Did Tacoma, Washington’s Vicci Martinez inspire a whole new genre of video game?

Hello from Tacoma, Washington!

That’s right, readers, I have since quit my job at the Krishna buffet in Denver so I could move back home to Tacoma, Washington! It’s been surreal to be back in my beloved hometown after being homesick in Colorado. During those last few months there I put my controller down and revisited some albums from Tacoma native Vicci Martinez. Next I took a virtual trip down memory lane (i.e. Sixth Avenue) thanks to Google’s Street View and listened to Angel. Those first forty seconds of the instrumental intro to her song blasted me right into nostalgic bliss as it invoked memories of cycling across the city streets enjoyed with youthful freedom.

It had been nearly two years since last I had been to my hometown. Longest stretch ever before this was six months. I was in an especially unique and timely frame of mind. Unique in that it had never felt so magical to be home in my parents’ house in central Tacoma where I grew up, and timely because right around the corner was the release of Fullbright’s next highly anticipated game, Tacoma. What inspired Steve Gaynor and Karla Zimonja of Fullbright to choose our hometown? And, as the title suggests, could Vicci herself have anything to do with it?

 

*** SPOILER ALERT! ***

 

Let’s get right down to it, then. To begin, there’s Fullbright’s first game, Gone Home, released in 2013. It was a groundbreaking game because it featured an environment to explore to piece together a story, yet there were no guns or enemies to kill, or any real gameplay. Just walk around and search for the next part of the story. Basically a walking simulator. It was the story itself that was the real meat of the game: a realistic portrayal of a high school girl falling in love with a female classmate, the rejection and lack of support from her religious parents, and ultimately ending with the girls running away together. As a fan of Vicci’s, the parallels here are rather striking. The girl’s lover even joined a heavy metal band as the vocalist and played gigs. Striking, indeed, but “coincidence?”

I didn’t really give it much thought back then of this connection, but when I learned that their next game is called Tacoma, and was originally to be set in a house in Tacoma, Washington? Well that narrows it down a bit! Let’s read on!

Aboard the Lunar Transfer station Tacoma in the year 2088 there are six human crewmembers who have disappeared after an accident who you can dig up secrets about. Among those six from various parts of the world there is E.V. St. James who hails from Tacoma, Washington. (I’ll give you three guesses what that “V.” stands for in her name.) Here’s some info about her you will find out in your dig through her personal quarters:


Evie is captured in a recording singing a jazz song and playing her guitar

There are sticky notes on her headboard with what look like chords. So does this Evelyn Victoria also enjoy some singing/songwriting in her free time?

She is grieving the loss of a family member, her sister, as you will discover with your incessant digging up of her personal artifacts.

Evie doesn’t really look like Vicci, however, as she is black and has curly hair more like mine, but Natali Kuroshenko certainly fits the description.


Clive towers over tiny Natali. So many "ee" sounds with the first names. Evie, Natali, Vicci. Just sayin'.

Well paint me brown and call me Mexican! I’ve decided Natali is an intentional lookalike and you won't convince me otherwise.

So there you have it. I can now safely say that, as a classically-raised gamer of thirty years in Tacoma, having been a witness to the evolution of this medium, I am especially thrilled that someone from the City of Destiny could inspire not one but two games, as well as a whole new-and-favorite genre and contribute to the pages of video game history.

So thanks, Steve and Karla. You two are the best! Can you make a game about me next? I can do all kinds of cool things! Have you seen my manualism video? Let’s talk! Hit me up!

Edit: Oh shit I just realized — guess who’s birthday it is as of this posting?! Happy 33rd, Vicci!

PS: You can still borrow my Xbox to play this game, but it’s my brother’s so please don’t break it if you do borrow it. Let me know and I’ll bring it to your next show.

Dragon Warrior Tribute Previs Analysis

It’s been three months since I (finally) shared my EPIC Dragon Warrior Tribute previsualization music video with the world via YouTube, and I’m humbled by the view count racking up since its release. Thank you! All ten of you! The reception, feedback, and praise I’ve received from you is a super confidence booster — so thanks, mom!

In all seriousness, it’s time to give you a glimpse of what went into the thinking behind this project. It’s a tribute video, after all, and all of its content is stolen from the game and put back together again in the form of a fan’s interpretation. What’s more, I wanted the viewer to recognize the things from the game and say “wow! It’s so true to the game!”

Did you play the game, then watch my tribute video, and carefully compare the two? I mean really scrutinize this video shot-for-shot to look at everything? Anybody? Probably not, because who cares to make time for that shit? So let me show you a few things you might have missed.

In the opening scene, our hero, the descendant of Erdrick, is walking along a jagged and colorful landscape. Did you notice the video’s landscape is to the scale of the original 8-bit source, but in three dimensions?

See it now? Let’s move on!

In this terribly pixelated shot of my video, we can see what looks like a familiar place in Alefgard, and though there aren’t any Green Dragons where our hero is walking, they can be found in the swamp just south of him.


I don’t know who “Domi” is, but thanks for making it so I didn’t have to play all the way through to get this graphic

I didn’t bother adding color to the model yet, because I didn’t get to it in time. I had a deadline, ya know! Plus, who the hell is actually watching this? Anyway, how about I do it now for ya in Microsoft Paint.


MS Paint 4 life!

I could keep going, but I’ll let you (not care) to discover the rest! I will say that I really only changed a few things from the original game in my tribute, such as the location of the swamp where you find Erdrick’s Token, our hero not wearing his helmet in the beginning (but that’s because I forgot!), no cape or helmet tassel, and green dragons don’t grow into red ones. You also can’t be disarmed in the game. That’s about it.  

How about I finish this post off with the best “easter egg” in my video yet:

Look at that – it is the same thing you see on the game’s box art! The scenes flowed so naturally that I bet you didn’t even notice I slipped that easter egg in there. Because you didn’t even watch my video, that’s why.

Am I right?

My Dragon Warrior tribute project

Way back in 2005, I was listening to a song and a flood of epic visuals came over me of a young Descendant of Erdrick aimlessly walking the lands of Alefgard, encountering a fierce dragon, being beaten, rising up from defeat with renewed determination and purpose, taking on numerous trials and tribulations that would give him strength and courage, leading him to the ultimate climax of facing the dragon one more time to emerge victorious, with the music setting the emotion and flow of the visuals. Though the song didn’t quite fit, I still couldn’t stop fantasizing about seeing this music video play out in front of my eyes. The time and skill involved in making it a finished project would prove to be too ambitious, but that didn’t stop me from at least creating a visualization of it to just see what my vision would actually look like on the computer screen. This is the result of a few months of painstaking work using computer animation software to create the 3D assets I would need to make this visualization.

 

This project officially began in July 2014 when a friend had offered to take me in as an “apprentice” in exchange for doing work for him and his family. He is a designer by trade and a skilled artist specializing in sculpting, but has extensive knowledge, facilities and equipment to do just about anything involving arts and crafts, digital as well as traditional. He provided me with the software (which cost almost a grand if I wanted my own license), as well as clay to sculpt by hand, which is how I got the reference source to make the 3D dragon.

My mentor gave me useful advice and direction on how to go about a production, as there are many ways one can waste time if one does not have experience with animated video production. So I started with a storyboard on paper and worked out what assets I would need.

Since this is a tribute project of the NES game Dragon Warrior, most of the assets could be obtained by using the game’s original art as a reference, so all I would need to do is create 3D versions of them.

Once the assets were made, I began work on the animation. One month later, this neat music video! And then I decided to never work with computer animation again and became a chef.

The end.