Electron Dance
1Aug/2019

Discussion: Patience of a Thief

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I didn’t finish the demo, unwilling to risk the wrath of whatever stalked the dank and uninspiring Gloomsewers. I felt I had been toiling within its systems rather than dancing with them - and the demo was graveyarded.

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  1. “For me, being seen in Thief almost always meant an instant reload. That’s always how I’ve rolled.”
    Dillon Rogers omitted a save-anywhere option* in Gloomwood specifically to forestall this play style. I argued vociferously with him about that decision, because I think it’s thoroughly misguided. On easy difficulty you have a music box in your inventory that allows you to save anywhere, but ironically it’s much less useful then because the enemies are also easier! Oh well.

    My play style in Thief changed over the decades, but in recent years has been quicksaving often but reloading pretty much only on death: so that I have to deal with getting seen, but I don’t have to retread much. I wanted to play Gloomwood in this style too. I wanted to play on a harder difficulty, to have the extra challenge of dealing with more and more threatening enemies! But the extra stress of knowing I’d have to retread parts I’d already successfully got past—due to the fixed save points—is not something I enjoy. So, easy mode it was.

    The lack of vertical exploration quite annoyed me. Everywhere I tried to climb I found invisible walls. A later note suggests that there’ll be rooftops in later levels, but I’m reticent to assume that’ll mean a more open and freeform level design or just a change of scenery. Given the structure of this first level, I expect the latter more than the former. Oh well.

    I didn’t mind the sewers at all; I always tend to enjoy “forbidden” spaces: sewers, catwalks, steam tunnels… (I really should play Infra, shouldn’t I?). Of course sewers can be spatially uninteresting, just as streets can; for me the Deus Ex catacombs fail because they’re a boring space, not because they’re catacombs. The sewers in Gloomwood seemed to be going for a spooky vibe that does little for me, but otherwise I though them okay.

    Overall I enjoyed my time with the Gloomwood demo, but I agree with your final sentiment: it doesn’t quite seem to have a character of its own just yet.

  2. The coincidence of digging out my I old Thief FM sketches, maps, notes and ideas, and playing the Gloomwood demo gave me a massive Thief rush over the last month or so. I never realised just how much that Dark Engine aesthetic resonates with me.

    My recent gaming history has gone something like this: I played the Gloomwood demo, bought Thief: The Dark Project and The Metal Age on GOG (also coincidental sale), messed around with a bunch of mods and ‘improvements’ but eventually settled on something close to pure vanilla (TFix Lite), then I played quite a bit of The Dark Mod which is just a remarkable achievement that I’m itching to get back to. Through all this I was acutely aware that I hadn’t played through the Dishonored DLC or the sequel(s) yet, despite owning them. At some point I saw shackleton on Twitter mention he was playing through Dishonored again and, well, that felt like a sign, so I decided to do the same (Mat C joined me as well).

    I read your article on ‘lethal’ Dishonored again Joel and I just couldn’t reconcile ‘Lord Protector’ with Dunwall mass murderer so ended up playing (mostly) non-lethal again, and righting some old mistakes this time. I’m just on the brink of finishing the Brigmore Witches (the last DLC for the original game). While my days with Twitter are numbered, I hope to do a Dishonored thread at some point touching on some of my thoughts while playing it again.

    But, uh, thanks Gloomwood for the massive diversion! :-)

    ANYWAY. Gloomwood. Having just quicksaved the crap out of Dishonored I… I’ve got to say, I love the gramophone save points system for a ‘Thief-like’, because it basically encourages you to be more careful and cautious, and own minor slip ups, but it also adds some bite to outright failure. While I totally get the frustration of not wanting to replay sections you’ve already done, or simply not having time to, I don’t think you can uncouple that without losing some tension and ‘failure ownership’.

    I do wonder how I’d play Thief now, and that includes The Dark Mod. Years ago Thief scared the crap out of me and it was super tense, but at the time I don’t think I was quicksaving every step like I believe I would now. I tried avoiding quicksaving like this in Dishonored but my chief concern was disrupting (or even missing/misunderstanding bits of) ‘eavesdrop conversations’ which can add such flavour to the world. ‘Going loud’ (or lethal), or messing things up and triggering all nearby guards potentially crushes those bits of worldbuilding so that’s why I ended up quicksaving a lot. Virtual FOMO I suppose!

    I enjoyed my time with the Gloomwood demo. Felt like Thief meets Sir, You Are Being Hunted. I wish I’d played it on a harder difficulty because when your only verb is kill and you have so much ammo you can blast your way through the world, it saps the pace and tension and also renders those alternative approaches/routes a bit pointless. I still sneaked around, but mostly out of habit and to save ammo ‘just in case’. I quite liked the sewers, but thankfully it was a relatively small area. Was pretty creepy though. The weapons felt surprisingly satisfying, particularly the reload animations. I also liked the rucksack inventory detail, even if it was a bit clunky to navigate.

    You’re definitely right about the lack of people walking around. That was one of the best things about Bafford’s Manor (also the demo, if I remember rightly): the guards just chatting and not immediately running you down. The servant walking through the streets to the manor, the drunk guard and his ‘How’s it going?’ mate on patrol. Even the ambient noise of folk indoors merrymaking made the world so much more alive than it really was.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out though! In the meantime, I’ve got all this other Thief-y goodness to play…

    I hope you’ve been feeling better lately Joel!

  3. Gulp, something new from Liz Ryerson. I always spend her pieces internally screaming about all the ways her arguments are selective or unfair or performatively iconoclastic, only to inevitably to find myself convinced that she’s right about everything by the time I reach the conclusion.

    Glad to hear you’re through the big project Joel.

  4. Andy

    You know, I think I’m a lot more like that too – trying to roll with the blows instead of quickloading at every mishap. It’s such a boost for shooters because the journey feels like an actual journey rather than a sequence of “edited highlights”. The only problem with stealth failure is that, to me, the whole point is not killing and failure rarely leaves you with good options: hence, the quickload.

    I found the lack of freedom chafing as well but I gave Gloomwood the benefit of the doubt here, assuming there’d be more freedom in the final game. But you might well be right. I’ll keep the candle of hope burning here.

    I’m also attracted to forbidden spaces but sewers, by and large, really don’t do it for me, I just find them dull. I think I recall an entertaining sewer section back in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (the bit where you face off with the shoggoth). Oh, some of INFRA’s underground explorations are good and some of them are diabolical.

    Gregg

    I’m much better now, Gregg. After three days of feeling weak as a puppy, my energy started to come back on Wednesday night and all the muscle aches vanished by the end of Friday. Of course, I’ve had a congestion headache for the last two hours which has been ruinous to my afternoon :( Hay fever has been out of control this year!

    I don’t think I would quicksave quite as much as I used to, either, because sometimes you’re just rubbish at a skill and quicksaving through it won’t hone your skills. I selected the second skill level in Gloomwood, unsure how of “hard” it would be. I would like to have chosen my checkpoints a bit more appropriately. I got into the sewers and thought, you know, I’m not trudging all the way back to the gramaphone to save. This is ridiculous.

    But as I said a long time ago, a developer needs to be really confident when removing or degrading saves because they’re effectively a way for players to circumvent errors in the design – areas which are too hard or did not anticipate players approaching difficulties out of sequence.

    Just like Thief, though, I kept finding alternative routes (the hidden vents) only after I’d got through an area :)

    I am also wondering whether it’s time to send one of my children into Thief, Gregg. Too much Fortnite is not good for the palate, you know.

    CA

    Over the years I’d got the feeling that Ryerson was very much the outsider of “the outsiders” and this piece confirmed it. I wouldn’t say I agree with everything that Ryerson puts out – the piece where she takes a chunk out of Jonathan Blow never sat right with me – but there were too many stars aligning with this essay for me to ignore this in the links.

    The “trauma porn” parts recalled the most inflammatory piece I’ve probably ever written, The Ethics of Selling Children. My sentiments haven’t changed a jot but I doubt I could write this today as my social media spine is just too weak these days.

    And when Ryerson put forward that point about statue-felling, I was RIGHT THERE. I had deleted a cynical note from my last newsletter about how clever the protestors had been in undermining their own cause by refocusing the BLM media conversation away from injustice to… bloody statues.

    Could her essay be shorter? POSSIBLY

  5. For some reason I hadn’t read your Mount & Blade article, but I had heard about your experience with it! My impression with that game or series was that it was an open world, sandbox type affair where failure was kind of baked in. Like Kenshi, Dwarf Fortress or perhaps Rimworld (but I know Rimworld has an end). They seem to be more about generating stories to tell than insulating you from brutal dead ends!

    Yeah, that happened to me at the sewers. ‘Okay this seems like a good place to stop–oh, I’ve got to go back or go a bit deeper.’ That’s when you need your Save and Exit!

    I’d be very curious to see how either of your kids react to Thief! :-D

    I’m glad you’re feeling better and I feel your pain regarding hay fever! I’ve not been too bad these last few years but when it bites it really gets me and can ruin days! I’ve found Beconase to be an amazing treatment in preventing it when the symptoms start to creep in. Is it a new thing or something you’ve always suffered from?

  6. Oh, I had read your article–I commented under it! I even played Once Chance, which I don’t remember. It’s been a long 9 years eh?

  7. Hello Gregg. Not that I wish to fight an old battle (Gwaul’s tragic story is well behind us now), but I had played with Gwaul a long time. And there was no “game over”; you just fell into an endless loop of the game interrupting your story every ten seconds with You Have Encountered Someone Who Hates You. There was no way to make happy with all the people who were out for your blood.

    I don’t know how long I’ve been suffering from hay fever. I’ve thought I’ve been suffering from many random colds and it was only recently I started to realise maybe these weren’t colds… Being at home every day really seems to made it worse though, can’t get through a week without one day sacrificed on the altar of Congestion Headaches And The Unexpectedly Sore Throat (the god Chatust).

  8. Yes, and it was only after I’d read the comments that I realised that was one of your original points back then (and even my old comment hadn’t really picked up on that–d’oh)! I own Warband and did dabble with it for a bit but got distracted and never returned. I still hear it sometimes, beckoning, buried and muffled under the backlog.

    That was the case with me for many years, thinking it was a random cold. It’s not a very nice thing to realise it’s an allergy! Do you think it could be a dust allergy? Is it year round or just over a few months? The Met office pollen calendar is handy for helping you whittle down the culprit(s).

    https://i2-prod.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/incoming/article14689763.ece/ALTERNATES/s615b/pollen_calendar_infographic_2017.png

    Another reason to move to Scotland/Ireland :-)

  9. “you just fell into an endless loop of the game interrupting your story every ten seconds with You Have Encountered Someone Who Hates You”

    Right, that’s my distinct (by which I mean hazy, where did the last decade go?) memory of why I drifted away from Mount & Blade also.

  10. I’ve agreed with everything I’ve seen Liz Ryerson say about Jon Blow but I’m not sure about the statues thing. It seems like in the US only far-right TV pundits and Chapo Trap House are talking about statues right now, and the recent conversation I saw was mostly about Federal forces snatching people into unmarked vans (up till the Federals left Portland), and surveys seem to be showing that the protests are making people more aware of police brutality and generally radicalizing suburban wine moms.

    OK, I deleted a bit of a rant about how full of crap Blow is when he talks about philosophy, but I think what I want to say–I understand the need to use middlebrow pop-philosophy kind of stuff rather than the full-on stuff in the game even from someone who understands philosophy, because if you talk about actual Logical Positivism or whatever it’ll be inaccessible to all but a few people, but why not use better middlebrow pop-philosophy? Hofstadter and James Burke are great, but why not use Godel, Escher, Bach instead of I Am A Strange Loop, and one of the cool Connections episodes where he shows connections between things instead of whatever that was?

  11. Speaking of your recent tweets, do you want me to tell you about the mushrooms? If you don’t say anything I will assume that you want to remain completely unspoiled about the mushrooms. But in relation to another of those tweets, I have seen it said that “Cinco Paus” means “five wands” which I do not think is correct, and also “five sticks” which seems more correct, but.

  12. It’s been a bit of troubled week again and I spent the little time I had doing some gaming than following up with my best buds online. And you lot.

    Matt

    I don’t know how statues played out in the US, but it absolutely dominated the BLM news in the UK. BLM stories had initially focused on US events. Then we had some demonstrations – but as soon as a statue was taken down in Bristol, that was it: UK media talked about nothing other than potential suspected attacks on statues, the historical importance of statues that people didn’t even notice, and those defending statues. And now BLM isn’t on the news at all.

    On Cinco Paus, I understand how the game plays but happy as there’s a sense of slow discovery – the more progress I make, the more I find. I find Cinco Paus really easy to binge on right now; easy to focus on through a current elevated level of stress – even through the UK heatwave this weekend. I think you’re on the money with the canonical interpretation of the title, though. But I did have six dicks today.

    I don’t know if I have anything interesting to share on Blow’s choice of middlebrow philosophy. I still find the monologue fragments grating, but I am happy with the thrust as a whole. In a sense, the actual elements didn’t matter that much to me – provided they conflicted.

    CA

    I AM NOT ALONE

    Gregg

    Dust allergy vs pollen allergy. Actually, I don’t know. It’s difficult to know when I’m “suffering” but recently it was obvious as I wasn’t even going out at all. I couldn’t possibly have caught Alien Germs.

  13. Funnily enough I’ve had a bit of M&B syndrome in Civ 6, which I just picked up. Cleopatra just wanted to build her louche, decadent, and frankly bling AF empire in the north. But her two religious neighbours both took turns launching opportunistic strikes against her undefended borders, each citing a conflict of faith despite the fact that she had happily let both Catholicism and Islam find a home in her cities, and both targeting her in preference to one another, despite each being the seat of the respective religion the other despised.

    I appreciated the injection of drama in the story of my nation, but not so much having to reach back into the ten turns of autosave to drop everything and painstakingly relocate my defences (I find the wargamier nature of the later Civs makes it harder to roll with the punches, ironman style; a surprise attack in numbers can simply do too much damage in the first turn.)

    If I was cleverer and less lazy I would use the themes of classical antiquity to make some sort of segueway here, probably invoking statues and Wagner, into discussing Ryerson’s piece. I read it yesterday have been trying to process it. Probably this is still too early to comment, and I’m certain I’m about to put my ignorance on display, but this is the free time that I have..

    I think her observation that identity politics are easier for corporations to co-opt is true, in part because of the focus on individuals (through the emphasis on authenticity and lived experience) and symbols, flags and terminology. You just hire some of those individuals, put those symbols on your products and sprinkle that language into social media, and voila. It’s not as simple as now you can just keep dumping baby deer in the ocean or whatever, but look how much awful shit a company like, for example, Blizzard can get away with because they’ve taken (to my mind quite cynical) progressive intiatives that help them deflect.

    I had my own little representation crisis with Jedi: Fallen Order. There aren’t many Western games that have red haired protagonists, and while I’d certainly never felt the void of not being represented in media, when as a ginger I saw the trailer I thought it was kind of nice, you know? But as if by edict from on high, the reaction of just about every games site out there was an audible rolling of the eyes and a heavy dash of oh great another white dude. And to my surprise I actually felt that kind of sting.

    I guess it did make a little (?) more empathetic about why representation in popular culture might matter to people. On the other hand, as Ryerson says, it seems to have become the sideshow around which all the political energy and organisation is focussed. And due to the extreme polarisation of discussion on the internet, thanks to engagement algorithms monetising conflict for the platform holders, and possibly also just people being people, you end up with everything and everyone ultimately being thrown into just two bins, the good art and the bad art, the good artists and the bad artists (and you have to be good for your art to be good). It’s distressing how wide the criteria of admission can get for the latter – I like Tarantino and Scorsese films, and I’m prepared to pretend to I’ve ever listened to Wagner for the purpose of this discussion too.

    At points I found myself wondering whether she was really an ‘outsider’s outsider’ because what she looks like to me is an old labour socialist. Which is hardly an albino tiger-class rarity on the political compass, whatever the doyens of TINA tell us at the top of every day and hour, even as their world crumbles and threatens to take us all with it. But if she is, then I think that answers your question in the newsletter about why her piece didn’t cause more of a stir. Who could be easier to ignore than the outsider’s outsider?

    I did listen to an episode of Entitled Opinions though. When they talk about the areas of their expertise, it’s very interesting. When they take 10-minute asides to slap one another on the back and huff their own farts (which happened more than once), it’s insufferable. When he plays guitar is EVEN MORE INSUFF- oh actually is that really him he’s quite good

    Blow is a bit of a nobber, as the high-minded pontification around the announcement the Braid remaster attested (surely as nakedly an exercise in profiteering as you could ask for?). But I love all the non-talky bits of his work. Here are the bits that can get in a well though: the florid prose, the California-voiced pop-philosophy, the blending of obnoxious adventure game riddles in with the lovely thoughtful logic puzzles (I LIED THERE ARE SOME NON-TALKY BITS I ALSO DISLIKE)

  14. One thing I would add is that I don’t really get on with the way, almost out of hand, she seems to dismiss large swathes of the extant medium as ‘cynical product pumped out of a bloated, hyper-corporate industry’.

    Not because I’m a white dudebro defending his nerdy power fantasies, although that’s inevitably a part of it (I like nerdy power fantasies). But take a listen to Louis Castle talk about what video games mean to him as an artist. He was an art student who gave up on a career in architecture to pursue games, becoming professionally involved in the medium from the mid ’80s to the present day, working on AAA and franchises and licenses and garage games and passion projects in every genre you might care to mention, at least one of which he helped create. The whole episode is really fascinating, but I want to point out the bit where Soren Johnson asks him at 2:32:00 why he decided to make spend his life making games:

    ‘Once you learn the mechanics, the skills, you want to express creatively, and you want to do it in a way that’s your unique expression, and I think it’s something that unites all artists no matter what medium, maybe all creative people […] as an artist, I was frustrated that everything I thought of had been done by some guy who had died 300 years ago. And so here was this new tool, that was – sure I might not be the first Cubist, but I might be the first computer Cubist, and here was this new tool that allowed me to express … I don’t think of games as games, [but as] maybe not art exactly, in the same way I think of painting and drawing, but I think of them as an artform, an interactive art, that can transcend art as we know it and be a very personal as well as a very broad experience.’

    I think the danger of positioning yourself as an outsider is the tendency (or necessity?) to assume* what’s happening in the mainstream is hack work being made by hack artists. And certainly that’s a position with no small amount of currency in trendy games culture and commentary circles. But I would say that if someone who wound up being a VP at Zynga can talk with a straight face about their life’s work in these terms, we might not want to be so hasty in our assumptions.

    *And the danger of assuming anything at all is to think you’re the first.

  15. Braid!

    ok WELL everyone is having fun on the Outer Wilds post which I cannot read and that’s my fault really, but there’s even a contemporary hook for me to say this as well as responding to something upthread so here goes.

    The Braid Remaster! I was going to be tolerant about the cash grab and say “Look it’s an acknowledged classic and it probably doesn’t run on a lot of contemporary machines, why not rerelease it so everyone can enjoy” and then I fired it up to see if it ran on my machine and it did. (Though probably it won’t run once I upgrade to the newest Mac OS?) Then I replayed it to see what an acknowledged classic it is, and, well.

    Look, I like Braid, I even named a game as a tribute to Braid (search ifdb.tads.org for “Faithful Companion”), but there are definitely some rickety bits. A lot of Blow’s talk about how revolutionary Braid was in not wasting the player’s time with repetition struck me as off-kilter, as if he was approaching it from a purely platformer/RPG background. It’s a puzzle game, the “defeat thirty mooks to level/advance” idea doesn’t really make sense in puzzle games. (This is not really true: DROD has waves of bugs which you sometimes clean out with automated combat keys, and boy does original Sokoban have some levels where you wind up going back and forth to clean out twenty boxes after you did the hard part.)

    But… it kind of is a platformer more than a puzzle game in some ways. Back in the day Victor Gijsbers said “you’ll be spending 5% of your time solving the puzzles and formulating plans, and then 95% of the time trying to execute them” and he was early in the game but he wasn’t exactly wrong. The rewind was hyped as “You don’t have to worry about how hard the jumps are because you can redo them from the instant you mess up,” but (a) that winds up being very fiddly and (b) before long you get to levels where that isn’t even true. “Fickle Companion” is one of the best levels but if you need to experiment on it, boy are you going to be spending a lot of time waiting for the glowing goombah to get into place. Justin Keverne complains* that the rewind sometimes traps you into trying the same futile thing over and over again, when dying and restarting might break you out of your tunnel vision, but there are also a lot of times when you really are doing the right thing but you’re off a few pixels! And the long setup times can make experimenting painful.

    That’s not getting into the level (Vzcnffnoyr Sbyvntr) where you have to do a lot of fiddly time manipulation, wait for two glowing goombahs to get to the right place, and do a double jump that bounces off both of them. If you miss the jump, repeat the whole thing. That level can choke on a fireball.

    Now, there’s a thematic aspect there possibly–you begin with the prospect that you can undo any mistake, but in fact some things can’t be undone–except in real-life relationships, when you can’t undo something bad you’ve done, you can’t just wait for a cannon to spit out a new goombah so you can try it again. Or, I don’t know, the very last text of the Epilogue suggests that maybe Tim is going to try that! It’s all about what he’s learned about himself, not what he’s learned about other people, and that just means trying the same thing again with a different woman. (Do not tell me that the Princess is not a woman I do not care)

    There’s also a pretty high ratio of “figure out edge cases in the mechanics and sometimes try everything till something works but you’re not sure why” to “Apply the mechanics which you understand and can make work in surprising ways.”

    Finally, and this is a bit ineffable, for a game in which you’re spending most of your time platforming, the platforming doesn’t feel great. The concrete things I can think of are the awkwardness of dismounting ladders onto the corner of a platform and some times when I hit the blurry edge of a cloud and slid off. But fundamentally it’s about feel, and that’s hard to explain. Just that I don’t take pleasure in moving from one place to the next the way I do in Celeste or in Nifflas’s games.

    Not that I don’t think Braid is a good game. It’s a good game! But it’s also a game that, contrary to some claims some have made, wastes a lot of the time one spends on it.

    As for the remastered version… more talk from Blow seems like the last thing anyone should want, but maybe if he talks about puzzle design it’d be interesting?

    *in a tweet next to a tweet that Joel linked about Prey, that’s the contemporary hook

  16. CA

    I’m sorry I haven’t got back to you. Thanks for leaving a message. There’s usually a zone in which I make a point to focus on the comments on a new post but after a few days I end up moving on. Like all that magnificent writing I’ve been doing. (Ha, as if.) I never admitted “nope, I’m not going to respond to this” but I read your comments and thought, hmm, maybe I should be mindful about how I respond here rather than fire from the hip. And thus time passed…

    The statues thing was just an (UK) example where I thought that symbolism was eclipsing the possibility of change but it made me feel out of step with everyone else: there was a lot of pro-statue-removal talk amongst the people I follow. Thus I was surprised that Ryerson came out with this particular point and called out some fellow gamedevs for being full of crap (this was my outsider’s outsider point) as well talking smack about traumaware/confessional writing, which has been treated with some reverence. But she named no person or game, so I guess everyone thinks she’s talking about someone else. Perhaps that’s why no feathers were majorly ruffled. You couldn’t really look the other way when she alleged more prominent outsider devs were abusers a few years ago and I can’t help but see their ghosts haunt this piece. (The ripples of that never reached me either, so perhaps I was too removed by that point to hear of it… or was the scene unable to grapple with the shock? I never followed up.)

    Well Blow me, I didn’t know there was a Braid remaster coming. I loved The Witness but I honestly found the narrated philosophical quotes/stories grating. The quotes alone might have been fine, but the voice direction had the narrations delivered as This Is So Earnestly Profound On Cheap-Ass Open Mic Night.

    With the second comment, I think there is danger with misreading some of Ryerson’s intentions: but it’s easily done as it’s a pretty long essay. The “cynical product pumped out of a bloated, hyper-corporate industry” comes from a line which suggests game industry *insiders* were concerned that their corporate masters were forcing them to pump out nothing but crowd pleasers. I’m not sure she’s necessarily knocking individuals there.

    But I feel this ties back to your point that the videogame industry was only a violent videogame industry if you chose to see it through that narrow lens – there have always been other options. Therefore, to call the industry out as full of cynical product is to deny all the other work that has been out there.

    I still don’t have a firm response to this. I waver.

    Matt

    I know precisely the tweet that started your commentessay, I saw it too :) My memories of Braid were of puzzles which rested on the edge of being frustrating and hard to fathom at times (the green key/door stuff threw a lot of people). Although I’d like to revisit the game for its narrative qualities, which I didn’t dig so much first time around, I’m not sure I really want to play it again. I have decent memories of some of the little secrets and the jigsaw mechanics, as well as the reversible “boss” level. But other than that: shrugs.

    So I can quite believe what you suggest here. There is danger when a logic puzzle exists in a more analogue space than the digital grid of Sokoban. On one hand, we get magic like The Talos Principle which is about appreciating 3D space. But on the other, you get Braid falling into the trap of feeling imprecise.

    Maybe he has learnt a lot from his experience of Braid. His new puzzle seems to working with similar ideas of continuity over discrete logic (in both time and space).

  17. Don’t worry Joel, I’ve come to embrace my role as ED’s deputy resident thread killer (Matt can’t be expected to do it all the time ;))

    I agree that my comments on Ryerson’s essay probably drifted well off target over the course of reading it. It’s just… games, you know? Games! There’s an unfathomable number of them and they’re, to my mind, unfathomably diverse. I just can’t look at the range of experience on offer and bring myself to say that’s it’s all or mostly X or Y.

    I read a blog called The Collection Chamber. It’s a guy who digs up old PC games that are no longer available or playable, mostly from the ’90s, and puts them out in a compatible modern package. Probably not legally, but then I don’t even download most of what he releases. I just read; game after fascinating game I’ve never heard of. I thought I had a reasonable handle on the library of that era; if I didn’t play it then I was at least aware of the canon. But he, and people like him (Ross’s Game Dungeon is well worth a watch on youtube, if you’ve never) brought that assumption crashing down. And I think, how could anyone possibly decide on the essential through-lines of the medium when so much of what it’s had to offer, by constraints of time and money, necessarily eludes us all?

    I don’t know why I’m on such an apparent hot streak of contrarianism. It could be that I’m just too precious about the sanctity of muh precious video games when reading games crit. But it’s not just games; I bristle whenever I read people generalising or essentialising, which occurs far too often in the present online discourse for my liking. I think everyone ought to leave a little room for doubt in their world view. The whole picture is generally too big to reduce to a neat argument. Ambivalence and think pieces make awkward bedfellows though, so maybe it’s easier for me as a member of the faceless commentariat.

    On Braid… I remember that key/door stuff now. I’m pretty sure I just Monte Carlo’d through it. Didn’t stop me from patting myself on the back when I beat the game!

  18. Did I really just make a generalisation in the same paragraph I complained about generalisations? *Throws self into well*


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