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Mark Oshiro does things. He has, in a sense, made a professional life out of being a fan. For several years, on his sites Mark Reads and Mark Watches, he has tackled fan favorite TV shows (like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who) and novels (Harry Potter, His Dark Materials) one episode or chapter at a time. The catch is that he only reviews stories for which he is completely unspoiled. The results are generally hilarious, and Oshiro has developed a fan following of his own.
He has now added Mark Plays to the trilogy of sites, in which he experiences and reviews video games (again, games that he has somehow always managed to avoid spoilers for) one chapter or section at a time. And in fine fashion, the site has started with Portal and Portal 2.
Following along with the experience of an unspoiled, new player brings back fond memories of experiencing a game oneself for the first time. And Oshiro's chronic unpreparedness for the twists stories throw at him often rings familiar:
Look, this was a 19 level puzzle game. I THOUGHT YOU BEAT IT, YOU GOT CAKE, AND THAT WAS IT. And suddenly, I'm in passageways looking in on the very game I just played, and my mind can't handle it. That 19th level pulls your right out of the world you were once in, and you have to force yourself to accept that you've been manipulated, not only as Chell, but as the player.
Anyone who has ever enjoyed introducing their friends to a favorite game, and waiting with pent-up glee for the friend to hit THAT MOMENT OMG, will probably enjoy reading along, as Mark discovers more classic and current titles.
Just don't ever leave any spoilers. That wrecks all the fun.
Realm Lovejoy is an artist currently working at Half-Life and Team Fortress developers Valve Software. Having helped create student title Narbacular Drop, which later evolved into what we now know as Portal, she's also interned at Nintendo.
So, yeah, dream career path right there.
Among her current projects is Valve's DOTA 2, for which she's done stuff like character design, while she's also worked on games like Portal 2. Oh, and if you want someone to thank for the adorable art that ran during Steam's Autumn sale in 2011, Realm's your target.
You can check out more of her work at her personal site.
To see the larger pics in all their glory (or so you can save them as wallpaper), right-click on them below and select "open in new tab".
Valve artist Realm Lovejoy tweeted this video earlier in the week, saying "Look at what I helped unbox today at work". Which is a lot calmer than how I would've said it.
"Oh my GOD look at this just LOOK AT THIS" is all I'd be able to manage, before ducking behind a couch for cover. Just in case.
Yesterday, you probably read the first part of my chat with Valve’s Erik Wolpaw and Double Fine’s Anna Kipnis. If not, it’s right here- but FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY. By which I mean until the Internet ceases to exist, which, you know, could happen someday. Anyway, in today’s installment, we branch out a bit from yesterday’s story-centric beat. Valve’s newfound love of wearable computing, virtual reality, heaps behind-the-scenes info on Portal, crowd-sourcing, and more are all on the docket. OK, there wasn’t actually any sort of docket involved. I’m not entirely sure why I said that.>
It all began one sunny, seemingly inauspicious afternoon in a Starbucks. It also ended there – but, you know, later. Ragged and bone-weary from three days of wading through PAX’s diseased hordes, Valve’s Erik Wolpaw, Double Fine’s Anna Kipnis, and I huddled around one last vestige of civilized humanity: a table. Then we spent nearly an hour talking about this year’s sudden upsurge in crazy-interesting videogame stories, because it seemed like the thing to do at the time. It isn’t anymore, but – if you’ll believe it – it was considered cool back then. Those were the days. Anyway, here’s part one. If you behave yourself, you might get part two tomorrow. And maybe a cookie. But probably not.>
Among the many highlights from the Erik Wolpaw/Tim Schafer panel at PAX this past weekend was a brief exchange where an audience member asked what Wolpaw thought about the disconnect between authored single-player games and games that allowed truly personal stories to emerge, like Notch's Minecraft and Dean Hall's DayZ.
"It's not [about] single-player vs multiplayer," Wolpaw said, "it's more, can you have an authored story in that situation? It gets tough. I look at stories coming out of Minecraft or something like DayZ, and honestly… it makes me just despair. If I had any guts or honor, I'd leave the industry." The audience started laughing. "It seems like it's the promise of games. It's like, 'I have full agency. Total, total agency.'"
Wolpaw paused. "I'm not actually quitting my job," he clarified, and smiled.
Schafer picked up the joke: "He'll be pulling a paycheck, but he's not going to care anymore. Because DayZ and Minecraft are so good… and they have better stories than Portal. He was off-mic, and I just wanted to make sure everyone heard that." More laughter.
When co-host Jason Schreier (you may know him from such publications as: this one) asked Wolpaw if he thinks there will always be room for narrative-driven games, The Portal 2 and Psychonauts writer said, "Oh, I think there will be. But, at some point, you're going to go into the kinda 'artisan cheese-maker' model." He then nodded to Schafer, half-jokingly. "Like Tim. You're going to be making these games that directly appeal to a [specific audience]. It may not be one of these 20 million dollar massive productions."
Schafer contributed his own thought on the matter: "I think [that kind of player-driven experience] is maybe the promise of games. But not everybody wants the same thing from games. There are definitely people who like something carefully crafted for them, cheese or games."
At PAX Prime in Seattle, Double Fine's Tim Schafer and Valve's Erik Wolpaw gave a panel called "Plot vs. Play" in which they discussed the ongoing debate about gameplay and story. The panel was co-hosted by Kotaku's own Jason Schreier.
The whole thing was as much fun as you'd imagine. At one point Wolpaw, who tends to be something of a fount of hilarious unrealized Portal ideas at these sorts of panels, recounted an eventually canned sequence in Portal 2 in which players find (and kill) Aperture founder Cave Johnson. Well... they kill his brain, anyway. See, his consciousness is trapped inside a computer.
"There was something in Portal 2 where originally, for a while, you were going to find Cave Johnson.' He would be like, 'Hi, this is Cave Johnson. No really, this is Cave Johnson, look down here.'
And then we'd put him in this crummy box that was plugged into the wall. And the whole thing was that he'd been put into this computer, and he just hated it, and he just wanted to die. And so he wants you to unplug him, and meanwhile there's a ledge that you can't quite jump onto… and you have to stand on Cave Johnson, you have to unplug him and carry him across the room.
But it was hard to communicate what was going on—we maybe could have eventually worked it out, but that was something where it seemed like a good fictional idea and we just never quite worked the gameplay out to where it actually got where it needed to be—it didn't work out."
A while back, a Steam forum poster pulled out some unused dialogue from the game and posted it here, where you can find some lines that seem to reference the sequence Wolpaw was talking about.
"Now, before you say no, I want you to remember that I've lived a full life. Also, if this helps seal the deal, livin' in a computer this long's made me crazy. That's right: I am insane.
"Wait. I suppose tellin' you I'm not in my right mind could sway you to not unplugging me. Let me round back on the important parts: in a computer. Ceaseless torture. Monster in the eyes of god. So why don't you get on over here and unplug ol' Cave."
Ha. File that all under "Things I really wish had made it into Portal 2."