An Interview with Justin Fox

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I’ve known Justin Fox for awhile now. The last time he visited JBG, we talked about faith and his game ReElise (which was on Kickstarter at the time). Three years have passed and I figured it was time to catch up with him.

Hey Justin, what have you been up to since your last visit? What happened to ReElise on Kickstarter?

I’ve done a lot reading and understanding of the business world since then. Helped build my church, and I made another game (Black Simulator) in the process just to get a project finished relatively quickly.

As far as the Kickstarter goes, I gained a lot of new great connections… but I fortunately didn’t reach my goal. I say fortunately because I wasn’t mature enough with such an amount of money. I’m not saying I would have spent it on Blackjack and hookers or anything, but I wouldn’t have applied the “sowing and reaping” (making sure the money is making money) principle that I now understand. The investment wouldn’t have been what it COULD have been for that project. So I took a hiatus from it for 2 years to clear my head and only recently started active development on it again. Fortunately, I was able to raise a fair amount of money for ReElise through the Patreon. I’ve been able to hire colorists for the illustrations. It’s very humbling to receive support of any kind for it.

It’s interesting how God uses different seasons to grow and mature us. Seasons where we think we know what/where we should be going, but God is sitting there saying not yet. I hate those seasons of life but get why they are important.

Tell me more about your smaller project you’ve released. What did you learn in the process of creating the game?

The smaller project is a project called Black Simulator, a satirical mini-game on Steam where you’re just trying to run 3 errands without getting shot or arrested by the police. Started out as a joke with another developer but… here we are.

 

I learned a ton about the importance of workflow, time management, and even overcoming ego/defense mechanisms. That last one though is the biggest thing. I was so scared to release this game. My brain found all kinds of reasons to protect itself from potential failure. I had essentially been sitting on this thing for months, slowing my own progress, because it wasn’t perfect. It still isn’t perfect (truly far from it), but sometimes the bigger picture is just the experience of releasing a game on the market. Not a perfect game, but YOUR game is out there at least. It’s a starting point no matter how bad it is, you can grow from that place. Beyond even that, sometimes your loved one’s need to see you trying, because you never know who’s waiting on your progress to encourage them to do the things they’re scared to do. I learned that a good “why” can slay the ego. My “why” was that releasing this game would be edifying to my friends, because they need to see me win just a little bit. I don’t know if my game will have the impact of bringing understanding to culture, but I know it’ll edify my friends who believe in me… because they tell me it does.

So what’s next for you? Where can people find you and your game?

Next is wrapping up ReElise in August. It’s not the full game or even in the engine that I want, but I’m gonna release the first half of it. Then I’m planning to start ReElise over in an engine that isn’t RPG Maker VX! I now have someone to partner with, and we’ll make a true version of the game. After all, we’ll have an alpha/beta so to speak, with finished art, music, and sound. The Patreon is doing well to produce the art assets, and I’m so thankful to each of them.

Justin Fox Media

In between ReElise and it’s final version though, I think I’m gonna make White Simulator and some other weird games. Super Baby Fetus: Pro Life Power is something I’m really excited about.

But to find everything that I do, I’d just go to JustinFoxMedia for: Patreon links, YouTube live streams, links to demos and games, (merch coming soon) the works!

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Doom 3 – I wasn’t scared…

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The sky is red as are the walls of the scientific research facility I’ve been exploring for the past few days. Demons roam the bloody hallways, hiding, ready to jump out and meet my machine gun. A lot of meetings have taken place here. Meetings featuring the roaring of my personal arsenal and demons flooding in from a gateway to Hell. Teleportation science run amok.

Walking down a dimly lit corridor, I know that there are demons waiting for my brand of clean up. I go to turn a corner and….

AHHHHHHHHHH! Someone touched my back… someone is behind me!

I rip my headphones off only to hear laughter from the guys on my dorm floor. I’m shaking with adrenaline. That day in college, I learned a few valuable lessons:

  1. Always face your computer to where no one can sneak up on you.
  2. Headphones, while cool, are not always your friends.

Doom 3

I’ll never forget how scared I was to play Doom 3 after having the guys sneak up on me. I did not play Doom 3 after that incident. The magic and the tension were gone.

What was the last game that scared you?

An Evening With RollerCoaster Tycoon

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“So, is this a game I have to play with you or can I play it by myself?”

Our first park.

Wyatt and I had just completed our first RollerCoaster Tycoon scenario when he asked me if this was a with-dad or without-dad game. I told him that once he was more familiar with how to run the game’s toolset, he’d be allowed to play by himself.

Already today, I’ve been asked if we can play more tonight. Guess my evening dance card is partially filled.

I would like to thank the RavingLuhn for his article “The Definitive RollerCoaster Tycoon Experience“. His easy to follow guide helped me bring RollerCoaster Tycoon into 2018. Check it out if you are looking to relive the glory days of RollerCoaster Tycoon and it’s expansions. The game is still a lot of fun to play.

Review: RIVE

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 RIVE is not my jam.

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RIVE (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Mac)
Developer: Two Tribes
Publisher: Two Tribes Publishing
Released: September 13, 2016
MSRP: $14.99

RIVE is an explosive twin-stick shooter that wants to beat you up and steal your lunch. Sending you home with a black eye while shouting at you to come back for more. Punishment is the name of the game. Can’t keep up with the onslaught of laser death-dealing robots? No problem. RIVE‘s failure screens will remind you of how bad your reflexes have become. You’re an old man, gramps! Too cool for this school.

Beyond the difficulty, I love how RIVE‘s checkpoint system shows the player mercy. The more you die, the closer the checkpoints become. Encouraging players to keep fighting, no matter how hard they have been smacked down.

What I’m not quite sure about is the placement of the jump button. On the PlayStation 4, the jump button is assigned to the L2 trigger versus the standard X button. The end result is curious and awkward feeling.

RIVE reminds me of the worst games I played during the Console Wars of the ’90s. Difficult. Demanding. No satisfying reward.

In the end, RIVE fails to bring anything new to the playground. Not even revealing one compelling example to keep pressing onward. The game revels in bashing the player over the head with difficulty for the sake of difficulty. I have no time for that. RIVE is not my jam.

Wave Splinter

RIVE reviewed by Bryan Hall

[Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail build provided by Evolve PR.]

INVERSUS

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wavesplinter4/5 – INVERSUS is a smart shooter that challenges your brain through unique movement and solid gameplay mechanics. A great game to play with your kids and to pull out when friends and family come over.

Wave SplinterTitle: INVERSUS
Developer: Hypersect
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4
Reviews on: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $14.99

*INVERSUS was reviewed using a code provided by Evolve PR.

Firewatch

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Bryan and Josh talk almost daily. But they have never met. One day, they got to review Firewatch—a visually stunning game for PS4 and PC—about two people who never met, but talk daily. This is that review.

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Firewatch takes place in Wyoming’s wilderness during the summer of 1989. Fire a constant threat, you’re hired to watch for anything that could harm the millions of acres of lush wild. Alone. Your only connection with any other humans comes in the form of a walkie-talkie at the top of your tower.

“So what’s wrong with you?” the person on the other line asks. Her name is Delilah.

Bryan:

What was your initial impression of Delilah?

Josh:

Delilah won my trust pretty early on, because she simply responded to what we saw together: like the time somebody set-off fireworks and we had to deal with that together. I wouldn’t say I completely trusted her right off the bat, especially with how she assumed something was wrong with relationships in Henry’s past but wouldn’t open up about her own. But her voice is sincere. Talking to Delilah is the highlight of the game for me. She sounds and feels like a real person. So does Henry, honestly, even though we’re in his shoes.

What did you think of Delilah?

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Bryan:

Delilah and Henry’s banter brought back memories of going camping with my Grandpa Ayers. He would tell these stories/create situations that would scare my brother and I to tears. The man had a way of planting thoughts and building upon those thoughts. Pretty soon you’d think that there was a bear just beyond the campfire. For a game to capture those times spent with my grandpa—it’s just amazing.

Speaking of, what did you think of all the hiking?

I think the game nails that feeling of being alone in the woods. A place where the imagination can run wild; a place where you and one other person shape your reality.

Josh:

The hiking always felt only as long as it needed to be. Instead of backtracking, the game often ended a scene and just cut ahead a few days to something important. But once or twice I had to backtrack for a long hike. At first I was like, “Oh, man!” But then Delilah would chime in and talk my ear off. It made the long walk completely worth it because it didn’t feel lonely.

She’d just talk about how the firefighters would do controlled burns, or about the teenage girls who snuck into the forest with three cases of beer. And sometimes the conversation turned more serious, but it always felt like an honest-to-God friendship. That friendship made the long hikes feel short to me.

You know what, Bryan? It reminds me of us. Like Henry and Delilah, we’ve never met, but we talk all the time. Our conversation has gone longer than theirs—we’ve been talking for three years now, but it’s super-similar in terms of a mostly-faceless friendship. Though, there was the couple times we talked face-to-face over Skype. It’s really cool that Firewatch explores this very modern kind of friendship, despite taking place about thirty years ago.

It definitely says a lot about our day, age and the kinds of relationships we forge these days, but I’ve noticed other reviewers say Firewatch is like a book—a real page-turner. What do you think of the idea that this could be considered “literature?”

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Bryan:

Firewatch is definitely a page-turner: a popcorn mystery/thriller that tries to answer, “How do we respond when things don’t go the way we want them to?“ The game has a similar feel to one of my favorite books, The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I read the book in two days, so concerned about the father and son trying to survive in a world where they’re alone. I couldn’t stop reading until the father and son were safe. Similarly, I found myself playing Firewatch until Henry and Delilah were safe. At least safe by an in-game checkpoint. I also liked how all the characters were real, broken. Living in the aftermath of bad choices.

Could the game be compared to literature? Maybe. But like The Road, there was no satisfying ending. I don’t know about you, Josh, but I felt like Firewatch fell apart trying to tie up it’s ending. All that intrigue, suspense, and then poof! But, I guess life is like that. It took me a few days of pondering to appreciate what Firewatch was trying to convey. Quite possibly one of the deeper games I’ve played.

Speaking of depth, and suspense, what do you think of the intro to the game?

Josh:

The intro surprised me! Who starts one of the most graphically rich video games ever with all text? But here it is: just text and hyperlinks for fifteen minutes. Subtle music added a little texture, but it’s essentially just a short Twine game built to establish your character, Henry. It was low-fi, but extremely affecting for me. It got me right into Henry’s hopes, fears, and disappointments.

What did you think of this intro?

Bryan:

I cried. And I’m not a crier. It reminded me that life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to. Sometimes we become overwhelmed. A change of scenery needed in order to move forward.

Random question: Did you find yourself wanting to hoard/collect the books that you found in the game?

Josh:

Thanks for bringing up the books! When I found the books in the game, I really thought I was gonna have to collect books for some kind of achievement-driven task, but it never came. I love how the devs stripped-out anything but what’s important: the task at hand and the unfolding conversation between Henry and Delilah. Sure I could go off and explore wherever I wanted to, but it was only because I was genuinely curious—not because I had external achievements motivating me.

The ending will probably cause a lot of mixed feelings for some. Video games are known for epic breakthroughs at the last moment before credits roll, and Firewatch‘s conclusion seems like it could go for this grandiose Bioshock-style revelation, but then it puts something very grounded and earthy instead. You don’t save the world, or rescue the princess. There’s not even any fireworks.

It’s kind of the point: this is just a game about two people. That’s it. When I got to the final moments, I was on the edge of my seat—just because of Henry’s excitement to finally meet Delilah face-to-face.

How do you feel about Firewatch overall?

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Bryan:

Firewatch doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. I like how the game focuses on Henry and Delilah’s story. It allows the player to soak in and explore the Wyoming wilderness while getting to know another human being.

Josh:

I agree. It’s a valuable addition to the world of adult fiction. I’m not quite sure that I know what place it holds on my shelf for years to come. I can’t share it with everybody due to the unique adult conversations. Henry and Delilah talk like single adults in their forties who have a lot of problems. But the frank discussion never felt out of place. The strong words only added to the characters feeling real. I think that’s the key takeaway for me: it’s about having another adult to talk to who you can share anything with—especially the bad stuff.

wavesplinter4/5 – Plot holes mare what could have been a revelatory narrative experience.

Wave SplinterTitle: Firewatch
Developer: Campo Santo
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4
Reviews on: PC, PlayStation 4
MSRP: $19.99

*Firewatch was reviewed using codes provided by Campo Santo.