This journal will be in two parts for the sake of padding out a simple announcement of some housekeeping, and potentially inadvertently alienating more than 99% of my watchers and making enemies of many friends. Tongue is planted firmly in cheek, I should add, so in the words of Patton Oswalt, I offer this disclaimer, "I'm going to take you into Mordor, bring you right back to the Shire."
First and most importantly, I've added a new feature to my page: The Commissions Billboard. As happy as I was with the last journal, I admit it's a little unfair to have a commissions feature preceded by a lengthy diatribe about why I don't do commissions. I meant no disrespect, but after thinking back, I realized I can do better. If you go to my journal's page, you'll see a custom widget (right above the stamp collection) with commission information or at least user icons of artists I know, respect, and love who are currently offering commissions. I'll try to keep tabs on any suspensions or closures and make adjustments accordingly. Please let me know if you're getting any unwanted inquiries. Also, any major announcements, such as special offers or signal boosting for friends in need will still receive pimping specials as before, both here as well as my Tumblr pages. I can't make any solid promises about such features, but I'll do my best to keep up.
Speaking of directing your attention to the arts, here's something about art direction:
I was going to post this to my Gamespot journal, which has been a tiny bit neglected of late, but I know there's no shortage of Journey fans here, who should all know before I say anything else that I love Journey. I got it on launch day, and the only reason I waited that long was because I was saving my Playstation Plus subscription for my birthday. I've played the crap out of it; as of right now, I'm only two trophies away from 100%, but anyone who's played it should know that's not a goal in the slightest, and it's barely going to be a blip on my radar when I get there. In fact, I suspect at most it'll make an amusing whooshing noise as it goes flying by. All that said, my love carries some qualifiers.
I like flOw just a little bit better.
Qualifier to the qualifier: I like it better as a game. As an experience, they're incomparable. For example, I love MYST as an experience--it changed my life forever--but as a game, it's not very good. I think X-Play put it best: solving the puzzles isn't the hard part, figuring out that what you're looking at is a puzzle in the first place is. As for Journey and flOw, if asked by a fresh face to the scene which they should play, I'm going to say both, if not anything from Thatgamecompany, including the browser-based version of flOw or, in my case, the PSP version. That's one of the things I love about flOw in terms of its design. The best games are good on any platform. I'm sure it's a much grander experience on the full console release with a good display, but similarly the portable version has that more intimate and personal feel to it. Anyone who argues that the graphics are better on the console version is, let's face it, missing the point. Graphics is a technical term, merely how many nuts and bolts are behind the art direction. It goes all the way back to those "Blast Processing/Mode 7" arguments of the 16-bit era and is just as fundamentally pointless now as it was then.
As for art direction, or how well the available nuts and bolts are used, that brings me to my sole complaint about Journey as a game. I don't hate the look and feel of the game one bit, it's simply a bit... familiar. Here's what I mean: if you had not told me who made Journey, dropped me right into the game, bypassing the hype, news, and opening logos, a sort of "blind, closed beta" and asked me who made the game, my reply would not have been Thatgamecompany.
I would have said Team ICO.
Again, that's not a bad thing. I love ICO, it's one of my favorite PS2 games. I love Shadow of the Colossus, and I'm especially looking forward to The Last Guardian. To that end, and considering the story of how Portal came to be, I can't help but imagine someone in the upper echelons of Santa Monica Studios tapping Thatgamecompany on the shoulder and saying, "Listen, guys, Last Guardian is becoming Last Dangerous Visions if yer boardin' mah slopes, so do ya think you could help us out and give us a kinda Portal to their Half-Life 2 Epiwhatsits?" I know it sounds silly, and I doubt anyone at SCEA thinks that way; Santa Monica is able to wait on projects like Last Guardian and give Thatgamecompany practically the keys to the kingdom because God of War makes them enough money to keep the lights on until doomsday. This is merely how my brain works sometimes. Maybe someday I'll tell you the story of how I once believed Star Trek IV came to be. Like that story, though, I freely admit here I may well be overthinking things, not giving enough credit where credit is due, and missing a vital component to the mechanism. After all, I haven't played Flower.
Maybe Flower serves as a good bridge between the two, lessening the disparity I can't help but feel when I play the two close together. It would make a little more sense to go from a game about clouds to a game about simple organisms to a game about transcendence in the wake of a collapsed civilization if plant life were inserted into the equation.
When all is said and done, I still love Journey, I'd recommend it or anything else from Thatgamecompany, whatever your platform of choice is, be it Playstation, PSP, PC, or a browser. Hell, people should play more independent games and smaller-scale releases anyway. Let's face it, Triple-A gaming kinda sucks. When a game like Dead Space 3 has to sell 5 million copies to break even (and can't quite pull it off despite its devoted fanbase), and Space Marine can leave THQ scattered to the winds (despite being awesomely badass), something has gone very, very wrong somewhere and will get substantially worse before it gets better. Really, the whole state of major releases and the successes of smaller studios (like the geniuses at Wayforward, who are making a Ducktales remake) leads me to a bone I have to pick with Anita Sarkeesian, but that is a story for another time.
Sleep well, cats and kittens. Check out the commissions billboard, tell your friends about it, and go support some small game developers for a change if you don't already.