Sunday, October 13, 2013

Of Cover Bands and Telltale Games

I have never understood the concept of basing ones entire body of artistic expression off of another artist's signature style.

For example - tribute bands who never progress past playing other peoples songs, or cover bands that never start writing originals. Don't get me wrong, I've seen a half-dozen Grateful Dead tribute bands, with Dark Star Orchestra handily taking the cake as the most impressive, and most of them are pretty killer as far as copying the Grateful Dead goes, but me personally? I could never base my entire music career on playing another persons songs, singing another persons words, stealing another musicians guitar style. It seems like a waste of talent.

Any asshole can pick up a guitar and learn how to play a bunch of generic classic rocks staples like Hotel California, Horse With No Name, War Pigs, and The Joker and blast through them exactly as they were written. But composing something could that NOT be the primary goal of a musician?

How are all these killer guitarists aping Jerry Garcias style not brimming with new musical ideas? It's not like it's easy to re-create the energy and presence of Jerry. Why not use that talent and drive to create something new?

I could write three songs every day if I put in the effort. Hell, even at work I can write music in my head, melodies and guitar riffs and chord progressions bouncing around my brain like it's a pinball machine, as I wait to get home to record those ideas on instruments. And as a musician, there's nothing as satisfying as performing those originals live, or to listen back on finished recordings and know that you created it, that's your ideas and your execution on your guitar. It's rewarding. So I have to wonder....

What compels a musician to remain satisfied merely mimicking other people? Learning covers is like a chore to me most of the time. How can that be the entire foundation of ones artistic expression?

Is it a lack of creativity? Or maybe a fear people might not relate to your original compositions? That unique edge that makes your influences stand out to you....why would you NOT want to recreate that same level of creativity and innovation, but on your own terms? Instead of using the brilliance of others as a crutch on a plateau, use it as an influence towards making a signature style of your own. (It's kind of like how any cynical blog, including this one, inevitably feels, at the very least influenced by Maddox. And at the worst reads like a Maddox clone.)

I know it pays off some times. Furthur, which is the latest embodiment of the Grateful Dead, features a former lead guitarist of aforementioned Dark Star Orchestra. Judas Priest hired Ripper Owens after hearing him singing in a Priest tribute band, British Steel. Ripper Owens has been in many projects post-Priest, working with various heavy metal legends (Yngwie Malmsteen, Iced Earth) and becoming a heavy metal legend in his own right. While he will always sound somewhat similar to Rob Halford, he has definitely developed his own style and moved past being a mere knock-off. 

It can pay off. Ripper moved past being a mere Rob Halford imitator, to an actual performer in the band, and even past that, onto his own creative vision.
It just seems boring to never write music, to always play someone elses notes. Learning covers only to play them note for note and execute them in the same fashion they were written....why not take the composition and turn it on its head? It can still be a cover even if it's played differently. (That means you, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, you thieving cunts.)

I have a friend who rages dozens of cover songs on the acoustic and variates their style. And maybe if I could play acoustic guitar better, and had a better singing voice, and was still looking for a band....maybe that concept would seem much more appealing to me. It's much more interesting since he puts his own spins on all these songs, instead of just rehashing the compositions exactly the same as they were written. And no doubt it takes a lot of talent to learn all these notes and lyrics and pull them off....but to me it seems like a waste of time when you can be writing songs of your own.

Which leads me to Telltale games....somehow. Maybe I should have skipped the sloppy, forced segue from tribute bands to Telltale Games. But in any case, Telltale Games come across as nothing more than glorified plagiarists. While all these Jerry Garcia knock-offs have undeniable talent and passion, Telltale just seem like glorified plagiarists to me. (Much like those thieving bastards Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.)

Telltale first caught my attention with the Walking Dead game. I have since finished the first four chapters, and while it got slightly better in Episodes 2, 3 and 4, it still was overall an overwhelmingly disappointing experience. I have voiced discontent of the Walking Dead game in the past, but I'm moving beyond that and looking at Telltale as a company.

Telltale have made 24 games since 2005. Of these 24 games, the ONLY GAME to use original characters (instead of relying on licensed characters) is their first game. And what exactly was their first game? Their first game was.........................Telltale Texas Hold'em.
So the only creative ability possessed by Telltale....the only game they managed to crap out in the past 8 years that wasn't based entirely around someone else's ideas....was a crappy poker game? And considering Telltale didn't invent poker, their one "original" game was still essentially based entirely around someone elses ideas.

To me that is definitive proof that Telltale Games have always been hack game developers who merely cash in on already lucrative franchises by developing half-assed games they then use to swindle the pre-established fan bases out of their money with.

Look at this list of crap they've produced I've stolen from wikipedia. 

Bone: Out from BonevilleSeptember 15, 20051 (Standalone title) EWindows
CSI: 3 Dimensions of MurderMarch 21, 20065 episodes (Standalone title)Windows, PlayStation 2
Bone: The Great Cow RaceApril 12, 20061 (Standalone title) EWindows
Sam & Max Save the WorldOctober 17, 2006 - April 26, 20076 episodes (monthly)Windows, Xbox 360, Wii
CSI: Hard EvidenceSeptember 25, 20075 episodes (Standalone title)Windows, OS X, Wii, Xbox 360
Sam & Max Beyond Time and SpaceNovember 8, 2007 - April 10, 20085 episodes (monthly)Windows, Xbox 360, Wii, OS X, PlayStation 3, iOS
Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive PeopleAugust 11, 2008 - December 15, 20085 episodes (monthly)Windows, Wii, PlayStation 3, OS X
Wallace & Gromit's Grand AdventuresMarch 24, 2009 - July 30, 20094 episodes (monthly)Windows, Xbox 360, iOS
Tales of Monkey IslandJuly 7, 2009 - December 8, 20095 episodes (monthly)Windows, Wii, OS X, PlayStation 3, iOS
CSI: Deadly IntentOctober 20, 20095 episodes (Standalone title)Windows, Xbox 360, Wii
Sam & Max: The Devil's PlayhouseApril 15, 2010 - August 30, 20105 episodes (monthly)Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, iOS
Hector: Badge of Carnage DJune 2, 2010 - September 22, 20113 episodesiOS, Windows, OS X
Nelson Tethers: Puzzle AgentJune 30, 20101 (Standalone title) E PWindows, OS X, PlayStation 3, iOS
CSI: Fatal ConspiracyOctober 26, 20105 episodes (Standalone title)Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii
Poker Night at the InventoryNovember 22, 20101 (Standalone title) E P[29]Windows, OS X
Back to the Future: The GameDecember 22, 2010 - June 23, 20115 episodes (monthly)Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, iOS, Wii
Puzzle Agent 2June 30, 20111 (Standalone title) E PWindows, OS X, PlayStation 3, iOS
Jurassic Park: The GameNovember 15, 2011
November 15, 2011 - May 24, 2012
4 episodes (Standalone title)
4 episodes (bi-monthly) (iOS)
Windows, OS X, iOS, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Law & Order: LegaciesDecember 22, 2011 - March 29, 20127 episodes (bi-weekly)iOS, Windows, OS X
The Walking DeadApril 24, 2012 - November 20, 2012[30]5 episodes (bi-monthly)Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, PlayStation Vita,[31] Ouya[32]
Poker Night 2[33]April 24, 2013[34]1 (Standalone title) E PXbox 360, Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, iOS
The Wolf Among Us[35]October 11, 2013[36] - present5 episodes (monthly)[36]Windows, OS X, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
The Walking Dead Season Two[15][16][17]Q4 2013[37]TBAOuya,[32] PlayStation 4[38]

What is that, 4 separate CSI games? Jurassic Park and Back to the Future point and clicks? Three Walking Dead games? And they even went BACK to the poker, only this time started using licensed characters?

Holy fuck, this company sucks balls.

And the worst part is, no one seems to realize it. Everyone rides Telltale dick with the Walking Dead game, as if that game was the cure to herpes or something. But that game was trivial and boring. It was so god damn derivative. It was ridden with cliches. Think about it........

Telltale Games do not develop their own fictional universes. They merely adopt other peoples ideas and retool them. I mean, that's a HUGE hurtle to leap right off the bat in the development of a game - creating the world and the characters that will inhabit this world? That's a big step. Telltale has skipped that first step in pretty much every single game they've ever made. They take other peoples ideas and capitalize off them. To me that is completely unoriginal and lazy. But that's not where the laziness ends.....

So they've got this head start, using these licensed characters from well established franchises, basically nullifying the necessity of coming up with any original ideas at all. On top of that, they've got the built-in fanbase for each separate franchise to milk off of, so they're sitting pretty with most of the work done for them already. With these substantial head starts in development, they should be able to create amazing games with sprawling over-worlds and lush graphics that control well and have amazing game-play, all to compliment the story they apparently put so much effort into, am I right? Games that aren't merely cashing in on these franchises, but enriching them, perhaps? Right?

And what do these unoriginal cock-suckers do?

They make pedestrian point and click games with shoddy graphics and corny voice acting that are completely linear and lacking any sort of true creativity or innovation.
How are people fooled into thinking Telltales Walking Dead is impressive? The story isn't even that good, considering how lacking the execution is. They basically claim to have focused all their efforts on story as an excuse to half-ass the graphics, trivialize the game play, phone-in the voice acting....essentially they are completely leeching off of other peoples creativity and getting "Game of the Year" awards for a horribly sophomoric product.

These games aren't fun, they're bland. They're fucking POINT AND CLICK games, for fucks sake. Where is the creativity in taking other peoples ideas and shoe-horning those ideas into half-assed point and click games that fail on literally every level besides the story?

Another thing, all the Telltale jockstrap riders will attack anyone who points out these noticeable flaws in these terrible games. They'll attack with a cliched "Go back to Call of Duty, you clearly can't appreciate games with clever story-telling, blah blah blah!" No, I totally appreciate games with a good storyline. I even think the story of Telltales Walking Dead could have been pretty good....if the rest of the game was up to par. The story, admittedly, deserved a better delivery. It deserved a better game. But it still wasn't that impressive, considering it was wasted potential. (And full of cliche characters, as well as situations lifted right from the comic and redressed with said new cliche characters.)

So now we got all these Telltales jock-riders either saying "You only hate the game because it's popular!" (while failing to realize the high expectations I harbored for the game were due to my love of the very popular comic and even more popular TV series) or "You couldn't understand and/or appreciate the breadth of the story!" But what these fanatics don't seem to realize is how lacking the game is in everything besides its story, which in itself is a deviation of Kirkman's creation and thus, rendered completely unimpressive.

I understand enjoying the game, but stop putting it on some unwarranted pedestal.

What I don't understand is why people defend the game, as if it somehow validates a versatility in their own tastes because they can enjoy something so shitty and low budget. "I'm so hip, guys! I can enjoy a video game that takes all the fun elements out of video games! I can enjoy this game that is inherently boring and shallow because I enjoy it's story. Aren't I just radical and bodacious?!"

And the best part about it all is the illusion of choice the game gives you. You get all these choices, and have the time despite your choice it won't even matter - the story will inevitably end up the same exact place every time. If Telltale were truly trying to make an innovative experience that wasn't a mere cash-in, they would have had branching storylines. Maybe getting the option to pillage and murder the cannibalistic farmers instead of going to their farm in peace. Maybe the option to shoot Duck in the face then wipe out the rest of his family. But no, every single decision leads you the same god damn place as before. It's an illusion of choice, when in reality the game is one of the most linear games I've ever played. It's equivalently linear to on-the-rail shooters, just in a far more subtle way.

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