Reset Button: Most Innovative Game of 2008

By Shamus
on Dec 29, 2008
Filed under:
Movies

Here is the video project I’ve been working on. Part documentary, part op-ed, it tries to make the case that the game nobody is talking about is the most innovative game of 2008. This game is a gateway drug. And we need more of those.

Navel-gazing follows:

I’m not thrilled with how it turned out. I’m not crazy about the titles & credits, there are clicks and pops in a couple of spots because Windows Movie Maker sucks, I had to cut most of my crude and feeble attempts at humor to meet the 10-minute YouTube limit, and my diction was sloppy in a couple of places. And while I’m at it, “Reset Button” probably isn’t the most catchy or original thing to call it, but you gotta call it something. I thought I should call it something retro and old-timey. Maybe “Penny Arcade”? I should Google and see if anyone is using that.

Ah well. I’ve wanted to get this out of my system for a while now. I imagine it will stand or fall based on the ideas it contains, not on my various technical deficiencies.

Now that I’ve sufficiently lowered your expectations, here is the fruit of my labors:


Link (YouTube)

1,000 geek points to whoever can identify the music in the end credits. And I’m serious about the question I ask towards the end: Do you need a game to punish you for failure in order to enjoy victory? (I’m not just talking about blocking progress until you overcome the challenge, but taking away existing progress when you fail.) Does making the punishment more punitive make winning more fun?

Share and enjoy.

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A Hundred!A Hundred!18218 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

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  1. tussock says:

    I always figured the problem with platform games was the required precision. It’s not like you have to be perfect with every shot and movement in a FPS, just close enough on average.

    Modern RTS games tend to suffer the same precision problems; you have to follow a certain build order down to the second early on due to the exponential growth of assets, only they’re not polite enough to tell you when you’ve misstepped along the way.

    That the latest PoP’s got an automatic instant reload doesn’t really help that; it’s not different to many old platformers that just walk you back to the start of each short sequence. You’ve still got to be (the modern equivalent of) pixel-perfect to progress every little step of the way.

    OK, it does help compared to making a five-minute rail treck just to try each precise little jump: but I don’t imagine that’s as common as you make out.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @tussock

    Not true about FPS/RTS.In multiplayer you have to be precise in FPSs,and have to follow the order in RTSs,but in singleplayer this is not required on normal and lower difficulties.

    Assassins creed did quite a lot to remove that precision from platforming.Now that was a revolution of the genre.

  3. Telas says:

    …and thanks especially for reminding me why I don’t go to slashdot any more…

  4. […] חדשות משחקים: המשחק החדשני ביותר של 2008 הוא לא אחר מאשר הדור החדש של הנסיך הפרסי. כתבה רצינית […]

  5. Dix says:

    in after whinefest!!!1!!

    I still say you should make more of these videos. I have high hopes someone (like, uh, der, the Escapist?) will pick them up!

  6. […] to get past wherever I’m stuck. I thought it was just me, but expert gamer Shamus wonders: Do you need a game to punish you for failure in order to enjoy victory? Or could more novice gamers be won over if games let them learn without endless repetition, […]

  7. nehumanuscrede says:

    While there isn’t an easy solution to the console controller.
    ( They SUCK, I’m sorry. I will take a mouse over that damn
    analog stick any time ) There is an easy solution to keep the
    hardcore folks happy.

    Mode selection:

    Normal
    Doom on You

    The first allows us a bit of leeway in learning the game.

    The second permanently kills your character upon the first
    mistake making you start over from the beginning. I believe
    Diablo did this in hardcore mode.

    The hardcore fanboys fail to realize that unless the
    developer can get enough folks to play the damn thing to
    begin with, the game will never get made.

    I’m curious to see how well Darkfall is going to do upon
    it’s release later this month. It promises to be the new
    Ultima Online, right down to the ultimate PvP full loot
    system.

    While a new concept for the current generation of MMO’s, I
    don’t think enough folks are going to continue playing it
    once they realize just how punishing death is going to be.
    Much like Ultima Online, if you’re killed by another player
    everything you have on the character is subject to looting.

    The majority ( which is who developers try to market to ) will simply not tolerate that lol.

    Once the masses quit, the game will implode due to lack of
    active players on the servers. Server merges will happen in
    an attempt to salvage it as long as possible but, in the
    end, it will simply go away.

  8. Adam says:

    I just picked up “Braid” from XBLA, and have to say that game easily achieves the lack-of-penalty aspect even better. You actually get to rewind, speed up and slow down time and review your mistakes right at the point of failure…or any point in the game. It also serves as an interesting puzzle metric that feels reminiscent of super paper mario.

    this really makes platformers amazingly accessible. I was in the middle of a particularly difficult jump, and could simply reverse time and change aspects of the jump, even in mid-air. Items are persistent, so after I get the key, I can backtrack incredibly fast by rewinding back up to that ledge I was on previously, etc.

  9. Gorthol says:

    I guess after having read some of the exchange between Samael and Shamus (and I’m worried about reviving it here), I must say that this mechanic in PoP really doesn’t seem innovative.

    I thought it might have been innovative for platformers, but apparently, it was available on some older platformers. So really, it’s not doing anything that hasn’t been done before.

    I think the key idea here is that you shouldn’t have to play a TRAINING game just to hone your skills to the point where you can play newly released games. PoP is a new game building on a rather large legacy that COULD have been extraordinarily punitive, but instead chose to go in a different direction. (As someone mentioned, PoP1 was very unforgiving, and I would say that PoP2 was even more so.)

    Since I don’t want to put words in Shamus’s mouth, I’ll briefly say what I personally think his video is trying to tell me. What it looks like he’s trying to say is that they were innovative because they were brave enough to make a big title non-punitive. And that’s fair (I think).

  10. […] know what I wrote about the latest PoP game? This says it more eloquently than I ever […]

  11. […] over at Twentysided, a site I’d never heard of, made this wonderful video about the revolutionary nature of the new Prince of Persia. He puts it way better than I could, and has some really interesting things to say about the nature […]

  12. Bruno says:

    About your question on what is appealing to difficulty and punishment, you have to read Jesper Juul’s essay: Fear of failing? The many meanings of difficulty in video games.

  13. AmstradHero says:

    Excellent video, and I have to say I love the Descent music. The funny thing was that I didn’t even read the text below the video and was waiting to see you mention Descent in the credits! My copy of the midis for Descent 1 & 2 have survived numerous computer upgrades and several hard drive crashes.

  14. ryanlb says:

    That video was great! Entertaining and informative. I am already planning to buy Prince of Persia (after I finish the Sands of Time trilogy, which I just bought, and after it’s a little cheaper), but now I’ll also have to make my wife play it.

  15. Eric says:

    @ shamus: For pop I thought they got it right with the whole sands mechanic, the only thing I found wrong with it was that they made the sand a little to rare for my tastes. Now they could also take a page from the new alone in the dark game and allow the player to skip a very frustrating part, at their discretion. If you want to skip a puzzle, boss fight, or even quick time events that you may find to challenging, you should have the option. I still believe this all comes to whether or not you want to play the game, or experience it. For example, Little big planet. While it can be challenging at times, it’s mostly just a relaxing romp through the developers artistic creativity. It’s pretty much a lazy sunday afternoon. Now take God of War, a game that was meant to be challenging at practically all times, it’s just like overcoming one of your projects that you have been working on as of late, most of the time it was a bitch, but after it’s done you take a look at what you’ve done, and can’t help but feel proud of what you acomplished.

  16. Stringycustard says:

    I like the way you’re thinking here, Shamus. It’s something I’ve been striving to find – a good game that non-gamers can get into. I’ve been trying to get my girlfriend (and other girls, too) into games and I found that the only games they played were things like Peggle, not because it was fun (they got bored after a while after the initial fun-times) but because it didn’t take them 12 days to learn how to run around a corner or jump an obstacle. World of goo also hit home quite a bit, the learning curve in that game is fantastic – it gets hard but it still works well to introduce players.

    I tried other games of the more gamer-style sort of thing. Neverwinter Nights 2 was pretty decent due to the story I guess, but my girlfriend stopped that pretty soon after the rules bogged her down (d20 is just not explained at all well in d20 pc games – and it’s complex anyway).

    But PoP looks like a good bet. I hope I keep in mind your ideas when I make my own games.

    Side note: interesting that you place PoP and Mirror’s Edge in together – they have the exact opposite philosophy or punishment ethic. I’m a good platformer and I died about 30 times in the first 2 minutes I sat down to play that one. Great game but really unforgiving.

  17. Thomas says:

    I have to say, i did not like this, this is just your view on gaming and seems completly different to mine….

    When you die, you restart at the start of the level…not in most games i play, there are checkpoints, you learn from your mistake and play again from the checkpoint, just like you would do if you missed a shot in basketball, learn from your mistake and try again.

    Feels to me your just trying to explain away your inadequacies in gaming..

  18. Clint Olson says:

    Just wanted to say: While I agree with the sentiments expressed in the video in concept, I just finished playing the new Prince of Persia… and the (extremely railroaded) ending is a nice, solid kick in the nuts. I’m mildly ticked at the game right now.

  19. Rick says:

    I picked up PoP a few weeks ago and just beat the game. I came back here and took a look at your PoP posts (specifically this one). I have to say: I agree and disagree with your assessment.

    First some background: I grew up with consoles (Atari, Nintendo, N64), then moved to PC and now own a PS3. I play maybe 1-2 hours per night after the kids are in bed. I’d probably be thrown in the hardcore bucket, but I’m not a super awesome gamer.

    Here’s where I agree: The game is innovative – “easy” but entertaining, looks great and makes you feel like a hero (at times). New comers may like the “you can’t die/lose” the game offers.

    Here’s where I disagree:
    Bosses: You get them too close to a wall/cliff/etc. and it’s no longer a fight. It’s a bunch of QTEs that range from easy to impossible. If you are holding down the block button, the QTE starts and you haven’t released block button fast enough you auto-fail the QTE. I’m an experienced gamer and I found this incredibly frustrating. This is not going to win new gamers over.
    Railroaded: There is one path and you must cross it to get to the next area. Say you are a new comer who isn’t quite fast enough to handle an area. You are forced to get it right – and there is only one right way to do it. There is no, “let’s try jumping left instead of right.” A wall running sequence comes to mind. This was a prolonged run that forced you to move left or right. Sometimes there was only one choice. The only way past was to memorize the sequence. It took my a dozen tries and there was the punishment of getting sent back to the beginning power plate. Although for most of the game they put platforms in between longer sequences. And there are a couple of areas that you can just co-op jump your way through, but you never knew if you could until you found out the “hard” way by dying.
    Dying: Sure you don’t get punished but I still don’t like “losing.” I can play through some games and only die a few times. But this game I “died” every 30 seconds. My Hero wasn’t being very heroic…
    Easy: If you really are going to play the whole game you will get bored. Nothing gets harder… the whole game is the same difficulty. Once you’ve honed your skills on the first four areas, the rest of the game is the same. Maybe the sequences were longer, but then it just got to be a chore. “Ok, I have to go from points A to B, but this time I have to hit 10 buttons instead of 5.” Boring…

    The game was OK and may get a few people into gaming, but I think you are giving it too much credit.

  20. kuertee says:

    Hey shamus! Thank you for this video. I really enjoyed it.

    And as an experiment, I added a “Reset button” option to my Oblivion mod Alternatives to death and reload: http://www.tesnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=23862.

    The Reset button option teleports the player a safe-distance back the way they came when the player is near-death.

    Keep up the good work!

  21. NBSRDan says:

    The video as a whole was very well articulated and edited, though I can’t help but be skeptical of one major point: I don’t think Ubisoft was going for an enlightened approach to game design. It seems more like they just decided “let’s make an easy game”, making a much deeper philosophical mistake in thinking that reducing the penalty for failure also reduces difficulty. Ubisoft and other companies will probably take Prince of Persia’s sales as an indication of whether gamers want easy games.

  22. […] read is indicative of the reason that I’ve not been caught up in the video game landslide.  This video game writer talks about the generations NOT raised with video games and how to capture their […]

  23. VonBraun says:

    I just noticed that today it has been exactly a year since you uploaded that video.

    When can we expect to see another episode? Have you talked to the video-people at The Escapist?

  24. […] by Shamus Young Wedding Blog A Great, Big, Beautiful […]

  25. […] World of Keflings, ilomilo, Raskulls, Dragon Quest V, Prince of Persia (the XBox 360 2008 game that Shamus loved for many of the same reasons I love it, despite the inevitable warts), Batman: Arkham Asylum, […]

  26. […] little cut scene. Playing Mario is one giant session of trial and feedback. Some people say that positive feedback is all that makes a game good, and I tend to agree: give a person feedback on what they’re doing and they’ll get […]

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8 Trackbacks

  1. […] חדשות משחקים: המשחק החדשני ביותר של 2008 הוא לא אחר מאשר הדור החדש של הנסיך הפרסי. כתבה רצינית […]

  2. […] to get past wherever I’m stuck. I thought it was just me, but expert gamer Shamus wonders: Do you need a game to punish you for failure in order to enjoy victory? Or could more novice gamers be won over if games let them learn without endless repetition, […]

  3. By Prince of Persia - Shamus Nails It on Tue Jan 6, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    […] know what I wrote about the latest PoP game? This says it more eloquently than I ever […]

  4. By Murfins and Burgalinks « Murfins and Burglars on Thu Jan 8, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    […] over at Twentysided, a site I’d never heard of, made this wonderful video about the revolutionary nature of the new Prince of Persia. He puts it way better than I could, and has some really interesting things to say about the nature […]

  5. By Finally, A Videogame for Writers « on Mon Jun 8, 2009 at 5:06 am

    […] read is indicative of the reason that I’ve not been caught up in the video game landslide.  This video game writer talks about the generations NOT raised with video games and how to capture their […]

  6. By Reset Button « Faith, Hope and Love on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 7:58 pm

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  7. By Kibbles and Bits « Tish Tosh Tesh on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 7:19 am

    […] World of Keflings, ilomilo, Raskulls, Dragon Quest V, Prince of Persia (the XBox 360 2008 game that Shamus loved for many of the same reasons I love it, despite the inevitable warts), Batman: Arkham Asylum, […]

  8. By Gamification 2.0 | shezi on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    […] little cut scene. Playing Mario is one giant session of trial and feedback. Some people say that positive feedback is all that makes a game good, and I tend to agree: give a person feedback on what they’re doing and they’ll get […]

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