A case study in truly mature gaming: Iji

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Well, I've finished this game pretty recently, and was impressed by what its story had to offer and how the player can make drastic changes to it. For those of you who don't know what Iji is, it's a popular freeware side-scroller action game developed by Daniel Remar using Game Maker.

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This type of action.

Well I'll avoid making this into a review of the game(although I recommend it) and rather discuss why I find this game to put many games claiming themselves to be 'mature' to shame. There is genuine depth to be found here.

To start off, a brief overview of the plot:

"Players control Iji Kataiser, an ordinary human female who has been enhanced with nanotechnology following the invasion of Earth by an alien species known as the Tasen, who themselves turn out to be running from their relatives, the Komato. Iji must navigate a research station while being guided by her brother Dan, who communicates via the station's loudspeaker system, in order to convince the aliens' leader to retreat from the planet."

The game starts off with Iji waking up 6 months after the invasion has begun, and so she has no choice but to cope rapidly with what's coming at her as she pushes forward. So why do I find this game mature?

1. SOLID AND REALISTIC DIALOGUE

This reason pretty much ties in with the remainder I'm gonna list here, and is a given. The script of this game actually makes you think and reflect about what you're doing as a player and your role within the plot, and about how this affects Iji as well as the perception others have about her. I won't go in too much detail about it here, since the other reasons pretty much build up on this one.

Just know that you'll really feel for Iji and what she goes through, for the motivations behind the characters you encounter, and will start to wonder whether some of the primary antagonists are really as antagonistic as pictured.

2. MORALITY IS A DISTINCT SHADE OF GREY

Now THIS is something that I think any 'mature' game with a bullshit morality system should learn how to accomplish.

You CAN'T claim to form a mature sci-fi type story with black and white morality. The game doesn't even really have a morality system, but Iji becomes more of a 'fighter' or a 'pacifist' depending on what you do. No matter what path you take, the characters and their logbooks change accordingly to your attitude. If you blast your way through enemies, the aliens will think you're a lunatic that needs to be stopped at all costs. If not, they'll start to doubt whether it's justifiable trying to gun down an anomaly who's clearly not trying to harm them.

No matter what path you take, the antagonists question you. They comment on your actions. And by the time you get the full picture, that you get to the final boss and the motivations of the aliens are all clear, you'll see them in a different light too. Not as tragic heroes, but questionably as those fulfilling their responsibilities in the war. War is pretty much the main theme of this story. Sure, you'll find some common enemies which are a bunch of bastards, but the ones in power, in charge of the whole thing, have all got reason for their actions. Whether you believe they're justified is up to your interpretation.

And the endings, OH the beautiful endings are all bittersweet. None of them are 'bad endings' and all give reason for hope, but more importantly they're not 'sunshine and rainbows happy go-lucky' endings, but STILL manage to make you feel glad. They provide a satisfying and realistic(within context) resolution of the plot. A cheesy ending to a tale this game tells would have ruined the final impressions.

3. PLAYER ACTIONS, NOT DECISIONS AT KEY MOMENTS, AFFECT THE PLOT DIRECTLY AND THE GAME ITSELF

As I mentioned before, the impressions of the aliens change depending on your approach. If you follow your Metroid instincts and blast your way through the levels, they believe you're a friggin lunatic.

However, if you display the same hesitance as Iji in killing your enemies, you get rewarded for it. I won't spoil the plot here though, just know it's nice to see the game behaves accordingly to what you do. It's very enjoyable to see the script tailoring to how you behave, sometimes in subtle manners, sometimes in more important ways. Iji's audio clips, for example, depend on how you play. Is she going to tell the enemies DIE upon shooting them or say things like "I'm sorry" in a sorrowful and desperate tone?

The changes don't just stop at the plot too. Logbooks change.(they even comment on how it's strange you're collecting ammo when you're not shooting anyone if you play like that) Bonds are formed that affect the gameplay and some fights. I can't go in too much depth here as it ruins the experience, just know that:

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This conversation WON'T happen if you followed your gamer instincts and killed everyone in your path

Voila. For me, this is what mature games should inspire to become. You work with the mindsets being explored, using the fact that the story is being told within a game to explore morality and other themes, with everything drenched in GREY, that beautiful shade of a story and/or a theme which shows a more realistic way of looking at things.

I can't believe the amount of games which try to write a mature story, but yet manage to put in incredibly cheesy endings or villains that are pure evil...

I could go on praising the other aspects of this game, its fun and addictive gameplay, its kick-ass soundtrack, its cinematic storytelling, but then this would belong in the review section. However, if this game has piqued your interest and you want to play it, here's the link:
http://www.remar.se/daniel/iji.php
Remember, it's freeware.

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sinclose:

1. SOLID AND REALISTIC DIALOGUE

Real sibling don't call each other 'bro' or 'sis', they call each other by name. Though Iji is a great game, I still haven't found all the secrets.

Janus Vesta:

sinclose:

1. SOLID AND REALISTIC DIALOGUE

Real sibling don't call each other 'bro' or 'sis', they call each other by name. Though Iji is a great game, I still haven't found all the secrets.

Aw it depends. I have a sibling and I use the word 'bro' whenever I feel like it :)

Man, long walls of text really discourage comments here...

You'll also start to wonder how protagonist-y the supposed protagonists are... Your brother Dan's pretty damn bloodthirsty if you're doing a pacifist run.

I agree with you. Iji is spectacularly mature, and it's a shining example of what games with morality systems should be. The only thing preventing more mainstream and AAA titles from doing the same thing is, I think, the drive for developers to make money. As you point out, Daniel Remar did this on his own time and released it as a freeware game. With all the time and effort that HAS to go into graphics for a triple-A title nowadays, and the fact that cutscenes pretty much have to be done after the graphics are optimized, it's just not profitable to be this in-depth with your story-telling. The only way you're going to get this kind of depth in a game is if it is freeware by an independent developer. It's the same reason Dwarf Fortress is so much better than SimCity; because freeware development isn't really hindered by cost and time constraints, the developer can take as long as they want to to work on story or gameplay at the expense of graphics.

TL;DR version: Good freeware games pretty much always have shitty graphics, but make up for it with amazing gameplay and/or storylines. Triple-A devs can't afford to spend the time it takes to make a truly good story AND good gameplay AND good graphics, and since graphics are apparently essential in today's market, the other two suffer.

GRoXERs:
You'll also start to wonder how protagonist-y the supposed protagonists are... Your brother Dan's pretty damn bloodthirsty if you're doing a pacifist run.

I agree with you. Iji is spectacularly mature, and it's a shining example of what games with morality systems should be. The only thing preventing more mainstream and AAA titles from doing the same thing is, I think, the drive for developers to make money. As you point out, Daniel Remar did this on his own time and released it as a freeware game. With all the time and effort that HAS to go into graphics for a triple-A title nowadays, and the fact that cutscenes pretty much have to be done after the graphics are optimized, it's just not profitable to be this in-depth with your story-telling. The only way you're going to get this kind of depth in a game is if it is freeware by an independent developer. It's the same reason Dwarf Fortress is so much better than SimCity; because freeware development isn't really hindered by cost and time constraints, the developer can take as long as they want to to work on story or gameplay at the expense of graphics.

TL;DR version: Good freeware games pretty much always have shitty graphics, but make up for it with amazing gameplay and/or storylines. Triple-A devs can't afford to spend the time it takes to make a truly good story AND good gameplay AND good graphics, and since graphics are apparently essential in today's market, the other two suffer.

I wouldn't be too harsh on Dan. I just think he's worried what will happen to his sister if she refuses to fight. LOVE how the dialogue varies form "You're quite pacifistic" to "You didn't shoot anyone at all".

But as you and I have both said, Iji rightfully demonstrates what a mature game really is and should be. Few games have made me really question about blasting my way through.

And about the graphics, I wouldn't call the graphics in games like Iji and Cave Story shitty. Not by a long stretch. Indie games don't have norms to adjust to, but when they care about the game they're making they usually grant it enough attention. In fact Cave Story and Iji are 2 games I've seen with equal emphasis on gameplay, story and music. It's a feat in itself.

If you haven't played Cave Story and you liked Iji, it's a must-have(it's superior to Iji IMO). The PC version is freeware.

There's a large difference between "Mature" and "good".

tellmeimaninja:
There's a large difference between "Mature" and "good".

I know. And this game is both IMO.

Did you play it?

sinclose:

tellmeimaninja:
There's a large difference between "Mature" and "good".

I know. And this game is both IMO.

Did you play it?

It doesn't look bad, but my computer is Plastic-encased, fossilized dinosaur feces, and I doubt I could even run something like that.

tellmeimaninja:

sinclose:

tellmeimaninja:
There's a large difference between "Mature" and "good".

I know. And this game is both IMO.

Did you play it?

It doesn't look bad, but my computer is Plastic-encased, fossilized dinosaur feces, and I doubt I could even run something like that.

Um... well the requirements to run it are pretty low, although some people with very weak PCs claim there are slowdowns.

Unless your PC itself is in terrible trouble, in which case I'd recommend getting a new one. And I'm speaking from experience.

On a side-note, when I started playing this game, the music of the very 1st level made me want to find out what lies ahead.

This game looks amazing. But then I love Ginormo Sword and would recommend that to most people... http://babarageo.com/flash/ginormo/ << Ginormo Sword! I DARE you to finish it!

sinclose:
snip

I checked out the trailer on youtube. Wow! For an indie game the graphics aren't half bad, I'm actually impressed. I'm a bit of a stickler on graphics, they don't need to be awesome (Some games on SNES look quite nice - Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana 1/2 - while others look like ass), but it's nice if they look polished. And these do! I'll definitely check this out, may I ask how big the file is? I'm not on my home computer right now.

Mr.Black:

sinclose:
snip

I checked out the trailer on youtube. Wow! For an indie game the graphics aren't half bad, I'm actually impressed. I'm a bit of a stickler on graphics, they don't need to be awesome (Some games on SNES look quite nice - Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana 1/2 - while others look like ass), but it's nice if they look polished. And these do! I'll definitely check this out, may I ask how big the file is? I'm not on my home computer right now.

Sorry for replying a bit late. The download size is only 28.0 MB. And thanks, you reminded me I always forgot to check out the trailer of this game. You probably saw it on the creator's youtube channel.

Btw the soundtrack of this game, as I have mentioned time and again is uber kick-ass. And you won't know how much fun this game is until you actually play it.

I also highly recommend Cave Story. Link is at the bottom.

GRoXERs:
snip

BadAssPope:
snip

I usually highly recommend 2 freeware games when I get the occasion. One is Iji(PLAY IT) and the more important one is Cave Story(PLAY IIIIIT)
http://www.miraigamer.net/cavestory/downloads_1.php I'd recommend getting the deluxe version.

Mmm, I remember playing this, not too long ago. Went pacifist, loved that I could go pacifist, loved that it made a difference.
And liked Iji's voice, although the "Hit with a rocket scream" starts to grate after a while, if you're specifically getting hit by them, for xp.

joshuaayt:
Mmm, I remember playing this, not too long ago. Went pacifist, loved that I could go pacifist, loved that it made a difference.
And liked Iji's voice, although the "Hit with a rocket scream" starts to grate after a while, if you're specifically getting hit by them, for xp.

About Iji's voice, it made me feel bad that when you blast your way through, she starts screaming at enemies stuff like DIE. Made me think about what I'd made her become. Not that her reactions to killing aren't saddening if you take the pacifist path either...

sinclose:

Janus Vesta:

sinclose:

1. SOLID AND REALISTIC DIALOGUE

Real sibling don't call each other 'bro' or 'sis', they call each other by name. Though Iji is a great game, I still haven't found all the secrets.

Aw it depends. I have a sibling and I use the word 'bro' whenever I feel like it :)

If we are in separate rooms and call each other it'll usually be our names we shout however when in same room etc we just say bro.

Cool story bro.

-nods sagely-

yup, cave story's pretty great too.

And yeah, I definitely call my siblings "bro" and "sis"

"Mature" is a funny thing to call Iji, because its premise and characters could have walked straight out of doodles that I (or other guys I know) drew in the margins of notebooks in 7th grade - or across the whole page, foregoing notes entirely. Perhaps the word you're looking for is "AWESOME."

But you're very right, sinclose, about the complexity of this game. It surprised me many times, just as it was meant to do, starting with the premise I just mentioned. To me and others like me, "super-powered girl shoots up a faceless army of invading aliens using high-tech weaponry" sounds like a familiar and natural (and awesome) idea for a video game, the sort that could be good even if it were played straight. Iji knows we're expecting that, gets us to jump on board, then deconstructs the ship right under us. By the end we feel sorry for the alien invaders, admire the villain, and question the protagonists' sanity.

So yes, it's a videogame about video gaming. It's also about making video games. Who else noticed this? Because it took me a while:...

As you said, Iji is primarily made by one man: Daniel Remar. Iji's brother's name is Dan. That could be a coincidence... if not for the way the two characters interact. If Iji herself represents the player, then Dan represents the designer of the game... and their relationship is less than perfect.

Iji is the center of the action, the star of the show (her name is the title). Dan, meanwhile, spends most of the time hiding off-screen in "control rooms;" we don't actually see him until halfway through the game. He's never (well, only once) part of the action, instead his job is to give Iji information and tell her what to do - harshly. Dan sets the "rules" of the game, and Iji plays it. Even though they're a team, it often seems neither appreciates the other. Iji resents being commanded and criticized by her brother when her task is so difficult. Dan resents being left out of the fight and confined to a control room, where he must guard his rationality and make the most important decisions of the game. Neither Iji nor Dan realize how hard the other's job is, and quarrel more than once. But when it really counts, they realize - and show - that they are dependent on one another - both for emotional support and for actual survival.

This relationship of player and creator must hold true in any game, but especially so in an indie game. Here the creator was a single person and Iji really was a labor of love. In fact, the game has a secret, bonus level, and if you beat it you are rewarded with a message from Daniel Remar himself, personally thanking you for playing and making his work worthwhile. A feeling of genuine connection with another person is something I've rarely found in a videogame... with exceptions like this. That was pretty darn touching.

2-part Epoxy:
snip

That was a very interesting view point and a great 1st post, but just one thing:LEARN HOW TO USE SPOILER TAGS. I didn't finish Sector Z and I wanted to find out what it has to offer for myself.(sorry if this sounded harsh, I know you're new here, I just hate spoilers with a passion)

And about the rest of your points. No, the word I'm looking for is NOT 'awesome'. For me, this game provides a good definition for genuine gaming maturity, for the reasons I stated. Most importantly, because it isn't in black and white and the player is heavily involved with how the character(and thus the plot) turns out. I've used the word 'mature' for a reason, and this game fits its definition splendidly.

You have a very interesting view though.

If you enjoyed Iji, and want to feel the passion of a single creator in another epic game, play Cave Story, the link is in post 13.

Daniel made this game entirely himself, but other people provided the voices, testing and the music for obvious reasons. Cave Story however, was made by a single Japanese guy over the course of 5 years and done 100% by him. From the music to the art and everything. You should check it out. For me, it is better than Iji(although Iji shall always remain my 2nd favorite indie game)

the game is great.
I mostly skipped all the text logs.
Do the last boss fight change on how you played this game???

Oktanas:
the game is great.
I mostly skipped all the text logs.
Do the last boss fight change on how you played this game???

The fight itself, no(unless you get him fully powered up). But the dialogue and thus the plot, yes. A lot. And the logs change heavily too(except those that are informative or ads of course)

just beated Krotera with stealh method.

sinclose:

Janus Vesta:

sinclose:

1. SOLID AND REALISTIC DIALOGUE

Real sibling don't call each other 'bro' or 'sis', they call each other by name. Though Iji is a great game, I still haven't found all the secrets.

Aw it depends. I have a sibling and I use the word 'bro' whenever I feel like it :)

no offense, i dont know a single person who does that. bro or sis i have heard maybe once or twice, and that was between hardcore friends, otherwise i have never heard that used

gmaverick019:

sinclose:

Janus Vesta:

sinclose:

1. SOLID AND REALISTIC DIALOGUE

Real sibling don't call each other 'bro' or 'sis', they call each other by name. Though Iji is a great game, I still haven't found all the secrets.

Aw it depends. I have a sibling and I use the word 'bro' whenever I feel like it :)

no offense, i dont know a single person who does that. bro or sis i have heard maybe once or twice, and that was between hardcore friends, otherwise i have never heard that used

Well it varies. A LOT. As I said I have a sibling and casually use it. Like Groxers.

Seriously, there are so many siblings existing in the world, it would be ignorant to say no one uses that.

very interesting, I have to give this game a chance.

Eliam_Dar:
very interesting, I have to give this game a chance.

Comments like yours make this thread worth taking the effort to make. Thank you :-)

And once again, kudos to Daniel. I mailed him some questions on youtube, and he responded pretty fast. He answers queries in youtube comments or forums about the game, it's really great of his part!

sinclose:

gmaverick019:

sinclose:

Janus Vesta:

sinclose:

1. SOLID AND REALISTIC DIALOGUE

Real sibling don't call each other 'bro' or 'sis', they call each other by name. Though Iji is a great game, I still haven't found all the secrets.

Aw it depends. I have a sibling and I use the word 'bro' whenever I feel like it :)

no offense, i dont know a single person who does that. bro or sis i have heard maybe once or twice, and that was between hardcore friends, otherwise i have never heard that used

Well it varies. A LOT. As I said I have a sibling and casually use it. Like Groxers.

Seriously, there are so many siblings existing in the world, it would be ignorant to say no one uses that.

groxers? and yeah i know, just saying no one i KNOW uses it, and as you replied to someone who also said no one uses that, so obviously you have at the very least two people who disagree with you on that, what im getting at is the "realistic dialogue", as i have yet to know a person, besides you, who even casually uses it. im not saying NO ONE uses it, as there probably is in some other cultures in the world where its a grammatically correct term, just saying where I am from no one uses it, and i have never seen in a movie or most books that term used in that sense.

I downloaded this game after reading your post and spent all night playing it! Its a great little game and it actually runs on my old laptop :)

Pokenator:
I downloaded this game after reading your post and spent all night playing it! Its a great little game and it actually runs on my old laptop :)

Have fun! It will serve you for HOURS to come. Hell, I'm still heavily playing it!

Also, download Cave Story from post 13, another epic indie game.

My Favorite indie games:
1.Cave Story
2.Iji
3.Braid
4.World of Goo

gmaverick019:
snip

I know what you're getting at, and I understand your position. What I meant by this is that the usage of 'bro'-which she barely uses at all, I've replayed the game and noticed that, she calls him 'Dan' almost all the time-doesn't make the game dialogue any less realistic. And as I said, she doesn't call him bro that much at all, so it shouldn't really be an issue in the realism of the awesome script.

Oh, and Groxers is a poster in this thread who uses 'bro' and 'sis' too.

sinclose:
snip.

gotcha, well touche, i dont care who uses it really, was just statin an opinion, i might have to check out the game, if i get time, i have currently downloaded 50 some mods recently so im eager to try those out

gmaverick019:

sinclose:
snip.

gotcha, well touche, i dont care who uses it really, was just statin an opinion, i might have to check out the game, if i get time, i have currently downloaded 50 some mods recently so im eager to try those out

You should take it anyway. The download size is only 28.0 MB!

Edited out this post. Please ignore, there was no need for it >_<

2-part Epoxy:

This relationship of player and creator must hold true in any game, but especially so in an indie game. Here the creator was a single person and Iji really was a labor of love. In fact, the game has a secret, bonus level, and if you beat it you are rewarded with a message from Daniel Remar himself, personally thanking you for playing and making his work worthwhile. A feeling of genuine connection with another person is something I've rarely found in a videogame... with exceptions like this. That was pretty darn touching.

I just finished that level. You're right, it was a really heart warming message...

Sinclose:

2-part Epoxy:
snip

That was a very interesting view point and a great 1st post, but just one thing:LEARN HOW TO USE SPOILER TAGS. I didn't finish Sector Z and I wanted to find out what it has to offer for myself.(sorry if this sounded harsh, I know you're new here, I just hate spoilers with a passion)

how DO you use spoiler tags?

With that being said, very good review case study of Iji. It serves as a good callback to the time when I played that game, because I agree with you; the characters are very easy to relate to, and the story is really engaging. As compared to "morally ambiguous" titles like inFamous (low blow, I know).

Janus Vesta:

sinclose:

1. SOLID AND REALISTIC DIALOGUE

Real sibling don't call each other 'bro' or 'sis', they call each other by name. Though Iji is a great game, I still haven't found all the secrets.

I call my bro bro whenever I feel like calling my bro bro. In fact, I only call my bro bro, unless I'm calling for him.

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