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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FOMO and Giving Games a Chance

I can’t find it now, but some years ago I read an article suggesting that players can generally suss out the shape of a game within ten minutes. That’s enough time to get an idea of the game’s core loop and how appealing it is.

Obviously this will vary from game to game - some openings are more representative than others - but I can easily believe that on average ten minutes is where diminishing returns start hitting hard. I wouldn’t be surprised if something like one in twenty games that you don’t enjoy in the first ten minutes is one that you would end up liking if you kept going. In which case, you’ll have less good gaming time overall if you give every game a couple of hours to prove itself instead of cutting off earlier.

This makes sense to me, especially as we are long past the point at which there are more good games out there than anyone can possibly play and they still keep coming. But every time I put down a game because I didn’t enjoy the first ten minutes, I get this pang of fear. I think back to some of my all-time favorite games that I didn’t enjoy at first. Star Ocean: The Second Story. inFAMOUS. Mass Effect. Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. If I tried those for the first time today, would I get frustrated or bored and abandoned them and miss out on some of the best gaming experiences I could ever have? In truth, any game I put down like that now could be another one of those games - and I would never know.

I have to remind myself that the math still checks out. Most games are not ones I’d love and my time is limited. Thanks to PlayStation Plus and Steam sales and Humble Bundles and so on, I literally own hundreds of games I’ve never played. Even my list of high-priority titles I expect to particularly enjoy has several dozen games in it including some serious heavy hitters that have been there for years. Batman: Arkham Asylum! Her Story! SteamWorld Heist! The list goes on. How can I justify spending more than ten minutes on a game that isn’t grabbing me when Persona 5 and Horizon Zero Dawn are waiting on the shelf?

If I’m not careful, though, this way of thinking replaces the fear of overlooking gems with guilt for ignoring important games. When I play a game that I like but don’t love, I end up feeling bad that I’m continuing with it instead of finally checking out the Yakuza games or something, and it’s just a little bit harder to enjoy my time with it.

It’s easy to say “just relax and play what you want.” It’s harder to do it.

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Tetris 99 Is a Hit

Tetris 99 is fascinating both as a piece of game design and as a phenonmenon. It’s a well-timed deconstruction of the battle royale genre and also an interesting (and by early accounts, successful) experiment in console online service models. I’m a little embarassed that I didn’t predict how big a hit it was going to be, writing it off after playing it once - though in my defense it doesn’t explain its badge system at all and that’s where basically all the strategic depth lies.

I’m happy for Nintendo, but I’m also a little worried about what lessons they’re likely to learn from this. All the previous incentives for subscribing to Nintendo Switch Online have been met with some criticism: You can play games online, but that was free before the service was introduced. You can back up (most) saves to the cloud, but you still can’t back them up via USB. The NES games are neat, but are a tiny set of ancient games we all already have.

I’d love for them to really ramp up the legacy content - put out a bunch of NES/SNES/N64/NGC/GB/GBC/GBA titles. That already wasn’t looking likely, but now I’m worried their takeaway will be “When we put out a few new free NES games, people complain, but when we put out battle royale games, people love us! Clearly we should focus on the latter.”

This might even be the correct takeaway, but it’s definitely not the approach I personally prefer.

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

Tags: Thought, GAME: Tetris 99

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Is Burst Re:Newal Too Faithful?

When is a game remake too faithful?

I’ve been playing through Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal, a PS4 (and PC) remake of a several-year-old 3DS game. The action has been adapted from a 2.5D sidescrolling brawler to a full 3D one, with many tweaks and improvements to the combat and of course the graphics. The story structure and content are identical, which makes it a weird nostalgic mind trip to actually play. That’s mostly a good thing. But despite featuring easily the best combat the series has ever had, it still has one of the worst boss fights I’ve ever seen.

Late-game spoilers follow, but nothing I’d expect to ruin the game for anyone.

Read more...

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Switch Screenshots

It still boggles my mind that the Switch has a dedicated screenshot button but no way to take high-quality screenshots.

I understand wanting to avoid the case where a kid quickly fills up their small memory card with huge image files and then can’t download more games or save their progress and doesn’t understand why. It seems totally reasonable to me to take 720p compressed JPG screenshots by default. But why not put in the option to take full resolution PNG screenshots for those of us with more space? I’ve got a 400 GB memory card in there; let me use it!

How do you respect the value of shareable play artifacts enough to constrain the hardware with a dedicated button, but then not provide an option to make good use of it? This is a lot like the compromised mechanics I spoke of before, and I can’t help but notice it’s Nintendo again.

PS4 defaults to JPG screenshots but provides an option to save higher-quality PNGs instead. This reason by itself is why I play cross-platform AAA titles on PS4 instead of Switch. If Switch gave me this ability, I’d happily play them there instead.

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#nintendo switch #play artifact #video games #gaming

Tags: Thought

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I've started Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal and I'm...

I’ve started Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal and I’m not sure what to make of it yet, but it definitely has some wonderful little touches that suggest it’s a labor of love and not a cash-in and engine test on the way to Senran Kagura 7EVEN. Here’s my favorite example.

There’s new portrait art for each character, as is standard for a new installment in this series. But you can actually choose per character whether to use the new portrait or one from the original Senran Kagura Burst era.

I like this a lot, and have made use of it since I tend to prefer the old art to the new art. But on top of that - there’s absolutely no need for a feature like this, and it actually undercuts the new art that they’ve spent time and money on. Putting this in anyway is a sign of respect for the series and its longtime fans. It’s a good thing to see.

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Kirby's Adventure is coming to the Switch NES...

Kirby’s Adventure is coming to the Switch NES thingy! I have been waiting for this since the Switch NES thingy was announced. So this also seems like a good time to muse briefly on why it’s still my favorite Kirby game: the Copy Abilities.

Back in Kirby’s Adventure, each enemy would literally give Kirby one ability. This meant that they were situational, easy to remember, activated with a dedicated button, and you’d learn to use them well. It was exciting to run into new enemies doing things you hadn’t seen before, because it meant you’d get a brand-new ability to experiment with.

In modern Kirby titles, it’s more like each enemy gives Kirby a form with several abilities activated various ways, making them harder to learn and remember (even the pause screen explanations now take up multiple pages). They’re also less distinctive, as there’s a ton of mechanical overlap between ability sets. It never really feels like it matters which ability set you have, so finding new enemy types isn’t exciting.

It’s less about playing with different tools, learning which are good for which situations, and learning to use them well - it’s more about just grabbing any old enemy to power up, and at best picking your favorite flavor of ability set. And I find I get bored with that pretty quickly.

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In the opening movie of Justice League: Heroes...

In the opening movie of Justice League: Heroes, Batman gets called to deal with a robot attack. Superman shows up too, and Batman curtly informs him that he didn’t ask for help. Superman gallantly says, “Well, since I’m here anyway,” and joins in the fight.

When gameplay started, I chose to play as Batman, leaving Superman to the partner AI. As I tried to experiment with attacks and learn the controls as well as the enemy behavior patterns, Superman just waltzed up to the robots and destroyed them.

Never has a game so rapidly, thoroughly, and unintentionally created empathy for the player character.

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