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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

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Lessons Learned Watching Allie Play Dragon Age

Allie doesn’t play many action games. Her PS4 is mostly for Rock Band 4, though she also enjoyed Until Dawn. She’s now trying Dragon Age: Inquisition after hearing a lot of good things about its characters. Watching her play has been instructive. Here are some of the lessons I’ve taken away just from her first hour.

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#gaming #video games #dragon age: inquisition #difficulty #UXdesign

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I miss Miitomo. I wish that when Nintendo decided...

I miss Miitomo. I wish that when Nintendo decided to turn off the servers, they’d just removed the online aspects from Miitomo and left it as the Miifoto app.

#gaming #video games #miitomo #miifoto #screenshotsunday #nintendo #mobile games #my OC

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Bubsy: I’M on Fire??

Once I finished Bubsy: Paws on Fire! (review forthcoming) I happened to check out the Steam global leaderboards. There isn’t an overall combined leaderboard, but there is one for each character. I was shocked to see that for Bubsy I was number five, and for Virgil, Woolie, and Arnold I was number three. (My position may have changed since writing this.)

For a moment, I got excited - I’m so used to being completely buried in any leaderboard that it didn’t even occur to me that I might be on the first page, let alone in the top five. This was after a completionist playthrough (every achievement and every collectible with every character) but I hadn’t otherwise been attempting to max out my combo chains and get the best possible scores. If I wanted to, I could probably top all four leaderboards.

But then I realized that of course the reason for this was that there’s only a couple hundred people even on these leaderboards. (At time of writing, 200 for Bubsy, 165 for Virgil, 164 for Woolie, and 130 for Arnold.) And for a game that I like this much - for any game that I like enough to get high scores on, really - I’d much rather it be popular enough for the leaderboards to totally drown me. I don’t want to be high on the leaderboards if it means the game is low in the sales charts.

I’d rather have a sequel than a top score.

#gaming #video games #bubsy: paws on fire! #leaderboards #virgil reality is my spirit animal #i want a virgil reality amiibo

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Save My Sanity

Here’s a feature I want all games to have - sanity checks on save file overwrites. It should be easy to overwrite a sixty-hour save with a sixty-one-hour save. It should be harder to overwrite it with a twenty minute save.

The latter is why I stopped playing Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. That game reorders your save slots based on time updated and I got confused and saved to the wrong slot and there was no change in the UX.

#gaming #video games #star ocean #save file #UXdesign

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What Makes A Review Useful?

My frustration with Bubsy: Paws on Fire! reviews has me thinking about what makes for a good review in the first place.

The term “review” is a bit overloaded, but let’s leave aside critical analysis and close readings and focus on the traditional consumer-advice-style review. The goal of such a review is to give potential consumers the information they need to make a purchasing decision - on top of information that comes from elsewhere, such as the product’s current price and the consumer’s current life situation. So what is that missing information that the review should provide?

It’s tempting to say that it’s the game’s quality level. The review should convey whether the game is good or bad - often by providing a number indicating where it falls on the spectrum.

The problem is that once you’re above a fairly low baseline, this isn’t universally-applicable. As long as a game basically works, then people will react to the experience it provides in widely different ways. I have played and disliked many popular and acclaimed games - and while I believe Graham Banas is honest when he gives Bubsy: Paws on Fire! a 2/10 on Push Square, using that site’s own scoring policy I’d easily give Paws an 8 or 9. There’s no way to objectively say that one (or both!) of us is wrong in our assessment of the game’s quality, so it doesn’t seem like that could be reasonably considered the core of the review.

I think the actual core - the missing information that a review should provide - is the game’s audience. Most games that basically work and the vast majority of games that get reviewed would be enjoyed by some group of people out there. A useful review is one that makes it clear who is in this group so that readers can determine whether they are a member. A high quality level for a game suggests that the group is large but doesn’t mean any given reader is necessarily a part of it or that they would like the game.

This is easier said than done, of course. It’s simple to say “If you like Bit.Trip Runner’s gameplay and the Bubsy characters, you’ll like Paws on Fire!” but that won’t be much help to someone unfamiliar with those franchises. Finding the right balance of specificity and brevity is tough. But it’s a worthy goal, and it’s what I try to keep in mind when writing my own reviews.

#game reviews #gaming #video games #bubsy: paws on fire!

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Pixel Poppers Redesign!

Breaking News!
The Pixel Poppers website has been redesigned to make it easier to find and follow all Pixel Poppers content. It’s much more mobile-friendly now, too!

All content - including content previously found only on Tumblr - is now published on the main Pixel Poppers site. (Except for patron-only content; see below.) It will be syndicated to several places, so you can keep up with it using your favorite method:

Articles also get cross-posted to Medium, while games and dev blog posts are cross-posted to Itch.io. Any video content that gets posted can also be found on Youtube.

You can always get this information on the About page.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy!

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Expawtation Meownagement

I think Bubsy: Paws on Fire! hurt its marketing and review scores by not incorporating Bit.Trip Runner into the name.

The upcoming Cadence of Hyrule is an interesting comparison point. Both games are non-traditional installments in established franchises (Bubsy, The Legend of Zelda) in the style of and by the developers of an unrelated rhythm-hybrid game (rhythm platformer Bit.Trip Runner, rhythm roguelike Crypt of the NecroDancer).

The Zelda/NecroDancer game is called Cadence of Hyrule for short - the full title is Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda. The short title reflects that it’s a crossover - it’s the main character of NecroDancer, Cadence, in the setting of Zelda, Hyrule. The subtitle includes the name of both parent franchises, and makes it clear that this is more of a NecroDancer game than a Zelda game.

This is really solid expectation management, and it’s working. Whenever I see the game mentioned in a news item, it’s described as a Zelda spin-off or crossover. Not many people are likely to mistake it for a mainline Zelda title.

The Bubsy/Runner game is called Bubsy: Paws on Fire! - that’s the full title. There is no mention of Bit.Trip Runner at all. It’s just Bubsy.

The result is that people expect a Bubsy game unless they happen to look deeper and notice the different developer. A lot of people wouldn’t look that closely - even game reviewers and journalists are hit-and-miss with this and I certainly don’t see the game referred to as a spin-off or crossover in news items. And if you go in expecting traditional Bubsy, you may well end up surprised, confused, and disappointed by the actual gameplay - especially if you aren’t familiar with Bit.Trip Runner.

I really like the game and want to see it do well, but the mismatched expectations seem to have hurt the review scores. The most frustrating to me is Push Square’s 2/10 review which describes the game as “an auto-runner style platformer” and makes no reference to Bit.Trip Runner or developer Choice Provisions. There’s a lot I think is unfair or misleading about this review, but in particular I notice that a lot of the most valid complaints also apply to the Runner games but give no idea how the reviewer feels about those games.

Someone who dislikes Runner gameplay won’t like Paws on Fire! any more than someone who dislikes NecroDancer gameplay would like Cadence of Hyrule, but it’s much less clear that’s a consideration here - enough so that the reviewer doesn’t even bring it up and multiple commenters express disappointment that the game is bad since they like the Runner games. They took the reviewer’s word that the game was bad despite the reviewer failing to establish that the review even applied to players with their tastes.

I chimed in suggesting they give the game another look. I want Bubsy: Paws on Fire! to have the best possible chance to reach its audience.

#gaming #video games #bubsy: paws on fire! #cadence of hyrule #expectation management