Final Kroenke: A Game About Stan Kroenke

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Like many folks in St. Louis, I was pissed off by the NFL and Rams owner Stan Kroenke earlier this week. Losing the team, trashing the city, all that stuff. I thought about making a blog post but plenty of people have written rants that are better than anything I’d come up with.

So instead I made a game about it, Final Kroenke. It’s free and playable in your browser. It should even work on your phone but because of a lack of keyboard keys, a couple things can freeze the game: trying to use items on enemies or trying to use the “Money” or “Coaching” skills before you level up and learn them.

Enjoy!

PLAY FINAL KROENKE BY CLICKING THIS LINK
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My Apparently Annual Top 10 Games of the Year List – 2015

Last year, I hopped on the internet end-of-the-year zeitgeist by making a top 10 games of 2014 post. I’m not sure how many people care about my opinion–and probably far fewer do now, seeing that I had a sports game at #1 and a visual novel at #2–but hey, why not do it again? #content

I played a lot of video games this year, which is nothing new, but I also released my first game and contributed significant dialog writing to another. I’ll be releasing my second game in a few weeks, and another visual novel in collaboration with Woodsy Studio in the late spring. I don’t know whether any of this makes my opinion more or less valid, but working on games has certainly informed and changed how I approach them. Which is weird, because this list is probably way less eclectic than last year’s.

The Annual Disclaimer: A shitload of video games came out in 2015. More games that I wanted to play than in any year I can remember. There’s a lot I still haven’t gotten around to playing that I could see making it on this list: SOMA, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Just Cause 3, AC: Syndicate (yes), Axiom Verge, Nuclear Throne, and Pillars of Eternity, just to name a few off the top of my head.

I’m also leaving off MLB: The Show 16 to keep things interesting

And as usual, large gifs ahead.

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I Watched Saving Christmas So You Don’t Have To

I had a lot of expectations for Saving Christmas, the 2014 Kirk Cameron vehicle about reclaiming the holiday spirit. I thought I knew what it would be–a trite, sappy tale where secular nerds get owned by a Christian Gary Stu then everyone goes to an Evangelical rock concert. You know, basically a holiday Christmas themed God’s Not Dead. It’s not. Saving Christmas is something so much worse. It’s a film that makes the Atlas Shrugged trilogy look in comparison like a masterpiece of filmmaking and, maybe, even ideology.

No, really.

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Saving Christmas is not the film promised by this poorly-photoshopped poster. For example, nothing on this poster would indicate that the entire movie takes place at a single Christmas party–with the majority of it spent in a car parked outside said party. This poster shows a ton of action and movement, perhaps suggesting that Kirk Cameron will take drastic steps to save Christmas, like beating a teacher who says “Happy Holidays” with an oversized candy cane, but fails to demonstrate that the film is actually an entry in the My Dinner With Andre genre. Which is to say, it’s almost entirely a dialog between two middle-aged men.

But enough dancing around the candy-striped elephant in the room. Lets get this thing started.

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26 gy Update – Box Art and Trailer

A few months ago, I’d planned on releasing 26 gy by mid-December. It’s not out yet, so it’s update time.

A few things things kept me from my planned release. Jury duty and a brutal flu hit me at the same time and pushed me back. The closer my intended date got to Christmas, the more I wanted to wait a bit longer. 26 gy is hardly a holiday game and releasing while everyone is on vacation and playing big games sounds like a death sentence.

But here’s the good news! First up, I have official box art.

26GyCoverFull

Now, granted, there isn’t going to be a boxed version of 26 gy. It will be up on my itch.io page and (with any greenlight luck) Steam at a later date. But, hey, the industry keeps calling it box art so here we are.

Second, I have a trailer featuring a bit of gameplay and some of the original music. No official date yet–testing could take one week or three and I’m not ready to commit–but I can say it will be released in JANUARY. And this time I mean it.

I’m also returning to this damn blog, which I’ve largely neglected over the last month. Not only was I trying to make up for lost time with 26 gy, I was playing a lot of Fallout and I let that take away from blog-time rather than dev-time. So even if you’re more interested in my jokes, baseball, or video games thoughts rather than a low-fi horror game, I’ll have stuff for you here!

I Watched Left Behind (2000) So You Don’t Have To

ProA few weeks ago, I took a look at the 2014 adaptation of the Evangelical Apocalyptic Bestseller Left Behind, mostly because it starred an underutilized Nicolas Cage. However, I was disappointed to find that the film was nothing more than a typical Airplane-but-with-a-straight-face Hollywood thriller, veneered with an awkward Christian finish. Other than the central concept–the rapture–all of the bizarre sci-fi/fantasy and niche Bible interpretation of the books was stripped from the story. There was no conspiracy, no Antichrist, just a man trying to land an airplane that was (somewhat inexplicably) damaged shortly after the rapture.

When I realized that the film lacked almost everything that made the books intriguing to me, I decided to see if the earlier adaptation–which went so deep into the series it received two sequels–had the meat I was looking for. Once I saw that one of the first credited roles in the 2000 adaptation was for Nicolae Carpathia, the aforementioned Antichrist, I knew what I had to do. I had to watch it.

I spent a long time trying to find the source for this "compelling, engaging" quote to find the context. I suspect it was probably said by Kirk Cameron in an interview that happened to be televised on CNN.

I spent a long time trying to find the source for this “compelling, engaging” quote to find the context. I suspect it was probably said by Kirk Cameron in an interview that happened to be televised on CNN.

Left Behind 2000 is not a glossy, quasi-high-budget bore like Left Behind 2014. No, this is a rougher, stranger beast that ventures deep into the weeds of the book’s bizarre world. So, in other words, it was actually kind of entertaining.

chap1It’s like a flashback to my Atlas Shrugged posts, because it’s time again to introduce a whole new cast of actors playing the same damn characters. Fortunately, these folks reprise their roles for the rest of the trilogy, which hilariously gives these slapdash films a leg up on the pyramid scheme that somehow funded the Rand adaptations. This means it should be the last time I go through this song and dance for a while.

Replacing our Lord and Savior Nicolas Cage in the role of everyman hero and aspiring cheater Rayford Steele is Brad Johnson. You might think you know who Brad Johnson is, but that is probably just because he has the world’s most generic name and looks like someone tried to create Dennis Quaid in the Skyrim character generator. His most significant credit is a supporting role in the Steven Spielberg film Always. Right now I bet you’re googling to see if I’m lying about Steven Spielberg directing a film called Always. I’m not. Brad Johnson also had a role on the TV series Soldier of Fortune, Inc. along with Dennis Rodman. I’m not lying about that one, either

I'm Brad Johnson and you probably remember me for movies I wasn't in and don't believe my actual credits are films that exist.

I’m Brad Johnson and you probably remember me for movies I wasn’t in and don’t believe my actual credits are films that exist.

Rayford’s daughter, Chloe (also pictured above) is played by Janaya Stephens. Like Brad Johnson, she has an incredibly familiar looking face but I haven’t seen a single thing she’s credited in so either this entire cast is teaching me that I dropped in from a parallel universe or I watched a lot of the CBS procedural Flashpoint in my sleep. Did you know that Amy Jo Johnson, aka the Pink Ranger, was a lead on Flashpoint? Jesus Christ, at this point even I feel like I’m just making all of this up.

Most importantly, though, is the role of intrepid young reporter Buck Williams. Rayford Steele was easily the hero of Left Behind 2014 but Left Behind 2000 puts Williams front-and-center. And instead of being portrayed by Chad Micheal Murray (who at least looks like a war reporter), Williams is now played by Kirk Cameron. Yes, that Kirk Cameron. In fact, this whole series of films was basically a passion project for Kirk Cameron, who is perhaps the most outspoken hard-Evangelical voice to somewhat intersect with Hollywood. That’s right, Mike Seaver is all grown up and he wants to tell you about Jesus.

Kids, let me tell you about the real growing pains: the pains experienced by our lord and savior on the cross so that we would grow closer to him.

The film opens with Buck Williams reporting from Israel, interviewing scientist Chaim Rosenzweig in the middle of a wheat field. Dr. Rosebranch has developed a miraculous way to grow food in the desert. This will supposedly solve the problem of world hunger, which vastly oversimplifies the actual problems that cause world hunger and overlooks the fact that the target audience for films like Left Behind 2000 would protest the hell out of this GMO menace.

In the middle of the interview, the sky suddenly fills with planes. Only a few minutes in and we’re already well off the rails of Left Behind 2014 because that film sure as hell didn’t start with a war against Israel.

"Who could be attacking us?" "Well with this many planes it's literally either the US or maybe Russia."

“Who could be attacking us?” “I don’t know, Israel usually has good relations with D-list CGI artists.”

As the bombs begin to fall, Dr. Rosebranch and Buck run into a nearby bunker that turns out to be Israeli military command, conveniently located right next to the rural wheat field developed by the good doctor. There is a lot of hacky military ops speech and doomsaying that Israel is unable to scramble its own airforce to defend itself.

Then the sky goes black and the planes start blowing themselves up.

As I walk through the valley of death, I fear no falling debris for I have plot armor in my heart.

As I walk through the valley of death, I fear no falling debris for I have plot armor in my heart.

Ever the plucky reporter, Buck runs out to the wheat field to get video of the exploding planes where he meets a mysterious old man who says a bunch of cryptic shit to him.

BUCK: Sir, why are you dressed like a caricature of god? OLD MAN: You are going to live through this and still be a nonbeliever until the end of the film.

BUCK: Sir, why are you dressed like a caricature of god? OLD MAN: You are going to live through this and still be a nonbeliever until the end of the film.

The mysterious attack on Israel, the identity of the attackers, the unexpected eclipse, and the sudden self-destruction of dozens of aircraft are barely ever mentioned from this point on in the film. I think Buck Williams does, once, ask “what went on back there?” but the world proceeds like everything is generally normal and not absolutely batshit insane. Well, up until people disappear.

When Buck returns to the U.S.,he meets up with a conspiracy theorist friend who works for a major bank. The friend claims to have inside info that he can’t hand over yet, but insists that Buck investigate the international bankers he works for because they’re up to something big–specifically in relation to a global currency. Buck thinks this is crazy until a story comes across his desk about Europe unifying its economy with Korea (what) and he realizes that conspiracy dude was right.

They want you to believe it's the chemtrails but I know that my morgellons is caused by the adoption of standardized data transfer via USB.

They want you to believe it’s the chemtrails but I know that my morgellons is caused by the adoption of standardized data transfer via USB.

Over in Chicago, we pick up with the plot of Left Behind 2014. Rayford Steele is an airplane pilot who has to leave his family for an unexpected flight to London. He does this a lot, because his wife has become a born-again Christian and is really annoying about it. Rayford and his daughter Chloe fight over this but he puts his foot down and leaves. His flight just happens to contain Hattie Durham, a stewardess who Rayford has been flirting with, and Buck Williams. I don’t think the movie ever explains why Williams was in Chicago or when he went there, but there he is. Maybe he just flies out there for the pizza.

In this version, Hattie is played by Kirk Cameron's real life wife because of course she is.

In this version, Hattie is played by Kirk Cameron’s real life wife because of course she is.

Hattie reveals to Rayford that this is her last flight as a stewardess and that she is departing the airline for a position at the United Nations. No, this does not make any kind of sense. Just go with it. Rayford is disappointed and Hattie tries to get him to give her “a reason to stay.” Just as they’re about to kiss, a bunch of people on the plane disappear.

mandisappeared

He should have upgraded to first class.

Panic breaks out on the plane and Rayford decides that they need to turn back and land in Chicago. If you recall, this was the primary plot of Left Behind 2014. In this film, Rayford merely deploys the oxygen masks and lands the plane at a runway (you know, the traditional method) less than a third of the way through the running time.

That’s right, folks, we’re already past the plot of the recent adaptation and there’s over an hour to go.

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chap2With Rayford and company off the plane, Chloe isn’t forced to carry the entirety of the plot on the ground. A huge part of Left Behind 2014 featured Chloe wandering silently around the city and giving pained looks in the general direction of catastrophe. Now everyone’s around to do it.

Chloe is on the way back to school when she comes upon a huge car accident. A crazed man steals her car as she’s trying to figure out what happened.

How the hell is this truck still upright if its driver disappeared in the middle of the highway?

How the hell is this truck still upright if its driver disappeared in the middle of the highway?

Rayford heads home to find his entire family is missing.

This is all actually very morbid if you remove it from context but in context it is hilarious.

This is all actually very morbid if you remove it from context but in context it is hilarious.

And bizarrely, Buck follows Rayford home because Buck really needs to get to New York and all the airports are shut down. Rayford says that he knows a guy who can help, but Rayford immediately falls apart when he realizes that everyone he cared about is gone. He doesn’t know at this time that Chloe is actually just wandering around somewhere else, so naturally this is a dark time for him.

He threw a bible, which is like kicking a dog in the world of this film.

He threw a bible! A BIBLE!

Chloe comes home and this should really cheer up Rayford more than it does. He remains in his room, moping, and Chloe is left with the answer of which child was Rayford’s favorite: not her. Their reunion is short and played without any emotion and Rayford just keeps staring at the television because there are more important things to get to. What are those things? CONSPIRACIES.

Around this time, we’re introduced to a new character who was never even mentioned in Left Behind 2014. That’s right, we meet Nicolae Carpathia, a UN politician who is beloved by the world. He talks with an Eastern European accent, wants to bring about world peace and nuclear disarmament, and is handsome in a way that recalls the guy at the last Republican debate twitter was freaking out about.

Am I a robot wearing a human mask or a human wearing a robot mask? It matters not. Carpathia! 2016

Am I a robot wearing a human mask or a human wearing a robot mask? It matters not. Carpathia! 2016

Even though we, as the audience, know better, Carpathia appears to be a great, stand up fellow. He’s only got one problem: all of his power comes from a couple of international bankers who have been working behind the scenes to hoist him up into the halls of power. And they’re the same international bankers from the Conspiracy Theorist’s rantings earlier. They have a nefarious plan involving Dr. Rosebranch from earlier and someone is going to have to uncover it. Who better than Intrepid Reporter Buck Williams?

Back in Chicago, with Rayford barely managing a smile at Chloe’s return, Chloe decides to help Buck Williams (who is sleeping on the couch and, I guess, planning to nap until Rayford snaps out of his funk). They meet up with a private pilot who takes Buck to New York. With all the crazy stuff that just happened–not to mention the even crazier stuff in Israel the film has already forgotten about–Buck is ready to give his conspiracy theorist friend another shot at a story.

REMEMBER WHEN THOSE GOATS WERE FIREBOMBED THIRTY MINUTES AGO? NO, ME NEITHER.

REMEMBER WHEN THOSE GOATS WERE FIREBOMBED THIRTY MINUTES AGO? NO? ME NEITHER.

Unfortunately for Conspiracy Theorist, Buck isn’t the only one who wants to give him another shot. Get it?  Because he’s dead. He was shot. By a gun. Buck shows up just in time to find his body and find the secret minidisc that he hid in his watch. Remember minidiscs? Yeah, those were a thing for about five seconds.

Buck also takes a look at Conspiracy Theorist’s computer because, like anyone else, he’d rather not have to track down a minidisc player in The Year of Our Lord 2000. This is almost a fatal mistake, because there is a sniper watching over the apartment. At first, we believe that this sniper is taking aim at the fuzzy head of Kirk Cameron/Buck Williams. But then…

shootcomputer

Luddites have gone too far.

Believe it or not, the assassin choosing to scare Williams by destroying the computer rather than kill Williams by destroying his head is explained later in the film so I’m not going to explicitly shit on that particular plot point. But I do think that Kirk Cameron’s dive was, at best, a 6/10.

Buck makes it out of the apartment alive and takes the minidisc to a couple of his friends over at his news network, the barely-cleverly named GNN. They review the disc and find a bunch of cryptic documents and a plan for rebuilding Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. The images are exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to find on the minidisc hidden in a conspiracy theorist’s wristwatch, but Buck takes them seriously (probably because of the sniper) and arranges a meeting with a government friend who was also in contact with Conspiracy Theorist.

chap3With Buck gone and Chloe floating somewhere on the periphery of the story, Rayford Steele finally pulls out of his funk and starts to realize that maybe his wife was right. All the kids are gone, as well as select adults. And his wife was one of those adults. And she was always talking about that “rapture” thing where all the believers would disappear.

Mulling over these thoughts, Rayford heads to the church where he finds one of the pastors, left behind himself, engaging in one hell of a monologue to God.

This is definitely a dude who sits on a chair backwards when he raps about Jesus to the teens.

This is definitely a dude who sits on a chair backwards when he raps about Jesus to the teens.

Pastor BanisterJumper isn’t just angry with God. He’s also angry with himself because he knew the words from the Bible and spoke them, but didn’t believe them. And now it’s too late because God’s already made his rapture calls and there’s no second chances when it comes to being saved from the times of tribulation.

There’s an interesting discussion to be had on this ethical quandary: if Pastor BanisterJumper had a truly altruistic spirit, then the fact that his words saved others while he was left behind should actually make him happy and not mad. Then again, the fact that he’s still on Earth proves his frailty of spirit and– fuck, I’m giving this movie too much legitimate thought.

Oh god, why wasn't I a good boy when it mattered. Now I am stuck here and you will never tell me I'm a good boy again.

Oh god, why wasn’t I a good boy when it mattered?

Pastor BanisterJumper’s speech inspires Rayford, who was lurking in the back of the church, to fully accept what is happening and devote his life to Jesus. Together, they find a tape left by the lead minister at the church, explaining why he and everyone else disappeared. Mercifully, the film doesn’t show the entire speech made by the minister, but apparently it answers all the questions Rayford has. To me, however, it raises a lot more questions.

Specifically, I really want to know how many IRL preachers have made videos to be played to their congregation in the event of the rapture.

I also made a tape to play in case the Scientologists were correct. If you are the person discovering these tapes, please destroy whichever one is no longer needed.

I also made a tape to play in case the Scientologists were correct. If you are the person discovering these tapes, please destroy whichever one is no longer needed.

While Rayford is sitting in the corner, finding his religion, Buck Williams is meeting with his friend at the U.S. Government. He finally outlines the conspiracy as he sees it: the international bankers have loaned the United Nations billions of dollars and are planning on calling in the debt. They are waiting until Dr. Rosebranch hands over his formula for growing wheat in the desert and the UN seizes 10 vast tracts of previously uninhabitable land to use to feed the world. Then they will bankrupt the UN, take over the land themselves, and the international bankers will control the world food supply.

The US official tells Buck that he will get the FBI and CIA to investigate this and warns Buck to head somewhere safe and lay low. Buck is then distracted by a beggar while the US official gets in his car. We all know what happens next.

This dive, though? Solid 8/10

This dive, though? Solid 8/10.

With nowhere else to go, Buck returns to Rayford and Chloe Steele and tries to enlist their help in getting to the United Nations to stop the transfer of the Dr. Rosebranch formula to the soon-to-be-bankrupt UN. Buck is shocked to find that his new friends have converted to Evangelical Christianity in the mere days since he last saw them. Rayford tries to warn Buck that there is more to the happenings around the world than just a follow-the-money conspiracy, but Buck isn’t ready to believe.

Remember that this is a week after Buck watched the sun disappear in Israel and dozens of fighter planes explode without a good reason. But the movie has forgotten about that.

Buck heads by himself to the United Nations, where Nicolae Carpathia has just been named Secretary General with the help of the nefarious international bankers. Even stranger, Hattie Durham–you know, the woman who was a stewardess just days before–is working as his personal assistant. Listen, I’m aware it’s entirely possible that she was qualified to be in a highly-placed position at the UN but for unknown reasons was working in an entirely different, largely unskilled field. But, uh, pretty unlikely.

NICOLAE: I am the Secretary General of the United Nations! What do you mean I cannot have the whole can of soda?

NICOLAE: I am the Secretary General of the United Nations! What do you mean I cannot have the whole can of soda?

This strange placement is incredibly fortunate for Buck Williams, however, as Hattie (who knows him from the plane earlier) is able to help him get an audience with Nicolae so that he can explain the conspiracy and prevent the international bankers from enacting their terrible plan.

Nicolae looks over the minidisc that Buck retrieved from the body of Conspiracy Theorist and feigns horror at the contents. He claims that he knew nothing about any of this and vows to make things right. We, as the audience, know that this must be an act. Because look at him.

I really wonder about the licensing/product placement issues that came up with the Antichrist conspicuously using an Apple product.

I really wonder about the licensing/product placement issues that came up with the Antichrist conspicuously using an Apple product.

Buck is about to leave satisfied when he notices a blueprint for rebuilding Solomon’s temple on Nicolae’s desk. He asks Dr. Rosebranch why he would want the temple rebuilt when it would inevitably cause a war. Dr. Rosebranch explains that Nicolae has found a way to rebuild it without destroying the Muslim holy site and that this is all part of Nicolae’s great vision. Nicolae explains further that the temple, along with nuclear disarmament and the Grow Wheat In The Desert Project are the three prongs of his plan for seven years of peace.

This throws up a ton of red flags for Buck but, apparently, no one else. I don’t know about you, but when a world leader is going around saying that he’s about to create seven years of peace, I think someone needs to ask him what he intends to happen in year eight. But maybe that’s just me and Buck Williams. Buck is also unnerved because all of this mirrors (an interpretation of) biblical verses that Rayford and Chloe were warning him about.

This creepy map that remakes the world? It is just an art project. I am just an artist. Do not fear me.

This creepy map that remakes the world? It is just an art project. I am just an artist. Do not fear me.

Nicolae invites Buck into the meeting of the UN Delegates where he intends to complete the handover of Dr. Rosebranch’s research and expose the shady international bankers before they can complete their plot. Buck hesitantly joins them along with Hattie (who has completed the most amazing career path in history by being invited to this meeting).

At the meeting of the UN delegates, Nicolae begins to rant about uniting the world in a new era of peace which will make the delegates kings among their people. This freaks out Dr. Rosebranch, who is slowly beginning to realize that (if nothing else) Nicolae is power-mad. Before the good doctor can object, however, Nicolae uses the Jedi Mind Trick to make him sit down.

These are not the antichrists you are looking for.

These are not the antichrists you are looking for.

When the time comes to expose the dastardly international bankers, Nicolae informs them that news of their conspiracy to bankrupt the UN has already reached the press. Then Nicolae takes a gun from one of his bodyguards and murders both international bankers on the floor of the United Nations, in front of everybody.

Seriously.

And people say nothing gets done at the United Nations.

And people say nothing gets done at the United Nations.

Nicolae explains that this had to be done to ensure world peace and literally brainwashes everyone in the room (except Buck) to believe that the international bankers died in a murder/suicide once they realized that their plan was exposed. The police rush in, Nicolae is painted as a victim in all of this, and Buck can’t find one person who will admit to the version of events that he witnessed.

Horrified, Buck realizes that Nicolae is the Antichrist and Rayford was right all along. To make matters worse, Buck even helped Nicolae with his ultimate plan–the assassin from earlier shot the computer because he wanted Buck to live, publish the story about the conspiracy, and give Nicolae cover for killing his international banker friends/benefactors.

Buck returns to Chicago and the church where Rayford, Chloe, and Pastor BanisterJumper have set up a new ministry to convert folks post-Rapture. He joins them and the film ends like all good films should end: with an evil man in absolute power and everyone smiling.

BUCK: I just helped facilitate the rise of the Antichrist. CHLOE: Well we all make mistakes.

BUCK: I just helped facilitate the rise of the Antichrist.
CHLOE: Well we all make mistakes.

epiThis is a terrible movie but it’s also god damn crazy. It can only get crazier in Tribulation Force: Left Behind II, which is a real thing that was made by human beings because the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince us that he doesn’t exist.

Stay tuned for that in the next couple weeks.

 

I Watched Left Behind (2014) So You Don’t Have To

ProlPart of me really wants to read the Left Behind book series. Just load up the description of any one of the 16(!!) books and you’ll understand why. They are absolutely, off-the-wall bonkers crazy. From what I can tell, the later books devolve into low-rent Christian Metal Gear, and they sound kind of amazing. Just for example, the anti-christ is a genetically-engineered UN Secretary General descended from Roman emperors named Nicolae Carpathia. And his right-hand man is a Catholic (these books are firmly evangelical) who can call down fire from the sky with power given to him by Lucifer.

The only problem is that the Left Behind books are terribly written and there are better ways to consume batshit crazy stories, so I never got around to reading them. However, I was always curious. And when I found out that the first book was being adapted into a film starring Nicolas Cage? Well, you could say I was a little excited about that. I knew there was already a series of movies, but this was before I was writing long blog posts about bad movies, so I never sought them out. But for Nic Cage I was willing to make an exception.

Left Behind came and went in theaters with such little fanfare that I barely noticed it. Then it slipped onto DVD and finally emerged on Netflix, where it reminded me of its existence. And just in time, since I was wrapping up my Atlas Shrugged recaps.

Unfortunately, Left Behind strips the book of almost all its high level insanity. There’s no anti-christ, no global war, nothing. The movie doesn’t even cover all of the book, just the first day after the rapture and a single airline flight. When I was done, I realized I really should have watched the first adaptation, which does touch on the crazy.

But I was too late. I already made all the gifs and everything. So without any further statements of regret, here’s 2014’s Left Behind.

chap1The film opens with Chloe Steele returning to New York to visit her father, Rayford, for his birthday. Yes, his name is Rayford Steele. And yes, he is the character portrayed by Nicolas Cage. Unfortunately, Rayford Steele is an Important Airline Pilot and he has been called to work to fly a plane to London on his birthday. Everyone is really sad about this.

I can't believe I married Nicolas Cage.

I can’t believe I married Nicolas Cage.

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Announcing My Next (Full) Game, 26 gy

So, now that The Closer: Game of the Year Edition is out (go play it!!!), and I’ve patched up all the major bugs that have been reported so far, what’s next? That’s a good question and, fortunately, I already have an answer for you. My next game is in a very early state, but far enough along that I plan to live demo it in a couple weeks and think it’s fair time to announce it, so here goes.

graytitle

First off, this is not a follow-up to The Closer. I am going in a completely different direction with this project, eschewing wacky comedy for atmosphere and horror. But if you like the silly stuff and have no interest in anything else, don’t worry! I’ll still be doing dumb single-day projects like The Ascension of Randy Choate too. But that’s enough in the way of disclaimers.

Now I’m going to talk about 26 gy.

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably heard me sing the praises of Final Fantasy VIII, relative to the Final Fantasy series and even jRPGs in general. I’ll write an overlong, in-depth post about this eventually but what I love about VIII is how it plays with the most fundamental gameplay loops of the RPG–earning experience points and leveling up. Killing monsters for XP is secretly counter-productive and grinding for levels can make the game almost unbeatable. It’s entirely bizarre and works with the (equally bizarre) themes of the game.

I wanted to do something similar.

26gyScreen3

26 gy is a horror/RPG in which you do not gain levels. You lose them. At the beginning of your game, your character suffers a lethal dose of neutron radiation which leaves them in the “walking ghost” phase of acute poisoning. She is going to die and cannot be saved, but for the moment she feels just fine.

Your character (there will be three options to start) is recruited to explore a mysterious labyrinth beneath the military base where the radiation accident occurred. You believe that this labyrinth is somehow connected to the accident and the experiments you were running when it occurred, so you agree to investigate. After all, you have nothing left to lose.

26gyScreen1

With every hour you are in the labyrinth (represented by one game minute) you lose a level. Your stats are decreased in kind, and you are one hour/minute closer to death. There is no extending the time limit, there is only descending deeper into the labyrinth so that you will learn as many of its secrets as possible before the radiation poisoning runs its course.

There’s more to the story–a  lot more, and I hope to make the narrative the major draw, since the gameplay systems are (intentionally) oppressive–but that’s all I’m going to say about it since I want players to discover the mysteries of the labyrinth and its monsters for themselves.

Monsters? Yes, unlike The Closer, this is an RPG. Right now, it uses the standard RPG Maker battle system (which is the early Dragon Quest battle system FWIW) but in the coming months I’ll be playing around with other options. Killing monsters earns currency, which can be exchanged for items or indulgences from the mysterious stranger who appears throughout the labyrinth. These will serve to offset the stats lost by the slow level drain.

26 gy is, though, above all a horror game. But not the kind full of jump scares and gore. The monster that is going to kill you isn’t hiding behind a corner, in a closet, or even really in the next random battle. It is the poison inside of you; there’s no finding it but there’s also no escaping it. The clock in the corner will always tell you how much time you have in the winding, unnatural dark hallways of the labyrinth.

Again, all of this is in a fairly nebulous stage. The art style–which I hope invokes the stark abstract nature of C64 and black-and-white PC games–is probably the only thing set in stone. I’m not much of an artist, so I gotta go as simple and abstract as possible.

Despite that, I wanted to get it out there. I work fast, and I expect 26 gy to be done by the holidays (what a cheerful holiday title) though I’m not sure when I’ll release it. But for now, if you happen to be in St. Louis and want to attend a video game convention, I’ll be demoing the early build of 26 gy at Pixelpop Fest.

And if you want to see my other stab at horror, check out my novella, Room 127 for an idea of how I handle more serious and grim subjects. I’d like to think I can do more than tell dumb jokes!

The Ascension of Randy Choate: An FMV Adventure

headerOver the last few months, I’ve used MLB: The Show to play the entire Cardinals lineup out of position, turned Tom Brady into a baseball player, and forced Matt Holliday to play an entire season at first base.

Next up was a smaller feat, which would affect only one player for one game: I was going to give left-handed reliever Randy Choate a start. But how to present this? A Randy Choate start would be barely long enough to warrant a video. So a few gifs, like before? Right?

Or how about a 90’s-style FMV video game you can play in your browser? Yeah, that sounds about right. Currently, it works in Google Chrome and Internet Explorer, but not Firefox for some reason. I realize I’m trying to push HTML5 past what it’s probably intended to do so instability might be expected.

Go play The Ascension of Randy Choate: An FMV Adventure now!

Or, if you’re a firefox user, have trouble with the above link, and/or prefer to download games rather than play them in your browser, there is a windows/application version: Download Here

Notes:

  • I used quick counts because otherwise some videos would have been (a) too long and (b) too large to stream
  • Pitch counts aren’t entirely reliable in quick count mode; the pitch counts on the “results” screen are based off the end of the inning rather than the beginning of the next
  • This was made in less than a day and is mostly ad-libbed, which I feel like is in the proper spirit of 90’s adventure games
  • Yes I know I have serial killer handwriting

In Defense of Very Slow Movement Speed: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Tuesday marked the release of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, the latest game from Dear Esther developers The Chinese Room. I’ve already finished it. If you’re into this sort of game–narrative heavy, puzzle-free adventure games, derogatorily called “walking simulators”–I can’t recommend it enough. It’s easily the best game I’ve played in the genre. Rapture is to Dear Esther what Journey is to Flower.
The entire game is the exploration of a suddenly-empty British village, finding clues and watching ethereal glimpses into the lives of the departed inhabitants. I won’t say any more, because uncovering the mystery (to the extent you can) is part of the reason to engage with the game. The last thing I’d want to do is spoil that.

If you don’t like this kind of game, at least check out the soundtrack on Spotify. It’s so good that there is a non-zero chance that I just love the soundtrack so much that it carried the entire game for me.

The release of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was, unfortunately, burdened by a strange bit of controversy regarding the walking speed of your main character. Across the board, reviewers complained that movement was terribly slow–even those who enjoyed the game. IGN called it ” a rate that seems to actively disrespect our time and patience.” If you check out the review, you’ll see this is now redacted because, unbeknownst to everyone playing the game at first, there is an option to speed up walking. Allegedly, pressing R2 and holding it down will gradually ramp up walking speed. I did this on-and-off throughout the game and the effect isn’t dramatic (when it works, which is not indoors) so it’s not terribly relevant to the point I want to make.

You walk really slowly in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and that is okay.

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The Closer: Game of the Year Edition OUT NOW and FREE

Download (Windows)

itch.io

Mediafire

Here it is, folks: the best game featuring Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek you’ll play in Q3 of this year.

RPGMaker Installers are .exe files so I apologize if your anti-virus raises an eyebrow at the download. I promise that the code is only malicious if you really dislike baseball puns.

So, what is The Closer: Game of the Year Edition? It would be easier to play it than to explain it to you, but if you’re down here in the text rather than up there clicking on a link, I should probably give it a shot. The Closer is an adventure game that takes place between the sixth and seventh game of the World Series. The closing pitcher for New York (you) gave up a massive home run to lose game six and must go on an epic quest to remake himself as a pitcher before he has to pitch again.

Accompanied by your faithful pitching coach, Moose, you will participate in the worst trivia night ever, play an uncomfortable Japanese visual novel, explore an abandoned candy factory, AND MORE.

The Closer: Game of the Year Edition is free to download and always will be free to download, because I’m not enough of a madman to use the likeness of real people and try to make money off of it. The Closer is parody and not intended to be an accurate representation of anything it portrays.

You can download The Closer. Hell, you can distribute it elsewhere if you want, as long as you’re not charging folks for it. Put it on Pirate Bay, for example. Once something is there it can never be destroyed. Just make sure to credit me!

Now that The Closer is released, I am moving on to more polished and commercially viable products. I see The Closer as something of a jumping off point for me. I accidentally ended up learning a lot while making this silly game, and now I’m hoping to make more. To do that, I’ve teamed up with Jenny Gibbons of Woodsy Studio (and the composer of all the awesome music in The Closer) to form Thesis Games, which we will both use to release all of our future projects.

And if you like The Closer enough to want to support my work, check out Woodsy Studio’s previous visual novel Serafina’s Crown. In exchange for the music of The Closer, I did a fair amount of the dialog writing in Serafina’s Crown. If it doesn’t look like your sort of thing, at least give it a vote on Steam Greenlight.

Thanks and enjoy The Closer!