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28 thoughts on “Discussion: Art for Art’s Sake

  1. I judge my experimental Twine’s value on the money it’s made. So far, my boyfriend and I have managed to hold a kickin’ party with the proceeds. Well, it would have been a kickin’ party, but no one in Portland can hang.

    Man, Robert Yang, Mr “YOU SHOULD MAKE A GAME” himself, the reason I got into experimental twine. Maybe I should give him a free copy.

    You folks, on the other hand, have to pay. https://rgoodness.itch.io/hatred

  2. I think I’d heard of TumbleSeed before but on closer inspection it looks really lovely. aeiowu’s blog and the text in the trailer even uses the same font as your logo! 🙂 I’m on a roguelike/lite run at the moment so I’ve just picked it up. The music sounds delicious. Speaking of which: Crypt of the Necrodancer I stopped playing earlier in the week, too bloody stressful!

    I’m still chipping away at Cosmic Express too which is fast becoming one of my favourite puzzlers so thanks for pimping it on Twitter 🙂 Still surprises me when you can just load it up sometimes and blast through a bunch of puzzles then other times the solutions just will not come.

    Noctis IV I tried playing some years back but couldn’t for the life of me work out how to control it properly so I wish you luck!

  3. It was only after I’d finished writing I realised, hmm, I wonder what Richard will think of that experimental twine line. And here he is, first comment. Thanks for the reminder Richard 🙂

    Gregg: Yeah I feel like I should try out TumbleSeed, even though I have no idea what it’s about :0 I’ve still got a little bit left of Cosmic Express – I used a walkthrough for the very final level but there’s more to Cosmic Express that just reaching the end… But I can’t make any headway of the four levels I’ve got left, I seem doomed to trying to same solutions again and again.

    Noctis IV is work for the next film.

  4. Oh my GOOOD this speaks to me so much right now BLAARGH.

    Ok, so. I’ve been making a game for nearly 2 years now. If I’d worked on it fulltime I could have done it in maybe 6 months, but I had rent to pay so I’ve been living off a job I kinda like but kinda hate.

    I want SO BADLY to be that genius games-are-art-and-mine-are-so-good-I-can-make-a-decent-salary-off-it person I see when I close my eyes after browsing a games blog. I want it so bad I can TASTE IT and I have had that taste on my tongue for the last four years as I’ve tried to make a go of game dev.


    I’m reminded of posts by Jonas Kyratzes from way back when, when he was working on beautiful niche crayon-drawn adventure games, and I’d read posts like “I am so sick of being gripped with fear in the supermarket because all I can afford to eat is the same shitty pasta day after day.” I read that post and decided that, no, I was going to stay the FUCK away from that level of desperation.

    Here is a bulletin for one-person indies and artists everywhere:


    You may feel you have a right to throw your hat in the ring. After all, the games world is full of stories about other people who are succeeding in the world of games, and you want your voice to be a part of that! You want to take part in the great big exchange of ideas and games mechanics and stories and you want to be A PART OF THINGS!!! So it’s only right that you should work on your games full time, right?


    And on another note: I have been working as hard as I possibly can for the last four years desperately trying to make about €800 a month just from games. This is my “magic number”: I’ve moved to a city with low living costs so that this goal is attainable. So these people who say that they’ve “only” made $10,000 from their game?

    That is my DREAM.

    That is the number I pin to the back of my eyelids as I go to sleep thick with the cloying longing of a lifelong ambition type DREAM.

    I cannot WAIT to be making the kind of money from games that those articles talk about.

  5. Yes James don’t think I didn’t notice there wasn’t much Twentry Dollar Gaming happening. Andy will just have to carry on without you. Wait, if it’s just one of you, maybe it should Ten Dollar Gaming?

    Everything you say concurs with my comprehension of the indie scene. If anyone I knew was going to jump in full-time into making games, I’d have to jump out in front the car yelling “STOPPPP!!!” I guess I felt I’d prefer Yang had been a bit more forceful on this rather than sound like “making games for money is a lifestyle choice and you can easily make games for other reasons”.

    But making just enough to see you through each month is not enough money. It provides no security. It doesn’t give you a varied diet. It doesn’t fix the holes in the roof. It won’t help you in old age. And, in certain countries, it won’t provide healthcare. That approach only be short term. After several years…

  6. Haha, yes, that’s a part of it. Though actually we decided to rebrand the podcast after January. “Twenty dollar gaming” sounds too much like a bargain gaming site or something. And then we got sidetracked and life stuff happened, but we still want to get back to it with a new name/site/format.

    You’re right, of course. If you’re just making subsistence money then you have nothing for emergencies. But right now subsistence money looks really good to me, because I haven’t really been able to make even that?

    My personal rule is that I can quit my job and make games full time, but *only* if it would be inarguably stupid not to. So if I make a game and sell enough copies to get me through the next year… if I’m really tempted to quit my job and go full time and I can kind of persuade myself to do it… then it’s not good enough, and I need to keep my job. I will only quit if I look up one day and realise “Wait a second, I have enough money to survive for, like, ten years without any work, what am I doing?”

  7. On the political points, I feel like the confidence in figures like Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour manifesto is what the left has been lacking for decades. If you get a staunch right winger into a political topic they will be proud to outline what they believe in and who they believe in.
    Meanwhile I’ve noticed that left wingers tend to be more timid about it, probably because of the forceful way in which you can get shouted down for believing in ideas that challenge the status quo.

    This definitely links in a lot with what Adam Curtis talks about, power and groups are important, without them you’re nothing but an atomised individual floating in a void.

    I really wish there was a figure and party like that in Australia, our Labor party is weak, has an incredibly dull leader in the form of Bill Shorten, and isn’t much of an opposition. The Greens are our best hope, but they aren’t popular enough and can only manage a decent amount of seats in the Senate election after election.

  8. When I had a crack at freelance writing as my main line of work in 2014-15 – another field in which making scratch is neither a given nor easy – I was lucky enough to have a fallback in the form of work as a contractor. That’s because I had about ten years of experience in another line of work. And, of course, the latter ended up bringing in far more money than the writing ever did. So yeah, my personal experience doesn’t quite map, but regardless I am in complete agreement with this newsletter. Games aren’t worth killing yourself to create.

    I’m glad that Prey broke you out of your ED update funk. I’m also glad it’s a game I’ve played / am playing, so I have something to contribute. 😉

    My take on Brexit vis the GE is that it was not, and will not be, the dividing line some politicians and an awful lot of commentators think it. I’d say most people are just of the view that the referendum happened, and now we need to make the best of the situation we can. The EU isn’t an easy thing to love, unless you believe the mythologising about the EU enshrining peace between European nations, or that it was created to prevent another world war (a notion it is all too happy to promote – I did enjoy the museum in Brussels though).

    Funnily enough I am also starting to look into the concept of money. Any recommendations? I’ve liked some of what Ann Pettifor has said, and have begun scraping the surface of Modern Monetary Theory, but really I’m flailing in the dark with this!

  9. James – Good luck. I saw all your comments on The Sunday Papers but your name doesn’t have a link back to your site?

    Jono – If you’re looking for a strong Left movement that is not just reheated neoliberalism, we can only hope that Corbyn’s success will embolden others around the globe in the same camp. I knew this would happen in time but I wasn’t sure it would happen so quickly (particularly due to some incredible own goals from the Conservatives) or… so democratically.

    Shaun – Jesus there are a lot of comments turning up on the blog today 🙂 It wasn’t Prey that broke me out of the funk. I was playing Prey to get through the mental stress of the move. I had a couple of Prey ideas – one about the music and one about exploring – but they were started and abandoned like everything else. I just forced myself to finish the shortest idea! I don’t love Prey. I wish I could, but regardless there’s brave and clever design at its heart, something that should be appluaded in a AAA title.

    I am concerned that Remainers are trying to use Corbyn’s success to push through a soft Brexit agenda. The reason I am concerned is that I don’t think the pro-Brexit public are ready for it. How bad it will be is not fully apparent. Timing is everything. We still don’t see a big swing to Remain and that’s what I’m interested in. I did read today via a Jonathan McCalmont retweet , though, that Corbyn’s agenda would not sit well with EU membership (re: state aid). So there is that to ponder…

    I’m afraid I’m still a newb at money! I pick up bits here and there and, well, you have to be careful, because there are a lot of bonkers money websites out there. I like some of the ideas of MMT (sovereign country circulating currency, with govt controlling levers) but the mainstream really don’t like it, consider it to be economics-lite (MMT as a more special case of existing mainstream economics). But then banks can just invent money and my head just explodes: you realise you don’t quite understand this at all. But when ever I hear that govt must spend within its means, you wonder where they think all the money came from. Was it discovered in a coal mine?

  10. So now Double Fine’s games are on itch.io! We are gentrifying the fuck out of this neighborhood! Time for the alt games devs to pack up our bindles and find another storefront.

    And the code will run
    Your players will have fun
    And you’ll make your rent
    From money your patrons sent
    On the indie candy mountain

  11. Hm, not sure. My game got frontpaged after about a week – it must have had around 150 downloads at that point?

    Interestingly it barely affected the viewer or sales numbers. I wonder if itch users (or maybe just itch users who were inclined to click on my feminist murder dating sim) don’t really use the front page much?

  12. OK, I had a thought about the main post–which is that the elephant in the room is that most people who make a living from games work for the big studios (I expect), and lots of the ones who don’t got their start there–but eh. I also was going to shake my fist at Joel for linking to Alan Hazelden’s sale when I was just finishing Stephen’s Sausage Roll, and I was going to get there because Adam Saltsman called Tumbleseed the Dark Souls of marble rolls, and many people have called Stephen’s Sausage Roll the Dark Souls of puzzle games (which is incorrect, it’s Corrypt, I haven’t played Dark Souls AMA), but then Gregg B talked about Cosmic Express so the Hazelden games and by extension are totally on-topic.

    OK: Stephen’s Sausage Roll and A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build should swap level select schemes. People like to be able to replay puzzles and it’s hard to figure out how to do that. And there’s a reason, related to the overworld stuff, why you have to restore old saves labeled with the puzzle before the one you want to play rather than just select a puzzle and play it, but I think that reason would actually work better with the AGSIHTB mechanism where you can reset an individual puzzle without changing the overworld. There aren’t any situations (I don’t think) where that sort of retconning of a previous solution would get you anything more than restoring your save, doing the solution right, and going through everything else in the same way, and this would solve this tragic situation (SPOILERZ).

    But that’s not what I especially want to talk about! I want to talk about the final level of Stephen’s Sausage Roll which reminds me of your favorite level of World of Goo in some ways (SPOILERS coming, obviously, but I figure the game’s been out long enough that I don’t have to rot13 it). You reach this massive structure with an obvious signal that Something Big is happening–nine sausages!–but after you set up the level, beating it in a technical sense is trivial. There’s that 2×2 square in the middle of green space which in some past levels has been used when the challenge is getting the sausage to that area (Folklore, ermagod, when I first saw that I thought it was a metagame prank). But this time you’re already there. And the challenge is manipulating the gigantic blocks to get to the next level, with a fairly obvious place you need to put them. (This was foreshadowed by the previous level, where it’s pretty easy to leave yourself with no path forward, but honestly I think it’d be better with no such foreshadowing so you have to realize what the challenge of God Pillar is. Also that level annoyed me because it isn’t completely transparent what configuration the world will end up in after you solve it, so I had to trial-and-error it.)

    This reminded me a bit of Mom’s Computer–there’s a little encapsulated version of the main game in the level, but the real action is in doing something different. Building up and up and up. And you have to realize that’s what you need to do. It isn’t even that challenging when you realize what you need to do, just as on the scale of sausage puzzles the God Pillar challenge isn’t that hard (if you figure out the simplest way, you just have to repeat it several times–I did not figure out the simplest way and wound up with a lopsided structure). But the scale of what you need to do has changed. The game pieces are smaller than what you need to deal with–the little mini-goo game on the computer dwarfed by the games and applications, the sausages dwarfed by the huge blocks on your fork.

  13. ” the Hazelden games and by extension *Stephen’s Sausage Roll* are totally on-topic.”

  14. Joel – I finished Prey yesterday, so I am now FULLY SET to discuss it further. If, you know, anyone else wants to. 🙂

    On Brexit – so this stuff is immensely complicated, far more so than the majority of the media, commentariat and public statements from most politicians would suggest. There are many reasons to be leery of it, of course. Freedom of movement is great if you’re lucky enough to be amongst certain parts of the EU citizenry and Europe is indisputably vital to Britain as a trade partner. I have literally no idea what will happen in Ireland as a result of Brexit. A Tory government, even a weak and brittle one, will almost certainly attempt to shred the more positive pieces of EU legislation around human rights, product standards, environmental standards, etc. In an era of right-wing and neo-fascistic populism I can see why people want to cling to the idea that the EU will prevent large-scale pan-European war.

    None of that is controversial but I feel I need the preamble before I say I don’t want to fight for Remain and I think that emotion and small-c conservatism lead people to overlook the very many bad things about the EU (and its latest paper tiger, Macron). I would far rather see the UK benefiting from mild social democracy underpinned by socialist rather than corporate values – i.e. Labour’s 2017 manifesto and the Corbyn/McDonnell project – than I would see it resuming membership of an increasingly post-democratic organisation whose economic and legal structures would make the aforementioned manifesto and project much more difficult to implement. Britain is not Greece, but nor are we the Franco-German core of the EU’s latest neoliberal incarnation.

    I agree about your concerns about what die-hard Remainers are up to and I further agree that it’s a terrible idea. I have heard scuttlebutt that some Labour MPs were furious with Chuka Umunna for his stunt which doesn’t surprise me, as the Brexit faultline runs down the middle of the Labour Party more than it does any other British political formation. But then the more I learn about Umunna, the more I realise he is a… very not capable politician.

    Richard Seymour had a good blog piece last week hammering the “soft Brexit vs. hard Brexit” dichotomy as actively harmful and damaging any effort to think about these issues without reliance on cliche. We should, as he pointed out, be stating our objectives and which we will not shift on, and then working out how to get there. This I agree with. Fortunately it appears to be Corbyn’s game as well – so hopefully May will be turfed before she and her loyal dregs punch themselves and the UK in the face too much during negotiations.

    That’s quite a lot of rambling, only a few sentences of which relate to what you wrote. Sorry about that! I’m working through a lot of this at the moment. Politics is exciting again – thank fuck the centre could not hold.

    Thanks for the notes on money! I’m more of a newb than you are, so even these tidbits are of great value to me. 😉

  15. It’s been a big weekend here at Chez Electron Dance so I’ve been off the computer. I will hopefully have a reply for some of you good people later.

    But I’m scared of Matt’s comment as it has spoilers for SSR which I have still not yet played…

  16. Shaun first because it took ages to write this unfocused ramble, gotta love this comments.

    I shall unleash a Prey Story discussion post this week…

    Right, so… Brexit.

    The story in my family was that Europe was pretty socialist and, therefore, holding hands with the EU made things better. They erred on the side of regulation and labour law. At least that’s what it seemed like at the time. I never paid much attention to what the EU did for trade until prompted by the referendum.

    It’s not exactly a good argument, though. Just like “Choose Clinton because she’s no Trump”. Stay in the EU to neutralise some of the evils at home. What swung me into being a stronger Remain supporter was the realisation that leaving the EU was going to be a disaster, economically. That on the back of years of austerity, the UK was going do GBH to itself, even with the potential of banking crises ahead of us… There is no Brexit scenario in which things are positive in the medium term. The Brexiters know this. The problem for them, of course, is that people voted for things to get better and Brexit is going to add pain, a lot of pain. (And the “no deal” option is so apocalyptic, that it will not happen. Christ, planes stop flying!) The EU has been used as a scapegoat for domestic problems.

    If Brexit is going to happen, you’re going need a govt which is committed to spending too minimise the pain of transition – if Conservatives remain committed to their austerity line, then I’m terrified of what will follow. If the Conservatives actually manage to hang on that long, of course (they’d be dead after that). I don’t care how much blame they put on the EU for being just really super mean in the negotiation room, because everyone is supposed to play nice, you know, just like the UK which tried using the most immoral cards in the deck: the rights of EU citizens and security cooperation.

    If things switch to a more socialist footing here, perhaps after Brexit we will be better off. But if the govt becomes desperate for growth without spending, then there’s being a tax haven on the agenda, whittling down all sorts of regulations to attract investment… And we’re not talking about the shape of the banana, because if you want to export to Europe, you’re still going to have to abide by the same standards as we do now. We’re more talking about regulations around production like health & safety, labour protection, etc.

    Environmental, also, but the EU has not exactly been a friend to the environment. The farming subsidy system is too often gamed and quite ludicrous. Farming in the UK already suffers – abused by supermarkets, it quite easily fell into dependence of cheap imported labour… one has to wonder if EU subsidies is what permits some of this madness to continue. And I’ve never been more disappointed with the EU as when it went after Greece. I’m not sure I could ever forgive it or the people involved.

    The early Brexit impact was through the FX market – Sterling was discounted which fed through over months into inflation. The Bank scaremongering was way overblown because people aren’t rational machines which we’ve been get through to the neoliberalists for bloody years. The FX drop hasn’t finished feeding through yet and further shocks could pump in more inflation.

    The next impacts are happening now, where local companies start to lock down spending and foreign investment becomes nervous.

    I’d expect this turns into something of a panic as we head into late 2018 and the shape of Brexit Britain becomes apparent. And we’re already in a recession. Negotiating trade deals during the Brexit period is going to be very difficult (you can’t be sure of the ground you’re standing on until EU negotiations are complete; it will sour already soured relations with the EU and we’ve got all our civil servants working on Brexit). At that point, I think it’s more likely the govt in power will search for the Brexit Squared option (Exit from Brexit).

    (There’s also the possibility of the banking crisis coming back Any Time Soon because it never went away but was paid for by state cuts.)

    Sorry this is just as rambly as yours! I have a feeling this one is better over drinks. Let me just summarise.

    Will Brexit make life in the UK better in the *longer* term…? In my calculus, the odds are in favour of making things worse. On a personal level, the best I hope for is that life becomes more normal within ten years, because that’s around the time my children could be facing the job market. (disclosure, I would argue my job is also not sound due to an unholy confluence, but I didn’t vote Remain for that, just like I didn’t vote Labour because it would make me personally better off, which it wouldn’t have).

    Money: Thought experiment. You have ten people sharing a finite money pool of £10. If they have ten children, you’ve doubled the population but the money pool does not change. That £10 circulating has to cover a lot more transactions otherwise the system falls apart, so prices fall / the value of money increases – you get deflation. Hoarding money is toxic for an economy, which is why govt should try to limit how much individual actors in the market have to save (medical insurance, pension…). And deflation has a psychological impact – just hold on to your money and you will get more tomorrow. That’s why I think Bitcoin does not make sense, because it the supply is finite and, while people were excited about it because it was “free of government control”, it also means free of government support. And I’m sure the bulk of those who went after Bitcoin were excited about it as a gold farming exercise, where Bitcoin got ever more valuable (deflationary effect).

  17. Matt,

    It did occur to me that people studying for gamedev courses are aiming for The Big Crunch studios rather than indie game success, so they live of this complex overlap between “love of dat game artz” and “practical skillz only tx”. But I think it might be a big ask to expect people to work for a Crunch studio and make a game in their spare time.

    I really haven’t played Stephen’s Sausage Roll so I wish I understood the comment about the level select. The Snowman level select is just walking around, right? I am intending to play SSR before I get into the puzzle series (wait that doesn’t leave me much time).

    What I loved about WoG is its ability to mess with its core almost on whim. Mom is the simplest example but then you get the neon computer levels and it feels like a different game. I don’t care whether WoG extracted every last drop of puzzle from its broad canvas… it was a glorious festival of fun. It was far more than a physics puzzle game and I think that needs to be stated whenever a new physics puzzler turns up!

    Having revisited WoG more recently, I discovered it is pretty hard. My children liked it, but couldn’t make much progress. Those levels where you have to make a floating structure to reach another platform…! Yikes

  18. Oh man, I did not realize that you had not played SSR! Ignore the link and third paragraph of my comment because there are significant mechanical spoilers for something that really would be a lot diminished if you don’t see the spoiler. Aww, you shouldn’t have read the fourth paragraph either. Oh well. Actually the spoilers aren’t that bad. Also, play SSR, it is extremely good, and leave lots of time for it because you will get stuck and have to sleep on things.

    I could say something more about Snowman’s level select though. For both Snowman and SSR the level select is just walking around, and the issue is how you can replay puzzles if you want to, which is clunky and hard to figure out in SSR–you have to ask yourself “Why does it say ‘Load Game’ when I hit escape to get to the main menu?”, try the Load Game option, notice that the available saves are named with the puzzles you’ve solved, and figure that if you want to replay a puzzle you have to load a game from before the one you’ve solved. In Snowman the way to replay puzzles is–well, kind of unintuitive, but unclunky–you just walk into a solved puzzle area and hit “R.” Which is like what I’d like in SSR.

    Some spoilers for Snowman, but here’s why I want them to switch schemes: There’s a metapuzzle in Snowman which will almost certainly require you to reset some puzzles and solve them a different way. But once you’ve reset a puzzle you’re stuck with doing it again–SSR allows you to undo across resets, and that would be really nice in Snowman, for when you decide that your old solution to a puzzle was the one you wanted after all. Even nicer in Snowman would be something that allows you to select your previous solutions from a menu so you don’t have to reenact everything for the metapuzzle. Maybe this would not work because I think some of them affect other solutions, by blocking exits and the like? But the ability to reset solutions rather than save games already gives you the possibility of putting the game in a state it couldn’t be in without resets, which SSR’s system doesn’t, except in SSR I don’t think this would do any harm.

    All told (still Snowman spoilers) I’m a bit discontent with the metagame puzzle. For one thing, it’s signposted that there’s something extra, and I did just about everything I needed to reach it but wound up missing it because a crucial tooltip didn’t show up in time, so I had to hit some spoilers. (Also, there’s the butterflies, which I didn’t understand at all without spoilers.) The metagame is very trial and error–it seems like you can’t be absolutely sure your solution to one bit won’t leave things unsolvable on the other side of the board–which makes it annoying when you experimentally reset a puzzle and realize it was the way you wanted all along. It’s definitely signaled as extra content (the gate unlocks and there’s a credit roll and a “THE END?”) but it also seems like it contains a pretty big proportion of the puzzle content. Without that it seems… oh no… kind of slight for a full-price game (but it’s nice and I got it in that bundle with Sokobond and Cosmic Express so it’s all good).

    Also I think I’d have appreciated it more before playing SSR than after, because SSR is this huge epic of a pushing game without a single level that accommodates you at all, and Snowman eases you in, which didn’t seem that necessary at the moment.

  19. Also “Choose Clinton because she’s no Trump” was exactly a good argument, I don’t know what you’re even trying to say there.

  20. Matt,

    I’ve started SSR but I’m getting absolutely nowhere. I never intended to play SSR because it was clearly a Sokoban-type game. The last hard Sokobanite I tried was Snakebird and I just threw in the towel on that. So far it seems my fears were justified. (I have completed just one level.)

    On Snowman, I was impressed with its game-outside-the-game but inevitably became disaffected for the reasons you cite: it’s quite frustrating for all the rework you have to do without being confident you’re on track for the correct solution. Cosmic Express, on the other hand, has a much clearer post-game game.

    I was quite pleased with the length of Snowman and didn’t want more. But then again, I’m not a Sokoban person.

    On the Choose Clinton thing, just that it’s pure negative campaigning. I’m not an evil shitlord, so vote for me. It wasn’t enough. Too many disliked Clinton, especially after the Democrat machine worked hard to push Sanders aside. They didn’t vote for Trump. And they didn’t vote for Clinton either.

  21. Mmyeah, I forgot about your Sokobanite thing. Do you not consider Sokobond a hard one or did you try it before Snakebird? Got to go to dinner so I can’t finish this part of the comment.

    OK, I see what you mean about Clinton. “Vote for the person who’s not a total shitlord” is entirely correct when one of the candidates is a total shitlord–and it worked for Macron–but it’s not inspiring. Clinton did have a lot of excellent policies but she made a play to disqualify Trump because of his evident unsuitability, and that gave far too much credit to American voters. (The thing about the Democrat machine pushing Sanders aside as if it were something hugely nefarious beyond the usual establishment-favors-the-establishment-candidate business is a narrative that was badly exacerbated by Russian hacking, though, and it’s increasingly clear that (a) Trump’s campaign encouraged it if did not actively collude in it (b) Trump’s administration has no interest in pursuing the people who committed these crimes against American citizens, including revealing credit card and social security numbers, because the crimes were committed against his political opponents (c) the Republican party as a whole has no interest in preventing those crimes either, for the same reason, and no interest in holding Trump to account (d) in fact Trump and the GOP are tacitly or actively encouraging similar future crimes against Democrats, because their loyalty is to their party rather than to the integrity of our democracy. It’s a very dark time.)

  22. OK, about the games! I’m going to unrecommend Stephen’s Sausage Roll, I guess, because it doesn’t seem like you’ll have a great time. I will say that the difficulty curve isn’t up and up and up–what happens after the first batch of puzzles is that each new batch focuses on a new mechanic, which are mostly in some sense implicit in sausage physics, but only come into play when the levels contain terrain that’s suitable for them. In a way that’s an odd thing to say–the new mechanics in Sokobond only come into play when the levels contain elements that are suitable for them, in that there isn’t going to be any bond-splitting going on when the level doesn’t contain a bond-splitter. But except for one glaring exception (ladders, and that’s not a spoiler, you can see some from where you are) the new mechanics in SSR aren’t so explicitly “Here’s something that does something new” as “Explore what you can do in this novel situation and you’ll find a new mechanic.”

    Anyway, the relevant thing is that as Bennett Foddy says every single puzzle is supposed to look impossible–and in particular, the first batch of levels is mostly designed so that you can’t take a single step wrong, while later ones more often have Wide Open Spaces with a lot of routine navigation. But… there’s this one level in the second group which pretty much introduces the open spaces, and also so many new mechanics that it took me like two weeks to do. Mostly leaving it alone for a couple of days and coming back, but still. It wasn’t just two weeks of banging my head on the wall, because there were a lot of new mechanics to stumble on, but still, it might not be fun for you. So… don’t feel like it should be coming easier, but it might not be your thing.

    I looked at Snakebird to see how it plays and reminds me of Blocks With Letters On, which is something I would talk about in my mythical Golden Age of Flash games series. Both in the role of gravity and in the fact that it’s a navigation game but not a pushing game. In BWLO you can move any block and often one of the big issues is keeping gravity from beating you (in many levels the goal is to get a block to a switch that lets it ignore gravity). It also has a very pleasing variety from the With Letters On concept–there are some levels that are almost entirely about figuring what word you can make, some that are about how to make it, some that are combinations. But, if you’re not a block-moving person, probably not for you. Also Flash games are still alive, my son plays them all the time.

  23. Sokobond – I got quite far into it, but eventually progress began to slow down and I never finished it. It wasn’t so much I got bored but I can’t play the same game forever, just like how I had to give Dark Souls a break. A lot of the map remains unexplored. Sokobond appears at the end of The Witness video – the map of the completed puzzles you see there is pretty much where I left it.

    I’m making progress on SSR and starting to figure out some of the rules to abide by. Like don’t put a sausage into a corner, how plates will only ever do one particular side of a sausage etc. Polished off quite a few levels although that one nearest the start is killing me. I’m persisting for now: I don’t feel beaten and, more critically, I feel like I’m learning. Snakebird never felt like that.

  24. That’s how SSR gets you! This is a good thing. Seriously, this is one of the things SSR is known for–it throws you into the deep end, and if you experiment with it you may begin to click on some patterns like the ones you’ve detected (when you can haul a sausage back from the end, when you can’t, some of the invariants like the one you noticed about the grill and side). And then there are going to be things that violate some patterns.

    Sokobond, besides making it much easier for you in the first few levels, seemed to have a lot of levels where the trick was partly that the obvious move was the wrong move–there were two atoms next to the start point that could obviously be knocked together, but that turned out to be fatal. With SSR it takes a lot of work to even see what the obvious moves might be. And then they’re often wrong. (There’s one particularly brilliant bit–I’m just going to rot13 this for you to look at after you’ve done 140 sausages or so because I don’t want to spoil you, but here it is for anyone else who wants to look, really do not read this yet–gur svefg yriry lbh frr va gur svsgu jbeyq vf gur tbetr, juvpu vagebqhprf gur qebccvat gur sbex zrpunavfz vs lbh qvqa’g nppvqragnyyl qvfpbire vg va gur cerivbhf jbeyq. Gur bayl boivbhf guvat gb qb vf gb jnyx fgenvtug bagb n fnhfntr gb trg qbja, naq jura lbh qb vg qebcf gur sbex sbe lbh anghenyyl. Rkprcg gur fbyhgvba vaibyirf qebccvat gur sbex va n pbzcyrgryl qvssrerag jnl. Vg vagebqhprf n aba-boivbhf zrpunavfz va na vaghvgvir jnl, naq gura pbzcyrgryl fperjf jvgu lbhe rkcrpgngvbaf bs ubj gb hfr gur zrpunavfz, nyy jvguva n fvatyr yriry.)

    I haven’t watched The Witness video because I haven’t played the Witness. But maybe I should accept that I’m never going to play The Witness and I should give in? But wait–it is available for macOS which I had thought would never happen! OK, changing status from “I literally can’t play it” to “I understand the reasons behind this (although Blow was one of the prime movers in bundledom) but it’s too rich for my blood at full price.” Think that means I’m still not watching the video.

    Anyhow! As far as what you said about taking a break from the game, that seems like absolutely the right way to do it. I mentioned I had to take a big break from SSR, and I feel a little queasy from having wolfed Sokobond down (plus it led to greater frustration when I had only one level left, and I wound up hitting a walkthrough, which is pretty pointless). English Country Tune I also took a long time on. These just aren’t games that require any sort of forward momentum, as I think you observed when you were talking about the story in Full Boar–it’s good to sleep on them and return to them, where the sleep might last a year or so.

  25. The Great Tower really is a different beast from the ones that came before. The other ones–this isn’t spoily–are tightly constrained, where it’s often pretty clear what you need to do (get this sausage to this half of the board, or something like that) but what you need to do looks completely impossible. But with The Great Tower it’s like, here is this tremendous THING, how do I even start with it?

    Which is not necessarily a more difficult kind of puzzle. With other levels it’s easy to get into paralysis where it seems like there’s just no way forward–you can even work out “I have to do this, there’s no way to do the level without doing this, and there’s also no way to do this.” (Either one might be wrong.) But The Great Tower is kind of like some Sokobond levels with a whole bunch of atoms where you’re like “I’m not even sure exactly what I have to do, I’m just going to mess with stuff and then maybe I’ll stumble across it or I might just mess up at the beginning.”

    In this case you just have to smack a bunch of stuff around and see what you can do. There’s a bunch of new mechanics to pick up on this level so messing about for a while is necessary. The nice thing is that you can make a lot of partial progress, figuring out how to do some things even if it’s not a solution yet, as opposed to some of the puzzles where when you’re stuck you’re stuck.

    The puzzles after this aren’t as mindboggling in the same way, you’ll be happy to know. Until there’s the part where… well, listen, I know this isn’t exactly your thing, but if you stick with it you get to something that is WHOA. (I should also say that I used about three hints, I can tell you the levels if you like.)

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