Sylvio 2 is coming this fall, and I couldn’t be happier

One-man-developer Niklas Swanberg of Stroboskop announced that the sequel of the open-world, puzzle, horror game, Sylvio, will be arriving fall of 2017 for PC, Mac, and Xbox One.

Following the success of the first Sylvio Kickstarter, Swanberg took to the crowd-sourced website again in December 2016 to fund Sylvio 2 for SEK 130,000 (roughly $14,400), but was unsuccessful ending at SEK 83,919.

Fast forward a year, Swanberg took a few steps back from the failed Kickstarter, and put work into a “remastered” version of the first Sylvio, followed with a console release in Jan. 2017 for Xbox One and PS4. It’s assumable that the console release must have given him the leverage he needed to pave way for a much needed second installment. 

Like the prior game, Sylvio 2 follows Juliette Waters, ghost recorder and EVP-specialist. In the first one, set in 1971, Waters gets her hands on a reel recorder and stereo microphone. Eager to test out her new gadgets, she heads into an abandoned park called Saginaw in hopes to capture some EVP recordings. She eventually becomes trapped in the park, and must use her equipment to not only solve a long lingering mystery about the park’s closing and abandonment, but also find a way out. This time around in Sylvio 2, Waters returns to Saginaw park, but now armed with video equipment.

The player uses the equipment to capture audio and visual of the afterlife. The recordings come out distorted and fragmented, requiring the player to review the audio and visuals using the rewinding, fast forwarding, and slowing down features of her equipment to decipher and put the messages together. It’s a mechanic that allows the story to be told in a marvelously creepy unconventional way.

Sylvio was one of my favorite game experiences of 2015.

Sylvio can be best compared to a dream: it feels familiar, but equally has an unknown—almost unfinished—feeling. The world is sprawling and empty, all of which adds to its eerie atmosphere. Like trying to remember a dream, you can grasp onto fragments, but things in between seem to be missing. There’s logic to its world, yet doesn’t make any sense at the same time.

It’s been criticized for its graphics, controls, and lack of fleshed out mechanics. But similar to how I feel about Deadly Premonition, its lack of detail, its design flaws, and quirks—whether intentional or not—adds to a distinct aesthetic of the game. Its the bigger picture of both these titles that have made an impact on me. Sylvio offers things that I simply have never seen in a game of its genre before, especially in a story telling and world building sense.

The horror in Sylvio is entirely owed to its pacing and atmosphere. It never had a jump scare; its uninviting environment made me equally curious, making me want to explore every corner, but with a lingering sense of caution. I loved this game, and it’s stuck with me long past initially playing it. I can’t wait for the second one. 

I didn’t want to use this blog to have news pieces, but I saw this as an opportunity to gush over a game I’ve been wanting to write about and share for a long time.

Also, Sylvio went on sale today on Steam.

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Keeping game development in New York State

“Brain-drain.” It’s a term that’s been tossed around my city of Rochester, New York for a long time. All Rochesterians, businesses, and educators alike are aware of it. It’s the idea that folks come from around the world to receive our education (especially in video game development), and then inevitably leave for work elsewhere. And in most cases, it’s the West Coast. Why? Because right now, that’s where the video game industry is.

I, admittedly, was one of them. A few years back, I left Rochester for Seattle, Washington — which at the time, I didn’t really have a reason or intention; I just wanted to go. Of course I knew Nintendo was there, and so was Microsoft, but I hadn’t known initially going there that I’d somehow end up working at the former. It was also there where I gained a newfound appreciation for Rochester. While in Seattle, I had crossed paths with a few people who went to school at Rochester Institute of Technology, and then left after graduating to work for Microsoft, Bungie, or one of the other 250 game studios in Seattle. Hearing this not only brought a much needed enthusiasm over Rochester, knowing that my small home city was pumping out credible talented individuals, but also left me begging the question: “What are they doing here? Actually, what am I doing here?” Eventually, I came back.

Now, I need to put all my cards on the table here: I am not a college educated individual. I went to a community college briefly for a degree in fine arts, but never finished that degree. With that said, I may not have educational credibility to my name, but there is credit to my work (more on that in this post). I’m also not claiming that Rochester will benefit from having my brain, but it is clear that Rochester can be more than just a hub of education, but a city of great minds, and it needs all it can get.

The brain-drain also goes beyond upstate New York, but all of New York State. In fact, New York State is just about ready to do anything to keep our young minds here. New York State governor Andrew Cuomo has created a free-tuition initiative specifically for SUNY graduates. As long as they stay in New York State after they graduate, they don’t have to pay their tuition. That is, unless they come from a family with more than a gross income of $125,000.  It’s a major catch. The plan has been met with opposing thoughts, and rightfully so: it’s pretty slippery. I don’t know if keeping graduates prisoner here is the answer, but the optimist in me wants to think it might be the nudge to shift where the industry grows next, even though, really, it’s a cheap trick.

There are efforts being made elsewhere, with less restriction to a graduate, such as the NYS Game Dev Challenge hosted by R.I.T. (I’ve mentioned this in past posts, and plan to elaborate more on it soon). The challenge is currently happening, with submissions closing on April 24, 2017. The contest is open to anyone who is a New York State resident (hobbyists and students alike).

Lastly, there’s the not-as-mentioned, as much they should be, Vicarious Visions. An Albany-based AAA game development studio that’s currently developing Destiny 2 and the Crash Bandicoot N’ Sane Trilogy.  I had the pleasure of listening to Vicarious Visions’ producer Kara Massie speak at the NYS Game Dev kickoff event, hearing her inspiring story of moving around the world from Canada to England, until she finally settled in Albany at Vicarious (her presentation can be watched below). So in short: there’s things happening here, cultivating a game industry all-its-own. It’s just a matter of educating others that it exists.

Rochester is a moderately small city, and aside from being known as a place to be educated on technology, medicine, and game development, it is probably most famously known for its culinary monstrosity the garbage plate. We can do better. And hey, don’t get me wrong – I love garbage plates. But what if we were the city of game development and garbage plates? That sounds a bit more enticing to me. And in a weird way, they kinda seem to go hand in hand.

– Kurt

Also, I nearly forgot. I started a Twitter account for VGCandC. So please, follow it.

I wrote this while sitting at Ugly Duck Coffee and listening to Future Islands’ The Far Field. “Cave” was a song that stuck out to me in particular.

What I read this week: Rumble by John Arcudi and James Harren.

Rochester, NY game dev scene, & the future of VGC&C

I’ve been feeling that itch to write again, specifically about video games. The time feels right for it. I took some time off, made some music, made a movie, got a job at local publication CITY Newspaper. I’ve been exploring and keeping my eyes open to all opportunities. And in that exploration, I’ve drifted away from this blog. My first few posts were intended solely on building my portfolio as a writer so I had something to show websites I was pursuing for work. After I accomplished just that and got my start writing at Indie Game Magazine and Adventure Gamers, I stopped focusing on VGC&C — after all, its initial purpose of getting me a gig was fulfilled. But after doing the game journalism thing for the better half of a year with little to no pay, it was time to take a step back, get a job that did pay, and explore different opportunities.

Unfortunately, the jobs I succumbed to for income weren’t the writing kind. I assure you, if it paid, I would have kept writing. But I had to face the harsh truth for the sake of my adult responsibility—not to mention my relationship—and pay my end of rent. (And that isn’t to say one can’t get paid to write, I was just having trouble.)

So here we are: a couple years later, a pretty good job at a local publication, and some new experiences and endeavors under my belt. No, I haven’t been able to flex my writing muscles at CITY quite yet, but it’s been a step in the right direction. And most of all, it’s bringing me opportunities in less than expected places. Opportunities in video games, right here in my home city.

Here in Rochester, NY, there’s been a slow but surely steady growing scene of independent game developers. Games like Halloween Forever from developer Peter Lazarski. Or, there’s the still currently in-development A Small Robot Story by Rob Mostyn (AKA bc likes you!). Not to mention the bigger names in this town like Workinman: a studio that specializes in developing licensed titles for the likes of Paramount, Nickelodeon, and Disney; they’ve also dipped their toes in smaller indie titles like DeathState. There’s also Darkwind Media too, and even the recently founded Second Avenue Learning. Actually, the game scene here doesn’t seem slow and steady at all — it’s at the brink of bursting at the seams.

Furthermore, MAGIC center at Rochester Institute of Technology launched a New York Statewide game development challenge for students and indie developers alike. Things are happening. Opportunities are arising. I’d be a fool if I didn’t acknowledge that, especially as a prior video game journalist.

But back in 2015 when I was writing full time, none of this was really happening — or at least I wasn’t aware of it. Then again, when I was writing for IGM, I was essentially alone in my bedroom, completely telecommuting, with virtually no person-to-person interaction. It took a bizarre toll on me I didn’t expect; it actually made me anxious and depressed.

If I didn’t take that step back from game journalism, and sought out opportunities elsewhere, I may have never come back around to find that the some of the most fascinating things happening are here in my own front yard. I also have to thank my position at CITY, because without it, I may have not had the toe in the door to this community that I currently have.

So being here in Rochester, meeting these developers face-to-face, being able to attend these panels and events, has peaked my interest and brought me back to why I started wanting to write about games in the first place: because they inspired me.

So why aren’t I writing about this for CITY you may ask? Well, CITY and I aren’t there yet. Sometimes jobs are like relationships, and time & patience can be wonderful things. But till then, there’s no reason why I can’t mumble and rant here.

I don’t really have any specific intentions with VGC&C, and frankly, I’d like to keep it that way. I don’t want to set an expectation of when I’ll post again, or more specifically, assign myself the sole responsibility of writing about the Rochester video game scene. But there are things happening, and they’re happening in my neck of the woods, and that’s worth writing about.


P.S. This post—if anything—was a nudge on my end to scratch that writing itch. With all this said, if there are other folks in the Rochester area (or upstate New York in general for that matter), who are writing about games happening in their town, I’d love to know em. So please, if you’d like, send them my way, or, introduce yourself.

Currently playing:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Little Inferno
(Can you guess what console I just got?)

Comics I Currently Love:
Royal City
Black Hammer