What makes a game “AAA”? In today’s episode we discuss so-called AAA games and why we have seen them fail to live up to basic quality standards again and again. We also discuss the importance of archiving games in a playable form for the future.
Your hosts for this episode are: Jake, Chris, Mariano, and Sam. Contains mature language and subject matter.
It’s a bonus ConReport episode! We sent a few of our guys to ModestoCon 2016, in Modesto California. We sat them in front of the microphones and had them tell their tale. Interviews, Pictures, and more at our site TalesOfTheCon.com
Skuba Steve and I were immediately interested in Dominic Davi’s booth at Modesto Con. His colorfully designed apparel featuring the lead singer of Tsunami Bomb with Medusa hair, a standup portrait of the creature from the black lagoon and a foldout of prints of classic movie monsters recast with period-accurate actors interested us wholeheartedly. As did the comics on his table – Tales from a Punk Planet and Come Find Me. One was collaboration between himself and Joe Escalante of TOTC favorites The Vandals and the other was his own creation, the beginning of a story he sees himself working on for quite a few years. Only later would we find out that Tsunami Bomb was actually one of the favorite bands of our guest contributor for Modesto Con that made us keenly interested in Mr. Davi, so Skuba Steve and I figured that above anyone else that we’d absolutely have to make time to score an interview with him. GG: So for starters, tell us a little about yourself. DD: I was born four score and seven years ago in a small log cabin in Illinois- GG: Too far back! DD: I’m an artist and writer. I just came out with a short story comic called come find me. I also illustrated a book called Fear of a Punk Planet with the bassist of The Vandals, Joe Escalante. I’m also the bassist for a band called Tsunami Bomb GG: How long have you been with Tsunami Bomb? DD: I started the band in 1998. It’s kind of a punk band with a bit of a twist. We have two female singers and keyboards; there’s a really dark quality to the music. We originally came out of the northern California scene, based out of a town called Petaluma, California. Early on the bands like AFI and Tiger Army took us under their wings and helped us out a lot. Hunter, the bassist for AFI even produced and put out our first solo 7”, but we had self released a split before that. So the band kind of has somewhat the same tone quality if you’ve never heard of those bands, that kind of dark and really catchy punk rock.
We were together for awhile, but even I left the band at one point. Though I had started it, I wasn’t on the last album they put out in 2004 and they broke up not long after that.
Fast forward to now, and Kung-Fu Records approached us about wanting to put out all of our early out of print stuff. They came up to us and were like “Hey…people still like you guys and they like your stuff! We’d like to put out all those EP’s that are out of print.” So all of the original members talked and we decided it was a good idea to have this stuff out. So we made this release and we called it, Trust No One, which is kind of a reference to all of us in the band actually letting the band itself down by letting it all fall apart. After doing this, most of us were like…”Y’know, we would really like to play again…and be a band again. Why not?”
However our singer, the singer who was the second main vocalist in Tsunami Bomb, but the one most people know, Agent M (aka Emily Whitehurst) was like ‘Y’know I don’t wanna come back, I’ve got my own thing and I’m focused on that.”
So after really debating it for a long time, we decided we might call it something else and do something a new band, like Flag did with Black Flag and still kind of harking back to what we used to be, but then we just said, fuck it, we are who we are, and we were lucky enough to find somebody amazing. Her name’s Kate and she’s taken over as main vocals along with the return of Oobliette, who was one of the original vocalists. Now we’ve just been doing it one step at a time and playing a lot of shows, and getting people to really warm up to us. Next month we’ll be playing the last two dates of Warped Tour, and we’ve also got a festival coming up with MXPX, Sick Of It All, and The Vandals called Remember the Punks in San Antonio, Tx.
Y’know, we’re just taking it one day at a time and working on new material, we’re gonna put out a new album next year so we’re pretty excited.
GG: Are comics something you’ve been doing as long as you’ve been doing Tsunami Bomb, or are they something that just grew out of some of the same passions?
DD: It kind of predates the band because I’ve always drawn and I’ve always illustrated, and like any kid that reads comic you’re kind of like ‘I wanna do my own comic’ at some point and you wonder if you could pull off your own idea. GG: Yeah every kid has that thought, like, ‘can I do this?’ DD: Yeah and like, I’ll tell anyone who’s thinking about it that it’s a real hassle. Comics take a lot of work! (laughter)
…but no finally one day a couple of years ago I started doing a webcomic called The Rock n’ Roll Palace of Love, a while back and it kind of got popular for a second and then sort of faded out. So that kind of warmed me up to saying fuck it, y’know I wanna put out something. I started working on my own zine and then while randomly talking with Joe Escalante one time at a show he was like ‘Well I have a story, wanna do a comic?’ Of course I did, so we did theFear of a Punk Planet comic and it actually sold out! It’s totally awesome and you can find it digitally on Comixology right now. Between the Vandals and my Band there was enough interest generated to have us completely sell out in the first printing.
Then after that, I just kept going, I put out the Come Find Me short story and now I’m working on a graphic novel called Green Teeth, and it’s gonna be about a bunch of Punk Skater kids in my hometown of Petaluma. I’ve been taking a lot of real life elements and mixing them with some made up elements. It’s a horror story that’s sort of like…something terrible is in the river and these kids figure out what’s going on and they have to deal with it.
GG: When you’re doing something like that and incorporating these real life elements…would you consider something like Green Teeth to be sort of semi-autobiographical or just some of the elements from where you grew up? DD: I would say actually both yeah. I’m kind of trying to take the way Stephen King approached his town of Derry, Maine, or how HP Lovecraft approached like…Providence and Arkham in Rhode Island. They made these worlds that were realistic but at the same time fictional, because they all had elements of streets and buildings and families that actually existed there and creating a fictional narrative within that setting. I’m kind of taking on the same thing. Y’know I grew up kind of skating around and hanging around the Phoenix Theatre, this punk venue in Petaluma. What these characters are doing is very much so connected to my experience and the experience of my friends. Come Find Me takes place in 2003 and Green Teeth takes place in 1993 but they reference each other very closely. SS: Yeah I like some of the hidden context in Come Find Me. I read that last night at the Hotel. DD: Yeah there’s definitely references in Come Find Me that call back to Green Teeth and vice-versa.
The Green Teeth incident that happened in ’93, was very big deal that happened in the town, especially if you were a punk or a skater a squatter or homeless. The situation of the river and the creature that was in the river really affects everything. It made sense to me that there would be writing referencing what happened. There’s other clues in Come Find Me that will be really obvious when you read them together. I will have individual issues for Green Teeth, but I think that when I collect it as a graphic novel, Come Find Me will be in that same collection.
GG: Would you see yourself doing anything besides Green Teeth set in maybe the same world and setting along with that after you’re done, or will that be the entire story you have to tell? DD: No there’s actually hidden references in Come Find Me to the next story after that. I don’t have a name for it yet, but like, I grew up kind of outside of town and there was this guy that was a neighbor of ours. He was this really lovable drunk farm boy guy who kind of helped everybody out. He sort of fascinated me as a character, and since I’m taking this world this town that I grew up in and the county around it and twisting it into a kind of horror theme…it kind of struck me as like, what if there was more to him than just being the kind of guy that would help you out at your ranch and fix your car? What if his family had a legacy as series of wardens that had to protect people in this area from these supernatural things? If things had fallen apart over time, where he’s now the only heir to that legacy, but he’s just this good-ol-boy drunk. I’m basing all of it off of real people I’ve met throughout my life, and I think in my head I’d like to see it as three short stories like Come Find Me and three long stories like Green Teeth. There will be like a trilogy essentially with each one having an intro with a short story. I’m hoping to be able to do a bunch of them. That when you read them all they call back and bounce back and forth, so you see different characters at different years. SK: Could you ever see yourself collaborating with someone else like Joe Escalante again? Or is it something you’ve done now and mostly wanna focus on working by yourself? DD: No I definitely would wanna collaborate. I’ve talked to Joe about doing more stuff because we were really happy with how Fear of a Punk Planet did. That’s just an obnoxious story about punk rock in the 90’s and his idea for the next issue is ridiculous. It continues to play upon the stereotypes of punk rock, but he’s also hit me up on another idea he’s had that would involve like…Mexico and vampires and the cartels. It was so completely insane that I was like ‘Yes I will totally draw this.’
It’s tough man, when you sign up for a comic like..I don’t do that full time. I have the band, I work as a professional artist. So it’s tough after a long day, I’ve already spent 8 hours illustrating and designing and then I’m like ‘now I have to work on a comic?’ so I think I’m a lot slower than a normal comic guy can be. I’m trying to force myself to stay on point and get it done.
I had to tell somebody today after they asked me if I wanted to collaborate. I’m like…hit me up after June 2017! I’m pretty much booked for awhile.
GG: It almost boosts that energy though.
DD: Yeah I wanna get done! I wanna be available for some other ideas. There’s some really cool ideas out there, there’s some really cool visions that it would be fun to bring about. I have to be realistic though otherwise I’ll just be another flaky jerk artist. Which I already am! GG: Aw DD: (laughter) Naw they all are. Every artist is a jerk! SK: -And I can imagine after being on the road touring and then having to sit down and illustrate a comic. That’s gotta be pretty difficult. DD: It is really difficult! It’s like, when I was professionally touring and that’s all I did it was awesome. That was my job and it was all I did and when I came home I was just a fucking couch potato and I didn’t have to worry about much because we only toured. As anyone who’s in a band knows, or as anyone who does anything knows, like you guys do this – it’s really hard to change gears. You do this and you get in this mode and then you’re like…now I gotta go work. GG: Yeah now I’ve gotta go sit behind a desk and be a faceless drone for eight hours a day until my next con. DD: Yeah! It’s hard. Even after this convention you shift back to your real life and you’re like…’nobody’s talking to me nobody really cares Especially comics because you’re by yourself for so much when you’re creating these worlds. You’re not hanging out doing it. It’s a solo experience. At least music when you do a show, like punk rock shows you have so many people.
GG: Even when you’re just jamming out at your house, you can have somebody else come over and knock a few beers back and come up with a song or something. But when you’re sitting there reading or making a comic…or you get to a point reading a really good comic and you’re like laughing, looking around your empty apartment like “Oh yeah there’s nobody here.” DD: I’ve literally done that! I’ve been like “This is awesome! This is-“ (looks around) “There’s nobody to talk to about this….” I’ll be like “dude! Did you read the latest issue of like whatever” and they’ll go “Yeah I…didn’t really do that” At least with movies you have more people talk to about it. Creating them too, I’ll like laugh to myself and go “Haha, this is awesome…ahh, I’m stupid and by myself.” It’s definitely a head trip to change gears all the time. I kind of do that to myself, it’s something I try to be aware of and lessen the effect as much as possible. Of course I haven’t picked up a pen to work on my own comics since the two weeks I got back from tour. It took me like a week to get back into normal things and then get ready for this, so I haven’t even stopped to work on it. So there’s two weeks gone.
I had heard for many years about the wonder that is Comic Con. Every year loads of my friends attend the Phoenix convention and as well as those in other locations such as San Diego, coming back with spectacular pictures of people in costumes, wild stories of awesome shenanigans or celebrity meetings. Tons of cool merchandise like artwork, stickers and comics. With so many cool stories and things floating around at these places, who wouldn’t want to check it out for themselves? Thanks to my friend Skuba Steve at Tales of the Con I was able to finally attend one and see what all the talk was really about. Filling in as an independent contributor of coverage for Tales of the Con at ModestoCon, I rode with Tales’s Skuba Steve and Sam Kittrel from sunny Phoenix, Arizona to the sunny but much cooler Modesto, California. After an exhausting 11 hour drive we finally made it to our destination and couldn’t wait to get in.
Upon procuring our press bands and stepping onto the convention floor my head was spinning from the dizzying array of booths and items to gander and drool at. There’s something for everybody with everything from pins to handmade dolls and painted wooden boxes. There was artwork galore, watercolor, digital or pencil drawings, you saw it all. There were boxes and boxes of comic books for sale with titles like the well know Superman and Spiderman as well as the work of emerging artists like Dominic Davi’s “Come Find Me”. There was also a lot of anime, and I spent the entire convention keeping my eyes peeled for Dragon Ball Z merchandise of which I found plenty!
Although I was a little shy about asking people to take pictures of their costumes, I did spend plenty of time admiring them. There were orcs from Warcraft whose costumes were impressive, utilizing real animal furs and bones. There were tons of girls dressed as Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn, and just as many guys dressed as Deadpool. I saw a stunningly awesome Psylocke from Marvel’s X-Men, as well as Prince, Captain Jack Sparrow and even Barf from Space Balls! There were makeup artists to assist in fantastical transformations and I even saw a group which was volunteering to assist people with last minute emergency costume alterations. The Mandalorian Mercs organization, whose members dress as bounty hunters from the Star Wars saga also made an appearance at the convention, with a booth where members discussed recruitment information, costume design instruction and the charity work which the group involves itself with in the community.
The energy at the con was very high, so high in fact that it would be hard to imagine that this was Modesto’s first Con. Despite its size it’s readily apparent that this is an event which will continue to grow. We spent two days covering everything and honestly, I don’t think we came close to seeing it all. One of my favorite finds was a kitschy t-shirt with a picture of Rocky Dennis from the movie Mask’s face superimposed onto Rocky Balboas face in a boxing ring.
I sat in on a couple of panels too, when my legs felt the need for a rest. There were professional cosplayer Q&A’s, motivational speeches regarding cosplay and con culture, artist and celebrity Q&A’s, and a costume contest with many great participants, including a father and his very young son dressed as two matching Green Arrow’s
When I was out and about it was quite easy to begin conversing with event attendees, artists and people working merch booths. Everyone was so eager to discuss their shared love of art and comics, or to show off the work they had put in to transform themselves into pop culture icons. I spoke with a few artists like Christopher Johnson of Out of the Dust Designs, who is based out of Reno, Nevada. I loved his work, which was a decoupage of comic pages with a character theme glued to a board and a portrait of the subject character in the center.
I also had the opportunity to meet the previously mentioned Dominic Davi who is a comic book artist which creates stories of punk rock culture. An interesting side note about Dominic is that he is the bassist for the punk rock band Tsunami Bomb and designs their artwork. Meeting him was a bit of a blast from the past, he was selling some of their merchandise and informed me that the band had recently reunited and began touring again. I listened to Tsunami Bomb back in high school, having been introduced to them by an ex-girlfriend so it was pretty cool to meet him.
I had an amazing time at ModestoCon and I will definitely be attending other events in the future, though hopefully with a little more money. Who knows, maybe I’ll even dress up one of these times. Maybe I could go as Jon Snow, but much like him I feel I really know nothing, but maybe with some time I could change that. My takeaway from my first convention is one of seeing people come together over their shared love of creativity. Pop culture brought me to my first con, but it was the people behind it that make me want to go to another. By Jensen Chavez, Guest Contributor
Augmented reality games like Pokemon Go seem to be a new genre that are emerging and taking off. And it seems to be a wonderful thing. Get people up and moving. Maybe those playing a game at the same local landmark strike up a conversation, strangers who find they enjoy the same past times.
But what of those who live in rural or “country” areas? What if your “local” landmarks are a 20-40 minute car ride away and there’s nothing but fields near you?
Having grown up a farm kid and now living in a lower population area, these questions come to mind as Niantic Inc games are becoming a huge deal. Pokemon GO and Ingress are highly played games. And I’m sure if you are in a city, it’s easy to get to landmarks for supplies or battle areas. But for the kids, teens, and young adults who don’t live in highly populated areas this becomes a difficult task.
Growing up my nearest neighbor was a good half mile away, and that was mostly lane just to get from the road to my house. There were no exceptional landmarks or major building, unless you count the local pig farm. Thinking back on my childhood home and the surrounding areas, there’s absolutely no way I could have played an augmented reality game based on how they setup bases for importance. As a teenager, I probably would have been awful when it came to complaining about the lack of things around me. It was bad enough before smartphones with games.
Even as a grown adult, I live in a smaller town and there are few places that help with these games. Those landmark resupply places are few in this area making it harder to keep up with those that frequent areas with more population or more landmarks. So to be able to even continue to play I have had to spend real money to buy PokéCoins, the in game currency, to be able to buy something as simple as Pokéballs, which is needed to catch Pokemon (the whole point of the game). Without being able to catch Pokemon, you can’t level your character. Without being able to level, you don’t get the extra supplies to continue. It becomes a circle of sadness because what could be a great game is stuck until you can make it to a PokéStop and hope it drops things you need. Supposedly you are able to get Pokécoins while walking around. I have yet to see it, not that the amount of the currency it gave you be anywhere near enough what you need to purchase the store items. It’s a rather broken system in that regard. There needs to be better ways to accumulate the PokéCoins for those that cannot invest real money in the game and are not physically able to get to a PokéStop.
Maybe they will figure out someway just to use a pedometer and you can control which way your character goes while you walk on a treadmill or in your own house. That would be handy for those who may not live in areas where wandering around at all hours of the day is feasible. Maybe even team up with companies that already have external pedometer options to make it compatible. It would also give those who live in rural areas to “walk” to landmarks without having to actually walk miles one direction to get to one.
I have hope for augmented reality games. I think the concept is solid, but it needs work. There are a lot of risk factors and not a lot of help to get a reward.