Diecast #374: No Man’s Leftover Meatloaf

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 7, 2022

Filed under: Diecast 194 comments

I have a No Man’s Sky rant for you this week. Yes, I realize I’ve cooked you this dish before. Yes, I’m aware that you’d prefer something novel instead of leftovers from 2016. Like I said on the show, we really need another procgen space game because I’m going to lose my mind if I keep coming back to NMS in search of what I want.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes:

00:00 Valheim

It’s the classic conundrum when a new update comes out: Do I use my existing endgame save, and thus stroll through the new content overpowered? Or do I start a new game and spend hours grinding my way to the midgame to experience the content as intended?

Paul chose the first one for Valheim, while I chose the second when returning to…

01:53 No Man’s Sky

I want to stress that I’m not complaining about broken promises. I’m basically in agreement with Internet Historian that the last five years of free expansions have cleared Hello Games from the charge of being liars and con artists.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a horribly designed game with a monstrous interface, a self-defeating gameplay loop, and a progression system that was designed by an alien that’s never played a videogame before.

It’s not a con. It just sucks.

22:18 Elden Ring

Link (YouTube)

A new Dark Soulsian game is out, so it’s time for another cultist recruitment drive. This time around the general public is apparently asking for a quest log. And like everything else they ask for, they’re being told that they’re trying to ruin the game and shut up you just don’t understand git gud.

I totally get why you wouldn’t want a Ubisoft-style quest log and waypoint markers cluttering up the HUD. I agree that modern games are way too eager to vomit a to-do list onto your screen. I can totally see how putting a waypoint marker in Elden Ring is like putting markers in Portal to show you where the portals should go.

On the other hand, I can also understand why someone might ask for a journal screen or whatever. Jason Schreier suggested keeping a pen and paper handy while playing the game. That’s a great idea! Only instead of paper, I want to keep track of things in a text document. And hey, rather than pausing the game so I can alt-tab over to my text document, wouldn’t it be cool if the game could just populate the text document for me? Let’s call it a “log” of quests. And wouldn’t it be cool if there was a button I could use to quickly look at this log from within the game? Wouldn’t that be more immersive than putting down the controller and turning away from the screen to consult a notebook?

On the other hand, there’s value in the player not knowing something is a quest. If someone mentions praying at a “fiery door”, I might think they’re just sharing their backstory. But if my quest log suddenly gains an entry for “Find the fiery door and pray at it” then I know this is a quest. And maybe having that entry would deny me the chance to make the connection on my own.

It’s an interesting debate, but like all Dark Souls criticism it quickly devolves into a weird sort of orthodoxy where it’s assumed that only True Fans understand the game well enough to criticize it, and the only people who are true fans are the ones who recognize the game as unassailable perfection.

Also worth noting is this video on Returnal, which I mentioned during this segment.

Link (YouTube)

As someone who would find the game too frustrating to play, I really appreciated this all-spoiler breakdown. Highly recommended.

35:57 Mailbag: Shades of Colourlessness

Dear Diecast,

I hope this mail finds you both hale and hearty.

Continuing my old man spree I dug up some games that I used to play a lot on Windows 3.1 (e.g. Hocus Pocus).

I was struck by how differnt they look in colour. Maybe this is just the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia talking, but when I used to play them on my old black-and-white monitor they looked far more striking.

Do you guys think games look better in black-and-white compared to in colour? How do you feel about games with dedicated B&W modes, like L.A. Noire and Tsushima? Am I just being an old curmudgeon yelling at clouds?



43:12 Mailbag: TV shows

Dear Diecast

Two new and popular TV shows ended fairly recently, The Book of Boba Fett and Peacemaker, have you seen them and if so then what are your thoughts?

Best regards from Bobby T.

50:54 Mailbag: Save Scumming

Dear DieCastles,

The practice of save scumming is pervasive in video games, and is a problem for any game designer whose game has a save system. What measures do you think that designers should take to deter players from (ab)using the system? Can you think of any examples of games that you’ve played where you you were tempted to reload after dealing with some adversity, but you avoided doing so, and why? Or do you think that save scumming is an acceptable practice, and not worth worrying about from a design perspective? Curious about your thoughts either way.


Zeta Kai


From The Archives:

194 thoughts on “Diecast #374: No Man’s Leftover Meatloaf

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    Elden Ring

    The game is great. It’s basically the next Breath of the Wild in the sense of being an open world game that truly lets you go wherever from the start with barely any fist touching beyond the tutorial section, refreshing change of pace from other games in the same genre. I actually might prefer Elden Ring over BOTW because while it doesn’t have the latter’s immersive sim design, it does have a wealth of lore/worldbuilding that actually makes the setting interesting to explore which appeals more to me.

    Book of Boba Fett/The Mandalorian 2.5/Original Trilogy 2.0: New Republic

    I actually thought The Book of Boba Fett was fine just as long as the episode wasn’t being directed by Robert Rodriguez, because his barebones directing paired with Jon Favreau’s barebones writing brought out the worst of the show. Aside from that, my biggest issue was  Boba himself was not a engaging protagonist and he just comes off as a dumbass most of the time.


    Peacemaker was really good, better and more consistent than most of the D+ Marvel shows (except maybe Loki). I think the key to making a really good superhero show and the main advantage the DCEU has over the MCU is that it isn’t bogged down by having to tie into and setup other works (which WandaVision and Hawkeye suffered from), it truly is stand-alone. Daredevil and Legion were also similar and they made for the best Marvel shows.
    The Star Wars shows should do their strategy instead of trying to culminate in another giant crossover.

    1. Vowl says:

      The Book Of Boba Fett exposed that these SW shows by Jon Favreau were mainly carried by Baby Yoda and the cameos, without them and people actually start noticing the weak dialogue, characterization, and story.

      The criticisms also remind me of how people felt about Mando season one, where people also kept complaining about the show being cheap, boring, and “about nothing”.

      1. Thomas says:

        I maintain that the Clone Wars and The Mandalorian have exactly the same quality of writing, and any perceived differences mostly come down to the expectations people bring to each series.

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          Clone Wars has stronger characterization and emotional moments while The Mandalorian is one of those shows that relies mostly on the spectacle, which is fine for what it is but I do admit most of the original characters in the show are one-note or just plot devices and that’s wasted potential.

      2. MerryWeathers says:

        Adding onto my point that Robert Rodriguez’s barebones directing paired with Jon Favreau’s barebones writing brought out the worst of TBOBF, the show starts to become really condescending. Like it comes off as though the show is assuming that its audience are literally kindergarteners so it breaks down or exposits the plot through the most basic and simple dialogue conversations that it makes me miss Rick Famuyiwa.

        I think someone also nailed describing Robert Rodriguez’s Star Wars visual look as as “a low budget show that was filmed on Tatooine”.

      3. Joshua says:

        I was one of the few people who didn’t like the Mandalorian. I gave three episodes a shot and just didn’t care for it. It was already several months later and I was well-spoiled (inundated) with Baby Yoda imagery from the internet. The writing was just “bare bones” as MerryWeathers said, and I didn’t feel him to be a very compelling protagonist (not being able to see facial expressions didn’t help). His opening scene seems to set him up to “badass”, but his later choices and the narrative itself seemed to lean more towards dumbass. I read around online, and then saw that a lot of people complained about the next couple of episodes after the third being kind of weak, and didn’t want to invest any more time.

    2. John says:

      As lousy as The Book of Boba Fett was, I nevertheless feel indebted to it for providing strong evidence for my theory that Boba Fett is and always has been kind of a chump. What kind of doofus tries to take over the criminal underworld of an entire planet with, like, five guys and a policy of not doing crimes? Boba’s bounty-hunting career obviously didn’t prepare him for a management position in a major criminal organization. But, really, what else should we have expected from a man whose claim to fame is getting shot by a blind smuggler and then eaten?

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        To be fair, Boba being a crime lord is bit of a misconception with the show. He never actually calls himself one, just a “Daimyo”, which is more of feudal lord title. So he was essentially calling himself the ruler of Tatooine, not really Jabba’s successor in the whole galactic underworld.

        1. John says:

          That’s even worse. What kind of doofus tries to take over an entire planet with, like, five guys?

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            He should have tried with Five Guys instead. Those things would topple any government!

      2. The+Puzzler says:

        More evidence for Boba being a doofus: He went back into the Sarlaac pit to look for his armor. So he forgot that he was wearing it when he escaped, and when trying to piece together what happened, he must have said to himself, “I assume, while I was being eaten, I took the time to fully remove the armor that was keeping me from being digested, I took off the jet-pack, I left them all behind, and then I somehow climbed out of an inescapable monster and giant sand trap in my underwear.”

  2. Lino says:

    26:06 – No one is trying to make a game that appeals to Souls fans? Every other indie and mid-budget title is in some way trying to appeal to these people :D

    Remember when you talked about Gotham Knights? Well, this is what’s been happening to my two favourite genres – linear 3D platformers and hack ‘n slash games. For a while they were kind of dead – being replaced first by open worlds, and later by live services.

    But on the rare occasion when we do get one of these games, it just has to in some way emulate Dark Souls. There’s just no way around it. Especially if it’s a AAA title. The freshest example in my mind being Jedi Fallen Order. And to a lesser extent the new God of War (I guess? Even after beating the game I’m not entirely sure what they were going for with that awful and boring combat system).

    And funnily enough, none of these games seem to be very liked by Souls fans.

    Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re a fan of that particular formula, I’m glad that you have so many titles to choose from. I just long for the days when the gold standard for hack ‘n slash were games like Devil May Cry and the pre-reboot God of War.

    Even when said standard was replaced with Arkham-style combat, I was still somewhat content. Now I just have to wait for the next big thing to become all the rage and supplant Soulsborneo as the new thing everyone is trying to copy in a vane attempt to emulate someone else’s success. And also hope that I actually like that hypothetical new thing…

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re a fan of that particular formula, I’m glad that you have so many titles to choose from. I just long for the days when the gold standard for hack ‘n slash were games like Devil May Cry and the pre-reboot God of War.

      Doesn’t Platinum Games exist just to make hack-and-slashers or did something change in recent years?

      1. Lino says:

        As a matter of fact – yes, it did. They’re currently working on Babylon’s Fall. And while it seems to have some decent hack ‘n slash combat, it’s also a live service game. Which is… how do I put it… IGN made had a negative preview for it. And when even IGN doesn’t like your game, then you KNOW you’ve fucked up.

        But even if that weren’t the case, Platinum’s games have always been a bit of an outlier for me. Mainly because their combat systems are counter-based, which I’ve never been all that crazy on. I’ve always preferred DMC style combat where even the defensive ways of playing it are in some ways aggressive.

    2. Abnaxis says:

      I’m curious what exactly about Jedi Fallen Order was made to “appeal to Soulds fans”…?

      I’ll admit, I enjoyed both games, but other than being in roughly the same genre, there’s very little similar between the two titles in my mind. They scratched very different itches, and almost any similarity between them is cosmetic.

      I feel like “Souls-like” is suffering a bit from the same effect “Rogue-like” did. In the same way that every game where you die, lose progress and restart became a “Rogue-like” despite having almost nothing in common with Rogue, every game where enemies re-spawn when you rest at a save-point is now a “Souls-like.”

      Which, I mean, that’s OK because language is mutable and all, except now when those games have a crappy design feature it’s because “they’re trying to appeal to Souls fans” and not “the developer messed up.” There were plenty of things wrong with JFO, but I can’t really think of any that seemed to stem from trying to appeal to Souls fans.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        Stig Asmussen himself, the director of the game, admitted that Dark Souls was one of the influences for JFO. The combat for one in that there’s an emphasis on parrying your enemies. The level design also has similarities to what you’d find in your average Soulsborn game but it takes directly more from Metroidvanias with the big areas that loop back and around each other. The meditation circles are also just bonfires and you can roll around and break a bunch of vases on Dathomir.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          My impression from the OP (correct me if I’m reading too much into it) is that “developers are always adding Souls features into games that I like even if they don’t fit so Souls fans are constantly getting more games they like at my expense.”

          None of the things you bring up actually copy-paste Souls mechanics. One of my biggest beefs with Dark Souls/Bloodborne is that parrying isn’t a viable strategy–I actually enjoyed JFO a lot more for its focus on parrying. The level design is radically different in JFO than Soulsborne, with one-way cliffs EVERYWHERE and set-piece encounters abound. To that end, most of the meditation circles are more like automatic checkpoints that require manual interaction than the ports-in-a-storm that bonfires are–you’re going to go down a slide or jump off a cliff as soon as you leave a meditation circle, it’s not like you can turn around and go back if you use up more healing than you wanted to in a fight. Even stamina is different–you’re free to flail with your lightsaber as long as you like with no repercussions in JFO, the only time stamina goes down is if you try to turtle up.

          Again, none of these things are inherently bad, but its only superficially similar to how Souls did it so if you’re going to say that “Souls fans get catered to because they got JFO,” it’s not really making an apt comparison. That’s like saying people shouldn’t be asking for Half-Life 3 because they should be happy with Borderlands.

          1. Biggus Rickus says:

            I actually thought Fallen Order played more like Sekiro, which is very different from the Souls formula.

      2. Ninety-Three says:

        I feel like “Souls-like” is suffering a bit from the same effect “Rogue-like” did. In the same way that every game where you die, lose progress and restart became a “Rogue-like” despite having almost nothing in common with Rogue

        I am a roguelike purist and this sounds crazy to me, no it’s not! If someone tells me something is a Soulslike then I will expect it to have third person melee combat with a stamina bar, dodgerolls as a major feature, Estus-style healing with bonfire-style checkpoints, and some kind of consequences for dying beyond just “reset to last checkpoint”. I have never been wrong about this and that’s enough features to call it a genre the same way “FPS” or “Metroidvania” is a genre.

        “Roguelike” on the other hand is applied to everything from first person shooters to turn-based puzzle games, it does not contain enough information for me to say “Yeah, that sounds like the kind of game I enjoy”. And I enjoy a lot of “roguelikes”!

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          I was under the impression that “Roguelike” has morphed to mean only “no save system”, where it earlier implied ASCII graphics dungeon crawler as well. From that perspective, it’s a description of the overarching game pacing (multiple “short” runs which do not build on each other) without saying anything about the medium or short-term gameplay loop. As you said, it’s less than a genre these days.

          1. Pax says:

            Hunh, I always associated it with games with randomized levels you get one shot through before it changes again.

          2. Ninety-Three says:

            The imprecise meaning is slightly bigger, random content/level generation is also part of it. Except that’s insufficient because there are 4X games with permadeath-style save systems and no one calls Dominions 5 a roguelike. And it can’t be about run length because literal actual roguelikes such as Stone Soup will last dozens of hours if you don’t die early. I don’t think there is a principled definition which allows “roguelike” to encircle Nethack, Spelunky and Risk of Rain 2 without also hitting Dominions 5.

            This is part of why I’m a roguelike purist: it’s not useful to have a word that groups all four of those games together and it’s not possible to only group three of them, therefore RETVRN to the Berlin interpretation.

        2. Abnaxis says:

          To me, “third person melee combat with a stamina bar, dodgerolls as a major feature, Estus-style healing with bonfire-style checkpoints, and some kind of consequences for dying beyond just “reset to last checkpoint”,” because to me, “Souls-like” is supposed to suggest a game-play loop where you go into an area, use up resources making progress, and turn tail back to the bonfire until you execute the level well enough to make it to the next bonfire. JFO singularly doesn’t play like that–more than half the “bonfires” have one-way doors right next to them, forcing you to fight through the next linear loop of the game level with no option of turning back. Meditation circles aren’t safe-havens where you can take a rest in a hostile world, they’re automatic checkpoints you have to press a button to trigger.

          The same thing applies to the dodge-rolls, stamina bar and Estus-style healing as well–none of those carry the same cost/benefit dynamic in JFO that they do in Souls-likes, they only have a cosmetic similarity to those same mechanics in their namesake. Again, that’s not saying JFO is bad, it’s just not the same flavor as a Souls game and it isn’t fair to say any of issues with it can be traced back to the developers trying to ape the Souls formula.

          As I remember (correct me if I’m wrong, my memory is fuzzy at the best of times) Rogue-likes were actually very similar to Rogue when the term was first thrown around, with the term gradually shifting up until now where the label is applied to everything from puzzle-games to FPSes. Which again is OK, language is a living, changing thing–but at that point I don’t think it’s fair to say “Rogue is ruining all our puzzle games because developers just want to cater to Rogue fans, every game is developed for Rogue fans they should be happy with what they’ve got.”

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            As I remember (correct me if I’m wrong, my memory is fuzzy at the best of times) Rogue-likes were actually very similar to Rogue when the term was first thrown around

            There was even a list of formal criteria describing precise ways in which a game could be like Rogue, and these damn kids who won’t get off my lawn threw it out.

            Language changes but sometimes those changes are bad. For instance, at some point in the distant past we did not use both “flammable” and “inflammable” to refer to “that’ll burn if you put fire near it”, and language got worse when we started doing that.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              I would say the world got a little bit better when we started using both “flammable” and “inflammable” to mean “that’ll burn if you put fire to it.” Generally speaking, language changes trend towards increasing clarity, and that’s a good thing. To follow-up your inflammable example–it’s extremely easy to confuse what “inflammable” means without context or a dictionary to tell you otherwise, because “in-” is commonly used as a prefix for “not” (inorganic = not organic, incalculable = not calculable, incapable = not capable). This is why “flammable” is prevalent–engineers put “inflammable” warnings on stuff to keep people safe, but it’s a confusing word.

              Frankly, we’d be better off if “inflammable” never existed, but instead we have to live with it until it finally falls completely out of use. Similarly, we have to live with recently-coined “Souls-like” and “Rogue-like” shifting in meaning until they finally settle down, and in the mean-time we’re going to have discussion like this where we clarify that “just because it feels like a game labelled as ‘Souls-like’ comes out every other week doesn’t mean original Souls fans are being catered to.”

            2. Chad+Miller says:

              My “favorite” part about the definitional shift of “roguelike” is that recently someone told me that he considered metaprogression a requirement of the genre.

              1. GoStu says:

                That’s an interesting thought.

                I know the originals (Rogue, Nethack, etc.) didn’t have that. Nothing whatsoever carries over aside from the player’s meta-knowledge of the game. Meta-progression is something definitely absent from the genre-definers.

                On the other hand, I do sort of agree that these “roguelikes” almost need it nowadays, if only because I think it adds more longevity to the game to the typical player. I would feel shortchanged if I bought a new “roguelike” and discovered that literally nothing’s changing from run to run – no unlocks, other characters, twists on your starting gear/abilities/loadouts, no new bosses, etc.

                Perhaps something like Nethack does without these because ascending from a run of Nethack for the first time can take absolute ages. These are LONG games with VERY long runs, and a player’s run-to-run progression can simply be “I have seen new areas I never saw before”. In terms of game dev calculus, a newer game probably feels like it’s leaving a lot on the table if it’s so very very long and most of those assets, levels, spaces, etc. never get seen by most people who play. In the old ASCII graphics you could have very very very long games and not worry too hard about needing distinct monsters and tilesets.

                Gamers now won’t generally accept something so inscrutable today, and thus comes the need for models and graphics, and then a limit on just how many unique ones someone’ll stuff onto a disc/file. In turn that necessitates something else to provide a sense of growth, perhaps?

    3. Boobah says:

      Grammar nitpick:

      Now I just have to wait for the next big thing to become all the rage and supplant Soulsborneo as the new thing everyone is trying to copy in a vane attempt to emulate someone else’s success.

      They’re just going whichever way the wind blows, eh?

  3. Vowl says:

    Speaking of the Boba Fatt series, is anyone else worried about the implications that CGI Luke has on the acting industry? Just a completely artificial performance in which Mark Hamill was barely involved, which is ironic considering all the excitement about him finally “returning” to the role after all these years and then it turns out he mostly just hanged around the set and was taken pictures of to collect fan goodwill while the body double and A.I. did all the work.

    I could see studios trying to copy and use the technology to the point that “acting” devolves into just being a meatbag pupper for the recognizable CGI face with an AI voice replicator. The worst part is that most people don’t give a shit because Luke is finally doing some backflips, as if their fanservice matters more. “So this is how acting dies, with thunderous applause” and stuff.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      Sidenote, but TBOBF made Luke’s appearances in both shows pretty redundant as Grogu has now been reunited with Din in time for season three which I had expected to happen but not until late into the third season or fourth.

      Actually the way they did it was pretty funny, it seems like that as soon as Grogu picked Din’s chainmail armor over Yoda’s lightsaber, Luke told him to GTFO of his temple and immediately had R2 ship him back to Tatooine on his own.

    2. Joshua says:

      I felt this back with Tarkin in Rogue One.

      1. Vowl says:

        The difference was that at least the guy acting as the body double for Tarkin was also playing as the character, CGI Luke is almost completely artificial beyond his acrobatics. Another big difference is that most people actually have a positive reception towards Luke being a CGI ghoul compared to Tarkin and don’t care about the implications, all because they just want their fanservice.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Another big difference is that most people actually have a positive reception towards SPOILER compared to Tarkin and don’t care about the implications, all because they just want their fanservice.

          What implications?

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            I’m not certain where Vowl is coming from. I agree that acting in itself is explicitly deception, so improving the techniques of deception is fair game. For me, the disquieting implications have to do with deep-fake technology, not that I think this should dissuade us from developing it (see arguments about WMD development). But there’s an argument to be made (not that I would be in favor of making it) that an individual’s personal presentation is part of their intellectual property as well, which may be what tarnishes virtual and CGI actor technology in the view of some.

            1. Ninety-Three says:

              As I understand it, the current paradigm does treat an actor’s face as their IP: if I put CG Henry Cavil in my movie without a prior contract he can sue me, and if I put CG Tolkien in my movie his estate can sue me.

              1. Paul Spooner says:

                I believe you are correct, but that’s a legal issue, not a technical one, and now there’s a significant financial incentive for studios to pressure the government to change the laws. I oppose all forms of IP on moral grounds, but if one considers IP a moral right then there’s worrying means and motive to violate it now.

                1. Steve C says:

                  I believe you are both correct too. HOWEVER…

                  There was a recent ruling that throws that into question. That question being, if an AI’s work cannot receive copyright, how can it still infringe?

                  1. Ninety-Three says:

                    Super easily, and the first paragraph of that article describes how. Qualifying for copyright requires human authorship (see also the entertaining dispute over a monkey’s selfie), infringing does not (monkey photographers are not a loophole to bypass all of IP law).

                2. Philadelphus says:

                  This might be getting too close to politics, and I’m not really interested in starting a big discussion about it, but that sounds like a dangerous position to take, to me: if a person’s likeness and representation are their IP (as currently), then having no IP means you can make a CGI version of anyone, and have them do anything (however contrariwise to that person’s morals and values) without having to first get that person’s permission or pay them a cent. (Sure, with deepfake technology you can already do that now, but the victim has [at least theoretical] legal recourse.) Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big proponent of open source, and I think culture is enriched the more we share, but I think the sharing should be voluntary (and we should simply be incentivizing it, without coercing it).

                  1. Ninety-Three says:

                    IP doesn’t close off all the behaviour you’re gesturing at. If I want to photoshop Henry Cavil kicking a puppy, rights to his likeness provide no protection against that unless I am exploiting that image for commercial/reputational/etc gain. If I just think it’s funny to post photoshops on the internet then IP law has nothing to say about it, and some of the current concerns about deepfakes are in exactly that “I just like posting” category.

                    1. Philadelphus says:

                      Sure, if it’s not commercial you can probably claim something falls under Fair Use or whatever. I’m not claiming the current situation is perfect. I’m just saying that if someone decided to use my likeness in a way I wasn’t personally comfortable with without my consent for commercial purposes, I could at least theoretically contest it in court based on them infringing my inherent (inalienable?) IP. If there’s no such thing as IP at all, then I couldn’t even do that, which is why I was responding to Paul “oppos[ing] all forms of IP on moral grounds”. But I don’t want to put words in Paul’s mouth, so I’ll leave it with noting that I think my hypothetical is an example of why some IP might not be a bad thing.

                    2. Mr. Wolf says:

                      Technically speaking, making images of Henry Cavill kicking puppies when he has not done so would be a form of libel.

                    3. Abnaxis says:

                      Technically speaking, making images of Henry Cavil kicking puppies when he has not done so would be a form of libel.

                      I mean, really technically speaking making images of Henry Cavil kicking puppies when he hasn’t done so can be considered:

                      -Protected speech, if you genuinely believe him to be a puppy kicker and created the image to criticize his puppy-kicking ways.
                      -Libel, if you either are fully aware that he isn’t a puppy kicker and are maliciously seeking to tarnish his reputation or you “recklessly disregard” the fact that he is not a puppy-kicker (illegal due to libel law protections).
                      -Misappropriation, if the person creating the image strongly support puppy-kicking and is using the doctored image of Cavil to promote puppy-kicking without his permission (illegal due to copyright).

                      None of these possibilities have anything to do with whether the creator of the doctored image of Cavil is making money off his creation. You can make money off of criticizing Cavil’s puppy-kicking depravities, and you can be sued for libel or misappropriation even if you never made a dime off the image.

                      And ALL of this is conceptually distinct from Intellectual Property, which is the abstract introduction of scarcity on creative works and inventions so originators and corporations can buy and sell those ideas like commodities, though the legal framework to create IP is grouped in with all other protections against misappropriation, libel, and plagiarism. There’s nothing that says those things HAVE to go together, they just are in the way the (American, at least) laws are implemented.

                3. Kyle Haight says:

                  Even if you preserve the actor’s property right to the use of their appearance, studios will try to create valuable appearances from scratch that they will own. Then they can use CGI to paste that appearance onto J. Random Actor. Since nobody sees the person underneath their real appearance never becomes valuable.

                  This would be similar to the way things work today for characters like C3P0. Nobody cares what Anthony Daniels looks like, and Disney can put C3P0 on every cereal box in the world without his consent.

                  I have to put in a plug for the movie S1M0NE as an excellent early look at one way this line of technical development can go entertainingly wrong.

                  1. Geebs says:

                    Anthony Daniels would turn up to the opening of every single one of those cereal boxes. In costume.

    3. Ninety-Three says:

      I could see studios trying to copy and use the technology to the point that “acting” devolves into just being a meatbag pupper for the recognizable CGI face with an AI voice replicator.

      So? The point of the acting industry isn’t to be a jobs program for humans, it’s to put cool stuff on screen. If the technology sucks then that’s a problem, but if it actually works as advertised then why is it bad to deliver recognizable faces to people who want to recognize them?

      1. Vowl says:

        What? Putting aside your words about how acting is apparently just meant to “put cool shit on screen”, this is like saying “the screenwriting industry isn’t meant to be filled by humans”. No, good acting (or acting in general) requires actual living people with a soul and not creepy mimicry generated by artificial intelligence.

        then why is it bad to deliver recognizable faces to people who want to recognize them?

        You do realize how this can turn into a Black Mirror episode right?

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          No no… he’s got a point.

        2. Ninety-Three says:

          I am reminded of the director of Iron Man complaining that practical effects look better, see look how much better shot A is than shot B, only to be told that shot A is CGI and B is the practical effect.

          The tech was invented, it sucked, people started using it, other people complained that it sucked, this was reified into “tech always bad”, the tech stopped sucking, the Luddites retained their mantra.

        3. Syal says:

          No, good acting (or acting in general) requires actual living people with a soul and not creepy mimicry generated by artificial intelligence.

          If you believed this, you wouldn’t be worried. You’re arguing an inferior product will replace a well-established superior one. Not to mention CGI is much more expensive than pointing a camera at somebody. So, a more expensive product that can’t deliver the same quality, replacing a cheap product that can. Juicero destroying the wine industry.

    4. Syal says:

      is anyone else worried

      I’m not. Most people still prefer live action, and they like actors based on their ability to act, which isn’t replicatable by CGI. It’s no worse than Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

  4. boz says:

    If someone mentions praying at a “fiery door”, I might think they’re just sharing their backstory. But if my quest log suddenly gains an entry for “Find the fiery door and pray at it” then I know this is a quest. And maybe having that entry would deny me the chance to make the connection on my own.

    I am not a soulslike fan only played games like Nioh, Sekiro and Elden Ring. That said, having a quest log in this game would hurt the gameplay experience. People would skip entire conversations to fill the quest log and ignore the conversations. This way game forces you to pay a minimum of attention to what they say (till wikis update every quest and people just google a checklist of what to do). But still I believe that’s a proper design decision not out of malice against players.

    A proper compromise would be a transcript of conversations. Because there is an actual issue of people not remembering who talked about fiery doors and what exactly they said about them when they played the game last weekend. Whenever you talk to an NPC there could be a history tab to view previous conversations with them.

    1. Lino says:

      That said, having a quest log in this game would hurt the gameplay experience. People would skip entire conversations to fill the quest log and ignore the conversations. This way game forces you to pay a minimum of attention to what they say

      I seem to be in a bit of a combative mood today. So sorry if I sound a bit confrontational when I ask: if you want to “force” your players to pay attention to what your characters say, can’t you just hire a writer who can write compelling dialogue, so that your players want to hear what your characters have to say?

      Because no matter what you do, some players are just hell-bent on getting to the gameplay. So no matter what you do, these players are just going to look up what to do online, instead of wasting their time listening to NPCs.

      1. Rho says:

        Then they can go explore.

        No amount of compelling dialogue will get players to pay attention. In fact it’s often to reverse.

        1. Lino says:

          But that was exactly my point? Some players are only interested in the gameplay. They always fast forward through all the dialogue. Even if listening to the dialogue is the only way to obtain a certain piece of information, they would rather read a walkthrough rather than listen to that NPC talk.

          1. Rho says:

            Sorry, I definitely wasn’t very clear. I can’t speak to Elden Ring specifically as I haven’t played it, however, past Soulsbourne games have been very dialogue-light and dialogue-optional. There’s nothing really exclusive or necessary in the minor sidequests, and pretty much anything or anywhere you need to get, you can get to just by exploring thoroughly. So I am not really convinced Elden Ring needs a quest log. Looking online, it doesn’t appear that they have radically more than other Soulsbourne games, to the point where a quest log would be required.

            This doesn’t mean I have an inherent problem with quest logs. I’m playing a game right now where it’s effectively mandatory. But I am not convinced it’s really a requirement for the genre Elden Ring it aiming at.

      2. AncientSpark says:

        Well, this comes to the crux of the question, and really the core at the heart of the Souls-like debate, or really any hardcore game. How much should players be “trained” to like a game?

        Lets say that there are two extremes; people who pay full detail to the dialogue, and people who don’t care. Within that spectrum, there are players who pay attention to some dialogue and not others, to varying degrees. But the secret is that any player, even in the extremes, can be shifted around based on what the game gives them. Can a developer offer interesting tools to shift their view on said dialogue and to what degree should the punishment be if they don’t?

        If we think about the motive behind giving quest hints within dialogue instead of quest logs, the most obvious benefit of doing this over generally good dialogue is that there is a tangible gameplay benefit to paying attention to story. That is something that no amount of good dialogue can offer. So, for the people whose opinions CAN be shifted on the gameplay vs dialogue debate, this gives them some amount of motivation to start paying more attention to the dialogue, in a way that simple writing cannot, and this could possibly shift their opinions around it.

        Of course there are people whose extreme views on gameplay vs dialogue won’t be shifted. You know what those people should do? Go play another game. And that’s fine, depending on what the developer feels like the audience they are targeting.

        (Of course, this doesn’t really say anything about whether that’s a good choice or not, because I don’t personally know, I haven’t played Elden Ring. But, this kind of debate doesn’t really stop at Elden Ring, it really goes to any sort of media or any sort of gameplay that’s generally controversial, and not “obviously good” or “obviously bad”).

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      That said, having a quest log in this game would hurt the gameplay experience. People would skip entire conversations to fill the quest log and ignore the conversations. This way game forces you to pay a minimum of attention to what they say

      Assuming that’s the intention then that’s hopelessly naive or outright malicious. Unless the game is designed “one quest at a time” then the players will be expected to remember every detail of every conversation and not confuse one quest with another. This is preposterously unrealistic unless they’re taking notes or the quests are ridiculously simplistic. And if the players are taking notes then that defeats the whole purpose and this is done exclusively to waste time.

    3. Syal says:

      I’m still a fan of Morrowind’s Keyword system; people talk, there are key words you can follow up on, and the description for the key words get added to a logbook. That can be your combination questlog and lorelog. (Morrowind had a specific quest log, but it didn’t have to.)

    4. ThricebornPhoenix says:

      Deus Ex showed us the way over 20 years ago, shame no one paid any attention. Logins/passwords, notes you’ve found, information gleaned from dialogue, it all gets added to your “Notes”. Sometimes you even get overlapping or redundant information, but that’s okay because you can easily delete or edit any note. No obvious “do this thing for me and I’ll reward you”, either.

      The information is there, you just need an iota of motivation and energy to find it.

  5. Steve C says:

    With regards to Borderlands, what you describe with save scumming did happen. And I feel it was necessary at a practial level at some points. It is what caused me to quit.

    Specifically, there are some good respawn locations for chests where you can get a few chests at once, then save and respawn them all by quitting. Which is cumulative and better rather than technically save scumming. It is the same thing as save scumming for all practical purposes though.

    Like in this video, I got to New Haven (#7 @1m58) And as the video explains @3m33 “They are a bit stronger than average enemies.” Plus my weapons were crap. Every enemy was like the one @1m37 — Giant hit point sponges. I had to start doing that chest farm just so the game wasn’t a slog. I did it a quite a few times. I got a fair number of weapons that were good but not good for me. Making me the archer getting the tower shields. ‘Good’ but not ‘good enough.’ I was replacing something that I had for a very very long time. I thought about having to do annoying chest runs in the future and my desire to play bottomed out. Therefore doing New Haven chest runs is where I quit for good and uninstalled.

    Something similar happened with farming slot machines in Boarderlands 2. Got to a spot my weapons didn’t cut it, then spent too much time trying to fix it. Then uninstalled.

    I only bring it up because I feel Borderlands was THE quintessential example of save scumming as a bad thing while you used it an example of the opposite.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      What? If anything, your example proves Shamus right. Save scumming was clearly not working for you. The fact that you deliberately chose to keep doing it despite the fact that it was clearly not making things any better only shows you have some poor decision-making skills. The game is designed to keep you moving. You move further you’re more likely to get better weapons. If you deliberately stick to a place you’ll never get any better gear. Save scumming is not just pointless, but actively counterproductive.

      1. Steve C says:

        First, that’s a needlessly rude way of phrasing it. Second my condemnation was of Borderlands and the implementation of randomness. I stopped finding it fun *before* save scumming / chest farming.

        It was not fun only because enemies had turned into massive hitpoint sponges I had to empty my gun into. Going forward was not fun. Going more forward was less fun. If instead one of those many chests had given me a good non-random weapon (like which happens in many places in the game) then I could have continued. Even if I had to fight the equivalent of a boss above my weight class to earn it, it would have been something. A real option. But what you suggest I should have done — slog (not advance) through content I’m not enjoying in order to find better weapons — is simply trading a slog for a different slog. I could do that, or I could *stop playing* and do something else. Which was the choice I made.

        And, for the record, I looked it up at the time. Chest farming in New Haven was my best option because nothing coming up was going to make upcoming content stop being a slog. I was fully at the mercy of the RNG. Except if I advanced I also couldn’t kill the enemies for the RNG to give me something. You make it sound like there was a correct option I didn’t pick. There were zero fun options available to me.

        I’m pretty sure that Shamus wrote/talked about something similar for one of the later Borderland games. 3? Where you get behind the bell curve and just sucks. Having to reload twice to kill a mook is simply not fun. It is extra difficult to dig yourself out of it because how much time is wasted.

        Likewise the slot machine method is basically the same as breaking down failures for crafting parts. Roll roll roll, sell everything to get back money to roll roll roll. There’s no appreciable difference between slot machines and a random result crafting system. There’s no save scumming there. Yet it is still the same game feel.

        The better option is the mix. Random deterministic. So there’s always a quality floor. And a way for someone to inch ahead in a side area with crap in order to get a good item to progress along the main route.

        1. Rho says:

          To echo this, sometimes rng doesn’t help and you end up underpowered. In Borderlands, theanswer is to grind. The problem is if you don’t enjoy the content, this doesn’t help. Grinding games can be fun but they’re not for everyone, and B1 was a bit rough in that regard. Moving forward while underpowered is a recipe for frustration.

          1. Steve C says:

            It also depends on the grind type. A grind for incremental changes over time is one type. A grind for random large jumps or maybe nothing is another. I’m fine with the former and resent the latter almost to the point I don’t think it qualifies.

        2. Dreadjaws says:

          OK, sorry, I didn’t meant to sound rude, but in this kind of game where randomness is so prevalent if you’re constantly getting negative results it generally is because you’re swimming against the current.

  6. Joshua says:

    I must confess to occasionally save-scumming while playing Civ V. Someone beats you to an important Wonder when you’ve got just one turn left (or used a Great Engineer!)? Reload! Of course, it all depends upon the importance of the event.

    1. John says:

      I never save-scum while playing Civilization V. The loading times are just too long. In Civilization, Civilization II, and Alpha Centauri, on the other hand, I save-scummed all the time. Loading times were shorter in the good old days, I guess.

  7. ContribuTor says:

    The practice of save scumming is pervasive in video games, and is a problem for any game designer whose game has a save system. What measures do you think that designers should take to deter players from (ab)using the system?

    God I hate this attitude . It smacks of “you’re playing it wrong!” elitism.

    I enjoy a good roguelike. And I love the challenge of an XCOM permadeth run. And I get that getting your shit wrecked on a regular basis is part of the intended experience. Some games have systems built in to punish failure. And that’s fine.

    But you know what? Sometimes I don’t want to lose hours of progress because of a poor decision. Or permafail a quest because I didn’t grind up enough levels to make a mockery of the flight. Or pour enough hours into the game to “get gud” enough. And that’s MY decision. It’s what makes that game fun for me. Devs intended something else? Not my problem.

    There are games I would never have finished “as intended.” I loved Death Road to Canada as a fun game I could eat in small bites that was really challenging, but if I restarted every time I made a wrong turn and got cornered there’s zero chance I’d have seen how it ended.

    I’m not a “problem” the developers have to solve. I’m a paying customer who enjoys the game and wants to play it more, just in a less punishing way. I’m not “ruining” your experience by having my own on my terms. Why the fuck do you care how someone else enjoys a sunset? https://xkcd.com/1314/

    1. Fizban says:

      I’ve been liberally manual save-scumming myself in single player ARK: Survival Evolved, and mention it’s the fastest way to git gud at Tales of Maj’Eyal every time I mention the game.

      And with how ridiculously long missions are in They Are Billions (I just lost 3+ hours because a wave spawned the side of the base with a split and didn’t aggro evenly and I’m barely out of the tutorial) I might start doing it there too, if I want to actually get anywhere in the game. I stalled out on Fire Emblem Fates because I didn’t want to replay a mission half that long.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      Lots of people play games wrong and if you do not stop them from doing so, a bunch of them will have a bad time, leave a review saying “game’s boring 0/10” and uninstall. People often gravitate towards playing in whatever way most efficiently makes numbers go up even if it’s not fun and a designer whose goal it is to make people have fun will do something about this to push people onto a more fun path.

      Of course it’s elitist, the average person is a moron! We put “pull” signs on doors, you think videogames don’t benefit from any guard rails?

      1. Steve C says:

        It’s all ergonomics.
        Something that is hard to use is simply bad design when it doesn’t need to be that way. For example the “Pull” on doors. That should be completely unnecessary. The design of the door should implicitly and subconsciously tell you how to operate it. If it doesn’t, then that’s a failure of ergonomics. A failure of design. A failure of UI.

        BMWs were famously returned to the dealerships because the ergonomics were crap. People buying them *wouldn’t* (not couldn’t) figure them out. Which is reasonable. Because it should not be difficult to do something simple. Same thing with games. It is the developer’s responsibility to make it ergonomic. If people are playing it wrong then that’s on the developer, not the player.

        1. Steve C says:

          Oops. I meant to include the previous comment inside a blister pack.

        2. ContribuTor says:

          I highly recommend the book “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman. You’ll never look at a door the same way again.

        3. Ninety-Three says:

          Indeed, and part of ergonomics is that you don’t let people adjust the chair back so that there’s a 45 degree angle between the back and the seat even if the design of the chair could allow it, because that would force you to sit like a miserable goblin.

          ContribuTor is arguing that the most ergonomic thing is to let people do whatever they want and I say no, people are stupid and if you give them unlimited freedom they will discover an unlimited number of ways to give themselves spinal injuries. The point of guard rails is that you really do want to restrict people’s freedom when they’re walking near a pit.

          1. ContribuTor says:

            You seem to think game designers should have a chair police preventing me from adjusting my chair to an angle they don’t approve of, because they’re worried I won’t sufficiently appreciate their game otherwise. Never mind what *I* feel comfortable with. They should define all aspects of the experience.

            Playing games is not a hazardous exercise. It’s a thing we do for fun. If I want to do something that I think is fun, how is that hurting myself? Or, more correctly in this case, why the gorram heck do you care?

            Because that’s what this is apparently all about to you. You want to save “stupid people” from themselves. They’re too dumb to enjoy videogames *properly*, so you need to carefully control and shephard them to have fun in the approved way. Poor little lambs.

            1. Ninety-Three says:

              If the most optimal number-go-up strategy is to spend five minutes between every fight swapping equipment and reapplying buffs, some players will do that, have no fun at all, complain that the game isn’t fun, and be right. The job of a game designer is to make a thing that people have fun playing, and if he notices that people keep falling into the pit of equipment swapping then he should put up some guard rails. Once the player’s freedom is restricted to make the strategy impossible, people will stop doing it and they will have more fun, which I understand to be the point of videogames.

              1. Steve C says:

                You are approaching it from the negative rather than the positive. Restriction rather than facilitation. It is making it seem like there’s a disagreement even though I believe everyone is on the same page here.

                The door example again: Anyone who has never seen that particular door who approaches should already know how to open it. It should be easy, obvious and not even thought about. Same thing with a game. The design should already be telling you how to play it. I would not call it guard rails. I would call it good design.

                Shamus wrote about it with Half Life 2. Where the lighting and natural framing of a scene implied what you were supposed to do, why, and how. I wrote about it with Shadow of the Colossus. Proper indications, tells, highlights, reactions. The UI can be thin or even non-existent as long as the rest of the game facilitates what it is missing. But it actually has to do that.

                I think that Zeta Kai’s question is valid. Its not elitist because the re-phrased version wasn’t what was asked. The question is about good game design that never makes you *want* to do something you shouldn’t want. Not that it prevents you from doing so. Instead it is designed so that it never crosses your mind to try.

                You are playing World of Warcraft. Angry you can’t save-scum? Or does the fundamental design mean it never crossed your mind? What about Shadow of the Colossus? I have no problems save scumming. I never once had any desire to do so while playing that game. Valheim– never save scummed.

                You don’t fix the door by removing it. You don’t fix the door by boarding it up. You don’t fix the door with signage. You fix the door by making it fade into nothing.

                1. Ninety-Three says:

                  I think there is an actual disagreement here: ContribuTor seems to view freedom as an unalloyed good, and I say that one of the tools of good design is restricting freedom. Half Life 2 lighting is great but if you don’t have Valve’s years of exhaustive playtesting then at some point your players are going to want to do something that is not actually fun, and the fun-maximizing thing to do in that situation is to tell them “No”.

                  1. ContribuTor says:

                    I think the crux of our disagreement comes down to this:

                    At some point your players are going to want to do something that is not actually fun, and the fun-maximizing thing to do in that situation is to tell them “No”.

                    What does it mean for players to want to do something that is “not actually fun?” And who gets to decide what “not actually fun” means?

                    Assuming I know the range of choices available to me, and I know what the likely outcomes are, and I decide to choose a certain path, then to me, that is by definition the most fun way to play the game. Because the only reason I play games is to have fun.

                    What I consider fun is a personal choice. I don’t believe the developers or you or anyone else is allowed to tell me what is fun for me.

                    Imagine a GTA-like game where I can fly a plane around town. The devs put a lot of work into the flight simulation, and they’re pretty proud of it. A lot of the playtesters found the simulation really cool. But if what I want to do is point the plane at the police station, bail out, and parachute through the hole in the wreckage, and you stop me from doing that because flying the plane is “more fun” than that, then I will not thank you.

                    Now, if there’s a non-obvious part of the missions where fighter jets will show up, and I get to dogfight them while navigating through skyscrapers, ok that’s pretty freakin sweet and I’d have been sad to miss it. But to me, if that’s what you want, you need to make a way that makes me want to stick around in the plane to see what happens. Give me radio chatter on a military frequency. Or a hailing from ground control threatening to shoot me down. Or show me a big red circle on the HUD that’s the restricted airspace. But don’t take away the eject lever and tell me it’s for my own good.

                    If you think it’s fun, get me to choose it. Or get the heck out of my way.

                    1. Ninety-Three says:

                      In Nethack there is an ability called polymorph which turns things into random other things. Players have observed that you can create a giant pile of random worthless items, then zap it with polymorph in the hopes of producing some valuable items. Players want to do this because they want to win the game and producing valuable items helps them do so. Everyone agrees that doing this is tedious because it’s basically Bethesda inventory management with a worse UI. Some players do this and while they do it they complain that they are not having any fun.

                      This is the kind of thing I am talking about. Games should be fun, and in games where you are supposed to try to win, winning should be fun. If winning is not fun then some players will try to win and have no fun. If the winningest strategy in a game is not fun, removing the freedom to pursue that strategy will cause the game’s players to have more fun, as reported by themselves.

                    2. Shufflecat says:


                      At a certain point you have to call these sorts of things a player problem rather than a designer problem. Not all games are for everyone, but some players (a lot of players, actually) are bad at realizing that, and you can’t really design around that. You just have to accept that you’re always going to get a certain % of bad reviews because someone thought it was an objective flaw that your game wasn’t what they wanted it to be, even if what they wanted had no resemblance to anything they should have expected from marketing, word of mouth, other reviews, product descriptions, etc..

                      This is the real problem you’re aiming at IMO. Not people who play in an objectively unfun way and complain about it: people who perceive all gameplay that isn’t of genre A as a failed execution of genre A, instead of as different genres.

                      Design is always going to have limits according to what the designer themself thinks is fun. I’d ague that a designer that creates “barriers” simply by focusing on the experience they want to provide to the exclusion of others is doing a better, more honest job than one who’s deliberately trying to put up barriers to corral players who want a completely different experience. The correct response to those players is “don’t buy a game in genre A if you want a genre B experience”, not “Since you’re here anyway, I will force you to enjoy genre A”.

                      The latter has a very “the beatings will continue until morale improves” sort of logic.

                    3. Chad+Miller says:

                      What I consider fun is a personal choice. I don’t believe the developers or you or anyone else is allowed to tell me what is fun for me.

                      You would think, but in my experience the experienced gamedevs will absolutely tell you that despite how little sense it makes on its face, people will frequently engage games in a counterproductively un-fun way unless actively deterred. One of my favorites:

                      Everquest 2 was a very different game from Everquest 1. Everquest 1 was an old-style grind-focused MMO. Everquest 2 was taking cues from World of Warcraft, and most of your experience was meant to be gained through questing.

                      Unfortunately, players were complaining that monster experience was too low. They said they were trying to grind and it was just boring. This was true, it was meant to be pretty boring; players were meant to be questing, not grinding! And yet, there they were, grinding.

                      It took the developers quite a while to figure out what was going on. In any game of any significant size, a lot of the numbers are generated with big complicated spreadsheets to make it easier to adjust values on the fly. Unfortunately, their experience spreadsheet had a mistake in it, resulting in monster experience being too high. The too-high monster experience accidentally meant that grinding was optimal!

                      They fixed the bug in the spreadsheet and updated experience values, thereby dramatically reducing experience given from killing monsters. Players started questing instead of grinding and reported that the game was now a lot more fun.

                      I especially like this one, by the way, because nothing stopped the players from questing in the first place. On top of that, questing wasn’t even buffed, it was slightly nerfed because now quest-related monster kills also gave less experience! Nope, the entire situation was caused by players playing a game optimally but in an un-fun manner, then requiring the game developers to fix it so that the optimal play method was fun – in this case, simply by removing the accidentally-introduced play method that was fast but boring.

                      If you ever hear someone say “players can figure out what’s fun, just give them game mechanics and they’ll find their own fun”, remember this story.

                    4. Thomas says:

                      I’ve got an answer, standing in front of a cave every evening mindlessly spamming the fire button isn’t fun, but Destiny players did it anyway because it was optimal. Bungie saw that, restricted the ability of players to get loot that way and the players were happier for it.

                      It’s a developers job to craft a fun game for the player. That involves constant decisions about restricting particular unfun play behaviours at every stage of the process. It’s intrinsic to game design.

                      Restrictions in particular are a big part of that. In Magic it’s not fun to spend 20 minutes memorising your deck order every time you search for a card. So developers make you shuffle to restrict your ability to do that.

                      Do developers always get it right when they decide what’s fun? No, but they’ve still got to make the decision and hope the audience feels the same way. That’s what they’re paid for

                2. Steve C says:

                  *Edit: Valheim– never save scummed but I did mod it to add a pause button. Cause screw that noise! The game is much better with it.

                  1. Paul Spooner says:

                    I believe pause is now in vanilla Valheim as of Patch 0.207.20
                    Your foresight has been affirmed!

      2. ContribuTor says:

        Developers should make games that are fun to play. No argument there.
        Developers should provide guidance in games that points people to the fun way to play them. If the game frustrates people and they leave, they will have a bad impression. Sure.

        But this was a conversation on “save scumming” and how developers should prevent “abuse” for this “pervasive” “problem.” And that’s where, to me, your argument is misplaced here.

        How exactly is preventing me from reloading a previous save, and instead demanding I slog through 2 hours of content again, or continue on with my favorite character dead, or just killing me and making me start over because “that’s how it’s meant to be played” a “guardrail” that will keep me from “having a bad time”?

        “Save scumming” is always voluntary. It’s a way for the player to “undo” something that went wrong and try again. Nobody every HAS to reload a save. Somehow PREVENTING the player from making the choice to save scum is not a guardrail that will lead people to the fun. It’s a barrier to prevent them from doing something that they FIND fun.

        Which of the following do you think is more likely to cause frustrated players to uninstall the game and leave bad review scores:
        * “This game is too easy! If you quit and reload your save often enough, you can beat the game without ever dying! Don’t bother – not fun to play!”
        * “After the first boss killed me, I had to play through half an hour of content again to get back to the fight. After the third time he killed me, I decided it wasn’t worth it and quit.”

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Well, you could argue that “checkpoint” save systems essentially “force” you to reload when you fail. People don’t call it “save scumming” because the game does it for you automatically, but it could amount to the same thing. It doesn’t show up very often (ever?) in RNG-heavy games though, likely because it would trivialize the “challenge” of getting a good drop.

          1. Shufflecat says:

            That would be disingenuous argument IMO. Checkpoints don’t force you in any meaningful way, as you can choose to self-impose your ironman run by quitting to the menu. They don’t remove anything from your possibility space.

            It also feels like stretching definitions into meaninglessness in order to continue arguing a weakened point.

            A single-save, checkpoint-only system can be very restrictive, but in a way that supports ContribuTor’s argument.

        2. Paul Spooner says:

          Also, I just realized that you are posting as “ContribuTor” which makes me think that your comment, much like From’s game catalog, may be simply low-key trolling.

          1. ContribuTor says:

            Not trolling anyone on this. I feel strongly on this topic. What should developers do to combat the persistent scourge of save scumming? Nothing. Don’t do anything. If save scumming makes me enjoy the game more, leave me the hell alone. My fun is not a problem to be solved. I’m a paying customer. Let me enjoy the game.

            If I wanted to troll on this, I’d say something like this:
            Most the people who demand developers address people who are “cheating to have more fun than they’re supposed to have!” are sad tryhard 100%’ers whose egos are so very very fragile that they feel their only accomplishments in life are cheapened if other people can get the same cheevos without meeting their personal definition of being WORTHY. You know, like Dark Souls fans.

            I can throw in something about NFT’s if that’s not trolly enough for ya.

            1. Paul Spooner says:

              Sorry, I thought your username was chosen as a reference to a recent post where Shamus used the name as an example of a troll argument. But I just looked it up, and not only can I find no reference to the damning “troll argument” example, but your first post was almost two years ago:

              Again, my apologies. My bad!

          2. Shufflecat says:

            As someone who agrees with ContribuTor’s position, I’m unclear on what about his post reads as trolling to you. He’s vehement, but IMO that’s not out of character for the argument so far (I’d argue that the quote he was initially responding to is loaded in it’s own right, and some of the commenters above have pushed the tone further than ContribuTor has).

            To me this comes a bit out of left field, and has the air of “trolls are people who disagree with me” to it. I think that’s not likely the actual case, because you have a good track record for being reasonable in your disagreements, but it is weird.

        3. Chad+Miller says:

          “Save scumming” is always voluntary. It’s a way for the player to “undo” something that went wrong and try again. Nobody every HAS to reload a save. Somehow PREVENTING the player from making the choice to save scum is not a guardrail that will lead people to the fun. It’s a barrier to prevent them from doing something that they FIND fun.

          There are a few counters to this point, but for me one of the most important is:

          Just because an action is technically possible doesn’t mean that the game is designed for it.

          It’s a bit like fast travel in that regard. I prefer games that don’t have omnipresent fast travel, but if you already have a game that includes such fast travel then it’s very likely that “just don’t use fast travel” won’t work very well. (for a commercial example, try Fallout 4’s Survival Mode)

          Similarly, a game that doesn’t have save-scumming as a feature is not the same thing as a game that allows save-scumming but I personally decide not to do it. It likely hasn’t been playtested in that state, which means there are a host of reasons that it may not work well when played that way. And I’m generally not interested in putting in unpaid game design work to guess what combination of self-imposed challenges on a game are going to be fun.

        4. Shufflecat says:

          Save scumming serves a valuable purpose: a check against developer failure.

          I don’t mean a way to mitigate disagreement with developer’s intent: I mean a way to deal with areas where the developer legit dropped the ball and made something that didn’t work as they intended.

          When I think of times I’ve save scummed, the formative example in my personal memory is the bit in Half Life 1 where you have to first-person platform across a series of crates hanging from chains over a bottomless pit. Arguably an ill-advised bit of design to begin with, but made even worse by the fact that I was playing the PS2 port, with floaty/slidey analog stick controls. The only way I got through that with sanity intact was by quick saving on every crate.

          Developers are as human as anyone, and games are a hurricane of changing parameters and right hand vs left hand tangles. Isn’t that always the excuse when the writing turns out borked? So why are we expecting the gameplay to represent some kind of perfect crystalline example of artistic intent? No: gameplay is as vulnerable to mix-ups, jank, and bad ideas as any other part of development.

          The difference is that bad writing won’t physically prevent you from continuing the game, but bad gameplay can. Having “emergency manual override” options is an IMO neglected and occasionally very important part of design. Do let people save scum. Do build in a cheat codes or hidden cheese items/strategies. Account for the possibility that your boss fight actually sucks hard, no matter how proud of it you are, or that that platforming section is tedious instead of fun, etc.

      3. eldomtom2 says:

        The funny thing is, people will instantly deny this the moment the conversation turns to accessibility…

  8. Dreadjaws says:

    This is going to sound silly, but there’s nothing that turns me off a game more than seeing a large list of 10/10 scores for it, and it’s for two reasons. One, you just know that this means you cannot say anything negative about the game without being attacked by everyone, no matter how good your intentions are and how perfectly constructive your criticism is. It’s already happening with Elden Ring. You say you don’t like anything about it and you’re showered with a barrage of insults and mockery.

    Second, I simply don’t believe them. I’ve played a bunch of games that have had these sort of scores and I have yet to agree with one of them. I am, for instance, currently playing through Breath of the Wild and I tell you: objectively speaking, this is not a 10/10 game. Yes, subjectively I can understand people loving it so much that they can downplay or outright ignore some of its glaring flaws, but reviewers are supposed to be objective. They can’t just gush over all the stuff they love and pretend there are no negatives. They have to inform the audience what those negatives are and let them decide for themselves if they are bothered by them or not.

    It’s particularly annoying in a game like Elden Ring, where the sort of thing that gets praised here is taken as a negative in other games. If a Spider-Man game dared not to have a pause button people would be livid. If a Mass Effect released without a quest log no one would be saying “Ah, finally a game that doesn’t hold your hand”, they would be protesting. Look, I have no problem with games being difficult by design, but removing basic features and calling that a feature is preposterous, and it certainly doesn’t make a game more difficult, just more annoying. A game doesn’t become harder because you cannot pause it. That’s fake difficulty.

    And it’s all just a pointless endeavor. It’s like when smartphones started removing the headphone jack and had to start selling adapters for it. A cynic could say it was a planned move to force people to pay extra money for something they used to have free, but I think it’s far more likely that they genuinely believed they could phase them out and that didn’t work out because people don’t like losing access to convenient features. It’s the same here, you just know that many of the people who praise this sort of feature removal in games are the first ones who are going to be downloading a quest guide.

    Make no mistake, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with deliberately making these design choices, but I would certainly prefer it if people stopped pretending they’re groundbreaking.

    Side note, did you know there are 900 Korok seeds to collect in BOTW? Nine hundred! Not even Ubisoft has pulled off such BS. Yes, they actually have a use (which is kinda BS too, but I certainly don’t want to go on that tangent), but that doesn’t make their collecting any less annoying. God, how I hate padding with a passion.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      The fun really begins when a few months past after launch and the general consensus suddenly does a sharp 180° where a lot of complaints suddenly come out of the woodwork to the point that some people even say the game is bad, the consenseus shifting from “masterpiece” to “good or even great but overrated”.

      I am, for instance, currently playing through Breath of the Wild and I tell you: objectively speaking, this is not a 10/10 game.

      I can indeed agree that it’s actually a 7/10 game.

    2. Geebs says:

      Obligatory “The reason why Elden Ring doesn’t have a pause menu is because it’s a multiplayer game” post.

    3. Abnaxis says:

      A game doesn’t become harder because you cannot pause it. That’s fake difficulty.

      I can’t speak for Elden Ring, but there is definitely a different difficulty involved in accessing your inventory for a healing or a buffing item in the middle of a fight if the game doesn’t pause while you’re doing it. I wouldn’t call it “fake.”

      I completely agree with “I never buy anything being showered with 10/10s.” Honestly that’s why I still haven’t picked up Elden Ring yet, the over-hype is just too much.

      1. Sabrdance says:

        I have a toddler. Lack of a pause button is a deal breaker, unless the penalty for getting killed is “push a button and resume exactly where you were at the moment of death.”

        1. Abnaxis says:

          I also have a toddler.

          If a game doesn’t pause, I don’t play it before his bed-time, I also just generally don’t play multiplayer games anymore because as soon as I do he’ll have a potty-training accident.

          That’s OK, not all games are for all people of all life stages.

          1. Sabrdance says:

            I’ve been on the fence about this game -several friends have really liked it. But as soon as I heard it was From Software’s work my interest waned. I love their games in theory, but I have never enjoyed playing one -and since my time to play them would be very limited (I typically play games either on weekends or after said toddler goes to bed -so I’m playing a couple hours a week at most), anything that makes it frustrating to get back to where I was a moment ago is pretty much going to the bottom of the pile.

            Those who have the time and enjoyment to play the game -please enjoy it to the fullest. But much like our Host’s rant -I want it recognized that the reason I’m not playing the game is because I have other projects ahead of it and the game made the decision to not fit into my lifestyle. We have a mutual agreement not to be together right now.

          2. Daimbert says:

            I don’t think it’s as simple as that. The issue with toddlers — although I’ve never had one myself — is pretty much that you can’t really predict what they will do or need, and if a toddler falls and hurts themselves or even after they go to sleep has a bad dream or something you are going to have to put the game on pause and go and check on that, even if it’s probably nothing. You can’t wait until the next checkpoint/save point to do that. For me, the issue with games with no pause and a time limit — the boss fight against Okamura in the original Persona 5 is an example — is usually something like the phone. I don’t get too many phone calls and so it’s not usually a concern, but if that happens then I can’t really just let it go and finish the sequence, in part because of the fact that I don’t get many phone calls. And you might get other things like someone coming to the door or hearing a loud noise that you REALLY should go and check out. Even just needing to go to the bathroom really, really badly can be an issue if there’s no pause button and you’re in the middle of a long sequence for you.

            And there seems to be no real reason to not include pause in, at least, single player games. So if it’s done to make things more difficult, then it’s fake difficulty at the expense of player experience, which is a bad thing. And almost all players are going to hit a situation where not having pause will cause them to lose a lot of progress and frustrate them.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              No offense, but I literally said in my first sentence that I also have a toddler. Like, he turns 3 in May and is being taken care of by my mother-in-law while I make this post from work. I’m fully aware that sometimes games are going to have to be dropped for toddler emergencies at any hour (though it’s more seldom at night), and that’s why I don’t play multiplayer games any more–I don’t like screwing up someone else’s fun because I need to go off and take care of the kid.

              In the specific instance of Soulsborne games, there’s still an inventory screen but it doesn’t pause. That means your inventory–healing items and buffing items and everything, with no significant limit on how much you can carry–is always available to you but the game doesn’t pause while you’re accessing it. In my own personal experience, it has led to moments where I’m thiiiiiis close to finishing a boss or a task or something else and scrambling to find something I can throw at the thing in front of me to win before my last 2 HP disappear. That’s not “fake difficulty,” it’s a design decision that will please some people and frustrate others.

              I can totally see where someone might not like having to take a death when their toddler has an emergency. For my part, I’m fine doing a blood-stain run as long as I’m not tilting ten other people in a server. Like I said not all games are for all people, and that’s a choice I made when I decided to have a kid.

              1. Thomas says:

                Your example about potions doesn’t ring true to me. Loads of games have pause buttons where you don’t have the ability to do anything whilst paused – almost every action game and shooter for an example.

                It seems like a totally unnecessary restriction that hampers accessibility for everyone.

                Edit: Oops, this has already been said

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        I can’t speak for Elden Ring, but there is definitely a different difficulty involved in accessing your inventory for a healing or a buffing item in the middle of a fight if the game doesn’t pause while you’re doing it. I wouldn’t call it “fake.”

        But that’s a whole different thing. All they have to do is keep the inventory from pausing. That doesn’t mean they should remove the option to pause entirely. Hell, even if all they want is stopping people from carefully planning a strategy is make the entire pause screen blank, like so many games do.

      3. Shufflecat says:

        I think “not having a pause button”, and “not pausing while in inventory” are two very different concepts.

        In most games, you have two different menu hubs: a “Save/Load/Settings/Quit” menu, and a “Inventory/Journal/Map/Skills” menu. This varies from game to game, and not all genres have the latter menu, but that’s generally the standard. On PC these are two different buttons, usually Esc and Tab, respectively. I dunno what it is with consoles these days, but back when I was a console player the controller had “pause” and “select” buttons for these. In fact guides would refer to these two menus as the pause menu and the select menu.

        Multiplayer games often don’t pause on either of these (because you can’t asymmetrically stop time). Singleplayer games will universally pause on the “Pause/Esc” menu, but may or may not pause on “Select/Tab” menu.

        Having not played either Elden Ring or Valenhiem, I’m confused as to which people are arguing about here. My understanding is they both have enough of a multiplayer element that pausing in either would be an issue, but I don’t know the details. I feel like Elden Ring should pause on “Pause/Esc” when in offline mode, at least, based on what I know of the Souls franchise, but I don’t know if Elden Ring goes harder or less optional on the multiplayer bits than Souls did.

        ANY fully single player game that doesn’t pause on the “Pause/Escape” menu is BS, that I’d totally agree with. Games that don’t pause on “Select/Tab”, well that can actually make sense depending on the genre and gameplay style. Like, I feel like I’ve definitely played horror games where rooting around in your inventory is supposed to be a moment of vulnerability you’re supposed to be worried about. Pausing on inventory in, like, a FalloutScrolls game feels dodgy to me, but that’s IMO more the fault of gameplay being partly designed with things like drinking potions in mid-combat in mind rather than the actual menu system.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          Souls games have the inventory and system menu on different tabs on the same overall menu. You… maybe could separate them if you wanted…? However, on a controller the game is a really input starved already. You COULD remove something else to make room depending on the game–some of the games have extraneous stuff like emotes taking up a button–but others actually have more important functions taking up everything and you couldn’t spare one without cutting other features

          1. Shufflecat says:

            As a PC player this sounds intensely bizarre to me, and more like a deeper indictment of the UI design (possibly the game design in general, if consoles are the primary target) than anything else.

            Not saying PC is all grand: we have our own similar issues in the form of unnecessary proliferation of dedicated key controls for stuff that has no reason not be collapsed into contextual keys.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              I don’t know what I think about that.

              I am a PC player too, I just use a controller for Souls games because trying to play without thumb-sticks is PAINFUL. On a standard controller, the Elden Ring uses every single button (four weapon abilities, dodge, quick item, jump, interact, 2 weapon swaps, spell swap, quick item swap, open menu, look at map), plus it has functions that require two buttons combined to function (swap stance). Unless you completely remove one of those ways of interacting with the game, that’s all the buttons.

              You could maybe argue that controllers need more buttons, but the design of them has been iterated on for decades by companies that aren’t shy about throwing lots of money at R&D to get an edge on their competitors. This isn’t the first game I’ve run into that could use with more buttons on the controller, but it’s hard to argue with that much momentum.

    4. Thomas says:

      What qualities do you think a 10/10 game would have? Or do you believe no games can be a 10/10?

      If it’s the latter, I suggest your just reframe what you think a reviewers 10/10 means. I doubt many, if any, reviewers intend to signal that this game is flawless. A 5/5 film is simply one of their favourite films that came out recently, and 10/10 games are probably the same.

      And of the many mistakes of the industry, I’m not sure BotW is a bad pick. It’s had significant influence over game design since coming out, and still has legions of fans. Not many games can claim to that, even if BotW is not really my cup of tea.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Oh, I have no problem with someone giving a game a 10/10. My problem is when so many reviewers do it at the same time. Like, have you met people? It’s impossible for two guys to always agree on something, even if they’re lifelong friends. It feels artificial.

        And I mentioned BOTW precisely because a) I’m a big fan of the series in general and b) a bunch of the things they call “innovative” and “influential” about this game are the kind of things that have existed long before, but they’re only paying attention to it now for whatever reason.

    5. King Marth says:

      The thing is, you can use at most 450 Korok seeds, and there’s diminishing returns far before that point. There’s an Easter egg for actually getting them all (which practically makes fun of you for being so thorough), but the massive number is not to make you collect more, but to increase the density to the point where randomly wandering will give you something and you always feel like you’ve stumbled on something cool even if you’re taking a path no-one else takes. The point isn’t to force you to use a guide, but to include so much more game that you naturally find everything you need without making a linear unmissable corridor.
      Same idea with the moons in Super Mario Odyssey, there are some frustratingly obtuse moon puzzles because you only need a quarter of what is in there. You might figure out one of the weird ones yourself over a run, and that one will be really cool because you did it yourself. Odyssey is still an offender though because there are some significant chunks blocked off behind 99% completion.

      I think you can break the “rules” of a medium when you really know what you’re doing and can provide a good experience despite ignoring established wisdom, and that doing this well is very different from taking a by-the-books example and stripping out the pillars it was built around. Randomly shuffling the scenes of some blockbuster movie won’t give the same experience as Pulp Fiction, but the out-of-order scenes are a legitimate feature of that particular movie.
      I can’t know if that is what happened in this game though, since we’re still in the honeymoon. Signs point to no, because if the game was built such that it was satisfying despite the absence of expected basics, then we’d be analyzing how the game worked without a quest log rather than complaining about the lack of quest log. To the fans though, this is like complaining about the lack of car chases in Star Trek, or that Prey wasn’t a good squad-based cover shooter.

    6. Ninety-Three says:

      A game doesn’t become harder because you cannot pause it. That’s fake difficulty.

      Just last night I was playing Nuclear Throne and the timer for the oven went off so I hit pause mid-fight. Given more than a split second to think, I realized that I had been dodging right which would take me straight into that swarm of bullets and I actually needed to dodge left. I had dinner, sat back down at the computer and pressed left, correcting my mistake.

      It literally does get easier.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        True. Games that are “real time with pause” demonstrate this clearly. There’s a real advantage to having the luxury of analysis. You could work around this of course, especially in a procedural-heavy game. Imagine re-generating the encounter around you every time you pause! Though that opens up the possibility of a kind of real-time “save scumming” as well. Hmmm…

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          One day I want to see people play Starcraft 2 with pause. Every frame of gameplay the action freezes and the players have, I dunno, a full minute to perfectly issue individual commands to each of their units. It’d take forever to play and the game is not remotely balanced for that kind of perfect micromanagement, but it’d be fascinating.

          1. Steve C says:

            Umm that’s basically how I played Starcraft back in the day. You’d be wrong about the ‘perfect micromanagement’ part. I still think it makes more sense than playing it with 300+ APM.

            1. Ninety-Three says:

              How? I actually looked into it a while ago and it’s not easy to mod in the ability to give commands while paused because the game’s scripting is complicated and a bunch of stuff breaks.

              1. Steve C says:

                I wasn’t referring to Starcraft 3 here. It was Starcraft 2 and pausing was simply part of the game.

        2. Syal says:

          Hee hee, make a game where instead of “pausing” you have a “back up” button; the longer you leave it paused, the further the game will have backed up when you unpause.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            There was a time travel RTS that kind of did that! On top of the standard RTS gameplay you could generate time juice which could be spent to go back in time and issue different orders to units or even send new units back in time to help a battle. Changes rippled forward through the timeline at a rate of (I forget the real rate) two seconds per second, so if I go back in time to change something a minute ago, it will be reflected in the present another minute from now.

            Tragically the game wasn’t very good.

            1. Retsam says:

              Yeah, the game was (is) called Achron – it’s a super neat idea, but I discovered I’m bad enough at RTSes in two dimensions, much less three, so I never got very good at it.

        3. ContribuTor says:

          Even just slowing down the game with respect to your decision making is a huge difference.

          I remember some peripheral joystick for the original NES (I forget if it was first- or third- party) that had a “slow mo” feature that basically toggled the pause button a few times a second. In some games, it was a godlike cheat mode. In others (especially ones where there was a “pause menu”) it was unplayable garbage.

      2. Daimbert says:

        The issue there is that you ended up, really, abusing the pause feature. Given that you were going to dinner, what you should have been trying to do, in terms of the game, is quitting and then loading it again later, which would get you back into the stream of things and would avoid you being able to see that situation again and figuring that out. Also, in that game it seems like a rather mild benefit, as the very next situation would be at full speed again. Thus, to get any real benefit out of it you’d have to be using as a deliberate strategy and pausing it constantly, which would break what is presumably a fast-paced gameplay and make it a completely different game that you probably wouldn’t enjoy. So that would be “pause-scumming”, and we can ask if the possibility that some small minority of players in that game might try that is sufficient justification for taking pause out.

      3. Dreadjaws says:

        A good developer can skirt through this. It might get easier if the pause screen still shows you the game. But if the screen is blank or shows you an unrelated picture you will not be able to assess the situation. Hell, developers could even go a step ahead and use a screenshot of a similar area of the game just to confuse the player who tries to use pause to their advantage.

        As an aside, you can still assess the situation the way you mention after losing. Again, all removing the pause does is force repetition.

  9. Fizban says:

    I suppose what I’m more curious about is how there are apparently so many obvious “quests” that people want a quest log. So, is Elden Ring not just an “open world” game in the sense that its dungeons and paths are so large they look like a vast map while still being well-designed, but is instead actually an open-world game in the lol here’s a list of chores to wander around and do until the game says you’re done?

    I’ve actually been pulling out a physical notebook/cards/whatever more often for games, even if I’ve actually been using the wiki. I’ve got text files of notes/logs from after sessions, but if I want to actually reference something in the middle of game like recipes or building plans, it’s better on paper than having to constantly min/maximize or manage a second monitor (usually with a glaring white wall of text next to a game that is not). On the one hand, there are plenty of games I look at and agree that expecting the player to draw up their own dungeon maps and write literally everything down is bogus. But on the other hand, if the game doesn’t do *any* of that for you, it should be pretty obvious you’re supposed to do it yourself. I think the big indicator usually comes down to maps: I’m not a cartographer so I expect something to be provided, but if the game doesn’t mark your position on that map or have a quest log, I know perfectly well what’s going on.

    Having to stop and write things down *is* more immersive. It could be helped by giving the player an in-game notepad, but then there’s the question of drawing diagrams and what those poor console-users are supposed to do, so no such features get added (why bother when people willing to take notes will do so without?). But telling me it’s more immersive for some wanderer in a dead/forsaken/whatever land of mystery to magically know exactly when something they’re told is relevant and what they’re supposed to do about it? That’s pretty obviously antithetical to the entire ‘Souls worldbuilding experience. The player is supposed to piece together the lore and happenings on their own, by paying attention and gathering the scraps of information gleaned by literally gathering items. The previous games had almost zero “sidequests” and you could just bumble around until you found another boss, but this new game actually requires you to pay attention to get things done? Sounds like a bunch of people just admitted they only engaged with the games as a string of fights they weren’t paying attention to.

    Which again, isn’t that surprising, with how the “average” gamer sneers at “lore” and reading etc. Is it time for the dirty lore-hounds and note-takers to have their turn smugly telling everyone else to git gud because they can’t be bothered to pay attention to anything more than the combat in front of their nose? Cool, more power to them. It’s a perfectly valid stylistic and mechanical choice. The catch is if the underlying game still uses a ‘Soulsian subtle drip of info with relatively unimportant “quests,” or if they’ve added a standard “open-world” chore/collectathon/etc list minus the standard open-world questlog.

    Not that I’ll be playing Elden Ring for quite some time myself. It has no Denuvo bs, but it does require Win10/DirectX12, and even if I just said eff it and set up a second hard drive for such an instal, it wouldn’t matter because all the minimum system requirements are past what I’ve got. Not just the graphics card but main processor too.

    1. Geebs says:

      ‘Quests’ in Elden Ring fall into a few categories:
      1) main story quests – which either have flaming great arrows on the world map pointing the player in the right direction or maps which persist in the inventory.
      2) go see a dude quests – the quest giver stays in the same spot and reiterates the quest instructions
      3) Souls-like quests; the player repeatedly runs into a character as they progress through the game, possibly summons the character for a boss fight, and then that character dies horribly. They’re pretty rudimentary.

      I can’t think of a reason why Elden Ring shouldn’t have a quest log apart from my standard response that FromSoft can barely program games in the first place and it’s probably best if they don’t expend effort putting in a system which very few people will ever use and might introduce yet more bugs.

      That said: Elden Ring is a terrific game which makes 95% of the Open World genre look really embarrassing, and is the closest anybody has ever come to a proper Morrowind sequel.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        That said: Elden Ring is a terrific game which makes 95% of the Open World genre look really embarrassing

        Meanwhile, in an alternate universe…

        1. Steve C says:

          Eh. I get your point with the screenshot. But it still depends.

          Shadow of the Colossus is a perfect example. Practically no UI. Huge world. Intuitive system to figure where to go and what to do. Not perfect, but intuitive for most. More UI wouldn’t have made that game better. A game with a oodles of side quests though? With little tricks and wordplay to puzzle out? That’s a different beast.

          The UI needs to match the game. If it is reasonable for people get lost in an open world, then you kind of need a map. If it is reasonable to expect people to write things down, there should be some system in-game that does that for you or at least facilitate it.

      2. Fizban says:

        I can’t think of a reason why Elden Ring shouldn’t have a quest log apart from my standard response that FromSoft can barely program games in the first place and it’s probably best if they don’t expend effort putting in a system which very few people will ever use and might introduce yet more bugs.

        With the three categories you’ve given, I have to say that for my part that sounds like exactly the amount of information they should be giving you to fit with their style, and there’s no reason why it *should* have a quest log. Main quests are obvious, sidequests you can go back to the start and write it down if you’ve forgot, and “chance encounter/event” stories are as hidden as they ever were. I suppose there is the problem where people are likely not paying enough attention to where they’re going to get *back* to whoever gave them a quest to repeat the instructions, but I’d still blame that on the player for running around an open world game with no automatic map markers without paying attention and then doing *surprised pikachu face* when they get lost. If you don’t have a magic map, it’s your job to navigate.

        The second part of the quote, yup I’d thought of that angle too- it is entirely likely if they tried to make a quest log for the first time, it would suck and hurt the experience far more than iterating and branching out from what they’ve been doing in every game they’ve made so far.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          So, I was under the impression that this quest log discussion was taking place in a game without modern game-like features such as fast travel and an interactable self-populating world map. But no! It turns out Elden Ring has all those things! Sure it doesn’t have a minimap, but including an illustrated worldmap at all is a huge consession to usibility, to say nothing of fast travel. In light of that reality, the lack of any kind of quest tracking seems all the more baffling.

          Here’s what I think. You should be able to access the text (And the voice acting too! Why not?) of any NPC you’ve spoken to, and see roughly where they were on the map when they said the thing. It doesn’t have to be precise if that detracts too much from the challenge. Group all the locations by district or something!
          Then, to allow some kind of quest tracking without the game explicitly tipping its hand, Allow players to tag any of the words in the dialog so they can find them later.

          1. galacticplumber says:

            Except there IS a feature to easily store the data of any repeatable dialogue. You can put your own markers on the map and almost every talking npc is within a stone’s throw of one of the teleport points.

            They may not have literally handed you a portable tape recorder, but they did hand you the tools to achieve the same effect for anything you felt deserved archiving in a matter of seconds.

            There’s even different kinds of player placeable marker such that you can have an organization scheme for your note taking that the game will respect if you adhere to it.

            One of the types of player placeable marker directly places a glowing blue vertical light visible on the horizon just to make it easier to follow your own directions.

            1. Fizban says:

              It has fast travel and customizable map pins and visible waypoints? Indeed, the complaints get more and more feeble in my eyes. Suggestions that you should be able to press a “note” button and save the NPC’s dialogue have definite merit, but at that point you might as well do it automatically for all NPCs because people will then complain that it should be automatic, and yeah if you’re making that automatic then why doesn’t it just automatically tell you about quests- I very much see that as an obvious and immediate slippery slope into what the design is specifically trying to avoid. But if there’s teleports that let you go back to NPCs easily and a markable map, that’s as much or more than even Hollow Knight gives you. Basically every tool except the text itself.

              1. galacticplumber says:

                And you know what else? There IS a part of your inventory designed for notes. As in physical pieces of paper with hints written on them that you buy from vendors or find in places that point to various places with directions instead of waypoints.

                Also sometimes hints at mechanics like a note that tells you if there’s demihuman minions in a boss fight they’ll immediately go into cowering surrender if the boss dies.

                There’s also paintings that you find throughout the world that get saved in this section. If after finding the painting itself you find the precise area it was painted from the painter’s ghost will show up and reward you.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      So, just as an example for discussion:

      I recently played through Sekiro, got the standard ending, found it unsatisfying. Said this to someone I know, he mentioned that there were other endings; something I can’t remember the game even hinting at.
      So I look up how to do it on a wiki, and…fuck me sideways, the sheer number of things that I had to do to get the best ending would make a Final Fantasy Strategy Guide blush.

      – Keep talking to plot NPCs long after you’ve got their instructions or advice. You will probably need to pass time by sitting at a magical statue repeatedly, in order the get them to appear in the right place and unlock new dialogue.
      – Randomly evesdrop (more than once) on the Divine Child you’ve sworn to protect (and other NPCs), in order to find out something he doesn’t want to tell you. But only when he’s in the right places, naturally.
      – Go to an area of the game early and fight your way through, in order to find the NPC who’s not there and is never mentioned in the normal sequence of events.
      – Pester the OTHER Divine Child for rice,* until she gets tired. Then give her fruit. Then, keep going until she asks you to feed her giant snake organs.
      – Backtrack to a completed area of the game once you’ve unlocked certain abilities and use that ability on a certain enemy.
      And that’s just the mechanical requirements. The reasons why you’re doing all this are all based in the game’s magic-infused lore, which has you retrieving weapon upgrades and plot items from magical memories, feeding people frozen tears, obtaining sacred stones so that they can be used in incense that makes your clothes smell like the divine realm, and so forth.

      This ultra-specific path though complete non-sequiter logic amazes me. How on earth is anyone ever supposed to work all that out – let alone without a quest log?! It’s like the old days of Point & Click adventure games, where you’re just guessing which hoops the developer wants you to jump through.

      *Which she makes with magic, by cupping her hands, because reasons.

  10. Ninety-Three says:

    I’m basically in agreement with Internet Historian that the last five years of free expansions have cleared Hello Games from the charge of being liars and con artists.

    That’s not how lying works! They unambiguously promised a bunch of things that they did not have, then didn’t acknowledge it when confronted with evidence of the game not containing what was promised (see Sean’s tweets when two players managed to “meet” at the same place). It wasn’t just “Oh yeah, we meant to put that in but it got cut for time”, throughout development and after release they were acting like the game contained a feature they knew damn well it did not. They eventually spent a bunch of time patching up the game, but they still lied.

    To put it another way, if they announce No Man’s Sky 2 and Sean Murray does a bunch of interviews hyping up cool new features the game will have at launch, do you believe him?

    1. Thomas says:

      I’d be more prone to believe Murray than I would Peter Molyneux at least. Yes he lied and that’s still true, but he does seem to have put the time into attoning which hopefully comes from honest regret.

      On the other hand, I don’t know that the NMS updates weren’t profit maximising still, so I would be on the lookout for a return to old ways

    2. Shamus says:

      The IH video gets into it more, but the idea is that Sean is:

      1) Socially awkward.
      2) Not trained in PR.
      3) Uncomfortable saying “no” in interviews – he wanted to please everyone.
      4) In over his head.
      5) Thrown under the bus by Sony.

      It’s less that he performed premeditated deception, and more that he over-promised and then didn’t feel free to walk back earlier comments due to pressure from Sony. (The corporate playbook is “never admit fault”, because that can be used against you in court.) He said “yes” when he should have been saying “We’ll see” or “I don’t know yet.”.

      The clips in the IH video make the case better than I’m doing here.

      “To put it another way, if they announce No Man’s Sky 2 and Sean Murray does a bunch of interviews hyping up cool new features the game will have at launch, do you believe him?”

      I would be VERY surprised if Murray did promotion in the future. And if he did, I’d be even more surprised if he explicitly promised specific things. If he began saying “yes” to everything people asked for in interviews, then I’d conclude I was wrong and this was a repeat of his earlier behavior.

      But if he gives a more straightforward interview and says on his own that the next game will have (say) farming? Then yeah, I’d believe that claim.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        It’s less that he performed premeditated deception, and more that he over-promised and then didn’t feel free to walk back earlier comments due to pressure from Sony. He said “yes” when he should have been saying “We’ll see” or “I don’t know yet.”.

        He actually was caught deceiving the audience though with the E3 showcase, he straight up said “this is an unscripted and random planet I’m entering” then it turned oit the whole thing was preplanned and scripted. There’s even a clip of it in the Internet Historian video and another of an interviewer asking why Sean kept going back to that particular planet from the E3 showcase despite the game supposedly being all about every planet being random and unique.

        1. Shamus says:

          “he straight up said “this is an unscripted and random planet I’m entering” ”

          That’s right! I totally forgot about that one. That is indeed incredibly damning. He volunteered that information on his own, so he doesn’t have the usual excuse of “Look, it’s hard to say no to Stephen Colbert on television”.

          That pretty well demolishes my defense of him. Although to offer one last pathetic little defense: I still maintain that he’s different from hypemasters like Molineux, Romero, and whoever is in charge of promises over at Star Citizen. I think the stark change in behavior after launch indicates some degree of redemption or personal growth.

          1. Shufflecat says:

            The waters are mixed enough that I take a “we’ll see” attitude.

            Molineux was always a master of the post-launch apologetic backpedal too (and his heyday was before the era of online patching, so he didn’t really have the option of doing what Sean is doing with NMS), to the point where it took literal decades for people to realize he really was just full of it, and not just a chronic overreacher.

            Someday Sean will make another game, and we’ll all be watching what he does and says then.

            The fact that it’s taken literally half a decade of additional post-launch development to deliver what was promised at launch is still a big red flag. If it had been fixed within six months to a year, I’d be understanding, but this timetable says to me that none this stuff was even on the roadmap until he started opening his mouth on TV (or possibly until after the launch backlash), and everyone behind the curtain would have known at the time.

      2. Chris says:

        Saying yes when its no is lying though. I thought in the “50 questions for sean” it was very obvious he was lying about stuff. The interviewer would ask him something (like, can you land on asteroids?), he would look away, think for a moment, then say yes. Now this could be him trying to dig up the answer from his brain, but I think it was him making a quick calculation whether promising this feature is possible.
        I totally get why he did it. He didn’t want to say no a lot of times, he thought these things could be added with little effort, he had to sell a game. But it is still lying.
        I still think it is weak to say he can’t help it and it isnt his fault, because thats how I felt that video tried to spin it. He came up with the idea of vindicating Sean, and then worked backwards. (he also did a video on balloon boy and while working found out there was a lot more going on. So I think he wanted to repeat that concept). Whats even worse is that people saw that video and took home that the game is good now. “Yeah it was bad, but look at this video, they worked really hard to make it good now, and Sean is a very pitiable person, so cut him some slack”. If you want to cut hello games some slack, just recommend people joe danger. Thats a fun game.

        1. Shamus says:

          “The interviewer would ask him something (like, can you land on asteroids?), he would look away, think for a moment, then say yes. ”

          In the IH video, you can see Sean give that same uncomfortable seemingly-dishonest behavior to harmless questions like, “Are you one of the developers?”

          One of the reasons I’ve wanted to defend him is that I was similarly terrible at communication when I was young, and would get accused of lying when I was telling the truth, because my discomfort set off normal peoples’ “lie detector”.

          Although see my comment to MerryWeathers: I now agree that he lied.

      3. Ninety-Three says:

        Murray got caught lying on day one when two players when two players reached the same place to test the game’s “multiplayer”. He tweeted an acknowledgement of them meeting and made no comment on the only thing people were talking about: why can’t they see each other? We caught him lying and he still wouldn’t admit it, stop defending him!

        This bugs me because ten years ago I was having the exact same arguments about Peter Molyneux. “Oh sure he’s full of shit”, people would say “but he just overpromises, he really intends to deliver!” I was conclusively vindicated in 2016 when Eurogamer published their big retrospective featuring a quote of him explicitly acknowledging that a game did not and would not contain the feature he had just promised.

        I resent the insistence on assuming good faith. Molyneux’s status was obvious long before 2016 to anyone willing to consider the possibility, and Murray’s is today. He lied, and it was not an accident.

        1. Shamus says:

          “stop defending him!”

          I have, although the example you offered isn’t very compelling to me. What was Sean supposed to do on day one? The damage is done, he doesn’t have the power to fix it, and he’s not a liberty to admit problems without pissing off Sony.

          The example offered by MerryWeather is the one I find to be really damning. Unprompted, repeated on multiple occasions, and 100% false. Also, this one doesn’t fall into the excuse zone of “well, it’s not true now but it’ll be true later.” That claim was always false, and no future feature could make it retroactively true.

          “I resent the insistence on assuming good faith. ”

          I resent this toxic internet where everyone that says something you disagree with is an evil liar. I’m trying to do unto others, here. As someone who’s been wrongfully accused of lying and found it to be pretty goddamn traumatic, I like to extend to others the same benefit of the doubt that I’d like from them.

          I don’t regret giving Murray that benefit of the doubt, even though I turned out to be wrong in the end.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            He had a bunch of people asking “Why can’t they see each other?” and the more charitable among them were earnestly asking “Is it a server issue?” The bare minimum he could have done was state clearly that the game contained no multiplayer and it was not possible to see other players. Surely that couldn’t have gotten him in trouble with Sony since it was true, relevant, and suddenly public information. That he did not do so looks to me like acting in bad faith, from which I infer that all those other false statements he made were not merely a bright-eyed optimist overpromising.

            Because this is the internet there are those who will jump to calling everyone evil liars, and they are very silly. But some people are actually evil liars and reasonable observers can get enough evidence to conclude that a particular person probably is lying. I think your heuristics could be better if you didn’t think that of Murray until you saw the E32015 folder.

            1. Fizban says:

              Surely that couldn’t have gotten him in trouble with Sony since it was true, relevant, and suddenly public information.

              I’m pretty sure there are nearly uncountable examples of the giant gaming companies, among others, absolutely flat-out denying (or at least completely refusing to acknowledge) perfectly visible public information. So yes, I would absolutely believe he’d get in trouble with corporate if he acknowledged some flaw or fault, even if confronted with undeniable evidence, because that’s how corporate rolls.

              1. Thomas says:

                I really don’t think Sony would have cared what Sean Murray was tweeting after the game launched. Especially as his lying sort of suggested the game was bugged.

                They didn’t even publish No Man’s Sky. They just traded a spotlight on stage and some interviews for timed exclusivity. They’re not micromanaging his business, they just gave him a pretty casual opportunity and he took it.

                Pinning this on Sony ignores the fact Sony enters into arrangements like this with dozens of indie developers a year and none of those other devs behave like Sean Murray. They didn’t browbeat him into it, he made a choice to lie.

                He was young and stupid and made a bad choice that turned out better for him in the long run than all the devs who got given that stage and chose to be more honest about their game which kind of sucks.

  11. Gunther says:

    I’m not a Souls fan (I played Dark Souls the better part of a decade ago and totally bounced off it), but I decided to give Elden Ring a try mostly just to see what everyone else is going on about.

    It’s not a perfect game; there’s some awful 2005-era UX design, a tutorial that ignores a bunch of key mechanics (how do I put stuff in my quick-use pouch? How does encumberance work? what do all these icons mean?) and there almost seems to be an understanding on the game designers part that they don’t have to put any work in teaching you the game because the only people who play these already know the mechanics… but I am starting to see why people defend these games so vociferously. I’ve heard people say the Souls games feel like games from a different era, and I now get that what they mean by that is that they feel like how games used to feel back when the wierd bits hadn’t yet been filed off by meddling execs who were worried they would alienate decent folk.

    And “wierd” is the word for it – In ten or so hours of play I’ve said “what the fuck!?” out loud probably two dozen times, sometimes out of anger from a bullshit enemy placement or attack but more commonly out of amazement at some insanely creative bit of world design or imaginative character model. My girlfriend is getting irritated with me dragging her over to show off the latest wierd monster that just killed me (most recently, some sort of undead T-Rex/Rottweiler hybrid) so I can gush over the character design.

    That said; for all the nice things it has going for it, I doubt I’ll finish it – I just don’t have the reflexes or the patience for the boss battles. Maybe when I was younger and had infinite free time I’d feel the need to “get gud” and power through, but the first real boss (Margit the Fell Omen) killed me a dozen or so times without me even managing to get his health bar to the halfway point. The open-world nature of ER means that there was still plenty for me to do and see after giving up on that, but I just don’t want to spend my limited free time doing a repetitive task over and over.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      there almost seems to be an understanding on the game designers part that they don’t have to put any work in teaching you the game because the only people who play these already know the mechanics

      Nah, they were like that even in the early games, Miyazaki just hates tutorials.

      Every Souls game would be better with a deeper tutorial but Miyazaki is a mad genius so he gets a pass on his faults and because the internet is the internet, you can find plenty of fanboys rationalizing why every single detail is actually brilliant.

      1. Fizban says:

        I feel like I must always be the counter-voice here, because Dark Souls 1 and 2 *do* have tutorials. The problem is they don’t jam them directly in your face so people ignore them- the giant glowing orange letters on the ground apparently not being obvious enough, and the shield being off the immediate path (through a doorway where you’re obviously expected to duck for cover from the archer, but apparently tons of people respond to being shot at by running straight into the arrows). And since the messages are just sitting on the ground, you can ignore them or pay attention to the extent you choose, so people don’t whine about having to follow the tutorial on every replay. The only part of the DS1 tutorial I found insufficient was the symbology for the “push stick into controller button.” DS2 actually has an even more obvious tutorial area, with a straight path through the middle so people can skip it and even more involved setups to teach you things (the problem with DS2 is the vestiges of the torch mechanics leaving everything super dark and the torch button being confusing).

        Now DS3, that has a crappy tutorial, I’ll agree. It tries to do like DS2 to let you run past, but it also tries to look like a natural open area, so prompts are easily missable on this or that ledge up or down, and I really don’t think they put very much effort into it.

        So to recap: Demon’s Souls has no tutorial but has a whole floor full of notes describing mechanics. DS1 puts those note in order with some encounters but lets you run past if you want (which tons of people don’t even pay attention to). And DS2 builds a whole great big tutorial area- it’s only DS3 (and probably Bloodborne if I had to guess), the later games, that stop bothering. So really, I get the feeling the people who complain most about the lack of tutorial in Souls games are the people who *ignore tutorials in the first place*, and then regret their mistake. Because any amount of looking around for help in the games themselves, at least when the series was younger, will find it.

        1. Syal says:

          Bloodborne has the “floor full of notes describing mechanics” version, they’re all over the Hunter’s Dream.

    2. Yal says:

      I’ve played a little over 60 hours, and it’s genuinely amazing how much of the content you could theoretically skip if you’re willing to sneak or run past enemies. If you know where to find two pieces of a certain key item, you can go from the start of the game to the fifth continent without fighting a single boss! You don’t even need to force your way past Margit to get to fawn over the next area, there’s a path around the castle if you look closely enough. Circle counter-clockwise around the castle and check out the broken bridge with the creepy old lady.

      I keep forgetting to actually progress the main quest because there’s so much cool stuff to stumble over, and considering how massive leaps in difficulty the story bosses are, this almost feels like something FROM wants you to do? At some point you’re gonna have to bite the bullet and actually progress through the main dungeons, but nothing’s stopping you from sneaking into lategame areas to snatch some goodies you’re not supposed to have yet to get the upper hand.

      …oh, except for the giant creepy-crawlies that can kill you in half a hit.

      1. Mik says:

        Yes, that is how I am playing Elden Ring: there is no way that I will beat the first real boss (Margit) with my keyboard/mouse skills.
        So now I play explorer, as if I stumbled into a high-level area in an MMO, running/riding past all mobs, and picking up some goodies if there are no monsters around.
        And maybe, maybe, at some point I will have enough goodies to be able to beat Margit. But until then, I will be exploring the map.

        I must say: they did make it viable to ‘play’ this way. Your horse is quick enough to evade everything. And the regular monsters won’t one-hit-kill you, even in later parts of the map. So you only have to evade the really big ones.
        Also, the drawback of ‘resting’ (which refills your health and potions) is that enemies respawn, but if you are not killing anything anyway, that is no drawback.

        1. tmtvl says:

          Hm, bosses-only DS2, that sounds like a pain. I may try it some time.

          1. Fred Starks says:

            It’s theoretically perfect Soul Memory! Think of all the PvP!

            /end sarcasm

            1. tmtvl says:

              I can’t run DS2 multiplayer, it always disconnects me due to low FPS.

        2. Fred Starks says:

          Honestly speaking as a “Souls-veteran”, you’re definitely not intended to beat Margit when the game directs you to him. What you’re doing now, wandering the world, gathering loot from abroad, and only tangling with easier encounters is what you’re supposed to do as far as I can tell.

          Wandering off is what I’ve been doing at least. Exploring and finding new gear, new hooks to latch onto. I didn’t go back to beat Margit until nearly 20 hours in, I was just having fun seeing the world. Even the castle section that follows was damn tough for me in spite of being possibly overleveled.

          The strongholds of the Elden Lords are far from easy dungeons, they’re multi-grace gauntlets filled with deadly encounters made by people who specifically know you’re out for their life. They want you dead more than any other place does. Getting those graces is the casing part of a very long term heist- it’s a siege with multiple parts, not one grand charge.

          A lot of folks are still stuck on thinking this game is literally the next Dark Souls without stopping to look at the design differences, and the eternally !TOXIC! Souls fandom really isn’t helping that. It was a problem with Bloodborne, and it’s a problem here. From could probably release a new, completely faithful King’s Field and people still wouldn’t get it.

          It’s also not a 10/10 game by the definition of it being literally perfect, or being a masterclass in everything it sets out to do. I can feel a few developmental leftovers around and there’s some misses on execution in places, but I still find it to be quite fun indeed. The setting is my jam, the combat is good, and being able to so freely chase down whatever interesting thing is on the horizon just gives me tons of enjoyment.

    3. Simplex says:

      The game does not tell you this (obvs), but you can summon a specific NPC that will help you fight the boss and you can also summon additional NPC to help you from items collected in the game world (Spirit Ashes).

  12. beleester says:

    For quest logs, I think the best way to do it without an actual quest log is the way La-Mulana did it – give the player an in-game notepad they can use to take notes. In La-Mulana it allowed you to copy down a tablet or an NPC dialog, which was generally all you needed to remind yourself what you were investigating.

    That way, the burden is still on the player to recognize “Oh, this sounds like a clue, let me note it down for later,” but they don’t need to leave the game to take notes.

    If you want to be really fancy, give the player the ability to take photos of places too, like “oh, I found this fiery gate, maybe I’ll figure out how to open it later.”

    1. Rho says:

      This is a big pet peeve – why don’t more games do this? Instead of handing me a map, let me create one through gameplay. Or you can use this cleverly to communicate about the world like the diagetic maps in Secret World.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Subnautica did this really well, as I recall. There is no map, but all the areas are visually distinct and you can place beacons that you activate or not. After a bit, you don’t actually need a map, unless you’ve looked up how to find a specific bit of tech on the wiki.

        1. Fizban says:

          At which point trying to find the tech based on the wiki directions can be *infuriating* (damn the moonpool fragments to hell etc).

          Subnautica’s no map but compass and beacons really drags you through the stages of gaming navigation. At first you just need to know your entire surroundings, and so you quickly learn the immediate area after criss-crossing it several times. Eventually you get the compass and can start navigating from landmark by compass direction, and so you start doing that, and “gain” the ability to get lost. However the game also gives you an increasing number of free nav points from quest beacons, so you can start using that network to un-lost yourself. Finally, you reach a point where you’re personally marked all major locations, and start playing like a game with full quest nav marker direction, driving from nav point to nav point with no idea what’s actually around you.

          Which is a problem because the early and mid game have a great exploration/survival horror thing going on, but eventually you’re just charging through deep water blind because you know perfectly well there are no leviathans there, ever, and even if there were you’ve got the tech to brush them off with a single click, and there’s nothing you need to look for anyway. Subnautica drives me nuts (I was just brooding about it again last night) for coming *so close* to what amounts to perfection, and then flops. And the modding scene doesn’t appear to have any answer for it: no mods adding ruins and progression requirements to the effectively unused biomes or changing paths- the best you can do seems to be adding creatures, damage triggers, and crafting recipes. Which can do quite a bit, but ultimately can’t fix the fact that the deep parts of the world are almost entirely superfluous and certain base mechanics complete bs.

      2. tmtvl says:

        Creating a map through gameplay reminds me of Miasmata.

  13. tomato says:

    Unrelated: There is a guy on youtube who makes reviews of Doom WADs, fairly well known in the Doom community, and he had a few words to say about your Doom City map.
    It seems to have been a bit of an influential map, according to some comments.

  14. Steve C says:

    I watched the linked video about Returnal. That story is super cool. How they implemented it is inspired and amazing. The gameplay though?

    I couldn’t make out what was going on. It is *so* dark. Like @14m33s it is just a black screen. Or later the opposite when fighting bosses etc and it turns into unicorn puke. So much crap thrown onto the screen at once. Then there’s the health mechanic. THAT’S a reason save scum if I ever saw one.

    There’s no aspect of the gameplay I’d be interested in. The art is probably good, except I cannot see it so it doesn’t matter. Extremely not for me. But kudos to the devs for having a vision and fully embracing it.

  15. Collin Pearce says:

    To Zeta Kai-

    There are zero steps to take against or for save scumming. It’s my single player game to enjoy as I see fit and it’s no one’s place to frustrate that. Save scumming appeals to me because it helps me craft the story I choose. You can play how you choose and I will too. If you think I play my game wrong because it doesnt appeal to you that just means your save files are mutually exclusive from mine.

  16. tmtvl says:

    CGA colours, yes, I remember playing King’s Quest with CGA, it was so… how should I put it, gaudy?

    There’s more of those early Windows games that have… questionable art decisions. Muting the loud visuals via B&W just works for me.

  17. Christopher says:

    Returnal makes me sad, man. Hoursemarque kept making old-school arcade games until an interview where they went “No one buys arcade games anymore”. And then they went and made a roguelike, third person shooter game with that kinda storytelling in it, and it did gangbusters. They were completely right and made completely the right move and as a result we got one fewer unique devs and one more roguelike dev, y’know.

    1. Simplex says:

      “it did gangbusters”

      You mean it sold well, or it reviewed well?
      Because the first one did not happen, the second one did.

  18. Christopher says:

    I’ve been too busy playing Elden Ring to follow the discourse. Personally I’m greatly enjoying it, it’s taken the Dark Souls style I already liked and combined it with the Skyrim/BotW exploration sandbox model in a compelling way. I think the most reasonable criticism against it is that they reused all of their old ideas again – but a counterpoint might be that the game is so stacked with a variety of content because of all those old building blocks they have kept iterating on.

    But anyway, in terms of convenience, they’ve made many changes, most because of the open world. Mercifully freeing, you can jump around and stealth and have a horse you can summon out of thin air to go faster over long distances. Your stamina doesn’t drain unless an enemy is aggroed on you. You have a ton of fast-travel points. You can level up on a bonfire equivalent with no fuss and there’s no penalty of any sort when you die, which combined hasn’t been the case since Dark Souls 1 iirc. Besides this your durability has been completely removed. It’s no issue at all to change a weapon’s elemental alignment(i.e. which stats it scales with). There’s a respec option some time into the game. You can just change everything cosmetic about your character this time around from the time you beat the first boss. You get a free heal for having a message you leave get liked, and for beating a group of enemies or certain boss type enemies you get your heal stock back. They’ve added checkpoints besides the bonfires called Stakes of Marika, usually placed right outside boss fights, and you can choose whether to revive at one of those or the last bonfire you rested at. Practically every boss or dungeon so far, 80 hours in, can be skipped, the only exception being the main handful you have to find and beat to beat the game. It’s extremely open, and means if you’re having trouble with anything, there’s a staggering amount of other places you could be instead.

    Basically, Elden Ring has bent over backwards to accomodate the player thanks to the added scope of the world. Quests work the same as in the old Souls games, they’re all NPC storylines. You just talk to someone or do some thing and that changes where that NPC moves to or whatever. Most gave you a hint about where they were going next or what you should do (“All my men got killed by X monster” is a pretty straightforward hint to beat the ass of that monster)but some didn’t, and you either found out by chance or exploration or looking it up. Or discussing with friends, which I’ve often been doing with Elden Ring.

    So with Elden Ring, I think there’s a fair argument that the scope of the world is too colossal for that approach to be reasonable and they should’ve changed it up. It’s not about checking a comparatively small amount of areas, it’s about checking out a huge open world, which is ridiculous.

    At the same time, this isn’t some checklist game. Missing an NPC quest or two is kinda to be expected when you’re out here adventuring on your own in a mysterious land, you know. It kinda is part of the appeal of the experience, that there is all this content in it, but a lot of it is hidden away so there’s some awesome big surprises.

    In my playthrough I have missed a couple NPC storylines completely, apparently botched one, looked up a couple, managed to solve a few on my own, and followed one big storyline where the next step is pretty much spelled out for you. And this is obviously all optional stuff, with the biggest leading to alternate endings and stuff, while the main path is clear from the start. That’s the same as it’s been for like 7 games, despite the increase in scope, so I feel it’s working as intended.

    I think a very souls-like solution would be to pay some old crone with a crystal ball or something to give you a li’l hint about what you could look for next to continue a quest. That’s a good middle ground to me between a guide and no guidance at all, and would probably be more useful than some quest log saying what the NPC told you last time.

  19. John says:

    I occasionally refer to myself as a filthy save-scummer, but I am joking when I do that. There is nothing wrong with save-scumming. If you’re having more fun save-scumming in your single-player game than you would if you weren’t save-scumming, then why not do it? How could save-scumming possibly constitute harm to yourself or anyone else? Let’s review some common critiques of the practice:

    You’re not playing the game the way the designer intended!

    Right. After we do away with save-scumming, let’s do away with mods too.

    You shouldn’t have to save-scum to have fun!

    Well, that’s an interesting philosophical position, but I if I am save-scumming and I am having fun, then I don’t see how you expect that to persuade me to stop.

    You’re just ruining the game for yourself!

    What does that even mean? If save-scumming isn’t fun, I don’t do it. And if the game isn’t fun, even when I am save-scumming, then I don’t play it. If there are people out there who are save-scumming and having a miserable time, then I suggest that their problem is not save-scumming but the fact that they don’t enjoy the game they’re playing.

    Soren Johnson (Civilization IV, Offworld Trading Company, Old World) likes to say that if players can gain an advantage by making themselves miserable, then they’ll do it. I think he’s mostly referring to tedious micro-management, like manually repositioning all your citizens every turn in a Civilization game, but he might well also mean save-scumming. I don’t think he’s quite right. I think that there are some players who will do that, and they may unfortunately be the most vocal players in a game’s community, but I do not think that most players will do that. Consequently, I don’t believe that developers should restrict a game’s save-load functionality in a misguided effort to save a small number of players from themselves. If save-scumming is really a problem–and, again, I don’t think it is–then the best thing for developers to do is to design a game where it doesn’t provide an obvious advantage in the first place.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Well, there are some issues with save scumming that give rise to those complaints that I think you might be missing. To start, though, I think we need an example of what save scumming, at least the problematic kind, really is. The most common example is like the casino in Leisure Suit Larry, where in order to get enough money to progress you need to gamble, save when you get ahead, and reload when you lose, so that instead of simply playing the game and “grinding it out” you avoid any negative consequences the game might give you and only accept positive ones.

      So for the first one, that you aren’t playing the game the way the designer intended, the objection overall is that you’re effectively using an exploit to get access to things that you weren’t supposed to get that easily … or, perhaps, that way. In an RPG, using save scumming in a casino to gain a lot of money means that you have access to a lot of high powered equipment earlier than you might have otherwise, and also that you can afford things like healing items and power-ups and the like and so can use them indiscriminately. This could be seen as acceptable if someone NEEDED that to progress in the game, but if they don’t it would simply end up making the game easier, and if they then turn around and complain that it makes the game too easy then what is the designer to do? It’s only too easy because the player deliberately did things the game didn’t want them to do, but the player still thinks the game is too easy. In addition, that could allow the player to skip content since they don’t need to do it to get money, which means they might miss important story or character beats that were in that content. And if the designer forces them to do it anyway, then they gripe that it was all pointless. So how, then, does the designer design for those exploits, or do they?

      Which leads to the second point, about not having to save scum to have fun. The problem is not that you are willing to put up with the save scumming and it means that you are having more fun doing that, but that in line with what was said above the design might end up forcing that sort of move on players, even if they don’t want to. Shamus talked about Leisure Suit Larry and noted that you might indeed have HAD to save scum to get the money needed to finish the game, and that is a bad design decision no matter how much some people enjoy save scumming their way to high amounts of money. But it can be more subtle than that, in line with things like sidequests and the like where the designer now has to design for the possibility that people will use save scumming to make some of the content challenging, which then leaves it too difficult for those people who don’t want to do the save scumming which then forces them to either use that strategy or never finish the game. So the save scummer’s fun CAN impact the fun of those who don’t want to do it, even in a single player game, and they have a perfectly valid point that no one should HAVE to do that in order to have fun, and if someone is saying that doing it with save scumming IS more fun then it immediately raises the question of whether the game wouldn’t be fun without it.

      The ideal, for me, is that the scumming — whether save or pause as talked about above — should never be necessary to complete the game, and ultimately it shouldn’t really be beneficial to players. Can you gain some advantages doing it? Sure, but players who don’t will be perfectly able to play and finish the game and will be able to pretty much get the same thing through other methods (preferably ones they enjoy more). So I don’t think that we should, say, remove saving to avoid the issue and am okay with players doing it if it gives them something they like, but do think that anytime someone says that they have more fun save scumming than not save scumming we have to ask if that’s something about the game — which would be an obvious flaw in the game — or something about the player (which could be a flaw but need not be considering what their purpose might be).

      1. John says:

        I think that we are approaching this issue with very different concerns in mind. If I understand you correctly, your primary concerns are that (a) save-scumming is an exploit and (b) save-scumming is often evidence of bad design. I agree, particularly with respect to bad design. I maintain, however, that the practice of save-scumming is not itself a problem, but a perfectly legitimate choice on the part of players.

        Is it an exploit? Yes, and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with using an exploit in a single-player game. (Go ask a speedrunner if you don’t believe me.) People who save-scum do so because they like the consequences of save-scumming. There is no need to balance a game against the possibility that some players might save-scum. That would only make the game worse for everyone, save-scummers and grind-it-outers alike. Furthermore, save-scumming is the single most blatant, obvious, and low-effort exploit imaginable. Anyone who does it knows full well what they are doing, so I cannot imagine such a person complaining that the game is too easy. That would be absurd. It would be like complaining that cheat codes made the game too easy.

        1. Syal says:

          I maintain, however, that the practice of save-scumming is not itself a problem, but a perfectly legitimate choice on the part of players.

          It’s important that the question is asked from the perspective of a designer. This is not a binary “keep saving/cut saving,” this is “how do we make the players not want to savescum?” So, assuming savescumming is in fact both the optimal and most fun way to play right now, why is that, and how do we change the underlying mechanics to be more fun without it?

          Obviously a big reason for savescumming is going to be randomization. I’m reading a Fire Emblem LP, where every level gives a % chance to increase they character’s individual stats by 1. You can gain between one and eight stats every level, and the game has finite xp. (Also permadeath. There’s that.)

          The most effective solution I can think of is to change it from a series of individual rolls, to a pool. It’s not 12% every time anymore, it’s guaranteed once in a pool of 8. Some people might savescum to get it first, but a whole lot will just wait to get it naturally. Same with critical hits, misses, damage drift, anything that can drastically affect an outcome; fix the number, only change up the order. Seeds also work there; no one’s going to savescum if the result was decided at New Game.

          Other uses for savescumming involve dealing with randomized ambushes, or traps. I don’t like those things to begin with, and think the best solution is to leave them completely alone. I’m thinking of the Trails games now; a lot of the difficulty of the bosses comes from not knowing which of the fifteen debilitating status effects this boss uses, meaning refights where you do know are much easier. And I like that design; if you win the first time through, it feels harrowing, and if you lose, you equip status guards against their attacks and have a much easier time.

          I don’t think there’s a good answer to those ones; maybe putting lore entries behind dying to certain monsters, incentivizing people to actually let the monster win instead of reloading. But that’s going to encourage people to throw fights.

          I suppose one option is to spawn new enemies every time the player loads. Not an overwhelming amount, but, like, a wolf. You get ambushed by four bats, you reload to prepare, and now it’s four bats and a wolf. You reload again, now it’s four bats and two wolves. Is it fun? Probably depends on the player. You’ll get people trying hard not to load, and you’ll get people loading as much as they can to maximise the fight difficulty. (If you’re worried about players getting stuck from loading too often, consider what you’re trying to do by ambushing them to begin with. You should probably despawn the wolves on a full death.)

  20. RamblePak64 says:

    So, I feel like I’m somewhere in the middle regarding Elden Ring and From Software games in general. I used to be really deep in the “these games are jank and over-rated camp”, but then I played Bloodborne, and then I played Bloodborne again, and then I played a third time, and it’s pretty clear I really like Bloodborne. I have since gone back to Dark Souls 1 a couple of times, and I actually really appreciate my friend’s video regarding his first time in the game. In addition, in the lead up to Elden Ring, I was worried that Bloodborne would be the exception and that I’d bounce off of this $60 game I’d been hyped for as well. Fortunately, that is not the case, I have over 45-hours in, and am still exploring The Lands Between.

    And the problem with trying to discuss its “flaws” is that it isn’t always a clear-cut declaration of problems. You know what’s an objective flaw? The inability to see if the weapons and armor in a shop are better or worse than what you have equipped. That’s a flaw, plain and simple. To try and say “Well the game wants you to memorize over a dozen numbers or write them down and yatta yatta” is foolishness, because that’s not a challenge or a difficulty, that’s tedious.

    But what about the lack of a Quest Log? Well… firstly, as Paul even notes, the prior games had nothing of the sort either, and I think that’s in part because a Quest Log shifts everything into feeling mechanical. These aren’t your typical quest lines like in other video games where the quest giver is always standing where you left them. You may speak with someone, and then the next time you do something they’re located somewhere else. Is this inconvenient? If you’re a completionist that treats each quest as an XP machine that you want to check off, yes. However, there’s a beneficial element to it: these characters now feel more alive and sentient. They aren’t just sitting around waiting for you to do everything for them. There are also hidden choices and consequences tied to many of these quests that having a quest log would make into a binary, machine transaction choice.

    What I also think people miss out on is the online message system and the communal aspect. A lot of players remember sitting at the school lunch room, bringing up discoveries in games like the original Legend of Zelda and sharing secrets with one another, only to go home and try those newly learned secrets out for themselves. The manner in which these quests are designed encourages that, though it’s transformed in the age of the Internet. Amid all the “Try jumping”, “Illusory wall ahead”, and “Try finger, but hole” messages, there are also plenty that will warn of upcoming ambushes and traps, or advise to use poison, flame, bleed, or other status impairments upon the upcoming boss or powerful foe. If you’re uncertain of where to find an NPC, you can hop onto Fextralife’s wiki and grab some hints as to where they might be located (in fact, I need to do that myself regarding a certain Demi-Human with a knack for sewing).

    Just like with difficulty modes, people can say “Oh, if you like it better without a quest log, just don’t use the quest log”, but I think that misses what the absence of a quest log does. It’s not just about paying attention to dialogue or the game world, it’s about engaging with the world itself, hunting down every nook and cranny to see what might be around the corner. Discovery is the key concept of Elden Ring’s open world and, in fact, a lot of From Software’s design.

    Now, could you implement an in-game journal the player keeps track of? Probably, but I’m also not sure one is that necessary. I don’t think there are really that many characters or NPC’s that necessitate such things, and the player is able to plop down their own markers on the map all they want. I’ve been doing this myself, and I love doing so because it puts me in control of determining what is and isn’t important.

    In the end, though, I’m also reminded of two things you’ve written about in the past, Shamus. The first is the discussion of Bethesda and their game engine, and what it would take to write a new engine that can do everything their current one can. We’re using the same engine as Demon’s Souls in… 2009? And the UI is evidently a part of that, because it’s basically gone through minimal adjustments since then. This is an engine with serious jank and optimization problems. It’s not just the PC performance, it’s the inability for PS5 and Xbox Series X to hit a stable 60fps themselves, sitting instead between 50-60. One of Digital Foundry’s videos on Bloodborne even showed off how being 30fps didn’t mean every frame had an equal amount of time on screen (I forget the technical term for this, but it basically can screw with the responsiveness of things like ripostes). These are all flaws with the game, and they are very much things I want to see improve. I want From Software to spend some time optimizing their engine so they can get better performance out of their games, but also perhaps considering updating some of the other UI features that could use more clarity.

    I was also reminded, however, of your Prey analysis and mention of reviewers that griped about the game’s combat, and how they were “missing the point”. I feel like something similar might be occurring here. Would Prey have been a worse game if the combat were “better”? Of course, what does better even mean in this case? Would it require other systems to be sacrificed that would make it less of an Immersive Sim? The same kind of goes for some people’s complaints of From Software games and Elden Ring. What makes debates like this so frustrating is how absolutely stuck in subjective opinions everyone is in without regarding the goals of the product. Could they make some concessions to improve the game’s usability? Certainly they could, but some of those concessions would also go against what the game wants to do, and what the game wants to do is uncommon in this day and age. I should have experienced open-world fatigue at this point, as I have in nearly every open-world game I’ve played in the past, but I have not. Like Breath of the Wild and Dragon’s Dogma, I actually like engaging with this world, and much of it has to do with taking certain concessions away from the player.

    Which finally leads me to questions of a “masterpiece”. DreadJaws above was talking about games rated 10/10 and what feels like a 10/10 and so on, but I think this is honestly a bad system and a bad way to perceive the accomplishment that a game can be. Does “masterpiece” mean “without flaw”? Given that “art is never finished, only abandoned”, I think it’s obvious that the answer is “no”. Even a masterpiece can be flawed. When press and influencers are calling Elden Ring a masterpiece, I think it’s because there aren’t a lot of other open-world games that have achieved such a scale with this amount of uniquely crafted content. I’ve fought so many bosses with unique attack patterns and designs and continue to find enemies that behave in a unique fashion. Which is not to say that they don’t have repeat enemies or repeat assets (the mines and catacombs are especially filled with recycled assets, including whole rooms), but even similar looking monsters tend to have different and unique attacks and twists as the game progresses to keep you on your toes.

    I disagree that no one else is trying to make games like Dark Souls, as there’s a ton of indie and AA developers trying their hand at making new ones. As noted, Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order clearly takes influence, though it also has difficulty levels so it’s not as punishing. Gunfire Games’ Chronos: Before the Ashes is a smaller, easier Dark Souls rip-off, Remnant: From the Ashes takes influence in a co-op shooter direction with some proc-gen elements applied, and Darksiders 3 also tackles the Souls-like genre with some character action flair. There’s a bunch of games trying to do what From Software does, and most of them fall flat on their face or just aren’t as good. And now, Elden Ring has brought it to the open-world, and they made a lot of decisions that, I think, were very intelligent and help keep players in the game world longer. Many of those imitators are going to look even worse in comparison now.

    At the end of the day, though, I think one of the biggest problems with this series is that there are two types of problem players: those that “get it” and want to force everyone else’s face into it until they “get it” too, and those that “don’t get it” and yet have a massive case of FOMO and so want to complain until the games change to better cater to them so they can “get it”… which would require changing what makes the series what it is and therefore you still wouldn’t “get it”.

    As for what “it” is? Well, I have a feeling I know what it is for me, but I can’t speak to everyone on that matter. Perhaps we can talk about it sometime. That said, I still wouldn’t recommend it to you. Yeah, there are more respawn points right outside of boss doors, or some of the runs back to the boss fight aren’t as long, or you can just turn, go fight somewhere else, get stronger, and come back and have an easier time, but I think the core of the game would still be an issue for you.

  21. The Rocketeer says:

    Elden Ring is so awesome

    1. Not actually DL says:

      See, this is what’s wrong with deep-fakes.

  22. Paul Spooner says:

    Wanted to point out that the motivation for save-scum-alike activity falls (for me at least) into three similar but distinct categories which often overlap in any particular game. The first is to compensate for a lack of skill. Many would not consider this to be savescumming since this is expected behavior for games with a save system. You fail because you’re a scrub, reload, and try again. — As an aside, I failed to work a comment in to the podcast which I wanted to make concerning the way some games both allow and acknowledge previous attempts which other games would consider non-canon. UnderTale is the standout example, but I’m certain there are others. — Anyway, the second is to compensate for a lack of information. Leeroy Jenkins your way as far as you can into a dungeon to scout it out, then reload and use the info to craft a more optimal approach. The third addresses systems which might be put in place to address the second, and concerns compensating for (and gaming) purely random outcomes. My go-to example is scumming a random teleport “trap” as a transportation method.

  23. Steve C says:

    Heh. I’m more convinced than ever that someone from Extra Credits reads this blog. There’s a clip about save scumming. Definitely not the first time the topics have lined up.

  24. Mark says:

    There is a Skyrim mod I use that allows you to keep a journal in game that can be exported into a .txt file. I use it primarily for roleplaying. I just write in it before my character goes to sleep for the night. For my purposes, I record my character’s thoughts about stuff as well as things he’s planning to do.

    It wouldn’t be that hard for Elden Ring to implement this and it is really nice to not worry about misplacing your notes when everything else is stored on the Steam cloud.

    Here’s the mod:

  25. InitialBarracuda says:

    I really wish that games didn’t have honeymoon phases because there are a lot of problems with Elden Ring’s boss design that have been festering since Dark Soul’s Sanctuary Guardian fight that are finally coming to a head (though they “came to a head” in Bloodborne), but there’s no talking about it in an honest way.

    Even now you can see people talking about problems they’re having with the bosses that are symptomatic of poor design and they use every word to describe it except admitting what it is.

    It surreal. It’s like watching a group of people stand around describing a stabbing but denying the phrase: “He got stabbed”. No, he didn’t get stabbed. He had a knife blade pushed into him, but he wasn’t stabbed.

  26. BespectacledGentleman says:

    On the topic of save-scumming: not only is it a generally bad idea to limit the player’s choice, it’s also a vital safety valve for glitches and bad design. A recent example: I died in Subnautica outside of my vehicle. I respawned in my base, 1000m under the surface, with my vehicle way out of my oxygen range. My run was softlocked—I could move about two minutes outside my base before having to come back for air. I found this design baffling, but it cost me 15 minutes of exploration instead of my entire 40-hour file because I had a save to reload, so I moved on and enjoyed the game. Making no reloads a feature is asserting that these sorts of states will never happen, to say nothing of actual glitches rather than design oversights.

    Are there cases where no reloads is vital to the game’s experience? Occasionally, yes. But the cases where it’s actually vital (eg Getting Over It) are far outweighed by cases where it’s perfectly fine to let people choose how they want to play and some people get grumpy about everyone else having Bad Wrong Fun. I’ve never seen anyone say “I’m ruining my own experience, but I’m too weak willed to stop save scumming! If only the developer saved me!” Ironman runs can be fun! But they’re not the only way to play.

    1. Jennifer Snow says:

      Indeed. Just referring to it as “save-scumming” is what’s known as a “question-begging epithet”. By using a pejorative term to describe the practice, you’re assuming it’s bad. It’s like asking a jury “how could you refuse to convict this criminal?” Because they are here to establish whether or not that person IS a criminal or not.

      Not everyone enjoys every part of every game. Nor do they necessarily want to repeat the entire game or the entire game section should they wind up with an outcome they don’t like. Nor does everyone view performance in a game as some kind of test of their self-worth.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Yeah. It seems to just be accepted as fact among Real Gamers™ that Never Reloading Is A Virtue, and reloading a save to get a different outcome is a shameful failure of will. Be stoic and accept what the RNG gives you! Stiff upper lip! Etc., etc.…

      And sure, Ironman can be a fun way to play – I often play that way even in games that don’t explicitly enforce it. But I’m not going to argue that someone reloading an XCOM 2 turn because their beloved best soldier from the start of the game got hit by a 2% shot is somehow lacking in moral fiber. Sure, in life we don’t get to take back our mistakes…but isn’t one of the (many possible) aspects of gaming about escaping from the mundanity of real life? (And if you really want your gaming time to be as punishing as the real world, there are any number of games out there to cater to that.)

      Philosophically, reloading a save to get a different outcome (which is basically the point of “save-scumming”, there’s no point reloading if the RNG is fixed) is something unique to games as media. If you don’t like the twist of a movie, you can’t rewind 5 minutes and hope the hero’s mentor doesn’t get killed this time. A novel’s path is always fixed. Games (and maybe choose-your-own-adventure books) are unique in this ability to not accept what what you’ve been randomly given and try to better it.

      Now, I do think that games shouldn’t make you feel like you have to reload frequently to get the best random outcome, like trying to win money on a slot machine that is necessary to progress the game. I would argue that’s poor design, and if you really need the player to gain money to progress you should design some sort of skill-based challenge for them to do (within the game; reloading saves after every successful jackpot isn’t really skill-based, it’s just boring). So ultimately, I think “save scumming” is only really a “problem” if the game design makes a majority of players feels like they’re forced to use it to progress. (As long as there is any randomness in a game at all you’ll probably see some players reloading to exploit it out of a feeling of wanting to get “the best possible outcome” all the time, but if this number is 0.001% of your playerbase you can safely assume there’s nothing you can do – short of turning your game into chess – that would prevent that.) Otherwise, I see no shame in using gaming’s unique ability to undo failure and change the outcome during an activity I ultimately partake in to relax and escape from the cares of the outside world.

      1. Fizban says:

        It seems to just be accepted as fact among Real Gamers™ that Never Reloading Is A Virtue, and reloading a save to get a different outcome is a shameful failure of will. Be stoic and accept what the RNG gives you! Stiff upper lip! Etc., etc.…

        Which is hilarious because unless it’s an ironman game, “accepting” your fate (for combat outcomes) usually leads to the game reloading a convenient auto-save. And of course, if you’re talking about Fire Emblem, Always Reload if someone dies is instead the One True Way.

        A non-zero amount of the apparent novelty of roguelikes/ironman runs/etc (this game is so hard, yay!) probably comes from people raised on auto-save games where there are no consequences, so consequences are fresh and new, while the stigma of save-scumming comes from people raised on (console/etc) games from before auto-saves when you *couldn’t* save-scum even if you wanted to.

  27. Rariow says:

    I feel like odd one out party pooper on Elden Ring. I deeply love all of the Soulsborne: Shadows Prepare To Die Twice (yes, even DS2), but I’m finding Elden Ring to be fine. The thing I love most about those games is exploring – so Elden Ring should be right up my alley, right? – but what I love is their super-tight, all killer no filler level design which tells environmental stories and where every encounter feels significant and tightly designed. Most of Elden Ring takes place on open fields where there’s no reason to stop to fight trash mobs, and it’s more about looking for interesting landmarks that you hope have a dungeon in them – and they often do. The thing is, most of those dungeons are either mines or catacombs that use the same tileset and are mostly linear hack-a-thons, and end in a bossfight from a relatively small pool of reocurring bosses.

    What’s worse, the way Souls limits what equipment you can use by your stats means that most of the time those bosses aren’t dropping stuff you can even equip. Early on I spent about 3 hours severely underleveled trying to take on a Magma Wyrm at the end of a bland dungeon. I got gud, learned the patterns, did the whole Soulsborne shebang, and killed it. I got a sword that needs something like 40 intelligence to use properly. I’m a melee build, not a mage. I have 12 int. Neat, I guess. A couple days of play later I ran into the exact same boss in another dungeon. Why even bother exploring when my only reward is refighting bosses I’ve already done? Oh, but this one dropped a talisman that boosts my faith incantations. I’m a melee build, not a faith build. I have 8 faith and thus can’t equip any incantations. Neat.

    Despite my moaning, I do like the game. Souls combat is fun, the bosses are fun (the first time you encounter them), and all the “Legacy Dungeons” I’ve done so far- which play exactly like a Dark Souls level – are truly fantastic. Stormveil Castle is probably in my top three favourite areas in the series now. There is cool stuff to find while exploring – the first time you enter Caelid, stumbling into the Siofra River, your first encounter with a teleporter trap and/or walking mausoleum, the monkey guy, the pot guy, the Village of the Albinaurics, getting ganked by a dragon, the Sage’s Cave, the Carian Lecture Hall… These are all really cool experiences, but they’re the exceptions rather than the rules, and it feels like I’m being made to trudge through a mostly barren open world to sift through copy-pasted bland dungeons to get to them. I’d just rather have a structure where I linearly progress from cool thing to cool thing rather than having to spend two hours riding around a wide open field and rolling the dice on whether THIS random cave will have something I care about in it in between cool things. It’s taking the things that specifically didn’t quite work about Breath of the Wild’s open world, carefully avoiding everything that made it a masterpiece, and putting it in the middle of my FromSoft game.

    Oh and tonnes of bosses have repeats late game where the same boss is put in a cramped room with 2 to 4 weak enemies. When Capra Demon and Royal Rat Authority did it it was rightfully called out and endlessly harped on as awful, because the fight just becomes hoping you can take out the adds before you get swarmed (at which point the boss is a cakewalk because he’s designed for characters who do half your damage) and basically comes down to blind luck as to whether the attack patterns line up in such a way that they become unavoidable and you get stunlocked to death, but I’ve not seen a single person complain about Elden Ring repeatedly doing the exact same thing.

    This comment was meant to quickly segue into me talking about how I don’t even know what you’re meant to put in an Elden Ring quest log because there’s very few “quests” per se (I think I’ve encountered 5 quests where an NPC just says “I want you to do this for me” in my 60 hours of play so far?) and it relies way more on stumbling into neat dungeons where you’re just exploring for the sake of it (which is cool, I like that approach). I didn’t mean to post a “Watchmojo Top 10 EPIC reasons why Elden Ring is OVERRATED (gone wrong)” YouTube video script here, but I guess I needed to vent. I repeat – I still do really like this game. It just has stuff that really bugs me in it and it’s really weird to me that I’ve not seen anyone have the same gripes as I do.

  28. Philadelphus says:

    (This was meant to be a reply to Fizban above, my internet got knocked out briefly by a lightning strike while writing and it appear to have reset the comment form.)

    If the game is auto-reloading for you (like in a checkpoint system or to your last autosave) I wouldn’t call that “save scumming”, since the player has no choice in the matter. (Especially if your only other choice is “the protagonist dies, and you stop playing the game”.) Usually save scumming tend to be used pejoratively only when someone has the choice to undo something they didn’t like, and takes that choice. I was thinking more along the lines of turn-based games where you might not get a combat outcome you like, but it’s just one battle out of many and not game-ending on its own.

  29. Gordon says:

    Eco has an interesting abuse of square grid onto a sphere, don’t think too hard about how it works, it will hurt your brain.

  30. boop says:

    This is a test reply made to a post that will be deleted by the time the reply is sent.

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