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Korthistorier #2 - The Downward Spiral

"F*ck it, it's raining again." He dropped his shoes to the ground and sat on a nearby chair. A massive amount of water poured down his windows. He just sat there starring for a while. At some point he had to get outside, but it wasn't something that caused him a lot of excitement. Eli got up from his chair and powered on his computer. Sounds of familiarity filled the room, he could feel his tenseness leaving his body as he sat down in front of the glowing screen, water hammering violently against the window.

Nick had gotten rejected yet again, despite his valiant efforts the bitch had scoffed and looked at him in disgust. Nick wasn't taking it well and neither should he, Eli assured him. She probably wasn't very different from most of the girls, completely unable to notice the Nicks qualities for superficial reasons. Looks is what really matters, on that they all agreed. Half and hour passed and the rain had stopped. A storm was about to strike in the Bahamas, people were evacuating. Politicians argued back and forth, another shooting and Nick was depressed. Eli comforted him and others joined in, s*rew them, who needs women anyway?

The room was dark and the refrigerator was empty, Eli knew he had to get outside soon. It wasn't raining, so that was always something. She was standing across the aisle, looking through a shelf of cereal products. Did he stare discreetly? It sure felt like it, he just stood there pretending to be examining a chocolate bar. He got a split second of eye contact and quickly looked away, she grabbed a box and walked around the corner. Eli waited a couple of seconds and then he turned the corner, he wouldn't say he was following her, just two people walking in the same direction, maybe it was meant to be, she seemed to share his taste in cereal and her looks definitely wasn't categorically worse than his. They were both a 5 at least. When he turned the corner he saw the girl walking towards a guy with a cart, she dropped the cereal next to the rest of the groceries and touched the guy on the arm. Eli felt angry, who the f*ck was that j*rk supposed to be? Story of my f*cking life Eli thought to himself as he quickly retreated back around the corner.

Baked beans. Straight from the can- Slightly heated, almost lukewarm. Eli sitting in the light of the computer, filling his stomach. Nick was gone, no one had heard a word from him for days and yet life passed on. Dave was angry, had a similar experience to Eli, but in a shoe store instead of a supermarket. Life was unfair as per usual. Some guy was acting like a pain in the *ss You just gotta pull yourself together, get some interesting hobbies and work out. As if that would do much of a difference, it's possible to improve but only as much as biology allowed. On this they all agreed and later in the day the *sshole finally gave up and left. The desireables always thought they knew better, it's easy to give advice when nature has been kind to you.

He had started taking walks in the local park, it had been a great way to pass time ever since Eli had noticed that cereal box girl used the place as a hangout with her friends. He had yet to see the d*ckhead around, maybe he had dumped her, that would be the most logical conclusion. Eli knew he had to do something, who else could comfort this girl in these hard times of hers? He kept his distance for now, sat down on a nearby bench where he looked out at the lake. From time to time he would glance in the direction of the cereal box girl. Something seemed off, the girls were looking worried and cereal box girl seemed shaken, one of her friends, a brunette at least a 7, kept glancing in Eli's direction, he felt warm inside. The girls started walking away, increasing their pace, hurriedly disappearing from Eli's sight. Maybe he had been wrong, the girl with the brown hair had seemed to have taken an actual interest in him, maybe she was the one to pursue instead of cereal box girl. It was probably for the better, cereal box girl seemed to be trouble, she was obviously hysterical after breaking up with d*ckhead.

Nick had resurfaced, this helped brighten Eli's day. Eli had been worried that maybe Nick had joined the ranks of posters who "an heroed". He didn't want to lose another friend, so Eli spent most of the day talking to Nick. The conversation didn't make a lot of sense, Nick wasn't exactly himself, he was understandably angry at the bitch who had denied him companionship. It turns out that he, in his weeks of absence, had witnessed the love of his life who unfairly rejected him over and over again despite his persistent efforts, walking hand in hand with another guy. Not just any guy, on of the jocks from Nicks class, a real douche bag. The girl had thrown Nick to the wolves, she didn't even want to be near him and barely acknowledged his existence. Eli assured Nick that this was typical behavior, when something better came along we would all be expendable. This wasn't really anything out of the ordinary, and it was something that could be easily expected, but it was easy to see that it had changed Nick. He didn't seem like himself, and Eli had a hard time comforting him. It didn't help that Nicks classmates had turned on him, the bitch had used her charm to basically isolate Nick from the world around him. Everyone seemed to be down on him, except for Eli and the rest of the posters who were willing to hear him out and to assure him that it was her fault and not his, he was just another victim among many.

Eli went to the park as had become his usual routine, he located his bench and sat starring at the lake. The girls hadn't arrived yet, this was weird, usually they would be here by now. As the hours past by Eli started to worry, where could they be? Had something happened? He felt sick to his stomach, something didn't feel right at all. That's when he heard a voice calling out Hey! Eli looked around. "Hey you! Creep! " Eli got up from the bench and turned around, a man was storming towards him and before he could register the turn of events, the first was firmly located in the middle of his face and he fell to the ground with a thud. Blood was flowing violently from his nose as he noticed that the guy standing above him was Cereal box girls asshole of a boyfriend. "Get the f*ck away from this park, f*cking creeper. If we ever see you again there's hell to pay!" D*ckhead stormed away, joined cereal box girl in the far end of the park and they wandered off. Eli just lied there and then he started to cry., he felt so utterly confused and alone.

Nick had been arrested, this became apparent after several days of silence from his part, followed by a news article from his local newspaper. A young man had been caught sitting in a car with a firearm and several explosives, not far away from his school. No one had confirmed that this was indeed Nick, but it seemed like the most logical conclusion. Eli felt guilty, he wasn't sure why, but he couldn't shake the feeling that he could have helped Nick, before everything went to hell.

Years later, Eli was working in a book store, he had made some friends in college and one of them had helped him getting the job after they had graduated. It wasn't the most busy place to be working, usually just a couple of customers per hour. This day wasn't much different from the rest, but a couple of hours after opening the store, Eli was struck with terror. Cereal box girl was browsing a shelf of novels. She had glanced in his direction, but didn't seem to have recognized him, this was a relief. After a while she came up to the counter with a book in hand. She asked what it cost, Eli answered and they politely exchanged money and Eli told her to have a nice day, she smiled and told him the same. Then she left and the day went on.

Korthistorier #1 - Figments

Jeg har været i gang med at skrive korthistorier og er nysgerrig efter hvad folk ville syntes om dem (På godt og ondt) så tænker at jeg ligeså godt kan dele dem her også. Jeg begyndte at skrive for et par uger siden, hvor det lykkdes mig at slå den kritiske sans fra, så jeg kunne fokusere mere på at producere tekst end på kvaliteten af teksten. Dermed ikke sagt at jeg ikke er glad for de ting jeg har skrevet, jeg er ret tilfreds med det meste men sigter efter at nå et højere niveau.

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The measuring tape rolled across the floor and hit the wall with a silent thud. Jonathan stared suspiciously at the extended tape. "Didn't it extend further yesterday?" It was a miracle that the tape had found it's way past all the rubbish filling up the floor in this messy apartment, but it had and Jonathan didn't care for the message it tried to convey to him.

The coffee cup was heavy as Jonathan stared out the apartment window. He had to go outside, this was something that bothered him. For months he had had this feeling that someone was following him around, and he had seen dark shades in the periphery of his vision. When he turned to look they always disappeared, one time he was sure he had seen a dark shape standing next to a tree, observing him from a distance. His apartment was a mess, but he had a feeling that someone was searching through his stuff when he was gone. One thing he was sure off, somehow someone was moving the walls. He hadn't yet figured if they were putting up extra wallpaper when he was shopping or if they actually physically moved his walls closer. It was obvious that the room was shrinking on a weekly basis, it was something that bothered Jonathan a great deal. He also wondered who these people were and why they were taking an interest in him. He had his theories, it had to be either the government or someone worse. This thought frightened him. It was one of the reasons why he was chronically tired, he had dark rings under his eyes and generally looked like a mess. But no matter who they were and what they wanted with him, he had an edge, for the past year he had been observing all the strange things that happened around him and he had taken notes and tried to figure if there were any patterns in his observations. This had only increased the number of sightings but it gave the intruders a motive, luckily Jonathan had had enough foresight to cover his tracks.

"So you made a map?" Pete asked, he extinguished his cigarette in the ashtray and leaned forward with his arms crossed. "Yeah, a pretty extensive one, I've marked all the places where there have been sightings". Pete lifted one of his eyebrows, thinking things over. "Isn't it risky to leave stuff like that in your apartment? If, and this is a big if, there are people searching the place on a regular basis?" Jonathan got nervous, Pete was right, what if these wall moving people found his map? But he had also taken his precautions. "It is hidden, I don't think they are aware of where it is". Pete seemed to be less worried by this answer. "Anyway, I have something to tell you, there's been a breakthrough recently. I had a personal experience this weekend, when I was driving on the usual stretch between my home and the town. It was right in the middle of the woods, you know that road?" He waited in anticipation. Nothing..."well I was driving when I saw something really fucking weird. Look, the hair on my arms are raising just thinking about it. Here's the thing, I saw a light, a very bright light coming from inside the forest. You got this place on the map, right? And I saw a light, I can't exactly explain it, and I didn't see a heck of lot more than that, but this can't be a coincidence it just fits perfectly!" Pete was staring at Jonathan in anticipation. The room was silent, he started to feel the awkwardness creeping in.

When Jonathan returned to his apartment he saw a light, someone was inside. Shadows moved past the windows, hurriedly he hid in an alley next to the entrance. Hours past, but no one was coming out of the apartment complex. Jonathan started to drift and sat on the ground where he fell into a deep sleep. It was almost dawn when he awoke, the shadows seemed to be gone but the light was still on. Everything seemed normal when he entered the apartment, but then again, how could you tell with all this mess? He moved towards the bookshelf, where a couple of books were placed to lazily create an illusion of it being an actual bookshelf. He calmed a bit as it didn't seem like anyone had been near it, he started to move the shelf revealing what, with a bit of imagination, looked like a map engraved in the wall. The engravings were covered in lines of red string and post-it notes with microscopic text. All the engravings seemed to be marking places in the area and in the centre of it all, was Jonathans apartment. Jonathan was sitting in the tiny part of his couch that wasn't covered with paper and empty bottles, he was thinking about his meeting with Pete. They had been talking for a couple of months, at first Pete had been sceptic, it had taken a great deal of talking to get him to help, and now he suddenly believed everything he had told him? It didn't seem right, but then again, if he had seen what Jonathan had seen why shouldn't he believe him?

"I don't really understand, but who am I to say. It's just, I don't know, it just seems like you'd have to disregard a lot of evidence to believe in this stuff. Like, this one guy saw a light that flew back and forth against the wind and then suddenly it just takes to the skies at an impossible speed and there's no way that he's either lying or mad? Maybe he saw something else, maybe it actually was a weather balloon this time, but no, it has to be aliens, it's always aliens. And then you'll ask why these things always happens at the same places, that has got to proof something. It's the same story as with ghosts, houses rumoured to be haunted are more prone to house sightings of the supernatural. Why is that?" She turned to look Jonathan in the eyes. "I don't know what to do about you, I can help you but for that to happen you need to make a larger commitment. These short sessions aren't doing much good, and I really need you to back away from this stuff, it can be all consuming".

Jonathan was violently awakened by the ear piercing sounds of the ringing telephone. It was late and still very dark, he put the speaker to his ear. "I'm sorry for calling late, but something has happened". Petes voice was fearful. "I've been seeing the shadow people that you've been talking about. This evening I saw them inside my house, they might still be there for all I know. I'm at my lake house, I don't think they know where it is, but I really need your help. What am I going to do if they find me? Ah shit, there's someone outside, I need to be quiet I have to..." His voice was gone and it was replaced by an obnoxious beeping from the phone. Confused and tired, Jonathan put the speaker down and fell back in the bed. Should he go to the lake house? He had made a deal with Linda the month before, they had agreed that he should take a break from the mysteries to heal his mind. It had worked, after the first couple of weeks he had stopped seeing the shades, he had felt more safe in his apartment, he had even reached a moment where he had managed to clean up the mess he had made. But they had made the deal after hour long sessions of therapy where they had come to the conclusion that it wasn't real. Jonathans mind was racing when he heard a sound from the street outside of his living room. He looked out the window and he saw shades gathering, he had to get out of here before it was too late.

He hurried through the door to the back alley, no one was here yet, he got to his car and drove away, avoiding the main street where he had seen the shadows. He had to get to the lake house, luckily he had been there before. While he was driving he started thinking about Linda, why was she so eager to get him to stop his investigation? It had become obvious that the shades were real, so why was she trying to convince him that it was his imagination? That's when it became clear to him that Linda had to be an agent, she was hired to stop Jonathan from uncovering the truth. He cursed himself for not realizing this earlier. When driving he could see them all over the place, they were hiding in the forest that surrounded the road, they weren't easy to see, but he noticed them. The closer he got to the lake house, the more of them there were. He pushed harder on the speeder and drove with his eyes fixed on the road.

It's morning and Linda is awake, she knows that the alarm is going to go off any minute, and yet she refuses to get up before it does. In the living room the red light was blinking on the voice mail. It seemed like she would have lot of work to do in the coming months.

Pathologic eller hvordan man laver en walking simulator

"En interaktiv feberdrøm" det er fra udviklerens egen beskrivelse af Pathologic på Steam. Det er ikke en dårlig beskrivelse af et spil som på godt og ondt er relativt svært at beskrive, primært fordi der ikke er noget gameplay og vi derfor er fanget med historien, som ikke giver voldsomt meget mening ved første øjekast. Det er noget med en konspiration, en formodet lejemorder og gangstere der hamstre videobånd. Det gav ikke meget mening for mig, jeg er sikker på at der er en mening et eller andet sted men spillet formåede alligevel at gøre et indtryk.

Det handler om atmosfære. Spillet præsenteres i mørke low-poly pixelerede scener med et grønligt farveskema, der får alt til at se sygeligt ud, musikken er mystisk og folks stemmer er ren Simlish. Hvilket får os tilbage til det med den interaktive feberdrøm. Der hvor det for alvor bliver interessant er i spillets struktur, gennem spillets 40 minutters spiltid klipper spillet mellem korte interaktive scener som var det en film. Det ene øjeblik styrer man en bil ned af en mørk hovedvej og det næste står man og konverserer med ekspedienten på en tankstation. Disse hurtige skift er effektive til at skifte spillets mood, hvilket er en af de helt store grunde til at spillet føltes som en feberdrøm. Det er samtidigt et af spillets stærkeste virkemidler som spiller glimrende sammen med den overordnede atmosfære.

Selvom jeg ikke forstår historien til fulde, så blev jeg suget ind i spillets atmosfære på en måde som sikre at jeg senere vil vende tilbage og give det endnu et forsøg. Jeg sætter pris på at spillet, i modsætning til de fleste andre walking simulatorer, vælger at handle om noget der er i gang med at ske, fremfor noget der er sket i fortiden. Samtidigt giver klipningen en energi som ofte er fraværende, noget jeg tror kunne revolutionere hele genren hvis flere tog det til sig.

Eller noget, havde egentligt tænkt mig at skrive noget mere dybdegående, men blev pludseligt lidt for træt.

Dødedans og gamle malerier

I denne blog vil jeg gerne præsentere et spilprojekt hvor jeg i de sidste par uger har arbejdet freelance som leveldesigner. Bagtanken er selvfølgeligt at jeg gerne vil have jer til at teste spillets indledende tutorial. Gamereactor har heldigvis været rare nok til at give mig tilladelse til at dele denne test med jer, der er tale om 7 korte baner og et spørgeskema. Hvis i helst vil være fri for at læse min kedelige introduktion til spillet, så må i hjertens gerne springe direkte ind i testen her:

http://kongorange.com/TestBuild/TheReaperTutorialTestFinal/TheR
eaperTutorialTestFinal.html

Det er et puzzle spil lavet af det Århusianske spilfirma KongOrange, som har arbejdet på dette koncept gennem de sidste par år, det de har fundet frem til kan ses i denne trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McPrZRfBnZc.

KongOrange er en samling af kulturinteresserede individer der ønsker at blande læring med underholdning. Hvilket er en af grundene til at alle deres projekter er udarbejdet i samarbejde med historikere.

The Reaper - A Puzzle Macabre følger op på hele denne tankegang. Inspirationen er hentet i gamle Bruegel malerier , livlige billeder der skildrer den middelalderlige hverdag blandet med humor og absurditeter. Inspirationen står tydeligt frem i farvevalget og gennem designet af de forskellige karakterer der befinder sig rundt om i banerne, uheldige sjæle der synder og danser med døden. Der er tale om et puzzle spil hvor man spiller som døden, der kun kan bevæge sig i verdenens skygger. Døden er heldigvis i stand til at påvirke sin omverden og han kan herved flytte solen og manipulerer objekter i spillets verden. På denne måde skal han forsøge at iscenesætte absurde uheld som kan hjælpe ham med at høste sjæle nok til at opfylde hans daglige kvota. Døden er dog en smilende og rar personlighed, der måske sender tankerne mod Adventure Time, han nyder sit arbejde og kan ikke stoppe med at danse til musikken.

Der er altså tale om et spil som både blander det historiske og det moderne. Musikken er komponeret af unge musikanter fra Aarhus egnen, der er med til at give spillet et meget moderne og rytmisk touch, alt imens den visuelle stil og selve historien peger tilbage mod det historiske, hvorfor spillet også er baseret på grundigt research af uddannede historikere fra Aarhus universitet. Det skal altså være lærerigt og sjovt på én og samme tid, historie behøver nemlig ikke at være tørt og støvet.

Min involvering starter ved selve designet af de forskellige puzzles som skal løses. Til denne test har jeg udarbejdet syv forskellige levels som har til formål at introducere konceptet og derved udstyre spilleren til at overkomme de 7 episoder, som udgør det fulde spil. Det er en svær balancegang hvor banerne helst skal kommunikere ideen til spilleren, ét koncept af gangen med så lidt hjælp som overhovedet muligt. Men samtidigt skal det også være underholdende, hvorfor banerne helst skal give spilleren bare en smule at tænke over. Om det er lykkedes eller ej må være op til jer, jeres feedback er bogstaveligt talt: uundværlig!

Hvis i har lyst til at få en rå forsmag på The Reaper og samtidigt har lyst til at hjælpe et dansk spil på rette vej kan i klikke her:

http://kongorange.com/TestBuild/TheReaperTutorialTestFinal/TheR
eaperTutorialTestFinal.html

RetroHeaven - Tomb Raider

Det er svært at komme udenom Tomb Raider franchisen, den har eksisteret i forskellige former lige siden Playstation 1 og er for nylig blevet rebootet. Men serien har ændret sig radikalt siden begyndelsen og har været nær uigenkendelig de sidste mange år, hvis man laver sammenligninger mellem nye udspil og originalen. I denne korte anmeldelse vil jeg kigge lidt på det originale Tomb Raider og prøve at forklare hvorfor dette spil er så godt som det er. Tomb Raider kan klassificeres som et action/adventure der henter en del inspiration fra Indiana Jones og lignende. Der er hovedsageligt talt om et spil der blander komplekse puzzles, adventurespil elementer i en højere grad en det ses i spil som Alone in the Dark og Resident Evil samtidigt med at det også indeholder en hel del elementer af platformeri.

Man ville næppe kunne kvalificerer Tomb Raider som et horror spil, men som enhver god eventyrfilm fra 80erne lånte Tomb Raider alligevel en del fra genren. Spillet har en ensom atmosfære der kombineret med det lave antal af fjender gør at hvert angreb bliver langt mere effekt fuldt. I første bane møder man en bjørn der kan dræbe Lara på få sekunder hvis man ikke passer på og senere møder man en kæmpe krokodille der stille flyder rundt i beskidt kloakvand samt spillets højdepunkt: En Tyrannosaurus Rex. Det specielle ved disse kampe er at man ikke behøver at udkæmpe dem, man kan løbe forbi flere af de farlige fjender og enkelte er placeret på steder hvor man helt kan undgå at møde dem. Det er interessant fordi der ikke bliver reklameret for fjenderne, der er ikke nogen filmsekvenser eller lignende til at introducere Tyrannosaurusen, du går blot ud i en lysning, hører et brøl hvorefter du ser en kæmpe blodtørstig dinosaurus der løber imod dig. Det er en meget subtil og effektiv tilgang til at skabe spænding der er med til at man aldrig rigtigt ved hvad der vil ske omkring det næste hjørne, det passer rigtigt godt sammen med spillets opbygning og atmosfære. Tomb Raider kan være skræmmende og intenst når det for alvor går løs, men det er samtidigt også et meget stillestående og eftertænksomt spil. Størstedelen af spillet består af puzzles og platform hopperi hvilket kun gør de farlige møder med fjender endnu mere skræmmende. Banerne er dog ikke helt blottede for fjender, hver bane indeholder måske en 14-20 modstandere der hovedsageligt består af enlige ulve, flagermus og lignende. Antallet af menneskelige modstandere kan tælles på én hånd og fungere, ligesom de større dyr, mere som bosskampe end normale kampe.

På mange måder er Tomb Raider en blanding af de bedste elementer fra de tre Indiana Jones film, gyser elementerne fra Temple of Doom, gådeløsningen fra The Last Crusade og mystikken fra alle tre film. Tomb Raider er et eventyr der til tider kan være en anelse sløvt takket være enkelte langhårede og kryptiske puzzles, samt en lettere firkantet styring der kræver en del tilvænning, men når det er på sit højeste så er Tomb Raider en unik og engagerende oplevelse, der nok er det tætteste man kommer på en spilmatisering af de sidste 20 minutter i The Last Crusade.