Here’s yet another Open Mike thread where I promise myself to get involved in the discussion but never find the time. Welcome.

Download my FREE eBook on the collapse of indie game prices an accessible and comprehensive explanation of what has happened to the market.

Sign up for the monthly Electron Dance Newsletter and follow on Twitter!

46 thoughts on “Open Mike 8

  1. All right. I’m ready. I think it was partially my fault that the last one didn’t get that exciting and I promise to be incoherent and longwinded again this month.

    So…has anyone played Knock-Knock here? It’s from the studio that brought us The Void and Pathologic–the former of which I know I’ve made a lot of noise about people needing to play–I’m reviewing it and I have absolutely no idea how to beat it. I’m close to writing one of those “Here’s what not being able to beat the game taught me” kind of things, but everyone hates those–but anyone beat it? Anyone?

    I’m going to throw this out there–I’ve been on the outskirts of the scene since ’03;–my ten-year anniversary, shit!–and I think this year has been the most fun I’ve ever had. Everything’s been absolutely joyful–I really hope I’m not alone in this. So many people seem so maudlin and weary–but, shit, I think we’re in a beautiful, beautiful time.

  2. Hey Richard. We did almost have Matt W and mwm end up in a fist-fight but yeah, I’m sure you could kicked some sand in someone’s eyes also. But you’re probably going to continue your quest of trolling the Twine scene while simultaneously trying not to enjoy making Twine games.

    I said over on Tap-Repeatedly that I really need to allocate some time to Ice-Pick Lodge and just DO their stuff. I started Pathologic earlier this year, spent an hour or so, and just never went back. I didn’t play long enough to get a feel for it.

    This is a wonderful time for creative works. I’m not so sure it’s a wonderful time for getting paid, of course…

  3. I’d say I’m less the kicking sand guy and more of the guy who hangs on the sidelines making up funny voices and starting rumors like “I heard Matt W said mwm has a stupid face” and “Well mwm told me that Matt W smells like butt” and escalating from there.

    Listen, there’s something very soothing in making nodemaps in Twine, and it legitimately has given me a different way to angle my writing. (Fact is I’m working on my own article on The Conversation Surrounding Reviews that I’m seriously considering making in Twine since it’s less a linear argument and more a dozen disparate components that all sit in a web together.) I’ve been considering making a Twine about the whole Final Fantasy committee thing–apparently Squeenix hired a focus group to work on the new Final Fantasy, and I would love to do something making fun of the whole uproar over this–I have some general hostilities to the whole GAMES R ART!!! nonsense (me? hostile? lolwut?), and I think we’ve all kind of long known that Final Fantasy is like a Hollywood Product–there’s this hilarious ignorance surrounding the anger. I’ve got some ideas kicking around, which, I can’t think of anything PARTICULARLY interesting to do quite yet–I mostly want to make something to justify my title which is…

    …wait for it…

    …are you ready?


    I’ll show myself out. No need to call security.

  4. I, uh, really want to play Knock-Knock. But haven’t yet.

    I have however finished Twinal Fantasy. All five endings no less. All in all, I rate it six Final Fantasy 12s out of five.

  5. Hey guys I started playing Bioshock Infinite because I bought it for $12 on Steam and so far it’s pretty awful does anyone know about this fact

  6. Electron Dance yelled at me for my prior comment it said “You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.” it would be funny if I got autoflagged as spam I’m not spam I’m a dog

  7. @pippin My favorite part of the One Day War was the Forty-Five Minute Truce which was when I took a nap.

    @Shaun Conglaturation! I should implement a Cheevo system for the next one. I was thinking of putting a super secret ending. I was also thinking of saying there was a super secret ending and having you go crazy finding it.

    @Eric I would play your Twine.

  8. Gregg, there’s still plenty of comment slots left open. No one has said anything approaching insightful or intellectual yet.

  9. As David Harvey pointed out in The Condition of Postmodernity, the ideology that underpins the so-called social justice movement springs from the contradictions of late capitalism itself, despite its attempts to depict its- OH LOOK A DOGGIE!

  10. Well, this Open Mike has certainly sparked great conversation and philosophical debate. No one is even talking about what they fancy for dinner.

    Are there any hot topics? I’m not really up for talking about Indie Custom Cube, blaaargh. I notice in a month where I wrote that I didn’t want to lose sight of AAA, a conversation sprouted up that “it’s okay to dump AAA”. I don’t know if this puts me ahead or behind the trend. Actually, we all know I don’t give too much of a shits about trend because I normally write about games absurdly late. Guess it’s time to blow the dust off the Mass Effect box. (As if I bought boxes any more. All these old-fashioned metaphors down the drain.)

    I really should get to work on that Newsletter. Marginalia eats up way more time than you’d think because I have to watch videos and attempt to grapple with academic papers.

  11. Why would I do that?

    (No, seriously, I don’t even have enough time/energy to play IFComp and games that I’ve paid money for because they sound good to me. TCD sort of seems like it raises interesting issues for me but not in a way that makes me want to play it.)

    So here’s the thing: Rohrer said somewhere that it was key to make the family mechanically important, because characters with no mechanical function have less meaning than characters that do. Which I found odd, because what gives the NPCs in Passage and Gravitation their meaning isn’t their function as a powerup (how many people who played Passage even know that the wife in Passage is a 2x score modifier?) but the fact that you do stuff with them. (And the concreteness of the way she ages with you in Passage, which is about the only concrete thing in the game.) And AFAICT you don’t do anything with your family in The Castle Doctrine.

    This might be a source of the thematic weirdness you feel, because in order for a story about defeating intruders to have the emotional impact of a Jason Rohrer Game the player needs to have feelings about his family. Otherwise, as you pointed out, it could just be any other FPS. But Rohrer seems to have lost sight of how he’s made people feel things about his family. And since he can’t just make an FPS or whatever and have it be a Jason Rohrer Game he winds up with this weird thematic mishmosh you’ve also talked about where the game can’t be about fear of defending your family from housebreakers because you yourself are, mechanically, a housebreaker! And also the “lolz I killed your children” dynamic.

    And that’s all I have to say about this game!

  12. OK, five video games for people who don’t play video games: “Gone Home,” “Papers, Please,” “Kentucky Route Zero,” “The Wolf Among Us,” “Botanicula.” Discuss.

    My thoughts: the only one of these I’ve played is “Botanicula,” and I wondered if someone who’d never played games would be frustrated (as I was) by the often unclear affordances: Usually you have to click, sometimes you have to drag or wiggle. I bet they’d be confused (as I also was) by the “interact successfully with something and get a card for it” mechanic which is pretty much never explained. But I can see how it’d be more accessible than Machinarium because it doesn’t have those little logicky puzzles and it has a lot fewer multi-screen get this here to do that there jobs.

  13. I’m with Wolf Among Us–actually I’m recommending it to a friend of mine who’s a Fables fan. Walking Dead would work too, although Wolf Among us is almost entirely dialogue-based; if you’re going with a straight-up nongamer, that’s more initially accessible, and yet it’s deep enough for a gamer.

    KR0, I actually am still waiting for it to be the game that people say it is. It’s a series of lovely, lovely moments that don’t add up to much of anything. They’re very lovely, but I’m not sure if they’re enough.

    But Botanicula? Dude, I am glad I’m not the only one who had no idea what the fuck to do in that one. I thought it was adorable and spent a little bit of time clicking on random stuff…but the game doesn’t bother explaining itself in a way I found very daunting. I didn’t get what these cards I was collecting was or what was going to happen whenever i clicked on something. The actions are extremely opaque, and that’s a problem in my book. “Pressing A makes Mario jump” can be easily understood. “Clicking here sometimes makes one thing happen and then sometimes makes another thing happen and you’ve got to see all of the things that happen and figure out what order to make them all happen in after figuring out what they first do” is…not a clear mechanic.

    Really though, I don’t know why we’re trying to evangelize. Nongamers want Candy Crush and they want infinite Temple Run clones.

  14. Well, I did know what to do in Botanicula most of the time… because I’d already played all the rest of the Amanita games. (Wow, I really have. Even the Polyphonic Spree ones.) And I had to use a walkthrough for a bunch of Samorost, which is really the best preparation for Botanicula; it’s definitely a “you have no idea what anything is going to do so click on anything that looks semi-promising until you’ve figured out what works” game. My life became much easier once I figured out that getting a card meant that I’d done everything there was to do with those creatures, and that was all it meant.

    But yeah, that would be not necessarily the best place for a nongamer to start. My four-year-old did like watching me play Windosill, though. “Can we see the video with the bird?” he asked.

    I kind of resent that comment about nongamers, though. I’m a nongamer and I don’t want those things! Well, better finish my Ectocomp entry.

  15. Well go play the game then!

    Ectocomp game submitted. It’s called “Faithful Companion” (spot the allusion!) Look for it wherever you can find Ectocomp games, and if you know where that is please tell me because I don’t.

  16. I can confirm that it was 2005! That was when I saw them at Coney Island with Belle and Sebastian: Wait, the reviews of that festival make it seem like that was when they stopped being relevant. Anyway, aside from those cards Botanicula works basically the same way. Now you know! (Machinariusm is lots better because it does make sense on its own terms, which the other games don’t even try to.)

    You can find my Ectocomp entry at ! I just published it! It turns out the Ectocomp entries are at which is a giant zip of everything and I’m hoping that sometime they will be posted in web-playable form so I’m putting off playing the rest.

  17. I’m just that cool.

    So I made some progress in Fez! Which I think was largely a matter of finding a door I had forgotten through, as I still don’t know what I can jump on stuff when and why. Also, I’ve been unable to avoid hearing about these hidden challenges which are so amazing and from the bits I’ve heard of them they sound exactly like the sort of thing you get in Flash escape the room games. Are they the sort of thing you get in Flash escape the room games? A problem here is that I have zero trust in Phil Fish; the animation you see when you finish a cube makes me want to say mean things to him on Twitter, and I worry that if I discover the secrets of Fez those secrets will also be annoying.

    Also I read the Starseed Pilgrim spoiler post, finally. I don’t think it told me much I didn’t already know except what happens when you mumble mumble mumble. I can still enjoy myself setting goals that I may or may not achieve, even if I doubt I’ll ever reach the goals the game sets for me.

  18. Okay let me try another comment here with a few days left before I switch to a new thread.


    I’ll be honest I had no interest whatsoever in trying out The Castle Doctrine. The debate seemed to be around Rohrer’s views than his game, so playing it didn’t seem to be important to engage this particular debate (see also Orson Scott Card). I’m not really much into that sort of debate either, but it popped up in Open Mike so, whatever. Have at thee.

    I think Rohrer has a penchant for digging up interesting mechanics and totally missing some of the other interpretations of his work. I definitely got something out of Passage but Amanda Lange hated it due to its mechanical representation of a woman. I don’t think either of us were aware of the score, and I wonder how many people actually noticed. The Castle Doctrine’s treatment seems to me similar to my complaints about Papers, Please: I just can’t care so much about a family that has no personality beyond a few stats at the end of a level. Its a kludge to make me feel something, manipulative, and I reject it.

    On your five games for people who don’t play videogames I have issues with all of these kind of lists/endeavours. Because I wonder if anyone has tested such a thesis in the field before writing these articles, or are the readers guinea pigs who are going to look potentially foolish in front of non-playing friend? We’re all aware of a knowledge gap when it comes to mainstream games but even more casual fare sometimes assumes a certain interface literacy. I think Twine as a platform is likely to be the most straightforward to reach a non-game playing audience, because the interface is click-and-done.

    Papers, Please has some weird interface stuff in there likely to be horrendous for non-game player, because I was clicking around like an idiot at times trying to figure out what it wanted me to do.

    I also think Gone Home assumes a certain FPS literacy – have you ever watched an adult play an FPS with WASD + Mouse for the first time in their lives? I did and it was really painful. Of course they could get the hang of it in time… but it still requires patience and persistence. Watch your first timer bang their head repeatedly into the ceiling while going around in a circle in the bloody porch. I think Proteus would be a better starting point for acquisition of FPS skills – and is more instantly rewarding. Not everyone is going to get the importance of rifling through receipts hidden under sofas.

    I can’t comment on KRZ or The Wolf Among Us. I’m not an Amanita Design fan – I played the Samorost games and just didn’t get it. I will push back against Richard here a little. I do like certain Room Escape games and a genre I am going to call “click bits to make things happen for no reason”. I like Vectorpark’s stuff and the peculiar GROW series of games. I even liked those Stars games despite not making much sense. Samorost, no. Don’t know why. I’ve got Machinarium on my hard drive and I can’t bring myself to install it.

    But in the end I’m with Richard. Why bother evangelizing so much? It would be nice to have more people who “get” games in a good way, but I’m not sure games are really “changing lives” at all aside from making a lot of game developers. We chatted about this in last year’s “Less Cause, More Effect” comments.

    (Ooh, Little HM liked Windosill so much that he made Mrs. HM play it for him.)

    What even is Ectocomp? I suppose I could Google. Look at me Mr. Lazy.

    I hear mixed things about Fez about how it’s… confusing and sprawling. I could also download and play it but it’d be like buying Bioshock Infinite: who the Hell would read yet another piece about the game? There’s a secret communication embedded in this paragraph.

    Matt, thank you for joining the Starseed Pilgrim Spoilers club. I think it takes some dedication to see that game through. Somehow I feel good about conquering it but there were a few dark hours near the end where I really, really resented the fuck out of it.

  19. “have you ever watched an adult play an FPS with WASD + Mouse for the first time in their lives? I did and it was really painful.”

    Does it count if I am this adult? I guess I’ve never actually played an FPS (oh wait, I tried the Flash port of Doom but I wound up on the setting that doesn’t spawn any monsters), but I’ve played a lot of FPSes with the shooting taken out and I always get stuck in doorways and stuff. I guess that’s not quite the same thing, though. I’ve said before that I bet my wife wouldn’t be able to finish Dear Esther (even if I spotted her the save system) and my sister-in-law couldn’t beat You Have To Burn The Rope. She plays games, too, specifically Plants vs. Zombies.

    Machinarium makes quite a bit more sense than the Samorost games FWIW. You’re right that there’s at least a spectrum of transparency in the point and click genre and most Amanita games are way on the “Just click somewhere and something will happen, who knows what” end but in Machinarium you control an actual character doing things. Up to you, of course.

    Ectocomp is a bunch of horror-themed interactive fictions coded in three hours.

    You can find my Ectocomp entry at and a giant zip file of all the Ectocomp entries at Based on some feedback I’ll probably release an HD version of it afterward.

  20. @matt
    No judgment here, bro. Go to Rite Aid and they should have a special shampoo. It smells chemically but it’s not harsh and it’ll be done in a week.

    I have had no internet since Friday and I’m sitting on an HD remake of The Richard Goodness Trilogy (no Oculus Rift support this time, alas). I’m also programming something very interesting in Twine, and for once, I’m not using the term ironically.

    Game wise, Anvil of Dawn is consuming me. It’s absolutely wonderful if you like dungeons.

    This conversation about nongamers reminds me of a Game Overthinker video about Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, I’m normally not a fan of the series but the video made it look cool, and it was. But he mentioned at one point that he was having trouble and so he did some grinding, because that’s what you do when an RPG was hard, and he noted that behavior like that is so ingrained in him and many gamers, but a nongamer wouldn’t think to grind necessarily.

    But you are right: Twine is an immediately accessible format, even moreso than traditional parser based IF since everyone who knows how to use a computer already knows how to interact with it. One of the reasons I love the format is because my browsing is split between either a display on my 46 inch tv or on my iPhone. Some games are genuinely unpleasant to play on either format, and parser games are especially difficult: They’re too intimate for the TV screen and too fiddly on a mobile–no matter what you’ve got to either take up half the screen with a keyboard, or you’ve got to make a clickable set of shortcuts which defeats the purpose of parser in some ways. Either, particularly when you’re using a large font and not being overly wordy (a problem with both Twine and my comments), works well on those displays. But yes: Their extreme portability and their instant accessibility is a large part of Twine’s appeal.

    And if you would like to join me in Twine remember I’m doing a Twine exhibition in January đŸ˜‰

    Ps @matt I just picked up an iPhone frotz and, even without internet I think I can play your game on it so I shall do that soon because I’m excited to!

  21. No Matt, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. So-called standard WASD skills are not easy to pick up at all – and what most people forget about is tuning mouse sensitivity can also make/break the experience. Platformers are more accessible but again there’s that hand-eye co-ordination thing going on there.

    I will get round to Machinarium eventually. Just like Mass Effect. And Amnesia. And–

    Proteus does not have multiple endings but you won’t see everything in a single game, because what wildlife makes an appearence is random but fixed. If an island doesn’t have bats, then it doesn’t have bats. Autumn I find is my favourite season, there is a some real strange stuff in there.

    To Richard: I can’t believe you’ve become a Twine evangelist.

  22. Hmm, I could’ve sworn that sometimes the sky broke up in the distance and sometimes I levitated off the island. Maybe this is just a question of which way you’re looking at the end of the game, or what the weather is at the time. Or maybe my memory has cut and pasted some autumn stuff into winter. I feel like I must be missing out on some of the strange autumn stuff, although the point isn’t really to try to figure out what’s going on is it? Like, I hear about how there are all these systems at work in the game, but do you get a lot out of figuring out what’s going on and using them to Uncover Stuff or do even Proteus experts spend their time chasing rabbits and climbing up to look at those weird statues?

  23. Matt, I think Proteus always ends with levitating off the island. Has it ended any other way for you?

    There’s no story in Proteus at all. I think if you want you could make something up – players have discussed who the “protagonist” is – but its just about the experience of being there. Still, there are plenty of surprises tucked away in the game and autumn has some wacky ones like… the floating wolf’s head. (Or is it a fox? BUT WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY.)

  24. FAKOOOOOM!!! The runes are cast and the stones move in, shutting out the light.

    These comments are closed.

Comments are closed.