Player Too: Episode 1 – Her Story

 Click for the Her Story website.
Click for the Her Story website.

Welcome to the first instalment of Player Too, a new, semi-regular blog series about trying to make my girlfriend, Claire, a gamer too. If you’re a gamer and have a significant other, a brother, sister or best friend who isn’t, then this blog series may be for you.

Since this is the first episode, I just want to set the background before talking about Her Story (which I’ll keep spoiler free). I’m a big gamer, obviously. Claire, by her own declaration, isn’t. We share interests in travel, food, movies, TV shows, burlesque, etc but we never game together. I would like to share the magic of games with her and play some co-op or just spectator-friendly games. I don’t think we’ll ever be playing Command & Conquer or Half Life over a network, but there are all sorts of games out there designed to appeal to all sorts of people. I’m sure that if I can pick a few suitable titles, I might kick start her gaming engine. Claire is willing to try games I recommend in the interests of having new experiences, but doesn’t think she’ll ever call herself a gamer.

I’d like to define “gamer” for the purposes of this blog before continuing. Claire’s view and mine would be that the term ‘gamer’ as comparable to ‘hiker’, ‘jogger’, ‘cyclist’, or ‘reader’. If you have read a book, you’re not a reader. If you have climbed a mountain, you’re not a hiker. If you like Candy Crush and Sonic, you’re not a gamer. But if you regularly play games, purchase them, anticipate new releases, and consider them a hobby, then you’re a gamer.

My goal is to ultimately have Claire call herself a gamer. This blog will document our journey through different hand-picked titles, give a brief summary and review, and answer whether Claire would like to play more similar games or not. She’s up for the journey, and free to call it quits whenever she wants, so I’d better pick some decent titles. I’d appreciate any recommendations you fine readers may have.

“Was it 9pm or 10pm punk?! I swear I will gouge your eyes out with this pen!!” We found Cole a bit too intense..

I’ve tried to bring Claire into my gaming experiences before but without much success. A few years ago we tried playing LA Noire. Claire has quite acute detective skills, and I thought a game where you interviewed suspects and gauged their reactions might appeal to her. It sort of did but neither of us actually liked the game once we got into it. She’d get bored while I drove around the city and got into gun fights. Then I’d get bored “exploring” a crime scene by simply walking around waiting to press A when it told me to. Both of us were also a bit dissatisfied with the interrogation mechanic. If we would ‘doubt’ a statement, our character might explode and yell at the suspect, accusing them flat-out of murder.  Great poker face, dude. It wasn’t what we wanted and we stopped playing.

Claire’s willing to play my game in development, Sons of Sol: Crow’s Nest, but it’s a skill based game and she’s not a practised gamer. It’s not for her, really. And that’s fine. I’ve also tried Nidhogg and BroForce with her. They’re fun for a bit but she’s not interested enough to get used to the controls. We have a few laughs and that’s it. They don’t stick with her.

I’m not starting from scratch here though. As a kid, Claire was big into Revenge of the Mutant Camels, Puzzle Bobble, and later Mario Kart 64 and Mario 64. And others, just not much this millennium . Claire does play Candy Crush. She explains that it’s just because she’s into puzzles. Sudoku and crosswords are more to her tastes. She also liked Angry Birds as it’s a puzzle game at its core. 

She likes mysteries too, though, and she’s really sharp at connecting dots and making inferences in a TV show, book or movie. Better than me anyway. So when I saw a new mystery/detective game called Her Story, I thought this might finally be a game totally for Claire. I was interested as a game designer in the new type of gameplay. A bonus was that the controls are basically the same as using Windows so I could really involve Claire by letting her play instead of me “steering” like in LA Noire. If she’s not hands-on, I figure, she won’t ever feel like a gamer.

Her Story a new game by Sam Barlow, known for his work on Aisle and two Silent Hill Games. It’s about the player searching through archived police interview footage based on typing key words into a database search that can only display five results. You don’t know why you’re doing this but you start to piece together a story as you go along. If you’re worried about spoilers, I won’t say anything that the trailer doesn’t reveal already (which is nothing).

The game is remarkable in that it’s designed by one man, all of its content (except the search interface) is delivered through FMV (full motion video, which we haven’t seen much of since the 90s), and that there’s only a single actress for all of the scenes. Nobody else! Further, since the search results only display the first five results for a given search term (like “murder”), the designer had to be very careful with script writing so as not to overuse a word if he wanted it to be a key clue.

Claire sat down to play the game and I grabbed a pen and paper to take notes. We started by searching the term “murder” as in the trailer and watched the four results. These gave us clues as to other characters and places and we’d search them down too. The woman might say a name and we’d search for that name, finding the first five (as in, earliest chronological five) instances of the interviewee saying that name. The results might tell us that there’s 8 instances, however, and we’d have to be clever to try and find the remaining three, or even to prove to ourselves that the other three were new ones and not ones that we’d seen before while searching another term. It’s a narrative-driven game, but the real gameplay lies in using the search engine.

With each clue we’d hypothesize on what’s going on, then search new terms based on our theory, or hunch. It was quite enjoyable. Claire really got into it. We stayed up a little later than we should have for three nights together to get through the game, and if we’d talk on the phone during the day we’d each have a new theory we wanted to try out when we got back to it.

 The screen glare is an option you can turn off. The game does a good job of simulating a computer interface from the 90s, but the System Clock says it's 2015. I guess the South East Constabulary are still waiting on that budget increase..
The screen glare is an option you can turn off. The game does a good job of simulating a computer interface from the 90s, but the System Clock says it’s 2015. I guess the South East Constabulary are still waiting on that budget increase..

As it stands, we’ve found the majority of the videos, and pieced together the story to our satisfaction. You don’t have to get 100% completion to trigger the ending, and if you accept the end trigger you can still log back into the police database after the credits roll to search down the remaining videos. We’ve come back to it a few times with a new idea to find a few more videos, but no fruit yet.

Claire’s Score: 7/10. Very enjoyable but a little simplistic.

Player Too Result: Claire liked the game a lot. She’d be telling me to shut up so she could search down a term, and couldn’t wait to get home to play more. If that’s not symptomatic of a gamer, I don’t know what is.

So this was a good first attempt. The problem is that the game is fairly unique and there aren’t many similar experiences. We’d both definitely play more if Sam Barlow made a similar game, and there’s sure to be a few copycats coming out in the next few years as the game is doing quite well for itself, but there’s nothing similar that I know of currently. Its €6 price tag definitely helps get it into the hand of gamers. It’s a short game but I do think it’s worth more than that, and it’s not often I’d say that about a game at full price.

Next Time on Player Too: I’m not sure what to have Claire play next. I’m definitely up for suggestions. A Telltale Games series might be a good choice. Claire’s into Game of Thrones, though I’m not myself. I’ve already played the Walking Dead and would rather a different Telltale game instead of replaying that.
Maybe a point and click adventure game. I’m looking forward to Darkside Detective, an Irish game coming out later this year. It’s a humorous point and click detective game which arranges itself into separate ‘cases’, like an X-files monster of the week. This might be ideal but so far there’s only one short demo level. I do recommend it. 

Any suggestions for us to play? Please leave a comment. Thanks for reading. Until next time..

Never played DOOM

 Hang on! This guy's never played DOOM?? What the hell's wrong with him?!.. oh I'm so sorry, is he in a coma?
Hang on! This guy’s never played DOOM?? What the hell’s wrong with him?!.. oh I’m so sorry, is he in a coma?

So this is kind of a 40 year old virgin situation. It’s 2015, I’m a 28 year old gamer and now game designer, first person shooters are probably my favourite game genre, and I’ve never played DOOM. It’s been out for 22 years now and is a piece of gaming, nay, world history. I’m also even a history fan so no excuses there! Even with the 40 year old virgin you can’t say Steve Carrel’s character had 40 years to have sex, because you’d have to reach adolescence to even be capable of it, whereas I was playing games since I was 7. So let’s say that at twenty-odd years of missing out, your life is starting to turn into comedy movie material. I had to rectify this situation, fast!

I should say that I’ve seen it played a little at friends houses as a kid (but if you haven’t gotten your hands on it, you haven’t played it, in the same way as watching porn won’t pop your cherry for you). I’ve also played Star Wars Dark Forces which was a blatant DOOM copy cat, but I haven’t played the original.

I’ve also never played the Quake series, Hexen or Daikatana. You might think I had something against id Software, John Romero, or any affiliates, but that’s not true as I did always love Wolfenstein (1992) and Commander Keen. In fact I think Keen IV was the very first video game I ever played. Anyway, I’ve decided to rectify this situation and took to Steam and GOG two weeks ago to see which games I could pick up and work my way through (mental note: add Unreal 1 to that list).

 My mom would never have bought me this game anyway.
My mom would never have bought me this game anyway.

I bought “Doom Classic Complete” (because I’m a grown up and can do what I want, mom! I might just stay up all night playing it too!) and loaded up the Ultimate Doom version of the first game. I remember thinking the game was scary when I was younger, and I know that older games didn’t hold your hand at all when it came to difficulty, so even though I’d have no hesitation playing Call of Duty on the hardest setting, I loaded up the “I’m too young to die” difficulty (easiest) and hopped in. I do have to say that I never died unless crushed in a trap though, so I probably should have started higher, but it still got me for plenty of jump-scares, and I beat Alien Isolation on Hard mode. There might be something to this DOOM..

I knew how different the game was to modern, polished shooters, but marvelled immediately at how much they owed to this, the second ever FPS game (at least the second where it’s humans shooting guns, not tanks or wizards – I’m counting Wolfenstein 3D as the first). The weapon bobs as you move and recoils as you shoot. The sounds give the guns a real punchy weight. Barrels explode if shot (even chain reactions are possible and actively designed into the levels). The death animations, while already established in Wolf, are visceral, gorey and lively, with soldiers leaping and spinning, and generally surpass their predecessor. These are things that I’ve seen missing even from a small handful of games made nowadays (okay never the AAA titles but still). With twenty years to learn from the masters, none of these things should  be ignored with modern shooters, yet we can still find poor animations, static guns with lame shooting sounds, and otherwise very little attention to detail. DOOM was a benchmark game at the time, sure, but to place it alongside some shooters made today by teams larger than that of id software in 1993 DOOM could still beat them hands down. Why?

Well, all of those things I mentioned above make the game FUN to play, no matter what else you’ve played in your life. That, and the shotgun! Oh my God the shotgun is PERFECT!! I’ve never played with it before. It was like seeing the Light of God (albeit a violent, vengeful God… like the Old Testament one). I thought I’d seen a few good shotguns in games but nothing like this. I had as much fun playing with this shotgun as I did shooting clay pigeons with a real one! The game holds out on you for a few minutes, making you make do with the pistol to get you used to taking a few shots to put down an enemy, and then BAM! It grants superpowers worthy of Superman.. if Superman had a shotgun! It’s not even the best weapon in the game, but it’s one of the ones you’ll use the most.

It’s got a real weight to it, again through its sound, but also through its cocking animation, which is all it needs to be, and must have blown minds in 1993. The rate of fire is just fast enough not to be frustrating, but slow enough that you are really rewarded for lining your shot up perfectly before pulling the trigger, then seeing the weapon’s wide spread and heavy damage one-shot the game’s lower-difficulty enemies and send them spinning! It’s a perfectly tuned weapon for a game as fast paced as DOOM. You still have to check those corners and be wary of ambushes so as not to die, as the shotgun can only help you in the direction you’re facing, but it is just a thing of beauty. It made the game what it is, no doubt.

 While the shiny effect is permanently on that shotgun, not due to dynamic lighting, you have to admit that it's a beautiful looking gun for a pixel-art game from 1993.
While the shiny effect is permanently on that shotgun, not due to dynamic lighting, you have to admit that it’s a beautiful looking gun for a pixel-art game from 1993.

In terms of level design, my praise has to slow down just a fraction. The levels get very clever, don’t get me wrong, and they develop a language of their own with the player as to what they might be able to expect from a given area, but let’s just say games have come a long way in this area. DOOM actually has a sliver of a story to it. Supposedly I’m on a moon base, then in hell later on, but you can barely tell the difference, and the moon base does not feel like a place where anybody could actually set up a research or military installation. There’s some computer screens around, sure, but this place is a maze, has no railings over its mandatory acid pits, is full of secret rooms, and it has no windows! Must be a moon with a Southern Californian climate, then. I spent most of the game following my personal rule for if I ever get lost in a maze. Follow the left well all around, with no breaks, and you’ll get everywhere within the maze eventually, including to the exit. It works, though teleporters, key coded doors and ledge-drops kind of mess with my rule a bit. This meant that I never finished a single level in any less than x3 the recommended ‘par time’ for the level, often more, and I’d still usually have found 0% of the secret rooms. This is an old skool game based on replayability and high-scores, for sure!

The movement speed of the game is immense also. I played with the WASD keys and the mouse. It was strange not to be able to look up, but instead moving the mouse forwards actually moved the character. Holding W, moving the mouse up, and then (when I discovered it) the Sprint key, made for some laughably fast corridor traversals. The W key on its own makes you move faster than any human possibly could run. It’s interesting though. That’s just how shooters were back then. In an upcoming blog (or series of blogs) I’ll be talking about how various limitations led to the creation of a lot of the game mechanics we’re familiar with. I posit that the lack of a cover system or other good way to get out of the way of bullets made boosting the player’s speed a necessity. It would be interesting to hear an original developer’s comments on this. There must be an interview somewhere.. The speed could also be to reduce frustration while backtracking through the impossibly labyrinthine levels, though.

Anyway, I did beat the game’s original chapters on my low difficulty (though there’s a wealth of extra levels and modded levels to play also) in just a few days of playing one or two levels per day. So I’ve popped my cherry. And it was good! I have to say I really enjoyed the game. So much so that I loaded up Doom 2 straight away (on a higher difficulty) and, upon discovering the Super Shotgun, got over-excited and… well, I’ll drop the dangerous metaphor there and just go literal, saying that I played way past my bed time (well I’m an adult, I can do what I want, but still) and I think I beat half of the game in a single sitting. It’s harder to tell because Doom 2 doesn’t give you a map of completion after each level. But that Super Shotgun… with the newer high-res pixel graphics (of 1994) are just so sweet, dude!

How crazy is it to play a new game that’s 21 years old and still get excited about its graphical improvements?!?! That’s got to be the magic of DOOM right there, or at least it’s evidence of it. Pixel art is a timeless style, I think, and I’ve chosen to use it for my own game. Incidentally, you can play the latest build of Sons of Sol (still in very early development) here.

 Awww! Just! Yes! If you don't get it I won't be able to convince you unless you play it, but, phwoar! Yeah my mom would NEVER have let me buy this when I was a kid. She's probably not too happy that I've played it now, either :P
Awww! Just! Yes! If you don’t get it I won’t be able to convince you unless you play it, but, phwoar! Yeah my mom would NEVER have let me buy this when I was a kid. She’s probably not too happy that I’ve played it now, either 😛

If you’ve never played the game and you’re a shooter fan, I have to recommend DOOM. It’s nowhere near as difficult to go back to as other games I’ve tried (like Command and Conquer (1995)) and it’s a piece of gaming history! Deservedly so! Find out for yourself. After Doom 2 I think I’ll move on to Quake. I hear NIN (Nine Inch Nails, the band) did the whole soundtrack! *smiles manically*

Until next time..

PS In researching for today’s blog post, I came across a nice short documentary with id Software co-founder John Romero about id’s early games, which heavily featured DOOM. Give it a look below.

PPS [written at a later date] Less than a month later, I’d play my first ever multiplayer game of Doom… AGAINST JOHN ROMERO!! Read how that went here.

Failing Kickstarter: Learning from Starfighter Inc

 Starfighter Inc. by Impeller Studios. Click for their website
Starfighter Inc. by Impeller Studios. Click for their website

So at the end of May I did a post on Starfighter Inc. It had a Kickstarter campaign in progress and was selling itself as the spiritual successor to the X-Wing games. I disputed this claim, saying that a multiplayer focussed space deathmatch with Newtonian physics can’t feel much like X-Wing’s successor. I won’t repeat myself other than that but you can read the original article here if you wish.

Since then, the game failed in its Kickstarter campaign on June 6th 2015 (it was 90% funded, which on Kickstarter means you get 0% of the pledged money) and I just want to look at some things we can learn from the failure. This isn’t a general how-to on Kickstarter. This post is more or a follow-up article on Starfighter Inc itself. I’ve never run a KS campaign myself (yet) and I’m not an expert, but I do want to learn from some mistakes that we can observe.

It’s difficult to say why something fails on Kickstarter other than to say “because they didn’t raise enough money”. Perhaps others agreed with my own assertion that this game isn’t truly a spiritual successor to X-Wing and so weren’t interested enough to support. My previous article got right into this so I won’t do so again here, but this is surely at least part of the reason. If you’ll allow me to assume that this is at least partly true here, we reveal the first lesson.


Impeller’s early press for the game focussed on telling us that David Wessman was creating a new X-Wing game in all but name. Then they went on to say that the game was like “World of Tanks meets Counterstrike in space”. These are two very different things and different people play those different games. I would surmise that the people who heard about the game were largely the targeted X-Wing fans who then decided that the game wasn’t really for them, whereas if they’d taken a difference marketing approach and targeted the actual World of Tanks and Counterstrike players more, they might have found their true target audience. Instead they sort of split their attention and shot at the wrong target, at least in part.


Again, in my previous article I said that I didn’t care if David Wessman or Jack Mamais were on the team so much, because they weren’t making X-Wing or Crysis. A good team is important, sure. We can know that the names behind this project have delivered good stuff in the past, but it can’t make someone more interested in a game if they weren’t at least curious already.

Worth noting is Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night, the spiritual successor to Castlevania being made by Koji Igarashi. It recently raised $5.5m on Kickstarter, ten times more than it asked for, because people wanted to see another Castlevania game and one of its original chief architects was back to promise people that he’d deliver. So a name can matter, but I think more important is that people believe that that name will deliver the game that they’re after. Igarashi’s ‘interesting’ video did apparently hit all the right buttons and convince people that in trading on his name, he was also promising to deliver what people wanted, not something a little similar.


This is by far the most important lesson to be learned here, and even the Impeller team admitted they neglected this to their detriment. I said before that the game looked to be very early in development and as such it was hard to visualise or get excited by. At the time when I said that they were already half way through their Kickstarter campaign and the most gameplay to be seen was the video below, with the rest of the funding video dedicated to showing us interviews, concept art, the office, and physical Star Wars spaceship models.

Does that video excite you? No, me neither. That’s not enough to get money out of me, sorry.

So very late in the campaign they released a little more gameplay. It’s still very little to go on, but it’s at least approaching the bare minimum of what we’d like to see to know that the game is making progress and to give us an idea of what to expect. Presumably the rock music pumping away was to get their on-the-fence backers pumped up and to reach for their credit cards. View the later gameplay video here.

Now that’s a bit better. But the huge problem is that most people never saw that. IF they heard about the game and checked it out early on, and if they weren’t sold on what they saw, they likely wouldn’t have come back to check it out again and therefore they’d never have seen this video. This should have been there from the start. 

Gameplay! Gameplay! Gameplay!

 Typical Kickstarter funding graph.
Typical Kickstarter funding graph.

What you see here is a typical Kickstarter funding pattern. You can see that most projects get a lot of their funding on the first and last days of the campaign as people are excited when it’s new, or realise they have to get around to getting out their wallet by the end. This tends to hold true whether the project winds up successful or not.

 Starfighter Inc's pledge graph
Starfighter Inc’s pledge graph

Starfighter’s graph isn’t so radically different from the norm, but you can see that the first and last days aren’t quite as high as they might have been. You can put all sorts of reasons on this. I would say that this graph supports my assertion that seeing gameplay is very important for the prospective backer. It wasn’t there at the start of the campaign and so the day 1  spike wasn’t as high as it could have been. The little gameplay later shown in the second video (shown above) wasn’t all that impressive either and so when people got their email reminders on the last day of the project (assuming they clicked ‘remind me’ on their first visit)  not enough of them were sufficiently impressed to push the campaign over the $250,000 they were seeking.


Getting a successful Kickstarter under your belt is almost seen as a prerequisite to making an independent game these days, but it’s not. All of the traditional means of funding a product still exist; namely bank loans, publishers, angel investors and even personal savings. Also, products (like Dimension Drive) can come back to Kickstarter and pass on their second attempt. Frank n’ John by Ireland’s bitSmith Games didn’t pass their Kickstarter in 2014 but continued development and are set to release their game sometime in the second half of 2015. They had a recent blog post about their journey which you can check out here.

Indeed, there are actually benefits to not passing Kickstarter. You’ve gotten some loyal followers from the campaign, you’ve gotten public exposure, but you’re now not beholden to a public community who examine your every move and need constant updates to know that you’re working. The amount of emails I receive from projects I’ve backed telling me that they’ve made a new model or hired a new cleaner are things that take the developer’s time just to assure me that they’re still working on the game I paid them to support. Passing Kickstarter can be a real time sink and it’s often not even in exchange for enough cash to make the game. Just for enough to prove interest to other investors who pay the lion’s share.

To finish, getting back to Starfighter Inc specifically, I’d like to point out that they’re still in development and will be finishing the game. On June 6th, the same day that their Kickstarter ended, they went on Steam Greenlight which asks Steam users if they would buy the game if it were made available. There’s no monetary commitment on Greenlight. Starfighter Inc passed it a few days later.

Creative Director Jack Mamais has said “I’ve been working on it for two years and I don’t like to work on something and not finish it. So we’re going to finish it. As long as it takes”. I think this is encouraging. They had said that the meagre $250,000 they were asking for was to hire artists to finish the models and they expected the game to take 6-9 months longer to finish if they passed Kickstarter.

Given all of that. I fully expect to see the game out in mid 2016 and I look forward to playing it.

The Phantom Pain. A thought on Sutherland as Snake

So one of this year’s biggest releases will be Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain due for a PS4 and XB1 release on September 1st, and for the PC on September 15th. There’s been no shortage of drama and spectacle surrounding the game, but I’d just like to focus on the Hayter-Sutherland aspect.

To briefly sum up the aforementioned spectacle first, though, I’ll just do a short summary.

  • Producers Konami have axed director Hideo Kojima as an executive from their company, making him a contract employee until the game is released and presumably ending their working relationship thereafter.
  • There have been huge, dramatic trailers released at each of the last three annual E3 shows, and several more besides.
  • It’s been unpopularly announced that the full-priced game will include micro transactions.
  • The game is reported to be gigantic; one of the biggest and most alive game worlds ever created and definitely the biggest Metal Gear game made so far. Production has been so big and taken so long, in fact, that the prologue to the game, Ground Zeroes, was released separately in March 2014 as a stop-gap game that could be beaten in an hour. A unique move, for sure, and again, not one without its detractors.
  • One could add that Kojima said of most of the last big Metal Gear games that they would be his “last game” and that’s always turned out to be untrue. Well, until now I suppose. He’s not likely to be working with Konami again and they own the franchise despite it being Kojima’s baby.

The game’s earliest controversy though was replacing the lead character Snake’s voice actor from David Hayter, who’s always voiced the Snake character (well, since Snake had a voice, at least), to Kiefer Sutherland, who portrays bad-ass, gruff, violent freedom-protector Jack Bauer in 24. This has been known since 2013 and it hasn’t sat well with fans who see it as a betrayal, particularly since Hayter was never consulted or informed of the change and learned about it at the same time as the general public. Dick move, Kojima.

Hayter has been commendably mature about the move. In a video interview from March this year (linked below) around the 15 minute mark, you can hear him say that he’s glad it took someone like Kiefer Sutherland to replace him in the role. The role obviously meant a lot to him though. Later (around 27:20) in the same interview when asked what he thought of the Phantom Pain in general and whether he’d play it he said that he wouldn’t play it as it would be “too painful”.

There have been no shortage of rumours and theories that Hayter will make an appearance in the game but he and Kojima have denied this several times in no uncertain terms and I think it’s just wishful thinking by the fans. The move has netted far more bad will than good so it seems extremely unlikely that they would continue to hide his involvement, if there were any to hide.

I remember Kojima saying that they wanted someone more dramatic for the role of Snake for this project. Sure, okay. That’s your prerogative as a director but you could have let Hayter down a bit more respectfully. He’s been Snake for 15 years. I had no sympathy, then, for Kojima when hearing earlier this year that Konami were basically firing him. 

But I digress, my point was that I’m coming around to the thinking that a new voice was important for this game. This game is set in the 1980s. The very first Metal Gear game was made in the 80’s and featured Solid Snake (a clone of legendary soldier Big Boss) fighting the villain Big Boss. 

In Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2, Metal Gear Solid (MGS), MGS2 (partly), and MGS 4 we play as Solid Snake , the clone and hero in settings from the 1980s onwards. In MGS 3, Portable Ops, Peace Walker and now MGS V we play as the original Snake who becomes Big Boss from the 1960s to the 1980s. In game-world time, Peace Walker is the last part of the story before V (which is itself Ground Zeroes AND the Phantom Pain) where Snake is still the hero, and presumably by the end of The Phantom Pain, our beloved Snake has to become the villain. Therefore, we’re bound to see some very marked changes in Snake’s character. We know from trailers and screenshots that mutilation and injury will have a part to play, but so too could the voice. This is bound to be a dramatic chapter in a dramatic game series and Kojima wants to play to that. 

The MGS games have always tried to be two things. One; cinematic, dramatic stories and two; grotesquely self-aware, exploding the fourth wall at every given opportunity. It’s hard to be both. It never sat perfectly well for me and I think that with Phantom Pain they’re gunning more for the dramatic elements. For me, I somewhat agree that Hayter wouldn’t be a great choice to deliver on the drama. Check out the video below for synopsis of Hayter’s Snake portrayals over the series.

I think he’s a great actor, and it’s a very distinct voice. It’s a classic by now! But for the last few games the voice has struck me as a little over the top, and seeing them lined up together like this highlights that. It’s become less realistic and more exaggerated, verging on silly at times. This likely wouldn’t work well for a villain. We’ve become so accustomed to Snake’s character as the hero with Hayter’s voice. Assuming that he has some difficult choices to make and evil things to do in Phantom Pain to become the villain Big Boss, it could seem too out of character for the Snake we’ve become so familiar with. That voice has also been party to the fourth-wall breaches I mentioned earlier and maybe the association would be too much. The character has to undergo huge changes over the course of this game. Why not the voice too? Would be be able to follow Hayter through those changes?

We already have a good example of the change in Snake’s character. There’s a bajillion trailers for The Phantom Pain but I refer you to “Quiet Trailer” below. In it, we see Snake do a good guy thing by ordering the men not to shoot Quiet, but also the foreshadowing of evil deeds with what he says afterwards. Also, notice the camera works here to show Snake’s “bad side” as he delivers the line. The shrapnel injury in his skull already looks like a devil’s horn.

How about that? Can you imagine David Hayter delivering those lines? I honestly can’t. If you’d like to try you can watch the Ground Zeroes ending with Sutherland’s Snake voice replaced with some old lines of Hayter’s. I know the lines are out of context, but even so I don’t think the tone fits. 

What I’m getting at is, maybe Kojima made the right call. As director it’s totally his decision, but it sure rubbed fans up the wrong way, and he definitely handled the switch like a world class prick, but for the game as art, I’m starting to think it was the right call. I never cared about the change quite as much as hard core MGS fans did. I just kind of cringed at Sutherland doing basically a Jack Bauer in the new MGS game (I’m a big fan of 24 bear in mind, nothing against it or Sutherland in general) seemingly just because he’s a bigger name than Hayter. I saw it more as a marketing decision than an artistic one, which bugged me, but I’m definitely starting to see the artistic merit to the decision.

That said, I still love Hayter’s classic Snake, and feel for him in the situation he’s in. Particularly with idiots constantly bugging him to confess that he’s in the new game somewhere secretly, or even more wildly, that Sutherland’s Snake isn’t the real Snake and we’ll see Hayter in Phantom Pain as the real Snake after some plot twist. Leave the guy alone, like! He can only say ‘no’ so many different ways, and he’s made it clear that, while he acknowledges the merit of directorial discretion, he still feels pained by the loss of the role. Read his statement from 2013 here.

 Where did it all go wrong?
Where did it all go wrong?

That’s all for this week. What do you think of the switch? Has what I suggested occurred to you before and what do you think of it? Do discuss. There’s comment boxes below for a reason. Peace! (walker)