The 27 Homages Of Thirty Flights Of Loving

By David Valjalo on February 1st, 2013 at 3:00 pm.

Scouse scoundrel David Valjalo gets taken on a tour of one of 2012’s indie highlights, Gravity Bone follow-up Thirty Flights Of Loving, by creator Brendon Chung. Together, they unravel the myriad movie and game references buried deep in this short, sharp burst of first-person, spy-themed adventure.

It was late last year my then-flatmate stopped me in our sparse, dusty hallway and said ‘come here, sit down for ten minutes and try this.’ He stood from the table that was temporarily hosting his newly built PC (a long story) and offered me the chair.

At the time I was working for a shadowy, mysterious game magazine and it was widely known that I liked to keep my time staring at virtual stuff to a minimum outside of the office, so I figured the man wouldn’t make such a request for nothing. And so I sat, I played and I loved. Thirty Flights Of Loving stayed with me more than any other game of 2012. Not least because of its filmic feel, it’s lack of traditional game-like flow and convention. Rather, it lingered long because, for me, Thirty Flights (along with its predecessor, Gravity Bone) is one of the most convincing arguments to date – alongside the likes of Rare’s Goldeneye or Hideo Kojima’s… anything – that the mediums of game and film can collide with one another to the benefit of the videogame form, delivering something unique and original even as it riffs on the iconography and ideas of another art-form.

Short as it may be (some five minutes of play time if you sprint your way through) Thirty Flights is a melting pot of influences and inspirations – the sources of which feel familiar (a dash of 60s European new wave here, a smattering of film noir there) yet just out of reach. Personally, during my first few playthroughs, I caught whiffs of everything from Sam Peckinpah to Francois Truffaut – and that’s part of the game’s beauty: it can be read, as with a film, in a variety of ways. The gameplay is linear, reduced to simple pacing back and forth, but the experience will conjure a range of emotions from players depending on the baggage – or lack thereof – that they bring to the keyboard.

As the game repeated on me in recent months, and the references I plucked out became more eccentric and extravagant, I couldn’t help reaching out to its creator Brendon Chung to find out exactly what the core inspirations and influences on the game where, and in the process coerce him into offering his own blow-by-blow, screenshot-by-screenshot account of where Thirty Flights’ hidden homages lie.

So here, in a sort of long-form variant on a director’s commentary, is the story of how Chung and I unpacked Thirty Flights Of Loving like a dynamic, film-obsessed duo on a road trip through his own creation. And, like any good road trip, we punctuated the journey with post cards of the key moments for you to enjoy. Consider it a sort of side-dish to the brief in-game, text-based commentary Chung offers in Thirty Flights which gives insight into his process and thinking as a developer and designer, as opposed to the out-and-out pop culture obsessive he here reveals himself to be.

And so we begin…

From the outset Chung makes it clear that I won’t be able to squeeze Thirty individual references out of him. My dream of titling this feature “Thirty Flights Of Homage” is just that, a dream (but I called it that anyway: take that, logic). Deflated but determined I watch Chung take his first couple of steps in the game before stopping, his voice shooting up an octave and his enthusiasm igniting as he recalls the inspirations behind the first few cap-doffs in the game. It’s here, staring at the plaque on the wall of the game’s very first corridor, I realise that even if we don’t get Thirty exact references out of this, we are probably going to get pretty damn close.

“There are a few different things on this first sign,” he explains.

First up, there’s a reference to Zork: “Frobvember! Zork has a bunch of fictional dates and this is a nod to that. Also ‘Quesomancy’ – in the Zork universe there’s a mysterious punishment called totemisation and it’s never explained. Quesomancy is my version. Then there’s ‘wheel of morality’, that’s a reference to a cartoon called Animaniacs.”

I can’t help wonder, with so many obscure references packed into this very first bit of text in the game, if Chung is at all wary of alienating players not in on his private, nostalgic jokes. “Some shows use pop culture references as the punchline,” he says. “I don’t find that to be very funny, I think it works for certain people but it doesn’t compute for me. It’s better, for me, when there’s a reference that isn’t the punchline to the joke, it just flavours the joke, adds an interesting dimension. If you want to dig into it, it’s there.”

Chung then takes another five or six paces into the game’s first room and we’re already straight into the next demonstration of his approach to “flavouring” his world with pop cultural nods.

“The line on this sign, Wilkommen Auf Zauberburg, is a reference to the old Sierra adventure game Hero’s Quest. There’s a wizard and when you reach his house that’s what it says. Adventure games are a huge influence on me, I grew up playing them. Space Quest, Hero’s Quest… all of those. And then the Lucasarts titles came out and it was a whole new breath of fresh air. My work’s greatly influenced by adventure games. It’s about soaking in the world, as opposed to what a first-person shooter traditionally is – let’s kill bad guys.”

With Thirty Flights’ restrained approach to action (there’s one short scene involving guns blazing and you’re not even the one pulling the triggers) I ask if Chung if he consciously avoided a full-blown shootout or more conventional set-piece. “Yeah, as I watched coders playing [an early build of] Gravity Bone, someone asked me why I let the player die. It struck a cord: why not just let the game do what it does well which is story, narrative. And that stayed with me for Thirty Flights Of Loving.”

The bar isn’t just a tribute to Hero’s Quest, Chung tells me. Hidden behind the bar is a machinegun, a reference to the classic Robert Redford thriller Three Days Of The Condor. “In the film he works in a CIA office and there’s a really brief scene that reveals the secretary is hiding a gun – it was a really brief moment and it really stayed with me, so I had to get that in.”

It’s here I realise the bar, with its hidden, knowing and very personal secrets is a neat representation of Thirty Flights Of Loving itself: a quirky, attractive veneer covering something deeper and more private.

The next room builds on my sense that Chung’s passion for film may rival my own. “This little hideout area is inspired by Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Conversation. There’s an area in the movie where Gene Hackman has this private workshop, it’s drab and lived-in, I love the little details. This was their workshop, where they hung out and stored the goods for their operation.”

With two out of two rooms so far hosting a wealth of influences, I want to know how Chung constructs his games. Does he plan his story around specific locations, like this hideout, that he’s determined to include? “The way I work is backwards. I like to think of the ending to the story. A strong, juicy, satisfying ending and then move backwards – what preceded the events of the ending so we wrap around back to the start. It’s about not planning things out too carefully, letting it happen organically. It just reaches a point where things make themselves more obvious.”

In the same room Chung points out yet another reference, this time to one of his all time favourite films.

“With this mess of papers I was thinking of the movie Delicatessen.

“There’s this gorgeous credits sequence in the film. The camera roams around this table full of stuff and everything on it, detailing the cast and crew with names printed on each item. In the same room, a few steps away, this box of bullets is a nod the Japanese anime series Cowboy Bebop. There’s a really brief shot of this box of bullets and I was so taken with it, I needed to get it in [laughs].”

So far, so much film. As Chung ticks off some other stylistic influences such as Wong Kar Wai – he singles out Chungking Express, In The Mood For Love, As Tears Go By, Happy Together, 2046 as key inspirations for their “dreamlike quality and theme of unrequited love” – I learn that I’m dealing with a fellow film school graduate. With the majority of Chung’s geekery homed in on films, and Thirty Flights in defiance of the norms of a first-person game with an espionage/spy theme, I have to ask if he plays games at all these days. “Having 40 hours to play a single game is something I don’t have any more,” he says. “I do feel that if you want to write books you have to read books, if you want to make movies you have to watch movies and if you want to make games you have to play them. I’m a little more selective now. I’ll play things that aren’t always good but that try something interesting.”

I suggest, therefore, that Thirty Flights’ brevity may be down to Chung’s own preference for an experience he can fit around his day-to-day, family life. “Yeah so this is a game you can play and finish in one snack-sized go. When I was younger, game length was one of the criteria that attracted me, but as I’ve gotten older it’s become less important and workable. I really enjoy open-world games, that’s the most exciting genre for me right now. In terms of games that I think will be the future, roguelikes and things like Day Z are the shape of things to come. Games where the player generates their own unique narratives, that excites me so much.”

The next reference Chung points out is to a game with one such big open-world. “The sniper while somehow bungee jumping is from Saints Row 3. There’s one mission where, for some reason, you’re dangling outside a building with a sniper rifle – utterly ridiculous, but again, it struck me.”

What I love about Chung’s range of influences is how varied and far-reaching they are, delving deep into his childhood – the plane that pops up next is a nod to an old Disney TV series called TaleSpin (he refers to its “swashbuckling, pulp fiction inspired universe” as a major creative force at the time) – and scaling the heights of the most revered art house cinema of our generation (“I’m a big Woody Allen fan, his movies, books…”). As disparate as some of Chung’s name-dropping may seem, it is all tied together by a common thread: visual storytelling. Whether it’s the all-ages approach of Animaniacs and Tailspin or the more cerebral and emotive work of his favourite auteurs, it’s a body of inspiration that aims to hold your attention, like Thirty Flights, by telling a story powerfully. I prod Chung for his own views on storytelling in games to which he concisely explains that for him, “the most effective games are those that allow players to explore and discover on their own.”

With our shared passion for film now out in the open, it’s no surprise that our conversation wanders into game adaptations. “My opinion on adaptations is that videogames and movies are two extremely different products. I feel that if you want to adapt something, you kind of have to pretend that the original version didn’t ever exist. You have to make your project work for that specific medium. I know a lot of people are adamant that you have to get every single detail in a film right – it has to mirror the game – but for me that ends up making it no good at any one thing.”

After our brief detour, it’s back to Thirty Flights. “The tunnel where everything goes really fast is a reference to Chungking Express. There are many shots in the film where the character is still and everything else is speeding past.”

The use of time in the game, with clocks a recurring motif and jump-cuts, slow-motion and time-lapse all coming into play, is a nod to a trinity of connected film canons. “I’d say the French New Wave of the 60s, the work of directors like Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino, that all contributed [to the manipulation and use of time].”

The flight arrivals and departures board area lurking around the next corner, while itself being a reinforcement of the time theme in Thirty Flights, also builds on Chung’s layer of inter-textual references.

On the board there’s West Egg, a reference to The Great Gatsby, Vire River, a reference to a “stale-mate friendly” Company Of Heroes map – a game Chung played religiously for years – and, written on the luggage trolley of the gentleman nearby, Cugat Airfield, a reference to musician Xavier Cugat whose work appeared in Chung’s previous project, Gravity Bone.

The enigmatic scene that follows the airport, set in a green-hued apartment, is Chung’s salute to one of cinema’s greatest living cinematographers, Christopher Doyle, a frequent collaborator with Wong Kar Wai.

Doyle’s use of colour and filter to set mood is a primary influence on Thirty Flights’ look and feel and Chung is as passionate as a cinematographer in his belief that colour deserves more credit, and attention, in games. “I feel it’s easy for games to fall into a trap of being brown or grey… I make a very conscious effort to use colour very specifically.”

The rooftop party that takes place moments later is yet another Wong Kar Wai homage, this time it’s As Tears Go By. “There’s a scene in the film that’s just lit in a really gorgeous magenta hue,” says Chung.

This scene is my personal favourite, as jump-cuts narrate the increasingly drunken state of our hero/protagonist and the triangular relationship of the cast comes to the fore. I tell Chung I feel this mysterious menage a trois is a direct a reference to Francois Truffaut’s 1962 drama Jules Et Jim but he shoots down my grand claim with something much simpler. “I didn’t have a specific reference point, I just wanted a small cast of characters to keep it simple.”

When the partygoers ascend to the heavens from the dance-floor – one of Thirty Flights’ most strikingly artistic moments – Chung explains that, like a director happening upon an indispensible piece of improv as he shoots a film, this was a “happy accident. I was trying to make the people bob up and down to dance and they kept floating upwards unintentionally. But once I saw that, moving on screen, I realised that it was what I really wanted without even knowing it.”

As we move onto the next scene, a hallway dotted with original posters and adverts, I’m waiting for Chung to run out of steam but the references just keep coming. Here we find nods to Lone Wolf And Cub and then, on the “Wanted” poster we have a name ripped from Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi in Moco, and Woody Allen’s alias in Mo Golden.

Next up is the shootout without the player actually doing any shooting. It’s one of the game’s most original scenes and, yet again, we find it directly linked to a film. It’s the use of sound and poetic slow motion in 1982’s Koyaanisqatsi that left the biggest impression on Thirty Flights flashes of gun fire, lending it the air of a dream rather than bullet hell.

And here, finally, Chung does run out of references. We didn’t get to Thirty exact references, but we got pretty damn close.

In a wonderful twist in the tale, it’s the over-riding theme of flight, the motif of planes, that doesn’t have any direct link to any other property, film or game. The scene the game ends within, a sort of museum of aeronautics, is entirely Chung’s idea, ending the game, and our journey, on an original note rather a tributary one.

As for Chung’s next game, Quadrilateral Cowboy, it’s a work in progress that we will be seeing “soon… 2013 is still the aim” and he promises it’ll be all part of the connected universe he’s established with his work. Once again, Chung is chipping away at the game as a one-man studio and I ask if he intends to remain a lone wolf developer for the rest of his career. “There are limitations to working alone,” he admits. “And working with more people – that’s something I intend to grow towards [in the future]. I would love to work on an open-world game of some sort, but as a one-person developer it’s not really possible.”

It’s the current limitations on Chung as a developer that defines and determines the outcome of his work, he says, before we part ways. “One of the parts of the creative process is working within limitations and making something within those limitations. The original Star Wars trilogy was made on a limited budget and they made something really interesting.”

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20 Comments »

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  1. Synesthesia says:

    Nice read! We need more stuff like what chung is making. A lot more.

  2. AJLange says:

    It’s ‘TaleSpin,’ actually. Yeah, I’m Disney nerd enough to know this.

    Great read here! Loved Thirty Flights. The variety of influences on it is so cool!

  3. Acorino says:

    I think the Disney cartoon Chung is referring to is actually called TaleSpin. I watched it too in my childhood, it’s really good!

    Edit: Oops, beaten to it.

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      Lambchops says:

      That was the only reference I actually had any appreciation for while playing the game (the others I just took as part of the overall mood and didn’t notice specifics).

  4. Trillby says:

    Thanks for this! It openend my eyes a bit more as to what TFOL was about. I have to admit it stumped me, I think I enjoyed it but I had the darndest time trying to figure out what it was doing.

    There’s a horrible feeling of inadequacy when you know something is impressive and artistic, but you can’t lock in to the feel of it. And with praise coming from all sides, it felt like I’d been invited to some art exhibition or something where everyone seems really enthusiastic, but you only see a couple of lines of paint on a canvas. Or like that time I went to see Radiohead live, and sitting in a bar afterwards with my friends – they all gushed as if they’d witnessed some transcendent experience, and I could only sit there, trying not to let on that I’d mostly been bored and now had a headache. And the worst thing is knowing that people aren’t being poncy, but are honestly moved in some way.

    Nothing worse than being the philistine in the room.

    • DerNebel says:

      I loved Thirty Flights of Loving to bits. I loved everything about it, from the gorgeous artstyle to the masterful changes of pace to the filmic presentation. The game is a milestone in my opinion. It’s a short art movie, told through a game.

      And I didn’t have a clue about almost any of these references. Most of it just flew over my head to be honest. For me, it didn’t matter. The thing is, I had a bit of a warning on the game, having played Gravity Bone, so I didn’t wander into it expecting to do anything. I cautiously wandered through the opening passages, carefully soaking in as much as possible, but when the game picked up pace I was swept away. The game simply accelerates out of control without ever becoming too hectic, which was amazing to me. Through this I was still assuming that I didn’t have to do anything at all. After playing it, I felt like I’d just played through a high-octane espionage-themed Pulp Fiction in game form. I use the Pulp Fiction reference here knowing that it will dilute my next statement, but it’s the only way I can actually express it in just these few words.

      It’s not about knowledge, it’s about art. The real key to Thirty Flights of Loving is to let it drag you along, almost like a movie, and let it speak to you in any way it can. And if it doesn’t, that doesn’t make you a “philistine”, you just have different taste.

  5. RogerioFM says:

    You would expect this to be a big game given all the references, when it’s only about 15 min. I guess this is another proof of how fantastic this game is, giving so much background and telling such a compelling story in so little time.

    Now, a question, are we playing with Citizen Abel in this game? Is it related to the first in any way?

  6. DrGonzo says:

    I loved Gravity Bone. Stanley Parable is one of my favorite games of all time, Dear Esther was fantastic.

    But I just didn’t enjoy 30 Flights of Loving one bit. Too short, nothing to do but walk forwards, which sounds like a criticism of Dear Esther, except that has so much to think about and explore.

    I’d recommend anyone try it though, it’s something to experience certainly.

  7. Battlehenkie says:

    The original WIT motivated me to pick this up during the Steam Holiday Sale. I usually kind of sigh and smile when I see someone lament their purchase, but it is truly the worst $2.50 I’ve spent on anything game related. I suppose this ‘game’ (I call it that as I do not experience it as a game) walks the fine subjectivity line that denotes the spectrum of creative art and pretentious drivel. Unfortunately I saw the latter, and this write-up doesn’t change it for me; if anything, it makes me revisit that feeling and confirms it.

    • Kadayi says:

      I wouldn’t go so far as to label it drivel (I enjoyed the mental puzzle of figuring out what’s going on), but it’s hard to see the ‘game’ there vs ‘vaguely interactive machinema’ in truth (same with Dear Esther really). The very thing that makes video gaming interesting (at least in my opinion) is a lot down to interactivity and creating your own personal experience through play Vs that of another player (even within a frame of limited choices ala The Walking Dead, or through the solving of conundrums within the game ala monkey island). When literally the entirety of the ‘experience’ can essentially be captured whole sale via a single youtube video with no real loss to the viewer then you have to kind of question whether ‘game’ is an appropriate term. Last year big play was made about katawa-shoujo and whether that was a ‘game’ Vs ‘interactive novel’ given vast tracts of it were essentially just back and forth conversation, with the odd plot departure point in between to shape the experience. 30FoL doesn’t even offer up those. Certainly it’s made using a game engine technology, but then again so was ‘meet the heavy’

  8. elmuerte says:

    There’s another special and hidden reference available to a select few via the puffins mode.

  9. Danda says:

    The Tarantino school of “creation”: if you as a spectator (not player) don’t get the endless quotes you think “how creative!”. And if you get them, you feel really intelligent and special, so it’s even better!

    This game and The Path are the two purchases I truly regret. And my Steam account holds a copy of the unplayable Stalin vs Martians.

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    emertonom says:

    *Spoiler-filled comment.*

    I’m really surprised to hear about many of these film influences, because the films he’s mentioning are almost all based largely around characterization, which I felt was a real weak point of 30 Flights of Loving. I get that it’s kind of a short story, and the memorable moments, like peeling oranges together, are supposed to stand in for a more complete characterization, but for me a lot of the “I have no idea what’s going on” feeling was a result of having no clear sense of the characters or their relationships. In the title scene, Anita is pointing a gun at you, and apparently continuing to pull the trigger although out of ammo; you pick up Borges and leave. Someone covered in blood, pointing a gun at you and pulling the trigger repeatedly despite being out of ammo *should* be an extremely emotional moment, but it just isn’t, because it’s not clear why she’s doing it. It doesn’t seem like she really wants to kill you, because there’s clearly no force behind it, and she’ll sit there futilely pulling the trigger as long as you stand there; but the expression on her face says that she *is* furious. The main emotion that creates in the viewer is, well, bafflement, as well as a certain amount of defensiveness (hey, I was just jump-cut here, I didn’t do what you’re angry about). And that bafflement is very specifically and directly ANTI-immersive, because it’s clear the *character* we’re inhabiting must know why he’s being empty-magazine-clicked at. The jump cuts in general have the same impact–it’s a constant reminder that this isn’t your story and you don’t know what’s going on, you’re just pushing the story forward with WASD. Insofar as there is a game, it’s a game of “try to figure out WTF,” but there’s honestly not enough characterization to make it feel worthwhile–not least because the game seems to sabotage its own pacing and emotion with scenes like the escape from the airport. Leading up to this moment, you fight off hordes of tiny flying police-bots, and make a break for the exit, and find yourself surrounded by a blockade of hundreds of police, training their guns at you from a safe place behind their cars. It’s a moment of building tension…and then it abruptly jump-cuts to driving the getaway car. It feels like we’ve been robbed of the climactic moment of the story, the moment everything would have come to a head and something had to break. It’s the kind of moment that’s played for laughs in certain kinds of comedies–a joke about the nature of cinema and how it lies to you, a chef saying “okay, so you take that very confusing set of ingredients, and we don’t have time to show all the preparation, so here’s the finished product I prepared earlier.” All in all, the game functions more like a deconstruction of film than it does a real story, and that makes it feel rather cheap and gimmicky. I’m not surprised to hear that he loves film, because it wears its filmic nature like a grotesque mask, but I’m *very* surprised to hear him talk about Wong Kar Wai and Woody Allen, because those are authors whose entire oeuvres are built from the subtle, quirky nature of human characters, and whose works are structured to guide you into familiarity and empathy with those characters. This game, however, is designed to constantly knock you off balance and make you view the players with bemused, clinical detachment.

    For me it comes across as hollow wankery. Of course, I didn’t care for “Dear Esther” either, which I thought used a melodramatic voice actor to try to cover up for actually fairly weak writing, and used electronics diagrams without regard for their content as cheap exoticism and a trite “room full of crazy” trope. So I may just be a cynical old man who’s seen too many movies.

    • broguewave says:

      “This game, however, is designed to constantly knock you off balance and make you view the players with bemused, clinical detachment.”

      Bemused, clinical detachment might have been your reaction to the events in the game – and that is a totally valid one – but I reacted in a very different manner. I found the individual scenes in the game to be affecting and I enjoyed the range of subjectivity allowed for in piecing together the disjointed narrative.

      From reading your play-by-play of the game it seems that you took greatest umbrage at the way the story was told, but would a conventional game narrative with conversations, cutscenes, and belabored exposition have improved the storytelling of TFOL? A big part of the the positive reactions people have had to the game has had to do with the risks Chung took with the way the story was told. So while I’m a little saddened that a PC gamer “who’s seen too many movies” didn’t appreciate the way the story was told, I guess they wouldn’t be risks if they didn’t elicit a polarizing response.

      Oh, and I wasn’t crazy about Dear Esther either but those were organic chemistry structural diagrams TMYK…

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        emertonom says:

        I’m not saying conventional games have done a great job with narrative, especially when it comes to characterization. But a lot of films very much have, and I felt like this game was trying to distance itself from any traditions of film storytelling as well as from game storytelling, and that let it down. The things that are traditional in film storytelling are traditions for a reason–as I noted, the “omit how they made their thrilling climactic escape against seemingly insurmountable odds” thing is only ever done in comedies, and that’s for a reason: it fouls up the emotional arc. A film might get away with it if it were really focussing on the characterization, and thus the escape were, even if immersive, narratively irrelevant–but the characters are largely absent too, and if the escape is narratively irrelevant, it’s not clear why the “shooting the policebots” bit isn’t. If the film wanted to use filmic techniques of pacing, I felt like it should have used some of the techniques of characterization and emotional connection as well, and by instead, well, sort of parodying them, it came off as rather empty.

        To be clear, I’m in favor of taking risks in how we tell stories in video games; I just felt like this experiment wasn’t successful, and I think there are pretty good reasons for that, and it’s useful to examine them. I’d like game designers to play it, because I feel like they could learn something about design and emotion from it, both in the ways it works and in the ways it doesn’t, even if I don’t think it’s a great game in the final analysis.

        As for Dear Esther–it had both. But some of the chemical diagrams were of ethanol, which tied to the car crash guilt thing, so that’s arguably relevant to the narrative. (There were other chemical diagrams too, but I don’t know enough chem to say if they’re relevant or not.) The electronics stuff, on the other hand, was pure nonsense, nothing but decoration.

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          Thirith says:

          You know, I think you make a lot of valid points – yet I didn’t mind any of this when playing the game. I didn’t find 30 Flights affecting, but I loved the exciting, joyous use of form. Did I care about any of the characters? No, because the main effect is alienation IMO – but just in terms of technique I thought the game was absolutely dazzling. I’m a total characterisation whore, by and large, but every now and then I’m perfectly happy with something trying out new things for the heck of it, and 30 Flights did this within admirable sense of coherence IMO.

        • Kadayi says:

          “From reading your play-by-play of the game it seems that you took greatest umbrage at the way the story was told, but would a conventional game narrative with conversations, cutscenes, and belabored exposition have improved the storytelling of TFOL? A big part of the the positive reactions people have had to the game has had to do with the risks Chung took with the way the story was told. So while I’m a little saddened that a PC gamer “who’s seen too many movies” didn’t appreciate the way the story was told, I guess they wouldn’t be risks if they didn’t elicit a polarizing response.”

          Expecting people to celebrate Chung for his audacity over the weight of the actual product itself is so far wrong on every level that one can’t help but feel that you’re a little (dare one say) desperate in your defense of it. Plain truth of the matter is you as the player are a complete narrative passenger to the extent that you might as well be watching an animated short. It’s bemusing that people complain vehemently about games like CoD and Moh where in you’re pretty much lead by the nose, and press E for ‘awesome’ occasionally in order to instigate some camera controlled cut scene, and yet that’s the entirety of TFOL experience. The only differential is a quirky art style and time line editing.

          If you’re after an interesting and (more importantly) engaging Art game, and one where you’ve some sense of ownership to the experience, take a look at Kentucky Route Zero instead. Not only does it take its lead from things other than films, but you a damn sight more bang for your buck in terms of game time.

          • broguewave says:

            Sorry, that was poorly expressed on my part, I wasn’t using his risk-taking in itself as an argument for why I thought TFOL was good, I was pointing to the positive critical response (from making this site’s top games of 2012 list, among others) as a counterpoint to what I saw as rather vitriolic comments.

            HOWEVER, you are right that my defense of the game was not totally cogent, and maybe a little desperate. After some more thought on why I personally found this more engaging than an animated short and it boiled down level design. Even as linear as the level design is, I appreciated being able to explore the environments. The small details that extended the world-building or provided clues to the narrative were fun to find. And as for the set-pieces – scripted sequences have been an overused trope of AAA single player shooters since Half Life 1 – and I was very entertained by TFOL’s subversion of the trope. The whimsy of the surreal wedding party contrasted nicely with the knowledge the narrative had given me that the character I was there with was doomed was a nice juxtaposition and for me, probably the “hook” moment of the game.

            That being said, from reading your and enertonom’s comments, I have a more full understanding of where your irritation at the non-interactivity comes from. I can respect your guys’ opinions, especially since it’s tough for me to explicate why the scripted sequences bugged me less than, say, walking through the Pentagon in Black Ops beyond the obvious contrast in content. I will take your recommendation and check out Kentucky Route Zero, I have heard good things about it and despite just revealing myself as a Call of Duty player I can appreciate a 2d adventure game.

            Also – emertonom: my mistake, I hadn’t played Dear Esther since the first mod and even if it had been more recent I wouldn’t have recognized an electronics diagram from a minimap

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  12. eclipse mattaru says:

    Thirty Flights (along with its predecessor, Gravity Bone) is one of the most convincing arguments to date – alongside the likes of Rare’s Goldeneye or Hideo Kojima’s… anything – that the mediums of game and film can collide with one another to the benefit of the videogame form, delivering something unique and original even as it riffs on the iconography and ideas of another art-form

    I don’t think there’s one word in that sentence that I don’t disagree with.

    If you ask me, games trying to blend in with (read: trying to be) cinema is the textbook symptom of one of the worst cancers that technology brought to our medium (second to that damned fixation on photorealism). By trying to adopt that “filmic feel” the poster likes so much, games actually cripple themselves and ignore a universe of possibilities unique to them.

    And Kojima is *precisely* the main example I would use to explain how not to approach storytelling in games.

    I do like Thirty Flights, mind, because apparently I have something of a spiritual empathy with whatever Mr. Chung comes up with (though I like Gravity Bone much more, and in fact I think GB is the one actually worth paying for); but really, there’s barely anything in it that justifies its inclusion in even the loosest idea of “game”.