastion, partly because of the narration. I don’t know how anyone would think that wouldn’t get old in about 2 minutes.

        • Ringwraith says:

          It’s funny when people find it as such, as I think it’s so masterfully done to not get annoying, like how it will never repeat itself unless you’re actually replaying it.

          • Alex says:

            Did they think we were so stupid that we needed to hear a guy tell us a thing we already did?

            “The kid jumped, and hit his head on a block. Shoulda busted his head open something fierce. But instead, salvation came out. Those goombas wouldn’t know what hit ’em.”

            “After the 3rd time falling into the spikes, the blue boy realized he had to time his jumps. Those blocks fading in and out of existence were doing it in a pattern. Wily, you clever rascal.”

            …Wait a minute!

            BASTION IS JUST A TOP-DOWN ALAN WAKE!

            • Sumanai says:

              That gets worse when it fails and, for instance, says “The kid raged on a while” when you’re destroying stuff so you can move forward. It ruins the illusion pretty badly when the narration gets inaccurate about the actual events.

              Also there’s the subtext of “I knew you were going to do that” while obviously coming after the fact, like you said. Since the gameplay isn’t all that special that starts getting on my nerves.

  18. LunaticFringe says:

    To be fair to the whole ‘he’s my best friend’ comment, regardless of your opinion on Barry he’s pretty solid. I mean, no offense to any of my friends, but if they dragged me to a random Northwest hick town to be attacked by birds and supernatural forces I’d get out of there pretty fast. Barry staying around means one of two things:

    1. Barry is the most insanely loyal friend of all time…or…
    2. Alan Wake is an asshole who wrote his best friend into his story to suffer along with him. At least he didn’t kill him off I guess.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      There was a manuscript in American Nightmare that touched on this.

      http://alanwake.wikia.com/wiki/Return_%28manuscript%29#Page_11:_My_Best_Friend

      Apparently Alan has a very favorable opinion of Barry, despite his flaws.

    • Mr Guy says:

      So, I actually think the “He’s my best friend!” line is there to show Alan’s personal journey.

      At the start of the game (as we establish on the ferry), Alan’s a grumpy misanthrope. He’s gruff with his fans, won’t take the time to do a local radio interview even though he’s probably the biggest star to hit town…ever, and he’s really annoyed by Barry even though he just wants to help. He’s soon after angry at Alice just for trying to help him. We establish in the flashbacks he’s a self-absorbed narcisist.

      By the end of the game, Alan is a decent human being, who realizes he loves Alice, that Barry’s really a friend, and that there are more important things in this world than himself, which makes him capable of self-sacrifice, which the Alan from Chapter 1 wouldn’t be.

      This COULD have been a really great “tone” for the game – a journey of redemption for Alan. But (like so many opportunities in this game), it’s wasted. They don’t really try to show this (except in a few ham-handed places like this specific line).

      How they could have done this better: after the flight scene, rather than have Alan all “Oh no! Alice!” have him more focused on himself. “How dare someone try to take what’s mine? Oh, I’ll get her back!” As he proceeds with trying to run down the kidnapper, have his attitude gradually morph to “If he’s hurt her, I’ll kill him,” and later to “I’d do anything to have her back!” Have some moments where he needs to use some empathy. For example, maybe he needs initially to protect some of the other patients at the asylum from the dark presence. Maybe this annoys him at first, but eventually he gets them to safety and realizes “hey – it really feels good to know you helped people.” Have his interactions with Barry grow from “why are you here? Just stay out of my way” to “I guess you’re useful” grudging acceptance to realizing “Barry is the most loyal friend I have in the world.” You could even use the manuscript pages here – gradually change the tone of the first person pages to be less whiny/entitled/self-centered.

      Basically, slowly make Alan into the kind of guy who he needs to be for the ending to make sense. Rather than have him suddenly be that guy.

  19. silver Harloe says:

    Ahhhh, Shamus, you posted late. That’s only 2xp instead of 10, and resets your progress on the “10 Posts on Time in Row” badge.

    Per talk about a third of the way in about making the kidnapper plot better: If Alan and the player both knew he was fighting the dark presence, but he tried to have his wife kidnapped by someone else in order to get her away from the danger everyone else is in (but it didn’t work out), that might have been cool.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    That turret section isnt mandatory,you can fight them off with guns,if you are am masochist.And they do rush you on higher difficulties.

    Anyway,when you started talking about that “And then I died”,I immediately thought of sands of time.You guys really should do a spoiler warning of prince.But not before you finish half life 2.Guys,finish half life 2!

  21. Chris Headley says:

    I know who Jimmy is does that make me old, I hope not.

    • Sumanai says:

      I had to check what he looked like on IMDB, but I recognise him as well. I think I saw him on NYPD Blue or LA Law. Maybe both?

      But IMDB doesn’t mention anything about him being in the Langoliers. Haven’t seen it, so I can’t… wait. The plot sounds familiar. Well, even if it is the film I’m thinking about, I only caught the ending and that was years ago, so I can’t say if he is in there and IMDB is wrong.

      Can anyone help? Is he in the Langoliers or not?

      • harborpirate says:

        Both.

        I have to admit that those 20 and under might have a good chance of having never have heard of Jimmy Smits. NYPD Blue was a pretty big deal, but he was on that until just 1998.

        The other option: No care about the names of actors, since yes, he was in the Star Wars prequels as well.

        No idea if he was in the Langoliers.

        • Syal says:

          I don’t know about the Langoliers, but he starred in Tommyknockers.

        • Hitch says:

          Before NYPD Blue he was Victor Sifuentes. In my mind he will (likely) always be Victor Sifuentes.

        • Sumanai says:

          I know he was in both since I checked it from IMDB, but I can’t tell if I remember him from both. There’s this strange thing my memory has done with 90s and before crime shows where they’ve all turned into this big lump and I can no longer tell them apart. All the other TV shows could be in that lump as well and I just can’t tell.

  22. Thomas says:

    Oh game! You can’t do this, you can’t go for hours and hours and then have a piece of complete cutscene storytelling gold like this all of a sudden

  23. Raygereio says:

    What the hell is up with that weird crouch-thing Alan often does when Josh starts sprinting? Is Alan going for a track start? I’m seeing a lot of animation related weirdness that bug me (like Alan something looking constantly to the right when he’s moving forwards), but the sprint-crouch just annoys me for some odd reason.

    Shamus: A while ago I earned your ire by suggesting you guys should maybe take a break from Spoiler Warning.
    I’m really enjoying this season and had fun watching the last one. So I guess what I interpreted as burn out, was probably the last couple of games Spoiler Warning did when I made that comment not working well for you.
    My bad.

    Also, I have to say that reading you complain about ads on twitter is rather ironic to me as you once jumped at my throat for saying I would dislike you putting commercial breaks in Spoiler Warning episodes. ^_O

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I think that crouch thing might be Alan going into a dodge animation, then realizing that Josh meant run. I don’t really know for sure.

      • Timelady says:

        Yep. The controls for dodge and sprint are exactly the same, you just hold them down longer. So, unless you’re a way better player than I was (which, tbh, wouldn’t be hard), you can’t actually dodge and sprint at the same time. Wahey.

        • Raygereio says:

          I haven’t played Alan Wake, so erm.. what?
          Dodge and sprint are the same key? Does that control scheme really work comfortably in combat? That sounds to me like there will be ocnfusion between the game and the player on whether you want to avoid that axe swing, or just want to run away and reposition yourself.

          • newdarkcloud says:

            Well, you dodge first, then sprint.
            And they both take away from the same invisible stamina bar.

          • Even says:

            It does work when you’re not sprinting, which you won’t be doing much in combat since you can’t sprint and shoot/focus the beam at the same time. And it’s not that hard to do off sprinting either, all you need is to tap the sprint key to perform the dodge and then just keep running. When you do the move right and actually manage to dodge something, the game gives you what it calls a “cinematic dodge” with a seemingly pointless bullet time effect and camera focus. I guess the point was to make it feel more dramatic. It does look cool the first few times but the novelty wears off kinda quick.

          • anaphysik says:

            Still a better control scheme than that in Mass Effect 3.

            • Mr Guy says:

              Still a better love story than Twilight.

              • Syal says:

                I’m saying this about all the Batman movies from now on.

                • newdarkcloud says:

                  Although, I hated that scene in the Batman movie where Batman dives in and stabs the Joker. The way he proceeds to cook and eat the corpse is all wrong. No real cannibal would eat that way. It would kill the flavor.

                  • Syal says:

                    Well if you saw the sequel where Robin opened up that restaurant franchise that used the homeless for meat, they do call Batman out on it.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Oh,you mean joel schumachers batman and robin?Yes,that one was a great movie.Im glad it won those oscars,it really deserved them for its accurate portrayal of batman.So much better than these dark knight ripoffs.

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      Phew. I was worried that they were going to let that slide. I mean, who boils the meat!? Everyone knows it’s best stewed and slow-cooked.

                      At least that plot beats the one where Batman becomes a vampire and kills every villain in the city.
                      I’m not kidding, that’s totally a thing.

    • Destrustor says:

      Yeah I was also suggesting a break from SW, but only until such time that they found a game that actually worked well for them. This, surprisingly, seems to be one of them. And with skyrim and mass effect 3 and any other game that might come out during the next couple of seasons, I think we’re not going to see that situation again any time soon. Which is great.
      And I’m not saying they have to wreck skyrim, and they can just skip it if they want, but Josh’s troll-jutsu just works better with RPGs. ME3, however, seems unavoidable. It’ll be horriblilarious.
      Anyway, great season guys! It’s really good to see the show back on its crazy tracks.

  24. Paul Spooner says:

    So, it’s an asymptotic experience. Slowly approaching the game it was meant to be.

    The ever-shortening crumpled paper waste bin death cut scene is a cool idea. It starts off as a ten second scene with Alan sitting at his desk saying, “Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. No, no, that’s all wrong. ”
    the next time you die it’s a bit shorter, “No, still not right. ”
    The third time it’s just a shot of the wastepaper bin with a crumpled paper landing in it, and an accompanying “No way!”
    The fourth time is the same, but “Nope” is all Allen says.
    After that there’s no dialog. It’s just a one second shot of a crumpled piece of paper landing in the waste basket. After about twenty deaths, the basket should be full and overflowing, and the paper can just bounce off the top and off-screen so you can use the same animation over and over.

    Another missed opportunity.

  25. Lokuzt says:

    The “…And then I died” resource was used masterfully well in the Secret of Monkey Island 2: Le Chuck’s Revenge, when you are tied up with Wally and fail to put out the candle that dips you into acid in time. But I think it only works well because it happens once in the game, and it would easily become overused and tiresome (not to mention a waste of code if players never die in that particular part)

  26. anaphysik says:

    I never would have taken Josh to be a Grand Coulee Dam denier, but I guess THE TRUTH COMES OUT.

  27. Vipermagi says:

    3:40 — *God dangit* Alan. Stay on your feet for five minutes, please! I’ve been thouroughly enjoying this season, but Alan’s constant bumbling around when you’re walking within fifty feet of a Taken is really getting on my nerves. He’s a bad writer, but surely you wouldn’t write yourself as entirely incapable of holding your footing on soil?
    I’d probably go nuts playing this game, I fear. I hold the sprint button down all the time.

  28. HBOrrgg says:

    Wait, so is the game over then?

  29. guy says:

    So, it’s far, far too late to be asking this, but how does the darkness keep turning off the lights?

    I mean, it can’t possess things in bright places, right? So it can’t go after the lights directly, and stuff like power plants and generators are frequently in lit places. Now, I’d give it a free pass on taking down power lines because those aren’t terribly well-lit along large chunks of their length, but it seems to be screwing with fuseboxes and such or flipping switches off.

    I guess it might be that it can employ the might of narrative contrivance to cause extremely unlikely electrical failures, but it never really got explained.

  30. The Truth says:

    0:45 – “This scene would’ve been even stronger if we didn’t have to go outside and push buttons.”

    And get attacked, fight the Taken, shoot, blow up stuff. Yeah, it would’ve been FAR more interesting if the game was just about talking to people, yeah.

    Cynthia Weaver’s personality to a certain degree is a reference to the Log Lady in Twin Peaks, yes. But she is in no way a character that had already been created in Twin Peaks. Everything else about her (e.g., her back story and role in the plot?) is 100% new and original.

    2:43 – Yeah. Yeah, that was a dumb-looking jump. I’ve definitely agreed with you guys on the animation problems in this game from the word “go”.

    3:31 – “I think the game could’ve been improved by taking things OUT.”

    That’s weird, because we often hear you say you get tired of the same stuff. You bitched about the driving, the bear traps, the birds, but you’re also tired of “just fighting the Taken”. Sounds contradictory to me.

    3:48 – So the game didn’t reach the potential it could have, and it’s not what it should’ve been. Yet, no one can elaborate on what that was.

    5:13 – As explained in comments I left for an earlier video, they are “wasting time” shooting flares into the sky so Alan (or anyone who can help) will know where they’re at. It’s actually one of the ORIGINAL purposes of the flare, lol.

    5:21 – “The narrative doesn’t really work until… about 75% of the way through”

    I would’ve liked some elaboration here as well. I do recall you guys saying, as the OBE scene played in one of the earlier episodes, that if the game had told you all the stuff in this scene earlier, it would’ve been better. But… it DID! So maybe it wasn’t that “the narrative doesn’t work”. Maybe you just weren’t paying attention to it.

    And again, I’d really like to know what you think the game was “trying to do”, since you criticize its supposed failure to do it quite a lot.

    6:00 – If the game was shorter, then you’d just be complaining that it was too short. And if it had the same combat as American Nightmare, it wouldn’t fit with the story (the dark presence is taking humans, not creating monsters) and it would be too easy.

    Rearranging elements? I’m glad you gave an example, although the one you suggested was exactly what they did anyway. It’s abundantly clear you’re facing some otherworldly, supernatural force, and that the kidnapper (while being your only lead) is not it.

    7:50 – The purpose of collectibles = collect them if you want them. Stop asking for a story explanation for the frickin’ coffee thermoses! :P

    13:44 – She painted directions to the well-lit room everywhere she could because she DIDN’T know what to anticipate. She didn’t even know who she’d be directing!

    And the reason the Taken don’t rush toward the spotlight is that light hurts them and they know it.

    THINK, people!

    14:30 – Oh, you do have the option of fighting them WITHOUT the spotlight. That it’s considerably more difficult to do so is not a flaw in the game.

    “If you swing the light away from him, he stays there.”

    BS.

    15:15 – WHAT is “incredibly obnoxious”? You never elaborate on what you’re talking about, and why it’s obnoxious. Are we just throwing random comments into our videos now?

    15:38 – *sigh* It’s not an actual tornado, it’s the dark presence (Surprise surprise?) and there are most certainly hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest. Google it.

    16:36 – When Alan dies, it’s game over because you ruined the story he wrote. There. Happy?

    19:18 – “Lady, if you had made the room smaller, you wouldn’t need so many damn light bulbs!”

    Well let’s think about it. There is a manuscript that mentions how the dark presence did in fact cross through an amount of light to get into the darkened half of that hallway in the Oh Deer Diner. So it’s not impossible for her/it to “take the pain” of SOME light. This may help to explain the need for both the amount of light bulbs in there AND the fact that Cynthia doesn’t change how high up the ceiling is. In case the “tornado” succeeded in ripping off a roof or something up there, it still wouldn’t be able to reach the manuscript due to the distance (and the way the lights are strung up instead of just hanging from said ceiling).

    The song at the end is “War” by Poets of the Fall. Good stuff.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>