The Walking Dead EP13: Duck Will Help

  By Shamus   Jan 8, 2013   208 comments


Link (YouTube)

Chris made a really good point about guns in this episode: If this was a straightforward shooter with talky bits, then players would simply treat it like one. They would always have their gun out, and they would tend to stay and fight. It’s incredibly hard to get players to run away. If you starve them for bullets, they’ll run out, die, and complain that the game is too hard or that bullets are too scarce. Or they’ll save-scum until they get all headshots and the tension and pacing of the scene is completely demolished by the save / reload cycle.

Sure, SOME players will shoot and run at the proper time, but others won’t because they’ve played a hundred other games that have built up this expectation of an empowerment fantasy. Those players will become confused and frustrated. I suppose you can boss them around with on-screen prompts telling them to stand or run, but then the players will want to argue with the narrator’s decisions. “Why do we have to stay? We could climb this fence and escape!” Or perhaps, “Why do we have to run? I think we can take these guys.”

Additionally, making this a shooter would require shooter mechanics: First or third person perspective. Suddenly players would be free to look around. We’d lose the wonderful cinematography and face all the framing problems of players overlooking critical details because they were rubbernecking. Also, this would make the game more expensive to produce. A lot of these places are probably built like movie sets: Only the relevant areas are filled in. If the camera doesn’t look in that corner, then nobody has to fill it with detail or texture it. In a movie, the only props that need to look good up close are the ones you plan on using in a closeup. In a game, anything that can get near the player’s face has to be presentable enough for a closeup.

In this game, the interpersonal exchanges are the gameplay, and taking this approach lets those mechanics take center stage. The brief action events are mostly there to create tension though uncertainty. (Am I going to die if I fail this? Could have executed that previous action differently and gotten a more favorable outcome? Was there a choice I didn’t see?) If they made this a shooter it would pull all of the focus onto the shooting, and pull it away from the dialog. In this game, the camera shows us what the director wants, and characters make decisions about when to shoot or fight based on things we don’t always see. As long as we trust the writers, then we can accept it. “I don’t know how many bullets Lee has and I don’t know how many zombies are outside, but Lee knows and he’s decided that it’s time to run. So it probably makes the most sense and I don’t need to second-guess him.”


A Hundred!A Hundred!8208 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?


  1. Aldowyn says:

    What? No comments? I literally just checked my reader on a whim…

    Anyway, this is a valid point I’ve been saying for a while. The mechanics of TWD aren’t really the adventure game mechanics or even the Quick Time Events. It’s the dialogue, and everything else is just a tool to create tension and move the narrative.

    That’s why people ask ‘is it a game’, because they realize it’s about the talking. (There’s also the note that you can’t really LOSE because you said the wrong things.)

    • Eremias says:

      And the talking does not allow you to interact with the story. Hence the question “What exactly is the game here?”.

      • Thomas says:

        Choosing the dialogue. If you want to say that there’s nothing here to satisfy the challenge/minmaxing aspects then I wouldn’t disagree

        • Thomas says:

          Okay here is my thesis thats been growing through the ridiculous number of these conversations I’ve got myself involved in during the last month and a bit, here, on the Escapist and TV Tropes.

          Game: A creative work that is a deliberate challenge/test of skill is probably the most accurate description. It’s also stupid and has come about from the way games have grown over the years until it no longer represents it’s medium and can even be harmful, in the exact same way people can criticise JRPGs for ‘not having any roleplaying’

          The greatest harm is that we have all these silly discussions about ‘is it a game’ instead of discussions of, is it good, do the strange confines and limitations of the interactive medium destroy the ability to tell linear stories. Etc.

          We’ve got this weird situation where one element of an experience defines it. Look at Saints Row. The fun of Saints Row isn’t completing the missions, but it’s the missions which give it ‘game’ status. Look at games like The Sims, Minecraft etc, where challenge isn’t the core experience at all.

          It, and the way the industry has grown, even sets up false habits and expectations. The idea that you can win at Sim City is missing the point of the game. It’s missing the idea that you can build a city in Sim City and holy Cuftbert that’s an awesome thing. Books, plays and films are judged by the tools the author has to work with and questions like ‘Is it a book? Is it a film? Where’s the Theatre aspect of this?’ are .. less than interesting. But by accident we’ve come to judge games by a specific experience and emotion it provides. We’ve trapped ourselves in a situation which is the equivalent of forcing every film to have a small part of comedy before we’ll accept it.

          So the solution is to use the word more meaningfully or use a different word and really ask ourselves whats the important question _behind_ ‘is it a game?’

          • newdarkcloud says:

            Game: A set of rules that players interact with.

            This is the only definition. This makes TWD and many other “non-games” games. Video games are the same thing, but in the format of a program that someone has created.

            • krellen says:

              I agree with newdarkcloud; that definition of “game” that Thomas put forth is terrible. Just as a quick check, if your definition of “game” doesn’t include Dungeons and Dragons or White Wolf’s World of Darkness line, your definition of “game” is flawed.

              And any definition that does include those will include things like Dear Esther and The Walking Dead.

              • Abnaxis says:

                Sorry if I am speaking out of turn, but I don’t think that’s Thomas’s definition, I think that’s the definition he has observed gamers at large applying when they imply TWD is “not a game.” While it is indeed a terrible definition, I think he is unfortunately right in saying that it is how most people conceptualize games.

                I don’t really think it’s a result of the way the video game industry conducts itself though, but rather because games being an expressive art form is a relatively new phenomenon. Before role playing games, you could apply the “challenge/test of skill” definition to sports, board/card games, or games of chance and not be wrong.

                • Thomas says:

                  Oh yes, I hope I wasn’t so unclear that it sounds as though I support the definition. It just seems to me to be the definition that Erimias and a lot of other people are working on (and it needs to die in a fire).

                  And how you talked about it being a sign of the newness of games is what I tried to mean. We had sports and boardgames and playground game and the early videogames weren’t sophisticated enough to do anything but emulate the challenge based play. So we got good at challenge first and the name stuck by the time we began to really get into the other things games could do

                  • krellen says:

                    But playground “games” have long defied the “challenge” idea. Is there really a challenge present in Cops and Robbers (or Cowboys and Indians, or any of the other many variations of this game)? A great deal of childhood “games” don’t fit that definition, but we still call them games.

                    I think a better explanation of the genesis of such a definition is from so-called “hardcore” gamers trying to justify gaming. “We’re overcoming challenges; we’re testing ourselves! It’s totally skill-building!”

                    If games are just fun, and not some test of skill, they are perceived to have lesser value, and giving something value is an excellent way to defend it.

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      This is completely anecdotal, but cops and robbers or dollhouse play has never been called a “game” in any household I’ve lived in or seen children playing in (unless formal rules are established for when you are hit or what you can build). It’s called “pretend” or even just “play.” When I was a child, calling things “games” was always reserved for UNO or horse or Yahtzee or similar activities with established mechanics.

                      Note that I’m old enough that this distinction existed before video games (or at least, before hardcore gamer culture).

                    • Thomas says:

                      ‘If games are just fun, and not some test of skill, they are perceived to have lesser value’
                      Its interesting you put it like that. Check this review out
                      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/reviews.php?target_group=VideoGame&target_title=TheWalkingDead#8924
                      Corroborates you in the most literal way possible.

                      I don’t know if its the hardcore though. I wouldn’t guess that the people I’ve been talking to are necessarily hardcore, and 20sided seems to be generally pretty storygame friendly but there are some unbelievably hardcore roguelike crunching gaming monsters who post here. If you look at the early history of videogames it took a while for narrative to develop. We had Pong and Tetris and any story was found in the manual rather than the actual game itself. And then lots of excuse plots and Mario esque games (presumably a few story breakouts) and even the story games had ‘gameplay’ which meant the definition wasn’t challenged adequately.

                    • Aldowyn says:

                      TECHNICALLY, the definition of game is pretty wide according to dictionary.com. ‘A form of play or sport, esp. a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.’

                      That said, I’m not sure I’d call these dialogue systems ‘play’, and certainly not ‘sport’. They definitely aren’t ‘decided’ by anything.

                      BUT, even if they aren’t, that doesn’t make it any less of an experience or less worth playing.

                      AND, it still has all the adventure game and QTEs and such, which would generally be called ‘playing.’

                      *edit* And, on the subject of that tvtropes review, I’d say that the interactivity IS a big deal in TWD, since what makes it so compelling is making the choices yourself. It’s definitely worth more per episode than a TV episode like that troper seems to think.

                    • Shamus says:

                      By that definition, The Sims and Sim City don’t qualify as games either.

                      A lot of non-conflict games are learning systems. You’re presented with some finite controls and limited information, and play consists of, “What happens if I do THIS?” This is where creativity and emergent systems really shine.

                      I think TWD qualifies as this sort of game. “What happens if I do X?”

                      Now, I can get behind the idea that the controls aren’t granular enough, the system doesn’t respond enough, or the connection between the two isn’t dynamic enough, but I can’t get behind the notion that this isn’t a game at all.

                    • Thomas says:

                      “AND, it still has all the adventure game and QTEs and such, which would generally be called ‘playing.’

                      This is one of my points though really. If you’re looking at a portion of a game (and the less important one at that) and saying ‘well that makes it a game’ then the question really wasn’t worth asking in the first place and the idea of a ‘game’ is fairly unhelpful

                    • Zukhramm says:

                      While English lumps all those together under “game” Swedish distinguishes between “spel”, a game with rules, and “lek”, children playing with toys or at least without rules. When something is or is not a game to me, I’m not trying to define the word to include or exclude certain games, the words just mean what they mean to me.

                      Aldowyn: While dictionaries are good for the rough meaning of words, they are rarely good for stricter definition.

                    • Asimech says:

                      @Shamus – So this is more of a categorisation problem i.e. “what genre is TWD really”? That would explain why this discussion keeps popping up everywhere without getting anywhere.

                    • Shamus says:

                      I’m sure you’re right.

                    • Dasick says:

                      Well, with all being said, sure TWD is a game (and so is a lot of things). But I would say that it is a bad game, for the reasons Shamus says, but also because it adds up to one conclusion: the decision making aspect dies really quickly, and the decisions are what make choices interesting in games.

                      HOWEVER, I do not think that TWD benefits (more than being hurt) from being a game. It is trying to tell a story through dialogue, cinematography and other non-interactive means, and it it’s already killed a lot of player interaction for the sake of the story.

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      It is trying to tell a story through dialogue, cinematography and other non-interactive means, and it it’s already killed a lot of player interaction for the sake of the story.

                      But that’s not true. It’s not just trying to tell a story through dialog and cinematography, the actual gameplay is an integral part of the story as well.

                      (Ep 3 spoilers) Take for example, the scene where duck dies. My brother in law is playing, and he has Lee volunteer to shoot him. The cut-scene moves along, the time comes, and before he gets the reigns he literally looks at me and says “Oh crap, it’s going to make me do this myself, isn’t it?” Sure enough, a few seconds later, the cursor pops up and my brother sits there, almost to the point of tears, not wanting to shoot a child.

                      Actually having dominion over Lee’s actions that scene added an unbelievable amount of depth and emotion to literally the most played out cliche you can find in zombie media. That’s saying a lot.

                      In movies, there is a saying, “show, don’t tell.” I think the video-game storytelling evolution of that idea is “do, don’t show.” TWD works very hard to fulfill that paradigm, with failures and successes alike in the process, but enough success to make it very, very worth it. That’s why the story is significantly better as a game than it would be as a movie.

                  • Eremias says:

                    The definition I was working on here is “It matters how it is played.” You make decisions to overcome interesting challenges OR make decisions that are in themselves interesting.
                    TWD has only one choice in it that is repeated over and over.
                    “Do you want to see an interesting scene play out,
                    or a LESS interesting scene?”
                    and that makes it in my mind simply an awful game with few redeeming factors. To put it this way, it might as well have been a movie or a novel, containing only the “interesting” scenes.
                    Anything that is “game” about it is superfluous and irrelevant to the work as a whole.

                    • saluk says:

                      As can be attested by the percentages that end each episode, what you consider an “interesting” scene is not the same as what other people do. In many cases either option results in something that is “interesting”. In many cases the result is not what you expect when you make the choice.

                      A movie does not have this aspect at all. Sure, you can wonder what might have happened if the characters made different choices, but you don’t have that personal connection of “it happened this way because I WANTED the characters to make these choices”.

                      It’s something altogether different. There is a spectrum of interactive experiences (which I like better than “game”). On one end your agency is primal, on the other end you have no agency. Games like TWD are on this side of the spectrum, something like minecraft that has almost no explicit direction or goals is on the other.

                      But a movie and a movie with some choices, quick time events, and puzzles are not the same thing at all. Figuring out how to make the story progress, and in which direction to try and steer it, is just not a thought process that comes into play when I watch a movie.

                    • Thomas says:

                      @Erimias But it does matter because a different thing is said. This is like The Sims where changing clothes is important. But generally I’m happy talking about issues like this, but we should be talking about those issues ‘Does it require decisions to overcome interesting challenges OR make decisions that are in themselves interesting?’

                      Instead of ‘is this a game?’ If nothing else at least I’ve proved the word means different things to different people, so no sensible discussion can be based on it without explanation anyway

              • Dasick says:

                Why is that definition flawed? Chess and DnD are completely different experiences. Is it really flawed to have different terminology to inherently different things?

                By the way, that definition newdarkcloud proposes includes slinkies and Legos as games.

                • krellen says:

                  I’m not sure how you think newdarkcloud’s definition includes Legos and Slinkies; I’m fairly sure no one looking at it reasonably would assume “rules” to include “the laws of physics”.

                  • Dasick says:

                    Hehe. Mebbe I was being a little bit mean and stretching the definition. Just a tiny bit.

                    But an OS fits the definition perfectly. You got rules and you got interactivity. Press a button, and something (AWESOME) happens.

                    • Fleaman says:

                      It’s sort of another can of worms, but I think the use of the word “player” needs to be important here if we’re to exclude purpose-driven engines like OSes or calculators. A game MUST be for entertainment.

                    • Dasick says:

                      All art is quite useless – Oscar Wilde (Portrait of Dorian Grey)

                      So where does it put the edu-tainment games that teach you math and spelling and stuff?

                    • Thomas says:

                      But that discludes Spec Ops and games that aim to convey a serious message but not in a particularly entertaining this way. If we made this analogous to books it would mean JK Rowlings Casual Vacancy wasn’t a book (cheap jab?)

                      My version would be this ‘A creative work designed with interactivity and not for practical usage’

                      Lego fits… just about and I’m not sure whether a slinky would, it’s not really designed for interactivity any more than a DVD is but I wouldn’t consider a slinky a game

                    • Thomas says:

                      EDIT (Above post) Nopethat excludes edutainment as well. Darn. This is hard =D

            • Dasick says:

              It’s also a completely useless, and oftentimes hurtful definition because it lacks any sort of focus. It’s also completely useless in terms of discussing games and finding paths of making things fun.

              Example? Minecraft. Notch added a ‘game end’ and a ‘final boss’ because ‘it didn’t feel like a proper game without it’. Two features that do nothing*, to evoke a feeling minecraft never had and was never going for, all because we use unclear terminology. We need better terminology, and that means more specific word meanings.

              *More doesn’t mean better. Just more things to learn, completely irrelevant to the experience at hand in this case, and another layer where things can go wrong.

              • Dasick says:

                After thinking for a bit, I agree with Thomas. It doesn’t matter what definition we use, so long as it includes a set of consistent standards to judge if it is a good game or not, and if the piece of art was trying to be a game in the first place.

                I think that using decision-making as a standard makes sense for… a certain type of interactive experience that usually gets called a game. We already have ‘puzzle’ for interactive entertainment that focuses on solutions, goals and endings, and ‘sandbox’ or ‘toy’ for things that focus on just interactivity, and ‘contest’ for pure measurement.

    • Nick says:

      Deus Ex had some missions that, if you failed, went down a different branching path of the story. Just because you can’t lose doesn’t make it a non-game

      • zob says:

        I think you may be missing the point here.
        Let’s say we both playing Doom. In Doom “gaming” mechanics are moving around and shooting stuff. That is how we interact with the game and change things inside it. At a certain archway we both meet two enemies. You choose to shoot left one first I choose to shoot right one, that is how our gaming experiences differ. If we weren’t to shoot those enemies, those enemies would hurt us and set back our progress (via lowering our hit points or killing us and forces us to respawn at start without weapons). That is more of a lose state. If failing a mission in Deus Ex hampers your general progress in the game that is a Lose state. If not then it’s not.

        Now Aldowyn is making a case for that TWD gaming mechanics are dialog choices rather than quicktime events. But since those dialogue options has neither win/lose states nor any long term consequences that can be defined as win/lose states, game doesn’t feel like a game. You can’t get “better” at it, or play it “badly”. Being an experienced player of TWD does not give you any advantage over inexperienced players.

        • BeardedDork says:

          Being experienced at craps doesn’t give me an advantage over inexperienced craps players either (on the pass/no pass lines). Yet such “games of chance” are undeniably games.

          • Abnaxis says:

            Weeeellll, I wouldn’t say that…

            Yes, no amount of skill will modify the outcomes in a completely random table game like craps. However, the roll is only part of the game. The other part is placing your bet, which you can get “better” at by acquiring a better understanding of the underlying statistics that drive the odds and using those to guide you wagers. Knowing when to hit and when to quit is a skill.

            In fact, I would probably categorize any such games as a test of the gamer’s willpower and their knowledge–how well do you know the odds, how much are you willing to risk losing to win, and how much do you win before you say it’s enough? It’s like an extended game of chicken, really…

            • Thomas says:

              Okay we can change the example then. Snakes and Ladders =D (although the pure luck makes it a very boring game). I think its got a different name in the US (shoots? something)

          • Dasick says:

            I would call them really, really, *really* bad games.

        • Aldowyn says:

          Basically this. Everyone instinctively realizes that the QTEs aren’t really the point, but the dialogue doesn’t feel like what we consider a ‘game’. Compare it to a Choose your own adventure book. Would you call that a game?

          So either it is still within the definition, it isn’t and it doesn’t matter, or it isn’t and we should change the definition to include it.

          • Asimech says:

            I’ve heard people talk about Choose Your Own Adventure books like they’re proto-tabletop RPGs or just simplified tabletop RPGs.

          • Dasick says:

            The definition I think makes sense for games is this:

            “an activity (usually a contest) that involves making decisions, ie you have several options and while you have some clue as to what the best option is, you cannot calculate it. Somewhere between guessing and solving”

            It’s a lot more useful than the blanket version, since you know exactly what someone means when she says ‘game’, at least the important stuff. It’s also something you can really focus on as opposed to just ‘being fun’

            Even if you disagree with the terminology, this is a concept that tends to generate tons of fun and is heavily mangled by videogame industry (it’s thriving in Eurogames though).

            • Thomas says:

              It’s getting closer, I like your reasoning, particularly about removing the ‘fun’ dependency. But I think it might be prone to weird events, for example making breakfast in the morning. I’m decision making and I’m not sure which food is going to produce the tastiest outcome but approximating it.

              There are also a set of games that have been ‘beaten’. For example there’s one about halving chocolate bars that the second player always wins, so he can calculate a best option. And in tic-tac-toe, if both players are intelligent you can guarantee a draw before the game is begun

              • Dasick says:

                Any art is a game according to this lens. Cooking is an art, I don’t see it as a problem because I see artists being ‘playful’ with their mediums all the time ie, The decision making aspect is present there, so why not?

                How long it takes before the game is solved, or has a dominant strategy is a good standard of how good a decision-based game is. Tic-tac-toe is a bad game that stops being interesting to adults, but chess is still unsolved to most adults (opening moves and endgame are solved though) and Go is nowhere near being solved even to computers.

            • Asimech says:

              So Myst, for instance, is not a game since you can logically conclude the optimal choices when pulling levers and so on?

              Also any puzzle games wouldn’t be games, since the whole point is no guesswork or “this feels right” but solving the puzzle logically.

              • Dasick says:

                Even though ‘puzzle’ is a highly abstract thing with a unique framework, you were able to explain it with a simple word: puzzle. English is not my first language, but the word “game” seems to imply the kind of system I am referring to. Giving the player choice for example, is always considered a good thing in videogames, even though puzzles would start getting unclear and frustrating (think Portal developer commentary – the early puzzles have exactly one solution on purpose).

                Puzzles are about solutions, that “aah, i get it, that’s clever” moments that make you grin a little. If you can’t get the solution, a puzzle is a source of frustration and it breaks the link towards future puzzles using the mechanics you’re supposed to learn in that particular puzzle. The type of system I am describing though, while it need a theoretical solution, it’s about the journey to the solution, and finding a solution breaks the game and leaves you with a pretty clunky puzzle.

                I do not place any special value on the term though. FTL is definitely trying it’s best to be a game, but I would rather play Portal or something.

  2. Jokerman says:

    I missed this Spoiler Warning during the down time, blood Christmas getting in the way. Looove this game, loooove this season of SW.

  3. Patrick says:

    While I don’t disagree with your argument, Shamus, some of that smacks of blaming the player. You don’t have to be a twitching kill-crazy bro-shooter to get annoyed at game designers who arbitrarily decide when you’re supposed to fight, sneak, and run away. Either the player is told what to do (with the expectation that this is enforced by a in-game “punishment” – or the player isn’t, in which case it becomes a guessing game or trying to decide what arbitrary actions you’re supposed to take.

    A simpler reason is just to note that gioing first-person would work against the point of the game. While you control only one character, you’re not meant to *be* that character at any point. You guide him along his story, but it isn’t ever meant to be your story. I suppose I’d draw a parallel to Planescape: Torment, where the protagonist is a distinct character, with his own past and future – even though the player takes action in revealing that past and determining that future. To my eye, you could do a Torment game from a st-Person perspective, but it would be a massively different experience and would require many changes. And not all for the better.

    • Zukhramm says:

      There are states between explicit orders and outright guessing. What mechanics are available as well as level design and, well, pretty much everything influences how players behave.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Then again, some players do intentionally counter and avoid all logic and suggestions just to ‘break the game’ and the whine and moan when it does break. I’d say that there is a reasonable level of trust you should expect between the gamer and the developer, in that the gamer trusts the developer to not screw things up and the developer trusts the gamer to not act as a total brainless bonzo within the game. And yet, there are gamers that exhibit moronic behaviour and then complain that the game’s story didn’t grab them, or something. I find that to be somewhat laughable.

      • Thomas says:

        But if you’re deliberately trying to place nice for a game to, then that leaves a feeling in the back of your mind that changes how you experience.

        Also I blame collectables. I’ve been consistently rewarded for years for not going where the story wants me to and not behaving like I should

      • Dasick says:

        And yet, there are gamers that exhibit moronic behaviour and then complain that the game’s story didn’t grab them, or something.

        The developer gave them the option to act this way simply by introducing interactivity. That’s not moronic behavior, that’s simply someone who is curious and wishes to explore a system, being fooled into thinking that it has some sort of depth.

        If you wish to tell a compelling story, why not ditch interactivity in the first place?

        • krellen says:

          Because a non-interactive story is often far less compelling?

          • Dasick says:

            is that something inherent to non-interactive stories, ie they are inherently less compelling, or just a result of sturgeon’s law?

            Hehe, I’m starting to feel an inverse-Roger Ebert vibe from some comments.

            • Shamus says:

              I think in general, TV and movies are better written because developers are making story games and then saying, “As long as the gameplay is good then the story doesn’t matter.” As I’ve said elsewhere, no story is much better than BAD story.

              One of the reasons I like TWD is that it a rare care where we get interactivity + competent storytelling.

              • Dasick says:

                It’s also incredibly hard (time and money) making a single great storyline. And yet we expect games to have several distinct, if similar, stories that are equally great.

  4. KremlinLaptop says:

    If each gunshot triggered one of those L4D style horde rushes of zombies might make a player consider retreating as a viable option. A lot could also be done by making the movement of the player feel real and have weight to it — instead of being a floating point-of-view zipping around — so you are clumsy, stumble, you can’t run and shoot worth crap.

    Imagine that you’re backing up and a quarter of your back bumps against a shelf. It’d move the arms, twist the point of view, give an idea of resistance and still allow you to keep moving backwards. Or you run into a chest high counter without slow. Slam! You sprawl forward, but if you keep pressing forward, hitting jump, you reach out and your character clampers over.

    Now, in that situation in the drugstore, the player is already very aware of just how human their character is and how they’re not a parkour-god. They’ve got perhaps two magazines of ammo for their rifle and they know each shot will just draw more and more attention.

    I think it could be done and I think it’d make for interesting gameplay. The problem with all of it is that so many players would outright reject not being able to be a zombie-slaying demi-god. Also those ‘more human’ movement mechanics would still have to work for exploration and so forth. Definitely tricky.

    Off the top of my head I can only say that Far Cry 3 and Mirror’s Edge managed to make me feel like I was controlling a person with presence in the world instead of a floating point-of-view. Stuff like tackling, melee, the way your guns move with the environment and you can lean, pop up, or just plain blind fire over stuff in FC3 is done brilliantly.

    • Aldowyn says:

      I STILL haven’t ever gone into cover in Far Cry 3 and I’m a third of my way through my second playthrough. (STEALTH PWNS ALL) The only time I feel disconnected is when I’m climbing certain things and the height feels… off. Otherwise the sense of presence is definitely there.

      By the way, the dev I’d most expect to pull something like that off is Naughty Dog. It just seems to fit them.

      • KremlinLaptop says:

        I noticed it as well when jumping and getting into the trigger zone for climbing would sometimes cause me to warp to make it. One of my favourite moments so far was running away from a tiger and jumping from one side of a broken bridge to another. Easy jump but I panicked and jumped too early. Barely made it! And it felt all the more intense for how I want THUMP against the bridge, scrambled to hold on to the wood, and then tossed a leg up to scramble up.

        I had to force myself to stop playing stealthily (my thought process: “I have the silenced Z93. This is the most efficient way to kill things in the game!”) and honestly it’s worth it. Take an unconventional weapons load-out with you, try and setup ambushes with C4 and mines, burn down some jungle, etc! The way the AI works in the game is fantastic. It’s where the sense of presence really shines through when it all comes together, blindly shooting around corners, scrambling this way and that to get to places, etc.

        Have to say I agree with about Naughty Dog being the most likely to give a good sense of presence. For me something like that adds to the ‘immersion’ I feel a dozen times more than neat-o graphics do.

      • Aldowyn says:

        Huh. I figured out why I haven’t ever used cover – I never tried to aim when Jason pulled up the gun. It’s just right clicking to aim whenever you’re behind cover, and you automatically go up a bit or around or whatever. It is pretty brilliant.

        • KremlinLaptop says:

          Ah! It took me a bit to figure out that the cover mechanic in Far Cry 3 works by… just working. No getting glued to chest high walls or such nonsense. If you right click he pops up to aim. If you just pull the trigger he’ll blindly fire over the cover. Also works for leaning around corners, etc.

      • drkeiscool says:

        The game forces cutscenes (whether a “cutscene” or just climbing onto something) into an FOV of about 60, so it kind of screws with the immersion a bit.

        Maybe that’s why?

        • KremlinLaptop says:

          My experience seemed more like the climbable ledges have a trigger area around them for the climbing to happen and on longer jumps you ended up getting warped up or forward so you’d reach the ledge to climb it (where as if there had been nothing to climb you would have definitely fallen short).

          A friend mentioned the FOV changing breaking immersion for him where-as I didn’t even notice it until it was pointed out to me. Goes to show how completely subjective gameplay experiences are at this level.

      • Jokerman says:

        I have used cover while sniping, it can be pretty useful there when people are searching for you.

    • Even says:

      “The problem with all of it is that so many players would outright reject not being able to be a zombie-slaying demi-god.”

      I’d think with the popularity of DayZ and other survivalist experiences there should be a somewhat sizable market for this kind of stuff.

      I’d play it.

    • Urs says:

      I’d play it, too. Pretty much the reason why I still keep my eyes peeled for any kind of zombie game. However, what you’re describing in regards to having a bodily experience is so incredibly hard to pull off. I believe that sort of realism will not ever translate to someone sitting on a chair/couch. I’ve played Mirror’s Edge and there it works really nicely, but there’s not much that could get in the way. Well, there is the gunplay, but I think we all know and can agree on that it sucked.

      • Fleaman says:

        I dunno, I hate that crap.

        A first-person avatar isn’t the same as a third-person avatar. When you’re controlling a character over-the-shoulder or from a bird’s eye, it’s clear visually that the player and the character are distinct; but it’s easy to generate a sense of connection, immersion, and oneness as long as the character responds instantly to controls, no matter how vividly animated the character’s response.

        I think this has everything to do with the fact that your character is visible. Kratos can go and butcher some poor fool in elaborate fashion, but immersion in the experience means thinking “I’m him.”, “That’s what I, Kratos, do.”

        But when I’m in first-person view, “I’m me.” I don’t “play as” anything; the avatar is like a costume, and I’m still me. When my arms and legs start going off and doing their own thing, suddenly I’m not walking around in a costume; I’m walking around in a body that is not mine. I’m a brain parasite looking out through Faith’s eyes from inside her head, watching her move her body. This happens every time the body acts in a way I didn’t tell it to, and the only way to avoid it is to minimize that shit entirely.

  5. newdarkcloud says:

    For the record, I think Lilly yells that at the group no matter what you do. I helped her in the locker and I remember getting the same dialogue.

    That whole thing with Kenny doing nothing to help you really pissed me off at the start of Episode 3. Just because I disagree with him exactly twice, he wants to cut me off. That felt petty.

    And I do like the way the scene plays out if you sided with Lilly. It’s truly a shame you guys picked Doug over Carley. If Carley is there, you get the very interesting choice of decided if you’re going to confess your past to anybody and to who if you choose to do so. I chose to tell everyone and they all liked me for it, especially Lilly.

    And fuck Ben! He’s so stupid.

    • krellen says:

      Speaking of Ben, I seriously knew he was the traitor from that conversation with him there. And really, who else could it have been?

      • KremlinLaptop says:

        I honestly thought it might be Clementine. The stuff about the walkie-talkie that kept coming up made me believe that someone was talking to her through it and then the chalk clues added to that. Threw me for a good loop.

        I wasn’t surprised when it turned out to be Ben, though. The game — at least from my perspective — was pretty manipulative with Ben in an awesome way. The game gives you every reason to dislike him more and more.

        And then (if you don’t drop him) when he snaps at Kenny finally? Worked perfectly on me to make me realize that he’s really just a kid, a dumb kid sure, but just a kid who is probably terrified, alone, grieving, and trying to survive. Total guilt trip and I fell for it completely.

        • krellen says:

          I always knew Ben was just a kid, but that’s probably because I know a seventeen year old that’s a lot like him.

        • Aldowyn says:

          (Ep 4) with me personally, I didn’t let him go because he was a burden and was going to get us all killed, at least not only that. I let him go because he KNEW he was a burden. In his own way he was sacrificing himself deliberately to save the rest of the group. He made a lot of dumb decisions, especially not telling anyone ever until it was pretty much EXACTLY the wrong time, but I wasn’t going to just cut him loose.

          But I agonized over that decision, and I decided that he’d made his decision, and I would honor it. I’ve heard good things about said snapping at Kenny though, and it’s the part I’m the most interested in seeing at some point.

          • Isy says:

            (Ep. 5)Having Ben chew out Kenny was so worth hauling him up in Ep. 4. I had been there for Kenny every time it mattered, and all I ever got from him was a bunch of petulant crap about how I was never there for him. In fact, I’d have taken Ben over Kenny at that point. Ben kept screwing up because he was a dumb, scared kid – Kenny had repeatedly left Lee to die because he was mad at me for some minor reason and couldn’t be arsed to help.

            Of course, I never really disliked Ben, because his major screw up in Episode 4 was so unbelievable it broke my suspension of disbelief. The idea that he could not notice a bunch of zombies actively pounding on the door is just past character stupidity and onto the writers forcing him to be a plot device. Sure, they tried to make it seem plausible by the blood hiding the zombies… but that would mean the zombies stopped hitting the door and politely waited for Ben to take the axe, at which point they barged on in. Sorry, no.

            The fact that he was the traitor in episode 3 is treated like this huge betrayal, but I never bought it. Okay, so the bandits know where we live, and were demanding drugs and anything with morphine (meaning they’re insane desperate junky murderers). What exactly did we think would happen if Ben hadn’t given into them? “Oh, shucks, he said no. I guess we’d better leave these upstanding folks in peace forever.” We could argue he should have told us, and it’s true. On the other hand, Lily was dead-set on killing him before she went psycho over her dad. I think Ben could rightly assume she’d shoot him in the face, and I think evidence is on his side right here.

            • Klay F. says:

              Indeed, I too never treated Ben’s actions in Episode 3 as some great betrayal, hell his actions very likely kept the entire group alive long enough to get the RV fixed.

              • Jokerman says:

                If Lee was given the chance to make that deal i would of made it for sure, its a good sign its time to move and keep the bandits away why you do that is also a good idea.

            • KremlinLaptop says:

              I forgot about him taking the axe that was holding the door shut in Ep 4. That was just stupid writing to the point that I can’t even dislike his character for that; it’s just a writer throwing the idiotball to him so they can move the plot forward.

              For me it was his decisions with the bandits (or rather not informing the group) and I did blame him for indirectly being the catalyst for the deaths. Him not protecting Clementine was what really did it, though.

              I honestly do think his character was written in such a way that the player ends up placing pretty unrealistic expectations on the shoulders of an 18 year old kid. I’ve heard quite a few people complain that Ben has very little character but I figure that’s on purpose too: he feels like an outsider, has all his own things occupying his mind, and no one really ever asks him about his past and he never tells. Makes him snapping in ep5 have a bit of impact. That’s how I see it at least.

              • Urs says:

                I also had my moment of wtf when he stood there with the hatchet in his hand, but by that time the doors were completely smeared with blood and not quite see-through anymore – I was able to make myself imagine that the zombies had stopped pounding…

            • SougoXIII says:

              Too bad he choose to do it in the backyard and the resulting outburst draw all the nearby Zombie which led to his and Kenny’s death. I don’t feel any sympathy for Ben because I feel that he’s just a plot device who screwed up so bad that it’s beyond humanly possible.

              • newdarkcloud says:

                I initially let Ben die in the clock tower. I was satisfied by how things turned out in Ep5 after that. Then I played the same Episode again, but this time with him alive. I honestly feel that it was cheap to do that in that way. There was no reason to kill off Kenny and Ben in the last episode. Either with or without Ben alive. It does nothing for the story, since you are separated from the remaining group later. I question that decision.

                • Thomas says:

                  This so much! I would probably have had a lot more positive of an opinion of Ep 5 if this didn’t happen. It made me sullen towards the game is the supposed to be sad bits because it felt like they just went too far

                • SougoXIII says:

                  Especially if you let Ben live in Ep.5 ‘Kenny, A gun is a range weapon. Instead of arguing with me, put a bullet in him and let get our asses back up on the roof. We have plenty of time. Hell, just come with me back to the roof and shoot him from up there. No, you just going to stay behind like a melodramatic moron…?’ I swear it’s like the game’s pulling a ME3 on you and telling you to ‘be sad now!’

                • Aldowyn says:

                  (Ep 5) I did like the way Kenny went out if Ben’s not there, though. Since episode 3 he had been focused on ONE thing, the boat, and he finally managed to redeem his undeniable selfishness by sacrificing himself to save Christa.

                  Of course it was suicide by heroism, but… still a hero.

              • Isy says:

                To be fair, everyone else stops Lee from preventing that. And Kenny was already shouting outside the gates. It was never fair to me to hate Ben when almost everyone else in the game is just as stupid half the time. Especially when the one advocating his death most is Kenny!

                I pulled Ben up and felt like that was a much better end to the story. I heard if Ben is gone, Christa jumps into a pit of zombies to save a walkie-talkie and Kenny dies saving her. I mean… what. What.

  6. BeardedDork says:

    Once again I wish Mumbles was here for this one.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    About that woman,she is basically like ben.If we left him alone,hed probably act the same.He is only alive because he is with a group.

    So my guess is that she had a group of her own,and it slowly died away,leaving her alone.Or maybe she got separated and left behind.

    Still,it was really cruel letting her be eaten like that.

    • Aldowyn says:

      To be fair, ‘he’s only alive because he’s with a group’ applies to basically everyone at this point I think.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        I dont know.In episode 5 Lee does well even without a group,despite being half zombified.On his own from the start,he could go on for a long time.Maybe even longer than he managed with these guys,considering how much he risks for them,especially for clementine.

        • Aldowyn says:

          Well, like you said half zombified and covered in blood so they didn’t attack after not too long, not to mention just how determined he was to get through, and that was literally just one scene, etc. etc. That’s totally different from actually surviving for any length of time, I think.

        • anaphysik says:

          There’s even the general idea that (E3 characters) Christa & Omid bring up: that it’s better to travel in a very small group than have to deal with big group dynamics :/

    • ? says:

      Or she simply panicked. She might have been perfectly reasonable survivalist until that point and suddenly something happened that finally broke her. People are not supposed to act rationally when they panic. It’s very human flaw, one easy to forget when sitting in front of a screen and enjoying some fiction.

      Other explanation: she saw Lee and Kenny from afar and hoped that they would help her. When she got surrounded by walkers on her way to them screaming for help probably seemed as the only way to save her life. She just underestimated number of zombies nearby.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I totally shot her when I saw her. I knew Kenny was right and she would’ve been best used as a way to buy time, but I don’t think I could’ve let her go through that if I was doing this in real life. At least I hope I’m not that heartless.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Duck grayson,age ten,to the rescue.

    Also,now that we had sime time off,that “previously on” doesnt feel so out of place.Though I agree that there shouldve been an option to turn it off.

  9. Mailbox says:

    I really like how this episode of Walking Dead plays out. There are a lot of plot developments that make this one the more standout episodes. My play through Kenny wasn’t my best pal so he got upset with me after the talk with Lily so it added a lot of tension to the whole the group is falling apart and you don’t know who to trust. To me it seemed plausible that Kenny was the one stealing supplies.
    When I mentioned how we left the girl to die the camera snaps to Carley and she gave a huge look of disapproval but it didn’t come up in conversation. I do like how she talks to you about revealing your past to the group.
    The main point about the beginning of this episode is how Duck is characterized during this investigation puzzle. I told him I didn’t need his help and I like how the notification told me “You told Duck not to help. Duck decides to help anyway.” I laughed. I think they try to make him more comical and endearing on purpose for reasons that will be shown later.

  10. czhah says:

    Well, it’s not comnpletely impossible to get a player to run. I remember doing it in the original Deus Ex, when told to do so, at least on my first playthrough.

    • Aldowyn says:

      Far Cry 3, intro. Of course you don’t even have a gun and are running from a total PSYCHO with his own pirate army, so…. yeah. Still a fantastic opening I think.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Amnesia. Also Morrowind and the original Fallouts(drink!) where it was explicit that some areas would have enemies that could wreck your shit, like sneaking past the Deathclaws to get to the gun-runners, or poking your head into Vassir-Didanat and running before the Atronachs inside mince your derrière like burger meat so you can report the location and get a reward.

      IMO, the problem is less getting the player to run, it’s getting them to run some of the time and attaching significance to that, or getting them to run at specific points without it feeling engineered and cheaty on the devs part, like Alan Wake’s gear falling out of his pockets every five minutes to produce tension. That’s not even bringing player skill into it, since if you given some players three bullets to kill six zombies, they’ll shout “LUXURY!” and line up two triple headshots. You can blunt this with stat-based mechanics that de-emphasise player skill, but then you have to deal with people who have greater or lesser skill in manipulating that system.

      The Walking Dead solves this by putting the whole thing on a railroad, which is the worst way to handle it, except for all the others.

      • Dasick says:

        I don’t often say this, but I think that very well may be inherently impossible. You can teach players to run sometimes (especially if you take away quicksaving), but on demand? Interactivity is defined by choice, and by giving the player the choice, you’re giving her the choice not to do something.

    • Dasick says:

      Any sort of roguelike teaches you to run very, very fast.

  11. Nordicus says:

    During this game, I tried to deliberately shake all “videogamey hardcore survivalist” thoughts out of my mind and make any situation as a person in that situation rather than as a player, never acting needlessly cold or confrontational during any situation.

    Then I got to that point where that mad woman came screaming out of the store and attracting every zombie in the city. I made the decision to not shoot her pretty quickly, which really surprised me.

    I could not believe that there could be someone acting so stupidly and suicidally in this game, that I would not even consider them worth receiving euthanasia at the very least.

    • Deadpool says:

      Stupidity is a crime worthy of torture?

      • Nordicus says:

        Is the fact of being a human a virtue high enough to expect to be saved from torture in absolutely any and all circumstances?

        • Deadpool says:

          It should, at the very least, warrant a second thought.

          For the record, human consciousness is kind of weird. Unique in our environment, it hasn’t exactly had much of a chance to develop. We’ve been at the top of the food chain for all of recorded history. Our Fight or Flight responses are all sorts of screwed up from sheer lack of USE, and Zombies are close enough to humans that they’d probably tickle the Surrender reflex as well.

          Point is, it’s not out of the ordinary for a normal, functioning human being to be driven to hysterics by a particularly unique stimulus. We have no idea what drove this woman, who has survived for the past 3 months in a Zombie apocalypse, to total hysterics. But it’s entirely possible her intelligence had nothing to do with it.

          But that’s beside the point. I just wanted to point out that when given the choice to let someone be tortured to death just so you could be marginally be safer, you didn’t even think twice simply because she is stupid. I postulate you may have failed in your endeavor to “shake all ‘videogamey hardcore survivalist’ thoughts out of [your] mind.” Or at least, I hope you did.

      • zob says:

        A woman perfectly capable of running(she run when she first burst through the store) and seeing(she stopped when she saw the zombies) conveniently waited to be surrounded by zombies and fell victim to an invisible ninja zombie hiding under the car (I say invisible because we don’t see him when lee and kenny are passing near the car.) Bear in mind this damsel in distress is thin caucasian woman in tattered clothes and with horrified expression.

        “It” is a shoddily constructed plot device, plot devices are not human.

    • Dasick says:

      I tried to deliberately shake all “videogamey hardcore survivalist” thoughts out of my mind and make any situation as a person in that situation rather than as a player, never acting needlessly cold or confrontational during any situation.

      Try playing Mount&Blade, Spelunky* or a Rogue-like. Any game that holds up without the omnipotence and omniscience of saving+loading really. Will get rid of that in 2 or 3 deaths.

      *Try robbing a shop. Go ahead. I dare you.

      Done? Good. Now I dare you to do it again >:j

  12. Annikai says:

    I’ve had to play episode 1 through about 4 times because of the fact that I was playing it for another person who doesn’t play video games and then both of are save got deleted when episode 4 glitched. Because of this I noticed that they actually hint at the helicopter hitting the drug store right at the end of episode 1. It’s when the group hears gunshots and then Kenny says something about the Military coming to save the day. If you pay attention you can hear the chopper in the background. I assume it is the chopper especially because they show you the strangers car in episode one if you pay attention to the road in the beginning when you’re being driven by the cop so it makes sense that they would put in another detail like that.

    • Isy says:

      Which really makes you wonder – how the heck did that helicopter crash?? Did a zombie catapult itself at it?

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Pilot had a heart attack, turned into a zombie, started wailing at the controls.

        Failing that, tactical anti-aircraft zombie sams.

        • Thomas says:

          Don’t the military normally try to stop their pilots dying of heart attacks whilst flying their helicopters?

          I really liked how they introduced the idea that the military had come and been defeated (Mark does it too I guess. *sigh I miss Mark) but the actual idea that they had been defeated is just one of those silly things you have to accept with the story

          • X2-Eliah says:

            Well, when you hear news on the intercomm that the world suddenly turned to shit and that the city your family lives in has been totally lost, it might trigger something bad. Give the new zombie a few hours to find the autopilot-off switch or smack the controls hard enough to constitute an emergency jank (iirc very sharp pulls on controls also disables the autopilot on aircraft… Might be wrong on this ofc), and a super-heavy dose of wilful suspension of disbelief at the coincidence, and it may make some plausible sense.

            • Thomas says:

              I can believe the pilot dying whilst flying a helicopter will crash it. Heck I can believe that without zombies, it didn’t look like autopilot conditions.

              But being shot it, isn’t that normally quite a stressful situation for the heart? I feel we’re getting close to Star Wars territory here =D

      • zob says:

        He got shot/bitten in his previous location and was trying to escape from there via helicopter. Unfortunately for him his wounds were too severe.

      • СТАЛКЕР of ЗОНА says:

        Pilot was pushing it due to the situation being bad, trying to do “just one more” thing, and ran out of fuel just as he knew would quite likely happen.

        Or bad situation prevented sufficient maintenance and mechanical failure occurred due to wear and tear.

        Or the blades lost lift due to turbulence or excessive maneuvering caused by birds or sheer haste.

        Or just plain human error, which can and does occur even with the best possible training.

        Really, there NOT being a crashed helo anywhere would be weird and/or worrying.

  13. Khizan says:

    “Or they’ll save-scum until they get all headshots and the tension and pacing of the scene is completely demolished by the save / reload cycle.”

    See, this is exactly how I felt about most of the action sequences in TWD. Well, not the savescumming, but the fail/reload part, yes. Nothing leeched the tension and pacing out of the scene faster for me than failing one of those ‘gameplay’ events due to imprecise controls(however intentionally imprecise they were). The bandit attack lost all of its impact after my third attempt at their little shooting gallery. Likewise for the guy sticking a gun in my face, and several others later in the game.

    • Shamus says:

      I died a couple of times during the game, and I had the same experience: Death shatters all sense of tension and immersion. Although, I think this is an unavoidable drawback of the format. I really don’t know how this could be fixed without ruining the whole.

      • Dude says:

        That’s what kills horror games. Once you reload the tension is gone. That’s why a lot of the recent indie/web horror games have tried to be strange, bizzare, but also short.

        Amnesia stopped working for me once the water monster killed the character.

        So far, Thief III’s Shalebridge Cradle remains the most memorable horror experience for me, besides perhaps the first two hours of System Shock 2, and I never died once in either of those two cases, which is a big reason why.

        I wonder if you can make a horror game where the main threat isn’t your death at all; a game that makes you immortal, but gives you enough reason to not want to lose something more worthy. A game where you’re tasked with transporting a number of children through a haunted castle as an invincible but helpless guardian, perhaps? Not a series of escort missions, but something close. Losing a child wouldn’t be a game over screen, but it would be a terrible emotional blow to your character somehow, even though you’d have to keep trying to protect the other children you’re transporting.

        • Daimbert says:

          I think something can be learned from movies in this regard. I, at least, can watch movies and TV shows over again, but don’t really lose the tension despite the fact that I’m well aware of who will die and who won’t. In most shows, you know what characters are generally not going to die and, as Chuck Sonnenberg puts it in his Voyager reviews, you know that they ain’t going to get home because that would end the show. And yet if they’re done well we still feel, at the time, that they are in danger or that they might get home this time even though part of our mind knows they aren’t and they won’t. And that’s immersion, by definition.

          So you could have horror games where you don’t die, and never get a game over, but where if the immersion is done right you still FEEL like you will. Now, the issue is going to be if you leave the controller for a while and notice that you don’t die, then that will remind you that you can’t die and so the immersion will have to be built again. And it’s hard to have a game with no consequences for not performing well at the game. But … those consequences don’t have to be death for the character. They can simply be failures, where you don’t achieve an objective you wanted (the “save the children” is an example of that sort of thing). But even in that case I don’t want game over screens. I want to take a lesson from the Wing Commander games and have you go on with consequences (again, like the “save the children” example). Certain people live and certain people die. You achieve goals and don’t. Ultimately, every ending, then, is an ENDING, and is good or bad based on what you managed to do or didn’t manage to do.

          I’d honestly be more likely to play a game like that even if the consequences were unclear and I ended up with a bad ending that I’d have to replay a lot to fix that to get into the dying sorts of penalties, especially since eventually frustration will replace immersion and you’ll just want to get past it.

          • Dude says:

            You’re very fortunate. It doesn’t work like that for me. When there’s no what-happens-next in something, I don’t feel any sort of tension, especially in a static piece of fiction like a TV show or a book. Or a movie. I still watch things again quite often, but for other reasons.

            That’s likely why I don’t play funneling linear games (ie games with no open elements, unlike say Saints Row 3, where, even though the stories are linear, you get free reign over pretty much everything else) very much anymore, unless you count the yearly bout of Grim Fandango I go through. Or at least never replay. The last strictly linear game I replayed was Spec Ops. And that game does need two playthroughs to see how they set everything up to set… everything up.

        • Nimas says:

          *twitch* Shalebridge *twitch*

          And now I’m gonna have nightmares, thanks for that ><

        • Dasick says:

          No one’s made a survival-horror roguelike yet. Given some serious design and appropriate graphics, you can make something really special, every single time you play. I imagine the Pixel City as a basis of level generation.

        • Fleaman says:

          In Amnesia, they carefully put a lot of barriers between you and actual death. Monsters (when they actually exist) always signal their presence by sound before you can see them or they can see you; because you’re unarmed, you must flee or hide, and it’s not made clear to you exactly what causes monsters to appear or disappear. Tension is built up because you’re uncertain and then made desperate. Likewise, the game often gives you little hints about insanity, like “Stay in well lit areas” and “Don’t look directly at the monsters” without revealing that insanity is basically without consequence.

          A similar example is Yume Nikki, an RPG Maker game you can find online, which is like Earthbound but explicitly nightmarish. The readme gives you a tip that you should look for three useful items: 1. The lamp, to see in the dark. 2. The bicycle, to increase movement speed, and 3. The knife. There is no danger anywhere in the game and there is no way to die. Until you realize that, you’re afraid.

          But we’re wondering about what to do with that actual failure state. Once you reach rock bottom (or look it up on GameFAQs), you know things can’t get worse. Fear pretty much ends at that point.

          In that case, I think we should try to create failure states for horror games that 1. can retain some “unkown” factor even with foreknowledge, or 2. are dangerous to the player and not the player’s avatar, for example by being unsettling or unpleasant.

          An example of 1 might be to gray the boundary between “not failed” and “failed”. Like, your remaining health isn’t given to you as an absolute; it’s communicated instead by bloodiness or limping, etc. Normally the main indicator (and annoyance) of death is losing control, so instead of that, imagine that rather than flopping over on death, you can still control your character way into what would normally be a death animation. A monster is hacking at you, and you get slower and slower as you take more wounds, eventually falling over and crawling on the ground, and whether or not this state can be recovered from is unclear. Though, eventually, of course, you’d have to actually die and lose control and respawn somewhere I guess.

          For an example of 2, take the Silent Hill series as a possible example. The Otherworld is an incredibly unpleasant place to be, ever. Monsters are often avoidable in this series or fairly nonthreatening to begin with, so I think the threat of Having To Be In Otherworld would be a much more worrying punishment for failing than merely being killed by a monster.

          So imagine a Silent Hill game where when monsters hit you, instead of a flow-breaking death the world just gets more Otherworldish. Everything rusts, or melts, or bleeds. Lights go out, or flicker, or turn red. The music decays into droning and beating and clattering discord. Monsters change and move more erratically and with a frightening energy. They grasp at you like molestors, and strike you away with destructive brutality. Hallways are too narrow, and rooms are too large.

          Rather than a desire to play the game well and avoid the irritation of an inconvenient death, the player is driven by a desire to just stay the fuck out of Otherworld. Tension is created in the knowledge that things can just get way worse.

      • Deadpool says:

        In THIS kind of game? Probably not possible.

        Still, Demon’s Souls managed to remain tense every step of the way, not matter how often you died. This is because the tension wasn’t story based (since the character is, storywise, essentially immortal) but instead it was in the game itself…

      • Khizan says:

        In the Walking Dead? Two big fixes, imo.

        1) Don’t give me shaky-controls that do nothing but increase my odds of a tension-breaking reload. Maybe they’re more ‘realistic’, but any tension built by “oh god, got to get this away from me is killed by reloading.

        2) Less “click the circle that’s kind of hard to see” and more “Oh shit hit Q!” for things like the gun-in-the-face scare.

        Don’t give me a tension-increasing “Oh shit the zombie is right in my face!” moment and simultaneously make it hard for me to survive it. The “Bam! Crazy guy with a gun!” thing generated a huge spike of tension, which died along with me 2 seconds later. Had I been able to just hammer my keyboard instead, I’d have probably been okay there and wouldn’t have been jerked out of my immersion.

      • Jenson says:

        Well, there’s Prince of Persia, which tied reloading (or in PoP’s case rewinding) into the story.

    • Dasick says:

      See, this is where my argument about games and stories being inherently incompatible comes from. TWD already kiboshed alot of gameplay elements. And looking at this discussion thread, most ideas about improving the story or the pacing involve taking away *another* interactive element.

      I can see where this is going.

  14. Protocol95 says:

    At the start when you’re looking for supplies there actually was more you could take by opening the cabinets and searching through them.

    I also don’t really get the excuse for leaving the screaming woman to die of she was already dead as the point is about how one death is quick and painless while the other is being eaten alive. I can’t even begin to imagine how painful and scary the latter is.

    • Deadyawn says:

      To be fair, once you’re dead it really doesn’t matter anymore. Shooting her would’ve shortened her life of pain and misery by a minute or two but would also have put Lee and Kenny in a much more dangerous situation, simultaneously making it more difficult to recover supplies to help keep several other people alive. As far as I’m concerned the living come before the dead. Interesting choice though.

      • Aldowyn says:

        Yeah, I thought about it for a minute but my pragmatism won out. Like has been said above, she’s dead anyway, and is mercy-killing her with endangering Lee and Kenny and maybe even the rest of the group indirectly?

  15. Isy says:

    I didn’t kill Larry in episode 2, so Lily was a lot more reasonable here. She even asked Lee at one point if she was going crazy and the investigation was just a result of her paranoia.

    She also made an argument along the lines of, “The traitor might as well be literally killing us. What if Clementine needed medical supplies and we didn’t have any?” Which, I think, would have worked better if that wasn’t going to happen anyway, because Lily was determined to stay in this dead-end motel with no source of supplies left.

  16. Viktor says:

    In some situations, carrying all weapons around and ready at all times makes sense. For example, anyone who doesn’t keep their gun with them during a zombie apocalypse deserves to be eaten.

    Also, Jeeps can totally use a winch like that. It’s actually the main purpose of a winch, pulling the Jeep up otherwise-impassable slopes.

    If you look closely, the girl is clearly chased out of her hiding place, a zombie follows her out of the building.

  17. hborrgg says:

    “How did the zombies manage to break that metal ladder?”

    My question was how the zombies managed to break that metal helicopter.

    • Khizan says:

      I imagine the metal ladder broke due to being used repeatedly by Lee and Kenny without proper maintenance and being left out in the weather for months to rust.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Has it been months? I would have guessed.. well, weeks at the very generousest.

        • Thomas says:

          I thought they were at the motel for three months? And the we have that plus one week. They went through an army base of food supplies.

          I really enjoyed the time skips though, it made the experience feel a lot grander and I felt the confusion was worth it (heck half the fun. I really like being challenged to figure out whats gone on in the gap. It’s like watching Memento)

        • BeardedDork says:

          It is explicitly three months between episodes one and two, an indeterminate amount of time has passed since then. Going by the dialog in this Spoiler warning episode it sounds like it is now latish autumn when it seemed like summer or maybe even spring in the very beginning.

        • Hitchmeister says:

          My first thought when they questioned the ladder breaking? “Well it has been TWO HUNDRED YEARS.” Of course that’s just a by-product of watching interleaved series of Spoiler Warning. You transpose jokes from one into the other and things make even less sense.

    • Khizan says:

      And as for what brought down the helicopter? Lack of trained maintenance personnel. Lack of supplies. Lack of parts. Lack of properly trained pilots. A sick pilot, due to lack of doctors or medical supplies.

      Etc, etc, etc.

  18. Thomas says:

    I never noticed the way conversations kept happening until you guys pointed it out. They’re really clever with how it works, they always always make it so the dialogue sounds right at whatever point you make the choice. When it’s natural to pause and think they have silence, when it’s not they have people talk who you interrupt. And when it has to be quick, they make it quick

  19. A few observations:

    *Lee for some reason did not rest the ladder against the trailer and climb up, why not?
    *The zombies (and a lot of them) was trying to get into the drugstore, why? Both Kenny and Lee knows how to move about quietly by now, this seems very odd.

    *When Lee is later briefed on the supply thefts in private, a low frequency rumble can be heard. (Star Wars fans probably would call this a “dark side rumble”) very cool..

    *The chick screaming, wasn’t a chick. That was Rutskarn actually.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I can at least address the zombies storming the drugstore bit. I mean, it is obviously a plot device but it is only a bit of a stretch as the hordes of zombies seemingly out of nowhere are at least partly lampshaded in the setting (though I’m pretty sure it isn’t really covered by the game, more so by the comics).

      Basically the way it works is TWD zombies react primarily to sounds and smells, if they have no stimuli they pretty much shuffle around for a while, often joining other shuffling zombies and forming sort of “packs” and eventually even just lay down and stay there until something comes along. Now when a zombie actually does detect something, it gets agitated, moves towards that thing making noises and trying to push through stuff that gets in its way, this brings in the attention of other zombies, and as those make their way towards the commotion they alert even further zombies… In this way if there is no other stuff to distract them you are pretty likely to have the whole town converging on your location almost as soon as you alert one of these things. Also, the zeds in town have already been “woken up” by the screaming woman, they converged on her location and after they were done with her, or even when some of them were still on their way to the “ping” it was enough one of them caught a whiff of Lee and Kenny. Again, yes this is a plot device, but the setting lampshades it pretty well.

  20. Flailmorpho says:

    that ladder thing, the audio was so off for that

  21. newdarkcloud says:

    While I enjoyed Episode 3 and got really emotional while playing, I have to say that part of me is both impressed and disillusioned by it. This, to me, is where the illusion started to come apart. Once I had stopped crying and gotten over the loss of Duck and Katja, I realized something. In this episode, they manage to get rid of almost all of the members of the original group in one way or another besides Kenny and Ben, thereby reliving them of the burden of acknowledging your choices and interactions with them. It was pretty hard for me to overlook that in service to the illusion this game so painstakingly crafts.

    • StashAugustine says:

      This was pretty obvious with Doug/Carley’s death. I remember thinking when I saved them, “Alright, but you’d better not kill them off next episode.”

    • zob says:

      When Duck started talking to me and texts started popping up my immediate thought was “kid is going to kick the bucket soon”

    • Dasick says:

      Yep. These kinds of ‘interactive experiences’ can be (initially) really powerful because you believe that you’re interacting with it in a meaningful way, only to find out later that the app isn’t even acknowledging your responses, it’s just trying to play clever sleigh of hand on you.

      And after that, you’re just left with some really bad puzzles and a whole ton of false-choice busywork. The sleigh of hand is something that can be appreciated, but it’s not the same thing…

  22. Friend of Dragons says:

    The only real issue I have with the guns in this is how, from shot to shot (camera-wise), those big rifles they carry appear and disappear when they’re much too large to conceal. Granted, as an animator myself, I can understand not wanting to have to deal with it all the time, but I nevertheless find it rather confusing.

    “He’s fleeing from zombies empty-handed. Has he left the rifle behind? No, wait, he has it again…”

    Funnily enough, this wouldn’t be at all an issue in any number of games where you have a hammerspace “inventory” that oft consists of much more than one rifle, but for some reason it really gets to me in this game.

    • TJ says:

      Yea, but I can see (from a budget perpective especially) why they did it.

      On a side note, my wife, who watched me play the entire game, at several points said, “That’s the second biggest duck I’ve ever had in my pants!” when Lee pt something improbably large down his back pockets. This is yet another reason why my wife is awesome :)

    • Abnaxis says:

      The biggest immersion breaker in this game for me happened at the station. Lee finds a cutting torch–complete with a big, 80 pound fuel tank that is clearly difficult to lift–which just disappears into…what, his back pocket?

      ME (in my impression of Hulu-guy’s voice): “Good thing I have Hammerspace pants(TM), otherwise that overpass ladder might have been a challenge!”

      • Thomas says:

        I’m waiting for that bit to come up =D They should really have given Lee a backback for most of the game… although I guess that would cause animation problems too

    • Dasick says:

      I think immersion is kinda like the uncanny valley. The closer you move to literal from abstract, the more you expect things to behave just like they do in real life, and the more things pop-up that don’t and totally kill your immersion.

  23. Okay, random question…
    which ep of the game are they on? 3? Just kinda wondering how much longer till a new game that will hopefully not make me cry (and thus make me stop watching the show.) Stupid crying, causing migraines…

    The comments to this season have been awesome though, really enjoying them.

  24. JadedDM says:

    The choice with the screaming girl was the first real difficult choice I had to make in this game, at least for me. I had a hell of a time deciding, but ultimately chose to not shoot her. Then I felt awful as I looted the store, listening to her agonizing screams of pain. I took solace in the fact, though, that at least Clementine wasn’t there. This was something that would just be between me and Kenny.

    Then we got back to the motel and Kenny’s all, “Hey, guys! Guess what Lee did?” right in front of her. -_-

  25. LunaticFringe says:

    Anyone else like that (Ep.5 spoilers) Lee having about a half dozen ‘mercy kill’ options was foreshadowing for the ending? I was surprised that the game didn’t take into account your previous actions and determine Clementine’s actions based on that (i.e. if Lee mercy-killed a lot of people, she does it for you. If not she just thinks about her own safety and leaves). Instead the game just reverses the question, places you in the opposite position you’ve been in previously, and somewhat (not enough in my opinion) makes you base the choice on Clementine’s safety.

    • TJ says:

      I was really surprised at how much my opinion on what was right and wrong with those from the girl in the motel in Ep. 1, throughout the game. At the time, I was not at all inclinced to let her off herself. By the end of the game, I would have loaned her the gun in a second.

    • Thomas says:

      I wish they’d done what you suggested at the end. And lots more of that. For me thats what would have validating my playing the game (well recovered my validation after the knock from early in that episode). Then you could point to the game really being about how you teach Clem to survive in the world and the end of the ending would have felt very special indeed

      • anaphysik says:

        Still, I like the way that they DO let you (E5) give Clem advice for surviving as part of your last words. Telling her she has to kill you is, IMO, almost an extension of that kind of advice. You have to destroy the brain, that’s just how death in this world works now :/

    • Jokerman says:

      I felt being handcuffed to a radiator was enough to assure her safety, i had no problem with Lee becoming a zombie with that in mind, i didn’t want Clementine to go through that.

      • LunaticFringe says:

        That’s basically what I was referencing to when I said ‘somewhat’. I thought it would be better to make it more dangerous for Clementine to be near Lee, rather then have something that basically negates any threat. It would’ve made the choice more emotionally charged, with Lee either asking her to kill him or to just run away while she still could. Applying your previous choices to how Clementine responds would’ve also helped stress how you changed her as a person.

  26. allfreightoncanals says:

    The “erratic” behaviour of the woman beginning of the Episode 3 could be explained due to dehydration/starvation. I’m pretty sure that at some point Kenny says something along the lines of “The people left in the town are starving to death” which supports this idea.

  27. Sean says:

    This “find the traitor” quest line was the only point where I felt like this game was fighting what I was trying to do. My initial suspect was Kenny because he’s shown on multiple occasions that he’s willing to do anything to save his son (even let other people die) so is it really a stretch to imagine that he’d trade supplies for safety? That was another point that bugged me, the idea of bribing the bandits with supplies to keep them away sounded like a great idea to me (it worked for the cannibal people). For all we know if the traitor had not been paying off the bandits, the entire group might already be dead by this point. Unfortunately, the game dictated that 1) The deal with the bandits was irredeemably bad and 2) Lee is never even allowed to entertain the thought of suspecting Kenny.

  28. The Rocketeer says:

    “I like to believe Lily worked in Human Resources.”

    According to Lily herself, she was a nonner. Plans & Scheduling, or something similar. (She says she gets to touch a plane if she’s lucky, but that’s probably a lie.)

    There are a lot of mean-spirited jokes I could make about that, but I’ll just say you’ve got the mindset just right.

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