Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights

11Mar/193

Side by Side: BOTOLO

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the last of three bonus episodes.

Joel Goodwin and his son Kai fight over possession of a ball in the abstract sports game BOTOLO (Steam, itch.io). This is a brilliant game with solid feel and a crisp yet slightly organic style - even if I do keep thinking I'm the ball all the time. This is as much about a battle of wits, of feigning action and inaction, of knowing how your opponent plays.

If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to our channel.

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.

4Mar/1911

Discussion: Hypocrisy

From something I call February's newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):

Hi, I’m the Into the Black guy. I ask why people want achievements and shiny things to reward exploration in games. It’s all BALONEY. Rewards kill the JOY. They invite DISAPPOINTMENT. I will keep on using CAPITAL LETTERS to distract you from my hypocrisy.

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.

28Feb/1919

Tail Meets Head

This is the final part of The Ouroboros Sequence, a series on puzzle games.

Do I hate Snakebird? I don’t love it.

It was October 2016 and I had been playing Snakebird (Noumenon Games, 2016) for about a month. Finding it impossible to make progress around twenty levels in, I strapped the game to a concrete block and threw it into the choppy waters of the Thames. And while I did this, others continued to carry the Snakebird banner high, proclaiming its brilliance. I didn’t get it. I really didn't get it.

I wanted to know why. I scribbled into my book of half-baked ideas an article about why I don’t like Snakebird. But the exercise would be pointless without an answer to the question.

Time passed. I had many notes that sketched out areas of potential interest and I found myself more interested in the player side of the puzzle game equation rather than the design side. I wanted to think about how puzzle games might be failing their players instead of players failing their puzzle games. Failure can become very personal, hardening players against continued experimentation in the puzzle genre.

I grew frustrated with the whole concept, though. I could never weave these ideas into a complete whole. I was looking at an infinite number of darts thrown at an infinite number of dartboards by an infinite number of monkeys… but not one bullseye.

Screw it, I thought, I’m going to write the series anyway, even if I don’t have any conclusions. I’ll call it The Ouroboros Sequence because Snakebird is behind the whole series and I knew I wasn’t going to be any wiser about my disaffection for Snakebird after reaching the end. The truth was in the title, up there in every episode. No revelations would be coming. We’d end in the same place as we started. Disaffected with Snakebird, reasons unknown.

And yet. And yet.

This journey has not been a waste of time.

We have returned to the beginning, to Snakebird. But things are most definitely not the same.

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24Feb/197

Cold Metal

This is the third part of the Subnautica Season. This follows The Glory of the Infinite Sea, on Subnautica enabling accidental discovery, and Beautiful, on the real beauty of Subnautica's design.

Subnautica is fantastic. More or less. The resource gathering and blueprint hunting can get a little tedious, but Subnautica is not alone in committing that crime. Around the waterworld in 80 days, just to find that a blob of blood oil. But this was not the only flaw in the ointment.

Something that, perhaps, should have had more resonance and impact: building a home away from home.

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14Feb/190

Side by Side: BFF or Die

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the second of three bonus episodes.

Joel Goodwin and his son Kai wander through ancient Egyptian tombs facing the odd mummy or two in BFF or Die (Steam, itch.io), a co-op action game for 2-4 players from ASA Studio. will they be able to grab all the orbees and do a high five?

If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to our channel.

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.

7Feb/190

Side by Side: DERU

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the first of three bonus episodes.

Okay, so there wasn't enough co-op in the fourth series. Let's fix that. How about an abstract puzzler which needs some deft work on the controller?

Joel Goodwin and the new recruit to the Side by Side team, Kai Goodwin, are pleased to present the luscious DERU: The Art of Cooperation (Steam, Switch, itch.io with Linux and Mac builds) from INK KIT Studios.

If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to our channel.

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.

4Feb/1938

Hole In My Chest

This is the twentieth part of The Ouroboros Sequence, a series on puzzle games.

Consider the puzzle game as a mythmaker.

A plucky naive player sets out on a great journey. At first, they face simple trials through which they develop the confidence they will need to triumph against terrible odds. They encounter such incredible challenges that they feel they’re never going to make it. They emerge from this fire transformed and are now the true hero, the one to slay the final puzzle dragon.

But it’s a Sith dragon brandishing a lightsaber and despite the player’s transcension to herohood, they are no match for this terrifying foe.

The player, reluctantly, turns to a walkthrough for help. They copy out the moves.

The myth is dead.

It doesn’t feel heroic, it feels shitty. It feels like that dragon stabbed you through the fucking chest.

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1Feb/1928

Discussion: The Influence

From, er, January's newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):

And I can’t help but suspect that something like this happens in game worlds; the more real they become, the more people find it unacceptable that a rocket launcher won’t blow up a wooden door. We are diverted from abstract or symbolic representation towards the mental models we use in real life. Doors are for opening and rocket launchers are for obliterating wooden ones.

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.

30Jan/1926

All Roads

This is the nineteenth part of The Ouroboros Sequence, a series on puzzle games.

Back in the day when I was a beautiful youngling, skipping levels in arcade games like Pac-Man or Space Invaders was out of the question. You played from level one, every time. And early puzzle games did not escape the gravity of tradition; you played from puzzle one, every time. At least when I was making Sokobanlike The Citadel, I assigned each level a password so you didn't have to play through the whole game whenever you wanted to have a go. I still clung to three lives and a time limit, though.

In time, the Age of Player Punishment gave way to the Age of Contemplation. We've gone so much further than just skipping levels. Today, unless you’re playing something like a Puzzlescript game, your fancy puzzler is unlikely to force you through a list of non-negotiable challenges. I’ve previously discussed the level select as a tool to review the past; what we’re going to do today is discuss it as a road into the future.

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29Jan/197

Andromeda 14

This is the eighteenth part of The Ouroboros Sequence, a series on puzzle games.

Thursday March 16 2017 might sound just like any other day but you could not be more wrong. Take the first damn bus out of town wrong. It was a real red letter day just like when Gordon Freeman popped up in Half-Life 2. This particular Thursday was the day that saw... the release of Cosmic Express (Hazelden & Davis & Tyu, 2017). Be still my beating heart.

At the time, I did not realise the world had shifted axis. I didn’t rush out to buy this masterpiece because, frankly, I’d already poured my Christmas free time into Recursed (Portponky, 2017) and RYB (FLEB, 2016) and I wasn’t in the mood for another puzzle game. These were the dark days before I had focused my mind on a year-long project writing about puzzles called The Ouroboros Sequence.

Away from the electric puzzles in the real world, we had been house hunting. I’d become obsessed with this Traditional British Sport, studying local price trends, watching for new properties, jumping up and down in excitement whenever I saw a price drop. In truth, I hated house hunting with the kind of passion normally reserved for a Dark Souls boss but... if we were going to do this, we were going to do it right.

Then Cosmic Express designer Alan Hazelden sent me a free Steam key for the game and I was a little... resentful? Please, for the love of God, Alan, do not put this on my bloody plate. My cup of games runneth over.

But I saw others getting excited about Cosmic Express and exchanging stories of grief about how the puzzles were trolling them personally. I was jealous but had other things on my mind. On March 23, I tweeted “When you're reading other people's conversations about @Draknek's Cosmic Express and wish you were playing already.” Rezzed and a holiday in the Lake District were just around the corner.

On March 27, we saw yet another house. But I also loaded Cosmic Express up on my phone, as I felt bad that I hadn’t made use of the free key. It’s not like I was playing anything on the phone anyway.

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