Electron Dance
1Jun/2017

Discussion: Lest Ye Be Judged

Welcome to the slightly late May newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):

You might want to set a limit of a couple of hours for your child, but apparently her friends are allowed to play four hours of Animal Crossing: New Horizons straight. Then there’s the kid who seemingly plays whenever he wants. When he wakes up. When it’s time for lunch. When it’s time for bed. When it’s morning in Tokyo.

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  1. I think that as a pre-teen, my interests were so unfathomable to my parents that playing Treasure Island Dizzy on a Spectrum 48 was indistinguishable from comp sci PHD from MIT. Bed time means nothing in the face of such erudition.

  2. I had a more enlightened Dad, unfortunately, who could easily tell the difference between computer work and computer play. He could also hear me turning of the TV pretty sharpish as he sprinted up the stairs to check if I was in bed reading…

  3. This is not to call your parents unenlightened, MrB. I’m not in the business of maligning the families of commenters.

  4. Feel free, I won’t tell them.

  5. Publishers are increasingly weaponising Fear of Missing Out through swingeing grinds in Battle Passes/Seasons, as a way of boosting retention and average hours per player (and doubtless push exasperated parents towards the level-boosting store).

    Battlepasses of course being the ‘ethical’ alternative monetisation scheme to blind purchasing: we thought we had won a hard victory over loot boxes, – and really we did, no thanks to your Pontius-ing about, games media – but of course it turned out to be a devil’s bargain. Almost as if the industry were out to prove that they really were just trying to save us some time after all – ha.

    I think I gave up on indie as an extant category when Double Fine became a publisher – so they were still indie, but were the studios they published..? – and then sold up to Microsoft, and then dumped all their publishees on the side of the road. I declare myself indiefferent on the whole debate.

  6. Yeah, CA, I keep trying to make this point to my son that they’re trying to get you to play as much as possible, eat up your time. And a season is effectively a reset to your score. Start again. In ye olde days, people were excited for new maps: same game, different environment. The hype around the new season feels really strange, like the game is actually boring and it needs to be spiced up with a reboot of content. I may be misjudging, but it does feel like my son isn’t in it for gameplay, but for the peer prestige from levelling up, and spending time with friends. He would utterly dispute my characterisation here, though.

    My earliest misgivings about the “indie” label emerged when indies became desperate to get listed on Steam, because those platforms were starting to feel like publishers – being there was a big marketing boost – and you were somewhat beholden to whatever Valve wanted to do it with the portal. I think we all have our own ideas of what “feels” indie to them, but no one could ever agree on what it means anymore.

  7. I had some things to say about this (I am the bad parent), and also about difficulty, but it feels like we are tiptoeing around the big story… namely, that I have just acquired ALL THE GAMES. Thoughts?

  8. (If you have not acquired all the games, and you have some interest in acquiring all the games, and somehow you get your game-acquiring news by reading my ED comments within ten hours and not from anywhere else which also means you must be living under a very specific rock, the bundle lasts for ten more hours.

    Also, there’s this puzzle triathlon thing that says demos for A Monster’s Expedition, Kine, and Bonfire Peaks are free on Steam, but I can’t actually find them on Steam? How does one get the demos?)

  9. Quick one Matt, as I’m suffering from a painful stomach bug, I think the demos are part of the Steam Summer Festival which starts tomorrow. I retweeted Gwen’s tweet before checking there were no demos up right now…

  10. Oh gosh, Joel, get well soon!

  11. ALL THE GAMES: Some thoughts, spread across comments.

    FIRST THOUGHT: Someone should write a guide to guides to this bundle. I’ve looked at John Walker’s at Buried Treasure and Carl Muckenhoupt’s at The Stack (wurb.com) and I guess at the original one that Leaf of itch.io posted on Twitter.

    SPECIFIC THOUGHT ABOUT A GAME: John Walker says of Ethereal, “a puzzle game where the puzzle selection screen is a puzzle, and where the puzzle selection screen selection screen is a puzzle.”

    I DIDN’T SAY THAT IT WOULD BE MY SPECiFIC THOUGHT: n/t

    MY THOUGHT ABOUT THAT THOUGHT: Those are selection screens? Gosh.

    NEXT UP: Some exploratoryory games: Vignettes, Windosill, Mu Cartographer, and maybe Gorogoa which AFAIK is not in this bundle!

  12. I didn’t buy the bundle at the end, on the grounds that I’d be more than doubling my backlog at a stroke. Can you even consider it a backlog at that point? Does it become some parallel thing, and infinite void, a dimension door? You could spend the rest of your life quantum leaping through all those games.

    I actually got a little depressed scrolling through the list looking at title after title I’d never heard of. All these games by all these people trying to realise their creative dreams – each one representing God knows how many hours of craft and exertion, only to sink without trace into the ocean of games. Follow your dream, kids! I know this is totally my solipsistic viewpoint and many of these projects may well have fulfilled their creators’ ambitions, but all of them? A significant percentage?

  13. One thing I like about it, CA, is it doesn’t add all the games to your library. Basically it’s unlocking them to be claimed for free later, should you choose them. So to me it didn’t feel like a backlog addition. More like a free upgrade to Itch.io Prime if you make a charity donation.

    I was happy to chuck a couple of games into the bundle. It’s surfaced my stuff *far* more than sinking it. I’ve had more downloads from the bundle than my whole 4 or 5 years on itch combined. That feels nice.

    …And believe it or not, I have more actual itch sales during the bundle than I’ve had all year.

  14. …hang on, that last statement isn’t correct. 31% of my itch sales this year happened during the bundle. That’s still super cool! To be clear though, these aren’t big numbers. Very small fry. The main thing I’m happy about is that the bundle did amazingly well for the BLM cause.

  15. Ah, yeah, I did gloss over the rather significant aspect of the charitable proceeds and ongoing world events. $8 million is some serious fundraising. Glad to hear that you did get some sales too though!

  16. CLIX’N’WIGGLES: So I… do not love Vignettes. It was the first thing I downloaded, I finished two pictures and two-thirds of the underwater content (which granted from your old post is not the strongest part, though unlocking it was my favorite thing) and then I started doing other things.

    Two issues I have which connect to the other mystery games. One, there didn’t seem to be enough to do on the main screens for the most part. In Windosill and GNOG there may be only one thing you can do to advance toward completion, but there’s a ton of little eyeball kicks going on elsewhere. In Mu Cartographer which to my surprise I absolutely loved, it may be absolutely opaque what you can do for a while, but you can do enough irrelevant things to the central doodad that you could treat it as a toy without worrying about progressing toward the ending. Vignette separates its Toy Mode interactions into the closeups which I think aren’t always connected to main progression? So insofar as I want to progress I’m on these screens where the only thing to do is rotate the object and maybe click for an interaction, but it’s not always obvious when you can click for an interaction.

    Two, the changes seemed too opaque to me. In Gorogoa (not I think in the bundle!) there was a lot of moon logic, but you could say “Hey, this irregular shape/texture/whatever goes with this one” and go from there. Most of what I accomplished in Vignettes was less “You can rotate this lamp so it looks like a sailboat” and more “You can rotate this thing so it’s a perfect circle, and then it might transform into a different thing that’s a perfect circle.” Maybe that’s a question of me going into it with the wrong expectations, but it felt like I was often just pushing things around without a plan–like the game was playing me rather than vice versa.

    Part of this may be playing on a computer for long stretches rather than mobile! Andrew Plotkin has observed that Vectorpark-style click and wiggles don’t translate as well to mobile as might be thought, because on mobile there’s no “something happens when you hover over it” effect. (Or maybe he was talking about room escapes. Same idea.)

  17. Interesting, Matt. Interesting. Maybe I didn’t have that experience of “disappointment” as my first experience of Vignettes was hands-on at Rezzed where I learnt that my task was to find all the possible featureless silhouettes – it’s been that game for me from the start. And as I wrote before, I felt that Vignettes was a kind of exploration, trying to piece together a map of transformations. My initial reaction to Vignettes was more like yours though, a little “so what”. But the further I got in and the more of the game’s secrets I began to piece together – well, I never looked back.

    I did play a bit on the PC version for the article and didn’t feel bothered by the new controls but… I was already very comfortable with the game by that point, having completed it on mobile.


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