A Machine For Pigs: Daddy, Please Don't Kill Me

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A Machine For Pigs: Daddy, Please Don't Kill Me

And in five little words, A Machine for Pigs is better written than quite a lot of games.

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I predict blindingly hot rage.

I liked the article. There's a lot you can learn from just a few words. I doubt this will quell the hatred from the passionate bunch who insist that, because they didn't like it, EVERYTHING about it must be terrible, including the story and writing.

Because people like fighting over Critical Miss, but they don't like learning from it.

It's sad that this article needed to mention GTA V. It seems that the developers have done kind of a seesaw, in terms of overall gaming quality, from 20 years ago - good mechanics (be it atmosphere, music, writing, etc.) and creativity while graphic fidelity wasn't quite what we know it to be now, to the super life-like graphics without the substance behind it. It's nice to hear that some games still retain some of the old qualities.

Kind of ironic, you know, that the closer you get to imitating life through games, the shittier they turn out to be? Wonder what the reason for that is...

Excellent article, this is the kind of thing that I come to the Escapist for! I really need to get around to finishing Amnesia: DD and pick up this game.

♪English time with Mr. Croshaw♫

Interesting article for anybody interested in why writing is so important in game, particularly horror games.

Strangely, I don't predict rage for Yahtzee's GTA V review, people have kinda gotten used to him bashing popular games. I'm pretty sure they'd be more rage if he revealed he actually liked it.

I have to disagree with Yatzhee on his analasys on the word "me". "Me" is not humanising, because to refer to one's self as "me" is to dehumanise oneself to the level of object.

Maybe the speaker was trying to appeal to his father's pity by humiliating himself to the level of an object?
Maybe the fact that person whom was about to be killed referred to himself as "me" is supposed to be some sort of metaphore how the people of [insert place and era here] were treated like objects, and not to be left to become the high subjects of "I"sville.

Lessons in brevity from Mr Zero Punctuation?

Now I've seen everything...

Best Extra Punctuation yet.

I love hearing analysis of good writing (Although I realize how little of it you get in video games these days)
This was cool.

Interesting read, though the final line certainly left the best impression despite the fact that it was mostly off-topic.

This is exactely the kind of article I like to read. So I guess I am the student leaning forward to see the frogs organs better in this case.

I'm looking foward for more articles like this. In this context I also really enjoyed the following:

Yahtzee vs. the JRPG
Male Protagonist
What Sands of Time gets right
The Danger of Dialogue

This was very interesting! Good for all kinds of writers and as a GM of an RPG this was very good to learn. Thanks for the free education!

P.S. Mogworld is awesome

Luckily, I am interested in dialogue writing. Mainly because I'm rather shit at dialogue writing.

But I think I've learned something, now. The frog did not die in vain.

Definitely an interesting little article, and well worth the read. It's so easy to pick out examples of bad writing in videogames. Heck, some established series are pretty much built on it (Hello, Resident Evil!). The thing is, the examples of bad writing are so infrequently countered by examples of good writing. Sure you can argue that there just aren't enough examples of good writing to go around, but I'm not certain that would be the case if the positive examples there are were given more air time.

Quite frankly, more articles like this are needed not just to show off writing that works, but also to explain why it works.

More of this please? Maybe a comparative piece, good game writing versus bad game writing picking games with similar game play.

This article also chimed with thoughts on the Mass Effect series I've had recently, I loved the games and thought the writing was good, but the time and effort it took to get the story out of all the characters is a marked contrast to the 5 word intro to Amnesia that was just mentioned. Was it only the choices and personal investment in the story that kept me engaged? It would make sense.

I loved this game and this article. I thought a machine for pigs was hands down a better story than DD. Maybe not a better example of game play, but a better setting/story/characters/environment/themes.

"Being able to convey an idea with as few words as possible is what shows true mastery of the craft."

Yahtzee, I love your videos, even when we don't agree. And on the original "Amnesia" we don't agree. It stuns me that you would make this point in reference to the sequel of a game that broke the truism that one should "show, not tell" as much as the original "Amnesia" did. It felt like every few steps I took, I was being interrupted by some really badly-executed flashback (cue the blinding white light and slow-motion to infuriatingly take my control away!) that just ruined my immersion of the game. I've played text adventure games on the C64 where I've felt like I've spent less of my time reading stuff from the screen.

And even when it's accompanied by voice-acting (which is not always), the quality is really bad. The guy who plays Daniel especially stands out - and that's the main character! But I've played games with bad voice acting before and loved them (anybody remember Edward Diego from the original "System Shock"?) My biggest issue with "Amnesia" is that the method of delivering the story is just so clunky and forced, and the character of Daniel so unsympathetic, I just don't CARE about it.

I'd much rather they'd have simply made a survival horror game that's a 3D version of "Mummies" or "Pac-Man" or something, than what we actually got. That's not to say that I hated Amnesia - far from it, I played it to the end - but I think it's a drastically flawed game. I don't feel that there's really any "stake" to it, especially when you've died once or twice and realised that there's zero penalty for doing so; and as such there's not really any tension. There's a HELL of a lot of atmosphere - the two levels after you exit the elevator machine especially stand out in that regard - but even then the effect is often spoilt by the flashbacks (which aren't even consistent: I noticed at least two "flashbacks" of events that Daniel wasn't even present at: the deaths of the men in the wine cellar and the guy trapped in the morgue.)

I think the original "Amnesia" is a case of fantastic idea but poor execution. If they'd stuck to working to their strengths - the great visuals, soundtrack, and atmosphere of dread - and got rid of the intrusive "storyline" that is so badly integrated into the gameplay that it takes away from it, then I feel that it would have been so much better.

That's my thoughts on "Amnesia". Given what I like and don't like about it, would I like "Machine for Pigs"? I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of anyone who's played it.

I'm glad Yahtzee's back to these kinds of articles. I still don't think he needs the joking bits at the end, though. It kinda detracts from the whole.

Also, to hell with pictures, five words are worth a thousand words!

Brilliant! These are the kind of articles we come to the Escapist for! Real heady stuff here today.

Cpt. Ivory:
This is exactely the kind of article I like to read. So I guess I am the student leaning forward to see the frogs organs better in this case.

I'm looking foward for more articles like this. In this context I also really enjoyed the following:

Yahtzee vs. the JRPG
Male Protagonist
What Sands of Time gets right
The Danger of Dialogue

If you look around the Extra Punctuation archives I'm sure you'll find something like that.

CrazyCapnMorgan:
It's sad that this article needed to mention GTA V. It seems that the developers have done kind of a seesaw, in terms of overall gaming quality, from 20 years ago - good mechanics (be it atmosphere, music, writing, etc.) and creativity while graphic fidelity wasn't quite what we know it to be now, to the super life-like graphics without the substance behind it. It's nice to hear that some games still retain some of the old qualities.

Kind of ironic, you know, that the closer you get to imitating life through games, the shittier they turn out to be? Wonder what the reason for that is...

I also noticed the humor and satire of the GTA brand's gone out by GTA IV, when they set it in the modern day AND stopped making your character a blank slate of a person.

captcha: done that

An interesting article but I don't really think a lot of it applies to Machine for Pigs. I don't quite see the horror in that game or the appeal Yahtzee sees in it. Of course no matter how well written a video game is, if its just a walking simulator, I think my annoyance will drown out any positives.

This is something that's been bugging me for awhile. The type of horror Yahtzee likes is just a type. It's not the only way to do horror and isn't "best", just like Chinese cooking is not the "best" Asian cuisine.

Slow horror and immortal horror both rely heavily on immersion and a desire to continue the experience. Slow horror like Silent hill only works if the player isn't bored. If you feel bored, all of the "subtlety" will be lost on you and it won't actually feel scary. It just feels like nothing is really happening. It invokes the opposite of fear. Instead of dreading when something is going to happen, you want it to, just to have something to do. Immortal horror, like Amnesia the Dark Descent, where you have no possible way of fighting the enemy, again relies on a player who feels invested in their character so that death has weight. The player also has to enjoy the feeling of helplessness. For many this is offputting, and they see no reason to play because they feel they have very little impact.

In contrast many enjoy fast horror. Constantly dealing with horrific threats is simply scarier for some people. The threat is constant and oppressive. Some find that a monster is more unsettling than atmosphere, and 5 monsters is even more unsettling.

It's pretty bad when "Daddy, please don't kill me" is cited for its subtlety.

Gold medal for overanalyzing.

Now work on that GTA5 critique dammit.

AtheistConservative:
This is something that's been bugging me for awhile. The type of horror Yahtzee likes is just a type. It's not the only way to do horror and isn't "best", just like Chinese cooking is not the "best" Asian cuisine.

Indeed. I for one was totally freaked out by Doom 3 because I'm jumpy and scared very easily. But reviewers tend to only appreciate these slow indie things which I personally find quite stupid. Jim Sterling is the only major reviewer I know who ever defended simple jumpscare horror.

Now if only we had someone defending the idea of coop horror, hmmm.

Well, true there are not really a "better" kind of horror. But I must say that I think that the slow building, more thoughtful type of horror is a bigger sign of skill on the part of the creator.

Fast horror in games mostly translate to some sort of spiky kebab monster jumping out of a cupboard while a string orchestra goes "TWIDLIDIDEEDLIDIDELIDIDDIDIDI..!", and while that works, it grows rather predictable rather fast. It can feel a bit too simple and fast, sometimes.

Now, if something like that happens maybe once, after some very careful set-up (like short glimpses of the monster in the corner of the eyes, tell-tale trails of kebabfat on the floor and maybe some remains of earlier victims), the impact of that jump scare is much greater, since it's been used much more economically. It's in wrapping the kebabmonsters with meaning that many of the faster horror games fail.

Carefully managing your scares and building up to a level they'd be unlikely to reach on their own is the tricky bit.

(Of course, it's all in my own opinion.)

As someone trying to get his act together with writing, I appreciated this.

I'd just like to add one more detail: "Kill" rather than "Murder" is a very important word choice decision, relating back to the first word 'Daddy'. "Murder" is a darker word, which would further the suggestion of deliberation and cruelty. But it's there already with the word 'please'. 'Kill', meanwhile, backs up the word 'daddy' in the sentence; it's simpler and more childlike. I think it's the right decision, but it's interesting that the sentence chooses to double-down on the powerlessness and victim nature of the speaker, rather than the menace and horror of the 'daddy'.

Fair enough. I disagreed with regards to AMFP's writing, not in that the prose itself is bad, but because it was unpleasantly anvilicious, without being genuinely vicious /see that pun? it burnssss/ or alternatively, introspective about its central and all-permeating metaphor (what the machine and what New Year's Eve symbolize together, which is explained in detail at the end of the game, but not in a particularly interesting way).

Also, here's a reminder that while GTA IV wasn't a particularly great game, it knew how to set up some goddamn atmosphere before you actually got to play. (while we're on the topic of "how to get the player invested in an experience right at the start")


Chills.

The guy on the telephone honestly lost me since it never became clear if the guy was real and helping you or just a hallucination on your part, as opposed to the big bad of Descent who is unquestionably evil.

Vale:
Fair enough. I disagreed with regards to AMFP's writing, not in that the prose itself is bad, but because it was unpleasantly anvilicious, without being genuinely vicious /see that pun? it burnssss/ or alternatively, introspective about its central and all-permeating metaphor (what the machine and what New Year's Eve symbolize together, which is explained in detail at the end of the game, but not in a particularly interesting way).

Anvilicious isn't a real word.

I dont want to leap uncontrollably onto the bandwagon of arse lickery here, so instead ill climb sneakily upon it;
As storytelling goes, its hard to find effective horror writing for jaded ppl such as my cold dead self. Fustrating too, when a true scare is one of the few things that pull me out of my constant lethargic state, aside a 4 day cocaine binge.
This is an interesting article, as i have been keen on new ideas of horror for personal writing, and originality is a necessity for me. Good quote also, analysis can often fray an illusion unfortunately. But some minds are just hardwired for analysis.
Oh...do i get points for not asking for a gtaV review? Instead, do farm simulator 2013: youre not sposed to enjoy your job yahtzee!

Personally I found the sentence in question somewhat cringe-worthy... but not in a good 'well written horror' way. Quite the opposite infact. :/
It felt like someone *trying* hard to write horror, with the unfortunate side-effect of making it so cheesy/blatant that it loses all impact. Amateurish, or tactless might be a good word for it - Certainly i guess it gets the point across, but it just could have been handled much more tact and elegance. If anything it's utter *lack* of subtly is it's undoing, and i gotta agree with Pyrian's post up above :X...

Pyrian:
It's pretty bad when "Daddy, please don't kill me" is cited for its subtlety.

well, shallow as it might sound, I wasn't all that taken away by Amnesia or the announcements of Machine for Pigs, but with that kind of opening and the visuals I have seen of it, not to mention the way it's atmosphere apparently fits exactly what it's meant to be I think I will be giving it a shot now. Thank you Yahtzee . . . I was interested in this article and thanks to it, I will play this game. You've changed a mind my good man, not that it actually matters.

I'll admit that the first sentence is gripping, but subtlety is definitely the wrong word here. Maybe illustrative would be the right word, but the word is definitely not "Subtle".

As for A Machine For Pigs's writing, I feel as though its major problems are it being convoluted and ever-present. Unless you read and hear every single bit of dialogue, you never get a good grasp of what's going on. What's worse is that the writing is strewn everywhere, from the faux-audio logs to the notes to the diary entries to the journal. Whereas the original Amnesia: The Dark Descent's backstory was concise and restricted, A Machine For Pigs's feels heavy-handed and unfocused.

Some_weirdGuy:
Personally I found the sentence in question somewhat cringe-worthy... but not in a good 'well written horror' way. Quite the opposite infact. :/
It felt like someone *trying* hard to write horror, with the unfortunate side-effect of making it so cheesy/blatant that it loses all impact. Amateurish, or tactless might be a good word for it - Certainly i guess it gets the point across, but it just could have been handled much more tact and elegance. If anything it's utter *lack* of subtly is it's undoing, and i gotta agree with Pyrian's post up above :X...

Pyrian:
It's pretty bad when "Daddy, please don't kill me" is cited for its subtlety.

Well, it's likely that it's so blatant and not on it's own subtle for the exact purpose of hitting that easy target. There's a seatbelt commercial they show in my town where a car crashes, it then shows the souls of the mother, father and toddler of the car lift out of their bodies. The parents, mind you, were not wearing seatbelts and stay dead. The toddler however, her soul comes back, she wakes up, starts crying and saying "mommy, mommy wake up! mommy?!" for about another 20 seconds of cringe worthy tv. Cheesey and obvious sure, but I guarantee it hits everyone that sees it very deep if only for that one instant when they hear a child crying out to it's dead mother.

I think that's what Machine for Pigs is doing, hitting an easy target to say "come on, if this is really the worst writting we've done and it's all at the start, the rest can't be that bad, and even this was still effecting"

Cid SilverWing:
The guy on the telephone honestly lost me since it never became clear if the guy was real and helping you or just a hallucination on your part, as opposed to the big bad of Descent who is unquestionably evil.

I am unsure if you have beaten the game yet, but I am about to reveal spoilers. so anyone reading this should not do so if they are trying to avoid spoilers.

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