Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights

13Dec/1817

Dead in the Water

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

The Steam store page for genius puzzle game Recursed (Portponky, 2016) highlights two reviews.

One is my very own, published on Rock Paper Shotgun. I wrote “Recursed’s brilliance is how it spawns complexity from a few simple constraints.”

The other is from the one and only Jonathan Blow who worked on a puzzle game you might have heard about. “I played for a while,” wrote Blow, “but it seemed really slow / simple.”

I’m only going to warn you once. Strap yourselves in.

Read More »

13Nov/1819

The Monte Carlo Player

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

Monte Carlo simulation is a statistical technique where we let a computer rip through hundreds or thousands of randomized experiments, revealing a rich timescape of alternate futures from which we can make deductions. It’s a way of breaking an impasse of uncertainty in a problem. For example, we can use Monte Carlo methods to determine the fair price for a complex financial option whose payoff depends on the future movements of a stock.

And it struck me, as I was making random stabs at a level in Stephen’s Sausage Roll (Increpare Games, 2016), that puzzle enthusiasts engage in a similar exercise.

Read More »

8Nov/188

Tears for John Marston

On the suggestion of Andy Durdin, I'm reposting this essay from last week's newsletter onto the site. We've already had a little chat about it on the newsletter discussion page.

Did Rockstar impose 100-hour weeks on its employees or not? I don’t know, especially since Rockstar told its staff to fill the airwaves with happy stories of their Utopian Workscape. On their own time, I assume. I'm pretty sure they won't have enough free time to read Jason Schreier’s 10,000-word Kotaku investigation which alleges Rockstar employees were certainly put through serious crunch.

But whether Rockstar whips employees into 100-hour weeks or not is besides the point. We already know long hours are endemic to the AAA industry. Crunch and burnout are staples of a career in big box games. We’ve been told the tales about Telltale, EA, Team Bondi... but has any of this naming and shaming made any difference? My dismissal of the latest AAA death march team story might be mistaken for apathy. It is not.

Read More »

Filed under: Longform 8 Comments
24Sep/189

Side by Side: Birdsketball

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the fourth series, episode 9 of 11.

We reckon this is probably the most entertaining game of the series for spectators - and probably our second favourite game of the entire series, our favourite being rolled out in the final episode. Joel Goodwin of Electron Dance and Gregg Burnell of Tap-Repeatedly shoot some hoops, score some goals and flap those little wings in Birdsketball from Waynetron.

Very reminiscent of Pong, Birdsketball is crisp and handles wonderfully. Oh my God. So. Much. Fun. You have got to watch this.

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

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.

17Sep/183

Black Hole Heart

I went into the mobile title Holedown (grapefrukt, 2018) blind, having only heard a constant stream of praise and excitement for it from game dev Twitter. I’m not usually one for the herd so I kept my distance from it until last week, needing something new to fondle during my commute.

Holedown turned out to be the latest spin on Breakout (Atari, 1976) or what is more commonly referred to as a “brick-breaker” these days as I guess Breakout is totes old and some variations like Peggle (PopCap, 2007) maintain only a tenuous link to Breakout. The last Breakout game I really loved was Shatter (Sidhe Interactive, 2009) although I should admit I got a little buzz, more recently, out of Peggle.

Holedown, though, had me by the throat and wouldn’t let go.

Well, for three days, at least.

Read More »

9Sep/188

Graveyard

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

Riddle me this. Aside from being logic puzzle games, what links the following titles?

Correct! They are all games I intended to finish but, instead, I never click on their desktop shortcuts, rendering part of my desktop a puzzle graveyard. But are they really dead?

Read More »

30Aug/180

Evergarden Evergrinding

I’m going to talk about a puzzle game today but, no, SHOCKER, this isn’t an episode of The Ouroboros Sequence. I want to talk about a specific design choice for recent release Evergarden (Flippfly, 2018) and muse on whether it’s inspired, bullshit or mostly harmless.

As you might know if you’ve watched my recent E/TX stream, Evergarden is a discoverable systems game which means I'm going to have to spoil some of it. Press on if you’re an Evergarden fan or you don’t mind the smell of fresh spoilers in the morning.

Read More »

Filed under: Longform No Comments
22Aug/188

The Glory of the Infinite Sea

This is the first part of the Subnautica Season. This essay contains spoilers for the early hours of Subnautica and describes the limitations of the game’s environment.

John Lilly

The guy who says he can talk to dolphins

Said he was in an aquarium

And there was this big whale

Swimming around and around in his tank

And the whale kept asking him questions

Telepathically

And one of the questions the whale kept asking was

"Do all oceans have walls?"

“John Lilly”, Laurie Anderson

In the beginning, there was the escape pod.

And lo, it was good. It was so good, I wanted to live inside the pod forever. However, my rations consisted of two weetabix. For dessert, a slice of starvation.

There was no choice but to leave the womb so I popped open the overhead hatch - and beheld the great glory of the infinite sea.

Read More »

Filed under: Longform 8 Comments
8Aug/188

The Laboratory of Logic

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

In the “secret” addendum video to The Unbearable Now, I briefly mentioned I liked how the panel puzzles in The Witness (Thekla Inc, 2016) felt like little laboratories. That is, each puzzle was a self-contained experiment and it was practically encouraged to review them.

In fact, most logic puzzles can be framed as laboratories in the same way, but few games embrace this as well as The Witness.

Read More »

25Jul/1819

Repetitive Strain

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

Chromatron 4

Sooooo… I was trying to put together a few words building on some of the Ouroboros comment discussions. It started out as a short thought experiment but I kept expanding on it until I realised this was sort of a deep dive. Welcome to inside baseball, puzzle edition.

Do not think of this as My Magnum Opus Thesis of Puzzle Design but just a guy trying to get a handle on certain concepts. I’m happy to be shot down, have a contradiction identified or be told I’ve forgotten something.

Let's talk about the “laboriousness” of turn-based logic puzzles, because if a puzzle feels like hard work, you’re more likely to throw in the towel rather than complete the thing. The idea of a puzzle as a chore keeps coming up. Compare the "laboriousness" of Sokoban to something like a contemporary laser reflection puzzle.

But what do we mean by laboriousness? What causes it?

Read More »