Eyes on >observer_

Between Amazon’s Twitch Prime and the various Humble Bundle stuff I’ve been a part of, I own a ton of games I’ve never even heard of.  I decided to start running my way through them.  First on the list, because I organized it alphabetically, was the oddly titled >observer_.  Looking at its Playstation Store page, I see the game bills itself as a ‘Cyberpunk Horror’, with the tagline “What would you do if your fears were hacked” which is not quite accurate to what actually goes on in the game.  But looking at the guts of the game, what really is >observer_?

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It’s cyberpunk as hell, is what it is.  Ugly technomodifications are commonplace, corporations act more like government, a high degree of enforced social stratification, Rutger Hauer is there, you get the whole cyberpunk shebang.  You play as Daniel Lazarski, one of the titular Observers, members of the corporate-owned police force who jack into the chips in people’s heads to experience their memories in abstract form.  He gets a call from his estranged son in which he seems to be needing help, which he tracks back to the most run down future apartment building you’ve ever seen.  Tracking things down there, he finds a headless corpse in his son’s room, with plenty of evidence of foul play around.  Shortly afterwards, the system detects the technoplague in that building, and locks the whole place down in quarantine.

>observer_ was made by Bloober Team, the same folk who made Layers of Fear, a game I actually own twice but likewise have never played.  From what I understand, though, it’s somewhat similar in gameplay.  It hews close to the whole Environmental Narrative/Walking Simulator thing.  When you’re not forcing your way into people’s memories, you’re pretty much just exploring the apartment building you find yourself locked in, searching out clues to lead you to the killer.  It wouldn’t be cyberpunk if you didn’t have technology to help you on that, and true to form, you’ve got three types of visions to work in there.  Night-vision is the obvious one, but you have a filter that highlights and gives extra information on all the technological objects in your view, and a filter for the biological objects as well.  Using these, you can pick up traces that are otherwise invisible to the eye, autopsy the other bodies you find, get a small degree of specified X-ray vision, and more.  The core of the gameplay is largely linear, you’re just moving along the path, seeing the sights, and picking up bits of information here and there that lead you to the next place to go.

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Things get shaken up quite a bit when you’re breaking into people’s heads.  At least in terms of tone.  They’re still crazy linear, and there’s usually much less for you to figure out and more just walking from place to place, but really that’s where this game shines.  You get into people’s heads and you can see their memories.  But it’s not clear, and it’s not direct, and it’s beautifully abstracted.  It’s where the game gets into the whole spooky freaky stuff it trades on.  The imagery it gets into is rather disturbing in the best of times, even when it’s delivering the more mundane moments in these people’s lives.  Early on in the story, our dear Lazarski, cut off from backup and with his son at risk, jacks into someone under situations that are supposed to be dangerous and harmful, and he actually has to disengage the safeties on his system to do so.  This has horrible effects on him, and those same effects he sees in other people’s minds start showing up in reality as well, as the lines between reality and his own mind start breaking down.  The visual glitches and imagery you see as this state takes hold forms some of the more interesting parts of the game.

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>observer_ does explore a lot of the ramifications of the cyberpunk setting it’s using in interesting, albeit generally shallow, ways.  You see the effects of people getting addicted to VR, what happens as body modification gets more extensive, the idea of people choosing to go without implants and being thought of as fringe for it.  Most of it is explored in brief conversations, so again, you don’t get to go super deep into it, but you do get some really interesting ideas coming through there.

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Some places call >observer_ a horror game.  Some stick with thriller.  I find it a little hard to place.  The game wants to be scary.  If it was a movie, what it does might have succeeded.  Not so much as a game thought.  Part of it might be how limited it is in scope.  It feels a lot like it was built under limitations, like a game jam or a NaNo thing.  They had a set amount of time and/or resources they were wanting to keep this within, and they stuck with that.  There’s not a whole lot of assets here.  In fact, there’s only two NPCs that you see outside of cutscenes, two enemy types (of which one is only in one scene), with nearly all your interactions taking place through communicators or beyond doors so you don’t actually interact with much more than voices.  You have to stealth by the enemies, but the main enemy is incredibly simple to get by once you learn the rules it operates with, and it becomes clear some time after they’re introduced that there’s nothing that’s going to happen to you outside of those enemies.  Granted, game overs are really bad for maintaining a horror environment, because they completely ruin immersion, but there has to at least be the threat that the bad things are going to do bad things to you, and the monsters here are so disconnected with anything that they don’t do it.  It ends up being a scary game without much in the way of threat to it.  It can get very tense, but that lack of threat keeps it from being very frightening.

It’s also not a very clean game.  Your eyes are robotic, which gives it an excuse to be throwing a lot of visual glitches at you, many of which can be somewhat headache inducing, to be honest.  Problems come in when there’s plenty of actual glitches as well.  And it’s hard to tell what’s a real glitch and what’s an in-story glitch.  There was a point in time where I used up all the ‘stop freaking my eyes out’ medicine I had to no effect, then continued on, frustrated at the designer’s choice, only to find out later that it was something that wasn’t really supposed to be happening.  Some time later, I spent a good ten minutes in a completely black room trying to figure out what to do, before checking out a walkthrough and figuring out that the game just failed to load.  Kind of put a damper on the whole thing.

Overall, I’d say I had a decent time with it.  Especially knowing nothing about the game going into it, it was a very interesting experience, and you see some real bursts of creativity there.  It’s probably worth saying that, judging by online reviews, the people who like this game really like this game.  I didn’t quite go that far, but if you’re into cyberpunk and environmental narrative spookiness, maybe it’s your cuppa.

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Ninja Gaiden

You remember those parts in the original Castlevania, where you had Medusa Heads flying at you from all over the place, spawning endlessly, all of them seeking not to wear down your life bar but to knock you into an instant death pit for the cheapest, most frustrating failure?  Did you love it?  No?  That was your least favorite part of the game?  It really didn’t make you feel good?  Well, the makers of the NES Ninja Gaiden think you love that.  In fact, they’ve developed a whole game around that mechanic.

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Ninja Gaiden hates your controllers, and it wants to make you break them all over your knee.  It was made by taking some absolute horseshit, distilling it into its most pure form, inscribing some coding onto it, and compressing it into an NES cartridge.  Ninja Gaiden despises you personally, and it wants to do everything in its power to make you feel like a worthless piece of scum.  This game thinks fair play is for the weak, and the weak are not worthy of stepping foot into these halls.  This game is hard, and not hard in the way something like Dark Souls is, where it’s actually intended for a human being to be able to beat it.

I beat it earlier this week.  And that feels glorious.

Ninja Gaiden is actually an excellent game, as long as you’re the type of player that enjoys staring down the most blatantly unfair obstacles and keeping at it until they blink.  Mechanically, it plays like a faster-paced classic Castlevania with a more maneuverable protagonist.  Enemies are constantly surging onto the screen, but anything short of a boss can be slain in a single hit, and those you can’t cut down, Ryu’s got the speed and the leaping ability to avoid.  You’re given a selection of sub-weapons that extend your attack range beyond just simple sword strikes.  It has a pretty heavy emphasis on platforming, all the while enemies are charging at you or launching projectiles.

And this game made some real achievements.  It was really advanced for its day, in a lot of ways.  For one, look at it.

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Just look at it.

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The game is gorgeous.  Way more detailed than you’d expect for most games on the NES.  They use the limited color palette very well, and it makes for some very striking visuals.

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Ninja Gaiden is also notable for being one of the first games made to implement cutscenes.  This enabled it to tell a story well beyond what you’d normally find in a game of it’s day.  Granted, it’s not exactly recreating the works of Shakespeare here, but you actually get a decently complex plot out of it, with twists every act, betrayals, murders, surprises, deadenings and re-deadenings, and the super tough ninja Ryu turning out to actually be pretty dumb a lot.

Have I made the point that this game is good?  Because I want that in place before I get into all the ways it delivers its complete bullhonky to you.

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I really enjoyed my time with Ninja Gaiden, but if you’re going to do the same, you’ll need to embrace that part of yourself that enjoys facing down things doing their utmost to ruin you and overcoming them.  Playing this game is like riding the bull, in that you’re finding yourself on top of something that’s focusing the totality of its being into throwing you off and running you through.  I said earlier Ryu can slay most any enemy in a single hit.  The game is designed around that.  Most of its enemies, it doesn’t even make them that hard to hit.  Instead, it seeks to overwhelm you with their sheer quantity, and have them come from multiple directions.  One guy in front of you isn’t so bad.  But when you’ve got one guy slowly making his way at you from one direction, another charging from behind, a third chucking axes at your from a distance, and a bird dive-bombing you, all at the same time, it gets a little more complicated.  And you’d better get used to that.

Because enemy spawning in this game is absolutely brutal.  Every enemy has its spawn point.  Cross a certain part of the stage, and bam!, they’re in your face.  And the enemies in this game are good at keeping the pressure on.  Might be that you need to back up a little to get the space to deal with them.  If you go even a pixel beyond their spawn point though, they’ll be right back as soon as you cross over it again.  Hell, if you kill them while standing on their spawn point, they will immediately pop back up and charge right back at you again.  When their spawn point is at the edge of a gap you need to leap over, that gets to be a problem.

For that matter, you know that comparison to Castlevania’s Medusa Heads here?  Yeah.  Nearly every gap has something on the other side prepped to knock you back into it.  If you play anything like I do, you’ll be losing far more to getting knocked back into a pit than you will to losing your health.  That is a frequent challenge.  Frankly, every time you see a gap, you have to wonder where the enemy is going to spawn while you’re mid jump to try and shove you back into the pit.

And sometimes it gets into straight “Screw You” territory.  One of the things that makes this game work is that it’s actually really generous with it’s check points.  Lose a life, and it only takes you back to the last stage transition you had.  Lose a life to a boss, and it’ll knock you back to the previous stage transition.  Lose all your lives, and you continue on from the start of the stage.  You’re not limited on how many continues you can have.  Each level has 3 or 4 stages, so that’ll usually have you in pretty good position to continue.  Until you get to the final boss gauntlet.  Three bosses in a row, all of which require you to learn their mechanics and patterns a lot more than any other in the game, and if you lose a single life to any of them, you’re knocked back a full three stages.  For no reason whatsoever.  This is especially ridiculous considering that as you’re playing your way back through them, there’s checkpoints inside of that span.  I swear, the endgame benefits so much from having savestates.

And you know what?  That’s all fun.  It’s fun.  I had a great time.  And I get to feel super proud and smug for having beat it.  The game tried to break me, but I am harder than it is.

Gun Running, Fallouting

Last time, on Athena Falls Out, we made it to Los Angeles. The glitz, the glamour, the broken dreams and general desperation, the foul creatures wandering the streets, it’s not all that different that modern day LA. Athena met the police and mayor of the village of Adytum, who all wanted her to kill the Blades, then she met the Blades, who are actually pretty cool people that everyone lies about.

So you guys decided to side with them, but didn’t specify how. I’m going to go with the means that does not lead to me fighting a whole town by myself, and that starts by us going somewhere else in LA.

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First, we go to a library to the west. This doesn’t have anything to do with the quest, but there’s a few interesting and rewarding things here. This library is the headquarters of the Followers of the Apocalypse, a group dedicated to promoting peace and harmony throughout the wasteland. Haahaaaaaaaaa, good luck with that. But still, their mission is admirable. And it’s good to have someone working towards it. Even if they are doomed to failure forever.

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Athena heads inside the library, and starts chatting with the first person she sees, a woman named Katja. Katja asks a lot of questions, and really doesn’t buy Athena’s insistence that she’s just a simple traveler, saying that nobody goes to the Boneyard of Los Angeles if they don’t have to. Eventually, Athena gives a bit more details, saying that she’s here to hunt down a water chip, even though she’s not anymore and the developers really should have put another option at this point in the game.

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Katja does open up at that, at least, and starts providing some other information about the area. Apparently, the Followers of the Apocalypse are straight lousy combatants. Not surprising that the people who are most interested in peace are those who are most ill-suited for its alternative, eh? Still, Katja talks about them as if she wasn’t a member of their group and stationed right in their blasted library.

Yeah. Fallout wasn’t so much ‘completed’ as it was ‘finished’. There’s a lot of content that obviously needed another pass, and the Boneyard is probably the single area of the game most full of it.

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Anyways, when Athena mentions that she doesn’t plan on staying around the Boneyard too long, Katja asks to come along. Athena accepts, and now our party’s grown by one.

So Katja is the final companion available to you in the game. So you’d probably think she’s the best, right? Nope. Not at all. Not by any means. She’s probably actually the least useful companion we could get. See, Fallout is a sprite based game. That means characters can only use the items and weapons that the creators gave them animations for. The player characters are the only characters in the game that have animations for all weapon types. The others are a bit more limited. In Katja’s case, she’s using a character sprite that only has the animations for knives and SMGs. Any sort of melee weapon is horrible. And remember, we’ve got our rule of not giving NPCs burst fire weapons. That’s the recipe for Athena dying a horrible and accidental death. There are single fire weapons that use the SMG animations that she can use, but they’re not that great. Moreover, Katja’s survivability isn’t the best.

Still, though, it’s another pair of hands and another ally in a fight. It’s hard to say no to that. She’s not the best, but she is adding to our party’s prowess. Continue reading

From Zero to One

By the numbers, the most effective, the most deadly enemy in video games is probably the goomba.

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Specifically, this goomba here. The first goomba you face in the game. I would bet that this one goomba has slain more players than any other creature in video games. Grandma gets you a new NES for Christmas, you plug it in with the game it came with, you jump into good old Super Mario Bros., start figuring out the controls, and bam! Before you even have any sense of precision with your jumping, before you even know how to properly maneuver, you’ve got the weakest enemy in the game in your face and bearing down on you. That has happened to thousands and thousands and thousands of players over the years.

For those of us steeped in video games, veterans of the form, that goomba is a complete non-issue. Seriously, one jump, a bunch of minute mid air navigations, we’re on his head and then on our way. A whole bunch of instinctual things going on there that we don’t even think about. Even if you’ve never played Super Mario Bros. before, even if 2-D platformers are completely foreign to you, if you’re enough into video games that you made your way to this blog, you can crush that goomba no problem. Because you’ve built up the gaming skills to know what to do.

Yet, if you don’t have that experience, that first goomba is a completely different challenge. You first have to recognize it as a threat, then recognize the movement that threat is making, predict the immediate actions of the threat, determine the appropriate response, mentally map the buttons to press to execute that appropriate response, evaluate the timing of the appropriate response, move yourself into position to execute the appropriate response, then press one button to launch yourself into the air than use the pad to control your descent.

You and I would be able to do this with all the efficiency of a professional athlete in the midst of the game. Most of this won’t even enter our consciousness, we’d just act on instinct and and put our active mind beyond it. Because we have practiced every single step in that process, or at least something very similar, over and over and over and over and over to the point that it doesn’t even require a thought. Again, it’s a very different game to someone just getting into the medium.

So how do you bring someone to that point? With everything that games have to offer, from the thrill of action to the mind-bendingness of puzzles to the sense of accomplishment of success to the involvement of the narrative and beyond, games have a lot to offer. They are an art form, a very multifaceted one that has some really great experiences within it, but one with a barrier to entry. And how do you take someone over that barrier?

That’s a problem I’ve found myself posed with recently. My most frequent Player 2 is my daughter. But her gaming journey has been a very sheltered one. Usually, she’s on the couch, backseat playing for me as I dominate games like I dominate all things. In recent years, she’s taken to picking up the controller herself, in pretty limited fashion. She’ll ride on the back of my kart and chuck items ahead of me as I drive in Mario Kart: Double Dash. She’ll copy along with what I do in Cooking Mama. She’ll take the reins of my cap and fly around in Super Mario Odyssey. She’ll wander through Kirby’s Epic Yarn with me, my carrying her through the dangerous parts. She’ll have fun, but these have largely been experiences where she doesn’t have much impact on the game, and is not at any real risk of failure. She’s not going to feel the sting of failure in these rolls, and she’s not really going to have to challenge herself. She gets frustrated at losing, and so everything we’ve been doing together have been experiences that I can carry her through. It’s all been very safe for her.
She’s decided she’s done with that. She’s tried some single player fun. She can wander around and catch bugs and fish in Animal Crossing. She can jump around Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64. But she wants more. She wants to grow and expand to becoming a True Doom Murderhead like her main man Aether. She’s been wanting to get into the same type of games I do. She wants to play appropriate to her level, of course, but she still wants to get into the type of game where she needs to be overcoming conflict, facing off against enemies, and navigating strenuous situations.

And that’s where I’ve been having issues. Finding a game that I can use to introduce her to the skills needed to succeed. And it’s been a lot harder than I expected. I set her up in Kirby figuring that’d be about as simple and flexible as it comes, had her watch me play through the first level, had her practice all the controls, and she still froze up when faced with her first enemy. As simple as that game is, just playing games in the first place involves so much mental actions that even a simple mindless encounter to me is overwhelming to her.

It makes me think of my own journey through video games. I remember being exposed to them for a while through friends before I ever felt comfortable enough to pick up the controller on my own. Once I did, my learning experiences were mostly through the standard classic fare. Super Mario Bros. 1-3, Kung Fu, the first two areas of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 over and over and over. I wasn’t aware of my skill progression there, but obviously, that did build the fundamentals I needed to find success in future games, and I kept building up on that over the years and decades since, to the point where I’m the planet-shattering warbeast I am today.

But how do today’s newbies do that? Going from 0 to 1 on anything skills-based is generally one of the hardest steps. And modern games are generally a fair bit more complicated than they were when I was growing up. The skill progression would be very similar, I’d imagine. But I find myself more stumped as to how to instill that in someone, how to put them on the path to competence while still engaging them with what they’re playing on the way there. Trial and error just doesn’t seem to work anymore.

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For the time being, we’ve got ourselves going back several years to River City Ransom, and that seems to be working the best for her. Requires a lot of basic positioning skills, while still being mashy enough that she can still be a meaningful part of the game just hammering on buttons without thought, and the beat up guys/get money/go shopping gameplay really feeds into the reward structure that resonates with her. Most importantly, this is one of the few games I’ve found that, as long as I’m running interference as the other player, she only needs to focus on one or two things at a time, cutting through a lot of the mental processes that altogether can be overwhelming and lead to freezing.  So that’s working for use right now. Next steps are still to come however. Hopefully I’ll stumble onto something that works then.

Fallout: Talking Time

Last time on Athena’s Quest for the Best, we hit the climax of the game when we collected our sick power armor. I would say it’s all downhill from here, but the rest of the game is when we get to use our sick power armor, so can’t complain about that. Anyways, yes, there’s the vault to save, mutants to kill, all that. There’s a lot of lives that are riding on our dear Athena! The Vault wants us to slay the mutants so they don’t hunt down and kill everyone we know and love. The Brotherhood is aware of them mustering an army to take over the rest of the wasteland, are possibly the only force around with the power to stop them, but need us to find out more about the mutants before they’ll be able to act. Athena is the crux of so many destinies right now. We should go take care of them.

Instead, we just head off to the Hub. Our pockets are full of loot, and we’ve got a need for cash.

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On the way there, we come across someone. Patrick the Celt. A wanderer. He roams the wastes collecting Gaelic remnants, songs, stories, and histories, as a way of keeping his old family heritage alive. Athena chats with him for a bit, and he sings us an old Celtic song. She passes some time with him in that, then the two groups make their separate ways.

Then we continue on to the Hub, and start hitting up the stores there. Which introduces us to a weird facet of the Fallout economy. Namely, that the currency of the land, bottlecaps? Not necessarily the most efficient means of trading now. After our adventures in the Glow, we are full of equipment that we can sell for thousands of caps a piece. But we can only select caps in groups of a maximum of 999 at a time, making trying to move tons of caps between inventories while selling an onerous process. Also, none of the merchants carry more than two thousand in caps, meaning we’re not able to sell our heavy equipment outright. Most players, by this point in the game, trade in guns rather than in caps. So like breaking a twenty with a store, except you’re breaking a sniper rifle for like eight shotguns. I’m more a fan of using drugs as a replacement for currency because they don’t weigh anything, but either way, in a lot of situations, it’s more efficient to just trade for either the stuff you need or at least stuff you can trade for other stuff later than it is to actually make cash.

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Not in this case though. The Brotherhood doctors need caps for their services, and won’t take anything else in trade. So we sell off a fraction of our inventory and completely wipe out all the caps from all the merchants in the Hub, and pick up a few lesser guns and drugs while we’re at it.

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But then Athena’s pockets get completely full while we’re picking up miscellaneous guns and goods for selling later. We need to clear out some space. Athena chows down on the eleven pounds of fruit I’ve been holding onto for whatever reason, then washes that down by drinking seven bottles of Nuka-Cola in a row. Now we can fit more guns in her pockets. Priorities.

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This has adverse reactions on her health, as you might expect. She’s now addicted to Nuka-Cola. She’ll experience a negative impact to her stats until she drinks another Nuka-Cola. This could be an irritation, but Athena proceeds to quit Nuka-Cola cold turkey until her body stops craving it.

On our way back to the Brotherhood, a particularly sneaky Radscorpion attempts to stealth its way up on us.

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This doesn’t go very well for it.

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Anyways, we make it back to the Brotherhood, and head down to the doctor. After our little reverse shopping spree, we’ve got enough caps for all the surgeries we haven’t taken yet. The recovery time for this takes weeks upon weeks. During which, once again, the mutant menace advances. The more in-game time we take, the deeper they come into human civilization, the more people they capture for their sick purposes, the more damage they do. Many lives probably ended in the time it’s taken us to recover from our completely elective surgeries.

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Now Playing: One Small Step for Man

Yeah, let’s come round back on this.

For the summary, years, years ago, I set myself on a quest to beat, or come as close as I’m capable of doing, all my games. Every single games that’s part of my collection. Group them by console generation, tackle them sequentially, don’t stop until either they’re beat or I am.

At first it went smoothly. Although I still have some older games either I forgot about at the time (basically my whole Game Boy library) or picked up after the fact, the first several console generations fell quickly. Then I’ve been stuck in the seventh console generation for what feels like ages. But I am near the end of it. In an attempt to keep myself honest moving forward, I’m making it public. Potentially opening up myself to shame but not really because I am magnificent and so don’t have to worry about that.

Last time, I moaned about not making nearly as much progress as I thought. Since then, I’ve changed the way I play games. Got more of a solid schedule to it, less just playing whatever I feel like. Also, I don’t have as much games going at once, and for the time being at least, I’m not working classic games outside of the project series I’m picking up into the rotation. I think it’s had success in moving me forwards. I’ve knocked off several titles in the short month-plus since the last time we’ve done this. Makes me hopeful I might actually get through this generation of the quest in less time than even I predicted this year. Yep, quite a turnaround from the last time we checked in. Let’s get into that.

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It’s Done when It’s Done

It’s an old discussion on the video gaming interbutts, talking about lengths of games and how important that is to their overall quality. The discussion has changed somewhat, what with the indie scene becoming a pretty big thing and production of mainstream games growing in scope and resources, but talk of this has been around for pretty much as long as I’ve been a cognizant part of the sphere. Even now, people will decry games for being too short, games will use their epic scale and 100+ hour playtimes as selling points, and longer games are generally considered superior to shorter ones.

From a market-based perspective, I can see a lot of why that is. With the mainstream publishers putting their games out there for $60 a pop, which equates to several hours of work for most people, I can understand how people would be seeking a certain level of value for their investment, and for those who use playtime as a measure of value, well, it’s not a bad measure at all.

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And yet. Time doesn’t really seem to be a great indicator of the quality of experience. I was struck by some of the recent games I’ve been playing. Final Fantasy XII, where, although I still enjoyed it more than I expected, I was still hit with the impression that it was built with developmental efficiency in mind. Like, given the legendary development difficulties in the game, they ended up trying to get the maximum amount of playtime out of the resources they had available. Led to large gulfs of time between notable gameplay experiences, probably one of the biggest weaknesses in the game. On the other hand, Prince of Persia Sands of Time was a very compact experience. It would have been easy for them to stretch that game out, see some more variations on established iterations between the platforming segments, puzzles, what not in order to stretch it out. But they didn’t. Combat aside, most features that come up only appear a handful of times at most. It feels like a game in which they had all their ideas in a list, highlighted the good ones and only used those, and as soon as they ran out of the good ideas they capped it off and called it done. It’s a very deliberate, satisfying experience throughout, and feels like it’s constantly refreshing and bringing up new concepts. It’s not a long game, but most of it is very well designed, missing a lot of the flaws that drag a lot of it down.

Most pieces of media out there have constraints as to how long they’re supposed to be. Most novels are going to shoot for around 80,000 words. Movies are around two hours in length. Comic arcs get around six issues of 21 pages each to tell their story. Television shows have to fit story arcs into episodes of 30 minutes or an hour each, or if they’re telling an overarching tale, they still have to match that to the length of the run or season. And yet what if your story doesn’t fit the mold, exactly? You have to cut it down or stretch it out to fit into the timeframe you’re looking at, but both ends of those have negative repercussions on the quality of the work. Video games are one of the few story telling mediums where it’s largely acceptable for the work to be just as long as it needs to be. When it’s done, it can be done, it doesn’t have to meet any artificial timeline in order to be produced. We should be taking advantage of that. Many do. Yet even then, there’s a push to make things longer and longer, get more of that time value out of it, regardless of what it does to the quality. And when there’s backlash against that, I feel like it is ignored.

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I think part of it all comes down to one’s style of play. The video games medium has grown into a very diverse one. Yes, even with all the clone games and ripoffs coming out. Yes, I know 2018 seems to be the year of the Battle Royale mimics, but there’s more than just that out there. Trust me. The medium has something to offer for any of a variety of personality types and playstyles. However you like to game, there’s plenty out there for you. In my case, I maintain a collection. Once I acquire a game, it becomes part of the collective. I’ll generally buy games when I can get them on the cheap years after they come out, and I’ll play them for the first time months or years after I get them. At the same time, all those games are a part of my life, and I’ll always come back to old games somewhere down the line. I cycle through them. So the whole value proposition is quite a bit different for me. Cost doesn’t matter to my enjoyment of it, because I generally work on a different framework disconnected from the price. Playtime is not so important, because I’ll play games multiple times over during the course of my life.

I’ve seen people on Steam logging thousands of hours into multiplayer games. I enjoy plenty of the 40-100 hour epics myself. Yet there’s also a big place in my heart for the games that can confidently present themselves as a concise experience. Those Sands of Times, those Shadow of the Colossus’s, those Superhots, the endless amounts of quality games checking in at single-digit hours. I’ve gained a special appreciation for short games as part of this quest I’m on to beat all the games I’ve owned, where they serve to counteract the lag I start to feel when I get bogged down in this sea of RPGs I’ve built for myself, but even beyond that, they form a very important part of the gaming sphere. There are definitely places for those epic games. There are tons of great games that will take you 70+ hours to get through, and more power to them. But let’s hold some respect for the games that deliver in short form. If a game can boil itself down to what it does best, and deliver that while resisting the temptation to weaken itself by taking on hours that don’t fit, that is something to be valued.