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I was surprised that my cohort went in for something like Bloodborne - he’s never accompanied me on any previous journeys into “From Software Bullshit,” except in one instance, which I will detail later.  The main thing that distinguishes the new one from the old cadre is that it allows (in a way) for a more traditional co-operative multiplayer, which is almost certainly what sold him a copy.

“Traditional” may be a misnomer, come to think of it, because while their work in this vein is traditional in its own context it doesn’t share a lot with other games.  They have their own bizarre width and breadth that maps primarily to themselves.  There aren’t many reviews of a “traditional” sort out there - a lot of previews, but nobody is rushing to affix a number.  I would say that the pressure to like Bloodborne, and to be named among the faithful, is very strong and I’m lucky that I do like it.  Because if you didn’t like it, this would be the worst way to spend your time that I can possibly imagine.

Oh, but review wise.  This review of “Day One” with the game over at Forbes communicates it with precision.  That’s about as real as a review of this game is gonna get.  When you describe what it’s like to play it to someone - let’s say, my wife Brenna - it doesn’t sound good.  It doesn’t sound like something you would do on purpose.  I would say that equipment is important in these games generally, it seems like it may be less so in Bloodborne, but the chief thing you need to succeed is a different, more perfect self.  So, if in a Metroidvania you amass at each juncture a revelatory device which reinterprets the space, here you are becoming something that can withstand the intense heat and pressure.  It’s like those game shows where you have to contort yourself to fit through the shapes in a moving wall.  Or, it is, until you begin walking confidently through wall after wall, in a ballet of flawless keyframes, leave the set through the back door, and squint at the sphere of hot light whose name you cannot entirely recall.

Bloodborne is a Sony Exclusive, which is sort of funny when you think about the history of From’s relatively recent excursions into brutality.  Demon’s Souls, the game that got this ball rolling, was published by Sony in Japan - we wouldn’t have gotten it at all if it weren’t for Atlus, who must have been startled to watch this thing grow.  Dark Souls and Dark Souls II went everywhere - anywhere that could handle it - there was even a weird PC version.  But Bloodborne is back at Sony, and the title screen seems to imply it’s theirs altogether, so this isn’t the illusory “timed exclusive” thing, it’s legit.  Functionally speaking, they have put a ring on it.

But Microsoft…  you know, From Software did something special for you, also.  Chromehounds.  Remember?  A game where people construct their own robots from parts could “activate social,” by which people in your line of work generally mean Social Media, and a persistent, multi-faction online campaign seems ready-made for a cloud-first company.  So, what do you say?  I can guarantee that you’ll sell three, maybe four copies, which I think is better than last time around.


Tycho / 3 days ago

You can watch the same intro we did if you want to, and you should.  If I suggested that Final Fantasy XV had a wild tone - Monster Hunter Road Trip + heartthrob warlocks - the austerity and documentary presentation here will twist your head a few degrees past its stated tolerances.  Some have found it confusing!  As usual, I stand ready to part the veil.

It’s entirely possible I’ve already talked about this particular thing, but I can’t risk it: I am not good at golf.  I am the only person I have ever heard of who has managed to putt into a sand trap.  Weirdly, this was an improvement from my earlier efforts, which involved me moving the ball a couple inches.  Under ordinary circumstances, I’m drawn inexorably to holes.  In this context, however, they have proven elusive.  The advice I was given by my cohort is that the ball has to go past the hole to go in.  Which is good advice there but for some reason it seems like creative advice, also.  You have to be willing to overshoot in order to hit.  So, as much fun as I might make of what you might call The Square-Enix Style, I love the arc of that swing.  I like how far it goes.  Most games - most writers - don’t take chances like this.  They don’t have it in them, or they aren’t afforded the space by the structure that contains them.

Do you know what I actually wonder?  I worship the Epic because it represents a scale I don’t get to work in, and possibly couldn’t execute.  But I bet that grand scope is just as stifling, in its way.  I wonder if those motherfuckers desperately, perpetually want to work at Popcap.  In their dreams, are they matching three gems, over and over?  Do they see a four or five gem combo, and pass it over?

In any case, I want to investigate more of that tone.  But do I want to investigate that tone more than I want to figure out what the fuck is going in Bloodborne?  It’s close enough to Werewolves in Top Hats to be a real danger, and its iconic pistol/massive razor combo already has its black mold growing in the creases of my brain.  Is the roguelike multiplayer - not typically a focus for them - truly a marquee feature?  I want to be a Bloodborne person, like I am a Menite, or any of my other signifiers.  But it’ll barely be hatched by the time Pillars of Eternity comes out on the 26th.  I think most people would probably be safe from this conflux, but as Penny Arcade’s Lord High Genre Fetishist, I am routinely boned.


Monday Sketchdump!

Today’s Sketchdump is an interesting one I think. Last week my youngest son came down with a cold and he was having a hard time sleeping. I laid down in his bed and read some stories to him and then he asked me to make one up. I started with the classic Dad play of using your kid in the story. “Once upon a time there was a little boy named Noah.” I ended up telling a story about a little boy who lived in a lighthouse on a tiny island in the middle of a great big ocean. One foggy day he saw a ship on the horizon and realized his light was turned off. So he had to run up the stairs all the way to the top of the lighthouse to turn the light back on. He kept getting distracted though as it turns out his light house is full of rooms. They started out pretty normal, he stopped at the kitchen first and got himself a sandwich, then the bedroom and the laundry room and he had to stop in each room and do something. There was a video game room where he stopped to play Mario, and a homework room (which he actually skipped right over since he was obviously in such a big hurry) and they got more ridiculous as he climbed. The last room before the top was an “Ice Cream” room which I honestly have never seen in a lighthouse, but it was a crowd pleaser. Anyway, he finally got to the top and turned on the light just in time for the pirate ship to see it and avoid crashing into his little island. It was a goofy story I cooked up on the spot, but then he asked to hear it again the next night.

I decided to spend some time in my sketchbook thinking about what Noah’s Lighthouse would look like as an actual children’s book.

I had a lot of fun doing these and I think I’ll invest a bit more time in it. Maybe I could actually make it into a book? I don’t know we’ll see.

In case you missed it over the weekend, I made a big post about Club PA. If you signed up back when it started it’s probably time to renew. If you don’t know about it yet, just check out the Club PA site for all the details.

-Gabe out

Learning to draw on the internet

I was feeling a little nostalgic today. Usually I never go back in the archive but today I kept jumping back and forth between the current comic and the first one. Like this:

I’ve been really focused this year on pushing ahead and trying to improve after a couple years of feeling sort of stagnant. This was a nice little reminder of how far I’ve already come, which is something I don’t often think about. I can still remember drawing that first strip. In fact there were two comics that I drew before that one, that never got posted. I can remember sitting at my drawing table being so proud of that comic strip and so excited about making more.

I guess this is what 16 years of practice looks like.

-Gabe out

Club PA!

It’s been a long time since we talked about Club PA but it’s still going strong. I first of all want to thank everyone who signed up when we first launched it last year. If you signed up previously it might be about time to renew and if you don’t have any idea what Club PA is, let me break it down for you.

Club PA is a subscription to Penny Arcade that gives you a bunch of special perks. You can see the entire list of stuff you get right here on the Club PA site. It starts with the removal of ads from the site and just gets better from there. If you’re a Club PA member you get access to the comic as soon as it’s posted, You get to download high res versions of each comic, You get discounts in the store and access to special Club PA merchandise including an exclusive Pin. You get early access to our DLC podcast and there’s actually a PA staff podcast just for members of the club. We’ve hosted pizza parties here at the office for members and I’ve seen Robert give special Q&A’s at PAX just for Club PA members. If you’re a PA fan we really try hard to make Club PA worth your money.

It only costs 10 bucks for the basic subscription but hit the site to see all the options. Many of you probably don’t remember but around 14 years ago, a system like this is exactly how Tycho and I kept the site afloat. We made special wallpapers for folks who supported the site and even did a few bonus comics. I hit the Internet archive to see if I could find any of those old posts and ended up poking around our site from 1999 and just shaking my head. I still remember building that web page and thinking, “I wonder if anyone will read this.”

Thanks for reading that.

And this.

And all the stuff in between.

-Gabe out

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