Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights


One Step Forward, One Step Back


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.

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One Point Nine


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.

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Filed under: Longform 21 Comments

Early Thoughts on The Witness


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.

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Chekhov’s Collectible

GTA 3 hidden package

“One of the weirdest / saddest design exp I had: [Bioshock 2] playtesters carefully loot every container for hours, then report hating every moment.”

-- Zak McClendon, Lead Designer on Bioshock 2

The car smashes through the glass front of Easy Credit Autos and I brake to a halt. I hop out of the car, run to the back of the showroom and grab the package. Nothing happens. No one wants this package. No one even gets upset at the damage, which will be repaired without fuss while I am away.

I was a moth to the dull flame of the hidden packages of GTA III (Rockstar, 2001), pieces of virtual tat that simply add one to a meaningless counter. I continued to burn rubber for hour after hour until I had found every last package.

They’re just one example of the now ubiquitous collectible. Today I’d like to introduce the collective noun for the collectible: a fucking plague.

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Talos, 3: Where The Words End, The World Ends

This is the final part of a three-part essay on The Talos Principle which includes commentary from writers Jonas Kyratzes and Tom Jubert. The first part and second parts were posted earlier this week.


“There was nothing here when I first arrived. Did you know that?”

After completing The Talos Principle, I immediately bought The Road to Gehenna. Whereas I played Talos over nine months, I was more aggressive in working through Gehenna, tearing through it in a matter of weeks... although I fear the word “tear” has overstated my skills. It would be more accurate to write I “oozed through it like syrup”.

Gehenna is incredible. It’s so good that I now tend to think of Talos as a prequel to Gehenna.

Spoilers for The Talos Principle and The Road to Gehenna follow.

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Talos, 2: I Am The Words

This is the second part of a three-part essay on The Talos Principle which includes commentary from writers Jonas Kyratzes and Tom Jubert. The first part was posted yesterday.

Talos-P2-QR-2014-12-12 01-43-36-50

“I see now that none of us are yet ready. The cycle exists so that we may improve ourselves. But the one who reaches the summit is not our superior, for they stand on our shoulders to reach it.”

-- The Shepherd v82.6.0174

When I first saw the QR texts, I sighed. Jesus, not another game with it’s-not-exposition-honest-guv graffiti on the wall! I initially paid little attention to them, reading them out of a completist need to do everything. But gradually I realised the walls held stories.

Spoilers for The Talos Principle follow.

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Talos, 1: The Words Made The World

This is the first part of a three-part essay on The Talos Principle which includes commentary from writers Jonas Kyratzes and Tom Jubert.

Talos Beams

“In the beginning were the Words, and the Words made the world. I am the Words. The Words are everything. Where the Words end the world ends. You cannot go forward in an absence of space. Repeat.”

The most glorious moment in The Talos Principle (Croteam, 2014) is one that comes again and again. The moment occurs when a “sigil” is liberated from a devious puzzle, but the sigil itself is an empty token of advancement, the kind of dull trinket that games thrive on. No. The sigil has no power.

Turn around. Don’t speed on to the next challenge, just stop. Turn around and survey the glorious red and blue stitchwork you've sewn across the puzzle. Look at this ingenious thing you have made and be proud.

Spoilers for The Infinite Ocean and The Talos Principle follow.

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Stop Making Sequels

spider shrouded moon

The critically-lauded sequel to the critically-lauded Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor (Tiger Style, 2009) has not done very well. When Tale of Tales had their own very public failure a little while back I wasn't sure we should draw any larger conclusions aside from "making money in videogames is hard, The End." The failure of Tiger Style to capitalise on a six-year old success is being called out as the dead canary emerging from the coal mine that is the mobile game market. THE INDIEPOCALYPSE IS HERE, IT'S REAL AND IT'S NOT JUST GOING TO EAT YOUR LUNCH - BUT ALSO YOUR CHILDREN'S LUNCH.

I'm still not sure we should draw any larger conclusions aside-- wait, wait. Let's think about this.

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Filed under: Longform 12 Comments

Minecraft Is About Transcending Minecraft

Gregory Avery-Weir is the developer behind titles such as Looming and Ossuary and wrote the following essay about the role of Minecraft mods in defining what Minecraft is. I asked Avery-Weir if I could repost it here as I thought it was an interesting addendum to "The Minecraft Industrial Revolution."


I first played Minecraft in 2009 back when it was an Infiniminer clone being developed on the Tigsource forums. It was immediately clear to a bunch of people that it was something special but no one could have guessed what the game would become in just a few years. It may be the most popular game of all time. It’s definitely the most popular game among kids right now. Odd, then, that most of the Minecraft experience is about not playing Minecraft.

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The Strange Case of the Roguelike Suicide


Perhaps you’re at home. Perhaps you’re on a train. The location doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’re enjoying your current favourite rogueish-type-like. You think you’re on top of your game, got all the enemy moves figured out. Yeah, baby, you know what to do.

And then something goes horribly wrong.

You just click, click, click quickly through three moves in one go, as if you’re trying to beat the computer before it gets in a countermove.

And of course you don't get to be quicker than the computer because the game is turn-based. No, you get to die. You die, because you were stupid.

You’ve just experienced a brain phenomenon I call the roguerush. What the hell happened there?

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