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Hey Baby, Do You Dyad? A Letter Series
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Hey Baby, Do You Dyad? A Letter Series

November 22, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3
 

From: Quintin Smith
To: Leigh Alexander
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: dyad

Dear Leigh,

I am broken by your polycultural artillery barrage. This is me crawling out from my foxhole and offering a shaky salute.

Just let me speak one piece about the design of Dyad as a game. A game we can play with our hands and eyes, rather than our mouths and literacy.

When you talk about it having poor feel, communication and structure, I wouldn't say that you're wrong. What you're doing, though, is using conventional metrics to judge a non-conventional game, the same thinking that led to Space Giraffe falling down a Metacritic pit.

Let's return to the pulsing silhouette of Wipeout HD. When you start that game, in the Venom or Flash speed classes, you're playing a racer. Dragging your ship's momentous frame around a track, eyeing each corner nervously. But as you move up to Rapier class, Phantom class and beyond, or experiment with the nauseous joy of Zone Mode, you literally cannot react fast enough. You have to operate on instinct and muscle memory, entering a zen state which -- when you realize you're doing it -- is a breathtaking rush.

When you say Dyad's feel and communication are poor, it's because the game's built for those same high speeds. Take my word for it -- on the latest levels, there couldn't be anything else going on. If there was, the game would be unplayable for all the signposts you're whipping past.

...I think. I'm pretty sure I'm right on this. It's like how F1 cars are actually un-drivable until their tires get hot. Dyad is un-enjoyable unless you are awesome.

But I accept your challenge. In an utterly lopsided cultural exchange, I'll go and see Breaking Dawn: Part 2 with you and you just sit with me through Dyad's final level.

That is, if you can handle it. Do you Dyad, baby? Come over. I'll show you what's what.

x

Quintin

From: Leigh Alexander
To: Quintin Smith
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: dyad

Quinns,

As I type this I'm sitting next to you on the couch while you play this absurd last level, "Eye of the Duck." At first it was pretty, and now I fear having a seizure. Seriously, that's kind of a real fear right now. I keep closing my eyes. I honestly am nauseated. I feel assaulted.

I won't spoil the ending, but everyone should try to get there. It's a thing.

So when I was just out of high school I dropped a tab of acid under ill-advised circumstances. I felt nothing for a good hour, so I figured it was a bad tab. I did another one and decided to drive the ten minutes home, so I'd be in my room if anything happened, instead of at this shit house with these terrible people. One of the terrible people asked me for a ride. I said yes, thinking he lived in the neighborhood.

Let me lance ahead to the scene a couple hours later: It is January; it is snowing. I have crossed the state line and my little blue Civic is the only car parked in a market's empty lot. I am hiding behind the car so that I can pee over the frozen pavement.

It's 1:00 AM, dead quiet. I'm not sure exactly where I am. I am tripping my face off.

I shiver, violently cold, in the back seat of my car where I'm naively trying to sleep it off. But when I close my eyes, I have the sensation that a great black object is roaring slowly past where I lie, again and again. Its sound is small and distant, then grows like a wave rolling toward me. It fades, begins again. If I do not pay attention it will accelerate.

Wow, a video game can recreate that sensation perfectly, and now I think it's actually triggered a migraine, too. My fingers are a little numb, which tends to suggest an oncoming aura. Woo, Dyad!

Seriously though, that's kind of cool, if only for how miserable it is.

Anyway. On the ill-advised LSD, morning found me in a hospital with hypothermia and my mother terrified and furious. I was bundled into warm blankets; the numbness ebbed like her anger and the worst of the hallucinations, and all I experienced was complete, soft relief.

I felt like I'd survived something. It was simultaneously unsettling and funny. You can laugh.

When I think back on that, I think I get how you feel about Dyad. And you describe the mechanical appeal, such as it is, really well. Still hate it. Wait, I started this conversation being unsure if I liked Dyad, and end it being sure that I hate it? What've you done to me?

"No, honey, I don't Dyad. Not after what I've been through. I don't wanna see you get lost in the gameworld, too."

Ugh. Okay, let's go to Breaking Dawn. We can sneak in box wine like you and Brendan did back in London.

Thanks for doing this with me,

L

From: Quintin Smith
To: Leigh Alexander
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: dyad

I think I've got my answer.

Why do I like Dyad? Because it facilitates conversations like this. Because, as a games writer whose job often demands the bolting of an irrelevant number onto the end of a review like a vestigial bone, Dyad defies me.

I don't know what it is. I couldn't give it a number. And for all the sweat and tears Dyad needles out from me, that fills me with the sweetest relief.

[Leigh Alexander is editor-at-large for Gamasutra and contributor to Edge, Thought Catalog, Vice Creator's Project and numerous others. She blogs irregularly at Sexy Videogameland. Quintin Smith is a freelance games writer for Eurogamer and Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and editor of Shut Up & Sit Down.]


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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Comments


Keith Nemitz
profile image
Wow. I feel like I've just lived the lives of people I knew when I was 15 to 35 years old. Please, Dyad, sink into the abyssal pits and suffer the tines of rabid fiends. I will never play you. Thanks, Leigh, Quinns. Terrific rundown!

Robin Vilain
profile image
Leigh and Quintin, thanks! The Letter Series are always superb.

I love Dyad. I've always had this dream of a game that would push your senses to their limits, exhaust you physically - I had this concept a couple of years ago, at school, of a Kinect game - a DmC-like thing, except relentless and psychedelic, something that would ask you to get up and then bring you to your knees, that would be so intense you would end up panting and crying after a session...

Dyad kinda does that, partially. It succeeds in making you feel like your eyes and your brain are being sucked out of your face, and you can almost feel your veins twitching and sweat drops running down your temples as you reach absurd speeds. I don't know if it's good or bad, and it's irrelevant; what's relevant is, I think, that the game manages to do what it intends to do, ie. literally absorbing your body and your soul for a moment, during which you forget reality.

What I find the most surprising in those letters is the reproaches you formulate, Leigh - "it's got a poor experience curve, is weak at communicating with the player, has poor feel, has a weak matrix from which to derive a sense of mastery, weak at all the things I'd associate with a good game." This is exactly why it is so good! My job, currently, is to make sure some aspects of some games are as polished and as frictionless as possible - and as a result, I'm more fascinated than ever about games that don't give a *shit* about this. Dyad's elements (mines, turbo pick-ups, squid-like things...) are just distinguishable enough to be functional most of the time, but the best moments in the game is when you know you're performing amazingly well and paradoxically the whole screen is *white* (or a blurry mess of flashy colours), and you are playing instinctively because you can't see a damn thing! This balance must have been incredibly hard to achieve - the invincibility limit, in particular, is an amazingly smart feedback. And the mastery exists, and it's polymorphous, as Quintin said, because the game always asks you to behave in different ways and it keeps reinventing itself, but isn't that delightful? It *is*, I guess, kinda masochistic, because it does slap you whenever you think you'll be able to perfectly execute a level after successfully completing the previous one, but this isn't off-putting - it's like, maybe, swimming down a tumultuous torrent and hitting rocks, the hypothetical thrills keeps increasing despite the fact that your body is wrecked. Well, I guess maybe that would happen if you didn't die.

Taekwan Kim
profile image
"I like this", but also "this is good".

More seriously, this was a great read. The active pursuit of understanding why we do things, what compels us to do them is one of the noblest. And I think Mr. Smith's conclusion is actually quite key; if Dyad can genuinely cause a serious and extended examination of one's own psychological processes, it is indeed "good."

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
profile image
So if there ever was a box it would read:

Dyad - a game for game philosophers


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