Posts by Tag / Thought (268)

| | 0 Comments

Mario Kart Troll

It’s scummy that Mario Kart Tour pretends its bots are people, presumably to create fake social pressure to spend into the game’s ecosystem. But what I really dislike about it is that the names they give to your opponents are clearly taken from real user names - because they include things Nintendo would never show to you on purpose. I’ve seen names that use unicode or accented characters to sneak past the profanity filter, and recently I raced against a bot named “Trump2020”.

It blows my mind that Nintendo, of all companies, who are so skittish about online experiences that they’re still using friend codes, have created a way for me to be trolled by online strangers while playing alone in one of their most kid-friendly franchises.

0 Comments
| | 0 Comments

Key rings and tool belts

The mark of a good Metroidvania is that new items and abilities feel like tools in a belt, not keys in a ring.

There’s nothing wrong with, say, DOOM having the player collect red, blue, and yellow key cards - but that’s just scaffolding. It’s just to provide pacing and a series of objectives. It’s not the heart of the gameplay.

But in Metroidvanias or Zelda-likes, getting new abilities and being able to explore further as a result is central to the experience and one of the strongest rewards it can provide. When done well, the new abilities are versatile and create new possibilities for combat and exploration, opening doors you didn’t even know were there.

If instead the new abilities have single niche uses to overcome specific, arbitrary, clearly delineated obstacles - they might as well be colored key cards for opening locked doors.

0 Comments

#video gaming #metroidvania

Tags: Thought

| | 0 Comments

The Platform is the Playstyle: Missions and Monetization

A while back, I got Jumping Joe & Friends for free on Switch - one of many free games I’ve gotten from being in QubicGames’ ecosystem. It’s a simple reflex-testing runner-like game (though you jump vertically rather than run horizontally) that you can get into a good rhythm with, so I felt like it would be a better fit for mobile, and of course it actually is a port of mobile freemium title Jumping Joe! I picked that version up, and while the gameplay is indeed well-suited to the sort of casual kill-a-few-minutes experience that mobile enables, it’s both better and worse as a mobile game. Worse for the standard freemium reasons, but better because it has missions - side objectives to complete during runs that provide extra variety and depth to play.

Missions are great for this sort of game. They’re what elevated Jetpack Joyride from good to great. They add another layer to gameplay that keeps things fresh far longer. I don’t understand why the Switch port of Jumping Joe doesn’t have them. Why are they mobile-only? Why can you only get them if you also get the scummy monetization? As is, I find the Switch port dulls quickly and the mobile version feels obnoxious and greedy, and I stopped playing the game pretty quickly.

A bit later, I finally tried Mario Kart Tour, which I’ve complained about before. (Don’t judge me; it was for the mission to get the stupid Mario pins that ran out of stock in five seconds anyway.) And I found that in adapting the experience to mobile, Mario Kart had made several changes that felt like straight-up improvements.

Read more...

0 Comments
| | 0 Comments

DualSense violates privacy by default

The PS5’s DualSense controller has a microphone array that is on by default in multiplayer games. It sounds like it doesn’t even light up to indicate that the mic is on - it does so to indicate that the mic is muted.

With no visible headset or microphone, no light, and no opt-in to the mic being on, there are ZERO CUES that you are transmitting audio across the internet. No cues for you and no cues for anyone around you. You can easily forget this and broadcast a private conversation with a third party who has absolutely not opted in to this and may not even know it’s possible.

I can’t understand how this happened. It is so obviously a bad idea.

0 Comments
| | 0 Comments

Go places and do things

I think my favorite game genre is “go places and do things”. Especially when there are multiple objectives that I can pursue in an order and pace of my choosing.

Prominent examples include 3D platformers like Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank, open world games like inFAMOUS and Saints Row, and action RPGs like Dragon Quest Heroes II and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

Some games from adjacent genres qualify as well, such as MMO City of Heroes, Metroidvania SteamWorld Dig 2, and life sim Disney Magical World.

0 Comments
| | 0 Comments

Save the Princess, or Save Your Soul

I wrote some weeks back that revisiting Super Mario 64 with a guide was allowing me to work around the parts of it I found the most frustrating and I thought that this time I might actually persist long enough to beat Bowser. Well, I did do that, and I felt proud of myself for doing it, and then horrified at how proud I felt.

Let me back up.

Read more...

0 Comments
| | 0 Comments

Mario 64's punishment gets in the way of its exploration

I’m revisiting Super Mario 64 as part of Super Mario 3D All-Stars and it really strikes me how much the game’s strictness and punishment get in the way of what makes it great, and in particular the way it treats learning challenges as though they were mastery challenges.

To me, Mario 64 is a colorful toybox that invites exploration. It’s at its best when imparting a real sense of discovery, presenting the player with a series of shiny toys and allowing the player to experiment and discover new ways to play with them. And it’s at its worst when it’s slapping the toys out of your hand because you are playing with them wrong.

As I wrote in my review, as you progress it’s increasingly “the case that a single mistake kills Mario, which ejects you from the level completely and requires you to carefully make your way back to where you were before you can experiment any further.” (And unlike the Virtual Console on the Wii U, in 3D All-Stars there are no save states available to guard against this - one way in which this release is actually a step back.) I find myself much less interested in, say, scouring levels for all eight red coins if I’m likely to die while looking for number six and then have to collect the first five all over again. That kind of thing is what got me to put the game down when I played it before. I like the exploration by itself, and I can handle a tough skill challenge, but when the skill challenge interrupts the exploration - when I can’t experiment or practice because I keep getting kicked out of the level - that’s when I just get frustrated.

So I’m trying something different this time: I’m using a guide. Not for every star, but for any where I die at least twice trying to figure it out. That means that for stars where the fun exploration is unhindered by punishment, that experience can remain intact. And stars that are just difficult without requiring exploration are also fine. But for stars where there’s a punishing skill challenge interfering with the exploration, I just skip the exploration part and take it as a skill challenge.

If it were up to me, I’d turn off the punishment instead of the exploration for those mixed cases. I’m pretty confident I’d enjoy this game more if Mario couldn’t die. But I’ll take what I can get, and this might be enough that I’ll actually defeat Bowser this time.

0 Comments
| | 0 Comments

Buying the Farm

After eleven years, FarmVille is shutting down at the end of 2020.

I never tried FarmVille. As I once discussed, I wasn’t exactly a fan of what it represented - games successfully hijacking prosocial behavior for profit. Now, though, it seems almost quaint. I mean, on the same day I saw this news, I also saw that EA is promoting FIFA lootboxes in a children’s magazine. Keeping in mind all the other controversies of the past decade, it’s hard not to feel bizarrely wistful about the gaming culture problems of yesteryear.

But here’s what really does bother me about FarmVille’s shutdown: the reason for it and the impact on games preservation. Per the announcement, this is happening because “Adobe will stop distributing and updating Flash Player for all web browsers, and Facebook will stop supporting Flash games on the platform completely after December 31st, 2020.”

Whatever your feelings about FarmVille as a game, it’s undeniably a significant part of gaming history. It peaked in 2010 at 83.76 million monthly active users (about seven times the peak World of Warcraft reached in the same year of 12 million subscribers). It would be difficult to overstate its legacy on the design of social and mobile games over the next decade (not to mention directly inspiring Ian Bogost’s infamous Cow Clicker).

There are many, many reasons to be nostalgic for Flash and sad for its passing. Few of them had as much impact as FarmVille.

0 Comments