Pause: In Japan
No post this week as I am in Japan. I may even be in Disneyland Tokyo as you read this.
If you’re pining for something to pass the time, try Rooster Teeth’s Rage Quit video on Surgeon Simulator 2013: Ambulance & Space Missions. It made me laugh.
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34 thoughts on “Pause: In Japan”
LOL OMG ur in japan?!?!?!?! Say hi 2 shiggsy 4 me! Kawaii! ^_^
(What? I’m a former console gamer. That’s what these comments would all be if this were a console site.)
You say “Pause.” I say “Fresh thread for me to hijack with the long-promised Bundle Fatigue Rant” — in stages!
Do you curse when you see a new game bundle featuring games your friends have been raving about? Have you bought a dozen games you haven’t downloaded yet? Do you find yourself grudgingly shelling out (some amount of) dough for a bundle even though you own half the games and you don’t even really want to play the rest? Do you heave a sigh of relief when you realize the deadline has passed? Are all of these true at once? Then you might have Bundle Fatigue.
I have much to say on this topic but I don’t have much time to devote to it tonight (because I was playing Proteus which I bought from guess where). But here’s the TL/DR: Bundles have the promise of curation, exploration, and economy.* Curation because they mean to select the best of indie games, or at least the first few did.* Exploration because there’s always something in there you’ve never heard of and wouldn’t check out if not for the bundle. Economy because, well, you can name your own price.
But there are SO MANY damn bundles now*** that it dilutes all three virtues. Curation, because some of the bundles are, well, not so best of the scene. Exploration, because with the firehose of games they subject you to you barely have time to check out the ones you’re interested in, let alone the ones you want to explore. Economy, because all these bundles start to add up.
So the carefree exhilaration of getting a lot of great games for so cheap it’s like stealing, and the nonchalance you feel when one doesn’t click, because it didn’t cost you anything, turns into a burden. And even sorting through the games you’ve bought becomes a chore. There are interesting games you haven’t finished or have barely started, and uninteresting games you’ve spent too long on. Is this just life? Probably. But it’s also Bundle Fatigue.
*And Mac ports.
**I’m only talking the Humble Bundles really, partly because they usually support Macs.
***Still talking only Humble Bundle.
***Still just talking the Humble Bundles!
I knew I should have shut the comments on this post. Fortunately I don’t suffer from Bundle Fatigue because I rarely purchase any bundles (similarly rarely participate in any big sales thingys). I am Post-Fatigue Man.
Hey you should be grateful that you put up a comments thread and we flock to it like cats.
I’m loving the Bundle Rant so far and it’s everything I wanted it to be–like I said, I think a lot of people are starting to feel similarly, but I’ve really never seen it articulated this way. I’m looking at the Humble Bundle right now, and of the list, I’ve got several on there–and I’d really only want it for Hotline Miami and Dear Esther, less because I want the games but, as I mentioned, because I feel like I should play them. But the $6 I’d spend on it is indeed spending money when I don’t always have that much money to spend–buying a game I don’t necessarily need isn’t saving, is it?
IndieGameStand has Cognition Episode 2 today. What the hell is up with that?
Don’t do it Richard! You probably know someone who will let you try them out. And if it turns out you really do want them, well, they’ll turn up as average-beaters a couple bundles down the line.
Something I will not mention in the Main Bundle Rant: The Humble Bundle is really bad with games by women, AFAICT. Out of all the games I’ve got from them, aside from some voice actors (and not even that many), the only ones that I know of where a woman was lead anything was that Marianne Krawczyk was lead writer on the Shank games. There were some women on the “Waking Mars team” listed in the credits, Angela Sung did “additional art” for NightSky, and… well, there’s surely some more deep in the credits, and probably some I’m missing too, but for over a hundred games this is a poor show.
I was about to say, “Well, the Humble Bundle tends to go for the more prominent indie games. After all, the first one I got had Bit Trip Runner and Psychonauts and Bastion and I got Sword and Sworcery in one and there was that whole Double Fine thing earlier, and that THQ thing. Proteus and Dear Esther and Hotline Miami aren’t exactly obscure titles these days anyway. All of the bundles tend to have their ‘thing’, and the Humble tends to be less geared towards hardcore gamers than people who would be interested in this sort of thing. So it makes sense that it would be all dude designers, because these are the most mainstream indie games possible.”
Obviously, there were some massively problematic assumptions with that paragraph which is why I did not write that. You know, if we were one or two bundles in, I’d say, you know, they just haven’t gotten to that yet, it’s a coincidence–but a hundred games is legitimately pathetic.
That video gave me the biggest laugh of the month last month. Seriously, Hailey could hear me from downstairs. My favourite bit is when they dispose of the cloth and as they move it over the heart box, almost like magic, the heart disappears. So damn funny.
One thing I missed was that Jessica Curry is a co-principal in thechineseroom, so “Dear Esther” counts. Still.
Fucking damn, the Bundle in a Box looks pretty sweet, mostly because I’ve just recently gotten into Wadjet Eye and I haven’t played any of the Blackwell games so that’s great for me. Hamlet might be fun, as might Hacker Evolution (I love the idea of hacking games and would love to find a good one); I already own Pixelry. Don’t know anything about Super Tower Rush but one of the images on the BiaB site shows a lion named Sir Richard, and that’s just BA.
Yeah, I’m interested in the Blackwell games. If they had Mac ports my bundle fatigue problem would be getting bad.
And I guess it’s time to start the explanation…
See, I’ve never really considered myself a gamer. The last console I owned was an Atari 2600.* Throughout grad school whenever I needed distraction I would play Columns, or a Minesweeper knockoff, or a Jotto game that I think had been written as penance for the developer releasing a virus (once it gave me SYZYGY which I got in four), or Blobbo Lite (which ruled), or some football game I had on the computer, and when I got a laptop with Marble Blast Gold on it I’d play that…*** OK, I would play games a fair amount.**** But reasonably engaging procrastination aids is what they were.
Then sometime in the mid-00s I started playing more of a variety of games, and even thinking about them as artier. But I was still pretty much on the outside looking in as far as PC gaming went. I’d play Flash games, and interactive fiction, and nethack, and Cave Story, but I would almost never bother checking out a free downloadable, because they were always .exes and I use a Mac. It was so much taken for granted that most devs didn’t even bother to put “Windows only” on their pages. And I felt like I shouldn’t be spending money on games; jazz and improvised music need my entertainment dollar more. There was a game art exhibit near me where I got to try Braid, which some goof had left running on Irreversible, and look at Machinarium, which some goof had left stuck on the key game, and actually play a bit of Spider and Flower, but I knew that just wasn’t it.
In this the second Humble Bundle came as a revelation. Braid, which everyone had been talking my ear off about! Machinarium, which I’d been dying to play! Other stuff I’d never heard of! For non-ridiculous prices! I happily kicked them my ten bucks, and while Braid wouldn’t run on my computer, Machinarium was great and Osmos was also great and of the bonus games World of Goo was pretty cool***** and Aquaria was intriguing****** and look! Samorost 2! Sure, Gish was no fun and Lugaru’s interface was kind of baffling and Cortex Command’s interface was completely baffling and Penumbra: Overture crashed after the overly long intro******* and I never bothered downloading that tower defense one, but I’d already got more than my money’s worth from it and there was still the promise that I’d be able to play Braid someday, when I upgraded my OS.
I skipped Bundle 3 for reasons that I don’t even really understand, but Bundle 4 had two games I’d been hearing a lot about (NightSky and Bit.Trip Runner) and, better yet, Cave Story+ as a bonus game. Which meant I could set it on easy and finally get past the boss rush I’d been stuck on for months or years maybe.******** And other stuff!
This time I knew I’d have to wait for the system upgrade to play NightSky and Bit.Trip Runner, but over Xmas break when I was idly browsing my Humble Bundle to see what other games I’d bought and could try, they’d added the whole third bundle. VVVVVV! How had I not bought VVVVVV! It was SO GOOD (which of course means frustrating as hell). And when I got that new OS NightSky turned out to be the best thing ever and Bit.Trip was amazing once I got into a groove and I could finally play Braid which was also great (though I have some quibbles about its supposed integration of mechanic and story). I wound up deleting Jamestown after realizing I wasn’t enjoying it at all, and Crayon Physics turned out to be no less annoying than the Flash knockoffs I’d already played (this verdict perhaps overly harsh), and Hammerfight, well, I got my money out of Hammerfight even if it seems to have an unremappable right-click for upgrading your equipment********* which helped me give up eventually (also, I really shouldn’t be playing this on a touchpad), and And Yet It Moves had its annoying aspects which we’ve already discussed and Cogs was basically just a bunch of sliding puzzles which were pleasant enough and which I abandoned with a clear conscience when they stopped being fun but it was about here that I began to think that maybe these indie games weren’t always such Great Works of Art.
But the fifth bundle was amazing.
PAUSE FOR OMINOUS FORESHADOWING plus my three-year-old woke up
*Whether it was also the first console my family owned depends on whether Pong’s home version is a console.**
**Holy crap, while looking up Pong I realized for the first time that Atari wasn’t Japanese.
***But not Bugdom, because Bugdom sucked.
****And when I really wasn’t getting anything done I’d take a half-day off and read a novel, which might not be a bad thing to get back to, except that I can’t really take a half-day off like that anymore, which is a whole other set of stories.
*****Though many levels gave me the exact feeling my son would get when his block towers fell over, and I sometimes wondered why I wasn’t just playing with the many fine sets of actual blocks we have. The physics on those is amazing.
******Still haven’t got past the first boss fight, though. For my first maybe hour of playing Cave Story I thought it was an adventure game with some light jumping and shooting challenges, and then I teleported to the Egg Corridor and Mischievous Robot started playing and all these monsters were flying around and a light went on: “Oh, it’s a video game!” I have a feeling that the first boss of Aquaria reveals the main gameplay after a similar opening of peaceful exploration, except this time it turns out I completely suck at the gameplay.
*******Amateurtip: Making players listen to your voice actors read a script is different from making them read it themselves. In particular, it takes longer.
********I’d never been able to get through the penultimate boss on regular old Cave Story. On easy I made it after a few tries, and then I was fighting the final boss and I was like WOW THIS IS EPIC fire fire fire jump jump jump wait I’ve been fighting for five minutes and I’m about two points below max health. But this inspired me to go back to regular old Cave Story and pretty soon I beat it on regular old difficulty, so it was all worth it. And I still have a project to try to get the real good ending on easy mode. Plus I like the new graphics, though if you didn’t immediately go into the options to set Cave Story+ to the old music you’re a bad person and you should feel bad.
*********An occasional theme: the Mac ports (and PC ports for some of the mobile-originated games) are not always as well thought out as they might be. Also, is it wrong for me to think it that the UI for a Russian game reminds me of a computer with a bunch of malware popups?
Now I’m back at home I can see that that video isn’t the video I thought it was earlier when I was at work and it was blocked. Derp. Just watched it now and it was hilarious. Love the desk sections between operations.
Just bought The Swapper which was written by Tom Jubert who was the guy who wrote Penumbra and is also the guy who reads the script out in the intro to Overture.
And I only realised how much… I don’t know, ‘weaker’, the Cave Story+ music is over the original’s after downloading the soundtrack (I love the original soundtrack but haven’t played +).
Ah the artist on Bastion is Jen Zee so there’s another.
I reached the true final boss in the original version of Cave Story once. Didn’t get anywhere close to beating him. I looked up the ending on YouTube; it wasn’t SO much better than the regular one, but you were probably expected to feel better having overcome the challenge. I just don’t think I’ll be playing it again in any form for a long time. That said, the 3DS version looked pretty cute.
I guess I don’t have Bundle Fatigue, either. I might be Pre-Fatigue man, though, as I almost always try to avoid bundles where I already own one or more of the games, and intermittent Steam/GOG sales have made that a practical certainty.
I actually tried the Mega Man & Bass, the GBA port of Rockman & Forte on the SNES, and had the inverse problem. The instrumentation on the GBA soundtrack is WAY better, but the game itself is practically unplayable because the screen is too small and the sprites are still SNES-sized.
Holy shit, foreshadowing that woke up a child. That’s heavy.
I’m oddly excited about Swapper, but do let us know how that’s going. I liked Cave Story for a while, but yeah, it just started kicking my ass a little too hard. There’s a very hard game that’s enjoyable, and there’s a hard game that’s sadistic, and I think by the time I gave up Cave Story was regularly hitting the latter.
The new Indie Royale has Primordia, which was a goddamn wonderful adventure game that I highly recommend. I’m interested in Me and Alice but literally nothing else, and so I will not be purchasing this one. Alas, if only I could make a good bundle out of what I wanted from Humble and Royale!
It’s more that when the child wakes up, a pause happens whether I want it or not.
On several of the roadblocks I hit with Cave Story I found that the problem was just that I was using the wrong weapon. Balfrog completely was wiping me out until a walkthrough told me what to use (fireballs) and something similar was happening with my weapon choice for the penultimate boss on normal. And then there was Monster X, who was just hard, and the Waterway, which I don’t think was supposed to be hard but I kept wiping out on. The music was telling me “Here’s an interlude for you to decompress after a heavy moment of drama and then here’s a joke fight” and the game was telling me YOU DIE AGAIN NOW.
But it plays so beautifully! After giving up on Celestial Mechanica I was like “But the trailer is so great, I want a game that plays like that trailer” and I realized that that game is Cave Story.
“LOL OMG ur in japan?!?!?!?! Say hi 2 shiggsy 4 me! Kawaii! ^_^
(What? I’m a former console gamer. That’s what these comments would all be if this were a console site.)”
And the great comment wars of Electron Dance began with a remark about consoles, just as the heroic Badger Commander had just completed his New Year’s Resolution.
It was a good day to die.
I will ride to the rescue
So: Bundle 5. Full of games I’d been hearing a lot about: Sword & Sworcery, LIMBO, Psychonauts, Bastion.*
But: Here’s where I start to have too much games. Part of it was a clash between some of the games and the way I use my computer: When I started Limbo up it looked like I was playing as a cardboard robot navigating a world of wet newspaper.** Bastion had great narration and visuals, but it was so confusing to play, with all the buttons to lock and load; like Lugaru, I found myself unsure what was going on in what was basically the tutorial level. (Though I need to give it another try.)
Superbrothers also turned into a bowl of psychedelic mush some of the time, but more so it’s deliberately alienating in a way that we’ve discussed. The first time I realized what was going on with the Special Dream Sequences I was charmed, partly because due to exigent circumstances it didn’t throw up too much of a roadblock for me; but eventually I found myself buffaloed because I had to quit and find a walkthrough due to some poor UI decisions in the tablet-to-computer port, and when I reloaded it had erased my progress in exactly the wrong way. (Being vague to avoid spoilers; more discussion in the comments here.) What had started as a delightful and mysterious experience, with the moments of frustration that gaming entails, had turned into a slog. When I was finally ready to go on the last chase scene I just didn’t feel like it.***
I finished Limbo, which was a bit sloggy at times but perhaps no more than puzzle platformers usually are,**** and I looked up and I’d crapped out at the end of Superbrothers and at the beginning of Bastion and about one level into Psychonauts (why do I have to go aiming and shooting? I just want to talk to the other campers!) and man, this just seems like work!
Then there was a mobile bundle with Bit.Trip Beat. Well, I needed Bit.Trip Beat, and there was Edge and SpaceChem and Spirits which I’d heard about. Bit.Trip Beat was as awesome as I’d expected though I can’t finish the last boss even on easy mode (freaking gameplay mode changes) and SpaceChem was cool even though it gets sort of chokingly complex although maybe that means I just need to be better at it***** and Spirits got kind of annoying and physicsy and obviously a bit crudely ported from mobiles and Edge made me think that Tim Langdell had a point — I thought it would be a bit puzzly but it’s ooh, let’s make a platform game which requires perfect timing and give the player’s avatar the clunkiest controls ever! And those last two in particularly made me say, yeah, these indie games aren’t always such Great Works of Art. But whatever, I don’t feel bad about stopping play.
Somewhere in there was Botanicula, which was a bit weird (it made me realize how much more I liked Machinarium’s world-building compared to Samorost’s throw-everything-at-the-wall surrealism) but which I finished and which had some nice bits. And the Waking Mars/Eufloria/Splice bundle, where Waking Mars (gotta support Vermont!) was nice****** and Splice just didn’t grab me — if it’s a logic puzzler and I’m not enjoying it there’s basically no hope — and Eufloria I find kind of mystifying (I seemed to be making it through the levels but I wasn’t sure I was using the systems). By this point I had realized that it did not always suit my needs to beat the average. I had also realized that the Humble Bundle recycles games a lot.
And Bundle Seven! Why did I buy Bundle Seven? I guess everyone had been talking up Binding of Isaac and I had been intrigued by Closure as a Flash demo. I was told that I would stop getting killed by low-level enemies once I learned their basic pattern of behavior, but instead what I learned is that I’ve never enjoyed anything by Edmund McMillen. Yeah, I said it. It’s an arena shooter with powerups, and it’s “roguelike” in that it leaves you mystified as to what the powerups do, and I guess there’s other stuff too and I should learn to use all these tools better except fuck this shit. It seems like everyone’s saying “The potty-mouth and shock imagery******* are completely justified by how great a game this is!” but I DON’T LIKE THE GAME. And just about everything I’ve played by him has been the same way. (Mostly Flash stuff, but hey, I had to buy that too.) And Closure was cool up to a point, except I got stuck at a level where — oh, hang on, I think I may have it, check back later. (Which is silly anyway, because there are multiple sets of levels.) And Snapshot just seems like standard stuff, and when my computer is being stubborn it runs like molasses. Making this the first bundle where I haven’t finished anything, and am beginning to wonder if I’m wasting time and money.
Because there’s so much STUFF. And working through it seems like a chore. And that’s not what this is supposed to be about. I’m not too worried about the backlog, Amanda’s idea that it’s really a library is great and I don’t mind having a bunch of fresh stuff to pull out when I want to try something. But it seems like even the games themselves are turning into chores sometimes, and new interesting ones turn up, and acquiring them is getting to be a bigger deal than playing them. Or that I’m not getting stuck into them enough to really get what I need out of them. Or… well, I’ll have more to say.
Because now I’ve bought the Blendo Games sale, since everyone was hocking me about 40 Flights of Loving (oh, that jump in Gravity Bone!) And Costume Quest and Stacking, though I haven’t downloaded the versions that’ll work on my computer. And Humble Bundle 8, and I’ve played Proteus and finished Thomas Was Alone so I have no complaints there except insofar as I need to get back to work soon. So my Bundle Fatigue isn’t fatal. But I’m not really a gamer, you know? How is it that I’m drowning in games?
…oh hey, they just added four games to Bundle 8! I was wondering when they’d do that!
*And Amnesia, which I haven’t downloaded because I’m a horror wimp and also I figure maybe I should see if Penumbra runs first, and Super Meat Boy, which I haven’t downloaded because I have heard TOO DAMN MUCH about it. Stop shoving it in my face, everyone! And another reason that I’ll get to later.
**Like this except the background consisted of bits of whatever windows I had open in my browser.) This was something I could solve by quitting and restarting my browser, but I don’t like quitting and restarting my browser! I keep all those tabs open because I don’t want to close them!
***And as Gregg B says in the link, it seems like it’ll be a real pain on a laptop. Especially because I use a touchpad.
****I don’t give much credence to deep interpretations of the story though if anyone has them I’ll listen — it’s “a boy’s violent adventures” as Porpentine said — but the physics and animation on the main character is very good, especially the way they used the physics to set up puzzles that were a bit more than “jump here in this order.” It meant something that the puzzles seemed to be embedded in a — well, not a consistent world, but a somewhat coherent set of systems. And I loved the first big gravity puzzle, though the rest of the gravity puzzles got kind of annoying.
*****I have a fanon theory about SpaceChem, which may even be true, which I will post elsewhere.
******Richard, it’s a shame that your Waking Mars post got hijacked when someone got incensed at your offhand Bioshock Infinite dis. One thing I like about it is that it’s not that hard. You have to think about the things you’re doing and it’s possible to screw up, and there’s one sort of tricky bit at the beginning, but overall you can attain a nice meditative state that’s appropriate to the gardening simulator genre. I think the mac/PC controls may actually be more responsive here; the port was a bit more well thought through.
*******And misogyny. How is an ugly warty fat female leg in a high-heeled shoe the final boss of a game based on the legend of Isaac?
I’m so with you on Edmund McMillan. I think Brasure’s phrase for Super Meat Boy was “fucking disgusting”; I’m as much of a 13-year-old boy as anyone else but I find that it sinks into puerility. The likes of Ren and Stimpy did ugly warty fat female legs with the best of them, but I dunno, maybe it’s just I don’t find the same kind of charm to his work. It seems a case of “what’s the grossest thing I can draw”, and it tends to operate on a fairly low level. It’s a surface grossness.
I do think it’s hilarious about the Waking Mars one–most of what I said, which was largely and obviously jokey, boiled down to “Infinite is a bloated, violent mess that was a waste of money; this small game is much more creative and pleasant and meaningful”. I’m actually shocked that the two games shared audiences–they seemed as polar opposite as it could get. I’ve actually still not finished Waking Mars 🙁
I like Limbo, but I’m a fan of classic Chahi and I like the brutality of those kinds of games. Deep analysis of narrative misses the point of most videogames; I do agree and consider the game mostly a series of horrors that you have to face.
Interesting that no one has talked about obedience and “cinematic platformers” (as they’re most often called). Those games generally require an extreme degree of precision–they aren’t based on improvising but on figuring out the exact sequences of jumps and pushes and stuff that the designers intend. And when you stray from the narrow path, you are very violently dismembered.
I’m well known for my lack of fondness of Sword and Sworcery; there are some amazing ideas there and some genuinely beautiful music and art, but there’s no meaning there and the gameplay is atrocious–it’s a tedious, boring experience, and I’ve never found the aesthetics or the faux-cleverness to mask that.
Have you picked up the Bundle in a Box? I consider it worth it for the Blackwell games which I just finished up–the fourth was the weakest of the lot, but they’re extremely clever and I’m a super Wadjet Eye believer now. I hope Gemini Rue goes on sale soon!
Intervention: I like Edmund McMillen’s TIME FCUK (I really really like it) and Coil, but I didn’t like the original Meat Boy that much so I’ve never plucked up the courage to go Super Meat Boy.
Don’t know those two–am mostly familiar with SMB and Isaac, obviously. I shall check those out!
For the record, my issues with SMB are wholly aesthetic–it’s an extremely specific flavor of platformer, and one I’m not generally into, but it’s an excellent example of That Sort Of Thing. This seems more like Praising With Faint Damn than I intend it to be!
Gross-out! That’s the word I was looking for! Puerile was another. Anyway my McMillen thing is partly an irrational visceral thing, especially because I’ve never even tried Super Meat Boy and I like platformers. It’s certainly made me give some of his games a shorter leash.
Time Fcuk was one of the ones I remember as getting on my nerves. It’s like, “Oh, the game is narrated by an abusive AI! How original!” I played through a bunch of levels as a Flash game (in fact my browser seems to remember it after all these years, so when I restart in online I wind up in the middle not remembering how to finish a level — this is not its fault), but the annoyance of that part of it probably drained away a bit more of my will to continue than the game otherwise would have.
Anyway, I think thanks to the Humble Bundle I own every game he’s published. Well, maybe not some early and recent stuff.
I haven’t bought Bundle in a Box because of the lack of little apple icons on the page — the Wadjet Eye stuff is interesting to me, but I can’t play it.* Also, Bundle Fatigue, which makes me a bit relieved I don’t have to worry about it.
*Yeah yeah, WINE whatevs. If I ever do break down and go the WINE route my first game up is Knytt, and then all the rest of the free stuff I’ve never been able to play, and then GUH.
Matt, did you play Time Fcuk on its release or much later? The “abusive AI” thing wasn’t such a big thing at the time I originally played. But I like it because the “abusive AI” is, well, you. And then this weird thing with Steven… There are two endings and the good ending has an interesting little appendix tacked onto the end. (I, uh, just played through the entire game again over the last hour.) I also believe the levels are randomised a little, you don’t see exactly the same levels if you play more than once.
I just played a few rounds of Time Fcuk–now that I am playing it I think I have done it before. I was very into flash games for a while in the mid-00s, so I’m sure I played it around the time it came out.
I have the same issues with it that I do with most one-room-at-a-time games, which is that I’ll play for a while, and then at some point I’ll get stuck, and it’ll be because I haven’t experimented enough, and I won’t be inspired to experiment more because of some combination of aesthetics and gameplay letting me down. The rooms are pretty samey, unless they start getting more interesting later on, and I’m not feeling the mechanics. I am Sorry.
Although this is making me think of how much I enjoyed suteF. There are a lot of games which do that exact same mechanic of having puzzles based on screen wraparound, but suteF’s were particularly well-done, and while I didn’t get the story whatsoever–I eagerly await your coverage, HM, I think you’ve caught wind of my praise of your exigeses–there’s an element where that doesn’t really matter. The game is surrealist body horror–it’s okay for random, awful shit to happen with only vague or nonsensical explanations. Frankly, that makes it more frightening . I’m immediately thinking about Uzumaki, which is really a wonderful read if you like body horror–the plot is, essentially, a string of some of the most horrible things possible, people mutating into all sorts of spiral-based abominations. At the end, they more or less click that there’s some kind of curse on the village, and they figure out it’s indescribably ancient, but that’s about it. This is the supernatural–we’re not *really* supposed to be able to label it.
A crossover between Bioshock and Dead Space would be an irrational, visceral thing.
I was about to start commenting about the Arcen Games bundle but realized I need to update my blog so ha ha ha. Buy it though, they’re awesome.
I played it on release. Don’t really remember much of the details, just the hectoring voice over on the side.
In my inventory I forgot to mention that I now own almost all of Edmund McMillen’s games plus a full-length documentary about how awesome Edmund McMillen is. (I haven’t watched it so this is probably unfair.)
It is pretty unfair. Only a third f that documentary is devoted to how awesome he is. The other two thirds are devoted to how awesome Jonathan blow and Phil fish are.
About Bundle Fatigue: The final tl;dr. What have we learned? Well, part of it is the usual too much stuff/too little time problem; games can be time-consuming and once you have access to a lot of them it’s hard to fit them in. I probably gave Cave Story a lot more time than I would have if it hadn’t been basically the only game of its type I was playing at the time. Also, awesome music.
But I also feel as though these games are more demanding than the ones I used to play. Not demanding in their difficulty, but demanding of my time and full attention. The expectation seems to be that they are Immersive Art Statements; you aren’t supposed to play Braid with the music off, for instance. Which means I can’t just put music on and play the way I can put music on and read a book, or work, even. Proteus is relatively friendly to my time because of its length, but even so when I play it that’s an hour and a quarter that I’m going to be doing nothing but playing Proteus. (I may be slow.)
Yeah, movies are the same way. I hear games aspire to be movies now. But movies are more social — something I watch with my wife, when I watch them.
And a lot of them seem to have substantial startup time, too. Closure is a particular offender; it has a splash screen, a menu, and then an in-engine world select screen, and an in-engine level select screen, and then you can start playing.* And it may be my computer, but some of these games take a long time to start up.
So games that suit me are sometimes ones that reward the immersion, like Cave Story (the music is very good) and NightSky and Osmos and Proteus and maybe Superbrothers too. Or ones that let me dip in and out; I appreciate that I can just turn off the music in SpaceChem, and I can switch to something else for a while. That’s also part of the reason I’ve played so much Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. Or ones that go in short bursts, NightSky again and the Bit.Trip games (even Beat is only fifteen minutes at a time) and Probability 0 though it tends to addictive replay. Not that these are the only things I like — VVVVVV and Waking Mars don’t really fit these criteria, though now that I think of it I played them both over winter breaks. But it’s nice to be able to at least pretend I’m going to put this down and work.
Earlier I said that these games aren’t always Great Works of Art. Well, they don’t need to be, but when they aren’t I resent these demands on my time. Spirits crystallized this for me; it looked nice but it was basically a harmless Lemmingslike with no story; so why did it want me to listen to this repetitive light-classical music? Shouldn’t it just leave me alone to enjoy whatever I was already listening to? Obviously this is partly idiosyncratic; I can probably turn the music off, and no one’s making me play. But it sometimes feels like every game is trying to consume me even when it doesn’t have anything to say to some of my senses.
*Also, it has come to my attention that I will not be able to finish Closure, so I should look at the other games in that bundle if I want to get my money’s worth from it.
I thought Evan LE NY’s music for SpaceChem was fantastic! ‘Some Elements’ in particular. It’s got this great pioneering, discovery, scientific progress and industry vibe going on then right at the end there’s a piano passage that sounds like something out of fucking Baywatch. It’s brilliant.
No closure on Closure eh? (I’ve not looked at that spoiler thread because I haven’t played it yet)
And come on Matt, you can’t bemoan Proteus for taking up one hour of your time! That’s about as bite size a slice of entertainment you’re going to get, short of playing something like Passage in 10 seconds. Just played that now, what a great joke.
Oh and Matt, check out McMillen’s Aether. It’s not puerile or gross-out. It’s quite sweet actually, and short if I remember rightly. I never did stick with Gish.
Lugaru I thought was loads of fun, if stressful at times. And the controls I really liked for the most part. Roll on Overgrowth!
I appreciate the Bundle Fatigue rant. Are you blogging anywhere, because I would totally read it if you did.
I realized this morning that, since I bought it the day its alpha was released (seriously, I believe in this game so heavily), I’m entitled to a steam key for 7 Grand Steps, as well as some other games. They don’t make finding these steam keys terribly easy, but I’ve been spending the better part of this past half hour searching for and adding Steam keys for all of the games I’ve bundled. I feel like I’m missing something.
Oh hey, there’s a new Kitty Lambda game. I should pick that up.
Finally picked up Kentucky Route Zero and did the first episode. I’m not sure if I like it but I know why everyone wanted me to play it.
I remember noticing Aether but I don’t think I’ve played it, so I’ll give it a try. Again a comment I have started here is turning into a blog post. Thank you, Electron Dance, for feeding my blog.
Thanks Richard! I am much too lazy to update my blog, which is linked in my title. Just check the Recent Comments sidebar. Though as you can tell I’m also too lazy to respond to comments in any timely fashion. In fact this laziness is part of the whole Fatigue rant, since I sometimes find it taxing to put in the sort of sustained effort that the games I’ve bought require, though part of my point is that games shouldn’t be so taxing.
Gregg B: Oh ho, I can complain about a game that demands one hour of uninterrupted attention. I just did! People generally complain about having to listen to a Cecil Taylor piece that runs for an hour, and you can do other stuff while you’re doing that. But more relevant if I section out an hour of my evening that’s a big part of the time I have to actually do stuff. And if I’m trying to play during the day there’s a big chance that a kid will wake up from a nap and I have to drop what I’m doing — in fact that happened twice during my latest Proteus playthrough.
Now, Proteus actually has a save system, though it conceals it pretty well, but fucking Dear Esther. I had to restart once because I fell into the water as a voiceover was triggering and the game never bothered to bring me back, and last night I wanted to play it a little to unwind before bed but it was going on too long and I triggered a loading scene which I thought might be a save point but
(that wasn’t supposed to post)
THERE ARE NO SAVE POINTS. If you want to do something else before you’ve finished the level all progress is gone, in fact you can’t even see the affordances without quitting to the main menu and destroying your progress. Why is this necessary? Fucking books let you open them back up in the middle of a chapter. Maybe part of the reason mobile games are getting big is that they’re usually designed to be something you can put down, though then there’s Superbrothers.
Anyway, I can’t imagine music for Spacechem that I’d want to listen to — my usual interaction with it is staring at it for half an hour, imagine a three-minute loop playing while I did it, or imagine a three-minute loop playing every time you wanted to do some programming, MY GOD even if it was Jimi Hendrix jamming with the Duke Ellington orchestra it would drive me crazy though then again I did like the music for Osmos. Also I tried Aether when it came out and didn’t enjoy it at all. Part of this may be pique because it won the JayIsGames best adventure game the same year parts II and III of Rabbittell’s Trapped came out which is sill because they weren’t even in the top ten but I’ve never claimed my McMillen thing is rational.
That’s one of the reasons I prefer more minimal/ambient soundtracks (or at least games with huge varied soundtracks) for certain games because there’s every possibility you’ll get stuck and suffer a loop of doom or just get overly familiar with the beats. Games like Vessel, The Swapper and Osmos are suitably understated in the sound department thankfully. Games like SpaceChem and Frozen Synapse have great soundtracks but for prolonged sessions you do start to notice different tracks play again and again.
Quicksave unlocked! Who doesn’t press F6 when they need to save? (Well, that’s probably a normal thing on Windows.)
Too right about the ambient soundtracks. NightSky is another good example, where the music just isn’t playing a lot of the time. The sound design in NightSky is pure genius and actually delivers the immersive experience that games usually aspire to.
Another reason I liked Osmos is that the soundtrack suited the gameplay; it’s good music for subtly shifting your orbit in the vastness of space.
Hmm I don’t believe I’ve expressed my secret theory of SpaceChem. Next open thread maybe.
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