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I imagine if you play as God intended, this isn’t a problem, but if you’re a rookie spacemarble pilot like myself who struggles to ride the bladed edge of the game’s physics, it’s a total crapshoot.

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21 thoughts on “Discussion: The Gravity of Reality

  1. Gosh, I thought Exo One might be an open-world NightSky–No Man’s NightSky–which would have been so completely my jam that it would hurt. But I guess it isn’t. Which is just as well, ’cause I can’t play it because Mac. Unfortunately I can’t play NightSky either because 32-bit. I miss it.

  2. i had those same expectations. i don’t want challenges! the way you described it made it seem like it was focus-group-tested by a publisher or something. also this seems like the type of game where those challenges are optional and you can level select at anytime. bummer. i don’t think i’ll not play it, though, just not gonna prioritise it.

  3. Matt, doesn’t that disappointment make it exactly No Man’s Nightsky? And should I play Nightsky? It looks like I have an hour in it (Last played: 3 Feb 2014), but I don’t remember strong feelings about it one way or the other. Most of what I remember about it is that maybe you have strong feelings about the level select screen?

    I’d heard enough good things about Exo One to have it on a wishlist, but then read enough about the challenging-ness to maybe take it off. It does seem like it has a lot of really cool ingredients, though.

  4. I do not have strong feelings about the level select screen in NightSky! It is the one game whose level select screen I don’t have strong feelings about! Well I guess I did point it out as a positive contrast to Closure, in that it had the same kind of collectibles and similar (not identical) level progression, but it did a better job of making them feel optional and also letting you navigate to the levels where you needed to find them once you’d finished the main game.

    My main thing about NightSky is that I find it very immersive; the feel is great, the sound design makes you feel like the things you’re hitting have physical presence, the way the music comes in and out instead of playing continuously is brilliant, and it’s full of little touches that aren’t there to provide challenge but experience. Like the third and final screen of a level often is something you can just hold right to cross after the challenge was in the second screen, but it might be a rolling hill instead of a flat plain. As with some of Nifflas’s other games, much of it is about the backgrounds and atmosphere rather than a challenge. Anyway I’m a notorious simp for Nifflas, ask me sometime about Knytt Underground.

    So it’s something I’d recommend trying for half an hour just before bedtime, and definitely start on Normal difficulty rather than Alternative, Alternative difficulty at times is one of those things Nifflas puts in so people who want to hurt themselves with his games can do so, but they have only themselves to blame.

  5. everything matt w says about nightsky is true. the sound design, in particular, is what i remember most. so tactile and satisfying.

  6. To be fair, I think Jay had challenge in mind from the beginning but we probably didn’t want to hear it. There’s an interview here with Jay at Rezzed all those years ago. And he’s talking about how wind might be used to thwart the player if you go to high. This is actually a thing in the final game.

    I decided not to moan about the missing level select because it is coming to an Exo One update in the near future.

    I feel realllly bad that I haven’t played anything of Nifflas except for Knytt Stories and a short dabble with Uurnog Unlimited – which I have still not uninstalled!

    Additional complaint: I dislike the story of Exo One. It’s not strong enough to generate the feels it wants to and it has a now-clichéd and completely predictable ending. The Rezzed build had a voice actor reading out lines and I thought that worked; but the new version has been replaced with a sort of voice-like gabble which is not kind on the ears. The first time I heard it, I assumed the audio had screwed up and stopped and started the game again.

  7. At some point as I read this, the word ‘Sonic’ wandered through my mind for a moment in search of something to connect with.

    Then I read about the level that ‘forces the player to be slow and careful’ being a low point and holy shit, you’re actually actually talking about a 3D Sonic The Hedgehog game (but not the 3D Sonic the Hedgehog games). Sonic is all about momentum; there’s nothing more sublime than traversing those loops and chutes at full tilt, your CRT modulating the sprites and sounds and colours and music into an ecstatic harmony at 50* glorious frames per second.

    But then – of course there’s a but then – how is that a game? In the notional interests of challenge and interactivity, there needed to be potential roadbumps: enemies you barely have time to react to, spikes, bottomless pits. For all but the best or most well-versed, a potential roadbump will bump with great potency. Momentum detonated, euphoria dissipated, for very little discernible gain.

    We might relate it back to your experiences of Infra: on the player’s side, promises (whether made or imagined) not surviving the impact with reality. And on the developer’s, certain assumptions about the shape of a game that get in the way of the shape of the game: it’s got to have a fail-state, right? Well, perhaps, but you’ve got also to consider all the ways that might constrain the success-state too.

    *or whatever the PAL standard actually put out (it certainly felt more fluid than 25?)

  8. You mentioned a Bonfire Peaks stream so this is on-topic too: we need to TALK about Adversity.

    (I don’t usually, or ever, watch streams but I might try to catch it!)

  9. I felt the same about my first playthrough. I expected and hoped for smooth, pleasant, unchallenging extremely fast gameplay, and got something where I had to fight to complete it.

    But! I hold that the second playthrough of the game is the real playthrough. When starting that, you have become a skater, and you know how to do the grind. Most importantly, you know that the real good game is when you are in the clouds, dipping in and out of them.

    I’ve only played through a couple of levels, so maybe it breaks on tree level and asteroid level, but man, the first couple of levels felt really really fantastic on the second playthrough. That fulfilled the promise of the trailers and gifs for me.

    (and yeah, the story is just way too obtuse most of the game. Would have preferred the game without it at all)
    (also, where is my endlessly procedurally generated mode? If any game ever needed an endless procedural mode, it’s surely this)

  10. BTW this is why we need to talk about Adversity.

    (The soundtrack is not Mad World, but it could’ve been!)

  11. Well, I meant to respond here a few days ago and, boy, has the time flown.


    I think your Sonic reference is interesting.

    I’ve always gotten the impression that Sonic is out of vogue these days; I loved those games in the early 90s. A lot of Green Hill Zone can just be run through but inevitably you end up in golf bunker at some point, desperate to club your poor trapped Sonic into the action. But then you get the Labyrinth Zone and, you know what, I kinda hate that zone. It’s slow, long, and full YORRRR GONNA DIE countdowns. Back in the day, I found it a tough challenge — old-skool tough challenge usually means a bore these days.

    I have have nostalgia for hardcore Sonic but, if I’m honest, the butter-greased gameplay of Sonic 3 / Sonic & Knuckles is what I enjoyed the most. You could just play that thing without much concern of death – if you wanted hardcore, then you played through for the Super Emeralds (which I did for each character! jesus, youth is wasted on the young). I didn’t mind the slow sections like the Marble Garden Zone or Mushroom Hill because they were interesting. I am not much of a fan of the pinball levels, because the bumpers can be sensitive to just the angle of attack and you end up redoing segments over and over again.

    And so Exo One: it’s all about the vista. Moving slowly doesn’t really offer challenge. It feels like a Sonic pinball level where mistakes can have you setting up jumps and complex somersaults repeatedly – they don’t correlate to the slow exploratory levels of Sandopolis or Mushroom Hill.

  12. Victor

    I agree, I think a second playthrough probably works better – I started the game again immediately and went after the upgrades I didn’t spot first time around. And that instantly gives you my flying capacity. The water world was also pretty fun because you just bounce along the sea and there’s rarely a duff moment in that entire stage. I imagine doing it a second time wouldn’t hurt.

    But I think redoing that tree level will not be entertaining and I’m not sure I really enjoyed that last level. Actually, that’s incorrect: that last level is fine as long as you’re not trying to achieve anything.

    I can understand why there’s no proc gen here. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice to see, but a proc gen endless mode would be it’s own project entirely and it was obviously built from the beginning with crafted levels in mind.

  13. oops, i accidentally deleted the newsletter, so i wasn’t able to re-read what you had to say!

    i ended up purchasing this because of the epic sale – they paid 10USD for this, so it’s a win for jay weston, being that i might have put this off for years, or forever.

    i’m glad i did because i love, love, love this game. other than that jungle level where you turn into a giant ball with limited visibility, this game presented the right amount of challenge and relaxation for me. i’m not bragging, it was pretty easy, although me being a skateboarder might have helped. it was quite a sublime experience, and me being into trippy stuff, i loved the abstraction and weirdness. i did actually enjoy that jungle level because it was weird and quite a different use of the gameplay than i would have expected.

    i tried to play it again, but it didn’t stick. i don’t know if i just wasn’t in the mood today, but i think the magic for me was in the discovery of what comes next. and just like the outer wilds + dlc (that i just finished), i’m sad i can’t play it again for the first time, but i have no regrets.

  14. Hi Daniel,

    You can find the last newsletter here if you want to catch up with my mixed feelings on it.

    I think if I’d known this was a skateboarding game in advance then I probably would have had less issues with it; this makes me think somewhat about how NaissanceE pissed people off in the same way yet I liked that abuse.

  15. I’ve played lots of platformer games, so the tree level was no frustration in my first playthrough. Then Exo One becomes a big surprise of my 2021 gaming! Despite linearity and little exploration, I feel a strong sense of freedom in this game – the freedom to choose and perform any kind of flight you want to take through the route. Speedrunners go for the fastest way. Casual gamers go for a relaxing one. And I am obsessed in finding the most elegant and lovely way to complete the journey!

  16. Hi Nami! Like my last comment, I think the game can seem quite different if you approach it with the correct mindset. I think it’s a great achievement that oozes with developer love even if I had an issues with it. Glad you’re having a great time with it.

  17. Nah, let the record show that Joel has SLANDERED the game, the developer, and the entire nation of Australia (plus sci-fi as a genre, games with artistic ambition, and… all of physics?).

    Otherwise, add me to the tally of folks who got and played this after reading the newsletter and comments. I finished it last night, and I don’t think I would’ve bought it (also thanks Epic coupon) or enjoyed it as much without you all. I had a similar sequence/experience with Subnautica; I don’t know if I’d have fallen in love with it if I hadn’t read your stuff and prebuilt out a model of how to appreciate it.

    To me that seems like an under appreciated function of games writing that’s taken for granted in other media. We wouldn’t generally send people to Chaucer without guidance and interpretation! You’ve written about that already though, right? You’re not quite in favor of the “no mechanical spoilers!” fetish? It seems like there’s an analogous thing for spoiling “feelings” where it can actually be quite helpful for engaging with the game. (Insert caveats about times and places for all the things)

    Related counterpoint: let us know if you like Inscryption! I guess you might?

  18. Dan, you know, I hadn’t actually thought about critical writing that way even though this has happened to me time and time again. I’ve consumed reviews by others who clearly didn’t have a good time and I’ve decided to approach games differently to the reviewer, to see if they’ve just read the game the wrong way. Examples include No Man’s Sky (I felt the same way as most reviewers when it first started although, to be fair, I don’t know if I’ve changed my opinion that much) and Shadowhand (people were expecting Regency Solitaire and it does not play the same).

    How I feel about mechanical spoilers depends on the phase of the moon. I don’t mind spoiling parts if it’s important to understand what kind of beast you’re dealing with, but it’s obvious that spoiling some of the puzzle types in The Witness – even though it doesn’t spoil the puzzles themselves – takes a chunk of fun out of the game. (Although you can play Understand and get that joy back!)

    I bought Inscryption soon after the positive buzz following release. One of the few Crashbook games I’ve picked up! I’m hoping to install it sometime soon…

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