HER STORY Complete Transcript

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Ian here, cooped up during the shelter-in-place order and busy prepping for this quarter’s classes.

So I did that thing again, where I’m preparing to teach and/or critically analyze a game, make a guide for myself, and I figure I might as well put it online for public consumption. This time, it’s a complete transcript of all of the video assets in HER STORY, Sam Barlow’s 2015 full-motion video adventure that plays devious games with its script, before it ever adopted video format.

If you’ve ever wanted to fill in a pesky block in the HER STORY‘s in-game Database Checker while chasing the “Detective Chief Inspector” achievement, this guide is for you. As for me, it will be a course tool when I teach the game again this quarter, and it forms the research backbone of my next video essay.

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Macpocalypse

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Ian here—

For years now, I’ve wanted to update the section of my site devoted to games that can be easily integrated into syllabi. I was laying low until the firehose of my students’ work turned off, but I figured since I’m teaching another games-related course in Spring 2020 it would be a good time to return to the subject.

Unfortunately, the past few months have brought with them a significant new hurdle.

By now it’s old news that Chrome will be dropping Flash compatibility in December 2020. I’ve seen the pop-up, and I’ve gradually made peace with the fact that games like LonelinessProblem Attic, and The Artist Is Present won’t be accessible to students in the future. It’s a major loss for free, platform-agnostic games that could be easily assigned. But with the release of macOS Catalina in October, with its 64-bit requirements for all applications, I’m now forced to grapple with the fact that Mac, as a platform, is all of a sudden much less friendly to indie games than it had been for much of the past decade.

I’ve seen a few guides online to what is and isn’t broken by the strict 64-bit requirements of Catalina, but most of them are light on indie games (especially non-Steam indie games). So I went ahead and personally checked all of the games listed in my “practical pedagogical notes” section, and all of the games from my “games of the decade” list (including the honorable mentions). I’ve also added things that I’ve written about, included in a video, or done a capsule review of. Below the fold you’ll find a list of 32-bit games that no longer function on macOS Catalina. I’ll update the list as I test more, or if developers get around to updating them.

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Walkthrough: Kona

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The analysis I’ve been working on has again resulted in me writing a full-on game walkthrough, this time to Parabole’s 2017 game Kona. Again, I have decided that I might as well just post the results here, as a gesture of goodwill to the world.

There are some useful walkthroughs to Kona out there already, each with its own limitations. The most thorough walkthoughs explaining how to get 100% completion are videos, a format that I really dislike when it comes to games of this style. On the other hand, the written walkthroughs all exclude certain useful details, or sometimes have out-of-date details because they were written while the game was still in early access.

This walkthrough was written with the following goals in mind: thoroughly exploring and retrieving all documents from the game’s principle locations, and fully filling out the game’s journal. If you want to do those things, this is the guide for you. It’s not going to cover some other things, like where you can find all of the talismans and treasure hunt locations. If you want that sort of thing, you should check out another walkthrough (like this one here, which has a great map).  

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Walkthrough: The Painscreek Killings

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I’m in the midst of analyzing the detective game The Painscreek Killings (EQ Studios, 2017) right now, and as part of my process I ended up creating a quite detailed walkthrough. Since the work was already done, I figured I’d paste it over here, throw on some spoiler tags, and share it with the world. Might as well be generous.

There are a couple of other walkthroughs for Painscreek Killings out there, including this one here and this one here. I thought there was room on the internet for another walkthrough, though—one that was compact and consistently formatted. What follows are streamlined but nonetheless thorough details on how to proceed through the game.

Here’s a breakdown of how I’ve labeled things below:

gate is anything that obstructs your progress—usually a locked door, locked drawer, or literal locked gate.

Keys are absolutely necessary to get past a given gate in the game. These can be key items (literal physical keys, usually) that get added to your inventory, or key info (codes and puzzle hints) that often does not.

Clues point you in the direction of keys and solutions. They are not, however, mandatory. It is always possible (if unlikely) to stumble your way to the things indicated by clues just by exploring the world.

Embedded keys and clues are bits of information attached to an object that are important, but might not be immediately apparent: the date of a correspondence, a number stamped on a keepsake, a code mentioned in the pages of a diary, and the like.

Because of the nature of the game’s design (which is what I’m attempting to describe in my analysis), there is always going to be some amount of backtracking involved in it. The order I’ve listed the game’s locations in below minimizes backtracking as best as possible, without eliminating it.

Happy detecting!

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Adobe Plug-ins in 2017: A Tale of Five Browsers (on two operating systems)

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Ian here—

Some of this material used to be over in the “Practical Pedagogical Notes on Games” section of the site. I’ve decided to migrate it to a blog post, however, for logistical reasons.

It’s an HTML5 world out there. The plug-ins that used to define the landscape of the internet—Flash, in particular—are a dying breed.

If those previous two sentences don’t mean anything to do: Congratulations! You are like most people. This guide is for you. It is a practical, logistical resource to take a peek at when a browser-based game doesn’t work.

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A Practical Guide to Gone Home

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Ian here—

Two weeks ago, I taught Gone Home (The Fullbright Company, 2013) for my “Frames, Claims and Videogames” course. I hadn’t played the game in quite some time, so, in the run-up to the course, I re-played it, searching through the house exhaustively, reminding myself of where every last note and prop was, re-acquainting myself with the ins and outs of everyone’s story. Taking some notes, it occurred to me that it would be nice if there was a guide to it online. Not just a guide to picking up all of the items that give you achievements, or something like that—there are plenty of those online, already. Rather, a guide to the stories Gone Home tells, and where exactly you can find the environmental elements that move those stories forward, and flesh it out.

Well, I guess it falls to me to create what I’m looking for. Again.

My guide to Liz Ryerson’s Problem Attic (2013) was just a walkthrough. This is a bit more, as I have specifically designed it to aid in things like class prep and analysis. It isn’t, by itself, analysis, but tends closer to that direction than the Problem Attic one does. (I’d place it roughly in the realm of my Virginia videos.) Enjoy!

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A Practical Guide to Problem Attic

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Ian here—

Liz Ryerson’s Problem Attic (2013) is a classic of the personal games movement. It is also notoriously difficult, for a number of overlapping reasons. I have come to realize that there are no real walkthroughs of it online, to help players that might be interested in examining Ryerson’s game and seriously considering its themes, but simply cannot get through an especially tricky area without help. I have decided to rectify this, before I teach the game for a class.

If you are looking for pedagogical notes or analysis, be forewarned: there will be none of that in in this post. This is a walkthrough, pure and simple. I’m planning on posting something more genuinely analytical on this game in the weeks ahead, but first I thought I’d do the world a public service. (If only making walkthroughs was something one could put on a CV…)

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