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Illusionist
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icon Cerebus Syndrome and DROD (+3)  
I made myself some broccoli soup, so it's going to be a heavy rant.

I am currently on my DROD-marathon (keep in mind that many of the stuff that you are familiar with is new to me - I still have Second Sky to beat and I'm 36% progressed), but I did notice a trope that is familiar to me, but rarely is discussed or revisited anywhere.

What is Cerebus Syndrome?
What is Cerebus actually, because there's no such word in English vocabulary.

I could only find this link on the internet, but it doesn't give the proper justice to the concept as it overly simplifies the idea of what it actually is. (here's the link, if someone is curious, but don't click it, I'll do the better job at explaining it)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerebus_the_Aardvark#Cerebus_Syndrome

Cerebus was an independent comic book that started as a parody of sword and sorcery comics in vein of Conan, but eventually it became a serious dramatic / political comic and later (like it wasn't enough of a change), it evolved into illustrated essays about various things. The point is, the syndrome (IMO) should be attributed to work of art, that starts as something simple, and becomes complex over the years. And more importantly gains new layers, sometimes becomes meta, but to summarize the trope, what started as a joke, became serious philosophical examination of various topics, OR work of art that evolved beyond it's initial limitations.

Does it apply to DROD? Well, the word "simple" is the last word I would use to describe DROD. I mean, the game has simple controls and mechanics, but the gameplay itself is complex. And while DROD 1 had its limits, one could still easily fool the delvers into a hold that tricked the adventurer into the feeling of something unusual or beyond the initial quirk of the architecture design.

However, when we look at the history of the game, when we listen to the interviews, and finally, when we ourselves finally take into the adventure in the chronological order (DROD 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) it's hard to not notice a significant shift. With Dugan's Dungeon we just delve deeper, we smite roaches, and we solve complex puzzles. In Journey, we discover the first plot, that still doesn't know where it wants itself to go, but at least it starts to wander. The same thing happened with Cerebus - after few issues, it stopped being what it initially was, and started to be something more ambitious and bigger in scope.

With City Beneath, you finally have everything fleshed out, which climaxes in extremely epic story in Second Sky (which I still am in process of discovering, but already it's bigger than everything that was before). I omitted Gunthro, because we all know the history of that one, but it was a great distraction and frankly, my first DROD game I played so I don't want to sound dismissive, because after all is said and done, I'm glad that Gunthro happened the way it was, and I'm glad that there was no tar or goblins there, because I would probably not try Dugan's Dungeon, which I was aware of, but didn't find appealing. Silly me, if only I knew....

Going back to the rant (you're still following me?) Another thing that also should be pointed out, and who knows if it isn't the most crucial one - the evolution and complexity wasn't planned. Neither Cerebus nor DROD started as an epic / grandiose story. They both started simple and evolved along with the authors and with where they wanted to go, and what they wanted to do with their creation. This is a seemingly minor point, but it's very crucial - the intent of DROD wasn't to create a massive world-building, it was a puzzle / strategy game. But over years, it became something much much more and developed.

Cerebus syndrome could be otherwise called - "the maturing of the art" when the finished product becomes again the work in process and deconstructed but in a logical and organic way all in the accordance to the original creator's wishes.

Why am I mentioning it? Because Cerebus is considered an intellectual comic book, or maybe, a more appropriate word would be a graphic novel, and DROD is well respected among the MENSA crowd, with some of the members priding themselves in beating Dugan's Dungeon, but not necessarily City Beneath (go figure).

I'm not really sure where I want to go further with that, so I leave the conclusions up to you dear reader. You can decide on your own, whether I wasted your time, or pointed out something interesting and meta.

I might edit it later, when I'm done with eating the soup

I've realized now that if I edit the post I will only further illustrate the point. I already unleashed my post into this world, and now I want to make it deeper, better, more meaningful beyond my initial observations, but I don't really know where I want to go, and what's going to happen, and it wasn't intentional. And maybe, also the work of art that is an extension of the author, and shows also the process of growing of the author himself / herself

Okay, I guess I should move to tomato soups, these broccoli taste funny

[Last edited by Illusionist at 09-21-2020 12:42 PM]
09-05-2020 at 05:46 PM
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Xindaris
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icon Re: Cerebus Syndrome and DROD (+2)  
I've always understood Cerebus syndrome to be a negative thing, specifically "something which used to be fun, enjoyable, and/or humorous becoming way too mopey, serious, and/or pretentious for its own good". Hence the use of a word like "syndrome" which is generally associated with medical diseases/disorders in the term. From that perspective I would hard disagree that DROD suffers from it. One of the greatest and most important achievements of DROD from a writing standpoint, as far as I'm concerned, is that it sets up a completely and hilariously absurd and overcomplicated world, and then takes that world seriously while also making fun of it, the absurdities within it, and things in the real world which likewise mirror that absurdity. In short, even to the very end of Second Sky, DROD is still funny. A decent amount of this comes from the very relatable Beethro sticking with the player the whole time and snarking at how ridiculous the people he meets and the situations he's put in truly are.

Aside from that, you said "..DROD [didn't start] as an epic/grandiose story". As far as I'm aware that isn't necessarily true. If you read the credits to the Second Sky, you'll find a mention that the overarching story concluded in that game was intended by Erik Hermansenn (sp???) from the start, although which start exactly I couldn't possibly say. DROD kind of has multiple "starts": Webfoot, original KDD, Architect's edition, maybe even JtRH could be considered the "start" depending on one's criteria.

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[Last edited by Xindaris at 09-05-2020 08:56 PM]
09-05-2020 at 08:54 PM
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I think you're missing something with Cerebus syndrome. In particular, Cerebus became something it wasn't..

DROD has always had light-hearted, quirky moments. It's also always had the feeling that something more was going on - it's there on KDD level 10, 24, and 25. I don't think that DROD has changed in style so much as it has changed focus - from the humour to the vast underground conspiracy.
09-05-2020 at 08:55 PM
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icon Re: Cerebus Syndrome and DROD (+2)  
quote:
Xindaris wrote:
I've always understood Cerebus syndrome to be a negative thing, specifically "something which used to be fun, enjoyable, and/or humorous becoming way too mopey, serious, and/or pretentious for its own good". Hence the use of a word like "syndrome" which is generally associated with medical diseases/disorders in the term. From that perspective I would hard disagree that DROD suffers from it. One of the greatest and most important achievements of DROD from a writing standpoint, as far as I'm concerned, is that it sets up a completely and hilariously absurd and overcomplicated world, and then takes that world seriously while also making fun of it, the absurdities within it, and things in the real world which likewise mirror that absurdity. In short, even to the very end of Second Sky, DROD is still funny. A decent amount of this comes from the very relatable Beethro sticking with the player the whole time and snarking at how ridiculous the people he meets and the situations he's put in truly are.

Aside from that, you said "..DROD [didn't start] as an epic/grandiose story". As far as I'm aware that isn't necessarily true. If you read the credits to the Second Sky, you'll find a mention that the overarching story concluded in that game was intended by Erik Hermansenn (sp???) from the start, although which start exactly I couldn't possibly say. DROD kind of has multiple "starts": Webfoot, original KDD, Architect's edition, maybe even JtRH could be considered the "start" depending on one's criteria.


Good point, and I understand you bro. That's why I was very hesitant in my assessment. I don't myself think that DROD has anything mopey or negative (the opposite of that), which is why I tried to make the definition to be more like "the art that grew along with artist" rather than "something that was funny and became grim" (which is more frequently associated of the trope). I am aware of the general understanding of the trope, and I try to slightly combat it.

For me, it's all about starting simple, and ending up with something complex, not with starting up with something funny, and ending up with something grim.

That's why I was drinking that soup...
But then again, next week I will eat tomato soup, so it's going to be worse

Nonetheless you are correct

[Last edited by Illusionist at 09-21-2020 12:42 PM]
09-05-2020 at 09:50 PM
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quote:
Someone Else wrote:
I think you're missing something with Cerebus syndrome. In particular, Cerebus became something it wasn't..

DROD has always had light-hearted, quirky moments. It's also always had the feeling that something more was going on - it's there on KDD level 10, 24, and 25. I don't think that DROD has changed in style so much as it has changed focus - from the humour to the vast underground conspiracy.


This is actually a very good observation. DROD never lost the sight of itself, while Cerebus completely lost itself. True that. Cerebus became unreadable at some point, and DROD never stopped being good, it only improved - now this is something I have to think over, because Cerebus lost the quality over time, while DROD improved the quality over the time.

There certainly IS an argument that Cerebus Syndrome involves LOSING the quality of the art, rather than gaining

It's funny how you guys helped me answer my own question and this is not a hint/solution board :)
I'm really sorry, but I love you guys

[Last edited by Illusionist at 09-21-2020 12:41 PM]
09-05-2020 at 09:53 PM
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icon Re: Cerebus Syndrome and DROD (+2)  
The story has to have been planned at least since AE (and maybe even pre-AE Caravel DROD, if that had the same ending). The name Rooted Hold is dropped at the end, and that name only makes sense in the context of a structure rooted in the ground to hold oneself in to survive the Turning.

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[Last edited by Pinnacle at 09-06-2020 02:18 AM]
09-06-2020 at 02:17 AM
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Pinnacle wrote:
The story has to have been planned at least since AE (and maybe even pre-AE Caravel DROD, if that had the same ending). The name Rooted Hold is dropped at the end, and that name only makes sense in the context of a structure rooted in the ground to hold oneself in to survive the Turning.


From what I've seen in the interviews, most of the story was created along as the game was developed. Pit Thing and Rooted Hold weren't fleshed out until much later. Some bits might have been thrown here and there, but it was a gradual process.

[Last edited by Illusionist at 09-21-2020 12:41 PM]
09-06-2020 at 06:22 AM
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Pinnacle
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I think you're missing what I'm saying. I'm not talking about the details of Rooted Hold, I'm talking about the name Rooted Hold, which was mentioned in the AE ending. That name alone is evidence that the broad strokes of the plot were planned out, because there's no conceivable way they would name it that otherwise.

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09-06-2020 at 08:07 AM
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quote:
Pinnacle wrote:
there's no conceivable way they would name it that otherwise.

Sounds cool is all the reason you need, and rooted fits the theme of underground stuff. We already know Erik had a knack for fancy words (smitemaster, 'Neather) so that's all the reason you need.

That being said I wouldn't be surprised if he had most of the main story points in his head back in webfoot days or the opposite. It's easier to add meaning in retrospect than remove it without retconning.

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09-06-2020 at 09:21 AM
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icon Re: Cerebus Syndrome and DROD (+1)  
quote:
Pinnacle wrote:
I think you're missing what I'm saying. I'm not talking about the details of Rooted Hold, I'm talking about the name Rooted Hold, which was mentioned in the AE ending. That name alone is evidence that the broad strokes of the plot were planned out, because there's no conceivable way they would name it that otherwise.


If I'm not wrong it was added to Architect Edition (haven't played webfoot DROD unfortunately).

quote:
skell wrote:
quote:
Pinnacle wrote:
there's no conceivable way they would name it that otherwise.

Sounds cool is all the reason you need, and rooted fits the theme of underground stuff. We already know Erik had a knack for fancy words (smitemaster, 'Neather) so that's all the reason you need.

That being said I wouldn't be surprised if he had most of the main story points in his head back in webfoot days or the opposite. It's easier to add meaning in retrospect than remove it without retconning.


Could be, there is this philosophical stance that each one of us, has inside of us a story that waits to be told. I do believe that DROD is Erik's story, but also Mike Rimer's.

this video by Erik touches on that subject
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8--W1Kimj0
and that's also why I've started the thread - I find it interesting when both the author and his creation grow and evolve

I recommend watching around 5 and 10 minute mark, as this is when Erik discusses how the story was being developed. Great stuff. Warning - it's a very heartwarming video

Also, huge thanks for posting in this thread guys, I didn't expect that such a discussion would develop, I thought that my rant would be lost among other threads.

[Last edited by Illusionist at 09-21-2020 12:41 PM]
09-06-2020 at 09:28 AM
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There's a prringles thing going on in this thread - maybe someone with a bit more time on their hands at the moment can investigate.

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09-07-2020 at 01:55 AM
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mrimer
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I appreciate you posting this thread. It's a fascinating comparison! Also neat to hear how DROD is regarded in certain circles. (I'm guessing players may count it as a badge of honor to have completed the earlier games with the romrod-straight move execution constraints.)

I'm kinda surprised Erik hasn't posted here yet to provide us Deeper Insights. Happy to share what I know from my role in development.

DROD:AE has a fun ending, which can be taken at face value as a fun, fourth-wall-breaking way to explain the ironic, magical way that dungeons in video games continue growing past their original size as more and more sequels are released. However!

As you may know, Beethro's tale is very Kafka-esque (IIRC, one of Erik's favorite authors). This is by design, and though we made the continuation and ending more epic and cinematic by degrees as we improved the game engine with each release, the plot buildup was always intended to bring the player to the point you're now seeing through this convoluted progression. Erik hinted at this, with (IIRC) a community metapuzzle shared to volunteer contributors with the original release of JtRH, touting, "There's so much in store!"

I really like how Beethro's character evolved over the course of his journey, though Erik appears ambivalent about this. However, I can disclose that Erik had the overarching story planned more or less from the beginning. Erik shared it with me in broad strokes when we officially became business partners back in 2002-3. I promised I could keep a secret, and I did for many years.

I did help flesh out plot and narrative details (such as the RCS, which is my narrative device in order to keep Beethro's world tour moving at a snappy pace, and because subways fascinate me), but otherwise I did my best to run with Erik's vision to its conclusion. As mentioned in other threads, I treated the narrative like George Lucas' own gospel of Star Wars, doing my best to stick to the Creator's vision in order to give it the honor it deserves (which Erik has pointed out can cut both ways).

Hope you enjoy the grand conclusion in TSS!

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[Last edited by mrimer at 09-07-2020 06:54 AM]
09-07-2020 at 06:48 AM
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mrimer wrote:
As you may know, Beethro's tale is very Kafka-esque (IIRC, one of Erik's favorite authors).


Now that you mention it, I can certainly see some similarities between the plot of DROD and Kafka's The Trial. In both, the main protagonist tries to learn some explanations. It's notable in the beginning of Journey... in the dialogue between Beethro and Negiotiator. Beethro asks a simple question, wanting a simple answer, but instead receives a convoluted non-reply that doesn't answer anything, only begs more question. Or between Beethro and Pit Thing.
09-07-2020 at 12:59 PM
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kurwaa wrote:
It's notable in the beginning of Journey... in the dialogue between Beethro and Negiotiator. Beethro asks a simple question, wanting a simple answer, but instead receives a convoluted non-reply that doesn't answer anything, only begs more question.


Yeah, a lot of trouble could have been averted if the Negotiator had just said
Click here to view the secret text
Then again, maybe it's a good thing Beethro got that information from a more reliable-seeming source.

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[Last edited by averagemoe at 09-07-2020 06:49 PM]
09-07-2020 at 06:48 PM
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quote:
averagemoe wrote:
quote:
kurwaa wrote:
It's notable in the beginning of Journey... in the dialogue between Beethro and Negiotiator. Beethro asks a simple question, wanting a simple answer, but instead receives a convoluted non-reply that doesn't answer anything, only begs more question.


Yeah, a lot of trouble could have been averted if the Negotiator had just said
Click here to view the secret text
Then again, maybe it's a good thing Beethro got that information from a more reliable-seeming source.


:D If I had any say, I would certainly nominate you to be The 1st Negotiator
09-07-2020 at 07:04 PM
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mrimer
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I'm not sure that response would have convinced Beethro, or dissuaded him from delving deeper.

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Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.
09-08-2020 at 09:05 PM
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