Things of Beauty: Super Smash Bros. as Spectator Sport
Into the Black: On Videogame Exploration
Near-Impossible Super Mario World Glitch Done For First Time on SNES
Game Writing Pitfalls - Lost Opportunities in Games - Extra Credits
Ingenious Solutions in Video Game Design: A Long-form Analysis
WIRED by Design: A Game Designer Explains the Counterintuitive Secret to Fun
Classic Game Postmortem: Loom
Get Anticipated - The Final Bosman
What if you could talk to the monsters? The Wuss Mode: Monsters Won’t Attack mod for SOMA [official
site] doesn’t quite allow you to hold conversations with the denizens
of Frictional’s latest creation but it does prevent them from chasing
you around the place until you die. I’m excited to try this because
it might just improve the game significantly, simply by focusing on the
fact that fear does not need to be followed by violence and death.
“One of the weirdest / saddest design exp I had: [Bioshock 2]
playtesters carefully loot every container for hours, then report hating
- Zak McClendon, Lead Designer on Bioshock 2
was a moth to the dull flame of the hidden packages of GTA III
(Rockstar, 2001), pieces of virtual tat that simply add one to a
meaningless counter. I continued to burn rubber for hour after hour
until I had found every last package. They’re just one example of
the now ubiquitous collectible. Today I’d like to introduce the collective noun for the collectible: a fucking plague.
God for those first-person secret box games dubbed “walking
simulators”. At least there aren’t any items to hunt, right? We don’t
need rewards for our activities! Oh reallllly?
O’Neill, who wrote Actual Sunlight (2014) and provided words for Planet
of the Eyes (Cococucumber, 2015), tweeted that he walked an entire
football pitch in Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture (The Chinese Room,
2015) hoping to trigger a scripted response but there was nothing. He
felt the game was forcing him to do tedious things for fear of missing
out. O’Neill is not the only one to feel like his time is being
squandered by these games. But when players who are into walking
simulators complain they have no reward other than walking – you know
something has gone wrong. It’s our old friend the overjustification
effect: once you wrap an incentive around something people enjoy doing,
it performs a weird kind of alchemy that transmutes the fun into
drudgery, into work.
When I played Fuel, it was easy to
concentrate on the driving and forget about those paltry liveries and
vista points because they were too sparse, but the scrum of missions and
sidequests and collectibles had come to define GTA more than its
cityscapes. I had hated GTA: San Andreas, with prior GTA experience
convincing me to conquer everything – but San Andreas was overwhelming
and I was left dejected.
Yet all I needed to do was forget about the objectives and collectibles.
All I needed to do was get in a car and drive.
“Don’t hate the player, hate the game,” says the pick-up artist. “I’ve just got more game than you,” says your roommate who wears too much cologne. Comparisons between dating and gaming are commonplace in our web-obsessed culture, and thanks to a recent profile on Tinder from Fast Company, it turns out this connection is less superficial than you might think.
According to Tinder CEO Jonathan Badeen, Tinder uses a variation of ELO scoring to determine how you rank among the site’s userbase, and therefore, which profiles to suggest to you and whose queues your profile shows up in. Invented by physics professor Arpad Elo to determine rankings among chess players, ELO assigns ranks by judging players’ presumed skill levels against each other.
The result is a system where your ranking is more determined by how you compare to other people rather than personal stats. The system has since been adapted for use in football, baseball, and even videogames such as League of Legends and Warcraft. So when translated to Tinder, the algorithm can be understood on a basic level as one where who you match with determines who the app shows to you. Get matched with those with a high ELO, and the site will start populating your queue with the people Tinder as a whole finds more desirable. Get matched with those sporting a lower ELO, and the site will only show you people who don’t get as many matches from high-ranking users. Your ELO is determined by the supposed desirability of the people who think you’re worth dating.
So if you want Tinder to think you’re cool, you need to match up with a greater number of popular users and fewer unpopular users.
Essentially, the key isn’t how many people find you attractive, but which people think you’re worth dating.
What if higher-ELO people match with you, but you’re actually interested in the type of people who normally have lower-ELO ranks? Just because other high-cheekboned and full-lipped ELO titans aren’t interested in them doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be. You might even be driven away by traits that Tinder as a whole finds more attractive. But because the high-ELO community has deemed you worthy, your queue will be filled with them while the type of people you’re actually interested in remain out of reach.
Dating is often framed as a competition, where one has to strive to attract as many people as possible. In this context, it might make sense to use a system born out of competition to rank which “leagues” people fall into. But the end goal of dating is one of the biggest cooperative endeavors people can take on together. Which raises the question: Is a system born out of a war game like Chess really the most appropriate way to judge compatibility?
What gives Homesickened its gut punch is that, ultimately, it is a story about trying to go home, but how, for many of us, we can never really do that again. It’s a story about loneliness, isolation and the consequences of putting more value in things than in the people around us. The ironically wistful reproduction of CGA DOS conventions is, after all, the earnestly resigned sigh too heavy for the software designed to render it.
Blow says he designs puzzles to be "first and foremost a representation of an idea, non-verbally." Rather than just being a tricky thing for a player to solve, he wants each puzzle to say something to the player. He does this by actually writing out a sentence for each puzzle.
Here's where Blow reveals The Witness' greatest trick: It's not only that he's not scared of players getting stuck, but that getting stuck is actually a key part of the process. It's a requirement to the feeling he wants the game to create. "I try to make puzzles in The Witness as simple as they can be," Blow says. "You just don't get it. It's not only that you don't get it, but you don't feel like there's anything to tell you how to get it. It's as much of a brick wall as possible, with no red herrings or anything. So eventually, when you manage to stick your head through that brick wall and see what's past it, it's the most magical.
Critical Switch: Winter 2015
Zolani Stewart - Bernband 14:50
Austin Howe - Party Size in JRPGs 07:36
Austin Howe - Dead Sun 10:24
Zolani Stewart - F-Zero and The Language of Space 10:50
Austin Howe - Rest In Pain 15:19
Zolani Stewart - Petrichor 07:57
Austin Howe - BBSD, Ludocentrism, Abstract Themes 06:09
Zolani Stewart - An Intro to Minimalism 15:10
Austin Howe - Republican Dad Mechanics 07:37
Zolani Stewart - Mirror's Edge: The Landscape of Sound 09:15
Devon Carter (Guest) - JRPGs and Simplicity 11:20
Critical Switch: Summer 2015
Austin C. Howe - Shovel Knight and Interrogation 07:27
Zolani Stewart - Expanding Interactivity 13:30
Austin C. Howe - FFVII and Jazz Standards 09:40
Austin Howe - Intro to Game Design and Drama 09:15
Crit Switch Podcast! 26:55
Heather Alexandra - Procedural Generation in Game Design 08:25
Zolani Stewart - Menus and UI 04:05
Game Design and Drama: The Resistance Curve 09:06
the end of disc one, Squall and Friends face Edea on a parade float in
Deling City. After the fight, when Edea seems defeated, she conjures an
enormous ice shard and propels it through Squall’s chest. Squall
stumbles back and falls off the platform. He sees Rinoa above, reaching
to him as he falls. Squall closes his eyes and dies. The entire remaining game time, from the beginning of disc two to the second half of the ending movie, is a dream.
Leigh suggested that it might be fun for us to do a letter series as I played, combining her nuanced understanding with my fresh eyes to explore just what it is that makes FFVII the game it is. I agreed, and we started to write.
What we see in gaming right now is not colonialism, but evolution: the
changes that need to take place for the art form to survive and thrive.
Rather than imagining games as a community of chosen people whose
integrity must be protected, everyone must take a broader view of the
form and the multitudes it already contains.
Those who dwell in the Friend Zone are not imprisoned by the object of their desire; they are imprisoned by desire itself, always entreating them to chase their own tail. The walls they build and occupy play host
to a thousand doppelgangers, each wearing the mask of one person. They
think they hate the person, but they hate only themselves. They think
this person imprisoned them, but they must have imprisoned themselves.
Reading as I am in the year 2015, I must describe K’s behaviour as
rapey; I must say he’d fit right in amongst the denizens of The Friend
Zone, nestled snugly between the Nice Guys™ and the Creepers. It’s
possible that his actions appeared dashing in the eyes of the book’s
1915 audience (as well as the eyes of the Internet Man). Regardless, the
plot confirms for us that they were unwelcome and inappropriate, since
Miss Burstner vanishes into the woodwork following the evening’s events.
My work on Friend Zone prompted me to read it as an elegy for
the Internet Man, delivered 100 years before the fact. Like the Internet
Man, K has exploited his station: lorded it above anyone he
could, believing this to be his birthright and purpose. Like the
Internet Man, K is too busy chasing tail to comprehend the shape of
his crimes. His verdict is as much about big inscrutable forces as it
is about a peculiar personal failing; it plays out neither with K’s
complete consent nor fully against his will.
Ethan Carter's final cutscene is a story unlock, whereas Verde Station’s last scene is a total shocker that does not, in itself, answer the big questions. HOWEVER. Both games refute the lazy pejorative “walking simulator” albeit in different ways.
an interesting distinction between Ethan Carter and Verde Station. The latter is much more authoritarian about gating progress, yet the former more inviting to the explorer-player, save for the endgame. Which is the better game? The question is how you like your mysteries spun. If a player figures out the story in the first few minutes, then the player is consigned to watching pieces move into assigned positions - and this is one of the reasons why Gone Home gates progress through the story.
I’ve yet to see environmental storytelling as coy and understated as Kairo, although that game confused many of its players, because Verde Station still needs to rely on lore in the form of handwritten notes scattered around and messages stored on terminals. But it might be better to see Kairo as a special case because I’ve previously discussed how limiting it is to tell a story in a dead world. Certain messages are corrupted a little too conveniently, so the world feels like a puzzle authored just for you as opposed to a real situation you’re trying to make sense of.
[The Talos Principle]
human race perishes but, in its dying moments, initiates a long-term computer simulation in which it is hoped a sentient intelligence will evolve to carry on the torch of humanity... but the simulation itself is frightened to die. But it’s much more than that. It’s a story of individuals pulling together to “save the world” and what exactly that means. It’s a story of a species facing the end with dignity. It’s a meditation on what it means to be sentient. It’s a story of programs desperate to understand the strange prison they are born into and the “god” that presides over them. And virtually all of this is told through text, some with a conversational component.
“I was actually trying really hard to avoid retelling the same story,” he explains, “since I really hate repeating myself, but everything kept evolving into that direction, perhaps partially because Croteam enjoyed The Infinite Ocean. I think some of the mistakes I made in my first few drafts came from trying to avoid similarities. What I ended up deciding was that if The Infinite Ocean is a game about an AI becoming a god, Talos is about an AI becoming human.”
The saddest aspect of the QR texts is that as you move further towards the end of the game, they thin out, making it clear how many programs never made it through and the world grows more cold and lonely. Rather than the Garden of Eden, the simulation is both purgatory and graveyard – many of the child programs fall into depression or go mad.
This ethical aspect of the simulation is never made explicit, although Gehenna does sail much closer to these particular rocks. Elohim continues to iterate from one child program to another, attempting to find the program that will finally defeat the simulation and thus be the candidate for upload to physical hardware. But many of the AI already seem to be self-aware and these programs are being put through mental torture. I’m not sure the creators of the Process, Alexandra Drennan and her team, thought this far ahead, as if they assumed only the successful AI would feel anything at all. But they were trying to save humanity and these abused children were the inevitable price.
“I always intended for a certain amount of ambiguity there. It's the messiness of the story – how the simulation was made out of disparate parts, how it malfunctioned in odd ways, how maybe the very malfunctions ultimately helped it succeed – that makes it human to me. Elohim is part of that. He's supposed to be challenged, yes, but he takes that too far, out of desperation, out of fear. To the player's character Elohim is just a test, but to himself the whole God thing is more than an act, it's his whole reality. Maybe he endangers the entire Process by his actions. Maybe he actually does a better job than intended by accident. Maybe underneath it all he always knows how it's going to end, no matter how much he denies it. To me, that messiness and ambiguity is a more realistic reflection of how we deal with these things in the real world.
“I should probably also point out that there are deliberate references to Jesus and his moments of doubt in Elohim's lines, another syncretic element of the story, another retelling. There's a reversal of roles at the end, God in his doubt submitting to man: let your will be done. The end of the game, in many ways, is about Elohim's moment of humanity, a kind of precursor to the humanity about to be realized."