“There’s something you can do to help get the game ready to ship,” said Arvind over Hangouts.
“What do you mean, ‘ready to ship?’ It launches in a few weeks. I finished the script, like, hours ago. What’s left?”
“Playtesting. How many hours have you been playing?”
“Aw, jeez.” I checked my counter. “About 75 hours this week?”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, sometimes fourteen hours at a time. I’m playing right now. I’m sorta waiting for you to hang up so I can go back to talking to it like we’re friends.”
“And have you found any bugs?”
“I don’t know if I’d call it a bug, but Vaegir Guards are just the worst. They’re like drunk dumpster gnomes on drunk ponies. How’s a girl gonna conquer Calradia with a horde of these chumps?”
“You’re playing Mount and Blade,” said Arvind.
“I think so? I’ve started just calling it Windows. I downloaded a mod so royal couriers bring me my e-mail, and…”
“We’re not making Mount and Blade!”
I slapped the numpad to bring my archers out of cavalry range. “Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that. I think we’re leaving money on the table there.”
If anyone out there works at Google, you might want to take a few hours away from Mount and Blade to playtest Hangouts. I’ve noticed that every thirty minutes of conversation or so there’s an audio tic that sounds sorta like a withering, gut-shaking sigh.
“Quit the game,” he said.
“You can do that? Oh. Here we go. Now what?”
“Just play Good Robot for a few days and tell us what you think. You do know how to the play the game?”
“I know the game better than anyone, Arvind. I wrote it. You might have a passing familiarity with the game’s body, but I have wrought its very soul. I have made its world as real as the walls around me. Now–are you seeing my screenshare?”
“Good. Please tell me which of these little robots is me.“
So I’ve been playing Good Robot for about twenty hours now, and as you can imagine, I’m now extremely familiar with level 1. I think I can make some pretty confident conjectures about level 2 as well. Therefore, I feel it is my solemn duty to pass on what wisdom I have gleaned to you, the next generation, that you might transcend Adequate Automation and be at least as Good a Robot as I am.
Let’s talk Pro Strats.
- Learn the mechanics. Unlike most videogames, Good Robot is not an open-world medieval simulation with pitched battles and faction reputation systems. Cavalry charges and political marriages won’t get you very far–as a matter of fact, there aren’t any of those on level 1 at all.
- Terminals are your friend. If you find yourself getting stuck, try reading through dialogue to get clues as to what the thematic motifs and central conceits of the setting are.
- Know your weapons! Good Robot has dozens of playable weapons. There’s a launcher that fires bouncing, exploding frisbees, and there’s a bunch of other bullshit in case you can’t find the frisbee thing.
- Death is cheap. Don’t get too hung up on dying. You might be tempted to give up in frustration after a few deaths, but you’ll discover it’s infinitely more satisfying to explosively ragequit after thirty or forty.
- Click “New Game” to start a new game.
- Upgrades! Blow up enemies to get cash to upgrade your systems. This lets you blow up even more enemies, get even more cash, and upgrade even more systems. Before long you’ll be blowing up tons of enemies, getting mountains of cash, and placing a down payment on that townhouse you’ve dreamed of since you were in middle school.
- I haven’t found them yet, but I presume the Vaegirs still suck. If they declare war on you, don’t worry about it. It’s fine.
- Relax. Settle into a groove, blast robots, dodge projectiles, and have a good time. This is good advice even if it’s not technically your job.
That should get you started. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve almost made it to level 2. Arvind and Shamus are gonna be so jealous–I remember it took them months to finish level 1. Scrubs.
There's a wonderful way to balance difficulty in RPGs, and designers try to prevent it. For some reason.
Video Compression Gone Wrong
How does image compression work, and why does it create those ugly spots all over some videos and not others?
Push the Button!
Scenes from Half-Life 2:Episode 2, showing Gordon Freeman being a jerk.
The Best of 2011
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2011.
Bethesda felt the need to jam a morality system into Fallout 3, and they blew it. Good and evil make no sense and the moral compass points sideways.