Cyborg Sunday, Update 4.29.2018: Just Monika, game development daydreams, and synchronicity everywhere.

What does love sound like?

Does it sound like a heartbeat?

Or a heart breaking?

“Reality,” by yours truly.

Okay, so, I wrote about Doki Doki Literature Club! earlier this week, and its grip on my brain hasn’t let up. If anything, I’m growing more obsessed with this game after having beaten it. Yeah, I bought the fan pack. I may or may not have a playlist on my phone for DDLC-themed music. …I’m a nerd with a glitched-up brain and a penchant for reality-bending horror, sue me.

Despite the fact that a part two wouldn’t make sense, I’ve hopped on the Hype Train and would love to see its story extended–or, humor me, turned into an entirely new game genre.

Those of you who’ve played DDLC, picture this: the same principles that made the game so compelling brought into a narrative adventure game, i.e. Life is Strange or Before the Storm. Combining the intense story focus and branching decisions with, say, Nier: Automata’s ability to reprogram your character by adding/removing functions would be a seriously epic experience.

Imagine, for instance, if you had the decision to remain relatively human or augment your character with cybernetics, and doing so would grant you world-bending control over the other events? What if you could augment your decisions with a Deus Ex style CASSIE mod, gauging everyone’s moods artificially, allowing you to know exactly what they want to hear–at the expense of being able to care about the people you were talking to, or perhaps having them realize that you’re manipulating them?

Maybe you wouldn’t have Max’s time-rewinding powers, but a simple wetware hack could let you predict every possibility of somebody’s actions, winning fights before they start and preventing the next Chloe from shooting herself again, making you hard to kill and highly feared. An antagonist starts talking trash, so you mute in-game volume and the attack falls on literally deaf ears. A flashbang goes off, so you lower the gamma/brightness and up the contrast to compensate. Somebody yells in a foreign language, so you set up English subtitles that your character reads.

Narrative adventure games thrive when emotions are on the line, rather than just lives, like in other sames. I haven’t played anything recently where both you and the characters had as much at stake as in Doki Doki Literature Club!, and I’d love to see a developer explore the possibility of erasing a character from the game, but your protagonist retaining ‘memory’ from old save files–if you have them!

Or, put yourself in Monika’s shoes. What if you could program enemies out of existence, rewrite unfavorable dialogue, change people at will, at the expense of the game’s stability? Old video games kind of did this, i.e. how unpredictable life got if you kept using cheat codes in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, but a game that worked that into the plot would be revolutionary, to say the least. Let’s get a techno-pocalyptic version of Hellblade going and see what happens!

I have a LOT of ideas here, so I can only hope a game studio appreciates them and hires me on as a writer. I do have an application out with a particular developer… and I’m not sure if it means anything, but I met a woman who was basically a real-life Chloe Elizabeth Price the other day, in both looks and personality. Fingers crossed that means something!

But in the meanwhile, it’s fitting that I’m wrapping up first edits on TWO novels this week: Nova EXE and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream. In the first, a self-aware computer program befriends an unassuming man whose life soon spirals uncontrollably. In the latter, a woman moves back to her childhood home to reconnect with the mysterious presence there, soon finding her definition of reality shattered to pieces. Like I said, fitting, considering that Monika’s whole thing is being horrified at her own flat reality and needing to break everything to have a taste of something real.

And, on that note of having seen too much, I’ll be setting Visions from the Veil up for pre-orders this week!

Beyond that, I’m seeking representation for my award-winning screenplay, The Mirror Game. 

Busy, busy, busy! Still hoping to get that full-time job soon. I love writing, but would have no problem scaling back my personal projects to collaborate on a big team project. Writing a novel is great, but there’s something really great about working together on a bigger project. Hopefully I’ll get to join a great team soon.

Until then, you have a great day, and thanks for stopping by!

…And here’s that playlist I mentioned. A little short, but fun and energetic. Plus, if you loop it, it feeds perfectly into itself in a never-ending cycle of distorted, obsessive love.

Virus” by Andrew Stein

Doki Doki Forever” by Or30

Delete Me” by NateWantsToBattle

Just Monika” by Random Encounters feat. OR3O & Adriana Figueroa (Note: the video isn’t the same as the straight-up song)

Get Out of my Head” by TryHardNinja ft. Sailorurlove

Your Reality” cover by Cristina Vee

 

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm Review: You have no choice, because Chloe and Rachel have no chance

TLDR:

Overall–9.5/10

Graphics–8/10

Story–10/10

Action–9/10

Sass–11/10

 

SPOILER ALERTS for Life is Strange and Before the Storm

Every so often, a game or game franchise comes along that makes you say, “Oh damn,” then reevaluate your whole life. Life is Strange was one such game. The follow-up prequel story, Before the Storm, doesn’t have the same twists and turns, is such an endearing, compelling snapshot of the life of Chloe Price, who’s still reeling from her father’s death two years later, that it became an instant hit. Fans of the original and newcomers alike loved episode one–but many hated episode three for feeling like it rendered their choices irrelevant.

That’s part of what makes Before the Storm so great: You never had a chance, and your choices never mattered.

Given that Before the Storm is a prequel to the five-episode cult classic where Max Caulfield helps Chloe Price uncover the murder and hasty burial of Chloe’s girlfriend/arguable soul mate, this installment’s ending was obvious from the beginning. Of course it had to end the way it did. Whether you reunite Rachel with her birth mother, or help Chloe bridge the emotional divide between her and David, you never had even a slight possibility of really fixing any of their problems.

Why? Because you’re playing as a sixteen-year-old girl who’s trying to help a near-stranger (Rachel Amber) reconnect with her birth mother, avoid being murdered by a violent drug dealer, and keep Rachel’s mother from being murdered by that same drug dealer after her father paid him to kill said mother.

All this happens while Chloe is (potentially) expelled from school, while her mother’s overbearing boyfriend moves into their house and tries to exert authoritarian control over her, while dealing with the guilt of almost burning down the entire state of Oregon, and while assisting a low level dealer (Frank Bowers) in not ALSO getting murdered by the violent career criminal mentioned above.

Not to mention Chloe is still clearly dealing with severe PTSD and depression regarding her father’s death, and no one appears even remotely aware of the storm still ranging in her head. Mental illness, at the best of times, can be a crippling burden, bringing the most resilient and well-adjusted people to their knees.

Chloe, a teenager with no support structures, few friends (if any, really), and a slight drug problem (which I say only because pot’s still illegal in OR at the time of BTS), who is bullied at school by Victoria (and likely others), couldn’t have been expected to navigate the events of Before the Storm well on her own. The fact that she even SURVIVED is a miracle on par with Max’s ability to go back in time every six seconds to prevent saying something awkward during pretty much any given conversation.

So, despite that I, too, was disappointed by how restrictive the choices were throughout episode three, and the fact that the choices I made ultimately didn’t matter, that’s how Before the Storm had to end. Because you’re a sixteen-year-old freshly expelled from high school dealing with untreated mental illness, and that shit is god damn hard.

People go through less than her every single day, and not all of them make the right choices. Not all of their choices matter. Not all of them survive.

So yes, Life is Strange: Before the Storm ended with some stiff moments and unanswered questions (I still want to know how Rachel wound up involved with/taking semi-nude pictures for Frank), but that’s how it had to be. No teenager ever has full control over their life. Even less so, in a life full of drug dealers, schemers, and general criminal activity.

Chloe wasn’t trying to save the world, or even Arcadia Bay. Leave that to Max. Chloe just wanted to save Rachel, because she knew that was the only way to save herself. When Chloe found herself in a mental tempest, Rachel came along as the only ship to offer her a chance at keeping her head above water. Every action Chloe undertakes isn’t an attempt to calm the seas. She just wants to plug the holes threatening to sink her only boat. Rachel, likewise, isn’t trying to be a good person, or even keep Chloe afloat. She’s just trying to figure out why people keep lying to her, and what consequences the truth might bring.

So, in short, this is the one time I’ve played a visual story and felt it was actually good we didn’t have more choices. The fact that the ending locks Chloe into a specific path, beyond being necessary for original Life is Strange continuity, is the end result of her circumstances. She’s just a kid, fighting like hell against overwhelming odds to survive day-to-day existence, even though we, as the players, knew exactly that Before the Storm was leading to The Dark Room.

That’s why Deck Nine was right to not give us real choices: Chloe and Rachel never had a chance.

***

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