Ongoing Investigations: Case #178

I like nerdy documentaries, even if (or maybe especially if) they are about hobbies that I only just have knowledge of. Afterall, that seems like what documentaries are for, learning. So when I saw the trailer for Indie Game: The Movie, I knew I wanted to see this movie.

I am not much of a gamer and I’ve never played or even knew about any of the games in this movies, but that isn’t important. What matters is the connection they build with the audience as we watch and hope for their success. Though if you do know the games a bit of the suspense is taken away, still the filmmakers do a great job of building the tension regardless of their outcome.

To me, the movie is about three tortured artists and one guy who loves games. IGtM really shocked me with how delicate the balance of these developers walk, teetering on the edge of losing their sanity and being penniless. They truly are like painters desperate for success, acknowledgment, and a paycheck. By their own admissions, they were likely to do something rash should these games fail at this point.

And then there was Edmund, the guy who loves game which I mentioned. Thank God he was in this movie to ground the entire thing otherwise it would have been a real downer. Edmund is tired, brain drained, and worried about money but he is also excited for his game with a positive energy about him. It came across clearly how much Edmund loves video games and the movie needed that. The other guys clearly loved their games too, otherwise they could never dedicate so much of themselves to it, but they let the fun be taken from them whereas Edmund still shows that joy.

I would have liked to see more about the community surrounding indie games. They mention a few little things off-hand, like Johnathan Blow responding to any comment anywhere on the net about Braid, but overall they don’t give the community a real voice in the movie. I assume they are an important aspect, and seeing a player talk about and waiting for a game would have been a nice touch.

I really enjoyed this documentary, I felt that sense of impending doom as the approaching release date of Super Meat Boy; I felt the heartbreak of a glitchy demo with Fez. I don’t know much of anything about indie games, but now I know that the phrase “this isn’t as easy as it looks” applies to this scene like so many others.

I had been interested to see Indie Game: The Movie ever since I heard about it when it was raising funds through Kickstarter. Like most nerds the creation of video games has always been an intriguing process but indie games in particular have a much more raw and personal feel. Plus indie games, sort of like writing a book, is something a lot people secretly want to believe that if they just sat down and really put in a crazy effort they could do themselves. And much like writing a book for most people it is something that mostly remains a theoretical concept or an eternally barely started project.

This documentary does provide a remarkable amount of insight into the chunk of your soul that goes into making any decently ambitious indie game. It very clear how much time and energy goes into making a game and how perilous it can all seem. None of the people profiled has large teams or companies backing them up. That sense that these guys were taking a real risk to follow their dreams was very apparent.

The contrast between the two guys working on Super Meat Boy was fairly interesting. Edmund McMillen seemed fairly positive and energetic whereas Tommy Refenes seemed very dour about the whole project. It sort of reminded me of another duo. Edmund McMillen game philosophy and off beat sensibility seems the sort of aesthetic that would only be allowed in an independent environment. But overall despite several setbacks and grueling deadlines Super Meat Boy eventually crosses the finish line as a winner.

Fez on the other hand seemed more like proof that Murphy’s Law always finds a way. Phil Fish’s story seems to be more about how every time he gets somewhere it seems like there is a bear trap waiting for him here. When he tries to show off the latest demo of his game at PAX he has a major legal snafu with an ex business partner it only gets cleared up so he can realize that the demo he is presenting is very buggy. So he is forced to baby the machines running the demos for no end of agita. I will say that Phil Fish did come of as slightly unhinged. Not “he needs to be locked up” crazy but definitely “we only invite him to certain parties with certain people” nutty.

I do have to agree with the guys from Fast Karate. Jonathan Blow does come off as an enormous tool. Especially in contrast to the other creators who are profiled in the movie that really seem to have to pay a pound of flesh for their creations.

Overall I think while the documentary did focus on projects that came out on top it did present the struggle fairly well. I think it also proved that very often more than anything these indie game’s worst enemies could be themselves. With often no one rein them in they can get absorbed in the minutia and lose site of the grander picture. At a professional studio there is usually someone to keep the creative types in line. But without that a vital limiter projects can spin their wheels with no one to just pull the trigger and say “good enough.” That can lead to unique products but seemingly with much wasted energy. It seemed like the people in documentary got the most done when they were under the gun to get something out for an event.

It reminded me a lot of the eternal delays on Type-Moon games. With no one to keep Nasu in check the games seem to take forever as it always seems something can be tweaked or fiddled with. The vitriol from the fans about those delays was also the same in both cases.

The biggest complaint I usually hear about the movie is that it only focuses on success stories. It did seem like they picked games that already had a decent amount of buzz for the film. They did not pick any one who was a complete unknown and all three games profiled were big successes when they were finally released. Considering how many indie games never go anywhere I know some people felt the documentary made it seem like all you needed was an idea and some hard work to be a success.

Might the documentary shown a bit more of the struggling  indie game developer? Sure. In fact I think that would make an excellent follow-up documentary by either James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot or someone else who wishes to follow in their footsteps. But what is presented here is a fascinating insight to what goes into making a game outside of a major studio. It will crush some people’s casual dreams but strengthen others.

I feel like things have finally hit a turning point in D.Gray Man vol. 22, this feels like the beginning of the end.

We’ve certainly witnessed a fundamental change in Allen’s relationship to the Noah and the Exorcists. The past is being unraveled and we’ve seen the deaths of more than a few major characters. And I suspect we are close to see The Heart fully formed.

Since we are so close to the Japanese at this point, I’ll have to wait a while to find out where everything is headed.

As is the recent trend with anime the second season of Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne started after a single season break over the spring. I have not yet seen Rinne no Lagrange: Kamogawa Days nor have I seen the DVD specials. But this first episode of the new season starts off in a way that does not require you to have seen any of that material (or at least so far that has been the case.) I was glad to see Megumi Nakajima was back to do the new opening but Try Unite! was definitely the stronger song.

While Madoka seems fine since we saw her at the end of the first season it is clear that she is in a funk without her friends as she has lost her direction. So when Lan comes back and is desperate for Madoka to pilot her mecha again it seems as if her engine is restarted. But Muginami has renewed her vow to stop the Vox Aura even if that means killing her former friends.

Season two so far just feels like an extension of the first season. And I don’t really have a major problem with that. Especially with an original concept series like this it might be for the best. If gives them some time and money they would not have if it were all one continuous season. Since they have had some time to sell DVDs and merchandise theoretically they don’t have to have as many shoestring budget episodes in the last third of the show like too many anime suffer from. Also it gives them a little breathing room to make sure they have a proper ending planned out instead of throwing together an ending while they have deadlines nipping at their heels. If these things help show conclude a bit stronger I don’t mind the wait.

Lagrange is still a fluffy but enjoyable little show. I am curious of the can keep up to momentum that they had started to get at the end of the last season. So far the engine is warm so it is a matter of if they can keep going as they are now or will they hit the brakes and coast until the end.

Dengeki Daisy vol. 2 ups the crazy by having Teru temporarily move in with Tasuku because her apartment was ransacked. This living situation causes all kinds of little moments from eating dinner to comforting after a bad dream.

Teru also deals with a big betrayal in this volume again emphasizing the terrible influence her brother’s missing piece of programing has. There are seemingly dozens of people after it and they think Teru has the clues to its whereabouts.

We also start to learn about Teru’s brother and his relationship with Tasuku, some thing tragic and surely occurred. A face from their past also shows up and becomes another character who knows Tasuku is Daisy. But she is an ally who helps Teru as well.

Silly romance with hacker action stays fun in the second volume.

So far Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse reminds me of one of those mind grinder OVA from the 80s. You know what I am talking about. One of those series where they introduce a bunch of character just to brutally wipe them out. Or a Kill em all Tomino show like Victory Gundam where he had to introduce new characters because he killed too many of the old ones. I can’t tell if this was just supposed to be a shocking first two episodes like Ga-Rei: Zero and then the show calms down as it goes on or if this body count is par for the course. I am not familiar enough with the Muv-Luv franchise to know the answer.

The anime begins with Earth in the middle of an alien invasion. The aliens have reached Earth and we are not doing well.  Yui Takamura is a young cadet is learning to pilot a mecha. Her whole family is in the military and she is carrying on the noble tradition.  The series start of with the first episode being very Gunbuster. Girls training to fight aliens in suits. It quickly turns gruesome as the girls enter their first real combat as their numbers dwindle when we see just how poorly the earth forces are doing. Don’t get too attached to anyone.

I will say that when Izumi finally got eaten I was a little relieved not to have to hear her crazy rants about revenge anymore.

When you do body count like this it is tricky. So far it has not been Blood-C bad. That was death to the point where it was actually comical and lost all meaning. But there is a danger of life being too cheap. If you know almost everyone is going to die but never get to really know any one them they just because statistics. So far the deaths have some meaning. While you never really got super attached to anyone in Yui’s group it was a good showcase of how deadly this war is. The trick is to maintain a balance past this point. If you don’t show enough death you neuter the introduction. But if you kill off too many people, too quickly, then no one’s death really matters.

Before I make it seem like an all serious business gritty war drama I must mention the flight suits. They are these skin-tight paper-thin suits that are basically fan service engines. I know it takes the edge of the grim nature for some viewers and just makes other people roll their eyes. Your mileage may vary. It is not too horrible but it is equally unavoidable.

I’m still not sure exactly sure what to think of the show. I think a large amount of would come down to how it goes from here. It had a bold start but one that could easily lead the show dropping the ball if they are not careful.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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