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Restoration Games

In Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Clank receives an artifact called the Chronoscepter. It does several things, but to me the most interesting is that when it hits objects like broken pipes and shattered viewscreens, it reverses their timeline and repairs them. Throughout the entire Ratchet & Clank series I’d been smashing up the scenery; I found it surprisingly satisfying to suddenly have a chance to restore it instead.

Since then, I’ve played a few of what I think of as “restoration games” based around this sort of mechanic. Rather than running around causing destruction, Flower, Refunct, and Dawn all have you exploring landscapes to restore life and color. I found them all to be uplifting experiences and I’ve been thinking about why I enjoy this kind of gameplay so much.

Thematically, it’s adjacent to what you might call “rebuilding games” that give you ruined farms (Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, etc.) or towns (Dragon Quest Builders, etc.) and task you with building them back up. I like that a lot too, but I think it’s a different niche - those games are about imposing your own will and design on nature, same as normal “building games” like Minecraft and Terraria. The ruination is just there to provide an excuse for why you have to start the farm (or town) over and build it the way you want to - your first task is to clear it out, not restore it.

Restoration games aren’t about your will and design. They aren’t about construction - they’re about undoing destruction. In a sense they are still power fantasies, but ones where you have the power to reverse entropy. You can wipe away the ravages of time and prevent inevitable loss and decay. You can give death the middle finger.

That’s real power.

It’s an appealing fantasy. I’d like to see more such games.

#gaming #video games #refunct #flower #dawn #ratchet & clank future: a crack in time #restoration games #building games

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Capsule Review: Geki Yaba Runner Anniversary Edition

A simple but challenging auto-runner. Navigate over eighty levels requiring precise timing to avoid obstacles and collect… socks, for some reason. The cartoony aesthetic is serviceable enough, but the sounds are slightly grating and there seems to only be one clip for most sources - the sound for deploying the parachute to glide, the rimshot that is for some reason played when clearing a level, and the babbling of the anthropomorphized treasure chest that holds the collectibles all get old fast.

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No Cloud Saves for Animal Crossing: New Horizons

It’s being reported that the upcoming Animal Crossing: New Horizons will not support cloud backups for its save files “to avoid manipulating time, which remains one of the founding concepts of the series.” (Source, translation.)

It’s bad enough that Nintendo doesn’t allow you to back up your own save files manually and makes a paid subscription the only way to protect your data from hardware failures, damage, loss, or theft. That’s already anti-consumer.

But if they’re going to do that, then once you’re paying money for the privilege of backing up your data from playing your game on your console, no game should be able to opt out. It’s ludicrous to charge you for a service and then tell you “Nope, this particular developer didn’t feel like you should get to use the service you’re paying for on the product they sold you.”

Supposedly, developers need “a good reason” to opt out of cloud backups, but in practice the reasons we’ve seen so far usually aren’t good at all. But what I find interesting about this one is how paternalistic it is.

It feels similar to the argument you sometimes hear against the inclusion of easy modes, that somewhere a player might play on easy even though they’d enjoy the game more on hard, and preventing this possibility is somehow worth blocking other people from enjoying the game at all. I don’t care if some player out there uses save backups to finish their insect collection faster or whatever - why on earth is preventing that worth blocking all players from backing up their save in a game that’s intended to be played for months or years?

#gaming #video games #nintendo switch #nintendo #animal crossing #nintendo switch online

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Rhythm and Readability: Why Bubsy: Paws on Fire! is the Best Bit.Trip Runner

Rhythm Games are For Flow

Why do people play rhythm games?

I don’t speak for everyone, but based on the comments I could find online, I think a lot of people share my reason: Rhythm games let us lose ourselves in music, and that feels good.

Musicians will tell you: when things are going well, making music puts you in a euphoric state of complete absorption. You are no longer aware of your own self as a separate entity, you’re one with the music. An anonymous composer put it this way:

“You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And [the music] just flows out of itself.”

This quote was provided by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his TED talk on “flow”. Flow is a popular term in games analysis, but in case you haven’t come across it before, here’s a brief summary: “flow” is a term coined and popularized by Csikszentmihalyi to refer to a particular mental and emotional state of being “in the zone”. It’s a form of focus that allows for continual high-level performance without conscious thought. Researchers studying this state in musicians have described it as “effortless attention.”

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Capsule Review: Bubsy: Paws on Fire!

A collaboration between Bubsy franchise publisher Accolade and BIT.TRIP Runner developer Choice Provisions, Bubsy: Paws on Fire! features Runner-like gameplay starring Bubsy and friends. The result is a highly readable rhythm platformer with varied gameplay and a wide competence zone where the player has a good amount of freedom in their approach and a lot of opportunity for flow.

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Why do game developers crunch? The market demands it.

With all the bad press surrounding mandatory crunch lately, it’s easy to wonder - why in the world do developers keep doing it when it’s such an obviously-bad idea and it makes people hate you?

Because when they don’t, the market punishes them. Hard.

At E3, Nintendo announced that the upcoming Animal Crossing: New Horizons is delayed to March 20, 2020 to “ensure the game is the best it can be”.

This is in line with Nintendo’s philosophy - Shigeru Miyamoto has famously said that “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” (Or words to that effect. Maybe.).

Furthermore, the delay is specifically to avoid crunch and to take good care of Nintendo employees. This is very much the Right Thing to Do.

So naturally, after this announcement Nintendo shared closed 3.53% lower than the previous day, taking more than a billion dollars off their stock market value.

The short-termism the market demands is devastating. Nintendo is one of the oldest and most established developers with plenty of IPs and revenue streams. They can afford to stick to the long view and weather the market’s tantrums in the meantime. Smaller developers without that luxury? It’s no surprise they turn to crunch.

#gaming #video games #crunch #nintendo #shareholders

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Capsule Review: Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition

A Musou game set in a crossover Legend of Zelda world, featuring a few original characters and many from previous games. As is standard for Musou crossover games, elements from the franchise have been incorporated into the large-scale hack-and-slash gameplay, though they vary considerably in how well they suit the experience.

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Whenever I browse sales on the Switch eShop, I...

Whenever I browse sales on the Switch eShop, I find myself looking at interesting-seeming games and trying to remember whether I’ve looked them up before. Some games go on sale repeatedly and I end up researching them multiple times because I don’t recall that I’ve already decided not to buy them at that price.

So, here’s a new feature I’d like to see - a “below my price threshold” view on sales. Whenever you browse the shop, you can mark games as “not interested at this price”. Then when you go to the “threshold” view, it only shows you games that are currently at a price lower than you’ve ever marked them. So that game that’s been 15% off a few times, but doesn’t really look like your thing? It won’t clutter up your screen again next time it goes 15% off and make you try to remember how you felt about it, but it will show up again when it goes 50% off. (Alternately it could let you specify a price threshold manually - maybe you know you don’t want that game unless it’s 75% off.)

It’s a little hard to explain this concisely and probably not useful to most casual consumers, so I can’t imagine it ever really taking off, but I’d use it a lot.

#gaming #video games