Here we investigate the overlooked, the underappreciated, the Shameworthy titles of the world. Jump in to an existing mission thread and give your thoughts, or start your own to kick off a discussion.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by Beige » Thu Jul 30, 2015 1:25 am

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So I did ultimately finish this game. Decided to take a little time to distill my thoughts. Have a sip of white gull, reflect on things past.

So. Witcher 3. Hoowee.

I've said many times that the measure of a game is what you take away from it after the credits roll. Judged by this criteria there is no way that Geralt and Friends can be considered anything other than a gaming masterpiece.

The Witcher series is in many ways the little engine that could. We are talking about a brand and a mileu that rose through obscurity through to being arguably the best Western RPG made in the last 15 years. You can argue this, as with anything, of course.

Somewhere in my memory palace I have blank slates that are reserved for truly remarkable games. There's a finite number of these, so I have to be careful when I inscribe the name of something on it with my hammer and chisel. There's a permanence to this act of inscription - walking down this memory hall is somber and austere, like walking through the hall of presidents. Here is Star Control 2, here is Shadow of the Colossus. Here is Silent Hill 2 up on its plinth. Dragon Age? Not on there. Final Fantasy VII? Sorry Aerith, not on there.

Witcher 3? On there.

What else can I say on the thread that hasn't already been said? I played this game for 200 hours. Every hour was wonderful.

I remember reading once about Don Quixote (the book)... and how some believe it is a novel that is meant to be read 3 times in life: Once as a young man, once as a middle aged man, once in old age. Each reading will produce something different. We never step in the same river twice.

Playing a game like the Witcher, I can't help but feel like I'm reading something aimed at that middle stage - that "seasoned" but not yet tired stage of life.

Much like Her Story, this is a game that carries the banner for the maturity that video games have managed to carve out for themselves since the days of Mega Man. Not saying every game on earth needs to aim for Masterpiece Theater of course, but as I approach middle age myself, playing both games such as Nep Nep, Monster Hunter and Journey I have been reflecting a lot on Don Quixote.

For years I have been feeling that sensation of being right on the cusp of a cohort at risk of Growing Out of video games, waking up one day no longer a Friend of Narnia. Not because I don't love games: I do, obviously... but because the commercial forces pumping the blood of the gaming industry see little value in keeping up with *me* and what I'm about. As people like Warren Specter and Iwata age and (sadly) die, the outer edge of our medium is fraying somewhat. Fluttering, like old cloth, as the first ones die or leave or diminish, and go into the West.

Developers are growing old. The audience is growing old - having kids - deciding whether or not gaming is a thing they want to make time for in comparison to Wife and Family or House of Cards on Netflix. For the most part the people with the most purchasing power are also the people being underserved by our current media landscape. I look at Heroes of the Storm and I feel old and confused. I look at Clash of Clans and I feel old and confused. Sadly, I also occasionally look at products such as Nekopara or Batman and feel similar things. Sometimes. you understand... not always.

There's an onion article that says something like "30 year old Gen-Xer disappointed by older brother's desire to go see theatrical play instead of ironically watching Full House reruns". I am at that stage in my life, I guess. I want that David Mammet play - these quiet things - more than I want Full House.

With limited time to allocate for leisure. spending 200 hours with anything better pay off in spades. I want media that speaks to the issues and I see writ large in the lives and hearts of my 40 year old friends and colleagues. Am I doing enough good with my life? What does getting old have to mean? What do you do when the world seems full of choices with no clear answers? What does it mean to rekindle love? To have real friends? To be a good person? How do I pass on what I believe to be right to the next generation?

Witcher 3 goes head-on at questions like this, and does it while simultaneously killing epic beasts, ploughing concubines, trotting slowly over gorgeous landscapes on horseback, etc. etc. No disrespect to saving the world from JENOVA but these days this kind of story speaks to me in ways that is, all things considered, fairly rare right now in gaming. As I said, I believe I represent the front edge of this vanguard... the people who are still Sticking Around for whatever reason. The Witcher has an experience FLOOR: The people who will really enjoy it to the fullest are people (again, like Geralt its greying protagonist) who have lost things in their lives, who have seen sorrow. Watching Chinatown just doesn't mean that much to you when your'e in high school.

Way back when the 1UP boards were a thing, I once stated that the reason we all keep coming together to talk about games is that by doing so -- surrounded by likeminded people who feel the and think along similar lines, we make ourselves feel both less crazy and less alone. I have more sympathetic things to say on this subject over in the Neptunia thread, but ultimately that's what it comes down to. Feeling less crazy and less alone. It's so rare in the world of Candy Crush to run across a big meaty solid no-holds-barred triple A experience that truly accomplishes this feat.

I think it is interesting that the Witcher won its fame and fortune with an R rating, not a PG-13 rating. You know that cliche about how ALL the top 10 best grossing movies are PG-13 because they get both kid butts and grownup butts to the seats with some light cussing, lots of explosions and sideboob but nothing TOO alienating to the ticket sales? Witcher 3 doesn't do that. It's a plough and be ploughed kinda world in Sapkowski land. Refeshing - especially in the land when Hunger Games is de rigeur. We can thank Game of Thrones for this? Maybe? Don't take my word for it, go over to the Too Old For This boards and you will see dozens of self-described curmudgeons geeking right the royal fuck out about this game like nothing you've ever seen in your life before.

I think this choice is doubly interesting compared to stuff like Destiny and GTA. CD Project proved something about mass market sales and knowing one's audience with this one, though it remains to be seen whether it's the last great hurrah of triple-A, or just more of gaming's growing upwards and outwards to tell more and different kinds of stories.

I have some beefs with the Witcher here and there of course -- I literally finished the game ON THE DAY they saw fit to put a stash into the mix so I didn't have to schlep 120 pounds of unique treasure hunted armor everyfuckingwhere -- but these complaints are so few compared to the time I sunk into the experience.

I did think it was strange that there were parts of the game, especially near the end, where they made a lot of direct references to subject matter drawn from books which had not yet been translated into English. Some of the stuff with Ciri and Lara Doran comes from the Polish-only "Lady of the Lake" book, #4 in the series - a fact I had to go look up on Wikipedia once the credits rolled and I was still confused.

There's a few nitpicks. Uneven challenge slope that is too hard for newbies at the beginning, too soft at the end once you've ultra-leveled everything. Maybe something WRPGs can learn from JRPGs is the importance of that final ultimate dungeon reserved as bragging rights for the truly hardcore. I didn't like the fact that the 1.07 patch I'd been waiting weeks for ended up breaking all my achievements so that my 200 hours of play weren't recorded in the annals of Gaming Valhalla on my Steam Profile. Small quips.

All these are minor however. The good outweighs the bad to such a strong degree that I can handwave it all. I loved how much of the focus of the game was on the relationship between Geralt and Ciri rather than saving the world. I love how they brought Yennifer (one of my favorite characters from the books) squarely into the forefront of the Witcher World and bound her right there beside Geralt where she belongs. It's crazy to think that neither Ciri nor Yen were in the series up until this point in time - they are literally the 2 most important characters in Sapkowski's novels aside from the big G.

What did I take away from the series? Little things - a pastiche of little things. Much like how Mass Effect was at its best when you were just hanging out on the Citadel with Garrus and Tali, the Witcher is at its best in its little micro-moments. Small interconnected detective stories.

My friends and I were joking the other day that there should be an ESRB rating "AM" for "Actually Mature". It would include such advisory warnings as:
- Interpersonal Relationships
- Empathy
- Grey on Grey Morality
- Reading between the lines
- Reading

Hats off to you, CD Project. Not that I ever doubted you, but hats off anyway. You proved something to the industry about how to craft a respectful game while not giving in to the slippery slope of autotuning and market forces. About how art can still be profitable and gorgeous and soulful and HIGH BUDGET, even in 2013 - even without the Burger King tie-in.

You proved if nothing else that we need more games based on great literature. I can only hope that W3 is a sign of more things to come. I've never played Moby Dick or Lonesome Dove or Foundation, though I would in a heartbeat. Good on ya, and farewell to Geralt as well.... though I'll be seeing you old friend, no doubt in the resultant DLC.

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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by RedSwirl » Thu Jul 30, 2015 4:38 am

In another thread I think I said that I feel like the western console game industry has continually been growing up with one particular generation: people who were born between maybe 1975 and 1989. Basically, people who are now leaving the stage of early adulthood.

Final Fantasy VII had a massive impact partly because it landed during a lot of those peoples' adolescences. Japanese games since then haven't really stayed in lock step like western console games have. I think that's why you're getting the "dadification." Both developers and the customers they sell to in North America and Western Europe are at the stage of life to which games can appeal with characters like Booker Dewitt, Joel, and Corvo Attano (sort of). The pre-existing Geralt-Ciri relation ship in my opinion just fell right in at the right time. The question I've always asked is "what's gonna happen when those people hit their 40's and 50's?"

PC and mobile gaming on the other hand seem to have spread out and are now offering something for just about everyone. Mobile is becoming the new Nintendo to the kids. A whole generation of teens is growing up with LoL the way we may have grown up with StarCraft and Counter-Strike in our day. Boring adults have way more Berlin Train Simulators and whatnot.

Anyway, with any luck I'll be able to actually start Witcher 3 by the end of the week. And I definitely think this series is proof that maybe game developers need to start looking for books to adapt. Film has been doing it for decades.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by RedSwirl » Sat Aug 01, 2015 7:48 am

Started up, and White Orchard by itself has overwhelmed me with the amount of not just stuff to do, but interesting stuff to do.

But what I wanna talk about here is how Witcher 3 does something I like a lot: it almost remedies the "GPS game design" problem I've hated for a while now while offering the happy medium I've suggested developers do. You know what I'm talking about: that sense of discovery games lost when developers put waypoints everywhere, highlighted the locations of every collectible in the world, and made you rely on "detective vision" to be able to find anything. Oh, you might say some users just want to get to the instant gratification and don't want to have to look at a map to find out where it is. You might say I can just turn off the waypoints and not use detective vision, but most games these days are designed to where it's basically implausible to find what you need without them. I hear in Morrowind each quest was a detailed description of where you had to go and who you had to talk to when you got there. In Skyrim every quest is a waypoint that directs you to a place no one ever told you about.

Witcher 3 just about does what I've wanted games to do: design the world and objectives to where people who want to find things organically can by paying attention and referring to the journal, but also offer optional anti-frustration features to people who want them. I didn't have to use Geralt's Witcher senses to identify which shields might have belonged to that one dude's brother, I just paid attention when he said they were Temerian shields (which the game describes in an earlier cut scene while simultaneously setting the stage) with lilies painted on them. I didn't have to have a waypoint activated to to find that treasure chest: the letter said it was in an abandoned shack next to the windmill, and the windmill is one of the most prominent features in the area. I just had an issue finding one particular guy the location of which the quest menu didn't describe at all.

Bioshock 1 kinda did this too but I still didn't like the giant "GOAL" sign painted on its maps. Like System Shock 2 I could turn off all the assistance features and find my way around by actually looking at Rapture's signposts, referring to the map, and replaying voice recordings.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by RedSwirl » Tue Aug 04, 2015 5:16 am

What has hit me is that Witcher 3's world feels amazingly hand-crafted for how big it is. It feels less like, say, an Assassin's Creed game where 90% of the buildings and islands are inconsequential blocks, or even a Bethesda game built with a lot of repeated components, and more like the deliberately crafted areas of PS2-era Japanese RPGs, just much much bigger. Maybe Velen feels like Hyrule Field on steroids. Similar to Ocarina, Witcher 3 is a game where I feel like I can aimlessly run around and still get enjoyment out of traversing the world.

Another thing I like a lot: how natural the geography feels. For a little while now I've complained about how most open-world games talking place away from cities are pretty much just made of the paths the developer wants you to take surrounded by 80-degree cliffs. If you zoom out in Borderlands 2, Skyrim, or Far Cry 2 the landscape often looks impossible. Someone also told me about 40% of Grand Theft Auto V is impassible mountain terrain that isn't accessible on foot. This was one major thing I found so refreshing about ArmA. You look out on a landscape in those games and you see naturally rolling hills. Of course that's all based on satellite data though. Witcher 3 has a similar feel which makes its world feel more believable and cohesive. The "content gates" also feel less artificial. It just let's you wander off and get your ass kicked by a level 10 ghoul.

Lastly, Witcher 3 is shaping up to be the open-world detective game I've always wanted to play.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by RedSwirl » Sat Aug 15, 2015 5:44 pm

I did a thing with the box art.

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.ph ... count=3480

Both English and Polish titles at that link with cover arts for all three platforms.

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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by RedSwirl » Fri Sep 18, 2015 12:45 am

It's done. Over. I can let my SSD breathe now.

I honestly don't really think I have the strength to lay down a huge post on it now. Honestly pretty much everything I typed and felt about the game as I was starting it has held up through to the end. From the jump Witcher 3's most impressive aspect was how it the whole packaged managed to simultaneously be massive and feel lovingly hand-crafted in almost every corner. It's probably bigger than an Assassin's Creed game and yet every random treasure chest at least has a unique bit of level design or an unusually strong monster or a nicely-written letter to accompany it. It's like the one game right now that manages to have its size vs polish cake and eat it.

But man, I'm gonna have to buy another SSD or something when Hearts of Stone comes out. Even if I just spend $60 on another 128-gig. I'm sorry, but load times were probably the one unbearable thing about Witcher 3.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by Beige » Fri Sep 18, 2015 1:24 pm

What ending(s) you get Red?
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by RedSwirl » Fri Sep 18, 2015 9:47 pm

Spoiler: show
Ciri went into the white frost but survived. Did Witchin' afterwards.

Geralt and Yennefer just... retired together, I guess?

Emhyr won, but gave up Temeria.

Real talk though: Crach's death hit me harder than Vesimir's.
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