Monday, March 30, 2009

A Goo-Butt Baby

loading...

extracting...

shaking...

liquefying bytes...

homogenizing goo...

testing ozone...

processing...

spinning violently around the y-axis...

iodizing...

stretching images...

reconstituting sounds...

faithfully re-imagining...

scraping funds...

applying innovation...

constructing emotional depth...

debating games as art...

placating publishers..,

meticulously diagramming fun...

filtering moral...

testing for perfection...

revolving independence...

tokenizing innovation...

self affirming...

dissolving relationships...

deterministically simulating the future...

exceeding cpu quota...

swapping time and space...

embiggening prototypes...

sandbagging expectations...

challenging everything...

distilling beauty...

blitting powers of two...

manufacturing social responsibility...

bending the spoon...

constructing non-linear narrative...

That's just the loading screen...and any game that can make me smile in the first five seconds is a keeper in my eyes. I finally sat down over the weekend and resolved myself towards digging into World of Goo. Luckily, it didn't take much coaxing to do so, as immediately after the first few levels, I was hooked on it. It's a physics based puzzle game that primarily focuses on the player constructing paths for their gooballs. Obviously, I'm pretty late to this party...as the game has been out for a while now, but I've honestly not had much interest in it until just recently. My taste for it was triggered when I unwittingly stumbled upon Kyle Gabler's soundtrack for the game. I'm not saying it blew me away, but I did find it extremely soothing...enough so for me to immediately grab the poor abused P.C. game off the web (it's one of the few titles I will acknowledge receiving an undeserved pirate party).

If you have a free second, go download Kyle Gabler's released soundtrack, it's free...what more can you ask for?

I found it interesting that like many of the other up-and-coming indie titles, very few people put a blinding amount of passion into it. It's the result of Ron Carmel & Kyle Gabler's personal savings ($10,000). Their "studio" consisted of any of the various Wi-Fi enabled coffee shops throughout the San-Fran area. The result was a title that stands out because it alludes towards game design in the past, whereas most big-wig titles (god bless them) have simply abandoned these disciplines for the big budget industry as it exists today.

What really surprised me about World of Goo was how it's little narrative carries the experience. It's not some awe-inspiring story that will make you question the meaning of life, but I found myself obeying the non-nonsensical will of it's universe on many occasions. I actually stood on a table in a fit of kinesthesia from a very intense balancing moment in the final area of the game. This was all because I "wanted to see past the fucking smog". The sign painter, MOM, and even the Goo-ball dialouge is reminiscent of the character and humor that seemed to get a jumper-cable boost in games with Portal not too long ago. It's really inspiring when one solely evaluates the quality of game design as well. Strictly as a "game", it's constantly throwing new things at the player without it coming as gimmicky (even though it actually is). I guess it's just nice to see that studios such as Nintendo and Valve aren't the only people capable of high-level craftsmanship in terms of game design...just saying (and this is just a duo). If two talented guys can "throw monkey wrenches" in a coffee shop, maybe there is hope for this little industry of ours..

The sad part about the title's piracy DOES have a silver lining though, and I'm sure it's one these guys have considered for themselves. I can't find any solid numbers on the game's revenue & I don't trust the sources I have in front of me at the moment, but I do know that despite it's piracy, it was able to generate a humble amount of income. The estimate is that one out of every five people that "own" the game actually purchased it legally. This is sad indeed, but I have to wonder what goes through Gabler and Carmel's head concerning this. Do they take solace in the fact that their game was demanding of such piracy or are they disappointed with the results? It certainly doesn't absolve the issue, but it is flattering in that sense...right?