Why I was wrong on L4D2 just being “alright” in storyline…

Hey guys,

So I did a little digging after my last post because I wanted to learn more about the L4D universe. And I must say, I was wrong on it simply being alright. It’s actually pretty great. At least one of their plot lines are. The rest of my post will have spoilers, but to be fair, the game came out five years ago.

the sacrifice

The sun looks like a halo behind Bill’s head.

I noticed that there were only three of the four original survivors while I was doing The Passing campaign and not having ever played the first game in the franchise, I had to look up the missing guy… whose corpse I saw in game: Bill Overbeck.

What I liked about L4D (after some research) is that they did not solely reveal their story through the games. On a slightly different note, apparently, the cutscenes were too long and they actually shortened it so that players can get on with the game. It would be interesting to see what the original scenes looked like. However, L4D has an online comic which helps to depict the ending of the story for the franchise’s original survivors, which we got a brief glimpse at in the campaign The Sacrifice. Here’s the link for it.

We are taken back not only to relive the events of The Sacrifice, but given details of each original survivor’s past: Zoey and how she had to kill her own father; Francis and his past on being on the wrong side of the law; Louis and how he was an ordinary cubical worker; Bill and his past as a hardy veteran who had served during the Vietnam war. Through the comic, we can observe the relationships of these four characters. Zoey and Bill’s relationship stood out to me the most. To me, Zoey sees Bill as a father figure, and he takes a very defensive stance against anyone who would hurt her. To build on their relationship, during the game, if Zoey’s character dies, Bill reacts quite strongly (“Aghh…not [tearing up] Zoey…”). It was very difficult for me to read the comics and see this relationship reveal itself since through the game, I know Bill dies. Needless to say, I did cry as I got to the end of the comics. Bill also mentions, as he’s making his sacrifice, that he’s tired of how every time he thinks “she” is safe, they just go right back into a pile of problems. He is definitely talking about Zoey, and although he is sacrificing himself for the whole team, I believe a lot of that had to do with Zoey.

Here is the accompanying trailer that hints at Bill’s sacrifice (with Zoey’s reaction to when he makes his decision to do so), and he looks pretty badass. Props to the people at Valve who managed to make me feel this deeply about a character death in a game where dying isn’t exactly a rare event. Transmedia storytelling is awesome.

– Karen

Left 4 Dead 2: Free stuff is good stuff.

Hey all,

Not sure if any of you picked up Left 4 Dead 2 during the holidays when Valve offered it for free in celebration of Christmas, but after playing it for a few days, I must say it’s very good. Sure, it’s not the newest of games (shoutout to 2009!), but free stuff is good in my books.

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To be honest, I never really liked first person shooter games, but I found that L4D2 had a lot of variety whether it was in the mobs or the weapons. I’ve never played the first game in the franchise, but in this continuation, you are given a chance to play one of the four characters on your team that are immune to the disease that turns people into zombies. Depending on which storyline you follow, you will have to progress through several chapters (with a checkpoint after each of them so you don’t have to start all over) until you reach the hardest part of the campaign (which may include working together with teammates to fill a car with gas, fighting off hordes of zombies while waiting for a helicopter, or running across a bridge that is frankly impossibly long).

*Skip this part if you don’t want to read a condensed version of the complete L4D2 storyline*

I’m all about the story and how immersed I am in the game through the writing. Each campaign starts with a short cutscene showing how your team got into your current situation. You are supposed to play the campaigns in a certain order so that the stories flow into one another. The main characters in L4D2 starts you off in the campaign Dead Center, where the four survivors are abandoned on the roof of a hotel. Through the character’s conversations, you find out that your goal is to reach the shopping mall. The fight to the shopping mall is riddled with the undead, but when you make it there, your group finds a race car on display. You must now transverse the mall to find gas to fill up the car. If you succeed, the storyline continues in the next campaign: The Passing. Your team is faced with a raised bridge which you cannot get across. The main characters of L4D2 meets the survivors from the first franchise who tells them they must get the generator working. Collectively, the bridge is lowered and you can continue to drive away. Then in Dark Carnival, your team is forced to abandon your car and travel by foot as the bridge is blocked with abandoned cars. The bridge leads you to a rundown amusement park (this is one of my favourite campaigns) and you all decide to crank up the music on a rock stage so that a patrolloing rescue helicopter can be signalled. It’s pretty cool because the music gets real loud and fireworks on stage explode while you fight zombies. Talk about feeling epic.

All good things must come to an end and in the next campaign Swamp Fever, your team realizes that the pilot who just rescued you is infected and he starts attacking you guys. The helicopter crashes into a swamp in the fight the ensues. The survivors finds signs that there may be rescue deeper in the swamp and indeed, they find that a kind man with a boat named Virgil is willing to take them to a rumoured safe zone in Louisiana. Then comes the campaign I hate the most: Hard Rain. Why do I hate it? It’s raining really hard. I can’t see half the time so it’s really frustrating. But on with the story. Virgil’s boat runs out of fuel so the survivors have to go out and search for more juice. Seems simple enough until signs of a imminent hurricane appear. In the end of the campaign, the survivors retrieve the fuel and signals Virgil with a lit up billboard. Virgil then drops off at the rumoured safe zone and leaves the group to search for more survivors (bless that guy). Sadly, your team finds New Orleans to be completely infested with zombies. However, if you manage to transverse a long bridge, a helicopter is waiting to take your team to a safe zone where the rest of the survivors reside surrounded by water (apparently the infected can’t swim).

***End***

Did I like the writing? Overall, it was alright. The characters interacted well with one another (such as chastising every now and then when a team member accidentally opens friendly fire), and when near death, there is a very real sense of dread in what your characters says. They voice their disbelief, or their acceptance of dying. This causes the player to feel relieved when a teammate heals you or when you find a health pack and the negativity dissipates. The story itself was okay. It may be a bit repetitive in how you finally reach your goal at the end of a campaign only to realize the zombies are always waiting elsewhere but I don’t see any other way a zombie shooter could have written their story.

My favourite part of the writing takes the form of graffiti on the walls and structures in the game. Some are witty, some are funny, while others are sad and unsettling. (Screenshots aren’t mine, but just placed here for reference! I believe the third one is from the first L4D)

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I spot my name on one of the graffitis <3 (top right)

I spot my name on one of the graffitis

What other zombie games are there? The storyline similar? Meanwhile, I’ll continue to top the charts in the most friendly fire done in the campaigns in easy mode (sorry whoever I end up playing with 😦 )

-Karen

When we die…

When we die, the weight of our ashes will roughly equates to how much we weighed when were were brought into this world. It’s funny because after the ashes are scattered and we become a part of nature as fertilizer, we’re back to being basically nothing in this big big world. Physically anyway. A full circle?

References:
http://www.rukfuneralhome.com/qa/cremationfaqs –> Average weight of ashes (without urn) = 4-5 pounds http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site1281/mainpageS1281P0.html –> Average weight of newborn= ~7 pounds

Post inspired by:
http://therumpus.net/2013/05/improvising-a-bone-graft/

Who wrote it?

Hey y’all,

So I realized that I’ve taken a different approach when looking for new books. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to notice– it started back in March earlier this year I suppose.

I used to look for books by searching through the bestsellers and top 10s of different stores. However, I was quick to realize that a lot of these books weren’t actually that satisfying or good. I’m guessing there’s a lot of paid advertising involved in some of these lists.

Anyway, I now think of a certain author, and only then do I search for a book. For example, I wanted a Neil Gaiman book, so I went and search up his works and picked one. I did the same for several other authors. I find that I find much better books this way. I’m not relying on any lists, nor am I simply picking up the latest hot book (which doesn’t really stay popular for that long in many cases). I’m relying on what I know about the author and their writing style, and through that I make my decision.

Speaking of books, I remember last year, one of my creative writing profs were telling us about how you can judge if a book is actually good or not. You go to your nearest Salvation Army/Thrift Store and look at their books section. See which book has the most amount of copies. These are basically the books that although people bought (probably because of all the hype around them when they were first released), but ended up realizing that they weren’t really worth another read.

So here are my finds at a local thrift shop:
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Surprising? Not surprising? What do you think?

– Karen

Musings After Sandman Volume 3– Gaiman’s Scripts

I felt the need to just ramble about how I felt after reading Sandman. And here are my unfiltered thoughts (though I edited for grammar)– just thought I would share it with you guys! You may notice it is a bit different from my usual style of writing, but that is because I was just pouring out everything that went through my mind after reading the volume!
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I have nothing better to do on this fine Tuesday afternoon. I have braved through all my classes, and am now waiting for my HR meeting.

Anyway, I was at the gym earlier (shocker!) and instead of bringing my usual iPad to watch an episode of Supernatural while I run, I read volume 3 of Sandman. The stories were okay. Like the first book, I found myself loving certain parts of the book a lot more than the rest. I remember for book 1, it was when we were introduced to the Sandman’s sister– Death. She is amazing. Dare I say perfect? We see her again in one of the short stories in this volume.

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I still don’t entirely get Sandman. But I respect Neil Gaiman as a writer– a lot. He has that dark vibe to him, much like how you would expect Tim Burton to write if you got a chance to read his scripts. What was my favourite part of this graphic novel was the very last section of the book. Gaiman told us he would allow us a peek behind the curtains of how he writes his graphic novels. Actually, I’m wrong in saying that. He explicitly told us that this was not the Neil Gaiman style of how to write graphic novels, but simply how he writes The Sandman.

I did not think that writing the script for a graphic novel would be so intense. It seems like it would take ages to finish a page (I’m sure it does). I know I breezed through the pages of the novel, spending 2-3 minutes max on them. But the effort it takes to write one of these pages is commendable. He included notes from both him and his artist, Kelley Jones, in the margins of the script.

Gaiman writes his script out in a manner similar to writing a letter. To introduce each page, he would write to Kelley how he wanted the page to go. Additionally, he would also add random thoughts that he happened to ponder on. One of these included how he had a strange phone call the night before and it freaked him out. I loved this. It personalized the script, and made it so much more inviting to Kelley (or at least I would think I would feel that way if I was him). You are no longer reading stone cold instructions, but something from a friend.

After taking Creative Writing 203, we were told that we were not supposed to give the artist too much directions in our children picture book drafts. I wrote my story (which I was not satisfied with– and neither was my TA judging from my mark), and the only instructions you could get from what I wanted the illustrator to do was which page I wanted the text on. It was important that you allowed the artist freedom. Gaiman’s approach was completely different..

If you could read how detailed he makes each scene, it really is amazing. He not only tells the artist roughly what he wants the character to be doing, but he goes as far as to say that outside the window, we should get a lighting that suggests “early summer or late spring”. Each page’s panels have about half a page of text instructing Kelley on what he should do. Gaiman also says that he’d send Kelley reference pics (which us as the reader does not get to see). Gaiman does say that he has to first know who his illustrator is before he writes his scripts, so I am assuming he keeps in mind what he believes Kelley can produce.
I think this is amazing, but of course, I am thinking through the mind of the author. I would love for my artist to paint exactly what I imagined in my head. I wonder how Kelley feels. I wonder if this is the approach many other comic book/graphic novel writers use when they write their scripts. Or maybe it’s because Neil Gaiman is a such a big shot, so he gets to do things this way. Or maybe it’s a neutral agreement between solely Gaiman and Kelley. It’s weird how I refer to Gaiman by his last name and Kelley by his first. But I like it like that.

Seeing the script, I no longer think of graphic novels as very short pieces with several hundred words. Sure, each chapter may come in a small little compact booklet, and yes, we may only see the few hundred words that the writer chose to express physically with words in font.
But it is so much more than that.

-Karen