E.18 – The Last of Us (From the Archives)

In our second “From the Archives” edition of the show, we’re re-airing a lost conversation from 2013 about The Last of Us – Naughty Dog’s critically-acclaimed survival adventure game. On the eve of its much anticipated sequel, there’s no better time to revisit its inaugural chapter.

In further blurring the lines between gameplay & cinema, The Last of Us has been a focal point for both gamers and industry veterans. Jim Wiser and I became fast friends in art school studying game design together, so I was delighted to have him join me for this episode. We discussed what worked, what felt in conflict with its narrative goals, and ironically our resistance towards an inevitable sequel – especially after that ending.

Set within a broken America amid a global pandemic, The Last of Us‘ atmosphere cuts deeper in 2020. And while this episode serves as somewhat of a time capsule, I suspect it will resonate with those returning to Joel and Ellie’s world today.

Additional Credits & Notes

  • Jim Wiser and I have been friends since our foundation art classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where we collaborated as Game Design majors. Jim’s BFA thesis explored level design as a means to better understand way-finding, and since then he’s created artwork for a number of indie game projects, custom levels for Team Fortress 2, and UI/UX designs for modern mobile applications.
  • Music in today’s episode is from the OST to The Last of Us and its prequel chapter, The Last of Us: Left Behind, composed by award-winning guitarist Gustavo Santaolalla.
  • Support us by following us on Instagram and/or Twitter (@screenlooking), leaving us a rating & review, and sharing Screen Looking with a friend or two.

E.7 – Resident Evil 2 (Pt. 1: Look & Feel)

If it wasn’t for Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2, this podcast probably wouldn’t even exist. Soon after RE2 was unveiled at E3 2018, Alex Koval and I jumped on a call to discuss why the 1998 version was still so present in our minds. Joining us to see how well it’s come back to haunt us is my brother and returning guest, Nicholas Kuhar, for a special two-part edition of Screen Looking.

In Pt. 1, our attention is focused on the look, feel and mood of Capcom’s re-imagined RE2, in addition to some of its earliest and most unforgettable moments. By the end, we make our way around to one of the game’s most divisive topics: Mr. X.

For a 21-year-old game, RE2 is still full of surprises and eager to subvert our expectations. Indulge us as we once again enter the world of survival horror.

Additional Notes & Credits:

  • Alex Koval is a full-stack web developer, an independent short-filmmaker, and a fan of the horror genre. We’ve been best friends since 2nd grade, and some of his favorite games include Resident Evil, Final Fantasy Tactics, Eternal Darkness, and Banjo Kazooie.
  • Nicholas Kuhar is my brother, bandmate, and frequent donor of graphic novels. He is also the Director of Innovation at St. Edward High School in Cleveland, OH, helping young students unlock their creativity through new-media. Some of his favorite video games include The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Final Fantasy VII.
  • Music & SFX in today’s episode are from Resident Evil 2 and its OST, produced by the Capcom Sound Team.
  • Featured excerpts are courtesy of YouTubers Chris Gamesalot and their interview w/ writer Brent Friedman, as well as Captain Eggcellent and their Resident Evil 2 Remake Mythbusters series.
  • Archived interview with the original RE2 team (RE1.5 development stories & more) from the June 1998 issue of Japanese gaming magazine, “The Playstation.
  • Tune in next week for Pt. 2, as we venture forth into RE2’s revised story and campaign details.

Engadget Feature – Guacamelee! 2

There are few games that I have replayed – and then again, and again, and again – as much as I did with Guacamelee!.

Each playthrough emboldened me to become an even stronger, faster, more magical luchadore, but they also revealed new layers to the game’s world. Guacamelee! was brimming with secrets, hidden between the difficulty spikes and its signature atmosphere. That attention to detail only went further in its sequel.

For my second longform piece on Engadget, I had the pleasure of talking with the series’ creators, DrinkBox Studios. Guacamelee! 2 became an opportunity for them to revisit a world they loved building in the first place, only to discover how rewarding the creative process could still be. I spoke with the team’s co-founder and producer, Graham Smith, art director, Steph Goulet, and concept lead & animator, Augusto Quijano, to better understand the sequel’s new landscapes, narrative beats, color palette and more.

As delightful as Guacamelee! 2‘s slapstick self-aware tone is, what stuck with me were its quieter moments – and how personal Augusto was in drawing inspiration from his Mexican upbringing. It’s clear that DrinkBox made even more thoughtful design decisions this time around, managing to distinguish the sequel from its already hyper-stylized predecessor along the way.

Read the full feature story on Engadget.

E.5 – Spider-Man

If a video game is going to let you experience life as Peter Parker in 2018, it ought to feel amazing. Thankfully, it does.

Strength, grace, and a taxi-driver’s understanding of Manhattan are just a few of the advantages that Marvel’s Spider-Man affords players. Surprisingly, it’s also filled with heart, laughs, and a gravity-defying means of traversal that never grows old. After a tumultuous history in video games, the iconic character is finally done justice in the hands of Insomniac Games.

My brother, Nicholas Kuhar, and our longtime friend, Ryan Ward, join me for an extended chat about the wall-crawling adventure we’ve been waiting for. We break down what makes Spider-Man a thoughtful adaptation through its relationship with its source material, web-slinging physics, commitment to the character, and clever yet jaw-dropping presentation.

Additional Credits & Notes:

  • Spoiler Warning! Around the 30 minute mark, we start discussing major narrative and plot details.
  • Nicholas Kuhar is my brother, bandmate, and frequent donor of graphic novels. He is also the Director of Innovation at St. Edward High School in Cleveland, OH, helping young students unlock their creativity through new-media and technology. Some of his favorite video games include The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Final Fantasy VII.
  • Ryan Ward is your go-gettin’ friendly neighborhood Spider-Fan with a heart of gold. His knowledge of Marvel Comics is extensive, and the Metal Gear Solid series has produced some of his favorite video games. Since growing up together in Northeast Ohio, these truths have remained the same.
  • Special thanks to Megan Kuhar for lending her audio engineering expertise & support — without it, we would have not been able to record this month’s episode.
  • Music in this episode is from Spider-Man: The Animated Series, and the OST to Marvel’s Spider-Man (composed by John Paesano).

Polygon Opinion Piece – The Last Guardian

Polygon graciously allowed me to write this intimate opinion piece for them, which explores my experience playing the long-awaited The Last Guardian and the parallels I drew between it and our bond with animals. It serves as an analysis of the game’s design, as much as it is a personal essay and investigation into the ways we all encounter animals in need.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

The Last Guardian doubles as an interactive metaphor for the discovery and rehabilitation of animals in situations of abuse or neglect. For being such a fantastical setting, it plays host to a cautionary tale that is grounded in reality. By offering us an extended glimpse into an abused animal’s perspective, The Last Guardian asks us to empathize: What does it mean to spend time in their environment? How are they a product of it, and how much can they change?

The full article can be found here, and I invite you to share your own story and/or takeaway from The Last Guardian.