Feedback Loop: Exclusion and Difficulty

Should hard games have the option to be made easier so that the greatest number of people can enjoy/experience it?

Summary:

The Polygon article When is exclusion a valid design choice?, written by Ben Kuchera, but I was disappointed the author chose not to provide their own opinion on the matter. This topic has recently become a hot-button issue on social media, I want to tackle this and give my own opinion and persuade some of the opponents towards improving accessibility in games .

The article’s focus is on hot, new indie game Cuphead. Polygon’s review of the game says, “…Cuphead is, I fear, what the game has broadly been perceived as: a comically difficult, if not cruel, experience.” Most media sites agree that Cuphead is a noticeably difficult game. YouTuber’s big and small all also seem to agree on this point. So the author asks: “are you owed the act of finishing a game because you bought it?

The author postulates some key ideas, such as:

  • how other media does require you to pass a test or challenge in order to experience all it has to offer
  • “hardcore” gamers arguing that later levels in games must be earned
  • those opposed to accessibility feel that way because of a false sense of exclusivity
  • whether a developer’s intent matters more than trying to cater to a larger audience
  • whether a player’s subjective value of personal accomplishment trumps how they are able to engage with a game

The author presents these strong arguments but fails to give their own opinion, placing the responsibility upon the reader to form their own opinion. Should developers leave an “easy mode” in their games to allow individuals to opt for a more or less challenging experience? Are you owed something in a game merely because you bought it? Can a developer’s goal be to make an exclusive experience?

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Ideasyncracy: Harmontown History – The Rise of Spencer Crittenden

Witnessing history in the making is something you realize in hindsight. I doubt anyone participating in something ever thinks to themselves, “Boy, I can’t wait for this moment to go down in history and be remembered as the moment that changed everything.” Lives change in an instant and something as simple as attending the right event at the right time could snowball into an opportunity that provides that changes an individuals future.

I’ve been listening to the Harmontown podcast. I started a few weeks ago from the very beginning (at least from #1 on the Castbox app). So far, I have been loving every second. The podcast jumps around from being legitimately funny to being off-puttingly insightful. The rapport between Dan Harmon and Jeff Davis is truly something to behold, and I’m trying hard to catch up to the most recent episode.

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Metanalysis: PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS

“PLAYERUNKOWN’s Battlegrounds Erupts Out from Nothingness and Into Stardom”

The status quo on Twitch for the 5 games with the highest viewer count has remained static for some time now. These titles usually are: DotA 2, CS:GO, Hearthstone, League of Legends, and Overwatch. All 5 of these games feature prolific developers with a lengthy pedigree, and come from publishers with deep pockets. However, loading up the Twitch homepage today, a newcomer has taken the crown for #1, and that is PUBG.

PLAYERUNKOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS has been able to achieve critical acclaim, staggering sales numbers, and overwhelming popularity in just 6 short months. PUBG currently sits tied at #7 for best-selling PC game with 10 million units sold, and the game hasn’t even been completed yet. It has given rise to a new genre while taking the streaming world by storm, providing the groundwork for exciting drama and tense PvP action, while requiring just enough luck to keep both vets and newbies on their toes.

 

The Framework

PUBG got its start thanks to the crucible of the modding community for ARMA 2. Lead developer turned media icon Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene got his first hit with popular DayZ mod Battle Royale. Taking inspiration from the film of the same name, this mod would go on to provide the groundwork for what would become the gameplay for PUBG.

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Metanalysis: Virtual Reality

“The Uncanny Threshold”

There are a few games that I have never experienced because of an unfortunate personality flaw of mine. A barrage of praise, even from a close friend, can eventually lead to something becoming so soured that I will go years before I can will myself to try it. I can only be goaded into trying something new so many times before my gut reaction is to never try it again. This has made it difficult for friends, loved ones, or communities I’m a part of to get me into new fandoms or hobbies. Virtual Reality was almost a victim of this attitude.

With VR, my aversion to hype turned my once child-like excitement into dull cynicism. As the technology took off, the rampant adoption turned it into a gimmick, something that could be used to market experiences or attractions that let you translate physical movement into a virtual space. These promises were often hollow and were subsequently unfulfilled.

However, thanks to The Skill Floor I was able to try VR first hand and gain a whole new appreciation for it, one that has change my tune to that of a passionate advocate of the technology.

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Board Builder Dread Campaign

Introduction:

Board Builder is going to be a scratch sheet of concepts and ideas as they’re turned into actual content. There will mostly be discussions about theme and translating the theme into the mechanics. As the game gets better polished and saucier eventually other things will emerge from the toxic slime of creation and appear as fleshed out ideas. In general these articles will chart the development and progress of an ideas as it goes from paper to production.

Keep in mind, I’ve never made a board game, so hopefully what emerges will be a fun romp through board game land where nothing really makes sense.

Project Dread

For the first project I wanted to tackle something tame with most of the mechanics in place already. Continue reading “Board Builder Dread Campaign”

Metanalysis: Dead Cells

“Early Access Adopters Get A Win”

Dead Cells is, at its core, a loving homage to the best parts of some of the most influential titles and genres over the last 20 years. Taking cues from Castlevania, Metroid, and more recently Spelunky and Dark Souls, this game serves up a compilation of classic ideas in a fun and engaging way. What’s more, if you take a break, you may come back to find additions to the experience that make an already great game into an even better one.

Of personally delight is how the developers were able to successfully execute early access, a rarity on Steam.

The Framework

Dead Cells is a 2D rogue-like (or a rogue-lite, or a dungeon crawler, depending on who you ask). If we avoid genres all together and describe the aspects that make up a playing Dead Cells, then we get the following key features:

  • side-scrolling 2D exploration
  • RPG elements
  • permadeath
  • different biomes
  • procedural generation
  • currently in early access

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What’s The Point: Absolver

The Game:

Absolver is single player fighting game that promises stark quantities of beauty and depth. The aesthetic of the game is charged with motif. Each of the characters wears a mask obscuring their face, the world darts between abandoned structure and forlorn environment, solemn isolation bares down on the inhabitants of the canonical world of Adal. Offline, pretty much every person in the wilderness is trying to steal bus fare.

Online you will run into others who might fight off the bus fare thieves. The only method of communication is to take advantage of the limited gesture system. Friendships are fleeting in the world of Absolver, with friendships shuttering to hold together under the weight of potential betrayal.

Everyone shares the same goal, to hunt down the marked ones and become worthy, but each player will have a different solution to this challenge. Continue reading “What’s The Point: Absolver”

Metanalysis: Early Access

“Buy Before You Try”

Think back to a time when you had the perfect business idea, one that was so seemingly flawless that it boggled the mind that no one had thought of it before. Have it in mind? Good. Were you successful? Yeah, me neither.

I’ve had my share of too-good-to-fail ideas (i.e. a haptic feedback vest for FPS games that make the bullets feel real so you know EXACTLY where the bullets are coming from, an idea I swear I came up with first during middle school). These ideas often never come to fruition, and the barrier that you and the countless others who have had the same, similar, or totally unique ideas winds up being because the idea is not possible, probable, or feasible. The time and resources required to bring your dream idea to life reveal themselves to be unreasonable and the idea gets buried shortly after the conception. Video game development especially must contend with these limitations.

Video games provide a fertile ground in which to sow clever ideas., and they allow people to experience media in a unique way. However, if your life does not already revolve around making games for a living, how do you go about bringing your dream game to life? That’s where early access steps in.

 

The Framework

Early access games are pitched as a panacea, a fix-all solution meant to bypass the inherent difficulties of becoming a game developer or make a “good” game. Some , like Minecraft, blur the line between what it means to be early access. Other difficult to label examples include episodic games, as they technically are sold in pieces, with the full release being billed as the complete season, such as the Telltale games or Life is Strange. Continue reading “Metanalysis: Early Access”