I didn't hire Matt W to write off-topic comments for Electron Dance, but he does it anyway and they're usually worth the pixels they're displayed on. I decided to rescue one particular neglected rant-in-the-comments from Matt and give it its own post. Actually I decided to rescue it last year, but we all know Electron Dance time is the slowest possible time. Anyway, before we get into the rant, Matt would like everyone to know Closure is good and you should play it (if you like platform puzzlers). Happy reading.
Here’s how Closure works. For most of the game, there’s three separate sets of levels that you proceed through linearly. When you start up, there’s an in-engine level select where you walk through a door to one of those sets of levels, then walk to a set of doors to the last level you unlocked, and then a little animation plays as your character turns into the PC for this level. This is kind of annoying to go through every time you boot up especially the “turning into the PC animation” is redundant after the fifth time. But once you’re in the levels, when you finish one you just go on to the next.
When you finish all three sets of levels, another door in the level select screen unlocks, taking you to a new set of harder levels. And when you finish those a giant door in that level select screen unlocks. Therein lies the problem.
The ninth episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.
OMG I’m cheating again. See, I’ve already been playing around with Future Unfolding (Spaces of Play, 2017) at home. And, well, Future Unfolding keeps its cards close to its chest.
What I mean is that it’s difficult to say exactly what the game is. Not that it offers never-seen-before mechanics or innovation that will carve out new genres for others to follow. Future Unfolding is a top-down adventure game with beautiful presentation.
However, the eventual goal completely eludes me and this sense of exploration of the game as artefact is what keeps me interested. That said, there’s plenty of spatial exploration to be done and the game map slowly fills in as you progress. Still a lot of empty space on my map…
The only down note is something better summed up by Philippa Warr in her Rock Paper Shotgun review:
I got into the habit of exploring an area by skirting the edges of the forest, hugging the rock walls to make sure I hadn’t missed anything there and then exploring within. It’s a very different thing to the earlier mindset of running about and converts the experience from something freeform to something more mired in functionality or completionism. That feels wrong here.
The sense of just exploring for the sheer joy of it slowly gives way to the realisation that Important Things are out there which can only be dug out through brute-force search sweeps.
But that's the only thing. I'm still looking forward to discovering what makes Future Unfolding tick.
Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!
Seven years after I wrote A Weaponized Machine about the indie scene snapping in twain over the proposed $100 fee to access Greenlight, it's Groundhog Day again. Steam are finally jettisoning Greenlight into the yellow light of the sun, like Teh Gabe promised a while back, and will be allowing developers to upload games directly into the heart of Steam with a service called Steam Direct. All that crowdsourcing bollocks is out the window.
But worries about FAKE GAMES and Steam's reputation persist and so instead of the $100 access fee for Greenlight there will now be... ta da an as-yet-undetermined publishing fee. And thus the indie "community" is once again at each other’s throats.
Last time this happened, I got rather sentimental about the passing of an indie golden age, with all its group hugs, hippie values and shit like that. Can’t get sentimental about what never came back, so what can I add to the conversation this time?
I can rant.
Welcome to the Electron Dance Advent calendar. Each day will bring another post from the archives.
Have you read The Beautiful Dead posted on 12 November 2013?
During the rise of the "walking simulator", I felt that environmental narrative was acquiring far too much prominence, sometimes verging on worship. So I wrote about the role of environmental narrative in videogame storytelling and how, really, it was just a very good kludge.
From the comments:
- Jonas Kyratzes "Mamet’s advice is cowardly, empty-headed bullshit"
- Amanda Lange "Wow. That last paragraph. Love it."
- Eric Brasure: "Dark Souls does this amazingly well. Joel, just play it already."
- Robert Yang: "Hahaha you hear my voice in your head? Awesome."
On Monday, I tweeted that while Thumper (Drool, 2016) looked and sounded great, I had already decided I wasn’t putting myself through that. I didn’t want the stress.
The next day I put myself through THOTH (Carlsen Games, 2016), a twin-stick arena shooter with an important twist. Normally, shooting is the act of cleaning. Not here. In THOTH, shooting is the act of making your life fucking worse.
So I had this week's post Arithmophobia in my head for months as “write some words on how RPG numbers put me off playing” using The Story of Thor and Dark Souls as examples from different sides of the numerical wall. It was meant to be short, more about these individual games, but something happened on the way to the Publish button: I started to question why those numbers were important.
I had no conclusion so instead turned the ending into an invitation to discuss. And a lot of people got in touch, through the comments and on Twitter. This has been great and helped sharpen up my thoughts.
This post is a more structured take on RPG stats than the original Arithmophobia, touching on different aspects such as grind, feedback, accessibility and more. It was supposed to be short. Who would have guessed that evaluating the role of numbers in an RPG turns out to be a goddamn rabbit hole...
To show I’m not biased against numbers, I’m going to number every subsection. P.S. I also have a PhD in mathematics.
Tony Van was the producer in charge of localizing a Japanese RPG called The Story of Thor: Hikari wo Tsugu Mono (Ancient, 1994) for Western audiences, but received a badly translated copy of the story to work from.
In an interview for the The Game Localization Handbook, he explained: “I tried my hardest to figure it out, but was completely baffled. I was under extreme time pressure to get it out for Christmas, so I didn’t have time to contact the Japanese office to track down the original source and get it re-translated. I simply rewrote the story and dialogue using all the plot points I could understand as references and writing that sounded good to me when I didn’t understand the plot points!”
Instead of the action taking place in “the world of Thor”, the English translation located everything in “the land of Oasis” and the game was sold in North America as Beyond Oasis. Someone decided it would sell better in Europe under its original title of The Story of Thor: A Successor of the Light except it left thousands of European Sega Megadrive owners with a mystery: who the bloody Hell is Thor?
I will forever remember it as The Story of Thor because Thor is one of my personal favourites. I’ve played through it three times: the first time was in 1994 as the academic chapter of my life was coming to a close; the second time in 2006 as pure comfort gaming on an emulator; the third time, this year, was a performance for my children, who enjoyed the watching but had little interest in the doing. It can now be bought on Steam for a couple of dollars.
This recent and perhaps final playthrough was illuminating because I was simultaneously playing… dun-dun-duuuunnnn Dark Souls (From Software, 2011).
Electron Dance reader Ketchua brought Cradle (Flying Cafe for Semianimals, 2015) to my attention many years ago and something about its look stood out. Its release last year seem to go largely unnoticed although Adam Smith gave it a glowing review on Rock Paper Shotgun.
Cradle is gripping, featuring a complex sci-fi story that is serious and unexpectedly bleak: but holy Jesus it has some problems.
Making whacking great changes to a game is risky at any stage of its development. Once the earliest of early access enthusiasts have wired their brains to take advantages of a game’s mathematics or physics - choose your scientific class wisely - the spectre of player resistance is present.
But updates are also welcomed because they offer something new to see, to explore, to learn.
Although my love for Minecraft had withered over the last six months, I was excited to find out what was in Minecraft 1.9. The last update introduced stained glass. What would this one bring?
It brought us beetroot, a major retooling of The End and the worst Minecraft session I have ever experienced.
I am helpless before The Witness (Thelka, 2016). I don’t mean it’s difficult, I mean I just can’t stop playing it. It presses my buttons hard. It’s a miracle I can tear myself away to write something about it.
Here are some key points about what The Witness is and why it’s good. I'll talk a little about structure, but won't spoil any of the puzzle solutions so you can read with impunity.