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by Eric Swain

14 Jul 2015


Last week on the Moving Pixels podcast, I said that I would check out the second episode of The Detail. While I wasn’t wild about the first episode, the game had peaked enough of my interest to warrant peeking in a second time to see whether or not it sorted itself out in the second episode. It was trying to hold itself up to a rather high standard, even if it didn’t seem like it quite had the chops behind it to reach that standard. Still, I would love to see The Detail even make some small strides towards that lofty goal.

Well, since recording the podcast, I have given the second episode, “From the Ashes”, its due. In its wake, I find myself feeling much the same as I did at the end of the first episode. I’m not wild about it, but I am willing to give it one more episode to see if it manages to become something better than it presently is and something closer to what it actually wants to be.

by Eric Swain

7 Jul 2015


Image of Go from Boardgamegeek.com

I’ve been spending some time away from video games as of late. It’s not a sabbatical or even something that I planned to do. It’s just that for a while now, I’ve had this growing itch that I needed to scratch. I go through phases of what catches my interest. Sometimes it’s a TV show, sometimes it’s classic cinema, or a book, whatever. At the moment, despite a lot of great games that I’ve been wanting to play coming out, video games haven’t been quite doing it for me.

I’ve missed Magic. You know, the world renowned trading card game. For a long time, almost a decade, I was an avid player of it. Then around my second year of college I stopped playing, partially because it was becoming financially prohibitive, but mostly because at college Magic tournaments were rarer. Still those times have a special place in my heart even all these years later.

by Eric Swain

12 May 2015


The common refrain is that video games are played for their challenge. For a long time feeling the sense of accomplishment from beating a game is why many players would say that they played video games and that creating a challenge for the player is a game’s purpose. This is, of course, not true, and challenge should only be included when it is useful for the game’s own goals and what experience that it wishes to craft. Adventure games, for example, don’t test the reflexes or a player’s management skills, as other genres that might typically be seen as challenging do. What is challenge in an adventure game?

Typically, it is arriving at that “aha” moment. Reaching that moment requires the act of applying non-traditional keys to non-traditional doors. It may be attempting to apply an item to the environment or trying to give another character an item and receiving something in return. The challenge is in solving logic puzzles, most of which come in the form of environmental riddles. Traditionally, the problem with this approach to challenge has been in trying to balance these puzzles, both in terms of making them difficult enough to deliver that “aha” moment and also in not creating puzzles that are absurd enough to stall the player or make the player quit the game entirely.

by Eric Swain

5 May 2015


In the second and third parts of The Charnel House Trilogy, the screen effectively gets black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. The effect conforms the field of view to match that of the train car by highlighting the length of the place and it’s enclosed nature. In doing so, the game creates a portal by which we look at the action through, highlighting how everything is framed as a performance to whomever is looking through that portal. Which is true of any game, really.

by Eric Swain

14 Apr 2015


There’s been a lot of digital ink spilled over the faults of Valiant Hearts, most notably concerning the game’s inconsistent tone and the overall direction of the game. On the one hand, the game wants to be a serious examination of the horrors of war through the eyes of those affected by the first major conflict of the 20th century. While on the other, it wants to be a rollicking, pumped up action ride of pulp sensibilities, mustachioed villain and everything. It’s not so much that the fun, action-oriented pulp storyline featuring Baron Von Dorf is terrible, just that it should have been a separate game from the melancholy “family torn apart” storyline. It’s the back and forth between these two plotlines that let diminished Valiant Heart‘s promise.

That’s all well trodden ground and is material that would be quite easily excised from any potential remake. I feel the game suffers from another division of purpose, one that is more subtle and not quite easily extracted from the whole. It’s not so much a single element or series of elements, but a matter of one element that exists throughout Valiant Hearts. It’s a pattern best exemplified by this one overly pandering element: the narrator.

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Double Take: 'The French Connection' (1971)

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"You pick your feet in Poughkeepsie, and we pick The French Connection for Double Take #18.

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