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11 thoughts on “Discussion: The Mirror Click’d

  1. Yeah, Cookie Clicker reminds me of the AV Club review of Napoleon Dynamite; it only thinks its heart is in the right place. It has this satirical sheen and it’s obviously absurd but fundamentally it’s the RPG watching-numbers-go-up curve distilled to its purest form, without the nominally fun part, and yet it’s a straight hit to the center of your brain that compulsively tries to fulfill goals that have been set for you no matter how arbitrary. Which is how you wind up awake till 2 AM (and why I’m typing this instead of going to bed and reading a bit more of Malafrena). In theory there’s something there–a bit of discovery in the new things you unlock, a bit of wit in the text, a bit of strategy in planning the most efficient way to get places–but it’s all quickly stripped away by the repetition (messages that are funny once are not funny the thousandth time). And in theory it’s designed to be played by leaving the tab open to accumulate cookies while you do other things, but there are all these niggling little things to keep you coming back… the golden cookies most prominently, but also just seeing that there’s only one minute until you can get your next thingummybob, so will you really click away? Well, a minute is a long time when you’re just staring at a number waiting for it to clear a threshold. It started out as a critique of energy mechanics like in Farmville (or Fallen London, for a good game in its way) but it turned into the cruelest distillation of them.

    The cruelest insult for me was when I read about triggering the Grandmapocalypse and took some care to do so… and it didn’t cause the end of the world. You just limp along at a slightly reduced cookie production rate, when it’s clear it doesn’t matter. You have to summon the willpower to walk away, but at the same time you’re admitting you’ve been had.

    Candy Box I’ll defend a little, but the great game in the area of this genre is A Dark Room. I had some thoughts on all these here. Some spoily bits there… I really do recommend trying A Dark Room maybe without looking at it. One of its great strengths is that it has an ending, and it doesn’t even take that long to reach it. Both it and Candy Box do have some genuinely surprising developments, if you don’t know what they are in advance. (I haven’t tried Factory/Reactor Idle, which may have something going on beyond sheer clickeration/numberbating.)

    One of my imaginary games jam entries was an inverted idle game inspired by Children of Lir… I quote myself:

    “You play as the children of Lir, cursed to remain swans for nine hundred years until a new civilization arises around you. A Dark Room-like, naturally, except that the game takes care of all the spreadsheet management for you. So it’s more like an inverted Dark Room; the swans’ magical songs generate the random events around that change the optimal efficient resource allocations and tip the way the civilization develops. Boy that sounds like a spreadsheet, doesn’t it? But at least the spreadsheet is hidden from you; since you’re not doing the micromanaging, you don’t need to see the numbers. The meditative joy is in watching the descriptions of the land slowly evolve.”

    The best part of this is the title: “Nine Hundred Years of Swannitude.” Also, in my imagination this lasts half an hour, you’re not expected to leave it running in a background tab, and it has a procedurally generated soundtrack.

    (Did you catch the unusual thing about this comment?)

  2. Matt beat me to the punch: A Dark Room is quite possibly the only clicker that’s actually worth playing. It’s a beautiful thing. Candy Box had the huge advantage of being the first (at least I think it was), although it was quite witty, in its own daft way.

    And for the record, I really do believe I am above this kind of thing. The two mentioned above are the only ones that held my attention. I’ve bounced off Cookie Clicker, Clicker Heroes, AdVenture Capitalist et al in a matter of minutes. No charm whatsoever, just vile, manipulative shit.

    Also, Snakebird? More like Fucking-hell-what-a-game-bird.

  3. Matt,

    So I don’t know anything about the Grandmapocalypse but I did hear the game used to tell you how many golden cookies you’d missed by not watching which is just the most vile thing to do players in a game like this. It was taken out due to such complaints.

    All these games are giving you aside from the numbers increasing, as you point out, is discovery. Stuff is locked until you get to sufficiently high numbers and those numbers move further and further out – if your power goes up by an order of 2, the game moves the goalposts by an order of 3, so the waiting game gets longer and longer. I had Cookie Clicker running in the background while I was finishing up the newsletter and it was striking at how slowly it was now hitting targets. Over those two hours I “achieved” substantially less than the initial two.

    Naturally, my fear about these games is exactly what you said: raw energy mechanics, primed for user exploitation. Pay for the next stage. And guess what, the next stage is even farther away.

    I don’t think I know anything about A Dark Room so maybe I should fire that one up. I also haven’t played Little Inferno but I understand it has a message to convey about consumption.

    Well done on your Children of Lir idea, now if you can just find some mug to code it up for you, you will make MILLIONS


    Yeah, so, I should give A Dark Room a go. I’m off for a short holiday tomorrow so it’ll have to wait!

    I don’t know if you saw my comment on Twitter but re: Snakebird, I don’t know if I like it or hate it. Most of the time I find I don’t enjoy block-pushing games and this is of the same kind of ilk. That said, I felt hugely satisfied when I worked out some of levels, although I still feel very rookie when it comes to some of the mechanics (like pushing those vertical frames around).

  4. Mr Joel I want to report bug in your game “Return to Citadel demo – in level 9 it’s impossible to solve.





  5. Hi Anonymous Citadel player,

    I should clear up I wrote the original game “The Citadel” in 1993 but had nothing to do with Byxon Games’ remake Return to Citadel released ten years later! The origin story of the game is over here. Many of the levels in Return to Citadel are my originals.

    Nonetheless, I’m glad you’ve worked out your problem and wish you luck on the rest of your journey! Glad you’re enjoying the levels!

  6. ok thanks for the info (I am Citadel fan and Berusky fan – this is my best games – thanks for Citadel)

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