Electron Dance
5Nov/195

Discussion: Fetch Quests For A Dead World

Welcome to the teensy-weensy-late October newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):

You end up wandering back and forth all the time, taking an object here and an object there. It doesn’t feel like you’re solving puzzles - it feels like you’re fulfilling fetch quests for a dead world.

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  1. The links! Such glorious links! Well, also one of the twitter threads.

    Guildmaster story: Wow! I’m almost at the end (I’ve been kind of holding off to savor it), and it’s just such a funny game. I don’t really care for the game-game very much, and the story can be uneven and just very goose-y, but it’s just so potent at times that I can’t help but love it. I’m not always sure if it’s good satire per se, but then it lands a joke or wry observation that puts it over the top again. I’m surprised you didn’t tweet about the Uncle Ron segment. There were so many gems: “No, Uncle Ron! There are no files! There is no on!” (#17).

    Re. I Live Again – easy choice to follow. AE was great! The content of the post was interesting, but depressing as all get out. Remind me to never try to create anything because everything has already been done! Maybe? Games are for playing, not for making! ontopic link: http://www.spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants.html

    Upgrading phones: I feel seen. That’s good, right?

    Beyond the sundry links:
    I’m excited about your next Subnautica piece. Will it push me to A. Replay the game from scratch, maybe in ironman; B. Buy the new Subnautica, early access be damned; C. Learn to resist the siren call of the sea; or D. B & C but not A, except on Tuesdays in which case not C? (I don’t know why my students don’t like my multiple choice tests)

    Your Kona chat convinced me to uninstall the game, since it had already moved to a folder of random shortcuts that aren’t recent or exciting enough to be in the pile of random desktop shortcuts. It’s a harsh world out there for game makers!

  2. Frob? …frob. New word get!

    *forgets new word immediately because retaining learning as an adult is apparently impossible*

    *single tear*

    I played Verde Station recently! On recommendation de votre website, I believe. I’m not really one for shaggy dog stories but the ending did make me smile.

    I wonder if you’re interested in the PC-bound Death Stranding at all, Joel. The plot seems to be peak Kojima impenetrability, but I was taken by this (not-a-spoiler) bit from the Eurogamer review:

    “Sam trudges across this unsettling, beautiful space, bringing packages from one place to another. That really is the substance of Death Stranding: fetch quests. It could almost be a parody of rote open-world game design, but it turns out that Kojima Productions is deadly serious about it. It wants the simple act of navigating this world, from A to B, to be challenging and evocative. It is. Sam must carry his load on his back, stacked high, and he must bring the equipment he needs with him, too: weaponry, ladders, climbing ropes, supplies, spare boots in case his wear out. He has finite stamina and endurance reserves, and you need to think about weight distribution and balance. The landscape is rugged, so you need to plot your routes carefully, pulling the controller’s triggers to keep Sam on an even keel. Climbing is hard, but descending is more dangerous still, and if you topple your cargo may be damaged.

    It is steady, hypnotic stuff. Some may find it boring. I enjoy hiking myself and found it startlingly true-to-life to pick my way through the rocky outcrops, footfall by footfall. The maps encourage this, being convincingly organic, meticulously designed and completely open. I liked the game best when I planned a circuitous route for a delivery and was rewarded with a long, lonely walk through silent, beautiful views; or when I figured out that I could shortcut a very long delivery by taking a risky, gruelling trek through a high mountain pass. The loop is one of careful preparation – selecting your equipment, optimising your load, planning your route – followed by the journey. It’s fair to say that it can be pretty dry, and the micromanagement can be onerous. But at its rigorous best, Death Stranding reframes your relationship with an open-world landscape in much the same way that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild did.”

    Now that’s pretty interesting, no? It seems we might actually have a game that Simulates Walking on our hands (/feet).

    This ‘dead world’ terminology intrigues me. Would you say Bioshock’s Rapture qualifies? It’s full of splicers and radio chatter, but you don’t really meet ‘people’ as much as encounter tightly scripted plot moments.

    … have you been trying to steal shopping trolleys?

    Watching Vic Davis’s career unfold (at least the parts he helpfully documented) was a little like watching someone go into the basement in a horror movie. He’s a good writer, which is probably why I remember those posts and their general trajectory of ‘here’s why all I need is the long tail’, ‘here’s why I don’t need to make my games in an engine designed for making games’, ‘Steam won’t accept my Adobe Director games so I’m burning my bridges with them because who needs to be on Steam!’, ‘well I’m not selling enough videogames, board games will surely be an easier market to crack!’. His confidence was always compelling.

    It’s easy for me to smugly pontificate about what he ‘obviously’ did wrong, but who actually knows anything? Not me, that’s for certain. I’m sure there’s a universe in which his decisions were rewarded by the caprices of the market. It’s sad that if he had risen to prominence just a few years later he could have thrown his games on Steam and nobody at Valve would even have noticed what they were made with.

  3. Dan

    That’s why Guildmaster Story gets the question marks because I pretty much hate playing the Match-3 game. It is serviceable but not very compelling. I think I had some Uncle Ron screenshots on hand but I decided I didn’t want to show everything.

    I still had Vic Davis’ blog RSS in my Feedly and it suddenly spluttered into life this week. I’d forgotten all about Vic even though I wrote a whole series about Armageddon Empires on Electron Dance (it is missing the final chapter). It’s such a shame to “lose” Vic a second time like this, I wasn’t that happy when he decided he gave up on games the first time. Will check out your story link later…

    I’ve been resisting playing the new Subnautica in early access. It was easy initially, because I was done with the game – but I’ve now got the hankering to explore a new undersea habitat as I have been dabbling with Subnautica for the article and the recent status update video. I will continue to resist.

    I’ll let you know if Kona picks up later. I’m definitely going to finish it.

    CA

    Wild Detour: I think I picked up “frob” from Thief as it was part of technical nomenclature of the game.

    Wild Detour over.

    Oh, nice to hear I got someone new to play Verde Station. I still really like it and wrote a piece comparing Ethan Carter and Verde Station almost five years ago now.

    I did pick up on the brouhaha that Death Stranding was about walking around a lot. I must admit I hadn’t twigged that it might be precisely my kind of thing until your comment. So thanks for that! I’ve never played a Kojima.

    The “dead world” moniker relates to my old piece The Beautiful Dead which opens with a picture of Rapture! My view was that these worlds are emptied of rational life because that’s difficult to do. So you get beautiful worlds – our modern games offer such wonderful sights – but offer no people because that’s much harder to implement without breaking a sense of immersion™.

    I have not stolen shopping trolleys but I have inadvertently run one of those trolleys over the line and it’s like you’ve run into superglue.

    On Vic Davis, I’m just sad we don’t get to see any more of his game design.

  4. I’ve just fixed the Armageddon Empires link in my previous comment. It was borked.

  5. @CA, Death Stranding interests me greatly, although I was indifferent to all the pre-release buzz. I’m no big fan of Kojima; bounced right off Sons of Liberty but loved the first MGS. From what I’ve seen and read it reminds me of a few games. Viscera Clean-up Detail, where the core gameplay loop is basically a job (made more interesting by the environments); Spintires, where every metre is hard won, man vs landscape; and Miasmata, where inertia and tumbling make every step and slope a problem. The arty, weird sci-fi angle I’m a sucker for too. That reminds me, I still need to play ECHO.

    To be fair, I thought Joel’s newsletter was going to be all about the Death Stranding brouhaha so I’m glad it got mentioned here.

    @Joel, I only finished GRIS about three weeks ago and despite it being only a few hours long it outstayed its welcome. It was very pretty but I also found it very dull. A bit like Journey. Abzu I enjoyed more than both.

    I too am waiting patiently for Below Zero and ‘frob’ is also a Thief term for me!


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