Thirty-Flights-of-Loving

EDIT: Hey guys, don’t forget that this poster is currently available to buy on my Etsy store.  And it is Brendon Chung approved!

Created for my Visual Media class, in which we had to make a design for a thing or something or whatever.  I picked video games earlier, so instead of redoing the art for a game that already has boxart (my first choice would’ve been We <3 Katamari, but that game’s entire packaging is a work of art unto itself!), I decided to do one for a game that might not have packaging.

I decided to go with Thirty Flights of Loving, one of my personal favorite games of 2012.  If you haven’t done so yet, go play it– it costs five bucks, and you’ll get fifteen of the greatest minutes of your gaming career out of it.  And go play Gravity Bone, its free and the same deal.

Actually, Thirty Flights is the sequel to Gravity Bone, so go play Gravity Bone first, then play Thirty Flights of Loving.

Screw it, just give these guys your money!

Albotas Goes To IndieCade East

For the first time ever, the popular IndieCade festival of independent games made its way to East Coast this past weekend. IndieCade has been going on over on the West Coast since 2009 and is considered by many to be the Sundance of video games, so I was pretty pumped to see it for myself.

It wasn’t quite the spectacle I was expecting. It was basically an open rec-hall sized room with a bunch of tables with computer monitors and iPads on them. Very few of the games on display were accompanied by anyone attached to the projects, so I started wondering just how badly these indie devs wanted people to know about their games. I also started wondering if I wasted a perfectly good Saturday and $200 in bus/taxi fare.

Thankfully, after doing a few laps around the main room and eyeballing computer monitors and TV screens from over people’s shoulders, I discovered a few gems.

Below are two videos of developers who were bodacious enough to answer some of my dumb questions and talk about their games.

THIRTY FLIGHTS OF LOVING

This is definitely a game that should be experienced at least once by anyone who appreciates video games as an art form. Huge thanks to Brendon Chu from Blendo Games for taking the time to speak with us for the vid. Be sure to keep an eye out on his upcoming retro cyberpunk game, Quadrilaterial Cowboy. If the official description doesn’t have you sold, I don’t know what will:

When you have a top-of-the-line hacking deck armed with a 56.6k modem and a staggering 256k RAM, it means just one thing: you answer only to the highest bidder.

And now for videos that I didn’t take, but trust me, these games are awesome.

INTERNATIONAL RACING SQUIRRELS

Rob Davis from Playniac was awesome enough to speak with us about his iPad racing sim that’s actually way more about micromanaging your finances and racers than actually racing. At first glance I expected just your standard Mario Kart ripoff. What I got instead was something more akin to Game Dev Story.

It would actually be pretty interesting to see this game’s financial system implemented in other genres - RPG’s for example: buy some weapons and armor using your credit card, and if you can’t make your payments on time, your gear gets repo’d mid-battle! Okay nevermind, that actually sounds terrible.

GUACAMELEE

I fell in love with the PS Vita version of this game when I played it at NYCC last year and was pleasantly surprised to find a PS3 version on display at IndieCade East. This is from Drinkbox Studios, the guys behind one of my favorite Vita titles, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!!! It’s a MetroidVania style game that requires a certain finesse in stringing together melee attacks to navigate through levels. You can also bounce between dimension a-la Mighty Flip Champs. Mix that all up with some sweet mariachi chiptunes, amazing character designs, witty dialogue, and multiplayer co-op and you have an instant recipe for me not getting anything done ever. Sadly, no one from Drinkbox was around to talk to while I was there. Bummer.

HOKRA

This was hands-down the game that drew the biggest (and loudest) crowd. Sleek minimalist multiplayer sports action. The kind of game that makes players yell at each other while onlookers cheer them on.

GOROGOA

This was the game that stole the show for me. You basically just have to manipulate a puzzle on a 2x2 grid by zooming in & out and interacting with the levels. The artwork, the level design, the intricate precision of thought that went into each puzzle design - it’s brilliant and you should probably just stop whatever you’re doing and go download and play the free demo.

TENGAMI

This is essentially Super Brothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, but replace the funny with origami.

There were a buttload of other cool games on display, but there were a zillion other people crowding around and waiting in line to play them, so I had to squeeze in whatever I could before catching the bus back home. Head on over to the IndieCade site for a full list of games that were on display.

Hopefully I’ll be able to stick around for all three days next year as I can definitely see this sort of thing growing over the years. Plus, we really just need more cool geeky shit to indulge in on the East Coast.

The first thing to say is that if you have even the slightest interest in video games as a serious thing you should go and play Thirty Flights of Loving right away. It’s about the same price as a cup of coffee, and will take you about as long to finish, but it will stay with you for considerably longer. I am going to write a few things about it here which might be considered light spoilers.

Thirty Flights of Loving does something remarkable and rare for a game: it tells a story which fits its medium perfectly. Most high-concept games try to approach meaning through a direct imitation of cinematic style. But the ways in which TFoL imitates cinema are not nearly as important as the ways in which it departs from it. Despite locking the player into a linear series of events, it still features game mechanics which clearly identify it as being a game. If you don’t listen to what the game is telling you, you won’t reach the end.  

On one level, this is a game about the way in which games are constructed. It deliberately eschews conventional exposition in favour of building a narrative through subtle cues in the game world. Some of these clues are more literal than others. You can drink bottles of booze, but they have no effect on your behaviour. You can pick up guns and ammunition – plucking cartridges three at a time from a prettily-rendered box – but you can’t use either. You can turn one way or the other down those airport corridors, but it won’t make much difference. The only thing you get to point around at anybody has a life of its own. All these things are little jokes at the player’s expense, but they are also ways of adding texture; the game is telling you that you can pick up and use these things because you are the kind of person who would pick up and use these things. But it’s also telling you that this stuff is just stuff and it ought not to be confused for what the game is about any more than we ought to think Doom is about being a space marine on Mars.

And then there is something else. At the very end of the game is a brief credits sequence in which the player wanders through what appears to be an art gallery. There is a party in progress. People stand around, ignoring you. Names and quotes are given on tiny cards and there are also larger signs on the walls. There are replicas of models from the game: a plane, a car. Familiar objects. But then the last few rooms feature something totally different and apparently quite random. A pair of working models demonstrating (you are told) the Bernoulli principle of powered flight. A big fan and some strips of paper, a fixed wing that rises and falls in a gust of wind. The kind of thing you might expect to find in a science museum. What has it got to do with the rest of the game?

It’s actually a rather neat metaphor for the way in which the game is constructed. The whole thing is one fantastic flight. According to Bernoulli, the difference between air speed at high and low pressures is what generates lift; the ‘lift’ here is the exhilarating mystery of the game itself, the flight created by the skillful contrast between the ‘high’ moments of action and tension and the ‘low’ scenes of dreamlike melancholy . 

One moment you’re racing through a crowded airport concourse, the next calmly peeling oranges beside a loved one on a lonesome hotel balcony. It is the difference between these two pressures of gameplay that generates the lift in the story, that creates the sense in which there is something at work here which is beyond your understanding even while it leaves you totally captivated and slightly baffled. To play it is to learn to fly from one flight to the next. You start by pushing some geese off a ledge and watching them fall; you end by watching them fly away from you into the sunset.

I know a few of my followers have played Thirty Flights of Loving, and I’m pretty sure it’s on sale right now.. but even if it wasn’t, it’s been kind of on my mind lately.

Someone wanna try and sell me on it? I saw a poster for it that looked intriguing but didn’t really explain anything about what the game is supposed to be. About all I know so far is that it’s somewhat obscure, is a bit on the short side, and some of the people I’ve seen remark on it really liked it.

I hesitate to look for information myself because it’s so easy to bumble into spoilers unknowingly and I’d like to avoid that if at all possible.