Dénouement 2012: Part 2

  By Shamus   Jan 4, 2013   257 comments

splash_2012.jpg

My 2012 retrospective continues. Remember that I’m not some giant review site. This isn’t a list of “THE MOST IMPORTANT GAMES OF 2012″. This is just a list of what I played, when I had time, if I thought of it, and if I happened to own a copy.

Sleeping Dogs and Far Cry 3 won’t appear here. That’s not because they weren’t worth a mention, but because I haven’t gotten around to them yet. I’m probably missing a few other games as well.

Super Hexagon

Super Hexagon

Chris bought this game for all his friends, and then proceeded to humiliate all of us with it. He’s so far beyond the crowd in terms of ability that comparisons become difficult.

Super Hexagon is a very simple game. You’ve got a little triangle in the middle of the screen, and you can spin it around to evade incoming geometry. The control scheme is two buttons. If you touch anything at any time, the game ends. No lives. No powerups. No second chances. No strategy. It’s purely a game of reflex and pattern recognition. At the end of the game, your “score” is nothing more than how long you survived. Your first game is likely to be less than five seconds. After some diligent practice, you should be able to top twenty seconds. After that the game begins sorting people into the can and can’t lists.

I am rubbish at this game.

I spent over a week on this game, playing in little ten minute bursts. According to Steam, I’ve clocked over two hours in Super Hexagon, and I’ve never made it past forty-five seconds on the easiest difficulty. (The difficulties are named “Hard”, “Harder”, and “Hardest”, with more tiers available beyond those if you’ve got the dexterity to unlock them. (I don’t have the dexterity to unlock them.))

I learned something while playing this game and Hotline Miami, which is that I don’t hate hard games. I’ve raged against difficulty in games, and I still maintain that the omission of entry-level difficulty for story-based games is dumb and self-defeating. I rarely play hard games, or if I do I insist a game win me over before I crank up the challenge. But here we have two games that are dauntingly hard, offer no easy mode, and throw the challenge at you before they’ve won you over.

But these game didn’t bother me because both had a low retry penalty. This is something I’ve touched on in the past, but these games really brought the problem into sharp relief.

In Super Hexagon, ending a game doesn’t drag you through the obstacle course of Game Over» High Scores» Main Menu» New Game» Select Difficulty» Begin. You just press one key and you’re back at it. And since the games are so short, you’re probably less than a minute from where you left off. Hotline Miami has a similarly low retry cost, where a single keystroke resets the level and lets you try again. The gameplay keeps flowing.

Earlier this year, I couldn’t stand FTL. Looking back, I see that after failure it can often take you quite a while to get back to where you were. And if you were trying to figure out how to beat the final boss? The reset time is two hours.

This explains why I love Prince of Persia and dislike Tomb Raider et al. Why I love Saints Row and dislike (hate?) Grand Theft Auto.

The retry cost is more important to me than the difficulty of the game or the fairness of the defeat. Some games presume to punish your failure by wasting your time. (Or, as in the case of FTL, can’t give you a way to take one step back and retry, simply because doing so would be either be pointless or game-breaking.) This makes me hate them. This tells me I should never, ever attempt Too Human or Dark Souls.

Also, Chris is an inhuman videogame-playing robot and he must be stopped.

Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami

Chris already covered the story and themes of this game, so I won’t belabor that stuff. Besides, what I really liked about Hotline Miami was the gameplay.

As I mentioned in one of the paragraphs up there, this can be a hard game. It’s a top-down game that reminds me a bit of the old 2D Grand Theft Auto titles. Gameplay consists of your character putting on some crazy animal mask, walking into a den of gangsters, and proceeding to hand out murder like it was Halloween candy. The trick here is that all damage is instantly lethal. If you get hit or shot, you die. You’re vastly outnumbered.

Beating a level is a mix of timing and memorization. You have to learn where the guys are and plan a route through the rooms. If you’re attacking guys with guns, then you need to make sure that you can close the distance and hit them before they can get a shot off, and if they have friends you have to deal with the in them right order. Guns are loud, attract huge numbers of foes, and run out of ammo quickly, but they let you kill at a distance. Melee weapons are silent, but mis-timing a single swing usually means death.

As others have said, this is one of the best soundtracks of the year. I’ve actually been playing the soundtrack in the background while I’m programming.

The pulsing electronic beat, the bright colors, and the rhythm of the game itself combine to form a sort of hypnotic experience. I replayed several areas of the game, trying to improve my score and dig up secrets.

Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2

Remember how I was writing all those posts about Guild Wars 2? Did you notice how they sort of stopped abruptly? That’s exactly how my experience with the game went. It was an intense obsession that ended without warning. I got up one day and realized I didn’t want to log in.

Some of my friends had a similar experience, and our obsessions ended at about the same time.

I blame the dungeons. We all leveled characters to the end game, jumped into the dungeons together, and realized they went against the design and feel of every other part of the game. They were frustrating, obtuse, unrewarding, dull, terribly written, occasionally ugly, and completely lacking in fun. It was like getting to the end of a meal and finding out that dessert is a punch in the face.

I might have stuck around but Arena Net was making such small, incremental changes to the game when all I could see were these gaping holes in their content.

Guild Wars 2 is the best MMO solo I’ve ever played. I’m prepared to believe it’s the best yet released. But the dungeons are shockingly bad and nobody can even agree on what needs to be changed because nobody can figure out what Arena Net is trying to accomplish with them. Is this supposed to be a fun, low-key co-op experience, like Left 4 Dead? Is it suposed to be a mechanical grind like World of Warcraft? Is it supposed to be a number-crunching test of gear and Wiki-reading, like WoW raids? Is it supposed to be a test of skill for the super-elite characters?

I don’t know. I don’t care. I put in my hours, the game failed to entertain, and I stopped playing.

This series isn’t over yet. Still more games to cover. And we’re not even to my favorite yet.


A Hundred!A Hundred!202017257. There are now n+1 comments, where n is a big-ish sort of number.


  1. MelTorefas says:

    I still consider the fact that you made it to the endgame in Guild Wars 2 highly impressive. I made it to level 30-something, and only that far because I have a friend who really likes the game and we leveled together. Me, I can’t stand the game at all. I found it almost as bad as TOR.

    • Aldowyn says:

      That’s about where I stopped playing solo too. I got fed up with the lack of feeling like I was getting anywhere >.>

      I disagree about TOR, though, but that’s because I don’t like a lot of the changes GW2 made to the MMO model. They just don’t mesh well with me. Like, I LIKE the quest hub system, and the holy trinity works for a reason! And I love Bioware’s storytelling, TOR has some great moments. (Although the individual classes have pretty distinct characters, which makes sense to me even though some people wouldn’t like that.)

      TL;DR: I like TOR, but I wish it was KotOR 3. It’s close enough for me to enjoy it.

      • Jace911 says:

        I’m currently ‘enjoying’ TOR, but only if at least two of my friends are on and we’re awake enough to chat about stuff during the boring as hell combat. The story stuff actually ranges from decent to engaging depending on your class; the problem is it’s sprinkled on top of this bland and sometimes even sleep-inducing gameplay.

        Gameplay which, thanks to the new nonsensical F2P restrictions, has become even LONGER due to the XP penalty. I would love to get the people from EA and Bioware who came up with these stupid, irritating, underpants-gnome restrictions into a room and beat them over the head with every way that they are failing to understand how to make a F2P MMO system appealing.

        • Aldowyn says:

          Yeah, the F2P is restricting some dumb things.

          Personally I think the combat is deeper than GW2, but it IS very repetitive like any MMO. You know, like WoW. I at least make SOME modification to what I’m doing every level or two >.>

          • StashAugustine says:

            I’m still liking the combat, probably because I never played WoW and it’s way better than KoTOR.

          • Daimbert says:

            My view is that it’s not so much that the combat is repetitive in the sense that it’s the same thing over and over again — although it is, but CoH had the same sort of thing and I loved it — but more that there’s so MUCH of it. I spend most of my time killing things, even just to get to where I’m supposed to go so that I can kill the things that I have a quest of kill. It’s so bad that on my Warrior — who should want to fight absolutely everything — I was avoiding combat as much as possible. At least that makes more sense for my Smuggler.

        • Thomas says:

          So they even didn’t learn the WoW lesson that all penalties should be described as bonuses? (It’s not a playtime penalty, it’s a sleeping ‘bonus’)

    • Steve C says:

      Shamus got to the endgame? How did he manage that? Dungeons aren’t endgame. There is no endgame to get to. Maybe 100% exploration or getting a legendary or something but not really. Max level isn’t really endgame either because you basically can do everything except your story before then.

      • krellen says:

        I got 100% completion and I think I scared Shamus away from doing the same with my tales of horror from World vs. World.

        • Shamus says:

          This is exactly what happened. I heard that and thought “Ugh. That doesn’t sound like fun.” And since that meant I wasn’t going to 100% the map, it seemed pointless to keep going with it. The very idea that they would hide the last 1% of this otherwise single-player activity inside of the LOLMERDUR PvP zone is completely bewildering to me.

          There are so many things wrong with this. People looking for those last couple of points aren’t actually playing WvW. They’re just running around, taking up a slot (remember how long those queues used to be?) that could be used by a player who DOES want to play. Not only is the explorer player not having fun, but they’re stopping someone else from having fun. And if the WvW battle is out of balance, it’s going to be very hard to reach those points.

          Idiots.

          • Steve C says:

            That’s why GW2 can’t be considered for the best game of 2012. That logic is throughout the game. It’s like making a beautiful delicious cake and icing it with ketchup. You look at GW2, scratch your head and think why the hell did they make such a stupid choice there? Ketchup is a perfectly tasty and valid addition to food but not on cake.
            GW2 does the hard things really well and the easy things inexplicably poorly.

  2. Minnow says:

    Sleeping Dogs was exactly the game I wanted GTA IV to be. The linked article on GTA suggests you’re going to have severe problems with it though – Sleeping Dog’s offers very little freedom, despite its open world nature.

    As for Guild Wars 2…

    “I got up one day and realized I didn’t want to log in.”

    I felt this around level 60 – the exploration aspect helped until I reached level 80. At which point I too gave up. There’s nothing to do once that exploration aspect disappears due to the shallow nature of the game and ArenNet clearly don’t seem to realize how dull their PvP modes are. Why would I play WvWvW when I can play Planetside 2 and get the same large scale experience delivered to a much higher standard?

    • Cody says:

      The only thing that kept me into GW2 was the WvWvW….. Then I got into the PS2 Beta and I haven’t touched GW2 since.

      • Ysen says:

        Really? I found WvWvW to be horrible. Everyone just went around in a massive horde, and it felt like any given battle was determined more by sheer numbers than by anything I actually did. When you inevitably die, you get to waste some of your hard-earned gold on repairs, and then spend a couple of minutes traipsing across the landscape to reach your previous location. There was also little reward for participating.

        I generally liked the rest of the game, though like a lot of people I rapidly became bored after I’d unlocked my weapon skills and core utility skills. I was kind of interested in the story quests, but unfortunately someone decided it was a good idea to require you to grind a couple of levels between each quest, which completely kills the pacing. It can also get expensive when you go to a region you haven’t explored for XP, then have to either spend several minutes running back to do the quest, or shell out for the ever-so-expensive fast travel.

        Did a dungeon once, and it was pretty bad. The difficulty curve was all over the shop, and it cost me a tonne in repairs. Also getting revived a dozen times and wearing a boss down through sheer attrition isn’t particularly enjoyable.

      • ACman says:

        I liked WvW but I wish it had been more varied.

        Because 3 of the maps are identical it doesn’t feel like it has the same exploration as the main game.

        Also would have been really good if the “Commanders” had some sort of voice or map control to issue commands (suggestions) and everybody from your team was shown on the map. Otherwise it just feels like a guessing game as to where the main forces of your worlds army are.

        And the building of siege equipment should also be connected to the the resources (Wood and metal) that you collect from the world rather than just the rather nebulous “supplies” that are delivered gradually from camps that replenish painfully slowly.

        It’s an interesting mmo game variant but it needs work.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      I felt the exact same way. I was pulled on by bringing areas to %100 completion, and then halfway through Mount Maelstrom I hit 80. I ‘m not even sure if I went back to finish the area. The game just stopped for me. Yet, like Shamus, I still really, really loved the game. As the prophet Elisha said, “wtflol.”

      • Aldowyn says:

        I saw this coming, actually. It’s just not DESIGNED to be compelling >.> I wonder if they knew that and didn’t really care because of their business model, but… man it feels like a crappy MMO!

  3. I quit GW2 in exactly the same way. I still think of it fondly, but there’s no interest left, and I wish it could have lasted longer.

    • Zukhramm says:

      Yeah. Did that at level 25. I really did have fun those levels but it just felt like I’d seen everything the game had to give at that point.

    • Cineris says:

      Personally I attribute this to the game’s combat system, which is pretty lacking in terms of depth or variety. Once you have unlocked all of the skills for your class weapons and dual wielding, you’ve experienced the vast majority of the gameplay. Granted, exploring the world and outfitting your character with new stuff continues on for some time, but the gameplay you’re experiencing won’t really fundamentally change — The enemies just hit harder and have more HP, excessively so.

      This is one thing that GW1 was a lot better for than GW2. Granted, Shamus never stuck with GW1 long enough to enjoy it, but the skill system in Guild Wars 1 was not only simpler, but it also held more depth. You only had 8 keys you could press at any one time compared to Guild Wars 2’s 15+, but you had thousands of potential combinations of skills synergizing and interacting in different ways. Guild Wars 2 doesn’t really have anything approaching that, it just has punching bags of HP until they die.

      • Zombie says:

        That’s what got me out. I was unlocking all the skills and just got bored with the combat. That’s probably why most MMO’s have classes that go down a skill tree. The player might be bored at level 20, but by level 30 they might have four or five new toys to play with. GW2 did it “Hey, by level 18 you can have almost all the weapon abilities!” (I got a rogue to level 18 and I have like half a bar to go for my last combat ability, so thats what I’m judging it on)

        Nothing I did had the same “umf” that other games have with there abilities either. Heck, even STO makes you phaser blasts and photon torpedoes explode and do things, and as the ship loses health it starts getting destroyed, and TSW has some really cool looking abilities (If you go Melee or Magic, but whatever). GW2 doesn’t have really good or rewarding combat animations.

        And the Norn story, well I really didn’t get it. I had no idea what my goal was, and the one weird quest where I got the bad guys drunk (less fun than it sounds) felt like I was doing pointless busy work instead of getting things put together, and then she sends me out to do even more busywork.

        Really, GW2 was a good attempt, but the only real innovation I think it brought to the MMO market is the idea of pay once and get the whole game, and then pay for expansion/updates/whatever you call them, which TSW just picked up. It gives developers a choice between: take people’s money every month or hope your game is good enough for people to buy your stuff from the store with the fake currency of you choice.

        • Aldowyn says:

          TOR did this right. What GW2 is missing is a talent system. It HAS one, but it’s not compelling enough because the ‘perks’ are the interesting part and you only get them once every FIVE levels instead of one (or several tiers of one through 2-3 levels).

          I actually mentioned this in the original articles on GW2. It FEELS better, but it’s not deep at all compared to an MMO. It lost too much of the RPG aspects that are crucial to quest-based MMORPGS.

  4. Trithne says:

    “I got up one day and realized I didn’t want to log in.”

    Yep.

    GW2 is just shallow. It’s got some great ideas, but they’re just sitting on top of an incredibly flimsy MMO that tries on the one hand to be your friend, with ‘no grind’ and ‘play for fun’, and slaps you with the other hand, made of diminishing financial returns, bad dungeon design, and an utter lack of any sort of purpose.

  5. You know … the concept of retry-cost explains why I generally loathe “difficult games,” and yet I have no problem with at least trying the Hardcore and Challenge levels in Nitronic Rush; even in Saints Row, quitting a mission or restarting-from-checkpoint requires that you sit through the “mission quit/failed” screen and a loading screen or two. In Nitronic Rush, you have two seconds of exploding, plus a randomly-selected quote which is less “you messed up” and more “something bad happened”, and then boom, you’re back in action, without even interrupting the background music. It’s like a racing game made by someone who hates Do It Again Stupid as much as Shamus.

    I’m gonna have to think about this some more.

    • Jeff says:

      I agree, this explains a lot about my own tastes and habits.

    • Cap'n Hector says:

      This is a big part of what pissed me off in Arkham City/Asylum. Asylum I played until the Bane fight, which I wasn’t able to beat; every death featured someone laughing at me, which I couldn’t interrupt. Also, the big set-piece rooms where all the mooks need to be taken out w/o even a single quick-save were annoying.

      City had me get annoyed when I’d have to travel half a kilometer to find something, then die, then respawn half a kilometer away. Thanks, game.

      • StashAugustine says:

        I didn’t mind the checkpoints in linear story missions, but they were incredibly annoying in the free exploration. AC had the same problem.

        • Aldowyn says:

          Note: Far Cry 3 did respawns pretty well. You checkpoint when you approach an outpost, and if there’s no nearby checkpoint you just respawn at the closest fast travel stations, any of which is less than 5-10 minutes MAX of FUN travel. (seriously, driving in that game is FUN)

          • StashAugustine says:

            I’ve occasionally had issues with it dropping some progress and occasionally booting me out of a checkpoint, but overall it’s really good. And I like the approach it has to open-world gameplay- a massive list of optional objectives to take out, each of which can be approached in a different way and each of which has a fun journey to get to.

            • Aldowyn says:

              Yeah, every once in a while it seems to boot you back to the fast travel point instead of just outside the outpost. Better than always respawning at the outpost, though.

              As far as open world.. Yes. Definitely. It nails IMO what AC3 managed to screw up from its predecessors.

      • BeardedDork says:

        In Arkham Asylum I made it to the end and when it was the same boss fight as damn near every other bossfight in the game to that point, I just quit and watched the end on You Tube. I’ve been kind of leery of trying Arkham City for fear of more of the same.

        • StashAugustine says:

          The boss fights are a little better. There’s one which is gonna be really frustrating for the first two or three tries, after which it gives up, tells you the answer, and turns into one of my favorite fights of all time. There’s only a few of the old Titan (or whatever) fights.

  6. Factoid says:

    I think it’s a little unfair to penalize a rougelike game like FTL for having a long reset time. You can play through hours and hours of Nethack only to stumble into a room with a couple yellow dragons in it and you haven’t picked up any acid resistance. You die and have to start over, unless you’ve been savescumming.

    Throughout the game you’re using the same tactics from Sector 1 all the way up to the final fight. So you are practicing the same skills and improving even though you’re weak again. Once you’ve failed enough times you really do get better and you can win consistently, or at least get to the boss fight. I can make it to Sector 8 now about 90% of the time unless I have some REALLY bad luck, and I’m not even especially good at this game.

    When it comes to the boss fight, though, you have a legitimate complaint about the long reset time. You use can’t beat the boss with every strategy. So you can play through the whole game and do extremely well, but be unable to beat the final boss. If you didn’t focus on picking up weapons, for example, and just board every ship you come across, kill the crew and move on, you’re screwed in the end, because a super-aggressive AI takes over the ship if you kill the entire crew. You MUST have a way to damage the boss’s hull through its shields, or a way to reliably bring its shields down or you can’t win. Period. In phase 3 it gets a drone that shoots down missiles, so you either need double missiles, or teleporting bombs.

    That said, resetting I do not generally see as a problem. If you know how to grind sectors you will only very rarely end up in the final battle without all the tools you’ll need to win.

    edit: Oh, and as for Too Human…there are many many reasons not to attempt that game. The story is awful, the camera is an evil conspiracy against sanity, the puzzle stages are laughably easy and the gear-upgrades are a complete mess. Don’t bother. There’s no way they’ll be making another one, so you won’t even get a resolution to the story.

    • Thomas says:

      I think you can’t necessarily count on a thumbs up on Nethack system either. And I wouldn’t read it as a huge slight on the games, Dark Souls is very popular so there’s clearly a set of people this appeals to. And Devil May Cry started without savepoints. But there’s just a subset of people who really don’t like long reset difficulty and there’s a genre of hard games that relies on short sharp experiences with a very quick reset that appeals to another section of people.

    • Shamus says:

      “I think it’s a little unfair to penalize a rougelike game like FTL for having a long reset time. ”

      “penalize”? You mean not like it? You think I’m unfair to not enjoy the game?

      • Cannibalguppy says:

        Very unfair. In fact it’s rude to not love every game :P

        I loved FTL but your points about the game is about as valid as it can be.
        By the way would you recomend super hexagon?

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          “Very unfair. In fact it’s rude to not love every game :P”

          Except for mass effect sequels.Fuck those two.

        • Shamus says:

          It’s hard to recommend SH just because it’s such a narrowly focused experience. It’s a very pure thing, which is probably going to lead to love / hate appraisals. If you don’t dig the gameplay, it’s not like you can push through to see how the story ends.

          I found it a really interesting learning experience, measuring myself as I gradually grew into this purely reflex-based gameplay.

          On the other hand, I’m terrified that this is something I could have mastered at 25. This may be the first time I’ve played a game where I was just too old to hack it. There have been a LOT of games where I was too old (and wise) to tolerate time-wasting shenanigans. But I didn’t hit a limit of patience or free time when I played SH. I hit the limit of my ability.

          At the end, I played about an hour over the course of three days without seeing my performance improve. Kind of alarming.

          • Cannibalguppy says:

            I would rather be slightly older and have your life experience and wisdom than be the 23yearold brat i am.

            Cant wait for part 3 :D

            oh and yes Ass Effect sequels are crap.

          • krellen says:

            It’s amazing what a difference of a few years (and likely the lack of alternate priorities such as a father has) makes in that regard, as I have yet to hit the wall of non-improvement in Super Hexagon (though my times are still rather comparable to yours on all but the lowest difficulty).

            I stopped playing largely because I reached my goal of beating one of the younger TwentySider’s times, and was prompted schooled by falling back below him. I accede the game to the younger generation.

            Besides, I have a bunch of other games I’d rather be playing.

            • Aldowyn says:

              I think that might have been me, actually. I quit shortly after that point because OH MY GOD CHRIS IS A MACHINE.

              “youth” is not the entire thing. For whatever reason, I don’t lose because of REACTION time. I lose because the sensitivity is different on different levels and I can’t train my fingers to adjust for it properly. More than half of my deaths are because I STOPPED either too far or not far enough, not because I was moving and didn’t get there in time. I can’t tell if I’m just weird or if it’s bad design, because it’s too integral to the programming of the game.

              It’s just weird because I would expect to be able to acclimate myself to the sensitivity but I spent HOURS pounding on the same wall and essentially gave up after that. (That was a fun 3 hours, though) Plus I got really engrossed in much more complicated games.

              So screw that third level, but I want to see the end and I want to EARN it…

          • Mersadeon says:

            I’m on the other side of that “age fence” – I see how my father, who plays videogames basically since before TIE-Fighter, just can’t keep up with me. Not because of tactics, but because of simple reflex. Twitch-shooter-ish stuff just seems to be the domain of the young. Just a shame that I am not a fan of twitch-shooter-gameplay.

            • I’ve often noticed that a lot of the kills in “twitch” gameplay come from the players basically acting like suicidal maniacs (especially in war-oriented FPS games where aircraft are available).

              While it’s true you should kind of want to not get killed, many players appear to not take that into consideration in the slightest. If your opponent is playing like one of the human cylons with a resurrection ship parked nearby, you’re probably not going to “win.”

          • Asimech says:

            I hit the “can’t step up to it” limit in a game years ago, before I turned 25. I don’t remember the game, but I do remember the feeling that just went “not happening”. It was a very, very absolute feeling.

        • MintSkittle says:

          Super Hexagon Gameplay Trailer:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sz0mI_6tLQ

          I’d say get it anyways, because it’s also inexpensive. Like it or hate it, you’re not out a lot of money.

          • Alastair says:

            I watched that, and I was stuck by three things:

            a) I have no idea what was going on there, or what the point of it was

            b) Spinning hexagons make my head hurt

            c) If that was actually the speed the game moves at, I would last -13 seconds into it. (Possibly I would not have the reaction time to run the game in the first place)

            • Alexander The 1st says:

              1.) The bouncing arrow is your avatar. You want to avoid the walls by circling the hexagon, Warlords style.

              2.) Perhaps “Short Circuit” (Playable on Addicting Games.com) would be more your style? It’s spinning asterisks. :p

              3.)EDIT: the speed of the game is only tying up to the music, like Short Circuit above. I imagine it’s tied to the beat.

              I suspect there’s some starting buffer at the beginning, but I could be wrong, because…

              4.) I wants this game, but my Steam catalogue just doubled from Christmas, so I have a huge buffer and can’t really argue that it’s worth buying it so soon. Why didn’t you (Shamus) let me know of this sooner? :|

      • Cybron says:

        I view complaining about the reset time in a roguelike as akin to complaining about the lack of jumping puzzle in a racing game – it’s a perfectly legitimate reason to not enjoy a game (you like platformers, not a racing game), but at the same time it is a fairly poor critique of the game.

        Given that that it was a statement of opinion and not a review, it can’t really be ‘unfair’. I suppose when you’re e-famous for articles on gaming, it’s hard to establish separation of the two.

        • Dave B. says:

          It doesn’t help that people (both writers and readers) have trouble distinguishing between statements of “I don’t happen to like this thing” and “this thing is a bad thing.” While both are perfectly legitimate opinions, it can be upsetting to hear (what you think is) the latter.

          • Aldowyn says:

            I really try to differentiate when I make those arguments. Like I’ll say “I liked this game despite of it, but it has these problems” (Mass Effect). Or “I see the ideas behind this game, but they didn’t quite work for me” (Dishonored, although it also has objective issues. They were just WORSE for me than others.)

        • Dasick says:

          Rogue and it’s ilk attempted to distill the decision making aspect of games. If the reset time for making decisions is too long, that is a legitimate complaint about a roguelike.

          • Charnel Mouse says:

            I’m not sure about that. It may have been the original intent, but a lot of the “mainline” roguelikes have became so large and convoluted it doesn’t seem like the main intent any more.

            • Dasick says:

              Let’s take a look at the requirements for a rogue-like.

              Perma-death. No saving-loading. Random layouts.

              What is the common thing about these attributes? They present players with unique situations, ask the player to make a decision, give feedback and never allow the player to go back to that decision.

              Some roguelikes are bloated, to the point where the original intent is gone.

      • Factoid says:

        That’s not what I meant. I’m not trying to suggest you should like the game just because I do. I’m just curious what it is about Nethack that you can forgive but not FTL.

        It’s not that you don’t like the game that I found unfair, just that you’re negatively critiquing a game for adhering to one of the defining characteristics of its genre. Long reset times and roguelikes go hand in hand.

    • Minnow says:

      “Too Human […]there are many many reasons not to attempt that game.”

      Agreed…and yet I found it strangely compelling. I think it was a combination of the Diablo-esque loot mechanics and the “epic” nature of the stages / atmosphere. Every stage in that game is enormous, and though that means you’re potentially plodding for hours through samey environments, in short bursts it’s rather entertaining and almost hypnotic once you get a grasp on the combat system.

    • Dirigible says:

      Actually, boarding in itself can be a reliable way to bring the shields down – I’ve only ever completed using the boarding-centric Mantis cruiser.

      I’d be interested in what Shamus thinks of Binding of Isaac, another game where death necessitates a restart, but makes the entry barrier of that restart very low (This is opposed to some games where death brings you back to a recent save point, but goes through lengthy loading screens to do so.)

      • Aldowyn says:

        Binding of Isaac is even more polarizing than FTL.

        I actually did an analysis of BoI vs FTL on a couple of VERY specific issues (what I saw as the main gripes), although it may be suspect because there’s a LOT of assumptions and I hadn’t actually PLAYED BoI, although I have studied it a fair amount.

        • Jakey says:

          People find BoI polarizing?

          Wrath of Lamb has been pretty controversial for completely screwing over the previously-balanced difficulty curve through the combined use of alternative stages, new overpowered items turning it into a binary ‘OP run or not?’ check, really annoying new monsters and ragequit inducing new layouts , but I found the original game to be pretty damn perfect in terms of balancing if only because of the lack of obvious bullshit moments and the ability for you to still beat the game without picking up any items or upgrades.

    • Jeff says:

      It’s very luck based though, which is annoying.

      It’s been a while since I quit, but the easiest time I ever had involved having a basic Teleporter and maxed Cloak, the Weapon Pre-Igniter augmentation (instantly readied weapons), the Stealth Weapons augmentation (no Cloak time reduction from firing), an Automated Reloader augmentation (-15% reload), and being lucky enough to pick up 2 Pegasus Missile launchers.

      The Pegasus fires 2 missiles that deal 2 damage each, requires 3 power and has a 20 second cooldown, dropping to about 13s from manned weapon stations. Missiles go through shields, so being able to instantly inflict 8 damage under cloak the moment a fight starts trivializes everything.

      When I hit the boss, I sent in boarding parties to kill the crew (2 vs 1 fight) and destroy the weapons, since the weapon areas are self contained 2-space areas. In fact, I started the crew-killing from the right-hand side (as the left side blows up for Phase 2), and lost my boarding party shortly after they killed the weapon crew in the middle because my missiles (targeting their cloak in Phase 1) obliterated the ship. Phase 2 and 3 passed quickly since I could freely nuke their weapons/drones and cloak against their super-weapons.

      Amazingly fast and easy, but I had never been able to pick up that combination of augmentations and weapons again. My crowning moment of awesome with that game, and I quit shortly after because all subsequent plays felt lacking.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      “If you didn’t focus on picking up weapons, for example, and just board every ship you come across, kill the crew and move on, you’re screwed in the end, because a super-aggressive AI takes over the ship if you kill the entire crew.”

      This is manageable. Every time your boarding crew damages a system down to breaking point you do one point of hull damage, and the AI won’t shut off the O2 or vent the ship, and repairs systems quite slowly, and doing enough damage to destroy the ship with a boarding crew generally requires you to activate the AI.
      Keep a fighter in each weapon bay(mantis ideally, but not Engi is good enough) to break it again whenever it comes online, or use a breach bomb to stop the AI repairing them, and have the rest of your boarding crew roam around the ship wrecking the place, then either beam them out at the last moment and cherry-tap the ship with whatever pea shooter you have, or beam out everyone but one and have them kill the ship. Or do what I did when I had to deal with this exact situation on the third stage once, and beam over your entire crew. You get the “Trustworthy Autopilot” achievement and the victory screen credits a blank space as the successful crew.
      I think you’ll be surprised what crazy stuff you can get away with in FTL. The only hard rule for the final boss is that, whatever your strategy, you need to have the resources to turn it up to eleven. Unless you win every encounter by using four Ion Blast 1s to lock down weapons, shields, O2 and the medi bay.

      I think the main problem for games with long reset times is the player has to trust that the interruption is worthwhile. A rhythm game that sets you back to the start of a two to five minute song is standard and reasonable, one that set you back five seconds would be infuriating. We accept that you need to get back into the groove so we don’t mind the reset. We accept that Hotline Miami resets the whole level at least partly because quicksaving would require a button-press that would seem to last an eternity and throw off your rhythm.

      Shamus mentioned in his first two articles on FTL that he doesn’t have the same distaste for other roguelikes that he does for FTL, and that this is partly because of the Rebel pursuit forbidding him from exploring and levelling up a bit more and partly because the game is too random to plan an overarching strategy and stick to it. He doesn’t trust that these are reasonable so he’s annoyed at them.
      I absolutely HATE games that pretend to be difficult but allow the player to grind for stats(Probably because Disgaea either beat any affection for that out of me or just offers grinding that’s a much more compelling project), and I’m the sort of munchkin who likes to absorb the rule book and build eldritch abominations from edge cases, ambiguous rules and glitches, so I love looking at each situation and playing the odds for maximum benefit.
      Yes, FTL will often hurt you randomly, but it won’t kill you outright, and if you can survive to sector 2, you’ll probably end up with a representative sample of trouble that’s open to being gamed. As Factoid says, you’re practising everything you need for final boss from the moment you start. You just need to get the hang of nickel and diming the probabilities so that you have more profitable encounters than losing ones.

      One thing I’ll note, I play on Normal exclusively because I’m nuts. This tends to mean that if a strategy isn’t going to work, feedback will be swift, unambiguous and relatively easy to absorb. I don’t have the margins of error in resources that those who play Easy do, so I had to learn to be obsessively efficient. This is a key skill for the game and it may be worth examining how well Easy mode teaches this.

      • Aldowyn says:

        The point is, it IS a roguelike. You aren’t going to win every game, not without being an absolute master, but you DO get better, because you’re better at recognizing how to plan ahead, maximising resources, and things like that.

        It’s almost a bad thing if you win with a crazy loadout, because that feels like luck. But when you scrape by by the skin of your teeth and you KNOW all the little things added up… that’s when a roguelike ‘clicks’.

        • Nidokoenig says:

          This is mainly going off Shamus’ first two articles, where he explained that he enjoys roguelikes like NetHack, but not this. That strongly implies that FTL is unlike other roguelikes in key ways and that’s where the interesting discussion lies.

          One big sticking point may be the cause of you not winning every game: FTL’s designers have stated that even an expert should be winning less than 10% of their games, or at least that was their design goal. This isn’t done through the God Hand/Super Hexagon method of only and purely punishing you for being a fallible meatbag, random events can and will add up to more than you can handle even if you’re playing perfectly, and with the Rebel Fleet on your arse you can’t prepare in the sensible ways most dungeon crawler roguelike allow and encourage.

          For me, this makes victory all the sweeter by emphasising the sheer scale of the challenge and length of the odds I’m overcoming, and produces many tales of epic defeat where I can genuinely feel I fought with everything I had and still lost, whereas Shamus seemingly feels like the game just dicked him around for an hour or two.
          When I beamed my entire crew onto the third stage of the flagship, I didn’t know how the game would react to it. I just thought that even if it didn’t work, I’d still have a great story and would have done valuable ‼SCIENCE‼. This is the Dwarf Fortress “Losing is Fun” mindset, where losing is as much a way to generate a compelling story as it is a way to tell the player that their strategy is lacking, and not everyone has that particular breed of insanity.

          • Dasick says:

            Personally, I think FTL had a lot of potential, but it kinda blew it.

            What separates FTL from the likes of Nethack or the very well designed Desktop Dungeons is the core gameplay. In FTL, the three core mechanics are ship-building, exploration and ship combat.

            Ship building doesn’t have enough options to give it depth (giving too many options, or making options too reliable can be bad as well). You just choose a template, and then you chance upon a shop, where you almost always can only afford one thing, and returning is almost always a non-option.

            Exploration of star clusters doesn’t give you enough information to make a decision. Decisions are somewhere between a guess and a solution, so knowing everything, as well as knowing nothing are both bad (for a decision). Anything to give you more information is completely random, whether item or intel from a ship.

            Ship combat doesn’t have enough decisions to make, yet each battle takes like 5 minutes to play out. Usually, you just find the optimal rotation for that particular enemy and just use it until it’s dead. Nethack & co have long term things like potions that you can consume to give you a boost, but they are exhaustible, so you have to judge when to use them. Also, there’s a gradient of success in your garden variety roguelike. I can kill some of the monsters, get their xp and loot then do something with that. Fights in FTL are one-on-one, winner takes all, so the feeling of scraping by is much rarer, since you get *nothing* for running away.

            These are my 2cents on the situation. As always, I fully accept that I may be completely wrong :P

    • Dasick says:

      Rogue has been an attempt to purify decision making. If that’s the standard for judging roguelikes, which FTL clearly is trying to be, I think it did poorly. The same ‘tactics’ and ‘strategies’ work almost always (unless you go to the end boos), but there is no reason to adapt and to learn. There’s no feeling ‘could I have handled that unique situation better’? A good roguelike should force you to be good at making decisions, not at memorizing stats and patterns.

      (NOT implying that Rogue is the perfect roguelike… it just set the course)

  7. A saw Terry Cavanagh, the creator of Super Hexagon, give a presentation at Fantastic Arcade here in Austin, TX a few months ago.

    I’m in the back of a bowling alley in a dark room full of guys (because my entire gaming career has consisted of me being the only woman in a dark room full of guys). Terry is sitting up on a stage, talking to the audience about the game while simultaneously playing it – EFFORTLESSLY! The entire time he’s giving his demonstration, his gameplay is being projected onto a giant screen behind him.

    It was one of the weirdest, most psychedelic and nausea-producing experiences of my life!

    What made it even more surreal was when he discussed the fact that he originally thought he had made the game too easy because several players were able to “beat” the game (whatever that means) when it was first released on iTunes.

    Me and my coworkers came to the conclusion that Mr. Cavanagh has a very different brain from the rest of us mortals.

    • Anachronist says:

      Might that have been this demo on youtube? Indeed, impressive. Kinda nauseating to watch, too. I can see how the game can train you to play purely by reflex up to the limit of your ability.

      • Ha! Yes, that would be the one.

        I was over on the left side of the room, just a few feet from the stage. I don’t normally suffer from motion sickness, but seeing his demonstration made me pretty dizzy.

        • Aldowyn says:

          He has an almost unfair advantage, though. I mean, yeah he’s crazy for that, and for saying it’s almost too easy because people beat it?

          ANYWAY, my original point was that I’m sure he knows that game inside and out, to the inner workings of the dang thing. He can probably almost predict what’s going to happen before it happens, just KNOWS how sensitive each level is, and has an INSANE amount of practice.

          So yeah he’s a super hexagon god. Literally.

          By the way, imagine recording your first decent (15+ sec?) run and your last, then comparing. Imagine the difference for most people…

    • Zukhramm says:

      Honestly, some of my best games in Super Hexagon have been while having a conversation, or while thinking about something completely different. The part of the brain that plays Super Hexagon and the part that holds conversations do not seem to overlap much.

      • Urs says:

        That’s how it actually works, I think. When you had a bit of training and built up muscle memory, it’s a good idea to have your consciousness occupied by something else and have pure reflex take over. I remember how – in WipeOut, PS1 – reading “Perfect Lap” would divert my attention from whereever it was during that lap back to the game. Only to then bump into the very next corner…

  8. Wedge says:

    On reset time: I realized this when I played VVVVVV awhile back*. The game is fucking HARD. But the penalty for failure is so small that it’s engrossing. Most really hard games just have me get frustrated and quit, but VVVVVV had me trying every room over and over and over again just to get the satisfaction of beating it. I appreciate that a lot of indie devs get this philosophy, and I wish more AAA developers would figure it out too.

    GW2: I had the same experience, but I quit a little earlier. I reached the point (low 60’s – early 70’s) where the fast travel began to cost too much of my income and I had to start avoiding it. That means every time I needed to go back to town, every time I wanted to meet up with people or go to another area, I had to either fork over a ton of money or run forever. At lower levels, the fast travel did a really good job of letting me get around the world easily, but as I got to higher levels it started to be too expensive to use often, and that honestly ruined the game for me. I think it was a really stupid decision to make the costs scale so aggressively.

    * which was incidentally made by the same guy who made Super Hexagon, Terry Cavanaugh

  9. 4th Dimension says:

    While we are on subject of games of the last year. I just finished Thomas was alone, and it’s bloody fantastic. One guy who made it all managed to apply deep characterization to colored blocks by only using a bit of narration and abilities of the blocks. And it’s currently on sale on Steam.

    • Chris Robertson says:

      I think the deep characterization of the blocks came from the fact that they used motion capture with a very dedicated actor.

      Yes, I am aware that video is a joke

    • Thomas says:

      I’m not a fan of the title

    • Zukhramm says:

      I couldn’t stand it. Easy puzzles but with slow moving pieces, so they still take a long time to do even if I know the solution. Of course, the narration takes even longer so I have to sit around doing nothing because if I finish the level because if not I’ll miss the story. And of course just telling me the blocks have characters don’t necessarily mean they do.

      The game feels like it’s trying to be clever and charming, the problem is that to me, you automatically cannot be if you look like you’re trying to. Maybe the game gets better after the first 20 minutes but by then I had already quit in rage.

  10. Ben says:

    Is it supposed to be a number-crunching test of gear and Wiki-reading, like WoW raids?

    This makes me cringe because it’s so misrepresentative. Endgame wow raiding is the most fun coop group content in an MMO I’ve ever experienced. It’s a really fun test of group coordination and individual players’ abilities. The only problem with it is the 80 hours of crap you have to grind through to get there.

    Really need a game that requires wow’s coordination + super hexagon’s retry penalty and startup time + guild war’s mechanics :)

    • BeardedDork says:

      “Endgame wow raiding is the most fun coop group content in an MMO I’ve ever experienced.”

      For you, and a somewhat large percentage of the gaming population, maybe, but certainly not for everybody. A different point of view shouldn’t be cringe inducing. Every gamer is different after all and none of them are wrong.

      • Zukhramm says:

        I think the thing about WoW raiding, and the thing about GW2’s dungeons from what I’ve heard on this blog (I haven’t tried them) is that they’re pretty distant from what the normal gameplay is like. That was why I couldn’t get into running dungeon in WoW. Running around, questing and exploring was a lot of fun but getting a group and doing a dungeon seemed to have nothing of the game I’d enjoyed up until then.

        That’s really one thing I loved about the original Guild Wars, there everything is a dungeon so there’s no distinction.

      • Ben says:

        My comment was poorly worded perhaps… It’s not misrepresentative because he didn’t say it’s fun. It’s misrepresentative because he left out so much of what wow raiding is actually about.

    • Vagrant says:

      +1 to wow raiding being amazing… but i seriously doubt you could get player coordination from the vastness of the internet without having some kind of investment, and the easiest/safest investment is time.

      • Ben says:

        You could say the same thing about dota, and yet those games are still a lot of fun. The answer is either 1) matchmaking, where you play only with people at your own skill level, and/or 2) allowing people to play in parties, so they figure out for themselves who is worth playing.

        Putting a bar that high doesn’t actually accomplish anything when jumping the bar has nothing to do with the task you are doing. IE leveling a character and gearing up has very little to do with how good a raider you will be, and serves to cut off a LOT of people from a game that they might otherwise enjoy.

    • Aldowyn says:

      You’ve hit the nail on the head with MMORPGs. The 80 hours of ‘crap’ in WoW just doesn’t mesh with what YOU like. Whereas SWTOR is designed for the complete opposite kind of player, for who that 80 hours is the POINT. (incidentally, I fit in that category). If I personally wanted a lot of player coordination, I’d go play MOBAs (which I have at least dabbled in) or a large-scale shooter, namely Planetside 2 (Which I just straight up know I don’t have the time for.)

      Guild Wars 2, on the other hand, doesn’t properly serve EITHER gamer. It’s different from WoW without knowing WHY it should be different, just that people are tired of the current model. That’s why so many new mechanics just miss the mark.

      Yet another blog post I wrote recently…

  11. Talby says:

    Like many people here, this is EXACTLY how I felt about Guild Wars 2. I got to level 45 on my thief and just… stopped caring.

    • Thomas says:

      I feel this is the MMO curse though, most people at some point look around and ask, why am I doing this?

      • Aldowyn says:

        Because no one knows how to make MMOs yet. You should be able to answer that question.

        • Thomas says:

          Well any game that asks you to play for an extended period of time will hit this wall without a clever way of generating events. It happens to EVE vets and that game has a better answer than most things existing. Plus in the end games are (generally) for entertainment and destressing (pretty much all MMOs are) and after you’ve ground out a certain amount of levels and explored a certain amount of places, you get closer to the point of not caring.

          It’s a different limit though. There are plenty of games that I’ve stopped playing because it wasn’t very fun or it was too hard or too frustrating or it was asking me to do something I didn’t feel was worth doing. There’s only a handful of games where I’ve had a fun experience right up until the point when suddenly I stop feeling like I’ve got a reason to keep playing.

          • Aldowyn says:

            Hmm. That makes sense, actually. Thanks for explaining that.

            I’m not sure why GW2 was so sudden for most people. I wasn’t really enjoying myself that much even before I quit. I KNEW it wasn’t that compelling, but slammed through it anyway, and hit a point where I was just like “this really isn’t getting any better” and quit.

            • Thomas says:

              If the wall is that sharp there might be some really clever underlying game design flaw beneath it. A sudden drop off of content to effort or something. I’d love it if anyone ever manages to figure out exactly why so many people had the same experience

              • Aldowyn says:

                Most people seem to make it to the end and then quit, so there’s that.

                I think it’s just the subconscious knowledge coming to the forefront. That’s where the ‘why am I playing this’ idea comes from.

              • Zukhramm says:

                To keep me playing there needs to be enough new things to do. This is not necessarily “content” or “challanges” but just some kind of progression through variety. It can be a story, it can be just wanting to see new areas, at can be a new type of obstacle to overcome or it can be new additions to my character.

                Halfway through the second human area of Guild Wars 2 I hit the point where it felt like there was nothing of this. My character had basically unlocked everything I was going to use aside from a few utility and elite skills. I had swapped one shade of green for another, the music was even blander than in the original Guild Wars, the novelty of the events-syle questing and the points where I by exploring found something actually interesting were spread thin. Crafting and getting new armor seemed pointless, there was little variety in what dropped, and looking at the wiki there are not that many options in the end either, and dropping the low max stats of the original I was going to be replacing anything I got eventually anyway. And the story seemed to head for the WoW-type where the developers are just playing with their own favorite characters.

                It doesn’t actually matter if this was actually the case or not. The game might have a lot more too it. The important thing is the game didn’t give the impression there was. The game just didn’t convince be there was going to be reasons to continue playing.

  12. rayen says:

    I’ve beat the first level of super hexagon. Thats about the best i’ve been able to do.

  13. Klay F. says:

    I dunno Shamus. I still think you ought to give Dark Souls a go. Dark Souls is special in that its retry cost is both small and large at the same time. If you die, there is only a single loading screen between death and respawning. On the other hand you lose all of your in-game currency. This sounds like it sucks, but if you can make it back to where you previously died, you can recover everything you lost.

    I realize most people like to talk about Dark Souls like its the hardest thing ever, but its actually quite fair, but it will flatten you if you’re careless, and is incredibly rewarding if you aren’t.

    • benengr says:

      As I was reading the post, I thought about the small retry penalty in Dark Souls and why that is the reason I like the game so much. The cost is all of your in game currency and going back to the last checkpoint (bonfire). The bonfires are close enough that this is usually no more the 5 minutes and usually much less.

      It’s funny, people go on about how hard Dark Souls is, but I have much more problems on the Modern Warfare games in story mode. I die and have no clue as to why I did where in Dark Souls I can usually spot the reason… with the exception of 2 bosses I never had to spend hours getting past any single point in the game.

      • Klay F. says:

        I have to admit that on two occasions I reached a point where I got fed up and almost never returned to it. The two places in question being Blighttown and Anor Londo. The reason being that in a game that has such a focus on player skill, dying because of framerate issues (something I have no control over) was inexcusable to me.

      • Dasick says:

        “The bonfires are close enough that this is usually no more the 5 minutes and usually much less.”

        That’s a steep retry cost. Whatever the game is about, there should only ever be a split second delay every once in a while, and 99.9999999% of your time should be spent playing the game, not staring at a loading screen or trekking across areas you’ve already cleared.

        • Halceon says:

          What if said trekking is the whole game? Five minutes is steep if you just want to get through to the next area, but it’s not all that much if you’re exploring and facing enemies. And since they respawn every time you rest at a checkpoint, it is less clear where the boundaries are.

          • Dasick says:

            They exist for the purpose of grinding, which is a stupid solution to a stupid problem. Exploration aspect is killed the first time you explore something, that’s why it’s really silly making a game about exploring if it has no random geometry (unless there’s something special about the authored levels. is there?)

            The non-clear boundaries are a problem if it doesn’t come together. If someone is playing to face all the challenges, they have to deal with the same fights they already won. If someone is playing to explore, why make them lose their progress for something that has nothing to do with exploration? What’s holding the two aspects together, what elevates it to the status of something special?

    • Robyrt says:

      I absolutely loved Dark Souls but I’m not so sure Shamus would feel the same. The retry penalty is pretty rough even if you are steadily improving and can pick your currency up from your corpse, simply because it will take 5 minutes to walk/fight your way back. Running past enemies to cut down on the time is possible but not trivial.

      Weirdly, multiplayer is much more forgiving. One of the easiest ways to power level yourself is to play co-op, because even if you die you get all your currency back. Even PvP has only a small incidental cost.

      • Klay F. says:

        Oh I’m totally with you there. I’m just saying he shouldn’t write it off just because people say its hard.

        One of the biggest reasons I liked Dark Souls though is that you are never making zero progress.

      • Raygereio says:

        Let me just repeat my rant on checkpoints and why no one should ever use them ever again…
        Let’s say you come up to a boss in Dark Souls that you have problems with. For those who don’t know; when you’ll die in Dark Souls, you’ll respawn at a bonfire (read: checkpoint) and you’ll have to fight your way back to the boss to retry.
        Due to wonky checkpoint placement this can take anywhere between a few moments to torturously long.

        Fans of checkpoint system will defend this idiocy by saying it increases difficutly. This is what’s known as nonsense.
        Loosing your souls and liquid humanity in Dark Souls becomes trivial fast as there are plenty of places where you can farm for a few moments and get all the souls and humanity you need. After all, the game needs to allow this seeing that if you’d permanently loose resources crucial to your character’s development because you failed, I’d personally fly over to Japan and butcher the entire development team for their crimes against good game design and basic human decency.

        So what do you loose? Progres. You’re set back and have to do the exact same thing that you just did again before you finally get to retry at the point you failed. You get the fight the exact same enemies, in the exact same areas again before you get the chance to progress again. This becomes tedious.

        In the old days we had checkpoints because that’s what the tech could support and because we didn’t know any better. There are a lot of things we did wrong in the old days. We rode our bikes with square wheels uphill both ways on our way to and from school for example. Nowadays, we can do better. We have round wheels! Let’s use them. There’s no excuse for not implementing a proper safe systen in this day and age.
        Alternatively, we could also find paths that don’t have hills to ride on with our square wheels. For example in Dark Souls one could implement a teleport system. Having trouble with a boss? Plop down a teleport sign in fron the boss’ door and when you die warp to it, skipping the section of level before it. Cut’s down the tedium factor and fits nicely within the game’s current mechanics.

        Oh and another thing. Dark Souls also quite often demands that you do platforming. Precision platforming. And then has the balls to hand you controls and movement mechanics that in no way, shape or form support precision platforming. This in combination with checkpoints and not a saving system.
        Mankind has not yet invented words to describe what I think about that. Best aproximation is “GRARGLB!”

        I like Dark Souls. I really do. But dammit, I hate checkpoint systems.

        • Even says:

          I wouldn’t really call it idiocy. That’s just what some people like for a reason or another. Personally I’ve found that enduring the pain and overcoming it can offer some really cathartic and empowering experiences and they’re something only games like Dark Souls can give, by being really hard and unforgiving. While I’ve never played the game, I can understand where people who revere it may be coming from. It can be a very spiritual thing, even borderline religious.

          The only thing that’s stupid is the people who refuse to accept that their beloved should be open to critique and/or that having fun isn’t tied to their sense of elitism.

        • Thomas says:

          I’m quite a fan of checkpoint systems. I’m a compulsive quicksaver and I will destroy all my engagement by constant quicksaving if a game lets me(as happened in DX:HR). Checkpoints break up the gameplay into distinct chunks which increases the challenge and makes it a bit more of a cohesive whole as well(think, I Wanna Be The Guy) as rids me of my checkpoint neurosis.

          And they can be narratively good too. The idea of small areas of solitude from the darkness and the rest of the world a dangerous slog that you progress through in the hopes of a small beacon of light. Or in FFX they represent safe havens and stopping off points in your journey, where the party eats and sleeps etc. Because you’re forced to go from distinct point to distinct point, there’s a sense of travel and time and hardship in travelling.

          They’re really hard to get right and there are far more places where they are inappropriate than appropriate. But they have their place

          • Aldowyn says:

            Yeah, that summary sums up what I think too. (notice what I did there?)

            Checkpoints are like QTEs. They HAVE a point, they’re just misused so reliably that people don’t know good ones when they see them.

          • Raygereio says:

            @Thomas:
            I hear that often, but I can’t help but dismiss your point as nonsensical.
            I mean really: If you don’t want to use the quicksave, just don’t. It is there as an option, one that you consciously choose to use.

            @Aldowyn:
            That sentence of yours implied that there is such a thing as a use for QTEs.

            Our thought patterns are utterly alien to one anothers. I can only conclude that – much like that developers who keep using QTEs – you are an unspeakable eldritch horror here to torture us mere mortals with QTEs.

            • Thomas says:

              For a concrete example. The more checkpoints I Want To Be The Guy has the more the game is ruined. Free savestates would destroy the game.

              But I’ve also encountered well used quicktime events so there’s not much more I can say to such an emphatic refusal. I’ve already said if their are savepoint I ruin my fun through save scumming. Sure the answer is not to savescum. But I am weak willed when it comes to saving. If I was a better person I wouldn’t ruin my game. I’m not a better person. So a stealth game with everywhere saving is a tortuous experience

            • Zukhramm says:

              “Don’t use it” can be used to excuse anything that makes a game worse in that way. Using a specific items make the game crash? Don’t use it! Found a weapon that makes the game to easy? Don’t use it!

              Saving is if not a game mechanic at least a tool in how the game is played and the game should be designed with the options it offers in mind. I am not responsible for making the game work, if I wanted to do that I’d make my own.

              • Dasick says:

                I agree with this 100%. It’s fine to offer options, but game designers should give us what they think is the optimal game to play. That’s their job after all :)

        • Nidokoenig says:

          I think the reason checkpoint systems persist is that a lot of devs think their game has a specific rhythm, so rather like a rhythm game will kick you back to the start of the song rather than let you quicksave after every bar, they use checkpoints to send you back to a point they think marks the start of a distinct section. They just mess that up more often than not, and they only need to misplace one important checkpoint to get all the rage.
          There’s a lot to be said for requiring consistency to progress, though. Being able to quicksave after every jump in a classic platformer butchers the game, for example. Which just means that modern games should be able to do savestates in addition to checkpoints, so that people who want the full test of their skills can just disable savestates, and maybe get a cheevo for beating it that way. Encourage the desired behaviour rather than punish the paying customer with different ideas about fun, challenge, immersion, whatever.
          The other use for checkpoints is to make saves “safe”, by putting them only in places where the devs know the player can continue the game from, to prevent them being stuck with their only save being one where they managed to get themselves stuck in a room behind the chamber of some manner of hellbeast, wearing just a frilly apron and armed with a potato peeler, trying to work out how to get back out. But that sort of idiot-proofing can work with a “revert to checkpoint” option.

          So there’s all sorts of things checkpoints can be useful for, the problem is being forced to use them and only them.

          • Cineris says:

            Personally I favor checkpoints as a save system. Perhaps that’s because I’m coming at this from the perspective of developing online cooperative games where saving anytime isn’t an option. Even still, when I am developing a gameplay sequence I am often thinking in terms of a series of connected events and saving any time can often defeat the overall challenge of a sequence.

            For example, I might have a section that introduces players to a new mechanic. Lets say it’s some kind of laser trap. The first time you encounter this thing, it will be in a non threatening but informative situation. Then you might follow up with another sequence where you have to avoid the laser traps by themselves. Then follow that with a brief combat sequence with normal foes, and then follow that up with a sequence that combines normal foes with the laser traps. None of these parts may be desiged as strictly pass/fail, but if you fail enough (e.g. take too much unnecesary damage) then you may not be able to complete the entire section. That seems perfectly fine with me, because the game is introducing a mechanic, testing the player’s ability to adapt to it, then furthermore testing the player’s ability to adapt to it with another threat mixed in.

            This is a sort of classical gameplay challenge building technique that ensures the player is learning the game’s mechanics. If you fail this sequence then in theory you’re not doing well enough to handle later even more challenging or complex scenarios. Granted, you might make your way through it via save scumming, but at that point why not just admit to yourself that you’re cheating and use a cheat code? (Granted, not many games let you use cheat codes anymore since the advent of omnipresent achievements. But that is a different subject.) From a designer’s standpoint I’d rather people explicitly cheat than to just save repetitively until they luck out.

            • Raygereio says:

              saving any time can often defeat the overall challenge of a sequence.

              This is where we fundamentally disagree.
              In my viewpoint, if the challange in your game relies soley on the player doing a sequence perfectly right, then that is a poorly designed game.
              If a player wants to challenge himself extra by not using the save feature only rely on checkpoints, then he should be able to do that. I have no problem with people doing that.
              But if I want to save my game because I don’t want to do the part that I did 20 times already again, I just want to tackle the part that I have a problem with and progress, then I should be able to do that as well.
              There’s no excuse why both playing styles can’t be valid. Well, except in online games. But we’re not talking about that devilry. We’re talking about games played as our holy Lord – the great Yog-Sothoth – intended: Singleplayer.

              Granted, you might make your way through it via save scumming, but at that point why not just admit to yourself that you’re cheating and use a cheat code?

              This sentence and all it implies kinda pisses me off, to be honest.

              No, saving is not cheating. The fact that you even so much as link the two baffles me.
              As for save scumming. This is a term made up by rogue-like-grognard-elitists who pride themselves on looking down on anyone who doesn’t do things their way. Screw them. My above point stands: both playing styles should be valid, there’s no reason why one should be forced.
              Also when the player feels the need to save scum, this is often caused by crappy game design. Let me give you two examples:
              Spellforce: This game has a magic system in which you need to find or buy spells and then put them in your spellbook. Only the basic spells can be found in stores. The actually usefull spells are all random loot. So if you’re playing a mage character, it’s perfectly possible (and quite likely) that you will never get the spells you need and end with a gimped character. Save scumming when opening chests and loot from corpes that contain spells is necesary if you want to have a functional mage character. This is a badly designed system.
              Skyrim: You can progress through a bandit cave and deal with every single enemy until you come acros a boss at the end. This boss generally doesn’t look any different from the rest of the enemies, but he is disproportionally stronger then the rest of the enemies. Did the former enemies do a mere 1/10 of your health in damage when you got hit? Well, enjow this boss doing all of your health in damage when you get hit. What’s that? You want to block or evade the swing? Well, think again. Because Skyrim features a killcam system that triggers when the swinging animation starts, not when the attack actually hits. So the moment you even so much as come close to this boss, you’ll just get insta-killed. This is a poorly thought out enemy-scaling system combined with a killcam system that has no reason for existing.

              And lastly cheating and using cheat codes. If you cheat in a multiplayer game, you deserve a punch in the balls. But if I want to use a cheat code in my singlerplayer game, I get to do that and you do not get to look down on that. You do not get to judge what I think is fun.
              Now a common response to that will be something along the lines of “But it’s not fair that I had to work for my achievements, when you just get them with cheating”. To which I have but one response: If you care about achievements like that, you’re just sad and I have nothing but pity for you.

              • Steve C says:

                Nice rant. +1

              • Cineris says:

                Not sure if you’re intended for this to come across as a response to me or if you’re just trying to rant in general here, but it’s kind of amusing either way to see you go off on totally unrelated things.

                • Raygereio says:

                  It was a response to your post and what you said, but I’ll admit that I was feeling a tad bit ranty yesterday (and I do tend to completely forget the concept of brevity when I get my rant on).

                  While my rant amused you, it’s amusing to me that my rant has left you scratching your head in bewilderment. Of all possible outcomes, that’s probably the second best.
                  The best naturally being you renouncing your heathen ways, come over to the light side and embrace the save system. But one can’t have everything, I suppose. ;)

              • Dasick says:

                I don’t “look down” on people that “save-scum”, but I do think that it is absolutely necessary to keep alive the decision-makign aspect of the game that it should be designed around being fun with perma-death. If someone wants the option to freely save-load, more power to her.

                If a player wants to challenge himself extra by not using the save feature only rely on checkpoints, then he should be able to do that.

                The fundamental problem with a lot of games that have checkpoints and free-saving+free-loading is that those games are often designed around those mechanics, either explicitly or subconsciously.

                A good example of this is combat in Fallout (original or New Vegas, doesn’t matter for the purpose of the example). Even if you are playing without ‘save-scumming’, let’s say you choose the violent option as the resolution of the situation and you promptly get your ass kicked. Loading screen, load an auto/quick save, you lose some progress, but you gain meta knowledge. Saving+Loading has given you an advantage, but you were only playing the game the way it was intended. Furthermore, quitting and starting a new character would be foolish, since you’ve already played through the opening sequence and there’s little incentive to do anything other than what you have been doing up to the point you died, so … the smart thing to do is to load the game, and get the advantage that comes with it (since Ironman playthroughs of games without sufficient setup randomness is essentially a really frustrating save-scumming technique). Also, any tension that was in the violent resolution is gone, because you know how it will play and you can either conclude that yes, combat is a bad decision (and if you can 100% confirm whether a decision will be bad or good, you’ve effectively killed anything that is interesting about it) or try the combat again and again until you succeed.

                For a good example of how to mitigate the problem, try playing Mount and Blade. It’s a curious thing since it allows consequences for your decisions, but there’s no death. The ability to simply continue, coupled with the world simulation, with a little bit of randomness, means you will not be making the same decision anytime soon.

                It has the option to allow free saving and loading, and that’s not a problem in the least, because the game is good without it. Honestly, Mount and Blade could have had permadeath, and with a couple of tweaks it could have been just as excellent if not better, like a special mode with randomly rolled up stats and backgrounds.

        • Klay F. says:

          I’ll be honest and say that I never once thought of the trek from bonfire to boss to be tedious. It gave me time to mull over the last encounter, what I did wrong, what I did right, what to try next et cetera. YMMV of course.

          • AJax says:

            This is exactly how I feel. Thanks to superb level design which allowed for shortcuts and alternate routes, I never really had a problem going back to the bosses. Also if you really don’t want to fight the same enemies on your way to the boss, just use the hidden body spell and run as fast as you can.

        • Kdansky says:

          The thing is, Dark Souls bonfires are not checkpoints. They totally look like checkpoints, but they are not. Any item you picked up before you die, you can keep. Any doors you unlocked stay open. Any bosses (and a significant number of special enemies) you beat stay dead. And most importantly, when you AltF4 the game and restart, you don’t spawn at the bonfire, but where ever you quit.

          Second, the bonfire placement looks very arbitrary, but it isn’t. The harder the boss, the shorter the walk from the next bonfire. O&S have exactly three enemies between the fire and them, and one of them can be skipped easily. The Four Kings seem really far away from their fire, but in reality, you can safely run past every enemy but one, if you jump down at the right spot. Searching for these short-cuts is part of the game.

          The repetition teaches you those basic skills you need. If you never learn to parry or dodge a silver knight, you will hit a brick wall when you get to the Kiln and have to fight five black knights. It’s also relevant that there is some tiny time penalty for retrying, or else the game would degrade to waiting until the AI makes a mistake and you get a free kill.

          I have to admit, I’ve hated checkpoints, but I am now a fervent supporter of them. Quicksave systems break the game (see DXHR and Dishonored).

          • Lovecrafter says:

            The bonfires are indeed not checkpoints, but respawn points. The game actually saves every single time you do something of note (kill an enemy, pick up an item, die, etc.).

            Besides that mechanical use, the bonfires are also have another function: they are the only safe havens in the game. As you set out into an unexplored area, the first thing you want to do is to find and light the bonfire. Once you do, that bonfire becomes your base of operations as you explore the area.
            You move through the game from bonfire to bonfire, not because you want to save your progress, but because they’re the only things you can count on in the cold, uncaring world of Lordran.

            And as Lautrec will gladly show you, even bonfires can be made unsafe.

        • IFS says:

          Dark Souls never requires precision platforming, it occasionally has spots where you can make a jump (which only really requires lining yourself up properly before starting the run) but they are always optional. I can only think of about five spots in the entire game where its an option (although I am considering the Great Hollow as one spot, seeing as it is an entirely optional area).

          • Lovecrafter says:

            To be fair: The Great Hollow has an easy path to go down with almost no precision platforming. Every other path in there leads to items, but that’s basically all schmuck bait. Personally, I’d be more worried about the Basilisks down there.

  14. StashAugustine says:

    I more or less agreed with Chris on Hotline Miami, but that just made me like it less. The gameplay was all right, but if you’re going to make an incredibly violent game and then rub my nose in it, you’d better have a reason better than a massive troll.

    • Aldowyn says:

      I don’t like Hotline Miami’s message because I disagree with it. Not to mention they’re being hypocritical as all heck. They’re literally making fun of people who care about a story … by making a story. Seems a lot different than what Spec Ops did to me.

      • StashAugustine says:

        Spec Ops also had the advantage that, if you ignore all the meta stuff and just watch it as a character study, it’s still a pretty decent story.

      • Kdansky says:

        I would not say they are “making fun of”, but rather, they eloquently show that story is not a requirement for a good game, but a good game is. And that should be really obvious, but for some reason, we completely ignored it for the past decade. Even Spec Ops totally supports this: Apart from its very interesting narrative, it’s not a good game (the shooting is very mediocre). If the shooting was top-notch, it would have sold twice as many copies, I’m sure.

        • StashAugustine says:

          The problem is that I didn’t enjoy the game as much because I didn’t the context that a story provides. So the plot was trying to prove a point that failed on its face (for me at least.)

        • Thomas says:

          I’m not sure it can really make that point. Games are too wide. Chris pointed out there are plenty of examples of games with mediocre to bad combat that were elevated by a good story. I wouldn’t play Walking Dead for the puzzles =D

          I think he said it had a bunch of levels with good gameplay and no story, and then a level of bad gameplay and then another bunch of levels with good gameplay and a bad story. That leaves out the bad gameplay good story option.

          And even if the end story was good, the people who are still playing the game have expectations of gameplay whereas the people who enjoy good story would have already been driven off

          EDIT: Would also have been interesting to see good gameplay/bad context. Changing everything to bunny rabbits that you’ve got to give easter eggs too, by hand or at range, before they kiss/blow a kiss at you

  15. mneme says:

    While I agree (very much so) about the initial dungeons, I think they’ve done a lot better with the Fractal dungeons, and even the Winterfest mini-dungeons.

    The Fractal dungeons tend to have patterned puzzle-fights, and you can’t just respawn and run back to a fight you were killed in (until everyone dies), so it looks like they were looking at the problems people had with the early dungeons. Now if only they’d redo the initial dungeons to match it… (and release the update that lets you play up in Fractal or get rewarded for playing down, rather than having to make a group to play level 1, then level 2, etc).

    • Skyy_High says:

      I have to agree. It’s a damn shame too; Shamus and many other people here seem to have lost all interest in the game, but the Fractals dungeons solve a lot of the problems he seemed to have with the original 8 dungeons. Pick up groups actually have a chance at beating them on their first run through, and difficulty scales up as you beat the dungeon and choose higher “fractal levels”. Also it’s very rewarding, even for just a single run.

      • Zukhramm says:

        Well, adding another dungeon doesn’t fix the original 8.

        • Skyy_High says:

          It shows that they can take criticism and apply it to future content, which is honestly more important than going back and “fixing” prior content, especially because I don’t think the old dungeons are really in need of much “fixing”. The learning curve was steep, sure, but once you realize that they test group coordination and the ability to fight as a team far more than they function as “gear checks” (which is nuts; greens and maybe rares are sufficient for all dungeons, and they’re easily craft-able or simply available for purchase on the TP), they are quite manageable. Especially the story modes.

          • Zukhramm says:

            Fixing what’s there’s definitely more important than adding news tuff. I can’t stand see all the abandoned raids from older expansions in WoW for example, it seems like such a wasteful way to design a game.

            • mneme says:

              Practically speaking, it makes a lot more sense to build new content with a new philosophy, -then-, if it works, go back and fix the old content.

              That way, you’re providing new content (helping everyone) and simultaneously testing the new ideas. Given that it costs about the same to fix the dungeons as much as they’d need to be to be as fun as Fractals (i.e. to make them make logical sense and for new mechanics to be gradually introduced and taught throughout the dungeon rather than sprung on the players at the end) as to make new dungeons, it’s much better to make new dungeons and, if they’re successful, consider fixing the old ones for style.

              I have to wonder if one thing they’re doing with the varying monthlies is using them for customer research. If more players complete the fractal section of monthlies than dungeon monthlies (when they’re both monthlies), etc…

              • Aldowyn says:

                This is called “The entire reason behind Cataclysm”. They were trying to touch up vanilla to bring it back up to the standards they were holding themselves to with the Burning Crusade (I think that was the second one?)

                • Steve C says:

                  And that reasoning was fundamentally flawed for WoW. And same with any other MMO that tries to “fix” old content.

                  • Aldowyn says:

                    Could you explain that one? What’s wrong with fixing old content if it’s not as good as your newer content?

                    • Steve C says:

                      Because it will always fail cost/benefit analysis. Secondly some people will always like it the way it was. “Not as good” is subjective. Players don’t need to like all of it, they just need to like enough of it. Diversity builds strength.

                      Take Cataclysm for example: Blizzard had $X to spend and Y amount of manhours to create a new expansion. If they had spent those finite resources creating 2 brand new continents instead then then it would be new to 100% of the player base. No matter how much you change the original a large % of the player base will not find it “new”. I loved questing and exploring in WoW but redoing the old zones felt like a chore. It had no element of exploration for me. It’s like visiting Las Vegas 10 or 20yrs after your first visit. Everything has changed but it’s still the same. Give me a choice between Las Vegas and Monte Carlo and I’ll always pick the one I haven’t ever been to.

                      The second biggest reason is you’d still have the old content in addition to the new. Redoing destroys the old. In WoW’s case deleting the old was the pinnacle of stupidity. There was one fundamental truth about the old content; it created the biggest, most popular, and most successful MMO in history. Deleting it was killing the golden goose. That’s shown in the subscription numbers and the nose-dive they took right after Cataclsym. Sure the goose was getting old and not laying as much as it used to… So get another goose. Don’t kill the old one.

              • Zukhramm says:

                Well, I can’t stand seeing old lower quality content sitting around being useless. I just don’t see the point in paying a fee for a game where only the absolutely latest released bits are even relevant.

          • Aldowyn says:

            The issue about group coordination brings up something else. Coordinating intuitively in Guild Wars 2 is HARD because of what a mess the visuals are. It’s not THAT easy to distinguish when you have a field you need to sling something through when there’s 2 or 3 fancy flame effects going JUST FROM ONE CHARACTER.

            I mean, they’re pretty, but they’re TOO distinctive almost. They get in each other’s way.

      • Steve C says:

        I disagree about fractals and it comes down to the retry penalty. Too many of them have inexplicable failure penalties. For example cliffside is a jumping puzzle. You die and the rest of the group has to go back down through the jumping puzzle to revive you. So a group could be doing everything right and because one person isn’t very good at a single aspect the whole group suffers. There’s no way to replace a person, including for disconnects. You have to complete all 3 (4 on evens) or else you don’t really get anything.

        The retry penalty on fractals screws the entire system up and makes them worse than normal dungeons.

    • Zagzag says:

      As someone who has been consistently playing since launch I have to agree. The fractals are a great improvement with only two major drawbacks:

      1: Nobody does the other dungeons much any more.
      2: Until they release the fix that lets you reenter if you disconnect from the game (which is still a month away by all accounts) I won’t be doing any fractals, as I can’t stant getting nearly to the end, someone’s internet having a hiccup, and everyone having to start from the beginning, since most of them aren’t doable with only four people.

    • Zagzag says:

      As someone who has been consistently playing since launch I have to agree. The fractals are a great improvement with only two major drawbacks:

      1: Nobody does the other dungeons much any more.
      2: Until they release the fix that lets you reenter if you disconnect from the game (which is still a month away by all accounts) I won’t be doing any fractals, as I can’t stand getting nearly to the end, someone’s internet having a hiccup, and everyone having to start from the beginning, since most of them aren’t doable with only four people.

      • Galad says:

        I’m one of those people that are definitely going to stick around GW2 for a while, and I feel compelled to ask – any tips on finding people for fractals lvl 1 other than “sit around for longer than 5 minutes at the same spot doing nothing”? Everyone seems to want to do lvl 2 at least..

        And on a completely unrelated and seemingly random note – game enjoyment can sometimes come from very small and insignificant things. I’ll give the two examples that have stuck out to me. The blacksmith in Torchlight (the first game) – the way he said so cheerfully “How are ya!” when you click on him often had me exclaim loudly “I’m perfect!”. And the other one. In The Witcher the first, in Vizima there’s a blacksmith (what is it with blacksmiths and awesome lines anyway) who has two lines of dialogue scripted to say when you pass close to him, like any other random NPC. Unlike nearly all other NPCs, his lines instantly win me over.

        “A Witcher! Just like the old days!”

        “Put matters right, Witcher!”

  16. mneme says:

    Re GW2, While I agree (very much so) about the initial dungeons, I think they’ve done a lot better with the Fractal dungeons, and even the Winterfest mini-dungeons.

    The Fractal dungeons tend to have patterned puzzle-fights, and you can’t just respawn and run back to a fight you were killed in (until everyone dies), so it looks like they were looking at the problems people had with the early dungeons. Now if only they’d redo the initial dungeons to match it… (and release the update that lets you play up in Fractal or get rewarded for playing down, rather than having to make a group to play level 1, then level 2, etc).

  17. Adeon says:

    “I got up one day and realized I didn’t want to log in.”

    That is an almost perfect description of my experience with GW2 as well. I got in, I leveled to 80 then I looked around, said “what next?” and went off to play a different game.

  18. Daimbert says:

    I think I’d hate Super Hexagon; I generally play games to get to the next part and so trying to get past 45 seconds would not make up for the frustration of screwing up. For me, failing at a game isn’t entertaining, and is bad enough in and of itself to make me not want to play a game. If it has a worse retry penalty, that only makes it worse … but I’d be more likely to accept that if the final payoff was good than otherwise. For example, I’ve muscled my way through deaths in The Old Republic until I leveled up enough to beat it despite the fact that sometimes you can have a long, long run back if you have to go back, while in Record of Agarest War 2 the first death has, basically, put me off the game despite the fact that I really would just have to grind a bit to get there; I can see the writing on the wall and that I’ll be doing this forever, and so don’t think the payoff will be worth the pain.

    Oh, and on the subject of MMOs, it was your comments about GW2 that made me not pick it up, since the story missions were what interested me the most and they didn’t sound interesting. What’s keeping me interested in TOR is that the story missions always give me somewhere and something to do, and so for the first time ever I only have two characters in an MMO that I’ve played for a significant amount of time (okay, technically it’s four at the moment counting my starting characters that I deliberately stopped but will play again later) and have a level 50 character for the first time, and am heading for level 50 (44 at the moment) on another.

    • StashAugustine says:

      What characters are you playing, and how long does it take to finish a story? I’ve got a level 18ish Trooper, and I’d like to know how much longer it’ll take to finish.

      • Daimbert says:

        I have a level 50 Sith Warrior whose story I haven’t quite finished yet (I got stuck on a really tough mission and think I need a group to finish it, but decided to play another character while I was waiting and kept putting it off) and a level 44 Smuggler. It’s hard for me to gauge exactly how long it takes me as my playing is hit and miss, and I never looked up the play time, but it took me something like 2 or 3 months, I think, playing about 2 hours a night and longer in spurts on the weekend to get my Warrior up that high, and I’d only have a few missions to go. Basically, at about that level I could go up a level in about one three hour session, two at the most.

        Note that that was me doing all of the bonus missions — even the multi-stage ones — but not doing flashpoints or warzones, and skipping all of the Heroic missions so that I could continue on solo. Also note that if you play at peak times, you can be slowed — or speeded along — by there being more players around. Slowed because they’d take or kill things you needed for your missions or your bonuses, speeded because they might clear out incidental enemies meaning that you wouldn’t have to fight them.

        • StashAugustine says:

          How different are class storylines? I’m off Coruscant with my Trooper, and I might start a parallel game as an Agent. Am I just gonna end up in the same zones all the time?

          • krellen says:

            Each class storyline is COMPLETELY different. Unfortunately, your class quests are only 10-20% of the content on any given planet.

            • Zombie says:

              And the planets have the same story for everyone. And the first planet after Coruscant/Sith Capital Planet is meaningless because The other side takes it after Alderaan. I will say the first arc for the trooper was enjoyable, and there were a lot of cool characters, plus the story line was cool and made sense. Too bad the second arc had me scratching my head and wondering WTF, like apperantly the greatest codebreaker in the republic got stationed on HOTH of all planets, because they need to…. break their 10 or 20 year old codes? What? After Hoth I quit the game, and now cant get back in because I forgot my secret question thing, and I’m just not convinced it’s worth wrangling with customer service. Which should say something about the game.

              • Aldowyn says:

                I really dislike the argument that your work being undone by the other side later is meaningless because I found it SO COOL that the stories were intertwined that way >.> Besides, you can only know if you play Empire AND Republic. It just doesn’t seem like it should matter that much to me, almost petty.

                I’m open to hear your opinion about it, though.

                • Zombie says:

                  I don’t like it because all the time you’re being told “You’re doing important things, and you’re changing the world/universe”, and then it slaps you in the face by saying the other side just either took your planet, reactivated the superweapon you just destroyed, or just ignoring your actions. And honestly, if you don’t play every class just to see the story, you probably went on YouTube to see what was going on with them. And then you would know what happens on the other side.

                  • StashAugustine says:

                    A lot of my complaints about TOR boil down to “Why are you getting your MMO in my KoTOR 3?”

                    • krellen says:

                      My complaints are that and “Why aren’t all your Flashpoints like the first ones?”

                    • Daimbert says:

                      Even liking the game, I can’t argue with that [grin].

                    • Zombie says:

                      My (second) biggest complaint about TOR is “Why did you do that to Revan (or [insert character from KotOR 1 or 2])?!” Third would be the flashpoints. Those flashpoints actively make me want to stay by myself. And they put them in the DUMBEST places when you can get them on a planet.

                  • Daimbert says:

                    I haven’t finished a story yet, but in the missions that are similar on both sides on every playthrough I’ve always assumed that I was playing in a linked but different set of events, so that things that, say, my Warrior did aren’t necessarily how they’d work out with my Smuggler (although since they’re brothers, that requires a bit of mental shuffling [grin]). Can you not do that?

                    • Zombie says:

                      No, I get that the stories are linked, and I’m fine with that. What I don’t like is having things built up to seem like you are the awesomest awesome dude in the Republic/Empire and then turn around and tell everyone else the same thing, turning things you did from “vitally important” to “This was really just busy work”. Case in point: Arc 2 of the Trooper story tells you that you have to destroy a ship the empire built that can shoot people out of Hyperspace. You go around recruiting a demolitions expert and another guy really good with codes, and then sends you to blow it up. You do it and everything is wonderful, you can go on vacation, etc., etc. But Arc 3 of the Sith Inquisitor has them rebuilding, test firing, and putting into production the SAME SHIP. Unless that story happened before the Troopers, and from the conversations before you rebuild it it doesn’t, they just managed to make the whole of the Troopers Second Arc meaningless.

                      Now, saying this one guy is a good guy for the Republic/bad guy for the Sith and vice versa isn’t bad, it’s kinda cool actually. But to invalidate one classes whole arc, that’s just bad writing, and bad storytelling.

                  • Aldowyn says:

                    Zombie: See, I see it as actually being in a universe where you AREN’T the only one running around fixing things. Makes it feel more alive I guess.

                    StashAugustine: Yes.

                    Krellen: Man, the first one on either side is cool and the rest are just boring. >.>

          • Daimbert says:

            Yes and no.

            As has been said, all of the class stories are different. After the first planet, all classes share the same planets, but between the Imperial and Republic sides the missions are generally different but overlap in some key areas. So if you go through all of the Republic side and start over with a new class, you’ll be running the same missions, but if you switch to an Imperial character — which is what you are thinking of doing — then the quests should be different enough that you don’t feel like you’re doing the same quests over and over again. At least, that’s how it was for me.

            • Mike S. says:

              In at least some cases, the Imperial planet quest tells you something about how the Republic planet story turned out, or vice versa, since they’re often set at different points in the timeline.

              There are also some cute inter-class easter eggs– finding out that a major character in the Smuggler story is a member of an important organization in the Imperial Agent story, for example.

              I’ve really liked the class stories, and some of the planet stories. My problem is that all the random combat it takes to get from one story piece to another stretches things out to the point that I lose track of what’s going on. Not helped by the fact that your journal gives you very little help with that. And unlike the single-player Bioware games, there isn’t a super-detailed wiki to help review anything. (The SWTOR wikis I’ve found seem to be all about gear stats and how to maximize numbers, rather than about the story per se.)

              • Daimbert says:

                I’m with you on both counts, especially since for some of the missions it isn’t obvious what you’re supposed to be clicking. So you’re trying to look around and see what you have to click and then suddenly hear that roar indicating that, yes, something’s stumbled over you and is now trying to kill you.

  19. Jexter says:

    I’m not entirely sure why, but I found Super Hexagon to be dangerously addictive. I’m guessing it’s a combination of the quick restart time and the pumping music. Anyway, assuming a base level of reflex, it is possible to beat the game. It just takes a lot of practice. #Shameless Self Promotion

    The last stage took an especially long time. Something like 10-15 hours of practice, if I remember correctly.

  20. Josh says:

    Watching the Super Hexagon trailer video, I have to ask, is that the actual speed of the gameplay?!

    • rayen says:

      yes. It gets faster on harder levels. I’m trying to remember whether the trailer did the hard level or the hardest level. either way yes.

    • Jexter says:

      As far as I could tell, it’s actually a video edited together from most of the levels. Some parts seem speed up to better match the music. It isn’t a false representation of the difficulty of the game, though – the final level really does go that fast, and has even more complex patterns.

      • Aldowyn says:

        You may be right, although the individual levels DO speed up whenever you hit a new… what should I call it? Shape?

        (The way the game goes, every time you hit a certain milestone (10 20 30 45 60?) you gain a side. Start at dot, then line triangle square pentagon annnnnd hexagon!)

        So the last 15 seconds of a level are way harder and faster than the first.

        • Jexter says:

          Well, I’m just going off the fact that it changes color so much in the trailer. That doesn’t happen with that frequency in the normal levels, so it was either a special stage created specifically for a trailer, or Terry edited together some footage. Also, the second level – Hexagoner – looked way too fast.

  21. Athan says:

    Totally agree about GW2. I’d gone into it hoping I’d enjoy WvW long-term, but the Rule of the Zergs stopped that short in its tracks.

    Likewise the dungeons, well, I’ve 5/8 of them on Story mode and a single attempt at one in Exploration mode. They were just so broken both in terms of difficulty tuning (trash way more difficult than bosses!) and flat-out bugs that I couldn’t face going back to them, or even playing the remaining 3/8 on Story mode.

    I barely even logged in for Wintersday, doing so towards the end and finding the special instance was not at all scaled for solo attempts (as a Thief I had insufficient AoE to deal with the painted dolls in phase 3 and they always zerged me, so couldn’t pick off in groups of 1-3 as might have been feasible).

    It’s now very unlikely I’ll bother with any new GW2 content.

  22. Tse says:

    So, I was watching Spoiler Warning New Vegas when one of the lenses of my glasses flew off. The frame is broken. My spares are not even in this city, And I’m kinda blind without glasses. And the new ones will cost me my whole paycheck (200$ and yes, I get this per month).
    I blame Josh.
    I’m joking about blaming Josh, of course. The rest is true.

    • Daimbert says:

      I feel your pain, as that happened to me once (except that I had a spare set). I also live far away from anywhere that could fix or replace them, and I can’t even really walk without them, let alone drive.

      That being said, have you tried seeing if the frame can be soldered? A place did that for me — my optometrist recommended that they try because they couldn’t order in frames for a week or so — and it held up until I could buy a new pair.

      • Tse says:

        They are broken in a place under constant tension, that’s why they broke themselves without any help from me. Repair is not really feasible.
        My parents brought me my spare glasses, so I can see now. Good thing the distance between the two cities is only 150 km. I ordered new glasses, the lenses will be delivered in about 2 weeks. My estimation was way off, by the way. Turned out they cost 500$. I did order the best lenses, though: Zeiss, photochromic, the thinnest possible.
        P.S.: When I think about it, that’s the price of a gaming PC. Oh well, health is more important than luxury.

        • Daimbert says:

          Yeah, mine cost in about that range as well, I think. Fortunately, I don’t have to buy them every year, and being able to see is pretty much required in my job (software designer, and I can’t read a screen without my glasses and if the prescription is off I will, of course, have massive headaches [grin]).

    • Cap'n Hector says:

      Not the best, but consider ordering glasses online if you have your prescription. I cut one friend’s bill in half by ordering online.

    • StashAugustine says:

      Enjoy your -1 to PE.

  23. Ateius says:

    “It was an intense obsession that ended without warning. I got up one day and realized I didn’t want to log in.”

    This was also my experience. I lasted into the endgame, and firmly disagree with you on the dungeons, but I still got to the point where I didn’t really have anything left to do except grind for rare drops or grind for dungeon tokens, and … well, that doesn’t appeal to me. MMO endgames never do.

    I still check in for big events and occasionally to play with friends, but it went from a daily fixture to almost nothing overnight.

    • Daimbert says:

      This, I think, is one of the biggest problems with MMOs in general. It’s not much of a surprise that I prefer MMOs where you can restart with a different character and have things go differently (DAoC, CoH, TOR). If all an MMO has is a level treadmill up to an endgame and no real difference if you start over, then you do wake up one morning and say “It’s just more of the same”, and you can’t even start a new character to get over it.

      (For the record, DAoC had three realms and classes that played a bit differently in each, CoH was great for creating character concepts, and TOR has its different stories for each of the 8 starting classes).

      • Aldowyn says:

        This is the exact idea behind my MMORPG post I wrote, if I may shill myself. The MMO and RPG parts don’t mesh very well, and DIFFERENT people like the leveling portion and the endgame portion, but you have to go through one to get to the other >.>

        The entire concept is like two different games stapled together! Or like the leveling being an EXTENDED tutorial to teach you how to use your class, because they aren’t ever very intuitive.

        BTW here’s the link.

        • Zukhramm says:

          The problem to me is the assumption of what MMORPG means. It just means an RPG with loads of people on a server, there’s nothing inherent to MMORPG that says it has to have raids or instances or that they have to be about getting new weapons.

          • Aldowyn says:

            Exactly. Why do they have to have questing AND raids/PvP/whatever? They serve fundamentally DIFFERENT people, can no one make a TRULY alternate design for an MMORPG?

            That’s why people claiming GW2 was the next coming of MMOs irritated me. It was obvious from the start WHY what they were doing were wrong, but so many people seemed SO convinced because 5 minutes with it makes it LOOK really nice.

            But 5 hours later, it’s not quite so nice. And 50 hours later you’re sick and tired of nothing new. Because what kept you going in WoW is almost totally gone, and they didn’t replace it with anything substantial enough to carry a game.

            At least TOR has a somewhat decent story while keeping the parts of WoW that work. (Not that they got them RIGHT, but at least that’s fixable. GW2 really isn’t, at least not without a major overhaul)

            • Cineris says:

              I’m the first person who will criticize Guild Wars 2 (and I did above), but to be honest I’m not sure what you’re expecting when it comes to end game content for MMOs.

              From my perspective, it seems pretty obvious that when people hit the end game they should either want (a) Challenging PvE content or (b) Challenging PvP content. That is to say, Raiding or PvP. What else is there to do? You say questing, but what exactly are we talking about here — You want to go kill 100 boars and bring back 10 boar tusks? Or is it more that you want non-challenging casual content easily completable without grouping up?

              Not trying to be snide here but the trajectory of MMO content seems pretty obvious and natural given realistic constraints on development time / value to players.

              • krellen says:

                The best MMO I ever played had an endgame of “start a new character”, and was largely built around having more character options than any single person could ever possibly play.

                Then they spent a year adding nothing but endgame raids and ruined it. It shut down permanently late last year.

                • Thomas says:

                  Realm of the Mad God has a nice take on the MMO concept, although it’s not designed to eat up the days and months. Death is permanent, teaming up works like it does in Guild Wars 2 (and it was around first =D), there’s a global goal of quests in each region and when it’s been reached every single person fights a final boss at the same time (but it’s only 80ish people a world. Still considering it’s a shmup style game, that’s a lot of bullets). When you reach the level cap you can start a new character or grind out more potions to make a super super guy.

                  Otherwise I’d like to see more MMOs try out variations on EVE design where the game is constantly changing because it’s player run and the ‘jobs’ are more like real jobs that arise out of natural need

                  EDIT: And I guess Minecraftian mmos are the third option

                • Daimbert says:

                  I’m guessing you’re referring to CoH? Or something else?

                  With CoH, I paid for it even when I wasn’t playing it when it went FTP, because doing that would get me dollars for the market that would let me get cool costume items for when I inevitably created one more new character. But you had to create your story yourself, and I kept distracting myself with new character concepts. TOR, on the other hand, gives me an in-game story progression to follow and because of how repetitive the quests are isn’t really the sort of game that you want to start over quickly. But I still prefer CoH, even though I played TOR more.

              • Zukhramm says:

                The thing is, just because I’m interested in playing an RPG on a giant server, and not interested in PvP doesn’t mean I want to play aggro management with 24 other idiots. I can get through the leveling without raiding, so why should clearly there are other forms of content that can manage to keep my attention.

                • Cineris says:

                  Leveling is an addictive reward system, so it’s not a surprise that it holds your attention. No game can support indefinite leveling before the system becomes broken or unsupportable, though, simply because it takes substantially more effort to create content for leveling than it does to level up.

                  MMOs generally don’t have a shortage of non-raid content though, so it seems a little silly to hammer a game for only having a few hundred hours of content to play through.

                  • Zukhramm says:

                    There is other content, sure, but a large part of the content is raiding and instances, especially when it comes to what is focused on when it comes to patches and updates. So I’m paying for something the majority of which I don’t use, and which will be obsolete and abandoned with the next expansion anyway.

                    I don’t have infinite time, not infinite money so I’d rather spend tem both on something I enjoy. I do not know why that is silly.

              • Aldowyn says:

                MMO =/= MMORPGs. MMOs and RPGs just… don’t go that well together, honestly. Not nearly as well as, say, MMO and FPS like Planetside 2.

        • Daimbert says:

          I think there are a number of things you can do to help with this. You can have big world events, like CO and GW2 tried. You can mix and match group story missions with solo story missions, like CoH (task forces, which were really cool) and TOR (Heroics and flashpoints, at least, I think) do. You can have players run things, like Galaxies tried.

          Ultimately, an MMORPG should be an RPG world where there are a lot of people, real people. In the real world, you get to choose how much time you’ll spend with others and how much you’ll spend on your own, so an MMORPG should have that as well.

  24. MKHAS says:

    Have’t had the time to play FTL yet but it looks very similar in structure to The Binding of Isaac which I put about 80 hours into, the thing is, while restart cost is an issue for Roguelikes there’s also the fact that every game will be different, in TBI I’d get some games where the loot on the first two levels suck and so the game gets exponentially harder and I die, but there were multiple runs where I get the item that lets you fly and move about the stage freely and the one that lets you fire lasers and I go through the game unchallenged, this gambling aspect of the game fed into a “just one more try” mentality, add that to the fact that you develop better tactics and unlock better items and you can see why this kind of thing is attractive.

    On SH: what I like about the game is that eventually I found myself wondering if each of the three “difficulties” can actually be classified as difficulties, aside from the hyper modes that you unlock when you finish each one which are definitely more harder than their regular counterparts, I felt like Hexagon, Hexagoner and Hexagonest were each a different challenge on their own, Hexagon is constantly switching between a Hexagon and Pentagon and a Square and each needs their own careful movement, Hexagoner seems to be the one I’m best at(my highest time so far is 122 secs for Hyper Hexagoner) and Hexagonest was the one I suck at the most because it feels like the screen is too small(it took me about 20 hours to finish Hyper Hexagonest)

    • Jexter says:

      On Super Hexagon, I know what you mean. The Hexagonest modes are in their own class of difficulty. It took me about a day to beat Hexagon, and another day to beat Hexagoner, but a week more to beat Hexagonest. Hyper Hexagon and Hyper Hexagoner came soon after that, one after the other. But it took a full week and a half of further practice to finally beat Hyper Hexagonest.

      I think a lot of the difficulty on Hexagonest comes from the increased control sensitivity exclusive to those two stages. It makes it much easier to make twitch mistakes.

      • Aldowyn says:

        Yeah, you’re definitely right. Except I’m not sure it’s INCREASED control sensitivity, I think it might actually be less as an added part of the difficulty :/

        In any case Hexagonest felt WAY off, I still haven’t beaten it (SO CLOSE THOUGH). I think my hyper hexagon score is still actually HIGHER, although I haven’t beaten it yet either.

      • MKHAS says:

        What were you guys using for controls? Mouse or Keyboard? after spending about 20 hours on Hyper Hexagonest I almost gave up but at the time I was using Arrow keys, then I switched to Mouse and immediately got 77 secs. I noticed that mouse was a lot more precise, though I still have a problem with accidentally pressing both mouse buttons at the same time >_<

  25. SlowShootinPete says:

    Is it just me, or were the boss fights in Hotline Miami insultingly bad to anyone else?

    First off, the biker in chapter 7. I walked into the boss room, clicked through the dialogue, ran for the set of golf clubs on the floor and tried to run up and hit the guy like I would do with any other enemy in the game. He kills you instantly if you do this. After trying that tactic a few times and realizing it wasn’t working, I tried throwing the golf club at him first to knock him down, like you can knock down any other enemy in the game. It just passes through him and he kills you. I thought at first that maybe I was just missing, so I kept trying over and over. After 30 retries I still couldn’t figure out how to kill him, so I broke and looked up a walkthrough for the fight.

    It turns out you’re supposed to wait for him to throw his knife at you, then hit him when he runs to go pick it back up. There is no other enemy in the game that fights this way, so after playing through seven chapters you’re conditioned to try and kill everything by being as fast and aggressive as you can.

    Chapter 11 has sort of a miniboss at the end of the level. A van smashes through a wall, a bunch of dudes pile out of it, and you have to kill them all before you can leave. One of the guys that gets out of the van throws molotov cocktails at you constantly, and for some reason he was able to throw them at me through walls. So I would be hiding from the other enemies and scrambling to find a weapon, and suddenly die from an attack I couldn’t see coming and couldn’t avoid. I’m not sure if this was just a glitch, but it was really infuriating and unfair.

    Worst of all, though, is the fight in chapter 16. I grabbed a shotgun in the first part of the level and brought it with me into the boss room. In the rest of the game, you can carry whatever weapons you want between parts of a level, but here, once you walk through a set of double doors leading into the boss room, whatever you’re carrying is instantly yanked out of your hands and a cinematic plays where you walk completely unarmed into the center of the room. I tried nudging the doors open and throwing the shotgun inside, but when I tried actually using it to fight with, the shots just magically phased through everything and I died.

    So there’s that. The structure of the fight is completely ludicrous as well. As I said before, the cinematic forces you to walk into the center of the room like a fool, right up to two trained panthers, a woman carrying a sword, and the mob boss that you came to kill. With no weapons. And the only available weapon is a trophy sitting way off to the side behind you. And the moment that the fight starts, the two panthers start stalking you, and after a few seconds will start sprinting towards you and become completely unavoidable and tear your head off.

    You’re supposed to run, pick up the trophy, and kill both of the panthers before they lunge and destroy you, which as far as I can tell is completely impossible unless you hide behind a large fountain and bait them into coming closer by peeking out for a fraction of a second. And you have to hit them both twice, unlike the dogs in the rest of the game. And the first time you hit them, they swipe at you with their claws and kill you instantly if you don’t back away in time.

    After you kill the panthers, the lady with the sword says a one liner and instantly kills you by throwing a knife if you don’t move. If you try to run at her and hit her with the trophy, she cuts you in half with her sword. The only way to beat her is to throw the trophy at her the instant her dialogue ends, then jump on top of her and beat her head in. So unless you read a walkthrough before hand and knew exactly what to do, you’re pretty much guaranteed to die at this point of the fight and have to fight the panthers again.

    After you beat her, the mob boss pulls two machine guns and starts shooting at you. If you’re not quick enough to get behind cover you will die, and to kill him you need to run into the open and grab a bunch of knives that the woman with the sword dropped after dying and throw them at him. This stage of the fight isn’t as bad as the first two parts, except that after you hit him twice with the knives, he says “Well, I see where this is going, and I’m not going to give you the satisfaction,” or something like that. And he kills himself. I swear, after that line, “I’m not giving you the satisfaction,” I have never felt such indignation from “winning” in a video game in my life. That is insulting.

    I’d rather have the boss fights from Human Revolution than this. Anyway, sorry for the wall of blacked-out text, but I had to vent.

    • StashAugustine says:

      I thought they were easier to figure out, I thought that they were a nice change of tactics, and the extreme difficulty wasn’t much different than the rest of the game. But, I still agree that they weren’t very well designed overall.

      • SlowShootinPete says:

        They’re actually okay once you know what to do. And still challenging, even, so it’s not like using a walkthrough just makes them effortless.

        It’s the fact that the game is basically going “gotcha.” Tactics you’re used to using are suddenly invalid for no reason, and the slightest moment of uncertainty kills you without warning.

        • Aldowyn says:

          ‘slightest moment of uncertainty kills you’ I thought that’s how Hotline: Miami worked in general? I haven’t actually played it though, so forgive me my ignorance.

          • Zukhramm says:

            It does, but it usually does without changing the rules on you.

            • Aldowyn says:

              Ah.

              … Hmm. Try comparing that to FTL’s mothership. I think the situation is SIMILAR, although FTL’s roguelike status makes the mothership more ‘okay’ because you’re supposed to plan ahead for it. (I still don’t like the concept, but there are arguments to be made that that’s okay)

              • Zukhramm says:

                There are some differences that makes me not mind Hotline Miami, since you respawn pretty much instantly, after the first time you realize the rules are changing for the boss, and also the first boss occurs fairly early rather than at the very end of the game.

            • SlowShootinPete says:

              Yeah, in the rest of the game it’s usually very clear what went wrong, and you get time to safely wait and observe the patterns all the enemies are moving in beforehand.

  26. Deadyawn says:

    I don’t think you should rule out Dark Souls quite yet (Too Human is a steaming pile of crap though). I picked it up a little while back and while you do tend to die a lot, at least I do, the way it treats its sections is pretty interesting. Just about any encounter in the game is effectively its own challenge so if you know how to do it, you can get through it pretty quickly and move on to the next. So dying means that you have to go through a bunch challenges that you already know how to do but allows you to reinforce your ability to do them which is good because lessons learned in combat tend to apply again somwhere else.

    It’s definetly a game where the knowledge of how to overcome a challenge is far more important than your stats or gear or reflexes, although all of those things do help somewhat.

    This is opposed to, say, super mario bros where it is also a series of challenges but knowledge can only take you so far and it becomes a test of platforming skills. You can know exactly what it is you should do in order to get past a section but the challenge comes from the execution. In Dark Souls, the challenge is primarily from figuring out how to do it in the first place upon which it becomes fairly easy.

    Anyway, point is that while the reset time can be up to 15 minutes sometimes, you’re usually improving during it.

    • Ateius says:

      Also worth noting that Dark Souls has Shamus’ favourite thing ever, the self-adjusting difficulty curve, in that if you’re having trouble you can stay in one area and grind for souls and items to level up yourself and your gear before moving on to the next place.

      • Dasick says:

        Self-adjusting difficulty is only a solution to story-based games, or other games that lock away content that is irrelevant to player skill behind player skill(which is stupid). In any other situation, grinding* is the optimal move, and it’s balanced out by how much you can stand to be bored.

        Grinding = low risk activity that results in an in-game reward.

  27. Peter H. Coffin says:

    It’s kinda interesting… The Guild wars thing, I mean.

    See, I don’t have a huge amount of time to play, and roughly speaking, if the chunk of time that I do have is bigger than about two hours, I’m probably going to be playing a flight sim anyway, but for the shorter times, 30-90 minutes or so, GW2 is my go-to. Probably part of it is that I’m no where near where anyone else is. I’ve got one character slot of five that’s reached level 80, and isn’t more than about 75% of the way through story, and has only half or so of the world explored. I’ve never set foot in a proper dungeon, never done Fractals, messed with the seasonal events largely only to the point of doing some of the collection things but not much of the “event” things. And it’s still interesting to me. Even just running around in Queensdale thwapping things as I run past or following someone that behaving a little new around and weighing in on whatever they’re doing. It’s serving me very well perhaps because I’m taking it so casually. I don’t have a goal other than “learn a little more about how this works” or “see if I can get on top of THAT mountain.” There isn’t always something up there, sometimes there’s a champion critter or a nice view that’s NOT on an official vista, or sometimes I find myself half way through some kind of puzzle path or stuck in an underwater lab, and that might take a session or two to get through, or involve checking that character to see of there’s others in the area to help out (and playing something or someone else in the meantime if not).

    • Aldowyn says:

      What’re you going to do when you DO finish the story and explore everything?

      The best thing about GW2 is its atmosphere, which makes exploring compelling, but exploring does not a good game make. At least not by itself. (Although you do find all sorts of little goodies)

      • Zukhramm says:

        Same thing as all MMOs: Quit.

      • Cineris says:

        While it may not technically be a good game, exploring is pretty fun and the game rewards you for doing it. Problem is, they littered the game world with all these annoying enemies that you have to keep putting down. I honestly yearn for the days of Guild Wars 1’s instanced zones where you could kill enemies and they’d stay dead until you left the instance. (This is also something that’s annoying with hearts, where you aid someone but your efforts are essentially meaningless because nothing ever improves with hearts. Instanced zones would not have this problem.)

        The more I think about the problems I have with Guild Wars 2, the more I believe that every “MMORPG” is sort of fundamentally flawed, and that I’d much rather prefer a simple “cooperative RPG.” Ironically, this is a genre that pretty much doesn’t exist, since almost all RPGs are either single player or MMORPG, with little in between. I guess Diablo 2 might count, but to call that an RPG is a bit of a stretch.

        • Shamus says:

          Your last paragraph makes a good point that I’d never considered before. You’re right, this is what I want from an RPG: To play alone or with a small group of friends. Yet those two things are always secondary in the design, after playing with strangers.

        • Wedge says:

          The only example of a (western) Co-op RPG that I can think of is Neverwinter Nights, and that was because they were explicitly computerizing 3rd Edition D&D. I would really like to see more done in this vein.

  28. Paul Spooner says:

    Of the three, I’ve only played GW2… It was good, visually, cool mechanics, lovely architecture. I think the main mood-killers for me was:
    *No meaningful player creativity
    *Exploration is strictly “within the lines”
    The last of the two was kind of strange, because exploration was allowed and encouraged inside the play area… but I wanted to go outside the play area, and quickly found the clip walls, slippery cliffs, etc. It kind of ruined immersion for me, and the sandbox became a prison.

    Both of these drawbacks are addressed by Minecraft, which I found myself appreciating all over again. I keep going back to GW2 for the architecture and landscapes, but I’ve kind of moved beyond the game-play.

  29. The Rocketeer says:

    Funny you should mention Too Human, as Silicon Knights was just ordered to destroy all remaining copies of the game.

    Seeing that headline made me so happy! Silicon Knights got what was coming to them, both for stealing another company’s assets, and then using those assets to spend way too long making a game so broken, so poorly designed, that it challenges the player’s will to live. I know the game has its apologists. Oh well. Won’t stop me from telling people that Too Human was a crime, and meaning it literally.

  30. X2-Eliah says:

    Yeah, almost the same thing was with me in Guild Wars 2. I had done almost all the content, seen what the game has as far as locations and quests and events go, done the levelling, done the crafting.. What was left was dungeons. That’s it. The few that I did try were abysmal failures, and also, it was brought home that to do the dungeons properly with the guild would require voicechat. Not participating in that would spoil the fun of others in that group… And I don’t like voichatting if it requires a separate app (though I’ve ranted enough about that subject)…

    So, yeah, basically all that was left of the game to offer to me was dungeons, that 1) I knew were not actually fun, and 2) required ventrillo/mumble, which I refuse to use on principle.
    At that point, I just left the game there and then, and haven’t really wanted to log in ever after.

    So. yeah. I guess I kinda ragequitted Guild Wars 2.

  31. Dasick says:

    You got a typo there.

    “story-based games is dumb and self-defeating.”

    should be

    “story-based games *are* dumb and self-defeating.”

    :P

    Why? Because if you have a game with a story, you’re severely constraining the game space and the amount of possibilities you can have. If you have a story told through a game you have to deal with player agency getting in the way, and accounting for those ‘options’ is an exponentially growing task.

    As for 2012 being a good year for games… I dunno. I’ve started playing games from a couple of years ago that I hated and they seem better.

    • Thomas says:

      But we’ve got proof that interactivity has a lot to bring to narrative, Heavy Rain had a crud story that was a lot more powerful because of it’s game nature. So since we can create interesting things by combining story and games it seems to me that the sort of game you’re talking about is just one specific area that caters to one specific type of interest and there are also other interesting areas to explore, story-games included

      • Dasick says:

        I disagree that by having me press a button for a character to deliver her lines it somehow auto-magically makes those lines more powerful. When I put a DVD and press play, I am also ‘interacting’ with the story if we go by the standards of Heavy Rain.

        I think the reason stories tied to games get praise and recognition is a “Dancing Bear” effect. It’s not that good of a dance, but hey, it’s a bear, it’s amazing that it hasn’t tripped over itself yet.

        So far, I can’t think of one example of a game that uses gameplay, ie *meaningful* interactivity to tell a story. Maybe I’m just missing something?

        *meaningful – it actually matters (to the systems/story) if you do something or not, something changes depending on your input.

        • Thomas says:

          But thats no actually a representation of Heavy Rains gameplay is it? And I’m arguing from observation not cause. I’m not saying “Heavy Rains gameplay was good therefore it should improve a story” I’m saying, Heavy Rain was way more fun and engaging than it’s story had any right to be, from observation. Like it or not, I had a fun experience that I would not have had if this was a film and the gameplay is the answer.

          Other examples, The Walking Dead is many many peoples game of the year and it contains 0 compelling gameplay and relies purely on the fantastic story and telling the story meaningfully through gameplay.

          Katawa Shoujo, by placing you in a position to choose a girl it sets up a very clever trap that would be impossible in a book and gave me the most meaningful narrative experience I’ve ever had in my life.

          To The Moon uses the player control to become a detached observer exploring a story to great affect.

          Heck I played and enjoyed Quintessence which is basically a 10 hour sprite based film. There is absolutely no way in heck I’d have sat through that if it was a film, so it’s clearly the gameplay that’s elevating it.

          Or we have the MGS series which has the most boring film of all time contained in it, so bad it nearly isn’t saved even by being a game, yet by mixing in the game it creates incredible narrative moments that aren’t even cutscene. Look how MGS4 ends, with the final boss fight, with the microwave corridor, those are feelings created new to all mediums and it’s very hard to see where the gameplay stops and the cutscene starts.

          Spec Ops tells has had a huge affect on many people for entirely narrative reasons, and those narrative reasons are strong because they have a gameplay base.

          Little Inferno is a _about_ being a bad game, and yet people love it because of what story it tells in that bad gameplay.

          I could go on and on. You clearly don’t like story games, thats fine. But we have empirical evidence that a lot of people are enjoying a section of games that you personally don’t like and I don’t know how we can say that all those feelings they’re creating are invalid. Any theory about how games can’t be effective narratives is proving something we know to be factually false, because there are large groups of people who adore story games. These games exist and are loved,

          • Dasick says:

            I’ve enjoyed story-based games, not even saying they have to be bad, I just think they’re fundamentally flawed and can’t be truly great. The (potential of) story aspect is hurt because of interactivity, and the (potential of) gameplay aspect is constrained by the story. I am referring to linear narratives here, though branching narratives are usually a (large) number of different, distinct yet similar stories being told.

            In terms of game design or even storytelling, if we judge something by how much ‘fun’ people have with it that’s… kinda really useless. Things can be fun for a variety of reasons and there are different kinds of fun. Storytelling is already a well established source of fun that you can’t get anywhere else. Judging stories by the principles uncovered in that field we can zoom in on the mechanics of the fun-making-machine and make it generate more fun than we’ve ever experienced before, and that’s what storytellers have been doing for millennia. We wouldn’t have films and books and comics as entertaining and meaningful as we do now if all they had been doing was asking ‘well, is this fun to a lot of people?’ and not asking ‘why is it fun?’ Case in point: Twilight. It’s fun to a lot of people, but for reasons unrelated to literature, storytelling or character development.

            When I ask the question ‘why is this story based game so engaging to people?’ I can see a lot of types of fun, but I just don’t see anything special about that fun. It’s not something unique to the story-game, and all the story-games we’ve seen so far aren’t seamless fusions that create their own type of fun (like comics were. pictures and text, but they blend into a wondrous, unique beast), they either alternate the two, or they use gameplay as the equivalent of turning the pages for the story bits (Heavy Rain and Walking Dead). I’ve never really seen gameplay tell a story. Rather, it is always a cinematic or a wall of text that does the telling, and I do think it is telling of the ‘genre’.

            I think games with story benefit from a double standard as I’ve mentioned earlier. Videogamers might not make the distinction between the cinematic and narrative bits they enjoyed from the pretty horrible gameplay that holds it together and assume that the story they’ve experienced is part of the game, and for a game, that may be a story of unprecedented quality.

          • Dasick says:

            EDIT: Oops, wrong email address. I am totally the same poster as above (derpy purple cog with a tongue sticking out) and not an impostor.

            Another things is (sorry for double post), when something presents itself as a game, it creates the expectation that your input is going to be meaningful to the story, and that sense of depth and decision might be the cause of ‘fun’ in that case.

            However, in a “game” like Heavy Rain or Walking Dead, that sense of agency quickly falls apart on the third or even second playthrough, as you start to learn how little your decisions are affecting. Heck, even the first playthrough, if we’ve got liberal use of saving+loading.

            While I do appreciate clever sleigh-of-hand, I think it would be a benefit to everyone if we recognized it as such. Maybe certain developers would make better products if their aim was to maintain the illusion for as long as possible.

            • Thomas says:

              Well if we’re talking about fun versus meaningful, eventually the answer is going to almost wholly lie in narrative games =D I have actually learnt a significant life lesson and become a marginally better person through Katawa Shoujo whereas it’s much harder for a pure game game to be about anything other than destressing.

              You do make good points though, especially about us being more advanced in narrative techniques already. But this is my counter. Of all the game I mentioned only Katawa Shoujo actually has a good story. And then only kinda. Heavy Rain has an awful awful story that wouldn’t be exceptable in internet fanfiction, full of squick and absurdities and plot holes and the very best of it is entirely derivative. The best Heavy Rain gets in terms of story is Saw without the creativity.

              Metal Gear Solid goes without speaking. To The Moon has a great substance but the telling is heavy handed. Quintessence is a 10 hour sprite film etc. They aren’t good because they’re good stories (because the best of them wouldn’t be given a second glance by a TV exec or book publisher). They’re good stories because of the power of games to do incredible things.

              I don’t think the concept is flawed because the very barest amount of interaction (Dear Esther style) completely changes how we consume the story and the scope of range of interaction is huge.

              If you’re interested, check this out:
              http://www.kongregate.com/games/AlexanderOcias/loved?acomplete=love
              Bare bones story, unremarkable short platformer turned into a disturbing and lasting experience by the power of games.

              These experiences are good enough that I don’t want to lose them. We’re opening up a door where ‘fun’ can stop being the main judge of quality and ‘important’ and life forming can take the frame. And we’ve only just scratched the surface!

              There’s lots of space to go with other directions of game, we’ve got other engagements and reasons to play to explore, but the game space is huge and we can afford to have all things. The state of story games is already good enough that its justified its existence to me and we’ve got a lot of learning to do.

              • Dasick says:

                If we’re talking about the importance of things… Roguelikes and Go are teaching me to be better at making ambiguous, irreversible meaningful decisions, of which life is full. So yes, certain games are making me a better person, and others waste everyone’s time. Related http://expensiveplanetarium.blogspot.ca/2007/03/warcraft-is-good-for-you.html

                I think the reason interactivity changes the way we approach stories is because it set’s up the illusion that our interactivity will be meaningful to the story. Yes, the range of interactions is huge if you just let the player walk around and what not, but is this range meaningful to the story? The illusion quickly shatters on repeat playthroughs. Good stories and good games only get better the more you experience them.

                I actually think that there is a way to merge the two forms together to make something unique, but everything we’ve done so far is incredibly fragile and I think the direction we’re taking is the least efficient, brute force solution.

    • Zukhramm says:

      What you say is true for a very narrow definition of “story told through a game” as a branching tree of decisions.

      • Dasick says:

        The tree-branch structure is just a way to fix the inherent problem. A really expensive, time consuming fix that will always be missing pieces.

        Even in a linear story-driven game like Half-Life, the option and outcomes you have during gameplay (the driving sequences, the firefights) are severely handicapped to fit the story. There can’t be permadeath (ie, actual consequences for your decisions) because forcing the player to replay the *same* sections over and over again is stupid, and you can’t introduce enough random elements to give player new situations to react and respond to, because that takes away the power from the author. Can’t go back and can’t skip a fight (sneaking, running ,distractions) because it messes with the pacing and you can miss some important dialogue or scene. Can’t kill or not kill actors you aren’t supposed to spare/kill. Very little creativity is allowed with the basic mechanics, because if you do something “game”breaking, it makes the story seem dumb because why don’t we do that thing again and win. Can’t have actual challenge because it is completely unfair and insulting to people that just want to see the story.

        Sorry for the long example list, I got carried away. But the linear story game and the branching story game are the only story type games I am aware of, so maybe I’m missing something.

    • Shamus says:

      From a grammatical standpoint, I’m pretty sure that:

      “I still maintain that the omission of entry-level difficulty for story-based games is dumb and self-defeating.”

      Is correct, because “the omission of entry-level difficulty” is the subject. So the sentence is:

      “The omission of entry-level difficulty is dumb and self-defeating.”

      Now, if you’re just making the case that games shouldn’t be based on story? Well, that’s a whole post in itself.

      • krellen says:

        Grammatically, you are 100% correct. And I’m so glad you know that rule; so many seem to forget it/never learned it.

      • Dasick says:

        Yeah, I was just being snarky. Sorry :S

        But I think this is an important point few people consider. We just take it for granted that games should be telling stories, not really considering if there is anything worthwhile to gain from such a union, or if this union is hurting gameplay (you know, the art of making and playing games)

  32. Talby says:

    Super Hexagon? More like Stupor Hexagon!

  33. Jarenth says:

    I’m just going to point out that it amuses me that this post is tagged ‘guild wars 2′, but not ‘super hexagon’ or ‘hotline miami’.

  34. Vekni says:

    I would argue that The Old Republic should be added to the list of “2012 illusion of choice”.

  35. Dasick says:

    Looking through some of the discussions in the comments (mostly the comments on FTL), I think we’re using a single word to describe two different concepts. That word is ‘hard’ and some people take it to mean ‘frustrating’ and some want it to be ‘challenging’.

    I think it’s important to make that distinction, because those are completely different things.

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