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Nick

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xx DC NEW 52: A back to basics approach?
« Thread started on: Nov 29th, 2013, 07:32am »

This post will be full of massive conjecture and generalisation, but nonetheless, I was thinking this morning that maybe the Reboot is a bit of a back to basics approach for the medium. Obviously the style of Pre-Crisis comics changed massively during the 45+ years they were going, hence the massive generalisations, but I’m looking at what the early years of each of the three continuities brought us. I’ll probably gloss over most points, for anybody to read this it this needs to be an essay, not a thesis.

Pre-Crisis: When comics started they were aimed as enjoyment for children who probably had little to no education. As long as you could read you didn’t need anything more to enjoy these titles. Stories and characters weren’t necessarily logical and dialogue was ridiculous, you didn’t need to put any thought process in to understand what was going on, they were as simple and straightforward as you can get, so lack of education or general intelligence was no hindrance.

New-52: Intelligence is something you best switch off at the door, if you start thinking about these stories your enjoyment will be ruined. Illogical stories and characters with ridiculous dialogue. Again, these are stories that have no barrier on a level of education or intelligence to enjoy. They are base entertainment again.

Post-Crisis: Stories started to get more involved, deeper and more intelligent. Perhaps there was now a focus as much, if not more, on an older market. Of course we would still see easily digestible stories, which was good to retain; but we’d also get some complex works of art, such as most things by Grant Morrison. Work by Morrison would require careful attention to the details, analysis, and reflection to gain full enjoyment. Morrison would give you everything you need, but you had to work for the enjoyment, and if you were capable of putting that effort it, the sense of awe and satisfaction when you realise what it all means was unmatched in the medium. But not even just Morrison’s greatness, the general idea of long form storytelling required for the most part a greater attention to the details to remember character arcs and how the basic character development fits together.


Which brings me nicely on to the next point, Continuity.


Pre-Crisis: Continuity was not something that was worried about. These stories were designed so you could pick them up month by month, read, then move on. You could jump in and out anytime. References to past stories would be nice, but never overbearing; they would be more for the writer’s enjoyment than anything else. Knowledge of previous stories was a bit like intelligence, you didn’t require any to enjoy the stories. They were for everyone, not just a select elite.

New-52: A startlingly similar attitude to Continuity isn’t it? Don’t think about any of it because DC clearly hasn’t. Three years in and it is all completely senseless, and don’t even try and formulate a rough timeline with how it all fits together because you’ll end up a quivering wreck on the floor. Continuity is a hindrance DC doesn’t want to worry about with plot holes and inconsistencies abound and ‘shell’ characters that don’t evolve or realistically interact or grow. Again, references to previous stories or events are a novelty rather than an organic process of progress. Continuity is like a long running cartoon like The Simpsons or Scooby-Doo. Nothing really changes; we always revert back to the status quo at the end of every episode.

Post-Crisis: Yes it took a couple of years to properly settle in, and yes there were still plot holes and inconsistencies throughout, of course I concede this. But overall there was a real attempt to realise this little Micro-Universe and have it organically grow and develop over the years. Characters reacted to significant events, they matured, and they changed. Important history would factor in years later, for the first example that springs to mind Bruce’s failed battle with Bane in Knightfall was still haunting him when up against the Second Ghost Of Batman in Batman & Son. It was realistic, and it was appreciated by the readers. Artistically we had a better product, but in a consumer culture was this more elite product fit for purpose? Was Continuity a ‘barrier’ to new readers off put by the legacy of the product? Could a back to basics approach make comics for everyone again, not just for the hardcore?


Tying into this point is marketing of the storytelling method.


Pre-Crisis: Tune in every month for the new adventures of your favourite characters, what more do you need? Without the collector mentality and dearth or reprint collections, the stories were something you would read once and dispose of, either throw away or pass onto family or friends to enjoy. Once I saw a goat who was sitting on a boat, he was wearing a nice coat and encircling the moat. That sentence serves no purpose other than to see who is paying attention to this rambling, anyway, back to business where I left off. Comics were like your TV soap operas in that regard, they live for the moment, not slaves to the past.

New-52: We’ve moved back to this ideal. While there are marketing gimmicks like shiny covers to suck people in, there is no incentive to hang onto the material. There is no Continuity worth hanging onto issues for, and they aren’t exactly collector’s material with their poor print quality and artistic void and rejection of legacy numbering. Other than some sort of Hipster/Scene-Kid bragging rights for having the complete set, hanging onto older issues serves no positive purpose, it only goes to enforce that DC don’t care about Continuity. Stories are short term nonentities that are often marketed as shock events. ‘They’ll change the life of [insert character here] forever!!! But don’t worry; they’ll be back to the same status quo next issue, so if you miss this one it’s really no big deal.’ Events and crossovers are shameless excuses to slap a logo on the cover and tempt the Hipsters/Scene-Kids in with their shininess. My personal opinion is that this is further exemplified by the increased focus of Digital Publication. No physical waste (which is good of course), but no collector worth whatsoever, but that’s okay because there’s nothing collectable about the stories anyway.

Post-Crisis: Collected Editions became a thing, so stories stuck around; perhaps this initially led to an increased focus on Continuity. But marketing by the publishers was a whole lot more intelligent. For all my criticisms of some of his writing, Denny O’Neil had a good business mind on him. How do you solve the problem of those large numbers on the front cover that might put people off? In the Ten Nights Of The Beast TPB Introduction by Senior Editor Dan Raspler, he states that O’Neil’s concept was to create more epic stories that ran over multiple issues, but you make it clear to the courting reader by putting the story title on the cover with “Part X of Y”. This way the reader new they were getting an exciting story that wasn’t just a done in one, but it also made enticing new readers manageable because they’d only need a handful of issues to enjoy a complete story. At the time this was marketing genius, it preserved the legacy of the numbering, but made it clear what part of a story you were getting, and what issues you needed to get the complete picture. Then of course O’Neil was behind the new concept of the epic crossover, like Knightfall. A successful idea at the time which in later years would be consumed by the desire to use it for easy sales boosts. For O’Neil it was about the business, but it involved for the most part the retention of artistic integrity to get it. Under lesser minds greed took to the forefront, exploit the customers by slapping a logo on the cover and they’ll buy it, whether related to the story of not. Even in strong periods in the Batman line, this approach was clear under DiDio. I liked the Heart Of Hush storyline, but why does it have the RIP banner on it?



Lastly we'll take a little look at what I will call creative bravery.


Pre-Crisis: 1950s censorship aside (or is that because of?) there was unfettered creativity throughout this Continuity, it can't be denied.

New-52: We're stuck with these dull facades of characters. Vapid, lifeless avatars like the Nolan/Bale Batman. No substance, no artistic worth or merit. Just stick them in big epic stories that don't focus on their minds and souls and that will satisfy the masses. There is also a fear of trying something new, just look at the overwhelming number of comics with Batman and Superman on the title/cover. They sell so why bother risking something different? PROGRESS! DIDIO!

Post-Crisis: Night Cries. Enough said. But for those that haven't read it, a story with next to no action that delves into the deep psychology of the characters. A Beautiful and moving read, and utterly true to every character represented. Overall, characters who grew over time.



You see, I was playing Batman: Arkham Origins recently, and that's what set this whole thing off. The rampant 'Nolanisation' of it all, for lack of a better term. All the huge set pieces full of action and explosions seemed so vast in scale they felt like a betrayal of what Batman is about. He is the human who stars in human stories. Does he really need to be the action Superhero in epic action set pieces? I'd argue not, at least not as his primary function or as a regular use of him. The game was just so devoid of any depth, like the Nolan films. All show, no soul.
« Last Edit: Nov 29th, 2013, 07:50am by Nick » User IP Logged

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xx Re: DC NEW 52: A back to basics approach?
« Reply #1 on: Nov 29th, 2013, 07:33am »

So in summary:

At the beginning comics were for everyone. Post-Crisis led to a more elite market, but it was a fairly closed market that was tough to break into for new readers. Artistically the medium was the strongest it had ever been, but as a business perhaps it was failing.

‘Blockbuster’ films have made comic characters big business again, and DC have attempted, rightly or wrongly, to make comics mass market material again to capitalise on this rather than keep them tied up with the hardcore elite.

Perhaps we shouldn’t begrudge DC for trying to bring these characters to as many people as possible, after all, they have endured for so long, it would be selfish and wasteful to kill them now. Maybe going back to what made comics successful eighty years ago is not a bad thing…

But… And this is a very big “But”. Sales are no better than they were before. The mass market has shown that they would rather consume superheroes in films, television, and video games. In many ways comics are an outdated medium that the consumer culture has forgotten. So why take them away from the hardcore that put the time, effort, love, and money into them? For us, we’ll still go to the cinema to watch the films, we’ll still buy them and TV shows on Blu Ray and DVD. We’ll still buy and play the video games. So why take away the very thing that fuels our love for these things? And for those incomparable numbers who love the motion picture/game medium interpretations of these characters primarily, what is there attracting them to the comics other than some quaint fashionable status of them that will pass when Hipster/Scene-Kid culture finally dies and the next thing comes along? When they all move along, who will be left? The loyal few who loved the comics as their primary medium for these characters are all gone.

I suppose there is a sort of homogeny in the characters throughout all mediums now. In films, games, comics they have all lost their depth. There was once a time we could have anti-mass-market films like Batman Returns that had levels of complexity and psychological depth unseen in Superheroes previously. I grudgingly accept Superheroes are too big business to allow this again, at least in the foreseeable future. Personally I enjoy the modern Batman films and games in small doses, but the vapid nature of them tires me before long because there is nothing for me to think about. But those classic Burton films are endlessly rewatchable because every time there is something new to discover, a little attention to detail previously missed.

Before the Reboot we had stories as wonderful as Batman Returns, you only have to see the negative reaction to much of Morrison to see he went way over most people’s heads, but so what?! There were still stories that were easy to digest and didn’t require extensive historical knowledge. There was something for everyone. Consume it all if you’re hardcore, if you’re not just get what you like. Was this really so bad?

Homogeny may bring brand unity so you get the same character in the same story in whatever medium you encounter them, which is great from a marketing standpoint. But honestly, for the consumer, where’s the fun in that?



[Apologies for any crazy grammar or spelling, I'm ill and probably not in my best mind to do right this, but it was a fun thing to do while sitting in bed.]
« Last Edit: Nov 29th, 2013, 07:56am by Nick » User IP Logged

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xx Re: DC NEW 52: A back to basics approach?
« Reply #2 on: Dec 2nd, 2013, 1:18pm »

Interesting writeup.

And nice touch with the color coded text: New 52=red 4 slaughter, post-Crisis=purple for superiority?

There's a surface layer of the topical (redundant) with these (new) books, as if they're challenging the status quo and making both moral and political arguments. The LGBT stuff that has become more of a focus is perhaps the major example -- gay Batwoman, transgender friends, etc. -- but what does this mean? Couldn't the same be said for PBS' Sesame Street?

Ah, sex. DC is providing "mature" storytelling because of overt sexual themes rather than, simply, Children's Diversity Plays, or so the rhetoric goes. (one could also note that this feels like warmed-over Civil Rights Marvel Comics from the '60s; I've been belaboring the LGBT/DC point quite a bit, but it's an important piece of the[ir] argument for relevance, with the truth being something else; can a LGBT characters really matter as long as their main reason for existence is promotion of a cause and lifestyle, rather than an exploration of it?)

There's the underlying irony, at least if we go to the '50s, of why stories were so over the top, "simple" and, perhaps, even more allegorical through that selfsame imagery: Dr. Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent.

Pulp sexuality and violence had to be bowdlerized in any overt sense from the text. In turn, the comics would move away from any sense of consequence and thus continuity; for consequence implies the distinct possibility of negative outcomes, including death.

First Wertham was right, then he was wrong and now, as mature sexual themes *and* gay issues coalesce, he's a mixture of industry bogeyman and forgotten nut. The price of prescience, no matter if you agree with him morally or detest him.
.
Likewise, it's not about whether that era was good or bad so much as what following its path entails. It's a state without any entelachy beyond monthly release schedules; characters never really die, age or mature. At best, they rubber band. How can dramatic scale be achieved with these limitations?

What you end up with as an odd pathology and implication. This Vampiric obsession with youth, then. What is sexual, what is sexy (as promotional base) and the ever-present need to integrate characters as Branding, meaning a complete aversion to mortality. DC Comics as a 52-issue monthly line of love letters to Anne Rice and her homoerotic Interview With the Vampire: a bunch of men discovering they no longer need women (in DC's case, anything beyond casual hookups) when they find immortality. Why marry and have children (yes, vampires aren't fertile, rather they "recruit" or spread their curse; allegory) if you can never age, never die? Statues in the garden: what does fertility matter? What need for Eden. Or Eve.

In other words, even if Batwoman was canceled tomorrow, even if DC assiduously avoided gay characters from now on, the text is arguably as gay as its ever been. Queer Theorists would (and probably are) having a field day with Didio's DC.

It's a twisted marriage (and we all know how DC feels about that) of the childish and the perverse. Pulp minstrelsy. Pulp shtetl. All the debasement of the 30s and 40s commingling with fantastically inconsequential 50s and early 60s. That's the New 52

Then, as topper, we have the post-continuity argument as an issue of media integration. Hal Jordan has to be Green Lantern to help sell the new would-be franchise, even though the comics industry is near non-existent as larger media concern and, even at that, may have a larger enthusiast audience than that selfsame Ryan Reynolds' disaster. If Barry Allen is going to be the Flash in a new Goyer film, then he better be the Flash in the comics.

It's fascinating the business model Warners pursue when you look at their big franchise of the last decade, Harry Potter. It's a finite story with consequences. Without these elements, in the books or on film, would it have been nearly as important? Nearly as popular? Nearly as big a BRAND?

How can comics matter when their characters can't grow? How can they be important when no story "really" counts because, well, they all do?

Apologies. I think I just repeated what you said.

But as I've said, they look to Morrison. Yet what is trace paper's worth in the midst of an original Picasso? What Morrison explored were these larger themes of death, immortality and the Iconic as a brand argument. Batman can't die. Batman is a modern myth, largely because of corporatism. He's that oval: a piece of pop art that finds beauty through commerce. He's a god.

How do you follow that up, with or without continuity? Snyder...

You mention Knightfall. To me, there's a bigger argument for that work, no matter how, conversely, lacking it was beyond the marketed conceit if read on its own. Centrally, it was built off of a large bulk of post-Crisis continuity, and made a distinctly personal textual-avowal from O'Neil. You can trace pieces of it back to Blind Justice and Shaman, with the true pathology and exegesis being Denny's disdain for Frank Miller's Batman (well, the suicidal sadomasochism, anyway). All these little pieces add up through the course of early post-Crisis as O'Neil creates works that are simultaneously of the Miller zeitgeist and questioning it.

The point is, without consequential continuity -- including the conflated pieces of DKR and ADItF -- this wouldn't be the case. The surrounding depth of ideas that created the structure -- not just the media footprint -- for Knightfalll would have been impossible.

That's 5-7 years of continuity pieces that led to one event arc. By the time of Knightsend, or its opening chapters, O'Neil is able to bookend Shaman, and by its coda have Jean Paul standing in Wayne's place and Wayne standing in Bane's. In Knightfall, there's the implied antagonist-design from Blind Justice -- Bane as a cypher to a cause in a meta context, just as it was for Hamm's antagonist/protagonist conflict in Blind Justice --- and the overt payoff of Venom (Bane as pure addict, Wayne as a man addicted to his own pain). And in between, Knightquest: Jean Paul Valley as O'Neil's most direct attack on the Miller Model, with Wayne's side quest as an antipodal point to the AzBats assumption and ethos: mind over matter through the lens of a detective story (however disappointing).
« Last Edit: Dec 13th, 2013, 2:25pm by Will » User IP Logged

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xx Re: DC NEW 52: A back to basics approach?
« Reply #3 on: Jan 6th, 2014, 03:44am »

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You see, I was playing Batman: Arkham Origins recently, and that's what set this whole thing off. The rampant 'Nolanisation' of it all, for lack of a better term. All the huge set pieces full of action and explosions seemed so vast in scale they felt like a betrayal of what Batman is about. He is the human who stars in human stories. Does he really need to be the action Superhero in epic action set pieces?


I haven't finished City. How does Origins compare?

From a gameplay perspective I like AA and AC quite a bit, yet the tonal choices so far as story structure and characterization are discordant. As games strive more to be an amalgamation of gameplay and narrative, missing on the latter becomes an ever-bigger problem -- particularly because challenge, if not interaction, is compromised to serve it.

Take the NES Batman (this isn't a "please!" punchline). The game's narrative value, in totality, came from its gameplay: how the avatar controlled, the way levels were designed and the enemy types encountered (not just where they were placed, but their patterns and the number of hits required to get past them).

The difference between that era -- epoch, considering the degree of technological shift -- and today's is, of course, degrees of complication versus simplification. But at times simplicity is its own art -- sancta simplicitas -- and the growing irony is that the NES arguably produced more genuine action beats than the PS3/360 overall ("PC" is too broad a category).

Is there a game that's as tight as Contra III so far as action dynamics and player control over these elements? Uncharted creates impressive setpieces that somehow fall flat compared to an SNES action game. The lack of difficulty and the on-rails elements to these moments conflate to undermine the game's pacing in-gameplay; but, of course, that's only half of Uncharted's point.

It's why I still love Halo. The setpieces are often huge, and the challenge can be intense vis-a-vis enemy a.i and logistics. Tangent.

Twitch gameplay is becoming a thing of the past. The level of challenge required to make an intense action piece is something that most modern developers either find off-putting or can't afford to indulge.

What they create are faux filmic narratives. You interact, to various degrees, while the game hopes you're tricked into believing in the conceit of an enveloping, extemporaneous "living narrative"; of course, the reality is that the game may be more restrictive than the pure action games made decades ago.

City is an extremely well-made game within those modern strictures, and manages more through a certain amount of open-world expansion. The biggest problem is in the World Building element, both as far as interaction and characterization.

A good portion of the game's attraction is in creating the illusion of being in Batman's world. But which Batman is this? The twisted Victorian, Furstian Deco elements appealed to me -- e.g. the somewhat Metropolis/Things To Come(? may be general osmosis on the latter)-inspired underground city/world's fair, and the Dickensian springboard from the Penguin's aesthetic -- but just as many character setups miss their mark.

And the worst part is that Batman himself is one of them. A near-total cypher, his interactions with the villains take on little meaning beyond the gameplay itself. When Batman responds to the given taunt of a villain, it rarely if ever (I'm not recalling a moment) rises above Dumb Jock or Fake Tough. It's absolutely perfunctory: Batman has to say something but they don't have anything for Batman to say...except the obvious. without a microbe of wit, black humor or general timing.

With Batman, some of the best moments come from internalization. But the game can't reach that level of sophistication, even though that would seem like the most obvious goal for a game. There's a gap that they don't appear capable of making up, at least in the last gen. Let's hope there's an awareness.

Bane is a train wreck in both games. Similarly, Mr. Freeze is such a stupid villain on gameplay that it renders the character soulless; the disconnect hurts immersion. Why is Freeze, a supposedly genius scientist, interacting like a monster movie lab creation?

Funnier still is that Mr. Freeze is introduced in a museum setup that explicitly recalls Batman & Robin's opening. Whether it shows actual wit or a love for obvious kitsch, this at least provides some charm to the cross-medium reference point. And following that with a literal Jump The Shark Moment is a coherent, smart punchline.

On the problem scale, again, if the game is supposed to envelop us in Batman's world in conflated narrative/gameplay format, Bane and Freeze being retarded A.I. bots does not help its concept. It doesn't help its cause.

I'm curious as to how these games will age. Is it my age that allows me to go back to Batman or Contra so easily? Probably. I mean, it's not reductive nostalgia, but is about the broader entry-point on gameplay: people who never played those games as kids may not understand format or conceit at all, beyond any issues with the primitive visual and aural elements. If you're used to playing limited, interactive setpiece games, then the point of software that is dedicated to severe difficulty and constant, quick decision making may be anathema (if not altogether beside the point, in a cross-cutting cultural context).

Even so, as Uncharted and Arkham age, how will their mix of gameplay and cinematics play in either context and as overall package?

Compared to Max Payne 3, Batman's stiff, embarrassing "interactions" in cinematics, compared to his grace in gameplay, already make for a very clumsy mix relatively.

R* is an interesting addendum to that question. So far as World Building and complementing gameplay with characterization, they are arguably an entire generation ahead of other AAA devs.
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xx Re: DC NEW 52: A back to basics approach?
« Reply #4 on: Jan 6th, 2014, 08:15am »

Compared to City, Origins does some stuff better, and a lot worse. The basic gameplay is a lot more glitchy and frustrating, and the story is beyond awful, and it definitely overstays it's welcome. One thing that could be called lazy is that the map is the same as City, you are in the exact same location, just with a re-skin. However, that re-skin actually makes Gotham significantly more enjoyable to simply be in. My issue with City was that it was all one big slum, it was boring, no variation. Origins still has the Steel Mill section. But the rest of the Gotham you can access is normal, it's Christmas time so there are lights, decorations, and snow. To be honest it's at times quite a nice relaxing place to float over. Although there is an utterly preposterous excuse as to why there are no civilians, which hurts credibility.

on Jan 6th, 2014, 03:44am, Will wrote:
Take the NES Batman (this isn't a "please!" punchline).


Ah, but I would argue that while I have spent much more time with these modern Batman games, I have had much more pure fun with those old ones. NES Batman, I don't remember so clearly, but I liked it. Was the Mega Drive (Genesis) version based on that one? I know there were two or three different base games that different ports were based on. I had the Atari ST game, I liked that one a lot. Hard as hell, I never could finish it, but I thought that was an excellent game. There was another great one I had on Atari ST too, it was based on the comics, and each screen was like a comic panel. In the first part you are after the Penguin, in the even better second you are in the sewers after the Joker who has kidnapped Jason Todd. Both were hard as hell, neither I ever finished, but they were really impressive. I think this was on the Comodore 64 and Amiga. But the Atari ST version by far had the best graphics, they were really impressive. Good Batman games in those days.

A few years later were the two versions of Batman Returns. The SNES version had amazing graphics, they took a more realistic approach. But there is something about the Mega Drive one that I truly love, I think it is something to do with those much darker graphics and art style, and some deeply melancholic music.


http://superadventuresingaming.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/batman-movie-amiga.html - Pretty sure Atari one had better graphics

http://superadventuresingaming.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/batman-caped-crusader-atari-st.html
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xx Re: DC NEW 52: A back to basics approach?
« Reply #5 on: Jan 7th, 2014, 05:00am »

I agree that the biggest design flaw of City is that eponymous element (shit, think I'm sounding like a robot again): it makes a *really* nice first impression but there isn't much to look at if you just wander around. The "open" world bullet point makes for underwhelming gameplay: looking for Riddler Icons, running to answer Zsasz's weird/boring/embarrassing attempts at "disturbed" calls and/or looking for tanks to break for Bane.

The concept isn't fully explored through graphical design or in-depth side missions; the lack of detail and difference between prisoner classes and areas is disappointing. You have a mix of low-level offenders, high-level offenders, political prisoners and psychotic serial killers; shouldn't there be a lot more going on than gangs of thugs standing around gossiping about the Joker and Harley's love life? It's less GTA V and more a Rare collectathon.

Anyway. You made the best point.

The gaps in Origins, ludicrous as it may sound, struck me when I saw Batman's costume. He can return to the cave whenever, but he wears the same costume -- as it gets torn to shreds -- throughout the game? Uh, why? It was a scripted device to help with pacing and progression in the story space, but it doesn't work if you open up Batman''s world too much.

Then, why didn't Batman keep a spare costume in the ridiculous Asylum cave? Still, I think it's worse in [the case of Origins...perhaps unjustifiably. I mean, if the world gets bigger I think it should become more detailed, and details are often minute.

It just doesn't feel like Montreal improved on Rocksteady's base. It's the Blade Runner retrofit or Furst/Burton's urban planning: just build over what's already there, no matter the structural faults and anomalies.

And I say all this without having played the game. tongue
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xx Re: DC NEW 52: A back to basics approach?
« Reply #6 on: Jan 14th, 2014, 07:16am »

Quote:
Ah, but I would argue that while I have spent much more time with these modern Batman games, I have had much more pure fun with those old ones. NES Batman, I don't remember so clearly, but I liked it. Was the Mega Drive (Genesis) version based on that one? I know there were two or three different base games that different ports were based on. I had the Atari ST game, I liked that one a lot. Hard as hell, I never could finish it, but I thought that was an excellent game. There was another great one I had on Atari ST too, it was based on the comics, and each screen was like a comic panel. In the first part you are after the Penguin, in the even better second you are in the sewers after the Joker who has kidnapped Jason Todd. Both were hard as hell, neither I ever finished, but they were really impressive. I think this was on the Comodore 64 and Amiga. But the Atari ST version by far had the best graphics, they were really impressive. Good Batman games in those days.


NES Batman takes a lot from NES Ninja Gaiden, including the wall jump; quick and unforgiving are the key words. Also, 'great'. I don't think I ever beat it but a friend did at 3 in the morning and had to tell me...at 3 in the morning. The Genesis version isn't a close match on gameplay. I'm a little meh on the latter -- I just don't like the way Batman controls.

Revenge of the Joker was a crypto non-sequel: advertised as an implied followup, it's vaguely taken from post-Crisis rather than the film (Joker's revenge would have been quite the feat in that context; more Beetlejuice maybe, and what's the point of Beetlejuice sans Salvador Dali?). It might be the best looking NES game I've seen. Hitting at the same time as the SNES' US release I remember it looked better than some of the games on 16-bit. When I learned it was on Genesis I thought it would be amazing. It is.

It's amazing how *badly* it compares to the NES version. Hideous redesign of the sprites completely ruined it for me.

There's something less mainstream but more obvious (well, should be) niggling at the back of my mind as a comparison point, but Mega Man is what's stuck in my mind as a base on gameplay; gameplay that has almost nothing to do with its non-prequel. I don't remember it playing as well as Batman, but it wasn't awful and the graphical presentation carried it; not something that usually happened in 1991 with NES software.

I've never played a thing on Commodore or ST. I'm a cultural cliche from that era: all NES, all the time. I knew a kid that had a Master System -- offered to give it to me -- and a family that had an *ancient* Atari 7600 (well, that's how it felt to me, anyway), That was the extent of my cross-platform play, unless you count arcades.

There was an ad for an overhead Batman game around the time of the first film's release. Was it on Amiga? ST? Commodore? Can't remember. It was based on the comic and I was always curious about it...

I missed out on the console wars of the early 90s. First, I don't remember any of us caring enough to "hate" either Sega or Nintendo. Second, I had both the SNES and Genesis. It's interesting how the two conflate: the Genesis' marketing and the SNES hardware (controller, sound chip, hints of 3D through Mode 7) came together to hint at then form the Playstation Generation in the West.

Still. N64 had Mario 64 and GoldenEye...it probably was the more revolutionary console with the analog stick and SGI feature set, but there were too few games and too many of them were Superman 64 rather than Pilot Wings. Also, good job hiding the microcode for most of the system's life, Nintendo. Thumbs up, as usual.

Oh. Batman. Right.

Quote:
A few years later were the two versions of Batman Returns. The SNES version had amazing graphics, they took a more realistic approach. But there is something about the Mega Drive one that I truly love, I think it is something to do with those much darker graphics and art style, and some deeply melancholic music.


Yeah. Everything you mentioned is what I liked about it; I remember it got mediocre reviews and, in a way, I understand that side of it. But the way the game *felt* appealed to me. It was a pretty typical Genesis action platformer, but the grungier, darker common thread in those games fit Batman Returns. And the fact that it was an action platformer was a positive compared to the SNES version.

Not that I dislike beat 'em ups. The main problem with Returns on SNES is how it tries to marry the arcade fighting concept with a poorly realized bit of action platforming. The controls are stiff in the platforming areas, seemingly because they decided to paste their beat 'em up sprites onto a single plane, with the zoom identical. It's like a poor man's variation on Sega's Spider-Man...but the idea falters without perspective-zoom.

I like the beat 'em up portions, though. If only the game didn't have the fat clowns bouncing across the screen on a single plane like Rosie O'Donnel looking for a buffet or a trophy wife...

I always wanted to play the PC version of Batman Returns. The game still looks cool to me:



Batman Forever has some great software. I mean, games that really capture the license: terrible, boring, garish and idiotic. Batman Forever on SNES/GEN was the nadir/zenith of the shitty mocap era. Right up there with Midway's Sub Zero platformer in its inept control. The overall design is horrendous; wasn't Up+Start the way to shoot a grapnel? What?! Stiff and arcane.

But the sad part is....I didn't mind playing it. Yes. I'm a freak... Or I was at 12.

True Lies, Demolition Man and Judge Dredd are all much better games from Acclaim's licensing spree. I'd go so far as to call them good, despite Acclaim's -- deserved -- wretched rep on 16-bit. Batman Forever is pretty plainly and -- to whatever degree, so far as acceptable gameplay parameters -- objectively pathetic. The type of Western release that recalls piles of E.T. carts leading to a market crash.

But that's not the stand-out piece of software that carries Batman Forever's mark; that, instead, was on Playstation/Saturn. It's like playing from the perspective of a drunk clown that won't stop puking and shitting rainbows, while being sexually assaulted by the Village People. The most garish mess I've seen in a big movie license, it looks and plays like an ADD-riddled drug trip orgy. If a game could give you STDs, this would be The One. It feels like the worst parts of a post-seventies hangover...the drugs are gone and so is free love, but all the awful policy decisions and architecture are right there to haunt anyone who bothers to look.

In other words, the perfect Batman Forever game.
« Last Edit: Jan 14th, 2014, 07:25am by Will » User IP Logged

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xx Re: DC NEW 52: A back to basics approach?
« Reply #7 on: Aug 1st, 2014, 12:53pm »

Bought Origins for basically nothing - the only way I ever buy digital - so yes, my buying habits will help lead to the end of AAA development. (Is Origins "AAA", "AA" or just "A"? Are there any AA or A studios at this point?)

The city is somewhere between mediocre and indefensible; not that, honestly, I dislike it that much. It's a mediocre effort for the generation, but it highlights how little has improved from the OG Xbox era.

The streets are dead in a way that doesn't logically adhere, instead feeling like what it is: a game that mishmashes its conceit with prior programming. I certainly don't mind the outline (its potential is immense) but it has to first carry, if not on ratiocination, then tonality. Gotham doesn't feel particularly mournful, eery or lonely; converse to the latter most point it just feels empty and artificial. Contrast that to -- and, yeah, beating a dead horse vis-a-vis comparative franchise referencing -- the original Max Payne which manages all those aforementioned positive (on a storytelling/artistic scale) feelings within the structure of a dead city.

But Payne's operatic, pulp qualities make it into something that feels like art, even if it's a "lower" form; its embrace of noir cliches (the aforementioned pulp narrative structure, Max's inner monologues [redundant?], etc.) and, selfsame, expressionistic excesses (the idea of the world as an expression of the Max's mind, whether through the city or in his nightmarish flashbacks) give it an atmospheric density that no Arkham game to date has come close to. It's a point that sticks with me across mediums: if you strip Batman of his depression then you strip the material of its pathos, and you're left with a humorless, witless stiff dressed like a giant bat. It leaves me with the distinct impression, every time, of inept creators accidentally providing ongoing homages to Adam West's Batman.

On the bright side, in the limited time I've played it this Batman is marginally less stiff and witless than the two Conroy/Dini entries that have preceded him.

But that returns to game design: Max Payne is a tightly structured, linear design document, rather than a forced open world structure. It all comes together because gameplay logically dovetails with tonal concerns. Origins is a game of partially leftover assets; the limited nature of the City Prison, ala Escape From New York, was disappointing enough on details with City. Here it's so threadbare that it comes up notably short when contrasted to games from the early 2000s.

It's one thing for Batman to beat up-- i.e. XP grind -- criminals that are locked up in the prison structure. But why is he looking to beat the shit out of any random group that stands around a fire in a garbage can? He's a vigilante that is following the fascist state's laws to the very letter...or, it's just bad world building and game design. Take your pick. Considering where games are today, it's hard to believe that poor conflation of story structure with game structure doesn't matter. What does is make the game feel limited, if not vacuous,

I was going to complain about the awful character design in spots, but I guess it does make sense for a billionaire industrialist to see guys that look like dock workers as hardened criminals. Evidently Batman heard that there was going to be a bunch of teamsters on the streets on Christmas Eve: time to union bust. Maybe the next entry can explore Bruce Wayne's desperate need for more H1B workers. tongue

You look at a game like Jet Set Radio Future, and the one thing it undeniably gets right is the vision of a megacity-as-open-world. Is there much to do? No. Not at all. But there are various areas, either in daylight or at night, that are overwhelmingly alive. When you're racing through streets filled with pedestrian NPCs it -- shock -- brings the sand box to life. How can a game from 2002 get this so much more right than a game from 2013? Again, as world building, Jet Set Radio Future is something more akin to art, from its graphical design to its soundtrack. Origins? We've covered at least half of it, but what about that opening? It literally has left over horn work from Goldenthal's tacky, overwrought Batman Forever score.

Art is subjective, right? We're living under postmodernism, so the answer is axiomatic; neo-romanticism endlessly repackaging anything and everything. But if this game is trash, and even if trash can be art, the problem remains: I can't even throw it in the trash. It's not only a postmodern world, it's now a digital, postmodern world. Digital Justice is kitsch trash, and it was right about everything.

But is the game trash?

As an open world, yeah. I think it is. It builds on the sins of City, starting and mostly ending with an open world that is devoid of both life and interesting side missions. We can see that with the constant recycling of the Riddler puzzle pieces. it was a workable distraction in Asylum, but for games that expand into full open world cityscapes the idea is laughably threadbare.

But this entry is, so far, better than City in its main mission structure. It's more clever and better paced. The encounter with the Electrocutioner is surprising and humorous, because it ends so easily, so abruptly after the ridiculous buildup. I don't remember a single encounter in the other two Arkhams that surprised me. I don't remember one that plays on the idea of Batman's superiority so well.

And within the same mission they manage to completely flip the script. Deathstroke is the first NPC in this series that plays as a physical equal to Batman. Montreal, unlike Rocksteady (maybe I'm forgetting something), manages to create a boss conflict that feels like a complex, well paced fight between high level martial artists. There are flaws in it -- the QTE stuff has been bothering me since Shenmue, makes me think of Dragon's Lair, and portends AAA console gaming's usurpation by tablet games if its taken too far -- but nothing that can be painted as inferior implementation to what Rocksteady provided. In that sense, they manage to expand upon the base and actually create a more compelling world through gameplay.

But that's only one battle. If they play too similarly across all the assassins, it could be too much of a good thing.

The detective element is far batter implemented. It's typical CSI crime scene rebuilding as the two prior games hinted at (generally speaking, I hate it [CSI]; that terrible mix of zeitgeist and banality), and Nolan played around with in The Dark Knight (but thankfully, Morgan Freeman doesn't show up here to do the detective work for Batman), and it's completely linear in its structuring. But while it may not be more complex through gameplay, it is far more immersive and believable as narrative pacing, thus it creates the sense of a smarter main character and a more involved overall outline. As far as implementation as "gameplay" -- whether style comes from, and how it's been expanded on -- the game was pretty obviously inspired by Remember Me.

Ironic. Remember Me's main interest is in the design and life of its world. If only they could have learned from that.

The setups are more exciting. Batman as a vigilante -- an actual vigilante -- that has to either run from or fight the cops is a more exciting character archetype than the deputized Batman of Asylum that has conversations with a litany of good cops, while sounding like Joe fucking Friday. The break in at the GCPD is a great idea. It's a great idea that's partially scuttled by the limitations of the series' gameplay. A police station where you can blow through walls without people in the next room noticing. A police station where you can have a fight in the lobby without one cop thinking of calling down every officer in the station. A police station without a single working camera (was this explained or at least poorly excused?). A police station with a bullpen that is nothing more than another Predator reskin.

It's a setup that begs for the gameplay of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.

If it doesn't look better, it at least looks different. They massaged the UE3 engine enough that Batman no longer looks like a character mod from the engine flat-out, and Gordon doesn't look like he has Dom's body from Gears of War.

If the game is flawed, it seems that it's under the weight of expectations. It's "just" improved in some key areas. In some ways I think it's a vast improvement but, as Nick said, in other ways it's a step back. I don't think it would be outrageous to say it's the best entry so far. Absolutely true? No. But arguable.

It was worth every penny.
« Last Edit: Aug 1st, 2014, 12:56pm by Will » User IP Logged

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