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.

|

A perfect coincidence

The fastest platinum trophy I’ve earned was for Tearaway on Vita which took me a single day. The slowest was for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning on PS3 which took me six years to the day.

Coincidentally, both trophies are named “Perfectionist.”

This doesn’t matter, but I find it amusing.

(Screenshots from https://psnprofiles.com which gives way better trophy collection data than PlayStation’s official site.)

#gaming #tearaway #kingdoms of amalur #trophies

|

Regenerating health and implicit meters

Here’s something I haven’t figured out yet - why do regenerating health and implicit health meters always go hand in hand?

Back in the day, it was normal for most or all games with health to show explicit health meters, whether it be as a number (as in, say, the original Doom), a numeric visual representation (as in, say, The Legend of Zelda’s heart containers), or an analog display (as in, say, Street Fighter II’s health bars). It was also normal for health not to regenerate over time but to require pickups if it was possible to restore at all.

Then we got Halo and Gears of War and stuff and it became common for shooters to have regenerating health and also implicit health meters, generally via making parts of the screen increasingly bloody or dirtied and eventually turning the visuals black and white and dulling the audio. It seems like these always go together - I can’t think of a game with quick health regeneration and explicit health meters, or a game with implicit health meters and no health regeneration.

Why is this? The speculation I have is that in games without health regeneration, health is a resource to manage (do you shoot the enemy from afar and spend more of your limited ammo or charge in for a melee kill at the cost of some health as they attack back, etc.) and thus it’s important to know exactly how much of each resource you have left. Whereas if there is health regeneration, then what’s important to know is whether you are currently in danger, and if so, how much.

What bothers me about this is that, due in large part to how inconsistent the iconography is across games, it’s often difficult to actually understand how much danger you’re in with an implicit meter. This troubled me a lot in Just Cause 3, where the screen gets bloody and then goes black and white as you take damage. But there’s very little readable granularity during the ‘bloody’ phase - I’ve just either taken some damage but not enough to worry about (bloody screen) or I’ve taken a lot of damage and I should run away (black and white screen), without much in between or a good way to tell how quickly I’m taking damage. The result is that I often feel like I’m going along fine until I suddenly get overwhelmed out of nowhere and die, when in reality I was probably in serious danger for a while but didn’t realize it.

I can’t help but feel like a health bar would avoid this problem - I’d always be able to see how much buffer I have and how quickly it’s depleting. Why can’t I have health regeneration and a health bar?

#gaming #just cause 3 #health meters #regenerating health #game design #uxdesign

|

Nintendo Switch Online NES SP Editions are Wasted Opportunities

I was excited when Nintendo released the first special edition of a NES game for their online service, letting you play The Legend of Zelda from the start with a bunch of rupees and items. It was an acknowledgment that these classic titles have in fact aged and working to make them more approachable for a wider segment of modern audiences. That’s really cool! (Though of course it would have been even cooler to have a Game Genie or other mechanism for more cheats.)

But ever since then, all the special editions have focused on skipping content instead of making it more approachable. The worst is the one for Dr. Mario, which just puts you right before winning so you can watch a cinematic that you could just as easily watch on YouTube.

This feels like a really disappointing waste of potential. The special editions could make these classic and historically-interesting games more appealing to play by removing outdated punishment - even an infinite lives cheat would go a long way for many of these titles. I don’t understand who is served by SP editions that just skip most of the game.

#nintendo switch online nes #nintendo switch #nintendo switch online #gaming

|

Two Ways to Play The Sims

I feel like there are two fundamentally different ways to play The Sims:

  1. As an ant farm. You load it up with a bunch of people with varying personalities and goals and then watch them live their lives and bounce off each other.
  2. As a dollhouse. You focus on specific individuals and families and have an idea of who they are and what their life should be like so you decide most or all of what they do.

These two approaches are contradictory because they require different levels of control over the game. Just as you might occasionally tap the glass of an actual ant farm or drop in some cookie crumbs or something to see how the ants react, an ant-farming Sims player might order one of their Sims to flirt with or insult someone to create some drama and keep things interesting. But by and large, this player wants their Sims to make autonomous decisions so the simulation keeps running.

Meanwhile, in actual dollhouses, nothing happens unless the person playing with the dolls says it happens. Similarly, dollhousing Sims players want complete control over their Sims so they can create exactly the story they’re trying to create. These players disable Sims’ autonomy (called “free will” in earlier Sims games) so that Sims don’t make out-of-character decisions.

Now, I have to admit that I’m only inferring the existence of ant-farming players based on design decisions in more recent Sims games. I’m very much a dollhouser, I’ve never talked to an ant-farmer, and it didn’t even occur to me that they’d exist until I was trying to understand some of the changes that came in The Sims 3 and 4. But if they don’t exist, then a lot of those changes are completely baffling.

Read more...

#gaming #the sims 4 #the sims 2 #the sims 3 #the sims

|

Curse of Completion

For the completionists among us, trophy/achievement lists and other in-game checklists are basically the steps of a bizarre ritual to escape a curse.

It’s like, “Oh, you wish to be free of the grip of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? First, you must clear all 615 spaces in adventure mode, collect all 1302 unique spirits, and defeat all 124 challenges! Only then will you release its hold over your mind!”

Just eighteen challenges to go until I can move on to Marvel’s Spider-Man

#gaming #completion #smash bros ultimate

|

My Top Ten Games of 2018

Based on how much joy they brought me, not on objective greatness.

10. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017)
9. West of Loathing (2017)
8. Dust: An Elysian Tail (2012)
7. Stories: The Path of Destinies (2016)
6. Iconoclasts (2018)
5. Golf Story (2017)
4. Night in the Woods (2017)
3. I Am Setsuna (2016)
2. Fire Emblem Warriors (2017)
1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018)

Honorable mentions to Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Finding Paradise, and Subsurface Circular.

Games that came out in 2018 that I haven’t played yet but suspect would have made the list if I had:

1. Dragon Quest XI
2. Marvel’s Spider-Man
3. Detroit: Become Human
4. Celeste

Most anticipated game for 2019:

Dragon Quest Builders 2

#video games #gaming #top ten