Metanalysis: SOMA

“Humanity, Consciousness, and the Horrors of the Deep Perfectly mixed in this Spooky and Existential Narrative”

Both the sci-fi and horror genres explore the realms of the “what if”. Sci-fi tries to peer ahead and paint an estimation of what life would look like if we follow mankind’s progress to it’s inevitable conclusion. Meanwhile, horror pries into our deepest fears and puts them front and center. SOMA capitalizes on the inherent unknowns of these two genres to offer tense moments of introspection that will cause players to question both their understanding of the in-game reality and their own. Stuck in an underwater facility at the mercy of an omnipresent A.I., twisted humans, and unstable robot denizens, caution is critical if the player is to unravel the truth behind the protagonist’s and humanity’s fate.

SOMA provides those brave enough to venture into it’s folds a story which questions the fabric of what makes up consciousness and identity, cocooned in a narrative that is sure to give most players nightmares for weeks to come.

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Metanalysis: Cuphead

“A Old Timey Cartoon Aesthetic Masks an Incredibly Fun but Dauntingly Difficult Boss Rush Game”

Few titles illicit an emotional response in me by design alone. As a child, one of my favorite pastimes was watching older cartoons. These shows were silly, not just in premise, but in the outrageous depiction of reality. Cuphead borrows its style from the earliest of animated shows: cartoons like Steamboat Willie where the characters and backgrounds are ever moving, bouncing along as they told fables to their youthful audience. This game’s vibrant visual design betray the punishing set of bouts which make up the core gameplay.

Whether it’s the challenge or the 1930’s cartoon art style, finding something to love about Cuphead is as easy going as its protagonists.

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“PLAYERUNKOWN’s Battlegrounds Erupts Out from Nothingness and Into Stardom”

The status quo on Twitch for the 5 games with the highest viewer count has remained static for some time now. These titles usually are: DotA 2, CS:GO, Hearthstone, League of Legends, and Overwatch. All 5 of these games feature prolific developers with a lengthy pedigree, and come from publishers with deep pockets. However, loading up the Twitch homepage today, a newcomer has taken the crown for #1, and that is PUBG.

PLAYERUNKOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS has been able to achieve critical acclaim, staggering sales numbers, and overwhelming popularity in just 6 short months. PUBG currently sits tied at #7 for best-selling PC game with 10 million units sold, and the game hasn’t even been completed yet. It has given rise to a new genre while taking the streaming world by storm, providing the groundwork for exciting drama and tense PvP action, while requiring just enough luck to keep both vets and newbies on their toes.


The Framework

PUBG got its start thanks to the crucible of the modding community for ARMA 2. Lead developer turned media icon Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene got his first hit with popular DayZ mod Battle Royale. Taking inspiration from the film of the same name, this mod would go on to provide the groundwork for what would become the gameplay for PUBG.

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Metanalysis: Virtual Reality

“The Uncanny Threshold”

There are a few games that I have never experienced because of an unfortunate personality flaw of mine. A barrage of praise, even from a close friend, can eventually lead to something becoming so soured that I will go years before I can will myself to try it. I can only be goaded into trying something new so many times before my gut reaction is to never try it again. This has made it difficult for friends, loved ones, or communities I’m a part of to get me into new fandoms or hobbies. Virtual Reality was almost a victim of this attitude.

With VR, my aversion to hype turned my once child-like excitement into dull cynicism. As the technology took off, the rampant adoption turned it into a gimmick, something that could be used to market experiences or attractions that let you translate physical movement into a virtual space. These promises were often hollow and were subsequently unfulfilled.

However, thanks to The Skill Floor I was able to try VR first hand and gain a whole new appreciation for it, one that has change my tune to that of a passionate advocate of the technology.

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Metanalysis: Dead Cells

“Early Access Adopters Get A Win”

Dead Cells is, at its core, a loving homage to the best parts of some of the most influential titles and genres over the last 20 years. Taking cues from Castlevania, Metroid, and more recently Spelunky and Dark Souls, this game serves up a compilation of classic ideas in a fun and engaging way. What’s more, if you take a break, you may come back to find additions to the experience that make an already great game into an even better one.

Of personally delight is how the developers were able to successfully execute early access, a rarity on Steam.

The Framework

Dead Cells is a 2D rogue-like (or a rogue-lite, or a dungeon crawler, depending on who you ask). If we avoid genres all together and describe the aspects that make up a playing Dead Cells, then we get the following key features:

  • side-scrolling 2D exploration
  • RPG elements
  • permadeath
  • different biomes
  • procedural generation
  • currently in early access

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Metanalysis: Early Access

“Buy Before You Try”

Think back to a time when you had the perfect business idea, one that was so seemingly flawless that it boggled the mind that no one had thought of it before. Have it in mind? Good. Were you successful? Yeah, me neither.

I’ve had my share of too-good-to-fail ideas (i.e. a haptic feedback vest for FPS games that make the bullets feel real so you know EXACTLY where the bullets are coming from, an idea I swear I came up with first during middle school). These ideas often never come to fruition, and the barrier that you and the countless others who have had the same, similar, or totally unique ideas winds up being because the idea is not possible, probable, or feasible. The time and resources required to bring your dream idea to life reveal themselves to be unreasonable and the idea gets buried shortly after the conception. Video game development especially must contend with these limitations.

Video games provide a fertile ground in which to sow clever ideas., and they allow people to experience media in a unique way. However, if your life does not already revolve around making games for a living, how do you go about bringing your dream game to life? That’s where early access steps in.


The Framework

Early access games are pitched as a panacea, a fix-all solution meant to bypass the inherent difficulties of becoming a game developer or make a “good” game. Some , like Minecraft, blur the line between what it means to be early access. Other difficult to label examples include episodic games, as they technically are sold in pieces, with the full release being billed as the complete season, such as the Telltale games or Life is Strange. Continue reading “Metanalysis: Early Access”