Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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15Jul/1812

Virgin Lands

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

Opus Magnum

In the last two Ouroboros essays, we’ve talked about how puzzle design iteration is innovative and examined a particular design lineage.

In this article, effectively the final part of a trilogy on puzzle innovation, I want to head away from well-worn genres and talk about designs which feel more fresh.

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10Jul/180

Figure It Out

A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build

A few weeks ago I published The Developers Who Won’t Hold Your Hand which discussed design considerations around a growing subgenre of games that leave the player to figure out the mechanics. I made use of droqen’s term “discoverable systems” because, frankly, we didn’t have one.

This was based on a number of interviews comprising over 5,000 words in total. That meant I had to cut a lot of words, even interesting stuff.

But recycling is good for us, so I’m presenting some of these lost words in a separate post.

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20Jun/186

The Developers Who Won’t Hold Your Hand

Starseed Pilgrim

Reviews of Starseed Pilgrim were fixated on its sense of mystery rather than its challenging core. It became an indie title notorious for inscrutability and dividing players into two camps, The Ah-Ha-I-Geddits and The Emperor-Has-No-Clothesies. Starseed Pilgrim was intended as a B-side to another game, Probability 0, so becoming the latest indie game talking point in 2012 was a surprise to its developer, Alexander ‘droqen’ Martin. But its design was no accident.

“There was an article marvelling at the way Half-Life 2 guides the player through its first level through design that makes the 'right path' apparent. The wrong paths were, of course, dead ends, and the seemingly open level is actually very linear,” Martin tells me. “Anyway, I thought that was gross and stupid and decided that was the antithesis of everything I wanted to accomplish.”

“I didn't add instruction because I believed in what I can only describe now as 'discoverable systems'. Systems, rulesets, that are interesting to discover yourself and which you wouldn't want to have spoiled by instruction.”

While the AAA industry gravitated towards telling the player exactly what to do sometimes to the point of alienating them (Dead Space’s ‘cut off the limbs’ anyone?), indie games have been consciously exploring what happens when the player is left to their own devices. What are the benefits for players - and the risks for developers?

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