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I like that Smash is a platform, but this is getting weird

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has cross-promoted other Nintendo properties by adding new collectible spirits on several occasions already. I should be used to it.

They’ve now announced that if you play the Switch port of Dragon Quest XI or its demo, you’ll get a new Tockles spirit in Smash at some point. There’s not much info available yet, but I assume what this means is that at some point, Smash will get patched such that if it detects DQXI (or demo) save data on your Switch, it’ll gift you the spirit (similar to the Partner Pikachu and Partner Eevee spirits you got for having Pokémon: Let’s Go save data before).

This bugs me and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I think it’s because unlike the Spirit Board events that the game seems to have mostly settled on and which require you to defeat the relevant spirits in battle, this promotion requires you to download and perfunctorily engage with a different game. It’s not a new challenge with a corresponding reward - it’s just a hoop to jump through that’s basically equivalent to clicking on an ad. As a result, it feels much more manipulative and devalues the experience of trying out Dragon Quest XI. (I talked about the causes and effects of this in my article about engagement rewards, but the short version is that an external reward for a specific but easy action instead of for performing at a high level makes that action less intrinsically rewarding.) And as a Dragon Quest fan, that makes me sad.

It’s not even a good spirit! Fog immunity is easy to come by and not an ability you need to double-up on.

#gaming #video games #super smash bros ultimate #engagement rewards #dragon quest xi

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Don't Blame the Hoarder; Blame the Game

(Comic by Adam Ellis, as seen on his Instagram.)

So, like, I do chuckle at comedy about item hoarding, but it also bothers me a bit, because it’s often totally rational behavior by players who’ve been burned before.

Some games brutally punish players for not hoarding equipment, and it’s not always obvious right away what kind of game you’re playing. I don’t think I’m ever going to forget how betrayed I felt in Dragon Quest VIII after telling myself, “You know what? This time I’m not going to hoard things,” and then found out a while after selling my starting equipment that I could have used it to make great stuff using the alchemy system and it was going to be a while before I could replace it and overall in that game you should just NEVER EVER SELL ANYTHING EVER. After that experience, I can’t blame anyone for being careful.

Hoarding items unnecessarily is silly, sure. But if you want to make fun of people for doing it - don’t blame the player; blame the games that taught them they needed to.

#gaming #video games #Item Hoarding #punishment #dragon quest viii

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Is “guide spam” a thing now?

Is it just a thing now that big game launches are followed by bad gaming websites rushing out low-quality “guides” for SEO spam?

Dragon Quest Builders 2 is by far the biggest game I’m playing near launch in quite a while, so I don’t know how representative my experience is, but—

Every time I have a question about the game and want to look something up, my search results contain a lot of really bad resources. Mostly from gaming websites I’ve never heard of and which have clearly whipped together a dozen or so nearly-useless “guides,” each of which is three paragraphs of padding around the simple answer to an obvious question that nobody would have to look up anyway (like a “Where to Find Bark” guide, when there’s one quest that needs bark and it sends you to an area filled with obvious bark) or that only covers the first part of the game (like guides for all the scavenger hunt locations that only include the first two scavenger hunt islands).

I get that it takes some time for those generous and industrious players to put together the comprehensive, high-quality guides, and I’m used to not getting any results when searching this stuff on new or obscure games. I’m not used to getting many results, but terrible ones! There actually are some really good DQB2 guides out there, but it’s taken me a while to sift through the crap and find them.

#gaming #video games #Dragon Quest Builders 2 #seo spam #game guides

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Oh, right. Signal fires.

I mentioned I really like how Dragon Quest Builders 2 has you bring systems back to your home base and use them there. After the island that teaches you to make defensive traps, I got really excited to design my own trap gauntlet for the enemies attacking my home base. I came up with a layout I was sure would be much more effective than anything the story had set up previously, and the NPCs were cheering me on, reminding me of all the traps I had at my disposal and telling me to just use a bunch of them in whatever design I thought best.

Unfortunately, they don’t remind of you the signal fires that create rally points for your soldiers. Those came very early in the previous chapter and I had completely forgotten about them. And without them, the trap gauntlet is completely useless because your people will just charge right through it themselves as soon as they see the enemy and engage with them out past it and none of the traps will even get triggered.

Just one little reminder line of dialog would have gone a very long way. I still won the fight, but it took far longer than it should have and I didn’t get to see my trap gauntlet in action.

#gaming #video games #Dragon Quest Builders 2 #player training

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Dragon Quest Builders 2 brings it all together

The biggest problem with the original Dragon Quest Builders was how disconnected the chapters and mechanics were. You’d go rebuild a town and save it from the local menace using interesting systems like defensive traps or treating the sick or mechanical constructs. Then you’d move on and start from scratch, and none of those systems came back or got any further development. The only way to play with everything was to use the wholly-disconnected sandbox mode.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 fixes this in a clever way. You still travel to separate areas to rebuild towns and save them from local menaces using interesting systems - but these are always trips from your base of operations and you are explicitly visiting the other areas to find new materials/techniques/recruits to bring back. During each sub-story, you start from scratch because each arc has its own focus - but then you bring it all back together and let things build on each other in a larger, interconnected space where you have much more freedom.

This allows for the best of both worlds - story sequences with clear tight scopes and arcs, and the freedom to play with all your toys together along with the story characters you’ve gotten to know. It’s great.

#gaming #video games #Dragon Quest Builders #Dragon Quest Builders 2 #sequels

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Damn skeletons don’t give me time to think

It’s important to me that games let me set my own pace.

Some of that is just the freedom from interruptions and time pressure that you can’t get in the real world, but a lot of it is also down to pacing. Being forced to stop what I’m doing and juggle my inventory or hunt down limited resources can ruin a game’s atmosphere. So can repeating content through forced grinding or punishment.

My latest example comes from Dragon Quest Builders and one of the few things I think the sequel does worse than the original. In both games, your towns are periodically attacked by groups of monsters. I’m not talking about boss fights or story battles - just random groups of monsters that show up and try to do some damage.

In the original, it was always possible to build structures out of materials that the random monsters couldn’t break through. You could build a defensive wall around your entire town if you wanted and then the monsters couldn’t even get in (except for the teleporting ghosts that showed up at night to harass your villagers, but they couldn’t destroy anything). This placed a constraint on building choices, but one you could manage however you chose - you either had to use unbreakable materials, respond very quickly and effectively to every attack, or repair things after attacks. I generally chose to build defensive walls and then engage the enemies outside of the walls on my own terms, knowing the town itself was safe. This also meant I didn’t have to panic whenever the enemies attacked - I could finish what I was doing, and then go stomp them.

In the sequel, this just isn’t the case. You can sometimes briefly get ahead of the curve, and it’s more of an issue in some chapters than others, but in general the randomly-attacking groups of monsters include at least one or two strong enemies that can break anything you can build. This means the constraint is no longer manageable. Every time you come under random attack, you have to drop whatever you’re doing and rush to the battle or part of your town will likely be destroyed and need to be rebuilt.

I feel like the intent here was probably to solve the “problem” that in DQB1 folks could just wrap their town in walls and ignore the random attacks, but I don’t think that was a problem. I liked it! I liked that my base could become a safe space where I could relax and freely rethink town layout and rebuild everything at my own pace. In DQB2, that’s significantly damaged - I get interrupted and lose my train of thought. It disrupts my flow. And toward the end of chapters when the tension is ratcheted up and the random attacks happen more frequently, I feel compelled to rush the story rather than take time to perfect my town - because if I do take that time, I’ll just get interrupted over and over and over.

#gaming #video games #Dragon Quest Builders #Dragon Quest Builders 2 #time management #pacing

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You want decay in your game? Require an online connection.

To me, it feels weird that games aren’t subject to the ravages of time but real life is; apparently to Randall Munroe it’s the other way around.

If you want to go back to an old game world and see simulated change and decay, you can always revisit a neglected Animal Crossing town.

For real decay, check out multiplayer servers for old online games. It’s like a memento mori for games with kludged-in online/multiplayer requirements.

#gaming #video games #multiplayer #xkcd