Dénouement 2019 Part 5: The Best Stuff

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jan 16, 2020

Filed under: Industry Events 210 comments

The usual disclaimer applies: Don’t read too much into the order of these games. I tried to sort them from best to extra-best, but such ordering is inherently arbitrary. Don’t hold me to this. Maybe five years from now I’ll still be talking about and playing the #5 game, and I’ll have forgotten the #1. I do what I can, but putting games into a specific order is silly.

Anyway, let’s get on with it…

#3 Satisfactory

Explore strange new worlds. Seek out new life. COVER EVERYTHING IN CONCRETE AND BUILD A FACTORY ON IT.
Explore strange new worlds. Seek out new life. COVER EVERYTHING IN CONCRETE AND BUILD A FACTORY ON IT.

If we were to order games by how much time they ate upAnd if we only count games that came out this year. then Satisfactory would easily claim my top spot. You might remember that Factorio took my #1 spot back in 2016. This game scratched that same itch, and it scratched it for weeks before I finally lost interest.

Like Factorio, you build machines to harvest raw materials and use conveyors to carry those materials to machines where they are made into more machines that you can then use to expand your nature-devouring industrial complex. The difference is that Satisfactory is played from a first-person perspective. Here you’re trading a bit of raw complexity for more immersion. Satisfactory isn’t nearly as deep as Factorio, but there’s something to be said for having the freedom to climb a tower and look out over your vast industrial crime with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

I see you in the background, trees. Don't worry. You'll get yours soon.
I see you in the background, trees. Don't worry. You'll get yours soon.

The game is still in Early Access and right now the balance and progression are a bit oddYou can’t build trains until you’ve already constructed a vastly inferior transport network, at which point the last thing you want to do is tear it all down to make room for a train., the controls need more polishThey STILL haven’t fixed the months-old bug where the camera controls get flipped when driving if you use inverted mouse controls., and the building interface is a bit wonkyThe collision boxes on items is really unpredictable and often it won’t let you build an item even though it seems like there’s lots of room..  If you were obsessed with Factorio then you probably own this already. If not, then you should probably give this one a little more time. It’s good now, but it’ll probably be a lot better in a few months.

#2 Control

A high-security containment cell for... a dentist's chair? I'll bet there's a case file around here that explains this.
A high-security containment cell for... a dentist's chair? I'll bet there's a case file around here that explains this.

The SCP FoundationSCP stands for Secure, Contain, Protect. is fictional government organization focused on protecting the world from paranormal threats. It’s basically the FBI, but for ghosts, telekinesis, dimensional rifts, haunted items, Old Gods, demonic spooks, and other assorted supernatural troublemakers.

The community maintains the SCP Foundation through a wiki featuring short fiction pieces presented as agency case files.

A lot of people rolled their eyes at Control, saying, “Pfft. It’s just SCP Foundation, The Video Game. It’s not an original idea.”

I just don’t get this line of thinking. We’ve had an uncountable number of games about soldiers, mercenaries, space marines, ex-cops, and adventurers. This is the first game where we get to play as the Spook Police, and the fact that the premise comes from another medium doesn’t reduce the novelty of this game.

I gotta say, the possessed people that levitated and chanted together were really creepy.
I gotta say, the possessed people that levitated and chanted together were really creepy.

Maybe you’re wondering what this game is doing so high on my end-of-year list. Didn’t I spend three weeks bitching about it earlier this year? It’s true that the combat got on my nerves, the self-unbalancing difficulty was obnoxious, and the constant firefights got in the way of the cool haunted house atmosphere. This would have been a better game if the combat had been less frequent, but it was still a really good game.

The environment designs were spectacular, the worldbuilding was top notch, and Dr. Caspar Darling’s expositional videos were made of pure charm.

#1 Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order EA™

The proper title ought to be STAR Fallen Order WARS.
The proper title ought to be STAR Fallen Order WARS.

To talk about this game, we need to talk about Dark Souls.

I love the idea of Dark Souls. I love the atmosphere. I love the way it tells a story through the world. I love perfectible combat systems based on timing and pattern recognition. I love games where foes seem insurmountable at first and gradually become trivial not because you leveled up and got a better gun, but because you mastered the game’s systems. I love the environments, the isolation, and the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, I can’t stand the harsh punishments the game deals out when you fail. It’s harsh enough to be a complete deal breaker for me.

I hate when you die to a new foe and you have to traverse several minutes of traps and trash mobs to get back to where you were so you can have another go at them. It makes my blood boil. It’s bad for my health, bad for the people who live with me who don’t like the shouting, and bad for my budget because controllers are expensive. Yes, I’m aware that it feels really good to master a foe and ace a fight that used to give you so much trouble. I love that feeling too, which is why I love Batman so much. The problem isn’t the task itself, it’s the impediment to practicing.

Yes. This is EXACTLY what a Star Wars game should look like. Only Star Wars can make a trash planet look this cool.
Yes. This is EXACTLY what a Star Wars game should look like. Only Star Wars can make a trash planet look this cool.

In the past I’ve described it as trying to learn to play the piano, except when you flub a note you have to go outside and dribble a basketball for two minutes. This slows down the learning process. The punishment for failure is that the game designer will devour a couple of minutes of your actual life before they allow you to tackle the task again. Worse, that extra gap between attempts makes it more likely I’ll repeat the same mistakes. When I mess up, I want to try again as quickly as possible. This time penalty isn’t just frustrating to me, it’s offensive.

Yes, yes. I know. It’s all part of the tone. It’s built into the lore of the world. It’s a required part of the experience. This is how the game designer wants you to feel. It’s all about perseverance. And so on. I’ve heard it all before. And fine. Those things are all probably true. But I still hate it and it still makes me miserable. I’m not saying Dark Souls needs to be changed to suit my tastes, I’m just telling you why I can’t play the damn thing.

Star Wars Colon Jedi Colon Fallen Order EA Trademark Symbol manages to keep things just barely within my tolerance for punishment. There were a few moments in this game that really set me off and resulted in a lot of shouting and teeth-grinding. In particular, it really sucked during my first play-through when I’d run into the randomly-spawning boss mercenaries, get steamrolled, and realized I had an epic ten-minute hike back to where I died, only to discover the bosses were gone and I couldn’t do the fight again.

Whew. I can feel the adrenaline rising up just thinking about it.

This isn't concept art. This is a real screenshot. The visual design in this game is amazing.
This isn't concept art. This is a real screenshot. The visual design in this game is amazing.

The first playthrough was really frustrating, but once I got the timing down I really loved playing the game. It felt really good when I met up with the requisite masked Sith nemesis on my second playthrough. The first time I fought her, she wiped the floor with me a half dozen times before I beat her. In the second game, she barely touched my health bar and I cleaned her clock.

(And then a cutscene negated my skill and I lost the fight anyway by writer fiat, because demanding combat and fixed character-driven narratives are fundamentally incompatible. But I’ll talk more about that in my inevitable retrospective.)

The more I played this game, the more I liked it. The story wasn’t anything special, but it was a nice sampler from the big box of established Star Wars tropes.

I realize this all sounds mostly negative, and maybe you’re wondering why I gave this game my top spot. The thing is:

  1. I’ve been waiting since 2011 for something else to scratch that Batman itch of perfectible combat.
  2. I’ve been waiting since 2002 or 2003-ish for a decent Star Wars game.

It’s been a long wait, and finally one game managed to fulfill both of those needs. I’m willing to overlook a lot of other problems with Fallen Order because it delivers on these two key ingredients.

I had to stop myself from starting a third playthrough because I needed to get started on this end-of-year writeup. Sure, the protagonist is muted. The story plays things comically safe. The ending whiffs on pathos and instead goes for cheap fanservice. The level design is obnoxious. The comic relief character is only mildly amusing. But still.

She might not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts. 

Since we’re wrapping up the decadeDon’t EVEN start with the “Actually, the new decade doesn’t start until 2021!” nonsense. I organize decades by the second digit. Deal with it., allow me to award the first-ever Twenty Sided…

Game of the Decade: Minecraft

I think I'm finally burned out on this game. Oh wait there's a new modpack that I've never tried before.
I think I'm finally burned out on this game. Oh wait there's a new modpack that I've never tried before.

I began the decade playing minecraft, and I ended the decade playing Minecraft. I played vanilla Minecraft. I played modded Minecraft. I played popular mods like Technic, Feed the Beast, and Skyblocks, and I played various obscure modpacks. I played modpacks I made myself. I played the original Java Edition. I played the ultra-fast but mod-proof Bedrock Edition.

I built castles, houses, vast underground chambers, sprawling factories, villages, and cities. I lived on the surface, I lived deep underground, I lived as a nomad, and I lived on mountaintops. I tried magic mods, industrial mods, RPG mods, survival mods, farming / cooking mods, and mods where you create and explore your own dimensions like the characters in the Myst series.

I didn't give a Game of the Decade for the aughts, but I guess it would have to be World of Warcraft. That game caused a shift in the industry that we're still feeling today. The amount of money wasted on misbegotten WoW clones is appalling.
I didn't give a Game of the Decade for the aughts, but I guess it would have to be World of Warcraft. That game caused a shift in the industry that we're still feeling today. The amount of money wasted on misbegotten WoW clones is appalling.

I played with texture packs, special shaders, and even with raytracing. I played in creative mode, I played in survival mode, and I played in mods where you play in survival long enough to earn all the powers of creative mode.

I played alone, I played on a LAN with my kids, and I played on a public server with the Twenty Sided community.

And yet, in all that time I barely scratched the surface of all the things you can do in Minecraft. I played only a fraction of the mods. I never tried adventure mode. I never did any PvP. I never tried any of the various absurdist challenge modes. In fact – and I’m not making this upI’ve never personally beaten the game.  I’ve never visited The End dimension, never fought the dragon, never saw the closing credits.

Minecraft isn’t just a good video game, it’s THE video game. For me it has supplanted Pong / Pac-Man as the universally recognizable symbol of the hobby.

Looking Forward…

So that’s it for 2019. Here are the games I’m looking forward to in 2020. These thoughts aren’t important now. I’m just writing these things here so I can refer back to them in 11 months.

Cyberpunk 2077

The anticipation is sky high on this one. The game is still months away and already everyone is expecting that this will be their GOTY. I’m predicting that once this thing hits the shelves, we’ll get a kind of Skyrim-style backlash where people who aren’t playing the game will get sick to death of hearing about it.

Can CD Projekt RED live up to this hype? I don’t know, but I’m more than willing to give them $60 to find out.

Flight Simulator 2020

A flight simulator that will use real-world satellite data to populate the surface of the earth? Sign me up.

Then again, this is Microsoft we’re talking about. Their efforts in the PC gaming scene have been so bad that incompetence seems like an insufficient explanation. I want to believe that they’re sabotaging PC gaming on purpose for some reason, because I just can’t believe that anyone could be this horrendously terrible.

I guess we’ll find out.

Watch Dogs Legion

I know I’m usually pretty hard on Ubisoft for Uplay and their idiotic devotion to DRM. I dislike the way their open-world collect-a-thon design will take 4 hours of good content and smear it out over 20 hours of gameworld. I hate the way they keep dancing around the edge of political topics for cheap headlines but refusing to actually DO anything with those ideas, thereby making their worlds feel sort of empty and gutless. Like… I don’t particularly need you to take a stance on a controversial topic, but if you’ve got the audacity to bring up something inflammatory during my gaming funtimes, then you don’t get to cravenly slink away and pretend like you never said anything. Piss or get off the pot, you annoying soulless troll.

But damn it  – Legion looks really interesting. It’s an open world game where you form a resistance group to smash the state or whatever and something something Brexit. The hook is that there is no main character. You can recruit random civilians off the streets, and any of them can die in the line of duty. Build your own goon squad! Play as an unassuming rebel granny assassin!

I don’t want to wait for reviews. I need to see this for myself.

System Shock Remake

Supposedly this will come out this year, more than two years past the original promised delivery date. It’s been a long road for this game. The demo released in December did not inspire confidence. It looks right. It feels right. But can they get the content done and polished before they ship it? I have no idea.

Kerbal Space Program 2

Will this have the same magic as the original? It’s made by a different team, and there’s no guarantee a new team will be able to recapture the gleeful fun of rapid unscheduled disassembly. Still, the promise of new Kerbal content is really exciting. I’m looking forward to putting these hapless green bastards into space again.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2

And now I feel bad for giving the Jedi game a hard time about its multi-part name. I saw the preview for this at E3 2019, and it looked really good.

The Firmament

The Firmament is a new game from the Cyan, of Myst fame. Their most recent game was Obduction, which I loved until the merciless loading screens drove me away. Even so, I’m always on board for what this team is doing.

Doom Eternal

Wait, wasn’t this supposed to come out this year? Oh, it was delayed to March 2020? Well, I hope the game has really strong initial sales, because it arrives about three weeks before Cyberpunk 2077. Once Cyberpunk hits the shelves, I expect the world is going to stop caring about Doom. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the last Doom game. But the first few months of 2020 are going to be completely and utterly gonzo crazy, and a lot of games are going to be fighting for second place on the sales charts. I’m pretty sure Bloodlines 2 was delayed specifically because it was scheduled for March, and there’s just too much stuff coming out at that point. Same goes for Watch Dogs Legion, which was also scheduled for March 2020.

Half-Life: Alyx

I don’t have a VR headset so I’m not going to get to play this, but I’ll be glad to see Valve return to their roots. Even if I don’t play it personally, I’ll feel good if the game gets good reviews.

See You Again in 11 Months!

That’s what I’m looking forward to in 2020. At the end of the year I’ll come back to this list and we’ll see how it all turned out.

Here’s hoping 2020 is better than 2019.



[1] And if we only count games that came out this year.

[2] You can’t build trains until you’ve already constructed a vastly inferior transport network, at which point the last thing you want to do is tear it all down to make room for a train.

[3] They STILL haven’t fixed the months-old bug where the camera controls get flipped when driving if you use inverted mouse controls.

[4] The collision boxes on items is really unpredictable and often it won’t let you build an item even though it seems like there’s lots of room.

[5] SCP stands for Secure, Contain, Protect.

[6] Don’t EVEN start with the “Actually, the new decade doesn’t start until 2021!” nonsense. I organize decades by the second digit. Deal with it.

From The Archives:

210 thoughts on “Dénouement 2019 Part 5: The Best Stuff

  1. emptyother says:

    I don’t expect much from EA. Only reason I bought Jedi Fallen Order in the first place was because I was bored and wanted something storydriven and simple button masher that I could play with a controller. I even set the difficulty to hard because I expected it to be crappy simple button masher. I was pleasently surprised to find the games bosses was more difficult than I expected.. But in a fun way. I retried the Ninth Sister like 30 times or so, and every time it “felt” like the death was my fault. Like if I just tried one more time, I could defeat her. Then I started reading Wookiepedia about these characters, and found how much more content there is about almost everyone.

    After I finished it, I wanted more Star Wars. Played both Force Unleashed games, the SW Battlefront II single player campaign, watch The Mandalorian, watch the new SW movie, and read most of the SW comics I found on Marvel Unlimited… Before The Witcher snapped me out of it.

    Conclusion: The SW Extended Universe (including all the games) is so much better than the main movies can ever be.

    1. Felix Jones says:

      Maybe it was because I played it right after Sekiro and The Surge 2 but I did not like Fallen Order.

      The combination of Dark Souls + Uncharted seemed horribly misguided. It neither had the fast-paced, campy fun of the Uncharted series nor did it have remotely the depth or challenge of Dark Souls. I did not find the enemies difficult or rewarding to fight, as the skill point upgrades were deeply uninteresting and all the gear was cosmetic. As such I didn’t see the point of the respawning bonfire system at all as there was no risk or reward for pushing forward or forgoing healing. There was no story justification for it either so it was completely immersion-breaking for me. On top of that you had obnoxious puzzles–easy to figure out but a pain to manipulate in-game, and Prince of Persia 2008 level jumping and climbing, i.e. obvious and requiring zero skill to navigate.

      Finally the character models crashed into the uncanny valley so hard I couldn’t stand to look at anyone without a mask. Yeesh. The game would have been better if it had standard Assassin’s Creed or Batman combat and did not try to implement DS’s bonfire-respawns without really understanding what they were for.

      1. RichardW says:

        I enjoy it well enough, but you’re right about some of the character models.
        Those eyes… scare me. You know the ones.

  2. Ancillary says:

    I’ve seen half a dozen Top Games of 2019 lists, and none of them had a single game I’ve played. Nothing that came out this year really grabbed my attention (except Disco Elysium, but even that interest didn’t rise to the level of paying full price). Oh well. Between Cyberpunk, Bloodlines, Bannerlord, and Crusader Kings 3, 2020 is shaping up to be a convergence of all my favorite things. We’ll see how it goes.

    1. John says:

      Sometimes I think Bannerlord is just a beautiful dream I had. If it is released this year I’ll be pleased, but I’ve long since stopped tracking the game’s development.

  3. Wangwang says:

    “Asking for games” comment:
    I am looking for solo collectible card game. The same kind with Hearthstone solo adventure, where you play cardgame, with a story, and level up after you win, gradually get stronger as the story process. Preferably a long game.
    Game that I’ve already played:
    Night of the full moon
    Card night City
    Slay of Spire
    Steam World Quest
    Monster Slayers
    Magic The Gathering for PC.

    1. Thomas says:

      Hand of Fate has Batman action combat, but the campaign (and story!) is based around collecting and building decks of cards with events in them. It’s very neat

    2. tmtvl says:

      I want to say Etherlords? The problem is that I haven’t played those games in years, so I forget if your character levels up.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        I think Etherlords fits the bill. It’s a Heroes of Might & Magic style games where you move heros around the map. You fight using a CCG game and you can buy cards in shops (using game-money, not real money) that you find on the map. I don’t remember if your stuff carries over from one level to the next.

      2. From my brief play of the first Etherlords game, you do level up. It doesn’t affect your cards at all, which have to be bought and fuelled at shops. Instead you get passive abilities, and it also changes how quickly your mana income increases during fights. Important, but not as important as building the deck.

    3. Hal says:

      Well, there’s no “story mode” (yet), but Sentinels of the Multiverse is a really awesome card game. I’ve sunk a lot of time into that game.

    4. Chad Miller says:

      Magic The Gathering for PC

      I really wish someone would release a version of this that doesn’t suffer Windows backward-incompatibility problems…in Windows XP.

      1. sheer_falacy says:

        What possible reason do you have to still be running Windows XP?

        1. Chad Miller says:

          Think “what possible reason do you have to be running anything as new or newer than Windows XP?” and you’ll understand the issue.

          1. Higher_Peanut says:

            Connecting to the internet without (well, less) gaping security holes? Needing a 64 bit system so you can use more RAM? Running new programs and games without massive compatibility problems?

            People hate Microsoft for various justifiable reasons but one day nothing is going to be compatible with an OS that no longer works to the standards people use in the current day. Old tech can’t integrate with new forever.

            1. Chad Miller says:

              This’ll teach me to be the least bit coy. To spell things out: the backward-incompatibilities I’m talking about also apply to every newer version of windows. Microsoft certainly didn’t double back and make newer versions of Windows more backward compatible with an ancient unmaintained game.

              1. Higher_Peanut says:

                Ah, right. Didn’t realise it was the ancient mtg. Im too used to hearing about newer versions to remember the ones that would run on 95/98.

              2. Ninety-Three says:

                If you’re talking about Shandalar, no they don’t, I was able to play it just fine on Windows 7, and I know people who play it on 10. If you’re not talking about Shandalar… there’s another ancient Magic game?

                1. Chad Miller says:

                  Maybe you’ve found a fan-patched version that I haven’t. I would still play the game occasionally except on my Windows 10 machine I stop being able to edit my deck at all after a few hours or something equally showstopping. :/

    5. Deimos says:

      Cardpocalypse – currently exclusive to the Epic Store: https://www.epicgames.com/store/en-US/product/cardpocalypse/home

    6. Wangwang says:

      Wow, thank you so much for all your recommendation.

    7. Rack says:

      Might be a weird time to get into it but the Lord of the Rings adventure card game is a clear fit. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is a pretty close fit too. There’s also Card Hunter which is absolutely amazing but it’s a hybrid tactical rpg.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        In a somewhat similar vein, Arkham Horror: The Card Game. That’s only available on paper, but it can be played solo or as a two-player co-op game. Not really my thing, but it is highly rated on boardgamegeek.com, so maybe worth checking out. It may feel weird to play a tabletop-game solo, but one thing I have to say in its favor is this: having to draw a card yourself to see what dark fate the game will throw at you gives you an ominous feeling that a computer-RNG can’t match!

        The art is really good, too!

      2. Wangwang says:

        Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is exactly the kind i’m looking for. Thank you so much.

        1. Lino says:

          Wait, wait, wait! I just read this thread, and I can’t BELIEVE no one’s mentioned Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales!
          I may be a bit biased, since I’m a big fan of the Witcher universe, but even on its own it’s an extremely solid game – it’s an awesome card game that allows for quite a lot of different playstiles, and your choices affect not only the story, but your deck as well. Not to mention that it has some amazing art direction!

          1. Wangwang says:

            Yeah, sorry. I’ve already tried Thronebreaker. The cardplay is solid. But I can’t stand the tone of the Witcher world.

            1. Lino says:

              Oh. Fair enough. I was just surprised no one had mentioned it :)

  4. Michael Anderson says:

    I was also surprisingly happy about Jedi Fallen Order – for me the best Star Wars since 2003 (Jedi Academy or KotOR). Lightsaber combat still not as good as Jedi Academy, but pretty solid and fun.

    Given my backlog, that was the only ‘brand new’ PC game I bought in 2019 (did buy a Switch and a bunch of ‘PC game’ stuff for that) – I promised myself I would only buy stuff on sale, other than pre-ordering Cyberpunk and Bloodlines 2. Disco Elysium I set my price at <$30, so the recent $32 sale didn’t make it. :)

    For 2020 my guess is that Doom Eternal will be more like Wolfenstein Youngblood than the 2016 game … I am in no rush to find out, though!

    1. emptyother says:

      Please, oh please, dont be right about that. I’m desperate for some old-timey-shooters now after what they did to Wolfenstein Youngblood.

    2. Higher_Peanut says:

      I think Doom Eternal is headed down the same path as Wolfenstein. We’ll get a good reboot followed by a decent sequel and then a Youngblood.

      The signs are there. Eternal’s design is a scattershot if ideas pulled from whatever was popular. Arcade lives system, block pushing puzzles, platforming with contextual parkour actions on placed scenery bars (which seems a redundant idea in a game with a hookshot). They even decided to pull Dark Souls’ invasion mechanic wholesale.

      The monetisation has begun. Iddqd has been replaced with your credit card number. The class and cooldown based multiplayer seems to be designed by committee to create an environment to sell classes and skins.

      The combat looks the same and we’ve got some new enemies but I expect that to be the bright spot in between an inconsistent design. Plus it’s been near Bethesda.

  5. Nordheim says:

    It’s all part of the tone. It’s built into the lore of the world. It’s a required part of the experience. This is how the game designer wants you to feel. It’s all about perseverance.

    You make it sounds like failure is an unavoidable part of the game, an obligatory exercise in frustration mandated and forced upon you by the game hoping you are enough of a masochist to get a few endorphines out of it once you finally succeed. This is why justifying mechanics with vague, or barely pertaining elements like tone, “the experience” and dev intent is so dangerous – everyone chips in with their own interpretation and throws it in the pot, they serve it to you and you can’t help but think “wow, who would be so utterly nuts to enjoy this”

    There’s a very simple explanation regarding boss runbacks: the Estus system. You have a limited amount of mini-health bars that you can add to your own at the cost of time you may not have without the right opening, they aren’t refillable unless you die or purposefully go back to Point A. This means that mistakes made during the boss runback translate into having fewer resources during the boss fight itself, and mastering the runback has the result of facing the boss in peak condition. It adds context to encounters as your mistakes pile up instead of being nullified by a glowing healing orb in front of the boss, just like shooters like Classic Doom did. The game wants you to choose between taking your time in clearing the boss runback every time, which takes time and a moderate-to-none cost in flasks depending on how many mistakes you make, or blazing through it either taking no or massive hits to your resources. Fact is, this is heavily unbalanced – skewed totally in favor of the player! The second option is, more often than not, the easiest one. You get a lot of mileage in most Souls games by just running past enemies, you’ll quickly notice how bad they are at countering this strategy. It’s such a generally accepted element of the genre that the one time From Software went “Hey, maybe with Dark Souls 2 we shouldn’t make holding Circle free, and make dense enemy compositions that can block your efforts in skipping through?” everyone hated it.

    Blazing through the runback makes the vast majority of them last heavily under the minute mark. Sure, occasionally you get the boring, long one with effortless enemy skips like Lost Izalith or Anor Londo, but those are exceptions of the rule. Also note how all of what I described could work just as well in a My Little Pony game, and how detached from the tone of the Soulsborne game it can get.

    1. Shamus says:

      That paragraph was specifically to avoid people coming into the comments to re-explain the game to me yet again, like if I magically understood the wisdom that the almighty game designer I’d be able to enjoy it.

      To repeat:

      But I still hate it and it still makes me miserable. I’m not saying Dark Souls needs to be changed to suit my tastes, I’m just telling you why I can’t play the damn thing.

      Sorry for shouting, but DAMN I’ve been in this conversation so many times, and no amount of disclaimers seems to be able to prevent people from re-explaining the game to me.

      1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

        In my own comment on the Souls games down below, I put in all of the necessary provisos in there too, but without fail, there’s always going to be a Souls fan waiting to tell you that the games are actually really fun if you would just quit playing them wrong.

        I don’t think either of us are saying that the Souls games are bad or doing something wrong, but I get the distinct impression that that’s all anyone can hear when I say “That’s just not for me.” Everyone should feel free to enjoy the games that they enjoy, but I can safely say that I’m not going to be moved by someone saying “But if you just failed in the correct way…”

        1. Daimbert says:

          That being said, though, if you’re saying that a game isn’t for you because it has trait X and the fans of the game are noting that it doesn’t really have that trait and you only see that because you’re doing something you shouldn’t, then it’s not unreasonable for them to chime in with that in the hopes that you’ll actually get to experience the game properly and might find it fun. To use the Persona games as an example, it’s the difference between someone saying that they don’t like them because they don’t care for turn-based combat vs someone saying that they don’t care for them because they have to grind too much to level up their Personas when they don’t do any Social Links because they don’t see the point. The former case is just personal taste, but the latter case is a choice they make that is leading precisely to the problems they’re having, and no reason is given for why they don’t make the other choice.

          In this specific case, the frustration is less that the comment is utterly unreasonable and more that Shamus has heard all of them for a long time and really just wants to resign himself to the fact that those games are not for him, but every time he uses it as an example people keep trying to bring these things back in again. Which is a reasonable reaction.

          1. Syal says:

            Although if they’re not doing the Social Links, they’re deliberately skipping like half the game, which probably means they don’t like the game.

            1. tmtvl says:

              What if they love the game except for the social links? You can like a thing without liking all about that thing.

              1. Syal says:

                We started with “they don’t like the grind”, the solution being “do the Social Links”, the follow-up being “they don’t want to do the Social Links because they don’t like them.” The idea being, the solution to the stated problem is likely a second problem that wasn’t initially mentioned because the player already “solved” it by ignoring it.

                1. tmtvl says:

                  Drat, my plan to create a comment ouroboros failed.

          2. BlueBlazeSpear says:

            It’s certainly not a hill that I want to die on. I’m generally all in favor of debate, but the Souls franchise has clearly become such an old and worn point of contention that everybody reflexively talks past each other. I don’t think it’s even about “point-counterpoint” anymore.

            I don’t think there’s ever been a time where I brought up not liking those games and not regretted it to some degree. As such, I feel for anybody who publicly says that they don’t like it and is immediately hit with “Well, actually…” whether it comes from a game fan, a non-fan, or someone completely indifferent, I just want to scream, “For the love of all that is holy – please feel free to like the game how you want to like it, but could you please stop telling me under which conditions I’m allowed to dislike it?” Is that purely an emotional reaction? I don’t know, but it certainly stems from a storied history of hands-on interaction with people who insist that I’m experiencing it wrong. And the argument has always been the same: “You’ve made an improper conclusion based on incomplete data.” I fell for that trap a few times back in the day and would try different things and the result has always been the same: That’s a moving goalpost argument and despite trying different things, I didn’t magically start loving the game. Taste doesn’t calculate into the argument very well.

            I don’t even try to have discussions about why I don’t enjoy those games anymore. Now I just try to say, “It’s not my cup of tea, but to each his own.” It’s weird how much reaction even that can get and I’m not even saying anything critical of the games themselves. The initial objection to Shamus’s objection was, I think, made in good faith and without a drop of ill intent. But dangit, the whole Souls back-and-forth has been such a third-rail topic for so long that any “Well, actually…” rebuttal comes across, by definition, as heated and flippant. Intent doesn’t even enter into it anymore. It’s like its own genre of button pushing. Snark was used in the original objection and seemingly went unrecognized and sincerity was used in the counter-objection and seemingly went equally-unrecognized. That’s where we’re at now. I’ve just been on the receiving end of all of those arguments enough that I’m punch-drunk from them and I feel nothing but solidarity for someone else who’s in the same boat.

            Okay – I’ve said my piece there. Now let me scroll down the comments to obliquely complain about Death Stranding.

            1. Lino says:

              From my understanding, I think their community is still in defensive mode. After Sekiro (the latest Soulsborne game) came out, it generated a lot of buzz (thanks to the huge community From Software have built over the years), so a big chunk of games media wanted to be part of the action, and generate clicks.

              Controversy is the biggest driver of traffic, but since Sekiro doesn’t have much going for it on that front, they decided to make one themselves. So the angle they took was “Souls games should be changed so they can appeal to everybody”.

              Souls fans (rightfully) tried to rebut with “These games deliver a very specific experience, using some very specific elements. If you were to change them in such a fundamental way, they will cease being special, and we will lose something unique”. The whole argument got very ugly (as these things tend to get), and I think we’re still feeling the aftershocks.

              Unfortunately, that’s the consequence of success in media nowadays – sooner or later, the media notices and they drag you into their culture war. And if you don’t pick a side, they pick one for you – whether you want to or not…

              1. Supah Ewok says:

                Nah, Souls fanboys have pretty much always been like this. But it is indeed because of what you bring up: the Souls games have a formula that’s pretty unique in gaming, and Dark Souls in particular is a genre-defining classic. That formula, however, fundamentally cannot be appreciated by everybody. Some people look from the outside, and know it’s a classic, but that they can’t appreciate it, so they want it changed to where they can. Some people looking from the inside see these people and consider them interlopers.

                And then there’s a bunch of other people on the inside who truly want to help share their classic and bring outsiders around, and a bunch of other people on the outside who appreciate the game from a distance but know it isn’t for them and that’s okay. But these reasonable people are drowned beneath the raging shouting of the more extreme opinions.

                Now, that’s a fight that we see happen all the time, in all sorts of things. In my experience, the insiders for Dark Souls are pushier than the average, as a group, for a thing like this. Just my observation. Personally, I don’t blame them. I’m not gonna start a big argument on this blog, but I’ve personally experienced having a series I loved very much get taken and morphed into something for a wide audience, and I truly wish the series had simply died, as even hearing “new fans” rave excitedly over the very compromises that the series sold out to survive is like a little twist of a knife in my heart.

                …well, maybe that’s a little hyperbolic. I sure don’t like it though. And I sympathize with folks afraid of the same, even if that doesn’t give them a pass to some truly contemptible behavior.

              2. Guest says:

                To be honest, I don’t think that’s the case. I’m a Souls fan, I love the games, I love them enough to play their bastard offspring (The Surge and Nioh), made by people who couldn’t balance them right and didn’t quite get what made those games fun. I did it just for more of the feeling of new Souls content, even if it is broken as heck.

                I still think the games could have an easy mode. Because I want a hard mode. There is no reason you couldn’t reduce incoming damage by 25% and make the game more forgiving, give players one or two more mistakes they can make before dying, or potentially, 7-14 more mistakes with Estus. That would give players more time to learn. And if there’s an easy mode, why not let experienced players try starting on NG+ first round? Hard mode. Dark Souls already has a difficulty setting, NG+ just increases damage and changes a few enemy and item placements.

                It wasn’t rightful at all. It was people who put their self worth into their achievement complaining. I don’t care if you finish the game on easy, and learn enough to play it on normal. Call it NG (-1), I am all for that, I want more people to enjoy it and like it. You can say “specific experience” all you like (I know the video you got it from), but it’s not the case-some people just keep having the bad experience, and they could use a more forgiving version to make mistakes in. Give us an easy mode, and give us a hard mode.

                Next time I make a new character in a Souls game, I want the opportunity to start in NG+, not be forced through everything again. Hell, give me the option of making a pre-levelled character, I want to try more builds, and having limited respecs (Or NO respecs-a TERRIBLE design choice I want more people to criticise the games for, seriously, the first game has no respecs, and some stats that are literally just mistakes to put points into-BAD).

                And I am not touching Fallen Order until it gets an NG+, because these games are so much fun when they reward you for mastering them. Hearing it is “Dark Souls but easy”, well, guess somebody saw there was a market for it, and they beat From to it with an EA product. Not a good look From, they stole your spot.

                1. Biggus Rickus says:

                  Maybe From has no interest in making “Dark Souls but easy”. Maybe creating an Easy mode will compromise some aspect of design. Maybe the influx of new players will change their priorities and lead to the creation of games I have no interest in playing. That marketing towards more casual players will have no effect on the games’ designs going forward seems unlikely to me. I like what From does, and I like their ethos. Not everything needs to appeal to everyone, and I wish more developers would stick to their niches.

            2. PPX14 says:

              Perhaps it’s the case that Souls players didn’t like the game to begin with either, for similar reasons, but having subsequently managed to derive immense joy from it by investigation and perseverance, feel the need to explain how this can be done, just in case you too could end up making the jump from loathing to adoring the game.

              For me this could be the case for Hollow Knight which I started out despising and ended up really enjoying. Although, in that case, and the case of Jedi Outcast, it’s more perseverance until the game opens up, than it is a case of playing it in specific ways. And I think I love HK as a metroidvania, not as a Soulslike.

              But it does feel condescending. When my Dark Souls evangelist friend kept telling me to think of defeats as learning opportunities and that it was about getting into the frame of mind that blah blah blah I cursed his condescension and didn’t want to play it! I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of DS so far, but I think that is partly due to the benefit of his live-walkthrough sitting next to me for the first bits, and looking stuff up when wandering back and forth became too dull.

          3. Guest says:

            This is exactly it, thank you.

            I’m just hearing the old opinion I had of the game “It is depressing and frustrating and miserable” coming back to me, and I’m hearing people complain about things that they didn’t need to do, that the game has features to specifically avoid.

            It’s fair to still go “I don’t WANT to learn to play it” “I don’t think I will enjoy it” or whatever, but to still be making statements about what it IS is just wrong, it’s flat wrong. You can get through all the best parts of the game, beat Ornstein and Smough, while not getting it and playing it wrong: Source, me. I’ll send you the screenshots of my ridiculously overlevelled Giants armor Ring of Havel Dragon’s Greatsword build that I only made work by farming for hours to level stats I didn’t need because I was playing the game wrong if you want.

            If you don’t want to play it, don’t play it. Just stop complaining that it’s bad because of things that literally are just mistakes you made. It’s like seeing someone put all their points into Dex in an RPG and then wondering why playing a greatsword fighter isn’t working out for them. I’m watching the grandma from the “Self balancing difficulty” article complain that the game is wrong because they aren’t going as fast as the guy who read the rulebooks, and instead of learning something, it’s everyone else’s fault.

            The first time I played Dark Souls, I gave up after 2 weeks. I said, this game is about depression, and it makes me depressed and that’s not good for me. Came back a few times and pushed further, never had any fun. It was all very difficult and I had to really fight to get through. I couldn’t beat Sif the Wolf, even once I got my extra heavy armour etc, because that playstyle makes that fight even worse.

            When I gave it another try and actually learned, after I played Dark Souls 3, I realised, this game is not about depression and failure. It’s about overcoming depression and making active choices in the world, and fighting through the misery instead of hiding from it. I stuck with it, finished it, did a NG+ run, had a blast.

            I am not going to tell you to “git gud”. I am not going to tell you that you are just bad. I have seen some of the least skilled gamers get through the game-it really isn’t that hard or beyond anyone. I am happy to give you all the tips you need to get past anything in the game, and I assure you, it’s not that hard. Actually, to the system based mind, it’s very, very satisfying. I’m not propping up my ego with “This game is too hard for you”. I’m earnestly trying to explain to you-the way you have chosen to play the game is why it is miserable for you and there are alternatives, and dismissing anyone suggesting that as fanboyism is just wrong. I’ve gotten the “you just gotta git gud” speech dozens of times, that’s not what I’m selling here. I’ve seen the fanboys who’s love for the game is that other people hate it, and they are pathetic. If you like it, you should try to encourage other people to see what’s good about it.

            1. tmtvl says:

              If you don’t want to play it, don’t play it.

              I feel like the Souls community should adopt more of this and step off the whole shoving-souls-down-people’s-throat thing. You can’t both tell people they can’t have an easy mode AND tell people they have to play the game. If you try to have your cake and eat it, you wind up having naught but shit.

        2. Nordheim says:

          Same thing I told Shamus in my follow-up post about not wanting to change anyone’s subjective taste in the matter, with an addendum: if “But if you just failed in the correct way…” is all you took from my argument it only confirms what I’ve been thinking, that the well has been poisoned by too many people arguing in bad faith that it’s a genre based upon failing and it sadly turned a lot of people away. Too bad.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            I love Dark Souls and all I took from your argument was “No, there’s interesting tactical depth in exactly how many minutes of your life the developer wastes each respawn!” You have missed Shamus’ central point, which is that when you die to a boss, you naturally want to fight the boss again, and it is frustrating to not do that.

            His point was very clearly explained, and the biggest thing that poisons the well is not bad faith but people like you who earnestly just love Dark Souls and want to tell everyone about how great this thing they love is, to the point that they don’t notice someone saying “I hate respawning so much that it makes me break controllers.”

            1. Nordheim says:

              I don’t care about the series that much honestly, so don’t paint me as some sort of fanboy.

              Yes, there’s interesting decision making in boss runbacks, the whole healing system is built with that in mind, it’s one of the most defining features in the genre. Sorry you can’t derive enjoyment from it, but framing it as time-wasting but with extra steps is entirely on you. That’s the MO of the last few posts I’ve answered to, framing me as the bad guy who’s trying to steal your entitlement to subjectively not liking a game, yet sneaking in an unfounded jab at the game itself. I make a retort to the latter, not the former, and the cycle restarts anew.

              I’ve been following the blog for years, I know what Shamus thinks of Souls games, and I’ve always noticed a good chunk of his dislike comes from thinking that the game revolves around making you suffer arbitrarily and unavoidably until you suddenly don’t anymore and it feels good. He’s entitled to not liking it, but as @Daimbert said it’s not unreasonable for me to chime in and argue that it’s not really a trait of the game. I don’t follow the blog that much to know Shamus had so many discussions over this argument that mine was somehow warranted of his dismissive replies.

              1. Ninety-Three says:

                framing it as time-wasting but with extra steps is entirely on you

                I’m prepared to defend that framing. There is a point at which you can make it from the bonfire to the boss with full estus, where you have clearly demonstrated your mastery of all the stuff other than the boss, and the game still makes you redo that run every time you die to the boss. This is arbitrary and the only way to avoid it is to stop dying to the boss, which is not actionable advice (“Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” “Well don’t do that!”). Even before you’ve reached this point, you get better returns by spending twenty minutes practicing the boss than ten minutes practicing the boss and ten minutes tuning up your run to arrive with ten estus instead of six.

                It’s most noticeable in DS2 with the way enemies despawn after you’ve killed them enough. I’ve heard that described as a convenience feature, so you don’t need to fight them a thirteenth time on your way to a boss that’s killed you a lot, but it just highlights how silly it is that the game is making you sprint through ninety seconds of empty corridors to get back to the boss instead of sticking a bonfire outside his arena. 2D games like Hotline Miami and Super Meat Boy get praised for the fact that you can restart a level one second after dying instead of sitting through a five second death-and-respawn animation that some platformers inflict, but Dark Souls over here has somehow decided that user-friendliness means shortening your commute from four minutes to two.

                Dark Souls is needlessly frustrating in a number of ways, and respawning is one of the worst ones.

                1. Lino says:

                  Incidentally, this is the main reason I like the more forgiving Souls-like games (e.g. Darksiders III and Hollow Knight) – you can very quickly get back to whatever killed you.

                  The other main reason I prefer them to the Souls games is that, since they aren’t as punishing, they can afford to have your character be faster which enhances my enjoyment greatly, since my other problem with Dark Souls is how the characters’ slow, calculated, deliberate fighting moves make it look like drunk people fighting.

                  1. Karma The Alligator says:

                    Gonna disagree about Hollow Knight. Sometimes the last bench is pretty far from the boss, and having to navigate everything with only part of your magic just makes things worse.

                    1. Lino says:

                      Yes, but what saves it for me are the satisfying fighting and traversal mechanics. You may need to walk a long way, but at least getting there feels fun, and not like a chore.

                2. Geebs says:

                  Those 90 seconds of corridors give you a higher chance of picking up a summon. People keep mistaking Dark Souls for a single-player game, when it’s actually a co-operative multiplayer game which most of its fans insist on soloing because we’re a bunch of huge masochists.

                  1. Nimrandir says:

                    The problem is that opening yourself up to cooperation is also opening yourself up to griefers who know precisely how to build their characters to ruin your day.

                    I realize my experience is anecdata, but my first human run in Demon’s Souls featured a guy who used Acid Fog and the Scraping Spear to destroy all my stuff — before I ever saw a summoning sign. I had no idea what had happened until I checked a wiki. Repairs were so expensive that I just deleted the character, started over, and killed myself in the central hub any time I defeated a boss.

                    Perhaps Dark Souls and its successors have gotten rid of that build, but you will be unsurprised to find my desire for jolly cooperation diminished.

                    1. Geebs says:

                      That’s still consistent with the more general point I was making: there are a lot of design decisions in the Souls games that could be labelled strange (or inconvenient) if you consider them as single-player games, but which are actually just artefacts of the ways in which the multiplayer features are incorporated.

                  2. Supah Ewok says:

                    Well, I can see how that might’ve been going through the devs’ minds, but their design fails in that. The resource for summons (humanity) is limited, easily lost if you’re already having trouble with the game, not easy to replenish without significant game knowledge which a first time player wouldn’t have, and isn’t emphasized by the game’s scant tutorial. For most of my run of the game, humanity went into my backpack as a limited resource to conserve and never remember to use, same as all RPGs. I’d actually call it bad design, without the excuse of being misunderstood like so many of the game’s other systems get a pass for.

                    1. tmtvl says:

                      Humanity is a fairly common drop from rats in DS1, in DS2 you get a lot of human effigeries from regular play but I’m not sure whether enemies that drop ’em become unlimited with COC.

                    2. Supah Ewok says:

                      What in the world is going to clue people in that rats of all things drop humanity? I beat the game while getting some tips from the wiki and friends and I sure never noticed.

                      Not only that, according to the wiki, the big ones with a 100% drop rate are in the Depths; that’s one of two possible routes to take at the beginning of the game, and is locked behind the Capra Demon which is the most commonly complained of boss, so if the game is meant to be played with cooperative help, that’s bad design.

                    3. Ninety-Three says:

                      What in the world is going to clue people in that rats of all things drop humanity?

                      Sheer luck, the only guaranteed humanity drop is from a once-only giant boss rat in the sewers, the rest only have it as a rare drop that you have to farm for it to really matter. If you don’t go out of you way to maximize rat kills, you’ll pick up maybe a couple humanity from rats over a playthrough. There’s also a rich get richer problem where having humanity (in the can-be-lost-on-death character stat form, not the safe item form) increases your drop rate significantly, with diminishing returns the more you have.

                      The other source of humanity (besides a handful of items placed in the world) is that killing enemies in a zone increases an invisible counter and when that counter gets high enough (roughly: killing everything from the start to the end of a zone will mostly fill it) you get a free humanity (stat, not item). Each zone has its own counter and each free humanity found in a particular zone makes the zone’s kills-to-humanity meter slightly higher, after ten it stops paying out entirely. It also stops paying out if you kill the boss in a zone. As far as I’m aware, the only in-game indication that this mechanic even exists is a small animation that occurs when you get your free humanity.

                      It wouldn’t be a bad design except for the fact that you can only learn about it by reading the wiki.

              2. Guest says:

                I don’t get why you’re arguing with these people. The boss run isn’t an exploit, it’s intended play.

                You learn the layout on the exploring. You learn it from your boss attempt, you learn the location of enemies.

                You sprint until you see an enemy, then you slow to get some stamina back before trying to sprint past them.

                If you see them winding up for an attack, and all attacks have windups and you know what the “Just walking around” vs “Windups” are from exploring, you roll a couple of times and you are clear, you continue sprinting.

                Do this until you get to the door. Take out any ranged enemies who might prevent you from interacting with the fog door, same with enemies like dogs who are capable of chasing you and stunlocking you for dayz if you run, and you are set.

                It’s not an exploit, it’s not avoiding gameplay. It’s literally the reward the game has for you exploring the area before making a boss attempt.

          2. BlueBlazeSpear says:

            I certainly agree with that point. It’s a poisoned well. At this point, there’s more poison than water down there.

            Who knows what games I’m missing out on because someone called them “Souls-like” and I summarily dismissed them as not for me.

      2. Nordheim says:

        It wasn’t “I’ll bestow my infinite knowledge upon this inferior mind” as much as it was “yes a lot of people with shaky arguments will tell you it’s bad and stupid and obnoxious on purpose to make you FEEL ALIVE, but please take into consideration it’s not supposed to be the BDSM’s community favorite past time”, but okay.

        I get what the implication of your paragraph was obviously, and my post wasn’t a scientific explanation on why you are wrong in not enjoying thing as I never directly mentioned your personal taste in the matter. I don’t think you need to be taught that discussion over opposite point of views regarding X isn’t about magically changing your mind about your subjective preference of consuming X, so I really don’t know why you took it that way.
        It’s just that the paragraph, which was paraphrasing the pro-Souls arguments I assume you’ve been hearing for years, only addresses the one that makes the community look like a bunch of sad masochistic bastards, my mindset was that of “aww I sure hope Shamus doesn’t think this game isn’t just about hammering nails in your eyes because it feels good to pull them off, I wonder if he heard of these other arguments?”.

        1. Shamus says:

          I get it now, thanks.

      3. Guest says:

        Sure. But Dark Souls made me miserable too. Because I played like you. You are playing the game wrong.

        As they just explained-the punishment for dying to a boss is the load time, plus the 45 seconds it takes you to sprint past every enemy to get back to the fog door, which makes you invulnerable to damage the MOMENT you interact with it.

        At this point, it’s just you playing the game wrong, and when people explain: Hey man, I know why you’re having a bad time, I had the same bad time, here’s what you do to get around it you go


        Dude, you are playing it wrong, a mate who actually enjoys these games could teach you to do the same in 2 hours of coop play. I went from a miserable coward hiding behind stone armour and a giant shield feeling depressed, to a glorious idiot running around in the lightest armour possible, with no shield, running straight at enemies with leaping attacks like a madman like a viking hero. The more you deliberately refuse to get it, the more inappropriate it is that you comment on it.

        1. Shamus says:

          You are so completely obnoxious, tone-deaf, foolish, and moronic, I initially assumed you were doing this as parody. I’m not playing the game wrong. It’s the wrong game for me. I played it. I tried it. I hated it. End of story.

          This is my goddamn website and I’m going to post my views on Dark Souls. Cope with it or fuck off. I’m not going to spend hours of my finite life being miserable because you think I owe something to you or to this game.

          Furthermore, how dare you.

        2. Shamus says:

          Okay. I’ve taken an hour or so to calm down. I apologize for the meltdown. This isn’t a great way for the host to act.

          I can see you’re projecting your own experience onto me. You’re going to have to take my word for it that our problems are drastically different.

          In any case, you need to let this go.

        3. Gethsemani says:

          Yeah, but you are still spending Load Time+45 seconds running back to the Fog Door every time you die to a boss and potentially much longer if you die to a rando mob quite a bit away from a bonfire. It doesn’t really matter if someone forces you to dribble that basketball for 2 minutes or for 45 seconds, because what people like me and Shamus dislike about the entire thing is that we are forced to dribble a basketball instead of getting a new chance to play the Moonlight Sonata. To be utterly clear: It is the very idea that we have to do a trip between bonfire and fog door every time we fail the boss that is the problem, not what kind of challenge is between bonfire and fog door.

          This is sort of like someone saying that they hate eating meat and people going “Oh but you are eating meat all wrong. You can’t just cook meat like some rando dish, you need to do this really specific kind of meat cooking and use these 40 herbs and spices and it will taste delicious”. It is not only utterly unhelpful, it is pretty belittling that you can’t even grasp the basics of the statement, namely that it doesn’t matter how the meat tastes when it is everything about meat that’s the problem.

        4. AncientSpark says:

          Or, and jump this hoop with me, sometimes it’s a miserable experience to have someone have to handhold you for 2 hours just because the game is too obtuse? Like, that’s not a fun thing to have by default into your game. Sometimes, people like learning mechanics on their own through reasonable trial and error and impediments in the game design prevent that from being an easy point.

          Like, it’s not even that crazy to go “Hey look, I’ve been trying to get past this boss, but the game makes it too difficult or me to learn, I just don’t enjoy it.” It has nothing to do with skill, it has everything to do with what you enjoy. You can’t just say “Hey look, my friend sucks and he hated the game initially, but he pushed past it” because that’s a conscious choice on his part to decide that it’s worth learning. Learning Dark Souls is not a self-evident good use of time, regardless of how good it made YOU feel at the end of the day.

          So it is ENTIRELY valid to appreciate things about DS, but say that you bounced off of it and you want things that you respected in it in a different context. It’s why people, *gasp*, choose different games in the same genre.

  6. Thomas says:

    Top 2 games of 2019 ‘You may wonder why I like them as there’s so much to complain about but…’

    1. Thomas says:

      And the game of the decade came out in 2009! (Although I absolutely agree that it’s the game of the decade. It’s been huge for 10 years, how many games to say that?)

      1. Eigil says:

        I think Skyrim has a reasonable shot at game of the decade (especially since it actually did come out in 2011..).
        It might not still be huge, but it’s still a very big part of popular culture (Bethesda was still referencing it last E3!).

        Also, the “official” release date for Minecraft was actually 2011 (although the “official release” was pretty meaningless).

        1. Henson says:

          Well, Skyrim’s got a good chance of being game of the decade: not only came out in 2011, it feels like it’s come out every year since then as well.

        2. galacticplumber says:

          I mean…. You say that, but if we don’t use the official date we have to get into a deep debate of line twisting about what does, and doesn’t count. A game shouldn’t be counted as being released just because the public is allowed to play in the clearly incomplete beta of the first playable version.

          Therefore, go official. Less headaches.

  7. Nordheim says:

    I made a long post in response to the article and I think it posted successfully. I then tried to edit it to improve formatting and it warned me it was impossible to change as it was marked for spam. I reloaded the page and my post was completely erased.

    This is like the second time I ever posted a comment in, what, six years? So I’m not sure what my mistake was here

    1. Erik says:

      In most comment systems, including too many links will get you marked as spam. In many systems, even one link will get your post held until it can be checked by a moderator.

      I don’t recall exactly what Shamus’s system uses as its threshold, but that’s very often a cause of being marked spam.

      1. Supah Ewok says:

        Shamus has to update his comment system every once in a while to keep up in the Spam Wars. Over the years, I’ve noticed the system has good iterations and weak iterations. Currently, it’s in a bit of a weak one. It keeps spam out, but sometimes it just plain loses user posts, especially with edits. The worst cases don’t even need a link, if I remember some complaints right.

  8. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    At least I’ve actually heard of all three games in this “best of” list, unlike the last list. I’ve played none of them, but I’m at least familiar enough with the titles to have some sort of context to what you have to say about them.

    In the case of Satisfactory, I think it’s just my environment that kept this game out of my hands: I just don’t game on PC anymore. Which is a shame because I get tons of joy out of the “gather resources, craft, then build” gaming loop and I get the distinct impression that Steam is overflowing with such titles. In this case, it’s probably for the better that I don’t game on the PC because it would probably own too much of my life if I fell down this particular gameplay rabbit hole.

    Control is one of those games that seems like it would be right in my wheelhouse on paper. But the reality is that what I’ve seen and heard of it has done nothing for me. It just seems like it flirts with a lot of the things that I like without really committing to any of them. But at least it seems like the type of game that I might pick up from a bargain bin sometime down the road if I find myself looking for something different.

    As far as Fallen Order goes, I just don’t have any interest in it. I’m glad that the Souls games exist and that “Souls-like” is quickly becoming its own genre and, in the broader sense, that there’s a market for those types of games. Gameplay diversity is good for all gaming. But that’s a type of game that is just not for me. When I hear that a game has even a whiff of that type of gameplay, I’m out. I used to love that sort of challenge when I was younger, but now I just don’t have the time for it. With this game in particular, I also feel like I should say that I’m suffering from a case of Star Wars burnout. There’s just too much of it and I’ve reached a point where I’m tired of seeing and hearing about it. Five years ago, I would’ve been jazzed for such a game, but now I just don’t have the bandwidth for it.

    Here’s a weird admission from me: I’ve never once played Minecraft. That seems like an odd thing to say for someone who frequents this site, but it’s true. Again, I like a good crafting loop, but this game is like an old friend that I always secretly wanted to date: The timing just never matched up right and the connection never happened. At this point, I just feel like the window has closed and I’ve moved on to bigger, better (or perhaps just newer) things.

    At this point, Cyberpunk 2077 is the only thing on my 2020 gaming radar. All I want is some really good single-player games. I suspect that we’ll maybe get Starfield at the end of the year, which used to excite me, but Bethesda and Zenimax haven’t exactly been inspiring confidence lately. I know what I want that game to be, but that the reality is that it might only feign that in the most cosmetic of ways and otherwise be a disappointment. Sort of like back in the day when I bought Hydlide expecting it to be another Dragon Warrior.

  9. Ninety-Three says:

    You can’t build trains until you’ve already constructed a vastly inferior transport network

    I assume you mean superior.

    1. Shamus says:

      No, inferior. Like, you have to build lame-ass conveyors all across the world to carry late-game goods for kilometers. You MUST have the network working before you can get the resources to make trains. But once that’s done, the last thing I want to do is tear down all that hard work I JUST DID (and that’s operating just fine) so I can replace it with trains.

      Trains are cooler, but you can’t have them until after you no longer need them. It’s annoying.

      1. Erik says:

        Don’t forget, there’s also the (also inferior) truck-based networks.

        Trucks are very effective if they run out of the player’s sight; as soon as they get within draw distance they start being drawn frame-by-frame instead of just tracked in the background updates, and they get… rather buggy. The autopilot appears to always run at max speed, so making tight corners is unreliable. And collision mechanics on the trucks are the stuff of comedy videos, so when one misses the corner and hits the wall because you just happened to be walking nearby, it can bounce absolutely anywhere, including under the world at the center of the map in extreme cases. :)

        I think Satisfactory has to be the top game of the year for me – I love Factorio-style complex supply and build chains, but I have always had a soft spot for the immediacy of FPS, even though I’m too old and my reflexes now no longer let me be good at them. (I’d have kicked your ass after hours on the office LAN on the original Doom in ’93-4, tho.) Satisfactory lets me get both at the same time, and I’m just eagerly waiting for the Update 3 patch to drop later this month. There’s a teaser video due to drop today that I need to go watch, too. :)

  10. PhoenixUltima says:

    Wait, you don’t have a VR headset? What happened to your Oculus? Or is that thing no longer supported by anyone?

    1. Grimwear says:

      I recall Shamus saying…months? Years? ago that he sold off his dev kit and while he has been thinking about getting another one he just hasn’t got around to it.

      1. Shamus says:

        Good memory! This is correct.

        1. Lanthanide says:

          You can get an Oculus Quest which is standalone and doesn’t require a connection to a PC for $400.

          You can also connect it to a PC for more powerful games if you need to, but then you’ve got a tether again.

          1. Simplex says:

            Slight correction – you could buy Oculus Quest if it wasn’t sold out and back ordered till March.
            But it’s a great piece of kit and I hope Shamus will buy or at least borrow one.
            Or maybe some generous supporter will buy him one. I could chip in.
            Incidentally, Valve Index is also sold out.

            1. Simplex says:

              On the risk of sounding like a paid VR shill – right now there is a great deal on a decent Samsung VR HMD:

  11. Ninety-Three says:

    A lot of people rolled their eyes at Control, saying, “Pfft. It’s just SCP Foundation, The Video Game. It’s not an original idea.”

    Huh, one of my big complaints was “I wish this were more like SCP”. It bothers me that the main character is a flying, psychic-shielding telekinetic supersoldier because a big part of the SCP aesthetic is that it’s humans vs the spooks, but in Control, you are the spooks. The spooky stuff feels less alien and less dangerous when spooky stuff is also the reason you have a dash move. Control ends up feeling way too much like a superhero movie for me to ever worry about the infectious mind virus spreading through the compound, there’s little sense of menace around what theoretically should be a very menacing foe.

    1. Pax says:

      I think that was never going to happen, because all the superpowers were, I think, probably the original point of the game, and all of the setting, including the SCP-like stuff, came along to support it rather than vice-versa. But I also didn’t start looking into SCP until after I platinumed Control, so my expectations were no doubt very different than yours going in.

    2. Biggus Rickus says:

      Hmm. This is almost completely unrelated, but I think you’ve just touched on part of what makes the original X-Com: UFO Defense so compelling as a game. That feeling early of being normal humans taking on an overwhelmingly powerful alien force really sucks you in. You know, until you’ve played the game enough to know how to quickly make your force into superhuman demigods.

      1. Erik says:

        That was also true for me with XCOM: EU, the 2012 version, which was my first exposure to the franchise. Heck, even on my whatever’th replay of XCOM2 it’s still true.

        Huh. At some level, this is probably why I’ve never really liked including Psionics in my groups – having those powers yourself reduces that us-against-the-(alien)-world underdog feeling, a feeling that I wasn’t even consciously aware of.

    3. psychicprogrammer says:

      To be fair there has been a bit of a sea change at the wiki, with there being much more “paratech” (magic technology). The control protagonist would fit in quite well with MTF-lambda-12 (Achilles heels).

      Although the stuff that the foundation uses vs the FBC is much more understood in universe.

    4. galacticplumber says:

      The thing with SCP is that if you want to retain the original atmosphere of absolute pants-shitting terror, helplessness, and lack of understanding you don’t make a shooter or even a game where combat is an option. You make a horror game.

      So many of the SCP are quite literally impossible to kill/destroy/permanently contain such that the only possible way to survive in an area where one is loose is to understand, and exploit their individual special rules.

      Take SCP containment breach. Its iconic monster is SCP 173. Its gimmick is that it moves impossibly fast, but is incapable of moving while observed. You have to look at it constantly even while you move away, and are constantly on a blink timer. The only solution to temporarily trap the thing is to lock it in a room as you’re backing out.

      Alternatively there’s the inverse in the shy guy who is completely and utterly harmless so long as you don’t look at him, but will truly, and inevitably kill you dead if you see his face in any form even briefly. The game puts him camped in a room with an important switch that will unlock doors needed to progress. The only solution is shove your face into the wall and shuffle along to the switch hoping you don’t glimpse something when you turn.

      You are never safe. Lacking understanding of any of the critters when you’re just starting out means surviving more than a few minutes is an accomplishment, and reaching the good ending of this random layout horror game means necessarily understanding everything the game may throw at you.

  12. Ander says:

    The gameplay of Control has not intrigued me at all. I wanted to play it once I started hearing about some big special set piece (I’m a sucker for that). Maybe I’ll understand the hype once I play it. Concerning the world, I confess to being one of the wet blankets who thought “SCP: the Game” is a good concept but does disqualify a game for the “so innovative” praises, not because it’s derivative but because any setting that facilitates hodgepodge like SCP probably lacks a certain cohesion, much like a Planescape campaign. “Anything can happen” is not terribly appealing to me without rules for expectation which can be helpfully subverted.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      It doesn’t even deliver on “anything can happen”, all the magic artifacts you encounter are so plain, not as a result of adhering to some sensible ruleset but seemingly out of sheer lack of creativity. There’s a traffic light that teleports you away from it if you fail at playing its game of Red Light, Green Light, there’s a slide projector that projects portals to other worlds, there’s an anchor that clones things which has gone all Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and those are the only interesting ones I can remember. The rest are like “A rubber duck that teleports randomly” or “a floppy disk that does random telekinetic flinging”.

      1. psychicprogrammer says:

        On the SCP wiki there is a term for this, “thing what do a thing”. This kind of thing is usually not that interesting unless you tell a story about it.

        1. galacticplumber says:

          Yes. That word is SAFE. It doesn’t mean the thing can’t hurt anyone, but that it’s properties are fully understood, and that its containment procedure is legitimately foolproof without outside intervention. Things like that can be wiggy fun, but they can’t fully carry the tone of anything but a weird action game.

    2. Pax says:

      On the plus side there, the lore of Control is much more focused than the hodge-podge of SCP. That makes for less variety, but means everything is more focused, and the different weird things kind of work together in the same framework.

      1. Ander says:

        That’s the kind of thing I want to hear (or “they have more gameplay variety in the artifacts than you’d expect”). That, and there’s more to the environmental design than lab and industrial complex.

  13. tmtvl says:

    Couldn’t help but notice nobody is talking about Death Stranding. Good.

    My prediction for 2020 is disappointment. Lots of disappointment and I’m going to love watching so many hearts break.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Man. I had completely forgotten about Death Stranding’s existence until you mentioned it. I haven’t actually played the game, but wow, it’s obvious that no one is talking about it. I don’t care how much it sold, that right there is a sign of massive failure.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Oh yeah. I remember a whole load of buildup and excitement about Death Stranding…followed by nothing, once it came out. Not that I went out of my way to look for it, but still.

        I’ll admit to some good ol’ schadenfreude at this (lack of) news.

        1. Thomas says:

          Super Bunnyhop adores the game and put out an interesting video on it

      2. Chad Miller says:

        And from a Kojima game, no less. How many of his good games didn’t result in some omnipresent ridiculous meme catchphrase? I need scissors! 61!

      3. shoeboxjeddy says:

        It is unsurprising that someone who neither bought nor played Death Stranding quickly forgot about it. That doesn’t mean the cultural conversation about the game is now over. I watched two different popular (judging by hits and comments) Youtube videos about it this very week.

    2. BlueBlazeSpear says:

      Death Stranding sits weirdly with me. On one hand, I feel like I should blindly support it because it was made by an auteur who’s out there trying to make weird, unique things that we’re going to find nowhere else in the gaming landscape. But on the other hand, it’s pretty much a walking simulator where a significant portion of the gameplay is literally trying to walk and/or run without toppling over.

      It’s odd how quickly that it fell out of the discussion. Like others here, I completely forgot that the game existed until you brought it up. I wonder what that says about the game, if anything. It seemed like it was well-received – moreso by the critics than the users. But all that makes me think is “Has everyone else just had the same thought that I had: That maybe we should blindly get behind this game because of who made it and under the circumstances in which they made it?” I figure that it fell off the radar so fast (at least within the wider circles) because people were more enamored with the idea of the game than they were with the actual game itself.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        because people were more enamored with the idea of the game than they were with the actual game itself.

        I was saying that all the way back when the first E3 trailer came out. Normally when people get excited about a trailer they’ll say things like “Shoot Guy 4 added jetpacks, it’s so cool!” or “Wow, their art-deco aesthetic is gorgeous”, but when it came to Death Stranding, people weren’t excited over any details about it, just the fact that Kojima was making another of those weird auteur videogames he makes.

      2. tmtvl says:

        I feel like I should blindly support it because it was made by an auteur

        Peter Molyneux.

        That should be more than enough to go on, but I’ll rephrase for clarity: just because Sid Meier exists, is a big name, and has that name attached to wonderful things does not mean that auteur = good. For an example, see above.

    3. Geebs says:

      I rather enjoyed Death Stranding. A game where killing somebody is framed as a complete disaster is a welcome change from the usual shooter stuff.

      Plus, it looks stupendously good.

    4. Supah Ewok says:

      It might not be talked about at the moment, but it was talked about more at its release and the next few weeks than most games that were released last year. I think The Witcher, The Mandalorian, and the new Star Wars movie knocked it off its pedestal for Nerd Talk a bit prematurely.

      It doesn’t qualify for “industry shaker”, but it was an interesting curiosity that will probably provide fodder for analysis over the next few years.

      1. galacticplumber says:

        What happened was a niche game staying niche. Death Stranding is a game wildly divergent from just about most games that exist that got some attention due to name recognition. Thing is while a niche game will inevitably appeal to a group of people who genuinely love it for doing something most games just don’t, said game is by no means guaranteed to catch wildfire lasting attention.

        Statistically speaking, they just can’t all be runaway hits that spawn entirely new genres like the souls series.

  14. slug camargo says:

    I keep seeing videos and playing demos of the System Shock Remake, and I’m always left cold by the vapidly floaty melee combat. I wanna love it because it should be everything I want from a 0451 game, but damn it plays badly.

    I don’t expect every first person game to have Condemned-level of combat but… actually, I kind of am. If Condemned could get satisfyingly hefty, visceral meaty melee combat in a first person perspective 15 years ago, we should be able to replicate it by now. Otherwise, I’d rather not having melee combat at all. At the very least, have the damned enemies flinch ever so slightly when I’m bludgeoning them with a pipe, goddamnit.

  15. slug camargo says:

    The level design is obnoxious.

    Could you elaborate on this a little? I haven’t played the game myself, but one of the things that intrigued me is that they sold it as a true 3D metroidvania, which sounds right up my alley. If the level design is something to complain about, it doesn’t look goo. Unless the thing you find obnoxious is that it is metroidvania-ish, I guess.

    1. evilmrhenry says:

      From what I saw in the Spoiler Warning run, the issue is that it’s complicated to go where you need to go. You absolutely need to consult the map to get wherever you’re going, and you won’t be taking a direct route. There’s probably something to be said for having distinct landmarks, hub areas, and Valve-style lighting cues. If you’re good at 3D navigation, it should be fine, just a bit annoying. If you can get lost on the way to the kitchen, this could be an actual problem.

  16. Crimson Dragoon says:

    The comic relief character is only mildly amusing.

    I disagree with you from time to time, but them’s fightin’ words right there. Greez is a perfect little four-armed ball of sarcasm.

    1. PPX14 says:

      Hmm, is he like the Racoon in GotGalaxy?

  17. Hector says:

    Shamus, not sure if you heard but my favorite early news of 2020story is that GFWL is somehow still screwing thing up!

    Rockstar had to pull GTA4 due to gfwl being unable generate more keys. Yes, there was evidently some kind of hard coded key logic, which is terrible design but whatever.

    1. Richard says:

      What the actual?

      That’s been a solved problem for decades!
      Even Microsoft solved that – Windows and Office both have keygens that have definitely handled a far larger number of valid keys than any GFWL game could possibly have had.

  18. Joshua says:

    “Don’t EVEN start with the “Actually, the new decade doesn’t start until 2021!” nonsense. I organize decades by the second digit. Deal with it.”

    I saw someone post today that the “20’s” don’t actually start until next year. Seeing as to how it’s an informal descriptor of the decade, wouldn’t something like the 90s, 20s, etc. refer to those literal years starting with that number? So, you’d have 1990 technically ending the decade that started in 1981, but informally it also kick-started the 90s. Kind of like an overlap year.

    1. Hal says:

      It gets more complicated when you go conceptually.

      We think of the decades as characterized by various factors: Fashions, music, cultural trends, significant events, etc. These defy confinement to particular 10-year periods. Some don’t start the 60s until after the death of JFK (63), for example.

      1. Thomas says:

        That sort of fits with how a lot of the big trends in games this decade were started slightly before – like Assassin’s Creed is probably the most influential game on AAA game design this decade but came out in 2007, and Demons Souls came out in 2009

        1. Supah Ewok says:

          I’d nitpick that it was Assassin’s Creed 2 in 2009 and Dark Souls in 2011 where other companies started taking notes, but your point still stands. Good observation.

      2. Joshua says:

        I also tend to view the 90s in a first half/second half kind of way. (However, I also graduated high school in 1995, so I’m biased). Musically, you had the grunge and alternative revolution era in the first half of the 90s, while you had post-grunge, Nu-Metal and the like in the second half. I’d defer to someone with better wisdom to talk about pop, rap, and country.

        The other major distinction is that the internet really started taking off around 1994 and 1995, making the second half of the decade very than the first half.

        Politically, it gets more complicated, at least in the U.S.

  19. OldOak says:

    *witnessing Shamus appreciate good visual quality in SWJ: FO, and his more recent ME comeback*
    Food for thought: could’ve later BioWare games been better if the “natural” switch to UE4 would’ve been allowed by EA?

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      We don’t know that EA “disallowed” anything. The “EA forces their developers to use Frostbite” narrative is demonstrably false: without counting the tiny indie releases we have the following franchises all not using Frostbite: Apex Legends, Burnout, Fallen Order, NHL, NBA, Sims, Titanfall, and UFC.

      Furthermore, the only evidence people have for the notion is a statement EA made years ago about how they’d like to bring everything over to Frostbite (people are strangely more trusting of this statement than most of what EA says). Heck, we have multiple lengthy Jason Schreier pieces where Bioware insiders complain about the decision to use Frostbite and “We didn’t want to but EA pressured us” is conspicuously absent.

      There’s just very little reason to think this wasn’t a self-inflicted wound.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        I wouldn’t call it “demonstrably false”.

        NHL, NBA and UFC all keep basically the exact same game with minimal changes. The entire point of these franchises is to make big bucks by releasing anual updates with very little change. Moving things to a new engine would force them to make precisely the amount of effort they don’t want to.

        Plus, the whole “move everything to Frostbite” move is something that came out in the mid-to-late 2010s, well after most of those games you mention had already been launched. Then there are Apex Legends and Fallen Order, two games that launched this year, well after EA realized the Frostbite engine isn’t as versatile as they thought.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Bioware was using Frostbite as early as the 2014 release of Dragon Age 3, so if you want to argue that that Frostbite Everything push was mid-to-late 10s, it’s hard to count Bioware as a product of that push. You still haven’t addressed The Sims or Burnout, which don’t get the “zero effort yearly sequel” excuse and so provide counterexamples of EA clearly not forcing Frostbite on everyone.

          Your explanation of Fallen Order is that EA had realized Frostbite was a bad idea and walked back that decision by then. Problem: FO was in development since early 2014. According to your timeline, EA stopped pushing Frostbite due to its lack of versatility before trying to move everything to Frostbite. I’m also curious how their continuing decision to make Bioware games on Frostbite is supposed to tie in with this imagined realization of the engine’s limitations.

          1. OldOak says:

            Could’ve been BioWare were the main guinea pig for this type of transition/migration?
            DA: I was a controversial result, ME: A was (unfortunately) left to rot despite a similar (somehow hotter) controversy, and Anthem might’ve been the last drop (the real disaster).

            1. Henson says:

              I don’t think Dragon Age: Inquisition was particularly controversial, especially at the time of release. It was a fairly well regarded game, a ‘return to form’ after DA2 and ME3, that has received more lukewarm reactions as time has passed.

              1. guy says:

                At the time, there was a fair bit of criticism about its open world feeling bland and repetative, as well as buggy and unbalanced, with graphics crashes and virtually invincible Knight-Enchanters.

                1. OldOak says:

                  And similarly with ME3, it received its three crown jewels DLCs (which definitely “lukewarmed” the overall perception :-D ).

                2. Thomas says:

                  The majority of that was a fair bit after release. Dragon Age Inquisition had a metacritic score only 3 points lower than The Witcher 3 and won several game of the year awards (include the ‘main’ Keighley one)

      2. Guest says:

        There is literally inside data saying they heavily encourage their teams to use it, and they lend out in house Frostbite teams to try to smooth the switchover. It’s demonstrably true, they can’t “Force” most of their devs to do it, but you see the closer to EA’s control a team is, the more likely they are using Frostbite.

        EA obviously wants to make more with Frostbite-they are selling Frostbite, and want case studies and showpieces.

  20. Mattias42 says:

    Resident Evil 3 is currently my most anticipated! Never played the original, but I didn’t do that with #2 either, and RE:Make 2 last year blew me away.

    Heck, did my first S rank run just a few weeks ago.

    I mean, sure, I’m also looking forwards to Doom Eternal, Cyberpunk and Bloodlines 2, but I’m just so starved for AAA horror, and RE2 last year was such a neat surprise.

  21. Dreadjaws says:

    Don’t EVEN start with the “Actually, the new decade doesn’t start until 2021!” nonsense. I organize decades by the second digit. Deal with it.

    It’s perfectly fine to have personal preferences, but I don’t think that justifies referring to logic and basic mathematics as “nonsense”.

    1. Erik says:

      Saying that the decade starts on the ‘1 is not just pedantry, it’s incorrect pedantry.

      begin pedantry :)

      The argument that centuries start on 1 instead of 0 due to the fact that the Christian calendar has no year 0 are at least mathematically valid. (Though historically weak, due to the currently accepted year of Christ’s birth being most likely -4 BC, because the Year of Four Emperors was accidentally counted 4 times when backdating, so… yeah.) Since the year in Common Era is referenced to that year 1, calling a century the years from 1-100 is reasonable.

      But decades are not centuries. Decades are NOT referenced to year 1 – we don’t talk about this decade as being the 202nd decade of CE. A decade, by definition, is a period of 10 years. A decade is NOT a period of 10 years that starts at a 10-year interval from the CE base year. Decades are very much a social construct, not a mathematical construct.

      As a social construct, a decade begins and ends whenever society at large deems them to begin and end. And in support of my thesis, I call VH-1 to testify:

      Maddona’s “Vogue”, released in 1990, is #5 on VH1’s Greatest Songs of the 1990s.
      “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC, released in 1980, is #10 on VH1’s Greatest Songs of the 1980s.

      I submit that VH-1 is a far better arbiter of what society as a whole consider to be a decade than either my opinion or yours. By their judgement, the correct social construct is that decades are all years sharing all common digits except the last.

      To quote our host, “Deal with it.”

      end pedantry
      garnish with appropriate smilies and sarcasm

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Well since we’re doing pedantry…

        You’re wrong about the century/decade distinction: neither are inherently a property of calendars, one is exactly as much a mathematical construct as the other. If you accept one-indexed centuries but not decades, you’re going to need to articulate a distinction between them and decades. You can’t pull the “social construct, it is whatever we say it is” routine for decades while admitting centuries work because of math.

        You’re also equivocating between “a decade” and “the decade”. Yes, a decade is ten years so I can say in 2025 “It’s been a decade since 2015” and that will be correct, but if I pick 2025 to say “Today is the end of the decade”, everyone will look at me like I’m crazy because we all know that the decade refers to some specific ten year period and it certainly doesn’t end in 5.

        If you’re going to accept one-indexed centuries as you seem to, insisting on zero-indexed decades starts to produce inconsistencies: no decade ends at the same point as the century, so you end up with Game of the Century containing every game released in the 80s decade, every game in the 90s decade, and a sliver of the games from the 00s decade. The century ends up containing entries from eleven different decades.

        For my part, I think the problem is with centuries. Just as decades have “the nineties” which ought to include 1990 on an obvious literal interpretation, it’s silly that we will talk about “the nineteen hundreds” which literally refers to 1900-1999 but isn’t “the twentieth century” (1901-2000).

        1. Erik says:

          I completely agree that the issue is not how we have defined decade, but rather how some people prefer we define century. I accepted for the sake of discussion the 1-indexed century for reasons of mathematical correctness, by a certain definition. However, I personally believe that definition is wrong, the social construct is correct on centuries as well, and I was happy to celebrate 2000 as the millennium. Though I also celebrated 2001, because twice the party is twice as good, right?

          But I’m very definitely not pulling a “whatever we say it is” argument here. The difference *in the social construct* between centuries and decades lies in how they are referred to. You always hear of centuries referred to in reference to the origin – twentieth, nineteenth, etc. Decades, on the other hand, are always referred to in cardinal – the ’80s, the ’50s, the Roaring Twenties, and so on.

          That difference is what makes the century argument a valid point of discussion (what is the reference origin point for the counting order? 20th from what?) and the decades argument invalid (there is no non-zero reference point to be relative to, and 90 does not fall into the 80’s in any mathematical system). Anyone who argues in favor of decades starting from 1 using a mathematical basis stolen from the centuries argument is being intellectually lazy – the two are not the same, and aren’t even described by the same part of speech.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            You always hear of centuries referred to in reference to the origin – twentieth, nineteenth, etc.

            Are they? People say “the nineteen hundreds” a lot. Given the 99% overlap, people use “the nineteen hundreds” and “the twentieth century” almost interchangeably (many people don’t even know there’s a difference). I propose that centuries are often not referred to by their index.

            there is no non-zero reference point to be relative to

            Have you considered the same non-zero reference point we use for centuries? Like, what exactly do you imagine the mathematical argument is that it works for centuries and millennia but not decades?

            1. Erik says:

              Are they? People say “the nineteen hundreds” a lot. Given the 99% overlap, people use “the nineteen hundreds” and “the twentieth century” almost interchangeably (many people don’t even know there’s a difference).

              Multiple issues with this.
              1) Even you explicitly admit that these are *not* interchangeable to “people” (merely almost interchangeable). When it matters, native speakers usually know what sounds right, even if they don’t know why.
              2) Making an argument based on ignorance (many people don’t know X) is completely irrelevant.
              3) We’re talking about the start of the century here, not the start of “the nineteen hundreds”. The claim people make is that the 21st century started in 2001. No one makes the argument that the 2000s started in 2001.

              That’s basic mathematical inclusion – zero is defined as part of the set of cardinal numbers. When we use numbers, they *always* include the base number as part of the set, so that your twenties are defined as ages 20-29; your thirties are 30-39. The years work the same – the 20’s are 20-29; the 1900’s are 1900-1999.

              But when we look at the concept of when the “twentieth century” starts, one HAS to ask, twentieth century since what? The twentieth century since the founding of the Roman Empire, which was one of the major calendars used when Christ was born? That was almost 800 years ago. The twentieth century since the vision of Mohammed, another common current calendar? That’s not for another 650 years. The twentieth century since the birth of Christ? Oh, ok. So… when was that? If it’s the actual birth of Christ, the century probably began in 1997. So if you insist that it *has* to be referenced to the arbitrary and incorrectly determined year 1, not to the numerical base 0 nor the historical base -4, then and only then do you get 2001.

              Or, and hear me out on this, we could stop being pedantic and just call it as starting at the same time as the odometer rolls over, and save everyone a lot of reading me rant about historical calendars.

              But that’s why I say there’s a stupid but legitimate argument about the start of the century (ordinal number), but no valid argument about decades (or hundreds), because those are cardinal numbers and they just don’t work like that.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Ack-tually… this seems to be an issue stemming from the English language. In Spanish, for instance, there are two words, “decenio”, which means any period of ten years, and “década”, which exists precisely to distinguish the socially constructed divisions (the 80’s, the 90’s, etc.). Both of those words are translated to English as “decade”, as if they were interchangeable.

        This is why I say it should be treated as a mathematical issue. Math is universal, while languages create different issues with their particular rules. I guarantee you, even if your explanation were correct, it would only be for English-speaking countries, and since the calendar isn’t exclusive to them, it’s just not good enough.

    2. Guest says:

      Girls, girls, you’re all equally pedantic, and all equally boring.

      1. Erik says:

        Hey, we’re having a nice conversation over here in our corner. If you find us boring, go talk to someone else. *Turns back on them in a glorious flounce*

      2. Ninety-Three says:

        I assure you, we’re having more fun with our pedantry than you are with your smugness.

        1. RFS-81 says:

          How do you measure fun, though?

          1. Syal says:

            Obviously it’s measured from the baseline, though there’s contention about which baseline to use. Some half-measurers will tell you the baseline is from your current state, but the purist measurer knows you have to compare it to the formative baseline, of childhood. So instead of measuring from “sitting in your house staring at the walls”, you have to measure from the older “doing homework in Grade School”.

            1. Lino says:

              I actually think the baseline should be the person’s subjective feeling of average happiness, because the farther away a given period is, the worse our memory of it becomes. This is especially true when it comes to childhood memories, as we tend to forget things, or outright invent things that never actually happened.

              1. Syal says:

                That’s fine if you’re talking about fun in a colloqualial sense, but to determine true fun you have to strip away that subjectivity, which means you have to weigh it against a time where people aren’t weighing themselves down with thoughts about the future. Lots of people use the average adult baseline and think they’re having true fun, when they’re actually just distracting themselves from some problem they’ve been thinking about. But when you compare their trouble-free mindstate to a similar mindstate from childhood, you’ll see their level of true fun has barely increased.

                You can reduce memory loss issues by keeping meticulous records of childhood using pictures, videos and written affidavits. However, at the end of the day, whether you’ve forgotten the formative baseline is irrelevent, the numbers will hold true.

                1. Lino says:

                  I’m still not convinced though, since the aforementioned pictures, videos, and affidavits are usually taken by people already engaged with their childhoods, and that really skews the data in one direction. What about people who aren’t happy with their current childhood experience?

                  This is why I’ve decided to conduct a representative, 30-year study on the subject. When I’m done, I’ll post it here and wait for peer reviews. Once that’s done, I think we’ll be able to take the discussion further.

  22. ccesarano says:

    I must say your top two games took me by surprise. Playing Star Wars and Control back-to-back was a really frustrating exercise in “This game would be great if it only did…”, following up on a whole bunch of games that I absolutely loved start-to-finish. Astral Chain, Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry 5, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses all released earlier in the year, and by time “Game of the Year” tallies rolled around I was really kicking myself for choosing Control and Star Wars over games like Daemon X Machina or Dragon Quest XI.

    But, that also goes to show what sort of a player I am. Aside from Cyberpunk and DOOM Eternal, none of the games you listed for 2020 were even on my radar (and people’s preferences will really be tested now that Final Fantasy VII Remake was delayed to run side-by-side with Cyberpunk). Darksiders: Genesis is the real kick-off of 2020 for me in February, with Persona 5 Royal landing at the end of March and Ninja Theory releasing their free-to-play competitive character-based melee game Bleeding Edge. April, though? Oh man. Resident Evil 3, Cyberpunk, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Trials of Mana, and Gears Tactics? Oof…

    Still, one of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog is [i]because[/i] you play different games than I do, and care about different things than I do. Your perspective on, say, the Spider-Man game’s combat is going to be different from my own specifically because you are comparing it to a different set of favorites than I am. So, I look forward to seeing what you’ll have to say regarding Cyberpunk (just started my first play through of Witcher 3, so we’ll see if I’m as enamored by CD Projekt Red as everyone else), Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines, Watch Dogs Legion, and more.

    Though it does make me curious, have you decided to be done with the Resident Evil series? I know you played RE4 and 5, at least, but don’t recall if you ever played 6. I feel like the franchise is in a better spot where it’s stories aren’t so stupid as they used to be (or maybe the presentation just disguises it better). 7 looks to have actually had a solid narrative (I think I linked Night Mind’s video on it here), and the remake of 2 lost some of the wonderful self-aware camp of 4 with super expensive presentation, but even though seeing this vast impossible underground lab beneath the city is still dumb, it feels… well it feels less dumb than 5 and 6 most certainly were.

    I’m curious what your thoughts would be on the recent direction the franchise is taking, basically.

    1. TLN says:

      and people’s preferences will really be tested now that Final Fantasy VII Remake was delayed to run side-by-side with Cyberpunk

      I guess we’re all lucky that Cyberpunk got even more delayed! (no wait that’s not a good thing at all..!!)

    2. ivan says:

      Darksiders Genesis
      Release date:
      December 5, 2019

      Did you mean something else?

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Darksiders Genesis is releasing on different platforms at a later time.

  23. Dreadjaws says:

    Gaming has become a bit of a problem for me. I pretty much stopped purchasing games on their own. I’m subscribed to Humble Monthly (well, whatever the hell is called now, I keep the classic subscription), I get the games that service provide and well, if I like them I’m happy and if I don’t at least I didn’t spend much.

    I’m sick of hype. Almost every time a game is universally praised I end up disappointed. There are exceptions, like the Resident Evil 2 remake, but I could barely stomach just how mediocre Spider-Man turned out to be (for every praiseworthy thing the game does I find five or six groan-inducing ones) and I can barely muster any interest for God of War even though it’s been years since I had heard any hype for it. I tried Control and Untitled Goose Game and I lost interest in both about an hour or two in. Those two were borrowed, so at least I don’t feel I lost any money, but seeing Spider-Man for about $15 last month I genuinely regret not having waited longer for my purchase. And I waited years to purchase God of War yet now I feel I could have waited even more.

    So yeah, next year I have genuine excitement for Cyberpunk 2077 and Resident Evil 3, but that’s it. Those two I know they’d have to deliberately try to deliver a disappointing product. Otherwise, I really don’t care. I don’t care about other games, I don’t care about new consoles, I don’t care about VR, raytracing, etc. Back in the PS3 era I was super excited for a FFVII remake, while nowadays I can’t get even the slightest interest for the upcoming one. Years of excessive praise have turned me into an apathetic hermit. And it’s not just for games, movies too. I found Avengers: Endgame to be mediocre from beginning to end and I outright despised Spider-Man: Far From Home.

    On the flip side, this means I end up enjoying better stuff that gets rampant hate. I actually liked the last Star Wars film quite a bit, and I’ve enjoyed the Batwoman show even more than, say, this season of The Flash. I still absolutely despised the last Terminator film, though, so it’s not like I’m some kind of contrarian.

    1. Baron Tanks says:

      Well this started as a reaction echoing some sentiments in Dreadjaws’ comment, but turned into a rant about how I engage with gaming I suppose, still one of a my primary pastimes. Oh well here goes:

      The way I’ve been dealing with this is by playing more and more indie games*. This has by no means been a conscious shift but I’m increasingly less interested in the big productions(‘AAA’) and even for those I am, there is just no point in being there on day one. You pay the highest price, for an at best equal experience but often inferior one (mostly referring to the technical state these games launch in here). Also, I understand we all want to earn a buck and make a living and companies I guess need the same but even to a larger extent. Still, there’s a fine line with paying an acceptable price for a product you want to own and feeling like the product here is you yourself and you’re just being used up to fill a spreadsheet. So many games feel like they have grounded out/down all the passion these games take to make** and rather appeal to the largest common denominator to find the biggest possible audience, to then in step two proceed to wring as much out of them as possible. These days that even means generating revenue way past the original point of sale. I don’t mind paying some and maybe throwing an extra buck to a game I end up playing a lot of, but I do have an expectation to maintain the suspension of disbelief that we’re not just here to generate revenue, at least present your entertainment product as that, a product that is primarily meant to entertain. In stead I’ve been playing more and more games from smaller studios, where it still feels like a group of individuals coming together to make the best game they could. They may not always succeed, but engaging with a product like that just feels way more right on a personal level.

      *as an aside, we really are stuck with a string of bastardized words to describe the different teams behind a game. When I say indie, what I mean is the colloquially accepted use of the word which basically means smaller studio (as compared to others) but could probably still range from single person to maybe 50+ people and a development time of several years to decade+ passion projects. On the other end of the spectrum, what does AAA even mean? What a hollow term. At this point it basically only signifies that the game had a lavish production budget and most likely equally unimaginable marketing budget. It is probably published by one of the big 5-10 publishers that are out there. In between those two we invented another term AA, which I can’t even really wrap my head around. It’s basically a smaller version of AAA, but it also has implications for the type of game and genre it can potentially be and I’m just going to give up here, vent over.

      **just as a disclaimer, I realize these big games have huge teams of people, many of which I assume are passionate about what they do. Lord knows with the employment situations in many of these studios that passion must be one of the few drivers people keep going. What I mean is that when I, as the end-user, engage with their product I don’t get the sense of passion that it must have taken to make these games. Typically this is due to many aspects having been sanded off to appeal to the largest common denominator, or other more negative aspects (for example harassing me with adverts or microtransactions) just having a larger impact on the overall experience.

  24. Paul Spooner says:

    Satisfactory is still an EGS exclusive as well, with no change on the horizon. So, you might also want to wait on Satisfactory if you don’t like the Epic Game Store and don’t want to give them your credit card number.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Actually, the Epic exclusive was only a one-year period, due to expire in March, and their development updates talk about how they’re developing e.g. cloud saves for the technical limitations of the Steam client so change is on the horizon.

      1. Erik says:

        That’s good to hear. I may very well have gifted that game to my niblings if Epic actually supported gifting. O_o It’s amazing to me that they didn’t prioritize getting gifting to work before such an opportunity for sales as Christmas gifting season.

        Once it’s no longer exclusive, I’ll check with my sister to make sure she’s OK that I give them PC games – I’ve been giving them board and card games for years.

        1. Baron Tanks says:

          I realize it was probably a typo, but I did picture your niblings being a bunch of anthropomorphized squirrels you are somehow related to that you love very much but keep trying to eat all your snacks.

          1. Erik says:

            Niblings is actually a word that I just recently learned and love. It’s related to siblings (gender-neutral for brothers & sisters), but applies to your siblings’ kids – it’s a gender-neutral word for nieces & nephews. Archaic from the Norse, probably, but its a GREAT word, isn’t it? Because, let’s face it – I love my niece & nephew very much, but they DO keep trying to eat all my snacks.

            1. Lino says:

              Wow! That word just became 10 times cuter! I’m going to start using it as well!

              1. Baron Tanks says:

                Awesome all around. That legitimately just made my day! Thank you Erik!

  25. Lazlo says:

    The decade question in note 6 has been unquestionably resolved, and you are on the correct side.


  26. guy says:

    SCP stands for Secure, Control, Protect.

    It’s Secure, Contain, Protect, or Special Containment Procedures in other contexts. Hence, they tend not to employ anomolies for their own benefit or to contain others, though in a large scale containment breach that falls by the wayside.

  27. Darren says:

    I couldn’t get into Fallen Order because the combat felt so sloppy. I kept getting frustrated by the bad jumping and wonky puzzles and bullshit fights against hard-to-parse aliens. I ended up putting it down and replaying Sekiro for the sixth or seventh time just to reassure myself that I wasn’t crazy that Fallen Order’s combat was just a crappy version of Sekiro’s.

    You’d probably hate Sekiro as an overall experience, but it really does have similar but better combat to Fallen Order.

  28. codesections says:

    Then again, this is Microsoft we’re talking about. Their efforts in the PC gaming scene have been so bad that incompetence seems like an insufficient explanation.

    Game of the Decade: Minecraft

    Just curious, how does the Microsoft-owned Minecraft fit in to your view of Microsoft as incompetent at games? Do you view it as entirely separate in a way that doesn’t impact your view of Microsoft as a whole? Or is it something we should think about?

    1. Grimwear says:

      I’ll be honest I haven’t looked at the numbers but Microsoft buying Minecraft never seemed like the smartest move to me. It reminds me of EA buying King. Yes they bought the most popular game of all time but they bought it 3-5 years after it first released. I’m sure the tail on Minecraft is huge but is it 2.5 billion dollars huge? I honestly don’t know. I’m legitimately curious as to whether or not Microsoft has made their money back on the investment. According to wikipedia “Minecraft helped improve Microsoft’s total first-party revenue by $63 million for the 2015 second quarter.” Assuming they maintained that amount until now that’s only 252 million a year and assuming they’ve somehow kept that amount going that’s still only 1.2 billion. But again I don’t have the numbers. Maybe the purchases of toys and merchandise are sky high and have made Microsoft back their money 5 fold. But the big question is how many people decided to wait 5 years before buying Minecraft? It seems most people who wanted to buy it already had when Mojang was still independent.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        The numbers actually look reasonable. In 2019 they announced 176 million units sold (it was around 50 million when they got bought out). It’s complicated to turn that into a profit number with all the different versions (console versions have a bunch of middlemen taking a cut, for instance), but if we take the most generous assumption of $27 of pure profit for selling a digital PC copy, Microsoft have already made over $3 billion. Even adjusting for more realistic profit numbers, at this point it’s clear that for some reason, the game isn’t done selling and they’re well on track to making their money back within a few more years. My theory of why the game is still selling is that those sales represent people who were babies in 2014 and are today just old enough to play this Minecraft thing everyone’s so into.

        1. Supah Ewok says:

          Your generous assumption is way over-generous. The PC version of Minecraft has not sold at a price point with $27 of profit in many years. Further, that number of units sold is across all platforms, which sell at different price points; I’m seeing $7 for phone, $20 for Vita, and $30 for PC.

          I doubt that Microsoft has made it’s money back based off of game sales. They’ve got active development for like 10 different platforms from the game, as well.

          But that’s all a moot point anyway, cuz y’all aren’t even looking at it the right way. Microsoft didn’t buy the Minecraft game. They bought the Minecraft franchise. If you remember back in 2014, Minecraft as a brand was frickin’ huge. There was merch galore, conventions, and even a movie deal in the works, and Microsoft was betting on taking that a step further. Now there’s spinoff games, microtransactions, tie-in novels, and the movie is still officially in the works. I’m sure Microsoft has made the money back. I don’t know if they made enough back for their investment to have really been worth it, but my guess is that it was just enough return to not be a black mark on anybody involved’s record.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            The PC version of Minecraft has not sold at a price point with $27 of profit in many years.

            PC Minecraft sold for $27 USD in 2016, 2017, and today. Since they’re selling direct from their website, there’s no Steam tax and the only middlemen are the transaction processors who take pennies. Maybe it rounds to $26 of profit. I stand by my number and I have no idea where you’re getting $30 PC, but it sure isn’t their store page.

      2. codesections says:

        I’ll be honest I haven’t looked at the numbers but Microsoft buying Minecraft never seemed like the smartest move to me.… I’m sure the tail on Minecraft is huge but is it 2.5 billion dollars huge? I honestly don’t know. I’m legitimately curious as to whether or not Microsoft has made their money back on the investment.

        I don’t think Microsoft bought Minecraft for the money (er, for the money from *selling the game*, anyway).

        Most of Microsoft’s moves lately (buying GitHub, “Microsoft Loves Linux”, releasing VSCode) seem aimed squarely driving more users to Azure/Microsoft’s other developer- and enterprise- focused cloud offerings. And then they buy one of the games that’s most popular with moders/young programmers.

        I’m not quite sure how *exactly* Minecraft fits in. Is it analytics/data? Getting people to host servers on Azure? General goodwill with future devs? But I’m highly confident it’s part of their overall cloud strategy and whether or not the sales numbers add up to the purchase price has relatively little to do with whether the acquasition was worth it from their POV.

    2. Hector says:

      Microsoft bought it; they didn’t develop the aspects that made it valuable or famous.

      1. codesections says:

        There’s a lot of truth to that. On the other hand, it’s not exactly like Minecraft is the same game in 2020 that it was when Microsoft bought it in 2014—Microsoft has certainly signed the paychecks of a whole lot of people writing a whole lot of Minecraft code in the last 6 years.

    3. Shamus says:

      I should have been more precise: Microsoft can make good games. (Or run studios properly, if you like.) They’re TERRIBLE at running services. FlightSim 2020 is game, but also kinda a service, so things might be great or ludicrously bad.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Heh, I actually thought I’d give their game pass (the PC version) a spin when Outer Worlds launched on it. I’ve discovered it actually has a bunch of good games although it overlaps heavily with Humble Monthly/Choice so not that attractive an option for subscribers like me. I spent something like three days trying to make it work, delving deeper and deeper into support forums, changing settings, restoring and replacing files, done pretty much everything except for outright reinstalling the OS and discovered that for some reason I physically can’t log into the pass or the Microsoft Store*, I type stuff in, things act as if I was logging in and I end up still logged out. Ended up getting it on Epic semi out of spite, I’d like to say it’s been so the devs get more money buuuut…

        Now that Double Fine is owned by Microsoft I dread they’re going to decide to start waging some kind of exclusivity war between subscription platform and hobble Psychonauts 2 with something…

        *And before someone says: win10 is “online” or whatever the setting is called, OS is legit, login and password .

  29. Grimwear says:

    I’ve always been intrigued by Minecraft but the fact that it isn’t on Steam has always made it easy to ignore. Not that I have anything against the game but it’s never been so appealing to me as to actively go out and search for it and pick it up.

  30. The Big Brzezinski says:

    I didn’t play Satisfactory, but I might have done one better. The Seasons mod for Farming Simulator came out late last summer. Now, vanilla Farming Simulator is sandbox where you play with tractors. It’s visceral, if shallow, fun. Season recontextualizes all that by linking everything to a twenty-seven day calendar and tightening up a lot of systems. Suddenly, you’re on the clock and you’ve got chorin’ to do, pitter patter let’s get at ‘er. Everything becomes a long production chain governed by available land, equipment, and time. Crop rotations need to be planned, the market needs to be watched, snow might even need to be plowed. And don’t forget to feed the dog and rub her belly. Maybe play fetch later. Yes, you can do all three of those things.

    I played on the basic Ravenport map with the Midwest US Geo mod. I started out simple, skipping the small fields near the spawn point and buying the plot on the opposite corner of the map. I started with soybeans in the summer and wheat over winter. Having mastered this simple rotation, I decided to try animals. Bought another field, planted it with grass, grabbed some equipment for baling hay, and bought thirty or so sheep. Now I’m doing hay twice a year or so and storing it in rows of bales under a shelter. Mid winter up through spring is the lambing season, and spring is shearing season, so right as summer starts I take stock and decide which animals to sell and which to keep for next year. The wool all gets loaded onto my flatbed and goes off to the spinnery. Eventually I earn enough to buy a planter and corn header for my harvester, so I thought, why not try raising hogs? So now I’m a hog farmer, raising crops entirely for feed and taking yearly hogs to market. Throughput proves too much, and soon I’m selling some off as soon as they appear just to keep from pop capping.

    The hogs opened up a new avenue; manure. I downloaded some Global Company mods and built my own biogas plant. The manure goes right in, earning me more profit and giving back free fertilizer in the form of digestate. I end up cutting back on unneeded hay baling and instead move the grass into silage bunkers, and sell the silage to the biogas plant. I’m basically not buying fertilizer anymore now, instead using two feeder fields just for hay, silage, and digestate for my cash and feed crops. I’m even selling it to other farmers in the form of field fertilizing contracts.

    Then Courseplay got involved. It’s the mod that lets you setup routes for hired drivers to take automatically to do lots of jobs, like carrying grain from harvesters to a silo. Now it’s a train set as well as a business sim. Courseplay proves a godsend, as there’s no way to get through a single day on my own at this point without blowing a whole Saturday, especially when I’m baling straw from winter barley before getting the cotton crop in. I’ve got trucks taking grain to market and mowers mowing hay while I tend to animals. Dairy cows entered the mix at some point, so now I’ve got milk runs to do. Still had to feed the dog myself, but that’s more of a get to than a have to.

    Eventually I felt I had explored everything Ravenport had to offer, and sold off my assets. Total came to about twelve million, so I figure I’ll start out a new map sometime with that figure. Maybe I’ll try a map further south so I can grow sugarcane, like the Estacia Lapacho map the devs ported from the FS17 DLC. They do that a lot I find, take stuff from the old version’s DLC and stick it on their modhub for the next game as normal free mods. I didn’t even get into horses, which are treated as livery stabling in Seasons. The only forestry I did was some tree removal to make rooms for buildings. I don’t expect I’ll manage to even try everything before FS21 comes out. I’ll eventually get the itch again, though. It’s as inevitable as spring.

    1. Shamus says:

      Wow. I MASSIVELY underestimated the depth of the FarmingSim franchise.

    2. Hector says:

      Awesome. It sounds like mixed Stardew Valley and and Capitalism together with the farming sim.

  31. pseudonym says:

    Minecraft the game of the decade?
    I thought it would be the sequel to Mass Effect that never came…
    That’s what you blogged about most, at least in this decade ;-).
    Such a shame that exploring the universe for clues about the reapers and find a way to stop them was never made into a game.

    I am also still waiting on a rpg that is as good as Mass Effect. There are many good ones (including ME2 and 3) but I haven’t played one that can compare to ME1.

    On topic: I am looking forward to playing the outer worlds and the original fallout next year.

  32. Paul Spooner says:

    Looks like Cyberpunk 2077 has been pushed back to 2020-04-16, so all those other games can fight over “Best Q1 game of 2020.”

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Wrong date, Cyberpunk is now 9-17-2020.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Is this ISO 8601 baiting? Good catch though.
        Bad news is a five month delay. Good news? We’ll probably still be deep in a second play-through when the big fight goes down on 2020-11-03.

        1. tmtvl says:

          Ah, you mean the third day of the eleventh month of the second year of Reiwa.

      2. Lanthanide says:

        You mean 17-9-2020.

  33. Leeward says:

    I don’t know if I’ve said this before or if anyone else has, and I can’t be bothered to check at the moment, but oxygen not included is great. It’s like dwarf fortress but with game design, ui design, and art.

    If you haven’t tried it, do.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I quite liked ONI, but for whatever reason I never really got into it. Maybe it doesn’t have quite enough depth and scope? I love the idea of building a base in an asteroid, but 3D printed people needing ice sculptures in their bedroom to work up the gumption to fly a rocket? Somehow the theme passed me by, and after that it’s just a fairly shallow 2d platformer without the platforming. Hard to compete with Rimworld for a 2D colony builder, and Starbound for a 2D side-scrolling sci-fi playground.

      On the other hand, my favorite part is all the pipes and ducts, and maybe that would be enough for someone who didn’t do that kind of design work for a living.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Yeah, Oni is a great game, probably the best third person brawler/shooter I’ve ever played. Konoko may not be the most interesting character, but she can kick ass like the best of them.
        Le sigh, Bungie should’ve made more of that instead of Halo and Density.

        1. Hector says:

          I still have hope that some day well get a sequel or HD rerelease

        2. Mattias42 says:

          Really loved the look and story of ONI, but I just could NOT wrap my head around the controls.

          Maybe the console version was better, but the PC version was just this anarchic nightmare to me to actually play. Like, there was button combos just SMEARED all across the keyboard, and to this day it’s one of the few games I’ve quit playing out of pure interface frustration.

          …Was pretty young, though, so I’ll fairly admit it might have been a ‘me’ thing.

          1. tmtvl says:

            I know what you mean, and it was unfortunate that you had to edit a text file to change the controls, like some kind of… Linux user.

    2. Steve C says:

      I was reminded of ONI when Shamus mentioned trains in Satisfactory… and not in a good way. I found ONI to suffer from the same root problem.

      Like electricity. I could make a coal generator and deal with the waste CO2 and heat. Or could print off another slave and have them run in a hamster wheel. Which also produced waste CO2 and heat. The hamster wheel was a better choice due to the reduced hassle. The whole game felt like that. Where I could make something better (kinda) but not worth the effort. I was only ever trading a solved externality for an unsolved externality. Which never felt like an improvement, nor did it ever feel satisfying to overcome.

  34. Khazidhea says:

    I’ve been waiting since 2002 or 2003-ish for a decent Star Wars game

    While not in the same tier for me as KOTOR, an argument could be made that Republic Commando was pretty decent (or it could just be rose-tinted glasses helping me remember it fondly).

  35. sheer_falacy says:

    I don’t have a whole lot to say about this list but here’s a Satisfactory music video:

  36. Guest says:

    It sounds like you’re really playing Dark Souls wrong my dude. In exactly the same way I played it wrong at first.

    Me, I didn’t see it as frustrating. I saw it as gameplay trying to get across a theme, the same theme I saw everywhere else: Depression, futility, failure.

    It isn’t.

    I kept losing all my health fighting trash mobs (badly) and rushing to try to get back to where I was (badly) and then hiding from enemies to avoid death, I never learned how to play it and hated it. Spent all my time trying for better armour and more health and the stats to equip the armor. I was frustrated at every enemy that cost me an estus flask before the boss.

    This is exactly the wrong way to play. You can run past 90% of trash mobs-I don’t fight anything but the boss on a boss run. And when you’re exploring-nothing to stop your sprinting past them to get to the bonfire you died before lighting on the last attempt. You want to kill them when you’re exploring the area and they’re a threat, not go out of your way to pick every fight you can, the trash are so slow you don’t even need to roll to get around 90% of them. Yes, you do have a bit of “DIAS” gameplay, but that’s the satisfying bit. I have been playing it with a friend lately, and I worry he’s missing out, because most bosses die in 1 run, which means he sees a lot less of them, and the bosses are all of what Dark Souls is about. You explore the area. You master the area. You learn where the boss is. You sprint to the boss.

    And the main criticism of DIAS gameplay in say, GTA, was that often it sets you back a long way. When you say the punishment is harsh, I disagree immensely. I’ve played all the 3D GTAs, I’ve played all the Dark Souls games, and you are never sent back to a checkpoint at the start of a mission to do a bunch of time consuming crap before getting to a really quick bit you messed up. You are punished for gambling, never for playing. Dying with a large soul count makes me mad and I often rage quit, but that’s because I made a mistake, after I made the bigger mistake of bringing a ton of souls somewhere I couldn’t hack it, forcing me to make a retrieval. Nothing was stopping you from homeward boning out with your souls, all the items, which you literally can’t lose because the game is so forgiving, and making a new attempt with a full stock of health and the knowledge of where literally every enemy is, which ones you have to kill because they’ll keep up with you (things like dogs etc), and which ones you can dodge (basically every trash hollow, and nearly every other enemy too). I learn that in that boss fight, I picked the wrong place for my counter in that combo, and either a) try something else or b) learn some patience and avoid countering that combo-it’s trivial to survive indefinitely through boss fights by running away, since you literally turn invincible when you roll.

    Dark Souls 1-3 load after death in less than a minute. It’s usually less than a minute back to the boss. The boss is usually less than 10 minutes (And that’s a slow run) to defeat if you have bothered to level your character and your gear-which you almost certainly have to survive the area to get up to him. It’s really not punishing. It’s a 2 minute setback and you get another shot at the cool as heck duel. And you get satisfaction, because the boss is 100% capable of kicking your ass.

    You are playing it poorly if you need to fight through the trash mobs on a boss run, if anything, the games get easier and easier to boss sprint past with each sequel. And if you are yelling like that around your family, that is just really bad. That is not a game problem, that is a you problem. I’ve dealt with mates who gamed like that, they spent the entire time on mic in multiplayer spitting venom at “The team” (Half of whom were their mates in voice with them) because they were a wimp who didn’t like losing. It’s just not anger management, be a good sport. Learn to enjoy a good match that goes the other way instead of yelling your frustration, JC. It’s nobody’s problem but yours.

    It’s fine to not like the game. Hell, I definitely didn’t at first, I hated the first, never finished it after like 60 hours because I was playing it so wrong, and got the 3rd because my mates offered to babysit me in coop, which the 3rd does much better. That helped, but in general, 3 being a lot better at giving you the ability to dodge anything, and encouraging you to, because all of the big enemies have big combo sequences, really taught me to enjoy the games, and now I can’t get enough. I’ve finished all 3 and done some NG+ and NG++ because it’s just fun for me now, Dark Souls is relaxing once you achieve that mastery, you learn how to evade, and then it’s just how long it takes you to kill anything you want to. But it’s just frustrating to hear you say over and over you “Didn’t like Dark Souls” because of something that shouldn’t be happening once you work out how the game is played. It’s a major problem with the games-they don’t teach you how to play them, especially the first two, but it’s entirely seperate to the things that people enjoy about them, and it’s poor criticism. It’s like hearing someone say they “Didn’t like Call of Duty” because they missed every shot, and when you ask, they reveal they exclusively hipfire. It’s like hearing someone say they “Didn’t like Starcraft” because they “Hated selecting every unit individually and sending them into battle”.

    You go “What? No, that’s not how you do that, jesus christ, of course you aren’t having a good time, that’s the exact wrong way to do that!”

    1. Shamus says:

      Holy shit. You posted TWO OF THESE obnoxious walls of text?!??

      You didn’t even listen you anything I said about the game. And I SPECIFICALLY added a paragraph to make it clear I’ve heard this bullshit before and I’m not interested in hearing it again.

      I’d delete your comments, but I want to link back to them the next time some condescending cultist tries to get me to play this game.

      1. AllanH says:

        This guy is hilarious. I get that there is a guy like this in every crowd, but why is it always “this” guy? Gotta say, it like watching a dog yank on a pant leg.

      2. Asdasd says:

        I like the game, and in an ideal world I’d be happy if everyone else could get the same enjoyment from it that I did. But trying to argue with people on matters of taste is counter-productive, in that the harder you push, the further you end up from your goal. I assume people who make this kind of post mean well, but it’s so obviously doing the opposite of helping and it’s sad to watch.

      3. Bubble181 says:

        Someone who claims to hate the game after 60 hours but still managed to get good at our and now enjoys it, is either deliberately trolling, or suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
        Seriously, who in their right mind would ever spend SIXTY hours on a game they hate? Even a professional reviewer will quit faster than that. It’s self-flagellation at some point.
        Also, the literal “you’re playing wrong, dude” is a give-away this can’t be an honest-meant post. So I’m sticking with “medium quality troll, mixed with Poe’s Law”.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      I geuninely can’t work out if you’re deliberately trolling or you really mean what you post. I honestly hope it’s the first option.
      I mean, you consistently manage to combine a) ignoring things people have said b) not even trying to see someone else’s point of view and c) a condescending, know-it-all attitude.

      This right here – posting (twice!) about something Shamus clearly addressed in his article – is a perfect example. Again, I hope you’re trolling, because someone being that clueless and tone-deaf (and genuinely meaning it) implies quite a lot about them.

      …either way. Your efforts (and posting style) are wasted on this website. Quick, your input is needed on 4chan and YouTube comments sections everywhere!

  37. Zaxares says:

    I feel kinda weird being a gamer and never having played Minecraft, nor do I have even the slightest desire to play it. I know enough about myself to know that I HATE open-ended sandbox games. I need a compelling story and strong characters to get me invested in a game. Handing me a blank easel and a bunch of paints and saying “Go crazy” is a surefire way for me to drop both and go pick up a book instead. (For the same reason, I never really got into the Elder Scrolls games because the story is usually shallow and the NPCs are hilarious bugs-waiting-to-happen. The main appeal of the ES games is going crazy with modding and seeing what you can invent for yourself in the world, which, again, is not what I really get into games for.)

    1. PPX14 says:

      Similarly, it has never appealed to me particularly. Complete open endedness requires infinite time – I’d consider playing it if I were retired, or immortal. I do see the appeal though, the ability to construct such enormous structures is exactly what I know I would love doing, but don’t want to spend my time doing, especially not at a screen.

    2. Retsam says:

      There’s definitely not a strong story and compelling characters in Minecraft. You’re probably right about not liking it if those are requirements for you.

      But I also don’t think your description of Minecraft jives with my actual experience of the game: I really don’t find it to be a “blank easel and paint”, (unless we’re talking about creative mode). If it were, I wouldn’t play it, because I don’t care for those things, either.

      For me, the main appeal of Minecraft (and especially Elder Scrolls) is progression: starting with nothing and eventually having heavily enchanted diamond armor and weapons and potions and reliable food sources. It’s admittedly somewhat non-linear progression, (while Elder Scrolls is less “non-linear progression” and more “multiple forms of linear progression at once”), but I do feel that’s different than the blank-slate sandbox that the game is sometimes portrayed as.

      And I feel mods tend to push the game towards even more progression. SevTech Ages is the extreme case; but even stuff like Tekkit tends to be more progression-oriented than the base game.

    3. eaglewingz says:

      I feel kinda weird being a gamer and never having played Minecraft…

      But why? I read a comment above that in an ideal world everyone might get enjoyment from a particular game. I figure that we’re getting close to that ideal gaming world. Most any platform, definitely PC, you can find whatever kind of game that you’re looking for. Even if I were to have an itch for a game that most of society disapproves of I’m sure I could be playing within minutes.

      If you play any games, you’re a gamer. Period.

      1. tmtvl says:

        No, you’re a gamer if you choose to be a gamer. You can play games without having to be a gamer. Period.

        …That said, if you do choose to be a gamer there’s always a distinction between a good gamer and a vidya gaem journo, so be aware you don’t get “gamer cred” for free.

  38. Alberek says:

    I get what you say about DarkSouls/Soulslike in general. Those games put a strong emphasis on mastering the combat mechanics but they also have some harsh penalties for failing: in DarkSouls when you die you lose your max HP, resources are sometimes limited and it’s frustrating when you use them to make a battle easier, and then lose.
    I’ve been playing Sekiro… combat is way harder, but also more exploitable (you can kind of play it as a steath game). Bosses are the hard part (but with some short cuts, you don’t need to fight hordes of enemies to reach them), you really NEED to learn thing in order to beat them… at heart, they are simple: block and dodge their attacks because they pack a punch, keep the pressure and wear them down

    1. Ruethus says:

      As a note, you only lose max HP when you die in Dark Souls 2. I’m aware that such a detail isn’t going to sell Shamus on playing the games, but I prefer to keep the lines between the games distinct.

      I’d offer some commentary on Sekiro, but I was warned away from it by friends who know the reasons that I love Dark Souls because it apparently focuses on the combat style I least enjoy (parrying), and supposedly my normal ranged-heavy playstyle is much less viable than usual.

  39. Simplex says:

    “I don’t have a VR headset so I’m not going to get to play this, but I’ll be glad to see Valve return to their roots. Even if I don’t play it personally, I’ll feel good if the game gets good reviews.”

    What a sane attitude (although I would expect it from a swell guy like Shamus). On the Steam Community forums there is lots of hate towards Valve for making the game VR only.

  40. Blake says:

    “Star Wars Colon Jedi Colon Fallen Order EA Trademark Symbol”
    Should just call it “Jedi Colon” for short.

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