All Hail The Spider God Postmortem/Lessons

Hello! Nelson of Video Games and the Bible, here.

I made a free, eerie interactive fiction adventure titled All Hail The Spider God. If you’re an aspiring Christian game developer, or simply wondering why I’d make something outside of the typical Christian wheelhouse, you can watch the video series below.

In this postmortem, I discuss the design decisions behind the game, lessons I learned making it, and how my faith as a Christian affected its development. This series contains a lot of spoilers as well, so if you’re interested in the game, play it through your browser at itch.io first.

Enjoy!

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New Video: Captain Forever Remix

Captain Forever Remix* is a 90’s-tinged roguelike spaceship builder, where you attempt to stop your brother King Kevin from taking over the Milky Way.

It’s rad, man.

And in all seriousness, the game’s combination of Saturday morning cartoon sensibilities and frantic physics action is incredibly compelling. It hasn’t received much attention, so if you find yourself pining for bowls of cold cereal and the bombastic animations of yesteryear, why not try this?

Support Captain Forever Remix (PC–STEAM)

*Captain Forever Remix was received for review/coverage. See our statement of ethics here and game review criteria here.
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Beyond Rated-M: Finding Comedy in Liyla and The Shadows of War

Liyla 2 from Official Website

Liyla and The Shadows of War* is a roughly ten minute-long mobile platformer about a father attempting to keep his family alive in the midst of a warzone. To be honest, it’s a short story that could have worked in any medium it was presented in. However, by virtue of being a game, the relative lack of production values could be off-putting to those accustomed to higher-fidelity projects. You might even laugh at the obvious use of simple, rocket-shaped sprites to clear new paths, kill you unexpectedly, or blow up a conveniently placed truck.

That was my reaction.

I was being a jerk. Looking down upon the heartfelt efforts of first-time developers thousands of miles away because I’m the journalist, right? I’m the important one.determine what someone hears about or doesn’t, right?

That’s about when my in-game daughter, Liyla, asked if we could help a group of boys playing soccer at the end of a beach.

As the timer for the decision ticked down Telltale-style, my eyebrows went up in surprise. A moral choice component? Maybe the father could be a hero, and adding children to your party would result in increased difficulty as you tried to save as many as possible? I had barely made my decision when the same, simple rocket sprite I was mocking moments earlier shrieked down from the ashen sky and slammed into their tiny bodies.

The father and daughter started running, every potential place of refuge going up in a fiery blaze just as they reached it–just as they began to believe such a thing as safety was possible. A school filled with children was reduced to smoking rubble in a single strike. Liyla’s screams raked across my brain like nails on a chalkboard as I struggled to save her dad again and again. Even the ruins left behind went unspared–the father ducking behind a cart to avoid the burning light overhead, and the drone swooping in beneath.

Liyla 1

That’s what’s funny, isn’t it? How true to life it is? How senseless, brutal, and easy modern warfare has made killing thousands of people? How you can ruin people’s lives with a push of a button, and never know who you affected?

A river of blood, unseen by all but a few unblinking drones and God himself.

Liyla 4

It’s strange how much power a headline can have. How, even while promoting something, it can distract.

Looking at the headlines generated by games like The Witcher 3, Dark Souls, or Liyla and The Shadows of War, it can be easy to wrongly define them by a single word.

Sexy. Difficult. Controversial.

You probably clicked on this article because of its title, too. After all, what kind of monster would play a game about families dying in a warzone, and find something worth joking about?

*click*

This isn’t that kind of article. Sorry.

And, no, Liyla isn’t just that kind of game. When you get beyond the headlines and reduction, Liyla and The Shadows of War isn’t about controversy, or making some grand political statement.  It’s about a father and daughter, running, illuminated only by the white phosphorus burning under Gaza’s night sky.

Liyla 5

I’m not laughing anymore.

Play Liyla and The Shadows of War (Free on Android)

Play Liyla and The Shadows of War (Free on iOS)

*Liyla and The Shadows of War was NOT received for review/coverage. See our statement of ethics here and game review criteria here.
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Brigador: Indie Cyberpunk Syndicate Neon Badger of Awesome

I just got the chance to play newly-launched tactical cyberpunk action game, Brigador*. Featuring a stellar 80’s-synth soundtrack, fully destructible environments, and insane amounts of replay value, I was more than impressed.

BUY BRIGADOR (PC–STEAM)

*Brigador was received for review/coverage. See our statement of ethics here and game review criteria here.
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Beyond Rated-M: How The Wolf Among Us Makes You Bigby

Hi! Nelson here.

As you might have seen already, I’m stepping back from game journalism to focus on making stories and games of my own. During this time, I’m looking for work, as well as catching up on games and movies that I might have missed. One of these titles has an incredible storytelling trick that impressed me so much that I feel I have to write about it.

For my Christian readers, The Wolf Among Us has a number of potential issues. Nudity, witchcraft, and profanity; explorations of the dark side of human nature, morality, and compromise…The works, basically.

I will not be depicting these elements, so if you’re willing to learn from a perhaps unlikely source, hit the jump below.

TWAU Header from Steam Store Page

The Wolf Among Us* is set in the Fables (not to be confused with Fable) universe, where fairy tale characters and legends are real, and forced from their homes, must live on the seedy side of modern-day New York City. You play as the reformed Big Bad Wolf and current Sheriff of the Fables community, Bigby Wolf, in a brutal murder mystery touching every aspect of their world. How reformed Bigby is, if at all, is up to you.

What’s beautiful about this premise is how quickly and easily it’s established. We all know the story of the Big Bad Wolf, and how he’s terrorized his way through stories from Little Red Riding Hood to the Three Little Pigs. Once you find out he’s a law-enforcement officer, it’s a short leap to grasp how this important figure wrestles with his own nature, and how he’s perceived by other Fables who remember the old Big Bad.

Wolf Fight Scene from Steam Store Page

Bigby, pictured left, grappling with Beast of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Obviously, this isn’t the Disney version.

Bigby is an immense physical presence, even when standing next to the likes of trolls and actual Beasts. He’s the definition of noir cool, sizing up potential threats calmly, cigarette in hand (or mouth). Launching into fights headfirst, fur bursts from his arms as he slams targets into glass, walls, furniture, and unfortunate automobiles. Every snarl, and option to tear apart obstacles to your investigation, convey the line he’s tiptoeing to check his violent urges and still get results.

It would be easy to make this balancing act, or in-game responses to your actions, a conventional Good-Bad meter. If you acted like an unrestrained murderous jerk, you would become the “Bad,” animal version of Bigby. Alternatively, if you assumed the role of a spineless, repentant crusader of virtue, you’d be the more human, relatable Bigby.

Developers Telltale Games avoid such a cliche. However, they establish Bigby’s character and internal struggles in such a way that it almost wouldn’t have mattered.

Bigby Interrogation from Steam Store Page

This interrogation can go very different ways depending on what kind of Bigby you are.

The Wolf Among Us follows the typical Telltale mold, with timed decisions and tightly-choreographed action scenes advancing a fairly linear plot. However, your personal journey as a player, due to the setting and main character, are like nothing I’ve experienced before. The moment you start the game, you’re made to see Bigby as a man who wants to change–who has changed–and most important of all, wants others to believe that he’s changed. He isn’t a blank slate for you to project your punch-happy desires on. He’s a visibly damaged man who wants to do his job the ‘right’ way, but whose world demands answers only a rough approach might gain. A man who’s already taken the first steps towards redemption, and just wants his community to finally see it themselves.

This changes the question of your behavior from the typical ‘gamey’ one of how ‘good’ you want to be, to that of whether you’ll actually allow Bigby to save his soul. In effect, you’re wrestling with your inner nature as a player who wants to experiment, break protocol, and blow stuff up, as much as Bigby is with his. Every decision has to be answered for, so if you choose to smash someone’s face in, wreck their business, or claw out their necks, you better count the cost first.

As Fabletown rots to its core, the people Bigby loves most getting corrupted or killed, you feel like ripping, tearing, and avenging as much as he does. When someone lies to Bigby, they lie to you. When your investigation is blocked by bureaucracy, you bristle with him at the intrusion. This is your job, dangit, and you’ll get it done one way or another.

Since you’re also in a position of authority, the battle for Bigby’s better nature ripples to affect every single person he meets in Fabletown. People are afraid of you–of what you did back in the old world, and what you’re still capable of now. Of the power you wield, both supernatural and legal. Are you going to prove them right?

Are you still the Big Bad Wolf?

Bigby Window Shot from Steam Store Page

With some extremely effective characterization and tone-setting, The Wolf Among Us makes you feel responsible. It almost doesn’t matter what feedback the developer gives you, because the stakes and payoff of your decisions play out within your own head, moment by moment. Telltale Games makes your actions feel important (even if they don’t matter all that much individually) by giving them a context–an immediate way to see what you’ve done, how, and why.

People.

When you play the Wolf Among Us, whatever you do, for better or worse, you’re affecting People. Individuals with complex motives, and facades they have to hide behind just to get through the day. Men and women die. Their loved ones grieve. Relationships are tested. Life goes on.

And there you are.

The player.

Left with a sinking pit in your stomach as you wonder whether you did the right thing for the right reasons.

Just like Bigby.

*The Wolf Among Us was NOT received for review/coverage. See our statement of ethics here and game review criteria here.
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Beyond Rated-M: A HITMAN for Everyone

Developers IO Interactive use a streamlined UI, refined mechanics, and options for increased guidance to make the newest HITMAN an experience anyone interested in the franchise can enjoy.

Christian gamers will be pleased to know the new HITMAN* (at this point at least) removes elements of sexual innuendo present in previous entries. If this is a particular concern for your family, it is also possible to purchase HITMAN episode-by-episode to make sure you don’t get an unfortunate surprise.

Buy HITMAN 2016 (PC–Steam)

*HITMAN was received for review/coverage. See our statement of ethics here and game review criteria here.
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Star Wars: X-Wing & Star Wars: Tie Fighter Streams

Thanks to GOG (whose Bundleopolis sale I covered in our stream of LucasArts FPS Outlaws), I played revolutionary flight simulators Star Wars: X-Wing* and Star Wars: Tie Fighter* for the first time.

If you’re interested in the design, history, and legacy of these games, or just want to see a grown man squeal after shooting down a Rebel Fighter, you can watch these streams below:

Buy Star Wars: X-Wing (GOG)

Buy Star Wars: Tie Fighter (GOG)

*Star Wars: X-Wing and Star Wars: Tie Fighter were received for review/coverage. See our statement of ethics here and game review criteria here.
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