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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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.

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#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.

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#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!

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I've never seen the appeal of games that push...

I’ve never seen the appeal of games that push “You can kill the NPCs if they’re being annoying!” as a selling point. But what I apparently have needed this whole time is “You can sarcastically dance at the NPCs if they’re being annoying!”

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#gaming #video games #wandersong #you aren't important enough to turn me into a murderer but I am going to stop listening to you and start prancing now

Tags: Thought, GAME: Wandersong

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Achievements and Insecure Design

Achievements do a lot of things, but one of them is to direct player attention. This can be a safety net - say you’re making a game that includes fishing as an important source of food and materials and you’re worried the player might not realize it’s an option and thus have a harder time than intended. In addition to putting in signposts pointing to the fishing hole and having friendly NPCs talk about how great fishing is and such, you could add in an achievement for catching a fish. Like with the signs and NPCs, it won’t solve the issue for every possible player, but it will for some and won’t really affect anyone else. It’s basically just an additional guard rail.

Suppose you instead set the achievement to require catching ten fish. There are a lot of reasons you might do this - maybe catching one fish feels insultingly trivial to reward. But once the player has caught a fish, they definitely know that fishing is an option. They should be able to decide whether it’s something they want to invest time in - maybe they enjoy the minigame enough that they’d fish for fun, or maybe they dislike it enough that they’d rather avoid it in favor of other sources of food and materials, or maybe they’re somewhere in between and will do it when it’s an efficient way to meet a particular goal.

For players who care about achievements, some of them would have gotten ten fish anyway and the ones who wouldn’t now have to either forgo an achievement or spend time on an activity they dislike, making the game worse for them. All because the game wasn’t content to let the player try it once and then decide for themselves.

I’m sure there’s a better name for this, but I call it “insecure design” - game mechanics that use extrinsic rewards to encourage the player to spend a lot of time with certain game modes or content as though the designer is worried that content isn’t enjoyable enough on its own for players to want to bother with it. And much like using engagement rewards, I think it almost always backfires.

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I Miss Rivalries in Senran Kagura

Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal’s faithful retelling of the original Senran Kagura Burst’s story is bittersweet. It’s a reminder of why I fell in love with the series in the first place, but it can’t help but also remind me of the fact that the later games have gone in a different direction that I find much less appealing. While I’m enjoying it more than I’ve enjoyed a Senran Kagura game in years, it doesn’t make me confident for the next game in the series if the way they’ve found to tell me a story I like as much as the first story is to just… tell me the first story again.

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