Thoughts

Quick, short, often niche posts about games. Sometimes they are brief looks at concepts in art, design, culture, and psychology. Other times they are reactions to specific news items or just something silly that came to mind.

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Is Zelda a Metroidvania?

I don’t play a lot of Zelda-likes or Metroidvanias so maybe this is a dumb question, but I’ve picked up Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King (which is basically A Link to the Past) and, like, I think it’s a Metroidvania?

Wikipedia explains Metroidvanias this way:

Metroidvania games generally feature a large interconnected world map the player can explore, though access to parts of the world is often limited by doors or other obstacles that can only be passed once the player has acquired special items, tools, weapons or abilities within the game. Acquiring such improvements can also aid the player in defeating more difficult enemies and locating shortcuts and secret areas, and often includes retracing one’s steps across the map. Through this, Metroidvania games include tighter integration of story and level design, careful design of levels and character controls to encourage exploration and experimentation, and a means for the player to become more invested in their player character. Metroidvania games typically are sidescrolling platformers, but can also include other genre types.

Until that very last sentence, I feel like pre-Breath of the Wild Zelda fits this description perfectly. Wikipedia even notes that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (which is the source of the “-vania” in the name) was inspired in large part by Zelda! Is the difference really just top-down versus side-view?

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Mobile Gaming Just Got Way More Exciting

I was recently lamenting to a friend the fact that right around when mobile technology was getting powerful enough to deliver console-quality experiences and designers were figuring out how to make good use of touchscreen controls, the horrible exploitative freemium monetization schemes took off, and we missed out on the possibility of a really amazing mobile game ecosystem.

The example that breaks my heart the most is Dynasty Warriors: Unleased which clearly could have presented a great musou-lite experience on the go, but was buried in layers of loot box crap. Similarly, I enjoyed both Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes a lot as games until their monetization schemes overshadowed the gameplay.

But now, as predicted by John Gruber, Apple is launching a subscription-based game service with access to a bunch of games with offline play, no IAP, no ads, and no data collection without player consent. And there are a bunch of quality devs and high-profile games confirmed for the service.

This is REALLY EXCITING. By lining up the incentives in this way, Apple is finally taking huge steps to fix the damage they’ve caused to the mobile gaming ecosystem. We might finally get some amazing mobile games and I can’t wait to see how it goes.

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Early Thoughts on Google Stadia

Google has announced that they are creating a streaming games platform called Stadia. The idea is you won’t need a console or even necessarily a controller if you already have a compatible one (and most modern console controllers appear to be compatible). You’ll be able to play games right in a browser on your TV/phone/tablet/PC via streaming. No extra download/installation required. Basically, it’s Netflix, except instead of streaming movies or TV, you’re streaming a video game and streaming back your controller inputs.

It’s worth noting that very little consumer-useful information is available yet. Nothing about how pricing will work (all-you-can-eat subscription like Netflix? rent games like the original PlayStation Now model? ad-based like YouTube? some combo?) or how expensive it’ll be. They’re also advertising it as capable of doing 4k video at 60fps - which would require an amount of bandwidth that’s implausibly high for most people’s internet connections.

But they have some big names on board - Doom Eternal and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are confirmed for the service, and they’ve got Jade Raymond (creator of Assassin’s Creed) heading their in-house development studio where they will be developing first-party (probably exclusive?) titles.

With that background, here are my thoughts.

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Rejected conclusions for an essay about player...

Rejected conclusions for an essay about player freedom:

  • “You can have my Game Genie when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”
  • “When it comes to games, my wallet votes Libertarian.”
  • “Come with me if you want to play.”
  • “Give me freedom to play, not free-to-play.”

#gaming #video games #game genie

Tags: Thought

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Wandersong and Difficulty

Wandersong can broadly be split into two types of gameplay:

  1. Exploration: Reach a new area, wander around meeting people, and help them with their problems by solving some low-pressure puzzles. This gets you access to the next type:
  2. Dungeon: Progress through a series of more-intense puzzles featuring and building on the dungeon’s particular theme. At the end is a story scene with the area’s climactic encounter. Once you’ve done this, move on to the next chapter and a new area.

This is oversimplified and not every chapter follows it exactly, but that’s the basic structure.

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I complained before about how the Nintendo Switch...

I complained before about how the Nintendo Switch Online NES SP Editions started out as ways to increase the approachability of games designed in a different era, but became about just skipping content instead. I’m relieved to see that this month’s batch are back to the old philosophy - there’s one for starting Kirby’s Adventure with Extra Game and Sound Test already unlocked, and one for starting Zelda II: The Adventure of Link with maxed out Attack, Magic, and Life stats. Great to see!

It’s also been a bit interesting to me since I’ve previously argued that the reason why hardcore gamers sometimes object to Easy Modes in their favorite games is because it makes it harder for them to use those games to signal their own skills. This is the first time I’ve really gotten a taste of that myself.

I have a tradition of fully completing Kirby’s Adventure on every platform it becomes available on. I was planning on posting a screenshot here when I’d done that on Switch, where I have just finished unlocking Extra Game on all three slots. Now the SP Edition lets anyone start right there. I have to acknowledge that one of my gut reactions to this news was mild annoyance.

But I recognize that having to clarify in my screenshot post that I didn’t use the shortcut is a small price to pay, and I’m glad people have the option to use it.

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I feel like there's a common problem where...

I feel like there’s a common problem where endgame/postgame content doesn’t get playtested and polished as much as the earlier portion of a game’s experience. If you’re playing the game like a normal person everything’s fine, but if you’re a completionist or you really like the game and you’re going hardcore into the optional objectives at the end, the tiny problems you didn’t even notice before get magnified and become really obnoxious.

And, like, this is probably a correct allocation of resources and I’m not advocating doing anything different. But it always makes me a bit sad when my devotion to a game is rewarded by the last few hours of my experience being kinda bullshit for easily-preventable reasons.

#video games #gaming #ratchet: deadlocked sent you back to the station after each postgame mission which was annoying if you were farming bolts or weapon xp #senran kagura burst re:newal sends you back to the ninja room after every free mission which is similarly dumb

Tags: Thought, TOPIC: Completionism

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Tetris 99 Maximus Cup

Continuing my theme of being simultaneously impressed and concerned by Tetris 99, I’m very interested to see that there’s a tournament this weekend. You just play as normal, and the 999 players who rack up the most wins in the time period get 999 My Nintendo gold points (which is baaasically a $10 eShop gift card).

That’s actually pretty damn cool. Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch Online NES thingy is again only getting two games outside of Japan this month.

#tetris 99 #nintendo switch online #nintendo switch online nes #video games #gaming

Tags: Thought, GAME: Tetris 99

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How I'd Fix the Combat in Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed

If anyone out there was thinking, “Gee, the combat in Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed sure was mediocre. I wish I knew in long-winded detail how docprof from Pixel Poppers would try to improve it,” then wow is today your lucky day.

And if you weren’t thinking that… well, here are some silly videos I made in that game.

Now, on to the armchair game design!