Max Payne Articles RSS Feed | Max Payne RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network This is How Control Connects to Alan Wake, Quantum Break, and Max Payne Fri, 30 Aug 2019 10:57:46 -0400 Mark Delaney

Control is perhaps the biggest game of the week, if not the month. For longtime Remedy fans, though, it should be even bigger.

In the ever-shifting Oldest House, which hosts so many strange secrets and dangerous rabbit holes, there exist many references to Remedy's previous and oft-beloved franchises, especially Alan Wake.

We turned over every stone and backtracked down every hallway to seek out the many references to Remedy's 2010 thriller, and what we found was pretty astounding. The studio doesn't just drop a few Easter eggs into Control, they outright connect the two worlds like films in the MCU — and even continue the plot of Alan Wake where we left off.

Not only that, but they even go so far as to connect all four of their major franchises, including Quantum Break and Max PayneExcitingly, it seems like Remedy is slowly creating one conjoined story universe, which makes for a promising future following this week's critical hit.

Of course, major spoilers follow. If you haven't yet finished Control, bookmark this article and come back after you've done so. 

Remedy's games have always been self-referential. Alan Wake was an author famous for his gritty Alex Casey crime novels, and that titular character was meant as a blatant reference to Max Payne, the anti-hero from their previous series of the same name. 

Quantum Break came along in 2016. It had all sorts of Easter eggs for Alan Wake, too, such as a long trailer called "Return" which Jack Joyce could watch on the campus of Riverport University. If such a reference seemed like merely a fun nod, things turned out to be deeper and more complex than that.

Moments later, a whiteboard decked out in wacky theories appears. Its scrawling tries to puzzle out what happened to Wake after he dove into Cauldron Lake, making it clear Wake is someone who is being investigated by someone in Quantum Break's world. He's not just mentioned by the game's writers for fans outside that world.

Control takes the self-referential content to new heights. It links together all four worlds, especially those of Alan Wake and Control. It does so in ways that I can't recall any game ever doing. Remedy is building their own MCU or what I've called elsewhere, the Grand Remedy Universe. 

To trace this universe to its own Big Bang, we have to go back to 2012. That was when a blog titled This House of Dreams appeared online. The author, Samantha, chronicled her life while moving into her new home in a town called Ordinary. It wasn't long until her daily posts about repairs around the house turned to something more mysterious — and maybe even dangerous.

Samantha found a shoebox. A very strange shoebox.

This House of Dreams was soon revealed to be part of an alternate reality game (ARG) from Remedy. If you follow the blog in chronological order from February 2012 when it began until July 29 of the same year  the last day a blog entry was made the allusions become clearer and clearer. Samantha writes of a Dark Presence and a diver in a "strange, heavy diving suit, almost like a spacesuit" who speaks to her in her dreams and tells of his lover whom he lost to this darkness. 

Why is any of this important? Well, here's why. 

If you can't make out the words in the screen above, look for this whiteboard on the mid-level of the Central Research Center in Control.

To summarize, it's a collection of notes on Sam's shoebox. It mentions the blog, it mentions her town of Ordinary the same town where Jesse is from, mind you  and it even mentions the "Bright Falls AWE," where AWE stands for Altered World Event, and, of course, Bright Falls is the setting in Alan Wake

These are events in Control defined by when the story's alternate whitespace universe, the Astral Plane, leaks into our world and disrupts it in major ways. 

If Jesse's coworkers studying Alan Wake's disappearance isn't enough of a clue, there's more. Take, for example, how the Federal Bureau of Control rebooted Night Springs (the show from Alan's world) to introduce some of its wildest works to the public under the guise of a sci-fi anthology show.

There's also the moment when the game humorously reveals a purpose for all those Oh, Deer Diner coffee thermoses you find in Alan Wake. Apparently, they are a suspected Altered Item (an item touched and forever changed by the Astral Plane). Now they serve piping hot coffee with every pour, no matter how long ago they were filled.

The game even reveals that a character from Alan Wake, Sheriff Breaker's father, is a retired FBC agent. He's the agent who alerts the bureau about the Cauldron Lake AWE.

Other little things crop up all over the game, too, like letters to psychology councils that sound like someone is dreaming of Alan, or how Jesse herself recites the poetry of Thomas Zane, Alan's literal guiding light.

Most excitingly, Control confirms through found documents that the FBC interviewed Alan's wife, Alice, in the aftermath of the "recurring AWE" at Bright Falls' Cauldron Lake.

Tie all this to the fact that the dreams Sam blogged about in This House of Dreams ended with a man in an AWE jacket confiscating her shoebox before it went missing in the real world, too, and you've got one big happily convoluted mess. But it's one we can see all ties together neatly with a closer look.

These and many more links bring the worlds of Control and Alan Wake closer together as one omniverse. However, there's one segment in the third act that brings it all together and connects Remedy's four biggest series.

When Jesse speaks to her enigmatic brother, Dylan, through protective glass, Dylan goes on a tangent about a conversation he had with an entity he calls Mr. Door. Dylan continues:

He said that there are many worlds, side by side, on top of each other, some inside of others. In one world, there’s a writer who wrote a story about a cop. In another world, the cop was real. Door said he himself was in all of them at the same time, endlessly shifting between them.

Here's where the Easter eggs shift to full-on Grand Remedy Universe. "In one world there's a writer who wrote a story about a cop." That's Alan, of course. "In another world, the cop was real." That's Max Payne, who, if you recall, is the studio's inspiration for Alan's protagonist in his crime novels. "Door said he himself was in all of them at the same time, endlessly shifting between them." This part is the trickiest, but I strongly feel I have it right: This is the entity which exists outside of time in Quantum Break. 

At the very end of the game, it's hinted that Martin Hatch (played by Lance Reddick) is this fabled foe we hardly see in the game, but given how time travel stories have a way of messing with multiverse theory, like Quantum Break very much already does, and given that we know Control does too, it seems this line was not there just to confound.

Here is some more hard evidence from Control

Like The Cloverfield Paradox does for its anthology franchise, but hopefully more elegantly, Control reveals the future roadmap for Remedy games, at least potentially. Control gives the studio the license to explore new worlds with starkly different aesthetics and a range of characters all while bringing it back together with the multiverse which captures all of these stories as one shared universe. 

That means the best elements of this shared world may be yet to come. Remedy intends to spend less time between games moving forward, so can we expect a new connected story within the next two or three years, excluding Crossfire X, which is already en route and not their IP to mess with? I think so, and that's a promise that should excite their fans.

A multiverse means little if they don't brush up against each other, but we're seeing already that the worlds of Alan and Jesse have collided head-on several times. We just didn't know it until now. Max Payne and Jack Joyce are meant to pay their roles, too, though as Remedy doesn't own those properties, we may just have to fill in the gaps with our best headcanon.

Might we get Alan Wake 2 someday? It's possible, especially after Remedy bought the IP from Microsoft. They don't likely just want to sit on it. But we're seeing in Control that they're already delivering sequel-like plot details in the dark corners of The Oldest House, which itself is just one more corridor in the Grand Remedy Universe. 

Feel the Cool! Here are 11 Snowy Games for Your Winter Holidays Wed, 30 Nov 2016 07:00:01 -0500 Serhii Patskan


And here is something completely new for you -- Steep, a fresh snowboarding title from Ubisoft. Currently, the game is being tested in a beta stage, and will be officially released on December 2, 2016.


Steep is an extreme sports game set in an open world with a strong multiplayer component. This new approach will allow players from all over the globe to inhabit the same open locations engaging in various sports activities simultaneously. The most interesting aspect of Steep is the match recording system that will allow you to replay your activities, make screenshots and even share players’ experience data over social networks.


A few older mechanics, such as the tricks system, also make a comeback, including the famous Alaska track that is such a fantastic winter location, so if you have been a fan of the SSX series before, you should definitely check out this new game from Ubisoft.



What other winter-themed video games would you like to see mentioned? Share them in the comments section.

Batman: Arkham Origins

Gotham is almost exclusively depicted as this very dark and gloomy city, and even winter holidays bring no joy to its citizens that are being constantly terrorized by a bunch of maniacs. This kind of atmosphere perfectly fits the series of games about Batman.


Of all other games in the DC lineup, Arkham Origins has one of the most fascinating winters. This was possible due to the APEX Turbulence technology, that allows some truly innovative weather effects, especially snow, to be created.


Although, Origins is considered to be the weakest game in the Arkham series, it is still pretty solid, so give it a go.


Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter

If you’ve never heard of Icewind Dale, then think of it as a clone of Baldur’s Gate that is set amidst a frozen world. This is a classical RPG game that tells a story of a few wanderers trying to get into the very heart of winter in order to fight an Ice Dragon.


On top of the really snowy and icy locations you get to see a number of typical towns and taverns that accommodate groups of drunken elves. Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter, despite its cold title, is actually a very heartwarming expansion that will keep you engaged during these long winter nights.



This cult adventure game from the Belgian comic book writer Benoit Sokal is preparing to become a trilogy. So before the third installment of the series gets an official release, this winter would be an excellent time to replay the first two parts. Both games take you to the coldest part of the world -- the Russian Syberia, full of icy caves and wild forests.


Syberia has a fantastic story taking place in the bizarre world of automata with its own peculiar atmosphere. Lately the game has become available for mobile devices, so you don’t even have to access your PC or console to play this great game.



Fahrenheit from Quantic Dream is a very unusual game made in a classical noir style, and takes place in the snowy New York City. If you like the atmosphere of Max Payne, then you will definitely enjoy the world of Fahrenheit, as they are almost identical. The city is a freezing hell that almost feels post-apocalyptic, but that's just the initial feeling of the severe New York winter.


This was the second attempt of David Cage in creating a cinematic video game that had the potential to revolutionize the stale industry, in which it did succeed to a certain extent. On the other hand, if you can’t stand the outdated graphics, then check out the remastered version that has significantly improved the visual side of this great game.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Everybody knows what Skyrim is and what it can offer. This game probably has the most furious snowstorms of them all. If you want to experience a true Skyrim winter, all you need to do is get up as high as the highest peaks and watch heavy clouds shower everything around with thick layers of snow.


It always looks amazing and if you do become tired of the fury of the Skyrim winter, you can always go back down into the sunny valleys. That’s the beauty of this game -- the world is so vast that you can never actually get bored of it.


Max Payne

Snow storm, steamy pipes, fire, explosions, bullets in slow motion -- all this is Max Payne, one of the best action games ever created. The setting and the story made this title into one of the most beloved among the gamers.


If you have an opportunity to replay the very first Max Payne, then do so. The graphics may look a bit outdated today, but hopefully, the sense of nostalgia will help you see right through those flaws, which mind you, weren’t flaws at all, when the game was released back in 2001.


Until Dawn

The horror genre has always been more about a good story rather than scary monsters. Until Dawn is that kind of game -- it knows how to scare, and all the events take place in a remote snowy area. Setting the events of the game during winter time was a proper decision, since it's much harder to run away from a maniac-killer through the thick of the snow-covered forest.


The game is very cinematic and the camera explores areas just as if it was a movie. The motion capture is one of the best you will ever see, and the actors are actually doing a great job expressing their emotions. The level of interactive drama is always high and it makes up for one of the best games in the recent years.


I am Setsuna

If you don’t like to play sports video games, then here is something you might like more. I am Setsuna is an original IP from Square Enix’ Tokyo RPG Factory branch, that was created to revive the classical JRPG style of games.


If you liked Chrono Trigger, then you will definitely enjoy I am Setsuna. The game looks very cute and charming and the perpetual winter environment perfectly underlines the story. Almost all locations are generously covered with the fluffiest snow, and you can almost feel the cool breeze coming from your monitor.


The combat utilizes an Active Time Battle system that so many RPG fans have been craving to see in the recent titles. This is a rare gem that respects the origins of the genre and should not be missed.


SSX (Snowboard Supercross)

The famous snowboarding series was rebooted in 2012 and featured real locations instead of the fictional ones from the previous games. One of the best tracks is obviously Alaska -- the kingdom of winter that is perfect for snowboarding challenges.


One thing you immediately notice when playing the new SSX is the vastly improved physics of movements. If this game will ever be available for VR, we all ought to try this out -- it would simply be amazing. However, even on the typical TV screen the game looks and feels astonishing.


Every location has lots of secret tracks and you also have access to some great snowboarding equipment. For example, you can wear a special body armor that protects your character from the rocks and trees; the coolest of them must be the wingsuit that allows you to cover huge gaps in the air; etc.


All in all, SSX managed to reinvent itself in this new reboot and you should check it out this winter.


SSX Tricky

Now is the best time to remember the best snowboarding game of all time -- SSX Tricky. This was a special game that was available on PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox consoles and garnered universal acclaim on all these platforms.


SSX Tricky was a sequel to the first SSX game, which added a system of Uber moves that could be performed during a boarding match. If you managed to perform six consecutive Uber moves, then you would be given an infinite boost until the end of the match.


This mechanics were so interactive and fun that it couldn’t possibly be topped by any other game in the same genre. On top of that you get to see some incredibly designed tracks covered with ice and snow that turn the game into a true winter sports experience.


If you can’t find a way to play this game today, then head to the next slide for a reboot of the SSX series.



Video games can do anything -- they can transport you to the times and places that are out of reach in real life. Soon the winter holidays begin, and many gamers wish to experience that special winter chill without leaving their homes.


It’s not too difficult to recreate weather effects in the game, but only a handful actually managed to create a proper winter atmosphere.


Here are some of the best games that will immerse you into the coldest season of the year, and make your holidays much more enjoyable.

Meet 3D Environment Artists of Blizzard, EA DICE, and Naughty Dog Thu, 26 May 2016 06:13:49 -0400 ericafeldfeber

On Thursday May 26th, 2016 from 7:30pm-10:00pm, the Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Games + Animation is hosting an exclusive event!

The event features an artist panel for 3D environment artists Joy Lea (EA DICE), Helder Pinto (Blizzard), and Martin Teichmann (Naughty Dog). Each of the artists will be sharing their own tips and techniques for those looking to break into the video game industry. 

According to the Gnomon School itself, there will be a special feature for fans of Naughty Dog:

"Martin Teichmann’s presentation will include a workflow example of a scene created from the newly released Uncharted 4." 

The event is free, but just make sure that you RSVP by following this link. Seating is first-come-first-served.

There will be a Q&A session at the end, where you will be able to meet speakers in person. But for those of you who can't make it, here's a little about the panelists:


Joy Lea

3D Artist at EA DICE

Joy Lea is a 3D Artist that has worked on a multitude of titles, from AAA to indie. Currently, she's at DICE LA working on the award-winning Battlefield series. She most previously worked with ThreeOneZero on ADR1FT, releasing on the Oculus Rift. Her varied experience in working on a wide range of quality titles gives her a unique outlook on art and the video game industry.


Helder Pinto

3D Artist at Blizzard Entertainment

Helder Pinto is a 3D Artist originally from Portugal who specializes in 3D and environment art, with nine years of professional experience in the video game industry. Though he started out doing level design work for mods on Half-Life and Max Payne, he has most recently worked on Overwatch, Blizzard Entertainment’s newest multiplayer FPS game.

Check out more of his work here.


Martin Teichmann

Environment Modeler at Naughty Dog

 Martin Teichmann is an Environment Modeler at Naughty Dog, originally from Germany. He previously worked at Deck13 Interactive, Crytek, and later moved to London to work on Rocksteady Studios’ Batman: Arkham Knight. Martin moved to Santa Monica in in early 2015 to join Naughty Dog, where he has been working on Uncharted 4.

Check out more of his work here.


This is an exciting networking opportunity you will not want to miss!


  • 7:30 pm – 8:10 pm: Joy Lea, 3D Artist at EA DICE
  • 8:10 pm – 8:50 pm: Helder Pinto, 3D Artist at Blizzard Entertainment
  • 8:50 pm – 9:30 pm: Martin Teichmann, Environment Modeler at Naughty Dog
  • 9:30 pm – 10:00 pm: Audience Questions


Gnomon Campus

Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Games + Animation
1015 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038

The event will also be featured on Gnomon’s Livestream channel for those who can't make it in person. Click here to watch the stream.

Let's Talk - Awesome Game Music Wed, 13 Apr 2016 04:13:42 -0400 Pierre Fouquet

Let's Talk is a mixed audio and written series about talking -- that much is clear. I talk about specific games, the impact a game can have on the community, about recent events, or how past events have shaped what is now. Read the article first or watch the video -- it's up to you, but without further ado, Let's Talk about:

Music in games, and the times it's been awesome

Music and games. These two things don't often go together in the collective minds of gamers. But is that because the music fades so well into the background that you don't notice it? It subconsciously sets the scene, and fills your brain with emotions. When you do notice the music, is this because it doesn't fit with the scene? In this Let's Talk, we explore the awesome musical moments in game, and sometimes in-game radio.

The Oblivion opening cinematic is incredible at setting the scene -- it sets the tone of the game, while also making you ready for adventuring. I can also hear some moments, towards the end, which must have influenced the Skyrim music.

Far Cry 3, and dubstep done well

We all remember that moment of burning the weed farm in Far Cry 3. While it did borrow from a similar mission in GTA: San Andreas, it did one major thing very differently -- it was one of the few times where dubstep worked as video game music. And boy does it work -- everything fits in place perfectly!

It's a lot like the 2012 first person shooter remake of the RTS classic, Syndicate. While the game didn't dazzle anyone with the gameplay, I feel it did a really good job with the music, it worked with the setting and wasn't annoying, which is nice.

Atmosphere, and radios

While it's not strictly music, having a radio station in a game which reports on the news is a really good world building technique. In, GTA IV, and GTA V, as well as Fallout 4, your actions would create a new broadcast. These very often would interrupt the music which was currently playing, as breaking news is breaking right? If only in real life there was an option to enforce Traffic Information to be permanently off forever, in every car as default.

Being able to pick a radio station is a thing you can do in real life, so being able to do that in a game makes you feel like the world is somewhat real and alive. Especially in Fallout, where all the stations have a very 40s feel to them, making you feel grounded in a world which is pretty crazy.

What are some awesome moments have you have with music in games? Do you even care about the music? Let me know in the comments below.

A matter of slow death - Kill Cams: X-Ray Bullet Time Sat, 26 Mar 2016 09:31:09 -0400 Pierre Fouquet

Having recently watched the X-Ray kills of Sniper Elite 4 has reignited my love of slow-motion death. Whether it's just simple slow-mo, like in Max Payne or Enter The Matrix, or full bullet time like in Sniper Ghost Warrior, even going as far as Sniper Elite with an X-Ray system showing organ explosions and bones shattering, I cannot get enough.

Don't watch... the dead man says.

I can see right through you

I've always had this morbid fascination with seeing slow-motion death. Watching my bullet(s) slowly travel towards the final victim, or if I'm sniping I get a moment of excitement when the camera smash cuts to the gun's barrel. It tells me I've just made "the shot" and I can sit back for a second and watch my work. It only gets better when I can follow that bullet through the body of my enemy, and bask in the gory glory of perfection.

It might be me, but I would love to see more games embrace the bullet time. Quantum Break seems to be using the same style as Max Payne 3, it gives you a stylish slow-motion scene of a man getting shot. But then Remedy are the creators of the original Max Payne games, before Rockstar took the reins with the 3rd in the series, so I'm not surprised that system is in there.

What could possibly go wrong?

The major issue with a kill cam system is how it breaks up the flow of the game, and that can be an issue for many people; stopping them from doing anything by dynamically triggering a cutscene. I understand exactly why this can be annoying. If you're firing from far off you may forget exactly where you were due to the long bullet travel time, or you may just want to fire off a few quick shots at multiple targets.

This can be somewhat fixed by making the right stick be speed changer, where clicking it in makes time go normal speed. This should overcome most of the issues with this, but if anyone really doesn't want to watch their bullet in slow-motion there should be an option to turn it off.

This is what went wrong.

Films have tried, films fall short

The Matrix is arguably the most famous film for making bullet time, but does it put you in the action? Nope, games have always had the jump on films for making you feel like you are the character, that any actions you take are yours and yours alone. Having a kill cam that activates when you have done something just makes it feel special -- even if it's set off for every last enemy. You never really know how many combatants enter the arena, so you never know when the kill cam will show.

Bullet time, chill time

Kill cams, above all, look cool while making you think you are cool. By activating when you have just made a skill shot it gives you a sense that you have done that. As long as there is the ability to change the speed, to speed up during long travel time for shots, and slow down to watch your target drop, and devs add the option to turn kill cams off and ensure people who don't like them don't see them, I would love to see more kills cams in games.

Do you have strong feelings for or against kill cams? Or do you just not care? Why don't you care? Let me know in the comments below.

Top 5 Worst Game to Film Adaptations Thu, 17 Mar 2016 07:20:01 -0400 EdWade

Over the years, we've had some disastrous game-to-movie adaptations. But what are the worst? You may be thinking all of them, and you wouldn't be far off! But considering the franchise as a whole, which have been the most damaging?  

  1. Resident Evil

The game was a huge success and has turned into a mass franchise. The films unfortunately haven’t followed suit. Resident Evil and then Resident Evil: Apocalypse weren’t half bad. But then after that, things just got embarrassing. Based on the famous zombie outbreak caused by Umbrella, it is hard to believe that we have had five films produced! No doubt another one will come churning out soon.

  1. Silent Hill

The game was originally released in 1991 by Konami and was a Japanese horror. Since then two movies have spawned and unlike the game, have given no justice to the original terror and quality. Understanding just what the hell is going on in the first Silent Hill film is a challenge, however, some of the creeps and scares make up for it. Despite Silent Hill: Revelation having a strong cast that was just as painstakingly bad. The game hasn't been able to last the ages and was cancelled last year.

  1. Hitman

Possibly a controversial choice, but the original Hitman film just seemed to lack so much of the character and intensity that the game has. Starring Timothy Olyphant, it simply has too much of an "origin story". However, I do feel as though Olyphant captures what a Hitman would be like, even though he perhaps doesn’t stick to the similarities of the games character. The action that goes along with it is all good and proper but lacks real likenesses to the game. Hitman: Agent 47 isn’t even a sequel, but a reboot and it doesn’t really do that. However, Hitman is the game which has had the most outlays because of it, and even got a casino game.

  1. Far Cry

In my opinion, the best game on the list. But once again a film simply is not doing it any justice. With the recent release of Far Cry: Primal, we can at least appreciate that the movie didn’t do any harm to the gaming franchise. Director Uwe Boller (Who must give up game-to-movie adaptations) made this film far too much about the human mutants running around and ruined a natural, compelling story.

  1. Max Payne

It held so much promise. With Mark Wahlberg at the helm, it could have been heading in the right direction. He seemed like the perfect actor to take on the role of a gritty detective fighting for the revenge of his family and would certainly have suited the distinct action of the film. Instead, we got drug addled hallucinations of Norse warriors with a plot that only really made sense halfway through!

The list could go on, with some game-to-movie adaptations just about making it as a half descent film. Prince of Persia springs to mind. But let us hope that eventually we get a top quality one. Our hope rests on Assassin's Creed.

The most inspiring and thought-provoking video game quotes Tue, 08 Mar 2016 16:48:04 -0500 Ty Arthur


These were the 15 quotes we found to be most interesting or inspirational from across the gamingverse. What was your favorite, and what quotes did we miss that you'd add in?



“A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”


-- Shigeru Miyamoto


Just remember that the next time a game you want gets pushed back and you feel like unleashing all-caps armageddon on a forum. Better to have no game at all than to have a game that wasn't worth playing.


“One man goes into the waters of baptism, a different man comes out, born again. But who is that man who lies submerged? Perhaps that swimmer is both sinner and saint, until he is revealed unto the eyes of man.”


-- Comstock, BioShock Infinite


Another Bioshock quote that's actually sort of horrific within the context of the game (but motivational if considered alone) this is basically Comstock's way of saying your choices are your own, while making you think about fate and whether it was really inevitable that all your experiences lead to one outcome.


"Even if you run into a storm, there's always a way out, no matter how bleak things seem."


-- Vyse, Skies Of Arcadia


A relentlessly (maybe even annoyingly?) positive character, Vyse is sort of a random inspirational quote generator. I imagine when people need a motivational poster for an office, they just snag Vyse quotes.


“Although my heart may be weak, it's not alone. It's grown with each new experience. And it's found a home with all the friends I've made. I've become a part of their heart, just as they've become a part of mine. And if they think of me now and then, if they don't forget me, then our hearts will be one. I don't need a weapon. My friends are my power!”


-- Sora, Kingdom Hearts


Although more on the kitschy and cutesy side, this is undeniably a powerful moment in the Kingdom Hearts series.


“Too many people have opinions on things they know nothing about. And the more ignorant they are, the more opinions they have.”


-- Thomas Hildern, Fallout: New Vegas


This one might seem like more of an insult than an inspirational quote at first, but I see it from the opposite side. This is a valuable reminder, especially in the social networking age of instant communication, that sometimes it's better to remain silent, or at the very least, to be uncertain of your position until all the facts come to light.


“You reap what you sow, Artyom: force answers force, war breeds war, and death only brings death. To break this vicious circle one must do more than act without any thought or doubt.”


-- Khan, Metro 2033


In a world devastated by nuclear war and invaded by otherwordly beings, is it any wonder some grow tired of perpetuating an endless cycle of violence?


"I was called here by humans who wished to pay me tribute."


"Tribute?!? You steal men's souls, and make them your slaves!"


"Perhaps the same could be said of all religions..."


-- Dracula, Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night


Oh man, I can't tell you how much this little exchange between Richter and Dracula just blew my mind as a 12 year old who had no idea something like this was even allowed to be said in a video game. Inspiring? Not so much. Thought-provoking? You betcha.


"Nothing is more badass than treating a woman with respect." 


-- Mr. Torgue, Borderlands 2


The Borderlands series is chock full of some of the best quotes in all gaming history, but definitely more of the hilariously offensive variety rather than the actually inspiring kind. Then, out of nowhere, this weapons fanatic whose speech must constantly be bleeped throws out something progressive. Pandora is full of strange wonders, indeed.




“Did you ever try to put a broken piece of glass back together? Even if the pieces fit, you can’t make it whole again the way it was. But if you’re clever, you can still use the pieces to make other useful things. Maybe even something wonderful, like a mosaic. Well, the world broke just like glass. And everyone’s trying to put it back together like it was, but it’ll never come together in the same way….”


-- Moira, Fallout 3


Whoever thought you'd get something deep out of Moira, who doesn't seem to be entirely there? In between twisting your DNA like a feline with a ball of yarn or asking you to get into fights with rabid mole rats, she manages to make the end of the world not seem so horrible, without actually lessening the impact in any way of what led to the sad state of the D.C. Wasteland. It's not hard to see the personal applications of such a philosophy if applied to people who are broken as well.


"Nothing is true, everything is permitted."


"That is rather cynical." 


"It would be if it were doctrine. But it is merely an observation on the nature of reality. To say that nothing is true is to realize that the foundations of society are fragile and that we must be the shepherds of our own civilization. To say that everything is permitted is to understand that we are the architects of our actions and that we must live with our consequences, whether glorious or tragic."


-- Ezio, Assassin's Creed: Revelations


The eponymous creed itself is revealed in detail in this entry of the franchise, and it's definitely one to make a gamer take pause and ponder. In a lot of ways its much like the "no gods, no kings" from BioShock, but presented with a little more flair, befitting the assassin giving the explanation.


"Death is inevitable. Our fear of it makes us play safe, blocks out emotion. It's a losing game. Without passion, you are already dead." 


-- Max Payne


Take it from Mr. Misfortune himself: just simply getting up each morning, punching a clock, and ticking all the boxes sure ain't living. If you don't have something you really care about, then it's probably time to call it a day (or at least find a new game to play).


"No gods or kings. Only man." - Bioshock


In this game series, you can usually bet that if there's a giant statue with a banner or stained glass window quote, it's being said by an absolute mad man who is going to be a villain.


In this instance though, it can really be seen from another point of view, as a reminder that our fates our are own, and we are the masters of our own destiny (even if these games don't always play out that why by the time the credits roll).


“We stand upon the precipice of change. The world fears the inevitable plummet into the abyss. Watch for that moment...and when it comes, do not hesitate to leap. It is only when you fall that you learn whether you can fly.” 


-- Flemeth, Dragon Age II


Sometimes the most morally ambiguous characters have the best lines in gaming, and somehow the witch Flemeth here manages to both be all gloom and doom AND inspirational at the same time.


“Strength lies in knowing oneself.”


-- Dak'kon, Planescape: Torment


There's endless interesting conversations in this novel-esque game, especially between the night hag Ravel and the amnesiac Nameless One, but Dak'kon frequently takes home the award for strongest proponent of personal development. He may be a downer at times (getting a whole city killed because of his self-doubt tends to do that to a gith), but he's got some great advice.


“It's more important to master the cards you're holding than to complain about the ones your opponent was dealt.”


-- Grimsley, Pokemon Black And White


Although this is clearly meant quite literally in the context, that's an interesting concept to teach kids through a video game -- expressing the sentiments of personal responsibility and being thankful for what you have.


While explained slightly differently, it also reminds me of the famous Louis C.K. quote:


“The only time you look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them.”


Looking past all the swords and bullets, there's another side to gaming that the general public doesn't always see. Gamers are a passionate lot, and the writers behind our games tend to be even more so, putting a whole lot of heart and soul into characters who easily rival any offered up by literature or film.


There are plenty of game scenes that have resonated with entire generations of players and will never be forgotten – is there a single Final Fantasy fan who can't quote the opera house scene? While there are plenty of mindless tap-tap games or shooters without much in the way of story, even those types of games have hidden gems of dialogue if you look deep enough.


Everything from existentialism to objectivism to moral relativity all get their due in various game series when you head into the likes of Bioshock, Planescape: Torment, and SOMA. After dredging through hundreds of games with interesting themes, we've put together a list of some of the most inspiring or thought-provoking quotes to be found in any console or PC title.

5 Reasons Why Movies Based on Video Games Fail Mon, 16 Feb 2015 09:27:51 -0500 Stan Rezaee

Looks like Mr. 47 is returning to theaters as fans got a chance to see the first trailer for Hitman: Agent 47 which premiered online on Friday. Like its predecessor, it's going to be an action thriller and another forgettable flop.

While video games have made efforts to recreate or continue some of the greatest works of the cinematic arts, Hollywood has failed to show the same kind of professional curtsy. 

It's not that making an adaptation of a video game is difficult - the process requires the same guidelines used to adapt popular books and comics. Yet, Hollywood has failed to learn these lessons in trying to bring an iconic video game story to the big screen.

Here are the five reasons why movies based on video games are always a disappointment. 

5. Hollywood doesn't respect video games

This is not a blanket statement because it’s obvious that Steven Spielberg respects video games as an art (having created the military shooter genre with Medal of Honor). The same could not be said about a studio executive who see gaming as a fad to tap into.

To be fair, most studio executives operate in a shell while only focused on the studio's bottom line. It's understandable that they need to focus on profits to stay in business, but it also gives them a warped perception. In the end, it's all about what sells and if they can’t understand it then it must not sell (this also is why Community has had a turbulent run). 

4. Hollywood also doesn't understand video games

Since many in Hollywood have failed to respect video games as an art, they have also failed to understand it as a medium. For example: people who don’t understand gaming will look at Grand Theft Auto V as a cop and hooker killer simulator rather than a story of three friends seeking the American Dream in a post-2008 Crash society.

It's easy to overlook that video games didn’t become a storytelling medium until the late '80s while also having to break from the traditional standards set by cinema and theater.

The issue is that a lot of screenwriters and directors will look at a video game as if it was an action movie. The action is a gameplay mechanic that allows the player to function in the context of the environment, not drive the story. In doing so, they have overlooked the story and robbed it of any content that fans enjoy.

Case in point would be how the John Moore adaptation of Max Payne failed to properly recreate one of the greatest works of neo-noir since Pulp Fiction. The key word being “neo-noir,” as in a gritty crime drama within the context of a modern society and not an action/supernatural film.

3. Failure to bring the character to life

One of the biggest issues with these adaptations is that the acting is going to be mediocre at best. Most actors who have been in a video game movie are not that memorable or were just the poor choice for the role. Case in point would be Timothy Olyphant's portrayal of Mr. 47 in the first Hitman movie.

Full disclosure: Justified is one of my favorite shows to the point that I go out of my way to watch it every Tuesday while owning the entire series on DVD. While he has played several memorable roles, Timothy Olyphant has cemented his legacy with the character of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens.

With all that said, Olyphant was not the best choice to play Mr. 47. His portrayal lacked the sophistication and shallow charm that has been associated with the character. It's not that he is a bad actor, he was just not the right actor to bring the character to life.

Yet that pales compared to the so many poor performances that have earned infamy. Tara Reid earned herself a Razzie award for her performance in Alone in the Dark while Mark Wahlberg earned a nominee for his role in Max Payne. Meanwhile the late Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper wish everyone forgot about their performance in Super Mario Bros

2. Lack of respect for the source material 

If the creative team doesn’t understand the medium then they are likely to break away from the source material.

Too often when such a film is announced, fans get excited in the hopes of seeing a cinematic adoption of their favorite video game. A few months later they are shocked to discover that the story and characters are not based on the source material.

The film adaptations of DoomHitman, and House of the Dead are just a few examples to note. The most well-known example to look at would be the turbulent production that Resident Evil had to undergo.

When a Resident Evil movie was first being developed, Capcom and Sony originally tapped horror iconic George A. Romero. Unfamiliar with video games; he attempted to understand the source material by having his secretary play the game over eight times while being recorded.

Romero would study the videos and take notes so that he may create a screenplay that was faithful to the story. However, Sony rejected his vision and put the project on hold until Paul W. S. Anderson submitted his screenplay.

That is correct, Resident Evil was originally supposed to be directed by one of the most influential horror film directors and Sony rejected him in favor of some hack.

This brings up the final point…

1. Unqualified directors

Finally, when it comes down to it, the majority of movies based on a video game have been created by directors who obviously lack any kind of creative talent. A lot of directors who have made movies based on video games are either inexperienced or just notoriously terrible.

Taking lessons learned from the success of comic book films, there could only be a good film based on a video game if the director understands and respects the medium. Not too long ago comic book movies were seen as box office poison until Bryan Singer and Christopher Nolan redefined the genre.

Video game movies could also have the same kind of success if only the right talent is leading the project. One needs to realize that there is a big difference between the works of Paul W. S. Anderson and Uwe Boll compared to Joss Whedon and Sam Raimi.


Directors like Whedon, Raimi along with Peter Jackson are the kind of directors who have the utmost appreciation for the source material. These artists were raised within the source culture and they have made their vision a mission to properly recreate or retell these stories through the cinematic arts.

Also important to note is that they all had previous experience in filmmaking that helped build the needed credibility among the studios to greenlight their dream projects. Raimi had established himself with the Evil Dead-trilogy, Sir Kenneth Branagh was already recognized for his cinematic adaptations of William Shakespeare before directing Thor, and the successful re-make of Dawn of the Dead helped launch Snyder’s career.

Meanwhile the majority of movies based on video games have been directed by individuals who are either inexperienced or are known for making bad films. The best film John Moore (Max Payne) directed, Flight of the Phoenix, has a 37% on Rotten Tomato while Andrzej Bartkowiak (Doom and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) sorry excuse of a filmography is no different and Uwe Boll (House of the Dead and Bloodrayne) can’t direct a film for s***.

The difference could be obviously seen with Halo: Nightfall, a successful adaptation that was produced by Sir Ridley Scott. Meanwhile another highly anticipated Halo adaptation is being developed by Steven Spielberg. 

The only way a movie based on a video game will ever be successful if it's directed by a gamer with experience while the screenplay is a faithful adaptation of the source material.

So in other words... Sony, please dump Jordan Vogt-Roberts in favor of Joss Whedon for the Metal Gear Solid movie. 

Max Payne 3: The Complete Series Graphic Novel Review Mon, 23 Dec 2013 10:17:18 -0500 Ryan Kerns

Max Payne 3 had a pretty rocky road to release. Originally scheduled for 2009, the game saw numerous delays until eventually releasing in spring 2012. It had been nearly nine years since the last Max Payne game was released; and the 2008 film adaptation starring Mark Wahlberg certainly didn’t help re-ignite much interest in the series.

Rockstar Games also took a pretty controversial direction with the character; the first official piece of artwork released for the game in 2009 was an older, bald, overweight Max Payne. It was almost as if the character was self-aware of how far his franchise had fallen in the eyes of fans. Then of course Max Payne 3 came out, was one of the best games of 2012, and it’s almost like that nine year period never happened.

A Max Payne comic was made in conjunction with Max Payne 3 by Marvel and Rockstar. The comic served partly as a way to fill in the gaps between Max Payne 2 and Max Payne 3, but also just as a general way to tell the backstory of the character for those who were new to the series. Still the best way to really experience the backstory is to play those games, as they are available on modern platforms like Steam and Xbox Live.

So why make a Max Payne comic then?

Comics are very much a part of the Max Payne DNA. The original game, made by Remedy in 2001, used graphic novel style panels rather than animated cut scenes. This wasn’t so much of a style choice as a budget choice; the creators of the game simply doubled as actors in these photoshopped comics because they had no money.

Max Payne was actually portrayed by the game’s writer, Sam Lake. In fact, Sam has been a writer on every Remedy game and even co-wrote the Max Payne 3 comic as well as contributing to game script. Max Payne 2 had similar cut scenes, but with a budget to hire actors. Max Payne 3 broke the series tradition with in-game cut scenes, so it is nice that this comic exists as part of the original heritage.

Is the comic any good?

In terms of writing, you could not possibly ask for a better team. Dan Houser wrote practically all the Grand Theft Auto games, Red Dead Redemption, Bully, and the game version of Max Payne 3. Sam Lake is freaking Max Payne… and they both wrote this comic. The art is the level you come to expect from a Marvel comic. The art is done by Fernando Blanco, who is an industry vet that’s worked at Dark Horse, D.C., and Marvel. The really amazing part is this comic was done as a free promotion; in fact you can still download it for free right now from Rockstar’s website.

The comic largely covers events from all 3 games, but also delves into a bit of Max’s childhood… a subject that was never touched on before. For many people, Max Payne is just that guy who introduced the slow motion bullet time leap to video games, but the series has always had a great storyline. Considering who wrote this comic, it is safe to say it is part of the Max Payne canon.

Is it worth 10 bucks though?

Titan Books has collected the comics into a hardcover “complete series.” The quotations are being used because the Max Payne 3 comic series is really only about 40 pages long. You are paying $10 for a comic that was released online for free anyway, just to get it in a hard cover, along with a handful of Max Payne 3 concept artwork.

It’s not like there’s an excessive amount of Max Payne related merchandise out there, but if you are a Max Payne collector, then I’m sure this will interest you. For anyone else, I would just say read the online version for free. 

7 Game Heroes you Could Probably Take in a Fight Sun, 04 Aug 2013 13:00:33 -0400 Eli "The Mad Man" Shayotovich

Game heroes are usually big, bad, and downright brutal. But not always. Let's take a look at seven of these less than macho "heroes" to see exactly why you could probably take them in a fight without breaking a sweat. 

Gordon Freeman

As much as we all love the protagonist from the Half-Life series, Gordon Freeman is not your prototypical game hero. Basically, he's a big nerd. In fact... is that white tape holding his glasses together?

Strengths:  Gordon graduated from MIT with a Ph.D. degree in Theoretical Physics and likes to work on experiments that open interdimensional portals which bring aliens to our world, so his big brain is his biggest asset. The Hazardous Environment (HEV) suit he wears is pretty nifty, but beyond that... 

Weaknesses:  He's a freakin' theoretical physicist! Do you think he spent a lot of time in the gym or at the Black Mesa gun range?  Plus, his "weapon" of choice is a crowbar! Well, until he gets his mitts on the gravity gun in Half-Life 2.  Although Gordon has a Ph.D. we don't actually see him do a lot of smarty pants type stuff. In fact, Barney (the security guard) cracks on Gordon for only being able to flip switches and plug things in. And as much as we may like that stoic "no talking" schtick of his, not saying a single word is actually a big red flag. Everyone knows that in order to be a good hero you must be able to drop witty one-liners. Just look at Duke Nukem (who you could not take in a fight)... and virtually anyone in The Expendables movies. Wait, scratch that last comparison.

How You Can Take Him:  There are a few ways you can go about this. Gordon, being the nerd that he is, never really knows what to do with Alyx Vance. So try bringing a pretty woman to the fight and watch him get all twitchy and nervous. Or, ask him to explain Albert Einstein's (one of his heroes) theory of relativity to you. As he's writing out lengthy quantum physics equations on the chalkboard, knock him over the head... with a crowbar. 

Pac Man

The dude - we'll we're assuming he's a dude since "Man" is in his name - is basically a sports ball with a mouth.  'Cept we really don't know what the frak he is... which makes him kinda creepy. 

Strengths:  Never-ending hunger for dots. If he downs a "power pellet" he can temporary eat his ghosty enemy things ( Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde). He also has the uncanny ability to move, despite...

Weaknesses:  Not having any arms or legs! Or eyes for that matter!  

How You Can Take Him:  When Blinky, Pinky, Inky or Clyde touch him... he dies. That should work for you too.  If not... stick your foot in his gigantic pie hole and kick him like a soccer ball into the nearest garbage can. He can't climb out because he has no appendages! Seriously, how did this "man" get so damn famous?

Sonic The Hedgehog

In real life, hedgehogs are smaller than cats. They have no offensive moves because their spines can't detach like porcupines. To defend itself the 'hog "heroically" rolls up into a tight ball causing the 6,000 or so spines on its body to point outwards like a Koosh ball made of needles. Oh, and they have incredibly poor vision (they're actually born blind). The hedgehog known as Sonic though... is a freakin' legend. Why? 

Strengths:  Apparently this little blue bastich is capable of running faster than the speed of sound, which is ironic since real hedgehogs move slower than a dinosaur through a tar pit (they have short little legs). Thus, Sonic must be a mutant along the lines of the X-Men's Beast.  Hmmm... they do have the same blueish hue.  Under no circumstance should you let him collect the seven Chaos Emeralds.  If he does... you are screwed. These shiny green stones turn him into "Super Sonic", which makes him faster, gives him the ability to fly, and turns him invulnerable.  Like we said... screwed.  

Weaknesses:  According to the folks at Sega, Sonic's only weakness is his inability to swim. But that's not his only weakness. Sonic is a daredevil who can't pass up showing off his mad skills. He also becomes incredibly impatient with things that are slow... like turtles, lines at the DMV, and load screens. 

How You Can Take Him:  He's not very big, so if you can sneak up on him and drop an Acme Corporation anvil on him you can turn him into a blue pancake.  Stepping on him will probably work too.  If you're not fond of up close and personal wet works like that, be sure you stage the fight near a large body of water, say Lake Erie. Set up a ramp at the edge of the water and dare him to jump to the other side. He's an adrenaline junkie... he won't say no.

Nathan Drake

Hey, we all love the guy, but for the most part, Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series is a bumbling fool who only manages to avoid getting killed (repeatedly) through sheer luck. It's like he has an enchanted, Tibetan rabbit's foot in his pocket or something. 

Strengths: Quick witted, athletic, fairly proficient with guns. Still seems like he'd shoot off his own toe as much as hit an enemy though.  He's also persistent, resilient, and tough as nails... kind of like the John McClane character from the Die Hard movies - always in the right (wrong) place at the wrong (right) time. 

Weaknesses:  The ladies. It's bad enough that he's running around ancient ruins in hostile jungle environments with bad guys chasing him, but he lets his lady friends - who he's obviously been romantically involved with - get him in all kinds of unwanted, extra trouble.  Nate doesn't know when to say when.  He's gotten so used to luck carrying him through certain death situations that he doesn't realize that he only has so many lives left... and someday those lives will run out (see what we did there?).   

How You Can Take Him:  All you have to do is stand in front of him... and wait. Probably not for very long either.  Something, or someone, is bound to try to kill him.  


Despite being one of the most iconic "heroes" in gamingdom, Mario is nothing more than a short, portly, plumber from the Bronx.  When's the last time this guy actually threw an effective punch in a game? 

Strengths:  He jumps.  A lot.  So he must have some pretty strong leg muscles. But when your only offensive weapon is jumping... really?  As with Sonic, collecting certain items (power-ups) gives ole Mario additional powers.  Don't let him collect them and you'll be fine. His power-up item of choice is the mushroom, which comes in all shapes and sizes. For instance...  the Super Mushroom makes Mario grow bigger; the Fire Flower lets him toss fireballs; the 1-Up Mushroom gives him an extra life; the Mega Mushroom allows him grow very large; while the Mini Mushroom shrinks the lil plumber.

Weaknesses:  He's two feet tall (or thereabouts).  He doesn't throw punches, and has a nasty addiction to shrooms. 

How You Can Take Him:  Since he's a fungus freak drop a few "magic mushrooms" (of the hallucinogenic kind) in front of him and tell him they're some new power-up.  Once he gobbles them up wait until the psychedelic effects kick in and bonk him on the cabeza.  If we're being honest here... there isn't a single "hero" in the Nintendo pantheon that you can't take out with a good pair of steel toed boots and a sturdy bat. Right? 

Max Payne

Max Payne has been through a lot of... pain (sorry, we had to) in his life, and we feel bad for putting him on this list, but just look at him.  Is that a Clint Eastwood scowl... or is he constipated? 

Strengths:  Since Max is a former NYPD cop and "renegade" DEA agent he's been extensively trained to handle firearms and knows hand-to-hand combat. He also possesses the superpower known as "Bullet Time", which he uses with great effectiveness.  Sounds like someone you simply don't want to mess with, right? 

Weaknesses:  He's addicted to alcohol and pain killers, and is still haunted by the ghosts from his past.  Max has been shot so many times there probably isn't a square inch of his body that hasn't been hit, so he's all kinds of mentally and physically beat to hell.  

How You Can Take Him: Give him a fifth of Jack Daniels and a bottle of Percocet. Sit him down in front of an episode of The Mentalist... and walk away.  He'll beat himself up for you. 


What can we say about this cute, mischievous "boy" made of sackcloth, fluff, and ice cream (yes, ice cream) that inhabits Little Big Planet?

Strengths: Sackboy is a chameleon, capable of changing his appearance at the drop of a hat... which he'd probably pick up and wear.  Since he has no bones you can't "break" him.   Don't worry about the version of Sackboy you see in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale either. He has a few good wrasslin' moves, but he'd rather slap you (literally) and dart around the ring with his jet pack than actually fight you.  

Weaknesses: He's an 8-centimeter tall puppet made from sackcloth. And ice cream. 

How You Can Take Him:  Pull out a BIC lighter and torch his ass. 

We thought about putting a few gals on here, but since we're gentleman gamers... we don't hit women. 

So, what do you think?  Agree with this?  What other "heroes" should be on this list?  Let us know!

Medkits and Other Powerups That Make No Real World Sense Tue, 16 Jul 2013 21:49:02 -0400 Mat Westhorpe

The human body is a marvel. When damaged, it is capable of amazing feats of recovery. When threatened, it is able to supercharge itself with adrenaline to imbue greater strength, quicker reflexes and heightened awareness.

But just how far beyond believability are these abilities exaggerated in order to facilitate entertaining gameplay?

A Narrative Tool

One of the key attractions to playing games is to empower players, giving them extraordinary abilities and the chance to interact with impossible environments in challenging circumstances. Obviously, suspension of disbelief is required – real soldiers wouldn't take on entire armies alone and they certainly couldn't carry on after taking several bullets. I'm pretty sure plumbers don't take on over-sized wildlife and long journeys without at least a $200 call-out fee either.

In most cases, these reality-compromising game design choices are made to enhance playability. If games were ultra-realistic we'd probably die screaming on the first level and then never be able to play again, due to a bad case of perma-death.

Here's a quick look at common devices used to heal and “buff” player characters and just how plausible they are...


Battlefield Medikits & Healthpacks

As seen in: Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Battlefield and countless other FPSs

Retreating from overwhelming numbers, our plucky soldier has absorbed a hail of bullets, depleting his health bar, making his heart beat loudly and producing a fuzzy visual effect. Thank goodness he's carrying a medikit. Simply opening this little box of miracles instantly restores our hero to full fighting fitness and he heads straight back into the fray.

How plausible is this in reality? Not in the slightest.

Although entry wounds may appear deceptively minor, the sheer ballistic force dissipated by the passage of a high velocity bullet through the torso causes catastrophic internal damage (cavitation), which would almost certainly incapacitate our hero. Even if no vital organs are affected, the large exit wound would leave him with another potentially life-threatening problem.

Modern battlefield dressings are effective at stemming blood loss and morphine would help mask the crippling pain, but neither addresses the actual damage inflicted by the gunshot. This would require nothing less than a skilled surgeon (and they tend to complain if you try stuffing them into a medikit).

The Call of Duty series deserves a special mention as the soldiers there have now evolved entirely beyond the need for even these miraculous medikits, with only a moment's respite bringing their health bar back to full, as if the last barrage of hot lead had just winded them.

Plausibility Factor: 2/5 - Undeniable proof that it's just a game.



As seen in: Max Payne

In the short-term, strong pain relief could mask the distracting pain of a serious injury, but it would not allow the use of a shattered limb nor prevent internal blood loss.

If the painkillers were administered in an appropriate case where the injury did not cause disability and pain was the main impairment, it is unlikely that they would be of much help. There is a tendency for the most commonly used painkillers, opiates (the family of analgesics which includes codeine, morphine and heroin) to significantly slow mental and physical responsiveness.

Although the resultant slow heart rate and lowered blood pressure would help to reduce blood loss, being away with the fairies is generally not very helpful it the middle of a pitched battle.

In fact, in extreme circumstances, due to the fight-or-flight response, the body becomes flooded with neurotransmitters and hormones which act as a natural painkiller with the added advantage of being all fighty and flighty.

In any case, removing the pain isn't going to extend life or overcome injury.

Plausibility Factor: 2/5 – Drugs are bad, m'kay?

Magic Potions

As seen in: The Elder Scrolls and other fantasy realms

Mysterious health-giving phials of brightly coloured liquid are hard to quantify. After all, magic, by definition, is unexplainable. If you explain it, it becomes science and it's no longer a magic potion.

As sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke said, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

We'll get on to Mr. Clarke's sufficiently advanced technology shortly, but for now, we're probably just going to have to accept that whatever power it is that makes tiny metal bikinis as effective as full plate armour also has the ability to dramatically accelerate the body's healing process.

Of course, it could just be the placebo effect. The human (and possibly elf, but we're getting out of my area of knowledge there) mind is a powerful thing and fostering a belief that treatment is effective can have very positive results. The reverse is also true, with curses and hexes working by power of suggestion, with the recipient allowing themselves to be convinced.

What's in the mysterious gloop isn't as important as what's in the imbiber's head. With that in mind, anything's possible.

Plausibility Factor: 3/5 – If Gandalf tells you to drink his magic juice, dare you argue?


Future Technology

As seen in: Halo, Crysis, DUST 514 and other sci-fi settings

Sci-fi has got it covered. If ever there was a viable explanation for the sudden repair of a seemingly manstopping injury, it's nanites.

An army of microscopic nano-surgeons who can mobilise instantly to repair tissue, disintegrate foreign bodies and reconstruct organs is a -ahem- bulletproof narrative device for instant healing. This, more than any other trick, provides a plausible explanation for self-regenerating health bars.

The addition of self-contained power-suits as seen in Crysis and DUST 514 make a host of superhuman feats perfectly acceptable without any need to gloss over glaring gaps in logic. Healing guns as seen in Team Fortress 2 could be explained by nanites riding on a light-beam and even instant resuscitation is plausible, as this description of a “nanite injector” from DUST 514 suggests:

“The nanite injector delivers an active helix directly into the bloodstream of the downed victim, whereupon individual subunits work to suppress the pain response, repair tissue and organ damage and re-establish regular cardiac rhythm. If administered in time, first-phase resuscitation (defined as ‘minimum-essential combat functionality') is typically achievable, though some psychological trauma is to be expected.” - DUST 514 wiki

Plausibility Factor: 5/5 – Because of midichlorians/nanites/the spice melange.


Mushrooms, Shells & Stars

As seen in: Mario and Sonic games and countless other platformers

Aside from the questionable messaging behind encouraging young players to eat mushrooms found on the ground, throughout Mario's many adventures, he's long been stuffing his face with funky fungus, turtle shells and other random objects for the many benefits they provide.

It could be argued that some of the effects are plausible at a moderate level – a “spring mushroom” (Super Mario Galaxy) could give off a hormone which might enable him to jump a little higher and a “blue koopa shell” (New Super Mario Bros.) might contain a stimulant which empowers him to swim a little faster.

But let's be honest.

If ever there was a game series that was a thinly-veiled glorification of the hallucinogenic effects of various naturally-sourced substances, it's Mario and Luigi. They're basically Cheech and Chong for the digital generation. Aside from their obsessive pursuit of mushrooms, are you going to tell me that Super Mario Bros. 3's “super leaf”, which grants the power of flight, is entirely innocent?

One day, Nintendo will release the very last Mario game which will end with a scene of Mario and Luigi waking up on a urine-soaked, filthy couch in a dilapidated apartment, revealing that the entire series of Mario games, from Donkey Kong onwards, took place in their minds after they binged on special mushroom pizza and a few “super leaf” roll-ups.

Plausibility Factor: At face value, 0/5. If we accept it's all part of a drug-fuelled hedonistic dream-state, 5/5.

Gaming's Five Trippiest Dream Sequences Fri, 21 Jun 2013 12:56:40 -0400 Alan Bradley

Some of gaming's most memorable moments happen when developers are given the opportunity to go a little mad. When you take designers' imaginations off the leash, the result is often a fever dream highlight reel of the bizarre, and shows off what's possible in a medium where absolutely everything is virtual and there are none of those annoying constraints of the physical world. In a way, video games are like dreams, dreams that exist in the collective consciousness, and so it's not surprising that the dreams inside video games are often so completely batty. We've plucked out the best of the best, graded on originality, cleverness, and sheer surreality.

5. Metal Gear Solid 4

One of the coolest moments of the last numbered Metal Gear Solid happens when a weathered, ancient Snake starts to drift off on a transport chopper. Players are transported back to Shadow Moses, site of the original MGS, and play through a sequence in the style of the original game, complete with original PlayStation-era graphics.

The sequence ends with Snake snapping awake, his face transforming from low res-polygons to modern textures, young Snake aging before our eyes. Not only is the sequence a great nostalgia piece and top-shelf fan service, it's also a welcome reminder of how far the series has come in terms of advanced graphics and logical controls.

4. Catherine

Catherine is novel in that all its gameplay takes place inside of protagonist Vincent's slumbering subconscious, and it is a bizarre and terrifying place. To start, in the nightmare landscape of his guilt-adled mind Vincent is perpetually in his underwear and sporting a pair of ram's horns, a marker of his infidelity. The other young men he encounters all appear as sheep, often with random articles of human clothing, and to escape Vincent has to scale massive towers of blocks. But that's only the tip of the surreal iceberg that is Catherine's dream world.

The true genius/madness of these twisted dreamscapes are the bosses, who reflect some of the real world crises Vincent is grappling with. There's the giant, warped flesh monster The Immoral Beast, signifying Vincent's lack of control over his own libido; the Doom Bride, a psychotic version of Vincent's girlfriend Katherine in a tattered wedding dress and wielding a giant, blood stained knife; and, of course, the giant zombie baby, a hellish representation of Vincent's fear of fatherhood that looks like it would prefer chewing human flesh to the pacifier currently planted in its distended mouth.

3. Penumbra: Black Plague

It's no surprise that the creators of Amnesia: the Dark Descent can sculpt out a killer dream sequence, and the one in Penumbra: Black Plague is a banger. Though the entire Penumbra series is like a bad trip in some ways, this dream sequence, with its human arm lanterns, river of blood, and black void replete with rusty chains manages to stand out from the general atmosphere of darkness and insanity. Of course, after all the horrors our "hero" Philip has been exposed to, it's a wonder he ever sleeps at all.

2. Max Payne

The infamous dream sequences from the original Max Payne alternate from whacky, fourth-wall breaking humor to dark reminders of the violent death of Max's family at the hands of hopped-up junkies. Max's guilt and pathos are amped up by way of an overturned crib defaced with blood, and the voice of Max's wife calling out to him, alternately accusing him or pleading for help.

Interlaced through these dark moments are breaks where Max realizes he's the star of a graphic novel (the game's cutscenes are comic book pages) or a character in a video game, haunted by speech "hanging in the air like balloons" or the sensation of someone controlling his every move. The narrative style and thick atmosphere of the Max Payne franchise makes it ripe for this sort of trippy treatment, and Remedy has proven that they're expert at toying with and subverting their own fiction.

1. Killer 7

Killer 7 really ups the ante to earn the top slot on our list: the entire game is a protracted dream sequence, a blood-drenched, psychadelic ode to broken psyches. Gore raining from the heavens, day-glo color cycling "people" who disintegrate into clouds of particolored globules, luchador assassins: Killer 7 is like a smorgasborg of uniquely Japanese madness.

Even the mechanics reflect the surreal, hyperviolent texture of the world of Killer 7; the female assassin, for instance, can slash her wrists and spray arterial blood everywhere to reveal secret doors and hidden passages. Killer 7 is the king of video games as hallucinogenic experiences, and the entire game has a crazed, dream like quality that makes it wholly unique and totally insane.

Games and Storytelling: Is Story in Video Games Necessary? Thu, 18 Apr 2013 00:34:47 -0400 Reilly C.

Is story in video games necessary?  

It depends  

A long in depth look at a character and their background is not always needed.  Sometimes the less that is known, the better.  Other times a game that has little story at all is best as it only serves to make a reason for an awesome game to exist.  

Then there are the rare ones where the story is the game.  Not only must you immerse yourself into the world but this may be something you will need to create a fresh pot of coffee and dedicate a weekend too.  

All of these are perfectly valid ways of setting up or telling a story for a game.  I also do not claim to be a literature major (I am far from it really...) but I want to look at some different forms of story telling in games and really get into the nitty gritty of why each can be effective.

Basic Stories

Games that get it right: Doom & Wolfenstein 3D

First off, Lets get into the basic stories.  The best examples of this come from games like the original Doom or Wolfenstein 3D.  They were not tour de forces when it came to story telling but it didn't need it.  The short snippet that you would read in a little manual was plenty.  

Hell opened up on Mars and now you need to shoot the hell out of some demons?  Sure, let's do this!

I was a POW in a Nazi castle and now need to hunt down Hitler? Freak'n sweet!  Where is my gun?

That small amount of set up gets you in the mind set of what is to come and that is really all someone needs when it comes to a game where you need to run and shoot up enemies.

We could have gone in and explored Hitler's intentions behind seeking out dark arts to rule the world with his Master Race® and how William "B.J." Blaskowicz suffers from PTSD and grapples with the guilt of the death of his best friend because of his own carelessness... But that just seems silly and would most likely come off as a ham-fisted attempt at making character depth and building on something that never needed to be there in the first place.  

You character's last name is Blaskowicz; what the hell more do you want?

Doing it wrong: Dishonored

On the other hand, many games can suffer from not enough building on a character.  

Dishonored really bummed me out on how bland it was: You failed as a body guard, the queen was killed, her daughter taken and you get blamed.  I MUST HAVE MY REVENGE!  

Really?  That's all?  I mean, that is the entire set up?  You don't even show more of the influence the queen had on her subjects and more so how much this little girl meant to you other than a short sequence of hide and seek with her?  Not only do I not care for these other people, why do I seem to want revenge so bad?  

This kingdom, the people in it and the ones plotting against you were all introduced in about 15 minutes of the start of the game.  Take your time and make me feel something for this before throwing me in expecting me to connect with the main characters mind set of seeking this self serviced justice.

Epic Tales

Now we get more into the games that present a very in depth tale of not only a developed world but also the people that inhabit it.  These generally are RPGs and most likely can require a time sink of a whole week end if not months depending on how you play them.

Games that get it right: Planetscape: Torment & Max Payne

Immersion in these types of games is key.  A good example of these types of games are Planetscape: Torment or Max Payne.  Both have interesting locations we might already know or the developer builds an entirely new world for us to learn the ins and outs of.

Torment thrived on the focus being on the story.  The characters and locations so rich with lore and a universe so fascinating you can just read pages of text on how things work and why they were there. In fact, the combat in the game seemed more of a mean to fill time in between story elements.

Max Payne is a good example as well; the first two games in the series had such an interesting, dark way of telling the tale of a cop's family who is murdered and his life that only seems to spiral out of control from there.  The comic book "cutscenes" as well as the colorful monologue of Max always left wanting to hear more.  Also, the TV shows you could watch in games would tell stories that seemed quite similar to yours but always leave off with some form of foreshadowing.

Choice & Personal Responsibility

Also, another topic I want to address in story telling is choice: some games do it well and others make you feel like you are simply picking a candy bar from a vending machine.

Getting it wrong: Mass Effect

The analogy of the vending machine might be a bit harsh, but it is pretty reflective of how most modern Bioware games tend to handle moral choice.  Like it really bothered me in Mass Effect that you need to max out your Charm/ Intimidate stat or Wrex dies.  What is preventing me from saving him otherwise?  I was too dumb before to tell him the same thing I did with the stat maxed?  

Now, there is nothing wrong with giving someone clear options on what you can choose to interact with or not.  Some games need that very clear choice to continue the story but then some games present you with options that you don't even know you were clearly given.

Let's create a quick example:

Indirect Choice: What if in Fallout: New Vegas you entered a small town and a store owner tells you of the shotgun he has under his desk if you try to steal anything.  Being the sneaky bastard you are, you go and steal this gun and it turns out to be a pretty strong weapon.  The next day, however, if you return you find the store closed and a few people surrounding the store.  You ask them what the hubbub is all about and learn that last night a bandit killed the owner and ran off a bunch of supplies.  The store owner could not defend himself and thus was killed when he most likely reached for his gun that was no longer there. Because you stole it. 

This is my idea of indirect choice.  Don't make me choose an option like

"Steal the owners gun while he is not looking? Y/N"  

That is an immersion breaker to me that triggers something in my brain that says,

"Hold on... why would it be giving me a clear option unless this will have some impact later?"  

This is especially bad when everything in the game pauses until you make a choice.  I can sit there for an hour with my gun to a characters head before actually choosing to pull the trigger.

Doing it right - Deus Ex: Human Revolution

In recent memory I remember Deus Ex: Human Revolution having a story beat where my boss tells me to get to a hostage situation and debunk it.  Instead, I stuck in the office and dicked around for a good while.  Because I did not leave in a timely manner, I arrived the the scene with tons of dead hostages.  I didn't even realize they could be saved until a second play through by responding immediately.

These sorts of choices tend to had a larger impact on me then anything that I have direct control over.  I felt regret and actually contemplated going back to an earlier save.  This makes you actually live with a choice you made without knowing you even made it.  You must come to terms with that choice and move on to the next challenge knowing these things.

Recommended Playing

For some ideas on how some games can have surprising depth and detail check out:

  • Spec Ops: The Line
  • Binary Domain
  • Deadly Premonition

Most of these have been talked about to great lengths by people bigger and more authoritative then I so I will just recommend you check them out. Also seeing as the Director's Cut of Deadly Premonition is right around the corner, I might give that a whirl and see what they have changed.

So in conclusion:

What makes a good game story?

The answer: Depends on what you are trying to tell.  

There are so many different ways to tell a story and really it depends of many factors.  Your audience, the tone, the setting and even the way a character is meant to act.  If you find that thing that drives the creative process for the rest of the game, run with it.  Sometimes even an award winning author can enjoy writing a straightforward story just so he can write about some dude punching helicopters out of the air.  Not everything needs hidden depth or meaning.

Nordic Cool: EVE Online and Alan Wake Developers Discuss the Game Design Superpower of Scandinavia Sun, 03 Mar 2013 21:15:12 -0500 Mat Westhorpe

EVE Online's lead designer Kristoffer Touborg and Alan Wake developer Saku Lehtinen joined USA Today's Mike Snider for an hour-long discussion of the Scandinavian influence on game design at the Nordic Cool 2013 festival at the Kennedy Centre, Washington.

Both developers gave brief presentations of their studio's products before settling in to talk about the Nordic game development scene and the innovation that it brings. Lehtinen fielded the idea that, at least relative to the population, Nordic countries could be considered a “game designing superpower”.

It is certainly a claim with some merit, with the region boasting studios like Finland's Remedy (Alan Wake, Death Rally, Max Payne), Rovio (Angry Birds), Supercell (Clash of Clans, Hay Day), Funcom (The Secret World, Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, The Longest Journey), Iceland's CCP Games (EVE Online, DUST 514) and Sweden's Mojang (Minecraft) to name a few.

Even Kristoffer Touborg, who is half-Danish and half-Swedish, expressed surprise, not realising how many titles that he had played which were of Scandinavian origin.

When analysing why the region produces games of such quality and originality, Touborg offered the explanation that it is perhaps due to operating in “an isolated gaming culture."

"If you're in a game studio in LA, there's tons of other game studios around, you'll go out, you'll meet other people. In Iceland, there's just water. Thousands and thousands of miles of water. There's no one I can talk to about games in another studio there. Of course that has its disadvantages because you're not part of this big community that gets together, but it also has the plus side of us having to come up with something on our own and not having a culture that homogenises what we do.”

A good example of this high-risk Nordic approach to design decisions was given by Touborg, describing CCP Game's recent innovation in linking sci-fi MMO EVE Online (PC/Mac) to the console shooter DUST 514 (PS3) as a “bad idea... but now it's working for us it seems like a good idea.”

He then provided the following colourful description of the integrated EVE/DUST experience to an amused audience;

“When you sit in a spaceship and someone in another game calls in an air strike and you bomb that from a totally different game, you will get the biggest nerd boner you've ever had.”

However, there are no figures available to determine if Nordic game development has any influence on the local birth rate.

Next: Part Two - Touborg and Lehtinen discuss The Nordic-American Relationship and the future of the industry.