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17 thoughts on “Discuss: No Good Idea Goes Unpunished

  1. It’s always a pleasure to see the newsletter arrive in the inbox!

    > all we seem to be doing is playing board games
    That sounds great! Enjoy 🙂
    I’ll sneak in a recommendation: Res Arcana.

  2. Oh, go on then – why would you recommend this Res Arcana? (I really need to write that article covering the highs and lows of our family board gaming.)

  3. It is a pretty minimalistic mix of resource conversion, drafting and racing to score points in which it’s important to be able to create a plan on the fly and execute it as efficiently as possible. Its mini-engines feel satisfying and there are a lot of potential combos to discover. The number of interesting combinations is very large, so the game has good replayability. It can be played without drafting to help introduce new players and to reduce even further the play time, which for us is consistently a little below 1 hour at 4 players (after 30+ plays this year the average game duration matches that of 7 Wonders, which I remember you tweeting about).

    In BGG-land it’s considered best at 2, but in this writer’s opinion the game is better and richer with 3 or 4, which is why I think it would suit your family.
    The art is wonderful, the components are nice and the box insert is well thought out and can hold both expansions.

    And I have also a belated suggestion for the new look of the website (which is great): I’d recommend making the comments’ background a much lighter shade of grey from mobile to make it more readable outside. When the sun is shining I find it hard to be able to discern the text (tried only on Chrome).

  4. No Players Online is funny because I’ve done exactly that in that past–played long dead online shooters. The standout for me is Bioshock 2, whose multiplayer put you back into pre-civil war Rapture so it was interesting to see these places pre-splicers and decay, but post-players and gunfire. The thought of someone entering the game as I was exploring those haunted and eerily empty spaces was pretty creepy!

    I wasn’t so taken by Archive 81. While I don’t want things to fall neatly into categories, I couldn’t quite work out what it was trying to be and towards the end it felt like it got messy. Hai listened to the podcast afterwards and I think she came away feeling the same as you on that!

    Gah, I’ve owned Sanitarium for so long!

    I laughed out loud at ‘more hearses than buses’ during that Limmy video.

    I haven’t read the post by Mick Gordon because it’s very long and I just know it’s going to be a depressing read for two reasons: I love his work, on both Doom and Doom Eternal, and I love Doom Eternal. His music absolutely made those games. Hearing this makes me want to play through Eternal for a third time: To hear that id screwed him over is so so disappointing.

    Update on Wilderplace: my patience wore out for restarting levels due to insufficient undos. I know the developer said they were concerned about people being stuck beyond undos but, to me, that’s part of the puzzle and identifying where you went wrong. I also felt that it was more ‘muddling puzzling’. Some solutions I just couldn’t see; I had to move around somewhat blindly and feel for them which just isn’t as satisfying and resulted in various levels being solved without me realising what I’d really done. It’s a shame because I adore the concept, look, sound, feel and tone of it! I hunger for another puzzler now. Going to check out Palchemy and Tetronimeow.

    I fell in love with Gunlocked though. That was the right balance of ‘relaxing’ auto-shooter power fantasy snowballin’ and active bullet hell ballet for me. I think I’ve squeezed what I can from it but it was a fun time! I hunger for a more active SHMUP now.

    And Saturnalia was fantastic. I encountered a few bugs and struggled with a couple of bits later on but what a unique, intriguing, stylish and hair raising experience! I won’t be forgetting Gravoi for a long time. Glad you put it on my radar way back.

    That is a very cute and well done easter egg on the BBC Developer webpage 🙂

  5. “What the Death of Twitter Means for indies” — huh? It hasn’t died; it’s about the same as it ever was. (Which is terrible, yes, but Twitter was always terrible and anyone who claims otherwise is likely one of the people who worked so hard to make it terrible.)

  6. i played through No Players Online back when the rps post on it happened. im not into horror as a genre, but that conceit—exploring the spaces of a long dead multiplayer game—has, i think, enormous potential for _existential_ horror… as familiar and oppressive as the backrooms, but far worse because this was a social, purposeful place we used to inhabit for enjoyment.

    but youre right, NPO doesnt really do anything with it. the vhs layer is just nonsensical, and the generic haunting tropes are, well old and generic. what would a _digital_ haunting be like? fragments of past player sessions, stuck in short repeating loops as the server still runs its client prediction, waiting for an update packet that will never come? would memory corruption in the much-too-long-running process cause ghosted bulletmarks, bloodstains, and player sprays to appear and disappear? the usual problem with horror games is they throw all this stuff at you and ask “how do you feel about all this?” when the real horror is in asking, _what does the server feel about this?_

    (im thinking about The Magic Circle and Anatomy, and the space where their epistomologies meet.)

    in other “horror” news, ive just started watching someones lets play of Scorn, and… sigh. it feels like AI Art: The Game. i dont mean to denigrate the technical execution of the environment art, which is really well done. but its just an enormous H. R. Giger pastiche slapped on top of corridors that you wander through with a gun, while you look for keycards to open doors and press buttons to move elevators. it has zero soul. i guess the name is apt: i _do_ scorn it.

    some of your links look interesting but i havent clicked on them yet.

  7. @ThirteenthLetter (can i call you M for short?)

    “ Twitter was always terrible and anyone who claims otherwise is likely one of the people who worked so hard to make it terrible.”

    twitter for me was a great place. i met many friends there; partook of and participated in a great many interesting discussions; learned a lot. i dont think i used it the way twitter intended though, and my mostly positive experience is definitely shaped by the customisations i made: adblock (of course); hide RTs from nearly everyone; mute early and often on any Discourse the moment it reared its head. i was there to interact with other people and hear about the interesting things they were doing, not to wallow in gossip and dunks. that doesnt mean it was a _good place_, but it was possible to have a good quiet corner there without too much litter flying in from the perpetual garbage explosion, i guess.

  8. @vfig: my girlfriend and I loved Scorn! A big part of that was working out the purpose of the different places, the world’s ecology, why we were there, what we were doing and ultimately what a lot of these mechanisms were that we were trying to bring to life. If anything it’s disappointing that the artbook sheds more light on some of these things than the game does! Nevertheless it was a fascinating, gruesome and unpredictable ride, and if nothing else I loved walking through all the Giger and Beksiński imagery.

    A lot of people also play it like a shooter but there are only a few points where you have to fight; most of the time the creatures will leave you alone and crawl back into the walls if you stay away from them which isn’t something I often see in games. In fact, going John Rambo is the surest way of killing yourself because the gunplay is deliberately slow and cumbersome and there are limited resources. For the trigger happy it’s a survival horror, for the slow and patient it’s an exploration game! I love that.

  9. Happy New-lally!

    I don’t want to call it the First or Last in the ‘abandoned server horror’ genre, but brillo bit of game fiction You Awaken In Razor Hill is definitely one of The Words In it. Perhaps you’re familiar?

    (It’s horror comedy, sure, but to be honest I need that bit of levity to see me through anything scarier than The Thing. And both the horror bits and the comedy bits are still quite effective.)

  10. Happy 2023! I haven’t played No Players Online, naturally, but will use it as a jumping-off point to say some things about Inscryption. This isn’t very spoilery but if you want NO SPOILERS WHATSOEVER skip to the asterisks.

    So the main thing I am going to reveal about Inscryption is that there is an underlying story and there is hidden stuff that changes the gameplay modes. It is a Frogfractionlike that begins as a Spirelike.
    It’s good but there’s an underlying bit of discontent for me: as you realize that True Progress comes from doing things outside the Spirelike loop, it becomes more frustrating if you get stuck in the Spirelike. Which means the Spirelike has to be something you don’t get stuck on that much. Which means it winds up a bit too easy, or (at least in the case of act I) vulnerable to particular cards that wind up nuking the game if you get good enough luck to set them up. And for that matter the essential non-Spirelike bits have to be not that hard to discover, because you’re spending most of your time Spiring.
    Also as I learn about the Cosmic Horror I say, like the thoroughly cancelled Morrissey, “it says nothing to me about my life.” I mean this is a line to walk with horror, the more it tells you what it’s about the more we realize that it’s not real. Or, there’s lots of real stuff that’s horrible, but being reminded of that busts through the magic circle and that’s no fun. I guess this is why a lot of horror winds up waggling its eyebrows at Things We Dare Not Describe but that gets tropey too.
    As I understand there is stuff that might address both of my gameplay concern, a mode that concentrates more on the Spirelike gameplay and a bunch of easter eggs in the rest of the stuff, but then the other issue is that the file size is big enough for my laptop crammed with music that I really need to finish this and get it off my hard drive.
    Wilderplace is parked for a bit right now. I restarted after a softlock and discovered that the developers may have updated the game in a way that would’ve allowed me to escape the softlock. Oh well, I needed to relearn stuff anyway. But I find the controls a bit awkward, in particular the thing where sometimes it matters how long you hold a key. And R being next to the WESD cluster. And I’m not always clear on some of the subtler mechanics, which you absolutely need.
    It’s often sort of a combat dance which also reminds me that DROD: Gunthro and the Epic Blunder is parked, because of a puzzle where there is clearly One Thing that I need to do but it is buried in a 30 x 30 level or something. Imagine this horror: It has one level of undo! And maybe more to the point, it decidedly doesn’t think its job is to cut down the amount of makework the player has to do around the Heart Of The Puzzles. Sometimes this is OK, it can be fun to have a bunch of tactical fighting in between strategic steps (and there are some puzzles where it’s possible to tactics so well you break the need for strategy), but I feel like I have not been converted to the cult of DROD.
    So I’m a bit discontented with my puzzle gaming. Need more sure-shot Hazeldenlike recommendations. And sad that Taiji lacks a Mac port.

    ’bout that article arguing that crypto isn’t finance: I was going to keep pulling out quotes about “the productive purposes that define finance” and post thinky-face emojis but more seriously, I think that it’s very hard to make the argument that finance has “a larger social and economic purpose,” crypto doesn’t, therefore crypto isn’t finance, because one of the things finance has done is funnel huge sums of money to crypto. And, like, venture capitalists pretty much explicitly saying that they like ICOs because they get to cash out quickly without waiting for an actual product to happen (cf.). Venture capitalists are up there in responsibility for crypto with, um, philosophers.

    This is not to say that we shouldn’t ban the heck out of crypto! But also that some regulations on finance are called on to steer it back to its alleged purpose of steering capital to productive purposes and try to cut down the parts that are just shoving money around, skimming a percentage, and trying to push the losses onto suckers or some governmental entity that has to bail you out because you’re too big to fail. This may be an oversimplified picture.

  11. I turn my back just ten minutes to celebrate New Year’s Eve and suddenly COMMENTGEDDON.

    @Fede – thanks for the recommendation. I’ve whacked up the comment background, see what you think. Not sure if it’s ideal – seems like the black text is very thin and spindly to me.

    @Gregg – I think I liked the dread that hung over a lot of Archive 81: The Series. I persevered with A81: The Podcast into the third season but I’ve got somewhat stuck partway through. And Limmy’s “we’ve got great deathcare here”.

    I’m still hooked on Gunlocked (as you know I will continue to play at a slower pace until both children abandon the nest in approximately six years’ time.)

    @Thirteenth – I wouldn’t get too hung up on the wording. Twitter has definitely haemorraged a lot of users, percentage-wise I couldn’t say, but several peeps I was following have upped sticks and moved on. Some indies will get hit more than others. Jury is still out on Twitter’s survival; yet to see if Melon can find the money to pay the debt payments this year or whether there will be a sudden change of hands for a smaller $ value. I’ve stopped looking at it regularly.

    @vfig – I did start wondering what else you could do with the No Players Online setting but decided not to resist being armchair developer (although that didn’t stop me years ago with Parenting Is Not an Escort Mission). But even just slapping NPO onto Anatomy would be much more interesting, give it some *heft*.

    Scorn is one of those things I had completely ignored. I didn’t even look at a trailer until NOW.

    @CA – Ah, a new thing I had never heard of. I have an entire blank void where World of Warcraft sits.

    > fill void

    @Matt – I will admit that Inscryption not being very hard is one of the things I found charming about it. But that’s perhaps as far as I feel comfortable saying without kicking off a discussion that would be very difficult to manage with spoiler marks everywhere.

    I like your thoughts on why the crypto/finance dichotomy may not be as dichtomous as promised.

    Wilderplace – So far I’ve been enjoying Wilderplace but some levels keep me held for awhile, so I’m unwilling to dip into it regularly. I also hate the WESD controls – and without an infinite undo, it can make accidental presses a bit more impactful as you lose the ability to unwind one extra step back. I’m still worried it will get to the Cityglitch point where it gets too much about plotting where all the characters will be after seven moves. In fact, I’ve found Railbound a bit more upsetting on that score – most levels are either pretty easy but a few are like figuring out seven-dimensional train choreography, which means I’m just guessing through them.

  12. @Gregg B: if a game has you walking around all the time with a gun in your hands, it is a shooter. sure, you dont always have to shoot everything! but then that is true even of DOOM. but really my problem with it is not per se that it is a shooter, but that it isnt actually _weird_. all the weirdness is in a thin layer of environment art. under that veneer, its just wandering modular corridors that could be basically any setting. look, here is an ammo dispenser. heres a healthpack dispenser. whoops, here is a shotgun vending machine now!

    so far—several hours in, but i dont know what percentage that is—ive seen little to suggest there is any coherent concept of this place and its eratwhile purpose. maybe as you say the art book communicates that better than the game. i guess i am comparing it in my head to Amnesia Rebirth, which was continually (if slowly) building up an understanding of the strange environments you found yourself in and their past function and the reason for their present decay. idk i felt that game had a much better sense of place than scorn.

    though i have to admit the way your inventory is carried in scorn is entertaining. and i was not expecting to see the narrator of i have no mouth and i must scream— —make an appearance as the central figure of one setpiece!

  13. Oh you’ll not get me arguing that it’s not a shooter, but my broader point was that shooting everything that moves will make the game a lot harder for you. That’s what made it a weird experience to me; it has everything you’d expect in a shooter but then allows you to just… ignore most of it. It frontloads the experience with this elaborate, opaque and bizarre multi-room puzzle but then doesn’t have much more like that for the rest of the game. There are long and very quiet sections of wandering and exploring. It’s a weird mix.

    I had no idea about the I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream narrator… that looks very similar!

  14. this got me to play no players online! i agree with your points, but for some reason i just cannot love the aesthetics so much it only helps the game for me. something something brian eno quote about distortion.

    there are way too many good links here, i might have to pretend they don’t exist for the sake of productivity.

    i may have said this before but i love thinky games in concept, i’m just terrible at them. visually they are almost always fun to think about the potential of what they can do. i’ll take a looksee of the stream vod!

    hope this year brings you plenty of yummy food and smiles.

  15. I haven’t played the game myself but watched Manly Badass Hero play it (or maybe it was Markiplier?). Anyhow, I’ve been watching LPs of indie horror games for a while and I fell in love with the genre. On one hand it’s very creative, while not very marketable, the idea of short games which are just a 20-minute-long experience is amazing. On the other when you see enough of them you instinctively start to recognize themes, tropes and references. And those indie games often like to play with them in new ways. So much interesting stuff:

    Like this game made for a special controller when you put your hand into a machine
    Or playing battleship with buildings.
    Or a hybrid of FNAF and first-person-exploration horror with robot maids.
    Or all the games by Zed Technician who creates his own niche with… extremely thicc, strangely realistic and human character with so many people saying in comments “I was instantly turned off by the first game but now these are my favorite”.

    Also the type of games someone once called “trashcore” and I love them. Strange, strange worlds.

    Going back, I enjoyed watching an LP of o Players Online and while on one hand I think there’s something to you saying “The setting resembles typical grist for the YouTube react video mill – an empty, unpolished virtual space.” on the other hand many of these games remind me of my games I made as a kid. Seriously, this is the first game I even released publicly, I even accidentally used music from Cornflake Girl I only discovered a year ago when I saw Gaimain promoting the musician on Facebook. Bizarre.

    What I am saying is… For one, even if some of these games are made specifically to be most enjoyable as reaction videos, it’s in no way less valid target than any other target. For another, in many of those games there is still a lot of unbounded creativity and need to express yourself.

    I am jealous of them.

  16. @Maurycy Thanks for linking to all these very weird games which I had not heard of. And sharing the LP of your old game too 🙂

    “For one, even if some of these games are made specifically to be most enjoyable as reaction videos, it’s in no way less valid target than any other target.” This is an interesting comment and I’m not sure what to do with it. There’s a part of me which cries, “yes you are right” and there’s another part which feels validated with my experience of personal disappointment. This feels like a whole other conversation.

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