Electron Dance
1Feb/1928

Discussion: The Influence

From, er, January's newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):

And I can’t help but suspect that something like this happens in game worlds; the more real they become, the more people find it unacceptable that a rocket launcher won’t blow up a wooden door. We are diverted from abstract or symbolic representation towards the mental models we use in real life. Doors are for opening and rocket launchers are for obliterating wooden ones.

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  1. Jelly… growing levels? I think I’m relieved that the version I play cuts out at level 20?

    Also did you wind up playing this again because I was going on about it? I feel like I’ve been sending people copies of the tape from the Ring.

  2. It’s true, Matt. I have been playing because you mentioned back in the Graveyard thread. But it’s okay since I’m getting something out of it. Somewhat an obsession.

  3. There are always typos in the newsletters but this one is pretty bad: “They are taking possession of a character or “being there”, they are merely an influence, like a god toying with the lives of mortals from the safety of Mount Olympus.”

    There is a big freaking NOT missing from that sentence: “They are not taking possession of a character or “being there”, they are merely an influence, like a god toying with the lives of mortals from the safety of Mount Olympus.”

  4. Two quick things before I carry on reading (I don’t think I read The Abstraction back in the day):

    “But the actual human cost was largely hidden, abstracted into score. The West, 1. Iraq, 0”

    This reminds me of: https://www.vintageisthenewold.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Cannon_Fodder_Amiga_02-1.png

    And that Patriot Games clip struck me because I guessed it was James Horner based on the score sounding just like Aliens’ opening cues. https://youtu.be/1SNuPBWC81I (about 1:10)

  5. Dropping this one here. Here’s a Chris Franklin tweeted question relating to the idea prioritising player personification over being player as influence.

    Interesting imagery, Gregg! I remember you talking about Cannon Fodder a whillllle back and we discussed this a little in The Unwritten Life Story of an RTS Grunt.

  6. Can I treat this as an open thread? I just finished playing Oxenfree and it cooked my brain. The whole time I was thinking about an essay from this site, Stop Crying About Choice, which I read last night and also cooked my brain such that it unlocked a multiplier and now my whole head is basically charcoal.

    I have a tendency to be somewhat adversarial with choice in games. As fascinated as I am to be offered it, I behave like a total ingrate. Allow me to step away from the rails by even a hair and I’ll feel solemnly bound to try and ruin everything: sequence break, anti-roleplay the main character (be nice if they’re an asshole and vice versa), antagonise friendly NPCs, you name it. I don’t know why I do this. It’s a compulsion.

    Anyway, Oxenfree surprised me because the first taste of freedom it offers is very different from what comes later. At first what you get are superficial choices that only exist to add surface colour. Standard stuff: dialogue trees to only express how you feel about transpiring events rather than affect them, a world that’s supposedly open but only offers the freedom to retrace your steps pointlessly until you go to the one spot you were meant to all along. But eventually it becomes very Not That with some extremely consequential choices to be made.

    I feel like this proliferation of choices, both superficial and consequential, is so extensive and tendril-like as to make reading the game in aggregate the inky pursuit of a madman. Thank God then for crowd sourcing. I can already feel that I’ll be unable to abide by my decisions, my canonical playthrough; I’ll be scouring wikis and faqs to strip its secrets bare. It’s not that I’m unhappy with the ending I got. But this kind of game holds secrets in front of you the whole time and eventually locks a bunch of them away. This is a kind of retaliation.

    In the end I felt the least interesting thing about the game had to offer was its Scooby-played-straight mystery. The real revelation was these teens. They’re pitched pretty much perfectly: vain, bratty, self-obsessed without being self-aware, but like real teens if you spend time with them you realise that they’re perfectly nice under the armour. You glean a certain amount of their lives beyond the page but not enough for it all to feel like it was put there on a piece of paper for you to find, even when that’s literally true.

    The simple addition of an option to let dialogue lapse without your input, or interject and interrupt others, keeps conversations moving in a way that feels like a big jump forward from the way games used to do them, which in retrospect seems like an archaic abstraction in comparison (it was literally turn based for one thing.) This must have meant a LOT of extra work for the voice actors, and to their credit it’s clear that this was a major source of care and attention. I know this isn’t the first game to do it, but it’s first to do it in such a way that’s really made me sit up and pay attention.

    Similarly the fact that much of the dialogue focuses on social dynamics and people trying to establish familiarity with one another without exposing themselves: as awkward, or scared, or hurt, or too normal, or not normal enough, really worked in terms of a mechanic for soft exposition but also underscored everything with a strong sense of believability. Yes. This is how people behave.

    Not to say that I came away all smiles. The real mystery for me with these sorts of games – the mind-fuck genre if you’ll forgive the term – is why they gain advocates, devotees, enthusiasts. For my talk of antagonism toward games, with this sort of media I always feel more keenly the antagonism of the author toward me: obscuring itself in ways designed to tease and confound, wrapping its narrative into an anomalous, headache-inducing snarl, wielding its secrets like a knife. When I come out of the other side of one of these things it always feels like I’ve survived an ordeal, and the only closure I ever really seem to get is when I manage to forget about them. And yet they’re loved and then some.

    Sorry for the long post I just really needed to get this off my chest!

  7. “Can I treat this as an open thread?”

    Have you ever read any of Matt’s comments? He treats everything like an open thread. (Matt, you know it’s true.)

    “I just finished playing Oxenfree and it cooked my brain.”

    This is the sort of informed review I can get behind. I bought Oxenfree a long time ago, just for curiosity value before anybody I heard anything about it. Surprise, I still haven’t played it. I even installed it last year yet I still haven’t once double-clicked the desktop shortcut.

    “I don’t know why I do this. It’s a compulsion.”

    The asshole option is a legitimate playstyle, of course. People like to transgress, see how far they can push the limits. When a game says “GO HERE FOR YOUR FIRST MISSION” I’m the kind of guy who will walk in the other direction and wander around the city. Screw instructions. Nonetheless, if you expect narrative sense, you can’t complain if you go off script. (That’s not a dig at you, just reiterating my Grand Rule that often the purpose of deliberate asshole play is to break the game and see the narrative tie knots around itself. You got what you wanted.)

    I often think of revisiting Stop Crying About Choice. Maybe Oxenfree is more source material for such a revisit :)

    I think you’ve inadvertently put your finger on the problem of manufactured mystery in games. Players are desperate for insight and answers and when their playthrough doesn’t deliver enough revelation, there is a tendency to dig deep. At the extreme end, you end up with players convinced there are more secrets to discover in The Witness. There’s no way to know if you’ve reached journey’s end. What if something was meant to be a *real* mystery and there are no answers in the code? If you hollow out every tiny scrap of meaning, does this add or takeaway from a genuine mystery?

    Closely related to this is an essay about Lone Survivor I wrote some years ago, Destroy After Playing.

    PS Books and films used to be the only fictional truth; they were closed and you knew you had all the information available to you. But today, we have the dreaded “transmedia” with series spinoffs, extended webisodes and ARGs and sometimes interviews with creative teams. Like, did you really want Nicholas Winding Refn to explain the ending of Drive? Because he bloody did. Also related: Amanda Lange “We Nerds Spoil Everything”.

  8. Seeing another commenter come on to take up the mantle of long off-topic comments is very touching to me! It’s nice to know that your work is carried on.

    I have Oxenfree installed and I even played through the first few minutes–the reason I haven’t played more is just the same reason I never seem to watch any shows at night, mostly some sort of thing where I’m pretending to myself that I’m going to do some stuff before retiring so I don’t want to get stuck in an all-immersive medium. Also I had some troubles with the controls on the radio and then the game scolded me for not doing what I was supposed to do with the radio fast enough and I was like man.

    Dissent form your PS: I think the thing about books and films being the only fictional truth is a historical artifact of a particular era in criticism, which, ahem (quoting Wikipedia) “developed as a reaction to the older philological and literary history schools of the US North, which, influenced by nineteenth-century German scholarship, focused on the history and meaning of individual words and their relation to foreign and ancient languages, comparative sources, and the biographical circumstances of the authors. These approaches, it was felt, tended to distract from the text and meaning of a poem and entirely neglect its aesthetic qualities in favor of teaching about external factors.”

    Like, I read Dante’s Inferno and there’s all this stuff in the notes about the names of the four parts of the Ninth Circle and the specific kind of treachery being punished there but I don’t think that’s all in the text? The people in the innermost part are completely encased in ice and they can’t tell their stories, so the knowledge of the specific kind of treachery must be coming from elsewhere.

    OK, since the off-topic seal has been broken by someone not me, I should promise the thoughts on roguelikes that I never posted in the last discussion thread.

  9. “At the extreme end, you end up with players convinced there are more secrets to discover in The Witness. There’s no way to know if you’ve reached journey’s end.”

    There are some absolutely bonkers fan-theories for two of the games I played recently: Pony Island and Oxenfree. They are mystery-saturated games: both had deeply-hidden secrets in the game leading into outworld ARGs, which is the sort of developer dedication that has people running and running with the mystery until you can see the developers stepping in to the threads to say, ‘there’s really nothing else for you to discover folks!’. And yet because it’s hard to pump the breaks on that kind of behaviour, and even the ‘final’ endings for such games tend to be open to a certain degree of interpretation, people kept going past the flagpole. Eventually even the text disappears under the weight of so much annotation.

    The thing is I don’t even mind stories that resist neat readings. At uni I did a term on Beckett and Modernist literature and loved it. But you need to steel yourself going in; you need to assume a particular relationship with the work. You need to be detached, to be removed, not to be on ground level but a thousand feet in the air, looking down. Exposure is fatal. The perspective games have the player assume seem uniquely contraposed to this aim.

    Choice definitely seems to be on the rise. We just had Bandersnatch, which brought narrative choice to the world of TV, but, being a Black Mirror thing, couldn’t help itself but make its choiceful narrative scouringly *about* choiceful narratives in a way that sort of seems to salt the earth for anyone else hoping to take this new(ish) pseudo-medium forward (I’ve heard it described as a deconstruction of a genre that had yet to exist).

    The latest Hello Internet podcast has a brief and fairly spoilericious discussion (about Bandersnatch, and Firewatch in passing) which I thought articulated a whole bunch of points regarding choicey narrative type stuff in a clear and succinct way. It was impressive, as they’re both tech-literate people but neither are really immersed in gaming culture or commentary by any means, but seemed to pin down a lot of key points really quickly.

  10. “I haven’t played more is just the same reason I never seem to watch any shows at night, mostly some sort of thing where I’m pretending to myself that I’m going to do some stuff before retiring so I don’t want to get stuck in an all-immersive medium.”

    Ah, I see you’re familiar with Seven PM Syndrome as well! You’ve gotten home, had your tea and done the cleaning up, you collapse in your chair to enjoy your hard-earned free time.. and the listlessness sets in. Doing anything seems impossible. Time to potter around on the internet until you’re ready to turn in at a sensible hour, such as 2̶2̶.̶3̶0̶ ̶2̶3̶.̶0̶0̶ ̶2̶3̶.̶3̶0̶ ̶0̶0̶.̶0̶0 00.15!

    I do recommend Oxenfree though. It’ a game I struggled with for the first hour or so, but in retrospect I’m liking it more every time I think about it. Plus it’s pretty short. I do feel like getting through a game in a couple of evenings is like pulling off a smash and grab robbery. I’m running down the road with a sack full of explored mechanics and felt emotions before the police have even received the emergency signal.

  11. Matt

    I’m not sure we’re “arguing” about the same thing here. Players will replay a game thinking there’s a level unaccessed, a secret door to be opened. But you can’t reread a book and find hidden pages. Finding meaning by drawing from sources external to the game is fine… but players feel like they haven’t read all the pages of the book yet.

    That’s what I mean about the fictional work of a game being incomplete. There’s no closure; you never know if you’ve seen all the content, which threatens player’s confidence about making deductions. Perhaps the next secret will completely overturn everything you’ve understood. The Witness actually does this. And the narrative of Lone Survivor is incomplete unless you’ve worked through it numerous times (see Destroy After Playing).

    Personally, I have closure on The Witness but I’ve seen forums and boards and some of The Unbearable Now comments suggesting there might be another hidden ending.

    CA

    I think Brian Moriarty’s The Secret of Psalm 46 is the final word on mysteries that keep on going and going because there’s no finality. The question I have is how much of this is unhealthy, squandering our productivity over something that ultimately has no end (or even spreading pseudoscience), and how much of it is mere play, to keep the mental cogs whirring pleasantly.

    I do have to have a crack at Bandersnatch soon. My initial reaction to hearing Netflix wanted to go down this route was a shrug. Like, we’ve had interactive narrative for a long time, there’s nothing new here apart from production quality. And we know that branching => higher costs – is there a point in moving already expensive TV to make costs even higher by filming additional footage which less and less people will see?

    “I’m running down the road with a sack full of explored mechanics and felt emotions before the police have even received the emergency signal.”

    Oh a real high washes over me when I finish a game earlier than I expect.

  12. Thanks Joel, that recording looks very interesting. I’m a voracious audio content vulture (but also picky, so maybe like an *adolescent* audio content vulture) so that’s gratefully received!

    And Matt, I forgot to mention but I’d love to read your rogue like thoughts!

  13. Hmm Joel you tweeted a solution of level 45 of Jelly No Puzzle and it looks like level 35 of the Puzzlescript version but I got a totally different solution for that? Here. Which was not too bad to come up with! I did get a key insight from your picture but I’m not going to feel bad about that. I’m really not going to feel bad about any of this because I had already kind of said “The heck with this, I don’t need to finish these” before figuring out the level I was stuck on. This should be going in the other thread!

    Also you’re right about the extra-text thing. There are books with hidden codes and such or where one tiny inconsistency unravels the whole book, but that’s different from there being a whole extra chapter that you can only discover if you read the book backwards or something.

    Remember I said I should promise thoughts on roguelikes. Not that I should say them. (Sometime!)

  14. Ah. Well in that case I look forward to your promises your thoughts on roguelikes some time!

  15. *of. OF. Where’s clippy when you need him?

  16. Matt – confirming: the levels do seem to be in a somewhat different order in the Android version vs the Windows original.

  17. Like Greg, I’m not sure if I’d read Abstraction before, but it reminded me a bunch of Superhot. I think maybe that was the whole point of Superhot? It’s basically a puzzle game, so…

  18. Ah, I have not played Superhot…

  19. You’ve supernot?

  20. Pub landlord to CA: you’re barred, son

    In other news, Jelly no Puzzle is done.

  21. Passing by to say that “Robert Epstein’s empty essay by Sergio Graziosi” and “Robert Epstein’s The Empty Brain” is a waste of time. Both are superfluous, don’t say anything worth noting and the angriness of Graziosi is futile. Does the brain is the same as a computer? Obviously it is not. The brain is empty? If empty means a box that can be fulfilled, then not, because emptiness and fullness does not apply in this case. Is brain equal to mind? One thing is brain, other thing is mind. Is brain equal to reason? One thing is reason, other is brain. Is reason equal to mind? One thing is mind, other is reason. Is reason equal to logic? One thing is logic, other is reason. And so on. Can I say a brain is a computer? If computer as a certain fabricated piece named “computer”, then not. If computer as a calculation, a logical operation, through a linguistic function of the mind, and so a “information” machine, then I’m not so sure… what is information? Is information, what, everything? Then it says nothing… is information a linguistic notation? Then it is just a linguistic notation. Again, can I say a brain is a computer? Assuming the last definition of computer, this is a poor question, because one is assuming that brain is equal to mind that is equal to reason, intelligence, logic, knowledge, trough a false and generic conception that brain is equal all these things and these things is equal to all these things. Is human beings logical? Sure, what is to be logical? A tool to certify truth and validity of a certain argument? Or a rational thinking? If is rational thinking, then is wrong, since rational thinking is not the same as logical thinking. Then what is reason? Does metaphors disturb scientific research? What is metaphor? What is scientific research? Is scientific research or I want to say scientific methodology? What is scientific methodology? Is scientific methodology of a given scientific area the same as other given scientific area, can I apply the same scientific methods in biology as I use in astrophysics? Is every science the same? If is the same it has to have the same methodology or is the methodology that defines the science? There is more than one methodology from each science? There is science without methodology? There is science without theory? The theory changes the science, and so every new theory is a new science or a theory has to be in accord to a science? What is science? A generic name for field of work and study or an activity or a state, such as “to have science of this or that”? Again, does metaphor disturbs science? It is even possible to use language without metaphor? Is the language a metaphor by itself? Again, what is metaphor? It is possible to make a scientific language as an alternative from the ordinary one? What is language after all? When I say brain, how so? When I say mind, how so? When I say reason, how so? When I say memory, how so? When I say knowledge, how so? When I say language, how so? Welcome to philosophy, and the discussions of the 19/20 century prior and after the “linguistic turn”… So, is a old debate, that surprises me that are people talking about like is something new and polemic. For starters I recommend the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (https://plato.stanford.edu/), is helpful to get to know these discussions, for further study, well is only studying further. For discussions in brain and mind that is not philosophical, is worth to see Antonio Damasio’s work, I can’t say I agree, but is a plausible work from one of the most respected persons on this field and his famous books are not an scientific or academic work per se, but in the same time not something frivolous enough to just entertain with bullshit. To a simple résumé of what is linguistic turn https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_turn. To analytic philosophy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytic_philosophy. To philosophy of mind https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_mind. To philosophy of language https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_language. I personally don’t think wikipedia is the best source for philosophy, indeed is misleading, but is helpful if someone doesn’t have any source at all. To further knowledge I recommend the companions of Cambridge or other relevant university. Of course someone could say that brain and mind is the same, but for that one should articulate a proper discourse with a proper resource that backs his claims, the point here is that the subject is so complex that is not only a basis of agree or disagree, that is one of the motives that I think both Epstein and Graziosi are “superficial” in his “papers”, neither is completely wrong or completely right. As for Epstein, is true that discuss brain entirely as a computer machine is not wise, but in the same time doesn’t say anything, then we have to be in mind that this is an simple essay proposed to entertain for curious people, from time to time I too read some Aeon articles, not need to anyone be angry, is not because he is a psychologist he cannot talk about brain, since is not fully ignorant about these topics, he is not formed in street wise, I would be angry if it as an assertion that the Earth is flat…

  22. Hello Pedro.

    As you suggest, it does seem an essential part of this “debate” is an argument over semantics and definitions, as opposed to information and argument. I liked the seed offered in Epstein’s essay that carrying the wrong metaphors can set us back, particularly pervasive metaphors. Whether the brain=computer metaphor is a problem… all depends on your perspective, I guess? Thanks to your prompting, I now dimly remember discussions over whether language defines what we can understand. That it is a form of confinement.

    I like your point that The Empty Brain is not a scientific paper but an article for “curious people”; I used to read a lot of Aeon articles just out of curiosity. It is not clear to me why it earned the ire it did – and I was surprised this recently blew up on Twitter – but it’s possibly some of the deeper assertions that cause the blood to boil rather than the top-level concept that the “IP metaphor” is damaging.

  23. I’m glad to participate, Joel!

    As a problem in a sense of not knowing what is X, I think first one have to know how to make problems, it’s not enough just to be a problem, but what problem we are talking about, how it’s a problem, why it’s a problem, which problem in which way, etc. Indeed, to know how to question, investigate, identify, interrogate, the problem it’s a problem by itself. By not doing that, there is only confusion. Making an analogy with puzzles, if we do not know what to know exactly in a puzzle, the puzzle can be anything, how you can play a crossword in a language you do not know, with content of a world you never lived, not even knowing that it’s a crossword game. To someone know something, someone has to know how and what to know. If is possible to knowledge a knowledge, is another story…

    Another time I will talk about some other topics of this newsletter that I think it’s worth to mention.

  24. ROGUELIKES

    It’s best that I dribble this out in arbitrary fragments rather than try do the whole wall of text at once, I feel! “Best for who?” Shut up. Partly there’s the one or two links per comment thing to keep me out of the spam folder. Honestly I think two links is flying pretty close to the sun.

    So, taking off this thread which is taking off this Twitter thread by Raigan Burns. I’m going to say up front that I find some of the gatekeeping on roguelikes you find in Raigan’s feed a bit offputting–both about the concept of “roguelike,” there was someone in his mentions saying “we’re the number one *real* roguelike,” and also in response to the feller who was saying that the unforgiving nature of the roguelike keeps people out. For what purpose do we draw boundaries about the roguelike? That’s not a rhetorical question, that’s what the point of these comments is going to be, insofar as there is a point.

    (There’s an excellent Tanya X. Short piece about that which is going into a later post both because I talk about that more there and also because I’m definitely out of links for this one.)

    Dan said in the comment thread that one of the nice things was unpicking the difference between roguelites where you grind for upgrades to give you a chance to win and things like FTL (I’d add The Curious Expedition) where progression unlocks new game modes (ships or classes or PCs or those are all really the same thing). Which is an important and interesting thing! But, leaving aside the latter kind of unlock, Raigan said that the difference is that Spelunky is the same the first time you play it and the first time you beat it, the upgrades are all in your brain and skill, and I say NO SIR. Or at least, that’s only half right.

    Well, I’ve never beat Spelunky or even got through four levels (once–once!–I was able to figure out the controls enough to do that long drop in the tutorial without taking damage, but now I’ve forgotten again…OHHH, you have to jump out to the side. Anyway, killed by pressing X instead of down-X in a shop). But let’s talk about Brogue. The first time I reached the level with the Amulet in Rogue 1.5.3, I died horribly to a dragon. Why? Because dragons will mess you up bad, in many different ways, and you need some means of dealing with a dragon if you’re to have any hope of surviving one.

    Obtaining that knowledge was an upgrade in my brain–that’s where it resides, and I can pass it along to you without changing the bits on your hard drive. But still, Brogue is a different game before and after I learned that. Now one of my main goals is finding, and conserving, things that let me deal with dragons, and it wasn’t before. I couldn’t win a game of Brogue without having unlocked this “OH CRAP DRAGONS” knowledge.

    Another manifestation of this: I did two ascensions in Brogue 1.5.3 and then I started trying Brogue 1.7.5 and I was getting wiped out on early levels. I got mobbed and killed by jackals and kobolds and rats once, for crying out loud! Part of that was not having realized all the implications of the new mechanics (they took out XP!), part of that I think is that it’s genuinely harder, but also part of it is that I think I’m still in the process of discovering the discoverable systems. Like, the stealth system is almost certainly different (that’s how I got mobbed), and I’m pretty sure the food system and maybe a couple of other things have changed in such a way that both makes it important for you to drive forward and also means that things will get very parlous if you don’t find every piece of food in the game, at least I managed to starve to death on my most successful run.

    And don’t get me started on Nethack. Stand on the wrong square when you opened the drawbridge? DYWYPI, you get to try to get back to that spot again but now you know what to do. So many things that you either unlock through painful experimentation, or really, check the wiki. The source code has always (?) been public so checking the wiki was a thing before wikis existed.

    Anyhow this is obviously different from a meta-unlock like “Get killed by dragons twice to make the dungeon start generating the armor of dragons-won’t-always-kill-you”–it is something you learn, you can learn different strategies to address the problem, and you have to play out your solution instead of just getting access to A Thing that lets you solve it. Also, there’s overlap between this, learning the basic mechanics (see above under Spelunky, my inability to learn the controls of), and figuring out the implications of rules you “should” have learned. But an important thing about many roguelikes is that they surprise you, and this makes them unfair in a way that saying “They’re the same game every time” elides.

    In fact I wonder if one reason for the popularity of the metaunlock is that the surprise death is the game saying “I put a hat on the street with a brick under it, and you kicked it! Now start over, knowing better,” and the metaunlock is the game saying “Nice try! Here’s a concrete reward for it. Now you can try again.” The progress in the second case is more palpable even if it’s fake in a way, whereas the first one seems like the game telling you that you should have known something you should not, in fact, have known–precisely because it’s disguising its nature as an unlock.

    [Speaking of brains, I finally read the Epstein empty mind essay and the Graziosi response, and I kind of don’t hate the Epstein essay? Please don’t throw rocks at me. The thing is that in my limited experience there may be people who take the Information Processing metaphor and run too far with it in the way he describes, as if to say that symbolic representations really must be just sitting there in some defined part of the brain, rather than just serving as something we can abstract out of their actual physical manifestation there. So while Graziosi is right to say that information processing can be a very useful metaphor, Epstein may be right to try to blow the whistle on taking it as more than a metaphor. There’s almost a motte-and-bailey thing going on here, where the defensible position is “Of course our brains process information, otherwise how could we deal with the world” and the position some people want to use is “Brains are like computers in somewhat more substantive ways.” Oh god, I just used “motte-and-bailey” unironically. Do throw rocks at me.]

  25. pls note that was not the whole wall of text at once

  26. Tangentially related to the roguelikes, a vocabulary question: Is there a word for FTL’s style of combat, where it’s realtime but you can pause at any moment to give orders etc. Looking at TVTropes i guess it’s called… realtime with pause. OK!

    This particular realtime with pause seems like the opposite of Crypt of the Necrodancer (which I haven’t played). FTL’s realtime with pause takes away the twitch aspect of realtime, that you can pause to give orders no matter how slow your reflexes are, but it decreases the calculability of battles. It’s harder to say “I get a shot, then they get a shot, so if I do this I can outlast them,” because things aren’t divided so neatly into volleys.

    Necrodancer has what looks like a brilliant solution to the problem of real-time roguelikes–making the game depend on how fast you can spam the attack button isn’t fun or anyway changes the game completely, but making everything happen on the beat gives it a real-time aspect and a twitch challenge while preserving the discrete turns. So it stays calculable, if you can do the calculations fast enough–you can know exactly whether you can beat a monster to a certain square or whatever. But it’s still an action game.

  27. I have about 70 hours in Necrodancer. It honestly feels less like another ‘twist’ on the roguelike – arpg roguelike, shoot em up roguelike, platformer roguelike, fps roguelike – and more like an evolution of the base game into a more perfect form.


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