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21-12-2011, 04:59 AM #21
As it is I see too many frayed ends and shards of plot to just roll with that. Not least is that the 'to the moon' bit was actually about just going to the moon, because he became an astronaut and literally went to the moon.
If the story aimed for your ending there, and cut out the bits that muddied that expression and emphasised new elements to support it, I think you'd have a great story. As was, it didn't work for me.
Thanks for the discussion man.
21-12-2011, 07:13 AM #22
- Join Date
- Jun 2011
Some specific points first:
I thought that Johnny was aware that he used to have a brother. It's just that he didn't tell others. (which is why he invents the explanation for why his mother calls him by his brother's name at the wedding) I think he would remember that he used to have a brother and his memories are probably just really, really hazy about the whole thing.
Also I very much disagree with this part of the original post:
Similar logic-implosions happen with the reveal of River's condition. The implications are huge, and deeply troubling: that Johnny dated her, that he - there's no other word for it - abused her as he did, that she was so shut off from him that she never mentioned their true first meeting and yet they got married and lived together and never once sought counselling or help.
The whole thing about the paper rabbits is River trying to make him remember their first meeting. Sure, maybe she could have just told him, but I don't think that it's a plot hole that "she never mentioned their true first meeting." It makes sense that she would have acted this way. She thought it was better to make him remember himself.
And my interpretation is that the rabbits did work and that he did remember their true first meeting just before he died. At the beginning of the game the kids express surprise about the blue/yellow paper rabbit because it hadn't been there one week ago. I believe that Johnny maybe looked at it one more time in that lighthouse his final week when the realization hit him. It's just that we don't learn this because he is unconscious and we can only talk to him in a memory when that hadn't happened yet.
As for the bigger points:
I probably agree that this isn't a very great story. But I would still call it at least a good story. And this is a game that I recommend that people play. Even though the story may not be as brilliant as some make it out to be, the way it's told is really well done and the music and the graphics are beautiful and the characters are well written and interesting and there are just many things to recommend about this game.
I also agree that the "telling the life story in reverse" doesn't quite work all the way to the end. The beginning is really good when you first see him at River's tombstone and he says that she didn't have to die. So you want to see why that is. Then you see that River chose that she'd rather the house be built than she survive, and there's that new mystery of "Anya." The mysteries work really well for a long time. The game doesn't quite keep that up the entire time. I mean I wouldn't want it to present new mysteries all the time, but then I'd like it to go at a faster pace or present me with something else that is equally interesting.
But: even with that I still felt that the game worked well enough through it all. It never went too far to where it became boring. That could have easily happened with the entire sections before the one where they got married, because we aren't learning much new after that. But the game still did well, just not as well as the earlier sections.
I also agree that I probably don't want a sequel to this game. I'm not convinced that the mechanism of going through a person's memories in reverse needs multiple visits. I'd rather that that team does something else for their next project.
Finally: I did enjoy the ending more than you guys. It did totally work for me and I was wondering how the alternate memory would play out and I was not instantly convinced that there would be a "everything is fine" ending. So yeah, it kept me enraptured in that entire sequence. And ultimately I can only say that I really enjoyed the game.
21-12-2011, 08:04 AM #23
I don't know about you, but the subtext of those encounters said "dysfunctional!" to me. Their problems went unspoken maybe. Brushed off possibly. But for me, the player looking in, that wasn't a healthy circumstance for either to be in. Their actual conversations only hammered that feeling home.
And I'll confess ignorance of autism; I don't know how much/in what way it affects your ability to maintain full social relationships. So forgive me if I overstep reasonableness.
What I do know about it is that its central characteristic is impaired social ability. And what the game showed me of it, as presented through River, was:
That her dialogue was always kooky, disconnected, odd.
And her friend remarked that she too was autistic, but not as severely as River, and she pitied and worried about her.
And that a medical doctor thought it was a really serious matter.
And that River's entire personality was based around this condition; I'm not sure she had any other tangible character traits.
So it must be pretty damn significant to any relationship she's in.
"Abused" is a big word, I know. But I think it applies to at least their initial relationship. Johnny wanted River as an accessory, not a friend/person. She didn't know this. That's a key point in the story of their relationship. Ok, maybe they worked it out positively later. But keeping in mind her social impairment - exactly the faculty that needs be preyed on in such a scenario...that doesn't strike you as even slightly abusive? She's autistic, he knows this, he acts like that?
And then he married her!? There is so much that needs to be justified, explained, resolved, for the story told chronologically-straight to make that seem reasonable.
It can't be washed away with "Well teenagers are stupid". It's an element of their relationship, and it's deep and it's dark.
So yeah, abused. Alter the plot's perspective just the slightest, I think that becomes undeniable.
Last edited by Keep; 21-12-2011 at 08:08 AM.
22-12-2011, 01:06 PM #24
- Join Date
- Oct 2011
I thought the whole traumatic memory/beta blockers thing was a bit too much, which was a shame; it could have been much more normal than that. Let the time gap be enough for him to lose the childhood memory of River. As it is, it veers too much towards this being a special contrived situation, with him and her both being psychological special cases, instead of being just different enough to throw into the light something that's quite universal.
22-12-2011, 03:08 PM #25
- Join Date
- Aug 2011
- Cape Town, South Africa
I've also concluded that the game is no more than a manipulative ride and I've drawn comparisons to something like Seven Pounds. That's fine for what it is. It gets sold as a manipulative game, one where you can cry at the story. I also agree that the twin was completely unnecessary to tell the story and the worst point of manipulation in the game. I however thought the whole rabbit thing was rather brilliant.
I do disagree that there is nothing to take home afterwards. Yes, the feeling of unfair and helplessness and such is left with everyone and pretty much forced home. There is however a real philosophical question in whether manipulating memories are okay, if the subject agreed to it.
This brings up another point. I felt the game-play was perfect for trying to convey helplessness. Especially in the latter level where you had you chase Eva. Yes it leaves much to be desired, but how interactive can you make it without ruining the vehicle you need to tell the story effectively.
The gaming industry still has much room to mature in.
Edit: Edit: Keep: I'm going to disagree on plot holes here. Yes there are some magic involved with the beta blockers, but that's just general Hocus Pocus as seen in many films. They could have replaced the beta blockers with any possible magical future substance that could completely block memories, would you have preferred that?
I also don't see where there is any plot-holes in information not revealed. They only have snippets of memory to work with and the caretaker who barely knows him. It's completely possible that the memories they did get were actual memories. I seriously don't see the holes.
They also do inform future events, what else was the use of the hacky-sack, platypus or rabbit serve then? Or indeed the mother using his brother's name? I see nothing wrong with how the events chronologically flow. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you.
I don't think the dynamics of the relationship needed much discussion. The whole plot is driven towards that one time looking at the stars as a child. The rest are all there to act as plot pointers to drag it in that direction. They could have added more, but it would have detracted from the premise, imho.
Last edited by IDtenT; 22-12-2011 at 03:47 PM.
22-12-2011, 08:17 PM #26
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- Jun 2011
The exact quotes are:
Dr Watts: "At least Johnny had the beta-blockers erase the memories. Not like he remembers it, much."
Dr Rosalene: "Fuzzily unlinked, not erased. Somewhere in there, the aftermath of those memories probably lingered."
I took this to mean the memory of his brother's death was erased, but not all memories of his brother. He probably still has some fuzzy memory of there once being a brother.
Also at 6:50 in the video they learn that his treatment with beta-blockers is actually in his medical records. I'd assume that Johnny's doctor probably told him why when he turned 18 or something.
But I can see how it would instead mean that he doesn't remember much from his childhood at all, which would include a complete blackout about his brother. I'm not so certain about my point any more. Could be that he didn't know about his brother.
23-12-2011, 12:45 AM #27
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- Dec 2011
Hiya guys, Kan from Freebird here.
I've just finished reading this entire thread so far. I have to say, I'm really impressed by how mature and constructive the points are. Many thanks for that, it was a fantastic read.
@Keep: While some of what you said definitely wasn't how I intended for it come across as, I won't waste our time by defensively explaining the "original intentions", since what really matters is how it was perceived after being materialized -- It was really helpful that you could articulate your experience with it so well. I'm not sure if I could immediately turn the next episode 180' around to make it suddenly satisfactory, but I'll definitely try to keep what you said in mind while writing future installments (whether you'd actually try them yourself or not, hah).
Though, just a minor note on the unexplored themes of going through one's life: There were indeed many, many aspects of growing old that were left untouched in this particular story. Truthfully, I just wanted for this particular story to be devoted to one single aspect to avoid losing focus (not to say that doing both is technically impossible). An in-game logical excuse of it could be that the mental world constructed from the patient on their death bed is created with the emphasis of what was mattering to them most at that very moment -- and in this case, at that moment, it was just the relationship between Johnny and River; so the memories fetched were based on that seed. Hopefully the other episodes will focus some of the other aspects with better effects.
Anyhow, sorry for the relatively brief post since I'm a little swarmed and behind schedules right now, but I mostly just wanted to drop by to thank everyone for the intriguing discussion, and to let you know that I'll try my best to absorb it; it was very insightful to read.
23-12-2011, 04:35 AM #28
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- Jun 2011
Well... either the OP is right or John is right, and in this case I think it's John.
I suppose some just won't get To the Moon. A game which requires a lot of feeling, and a lot of emotional reading between the lines. If you're not good at the whole 'feeling' thing, then you'll never get To the Moon. But to me, hating on To the Moon is like hating on a Disney film. You've got people who'll tell you that Disney films are the most poorly written things ever, but to be honest? It sounds like scenester nonsense to my ears.
You don't do 'feeling,' and you didn't get it. That's fine. Me? I absolutely adored it. I did get it.
And it also sounds like you're angry about the lack of what you perceive to be necessary gameplay, and you're scraping the barrel versus the story without ever actually getting at the core of it: You just dislike the lack of what you think is necessary gameplay. Your points against the story are entirely subjective, to be honest, and thus just one subjective voice amongst many.
You didn't get To the Moon, that's fine. You didn't like it because of that, that's fine too. That does not make it a bad game.
Now let's go over the post.
Then we learned about his obsession with the moon. And the insight was how long his love with River had lasted, how deep it was, and there was also a little wisdom there too about the almost gleeful use of drugs to solve everything in our modern age and how that can be a double-edged sword.
Apparently you didn't get any of this.
Again, I'll just say that you didn't get it.
No, it didn't feel childish. You're looking at the superficial side of things and not actually delving into the story itself. It seems 'childish,' I suppose, because ultimately it was a story about children and the magical things that can happen in childhood. The whole story was progressing backward toward childhood. I suppose you read that as childish.
Just because it doesn't read like a novel doesn't mean that it's a bad story. It was ultimately the progression through a series of memories, and there are bound to be things about that that feel unnatural and take you out of your comfort zone, which is what I think this is about.
But it did flow properly in regards to its own setting. You just have to be more open-minded, whereas you're coming off old fashioned and just hating it for being a bit different - and thus taking you out of your comfort zone.
Because to me, it sounds like you've just spent the last while poorly articulating that you think that a game isn't allowed to convey a mystery. And that the very attempt annoys you.
It didn't tell you from the opening first few seconds no. But should it have? That's what you seem to be claiming. Again, it sounds like you're angry that the game had a sense of mystery about it.
And again, you're forgetting that you're dealing with the ephemeral nature of memories.
One example is Ritalin. If a child seems a little strange, stick 'em on Ritalin! It'll be fine.
This is a future world we're looking at here, and the assumption was was that the situation with using medicines irresponsibly was going to get worse. They had a problem with a traumatised, a child that they were afraid would go crazy unless they acted. So they pumped him up with drugs to block off a bunch of memories of his youth, leaving them clouded and vague but leaving his skills and knowledge in place.
It might not have been a reason that you liked, but it was an entirely valid one. And frankly, I liked it, I thought it was quite an intelligent reason. And it tied back to the very beginning of the game, since Johnny admitted to having strange whimsy and desires but not really knowing why.
It all flowed, it all had reason. You just refused to see it out of your arbitrary hate of the game borne of you not being able to stand that the game was leading you along, perhaps you felt that the game seemed a little bit too intelligent and that bothered you, perhaps you like being able to figure out everything from the first page and you felt that the whole thing was a sleight to your intelligence. But really, this tells me less about To the Moon and more about you, as a person.
You hate unnatural mysteries or mysteries that you can't figure out, and you call them all poorly written when you can't wrap your mind around them. I wish I could say that I hadn't seen this attitude before, though.
Theeere we go. So called that in the last paragraph.
You're annoyed that the game was intelligent enough to keep you guessing, it made you angry. KEEP SMASH. That's what this is coming over as... it really is. I'm sorry, but that's what it's sounding like.
Should the game have had a button to reveal all of its secrets to you for pushing said button? I don't think so. See, you seem to be the sort that skips to the end of a mystery book for 'hints' just so you can guess the outcome of the story, and that To the Moon wouldn't let you do that, and kept you guessing, and mercilessly teased you even just made you angry.
But there are plenty of well written novels, films, and yes, even games out there that do just that.
You'd hate the hell out of the Myst series.
You seem to be a bit of a control freak, you need everything your way. You need to be able to skip to the last few pages of a story or it's a bad book. Why? Should the game give you that leisure? I don't think it should. I think it's a good game for not giving you that leisure.
MEMORIES. You'd only be able to pick up the files and see them if Johnny actually had read and understood them.
And I witnessed that, I just understood that the memories just jumped around a bit due to the damage that was done to those memories when he was a child. Ultimately though, this still reads as: ME NO HAVE INTERACTIONS. ME AM ANGRY MAN. And I'm just not getting anything else from it other than that.
This just about you, control, the game not giving it to you, and you flipping out.
Think about it.
The twin angle is because the twin could be the murderer, this means that it would be hard for a person to predict the true murderer if there was an unknown twin. But that's not relevant because this isn't a murder story. To even bring the twin up in this matter is just grasping... straws! Straws! More straws! You need more straws! I mean, really. This is just... silly.
This was really, really silly. This is where your whole post fell apart.
The traumatic event could have been anything. Even his mother dying. But then you would have said something similar about his mother, wouldn't you?
See, this is what you're angry about. You're angry that the game wasn't completely straightforward with you. But then you'd probably damn every book, film, and game in the same breath that isn't. Because it's not straightforward it's automatically bad. And there goes your credibility in my eyes. I'm sorry.
You just want a straightforward, simple story that you can predict and have complete control of.
To the Moon wasn't that, so you went crazy.
But To the Moon is a brilliant game, it's just not for you. You're just not the sort to go poking through clues, perusing an unusual setting, or trying to piece things together. I can only imagine how you'd react to a good detective novel that didn't involve murder. You'd probably burn it in a fit.
You just don't get it. It's fine. It's not for you. That doesn't make it bad.
Again it feels like you're grasping at straws.
And I feel you completely misunderstood the point that they were trying to make with the beta blockers, which I explained above. To be honest, I think you missed a lot of the understanding that To the Moon conveyed, because you were so set on hating it that you had your version of it in your head, rather than the version that the game was trying to convey to you. Like a true scenester, you were ready to hate it from the moment you started it up, I suspect.
And what you're trying to explain, awkwardly, is a 'bait and switch method.' But I can't think of the game ever having pulled that. Again, there were obviously strange things that happened within Johnny's youth, and there were plenty of clues. You just overlooked the clues for the obvious answer. And you got angry at the game when it wasn't as obvious as you thought it was.
I had a fairly good idea of a couple of things that would happen:
1. There would be a traumatic incident in Johnny's youth where something pretty awful happened.
2. There would have been something between Johnny and River that would have affected him throughout his entire life.
I mean, come on... the clues.
"It's like she wants something from me."
Good grief. You must have been totally oblivious. With some of the clues the game was screaming them at you, and yet you completely overlooked them. I think you're being unintelligent just because you want to hate the game.
(More to come.)"[I]A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.[/I]" ~Henry David Thoreau
23-12-2011, 04:36 AM #29
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- Jun 2011
The only question was WHAT couldn't he remember? Now I was asking myself that question. Clearly you were not.
Unobservant or scenester? I can't decide.
Johnny felt the same way about River the first time he saw her because part of his mind still had those feelings stored, he just couldn't remember the details. To him, it must have felt like love at first sight. Why didn't River mention it? She wasn't neurotypical. But here's the thing you're missing: Neither was he. Yes, Johnny was a bit disturbed.
That Johnny was a bit disturbed was the whole point of it.
The game painted him as a neurotypical, but there were always hints of there being something wrong with him. And that having his memories robbed from him like that affected him more than anyone could have imagined, that it altered his perceptions, and that it left him with feelings and vague images that he'd never be able to understand.
It was a story about secrets and different human mindsets. And you've approached it in a very closed-minded way.
Perhaps it's because I'm not neurotypical myself, but I understood it all much better than you did. And I can tell you that there are a lot of things that you just don't talk about. You just get on with life. The story made a lot of sense in regards to human nature.
So, again, another misunderstanding or another lie.
And that makes me sad. Sad because To the Moon is getting slated by someone who didn't even bother to try to read the story, let alone understand it.
That is not good reading.
And the gameplay stuff? Pffff. Not even going to go there."[I]A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.[/I]" ~Henry David Thoreau
23-12-2011, 11:03 AM #30
Wulf your posts are just like... unchecked agression, man! I'm in your corner but I didn't even bother to read more than half of what you said because it was just overtly caustic.
I said earlier that mechanically To The Moon was the worst game I ever played. I'll be a bit fairer and restate that it's the worst game (mechanically) I've ever completed. ;) That's as back-handed a compliment as anyone is likely to get so in the spirit of constructive criticism (and that the thread hasn't really covered this aspect at all);
* The tile puzzles. Too detached to mean anything, I just didn't care about them in the slightest. Unecessary padding that just served to keep me away from the meat of the game.
* I felt a lot of your UI elements and stuff were kinda pointless. The inventory etc. screens were never used save to have a couple of jokes tucked away inside of them. Save the programming time and ditch 'em too, it'll make for a more streamlined experience (unless of course you already have plans to really make use of these).
* The game starts off well in giving me choice (or at least the illusion of choice) but as soon as we jumped into John's memories that all evaporated. It's been stated above that the game could've been reduced to a continue button for input without losing much and I share that feeling. Appreciate branching choices are a form of geometric progression and can take up a lot of time with little payoff (if not exploited well) but I'd say that this is definately something worth focussing on.
* I think you'd have a lot to gain if you could make the 'memory link hunt' feel more investigative. About the best example I can give for this are the two Condemned FPS games by Monolith. Occaisonally you come across crime scenes and need to study the surroundings/objects present and basically construct a narrative. Not saying you should just rip that but it does have interesting parallels with the spirit of your game and also you weren't required to actually get it 100% right to progress.
Last edited by FuriKuri!; 23-12-2011 at 11:08 AM.
09-01-2012, 07:56 PM #31
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- Jan 2012
I didn't like it. Mostly because the ending derailed the experience for me. I was quite absorbed until then.
Just two things been eating at me since finishing.
1. The darker elements of John and Rivers relationship.
Its not so much I had a problem with it then not understanding why it seems to fly over the heads of many other players and reviews.
The story makes it clear, on at least two occasions, that Johns entire reason for wanting to approach River was because she was different. She was a novelty, meant to adorn his arm and deal with his own issues of not wanting to be average. What's more, he knows this. It isn't done subconsciously, which is why he eventually tells her.
Thats not to say he didn't love River, but that doesn't change the fact that their entire relationship was built on a foundation of Johns calculated selfishness.
2. The Ending
I thought the ending killed the soul of what was a powerful story. Johns desire to go to the moon wasn't literal. He wanted his wife back. Yet the narrative identifys River as a problem. To the point it was worth risking erasing her from his life's memory entirely. She becomes disposable and it's blind luck she appears in time at all.
Granted this might be more my mind rebelling against the very notion of having ones life rewritten and replaced with an idealized bit of syrupy sweet fluff.
09-01-2012, 09:39 PM #32
Wow I guess I missed this over Christmas...
Wulf, if you wanna discuss this game with me - and I'd like to because you raised points that invalidated some of my complaints - then this shit:
...is inappropriate. Drop it next time.
04-11-2012, 10:56 AM #33
- Join Date
- Jun 2011
Well, I finally played it and I hated the living shit out of it xD
Pretentious teen drama throughout with rather boring to non-existent gameplay and near the end I just wanted it to end already and be over with.
I also couldn't get into the story much because it constantly reminded me of contrived Japanese visual novels and seemed kind of hipster-ish, using words like "neurotypical" that make me cringe at their sheer utterance. It's strange because I'm usually not that choosy with stories in games as I am in movies or TV series, but this just brought up the worst in it. If I had to sum it up it's the story of a boy/man who marries a mentally-impaired woman because he finds her "interesting", which in turn gives him some happy moments but ends up ruining his life and draining him of any ambition. But the worst is that the game implies both of them accepting a *lighthouse* as some sort of a surrogate child that they have to take care of and that the husband is, despite not being mentally deranged and full well knowing about the condition of his wife being irresponsible enough to put the well-being of a lighthouse in front of hers. It's something I expect a teenager to write.
The cringeworthy ending finally sealed the deal.
I might not have reacted this badly if everyone wasn't praising it as some sort of messiah and breakthrough in game storytelling... The upside is that it made me want to kill stuff, so I'll likely play some Shooter next, finished "Spec Ops: The Line" a few days ago and liked that and its story a lot in comparison. :P
Last edited by Dexter; 04-11-2012 at 11:00 AM.
04-11-2012, 11:38 AM #34
04-11-2012, 01:47 PM #35
I miss wulf, but i'd still skip alot of his more bile filled posts, but that's just it, I'd hate to be sat on a long train journey with wulf, but on the internet he's great. YAY FOR WULF AND YAY FOR SKIM READING.
Last edited by Heliocentric; 04-11-2012 at 02:01 PM.I am once again writing a blog, vaguely about playing games the wrong way