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Worth Reading: 01/17/2014

This week's links brought to you by the letters s, p, e, l, u, n, k, and y.

Slow but steady wins the race is a tired cliche that's best described my gaming the past two weeks.

So many games these days want to make sure you see what they have to offer. It makes sense. These people have spent years crafting a game that's cost a publisher potentially millions, and you paid money to check it out! Don't you want to see everything?! And yet, some of the most satisfying game experience I've had in years come from two games that reject that.

I've already said much about Spelunky and Dark Souls elsewhere, and I suspect I won't shut up about them anytime soon, even if both games are considered "old" for many. Both of them are teaching me new things about myself, and what other approaches to game design have to offer. It's not about challenge or animation priority. That's too simple. Both games have an immense respect for the player, and will bend and break if poked properly. But such moments do not come easy, and the games punish those without patience. I'm not usually the most patient player.

Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.

Both games are in my head. When I'm not playing them, I'm thinking about them. When I'm playing them, I'm checking the clock and sighing at how fast time is moving, thinking I should go to bed or work on something else or take the dog for a walk or consider the bathroom. So it goes. It's the sign of an excellent video game, and both of them have proven very rewarding. (And thank you everyone for the useful hints along the way.)

And you know what? The sooner I finish this, the sooner I can get back to Dark Souls. So!

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

Around Thanksgiving, I'd asked people on Twitter to recommend free-to-play games, both good and bad. I don't spend much time with these types of games, and was hoping to use the holidays to explore them. Instead, I spent that time sitting around with family, playing card games, and drinking too much light beer. But free-to-play still intrigues me, and I found myself fascinated by this essay about designing "ethical" free-to-play games. In essence, trying to make games that explore this now not-so-new business model in a way that doesn't sell your soul in the process, and tries to create players who are interested in engaging with the experience in the long run. It doesn't sound very easy--temptation is everywhere.

"And, of course, while our businesses contain many thoughtful and ethical people, it's also unquestionably true that they contain many cynical bastards who actually believe that deploying psychological trickery to gull people into paying more is good and appropriate business practice.

As a consequence, we see, in the F2P market, exactly what you'd expect to see: F2P games typically have a lifespan of a year or less. They grow, they pull in money, the audience starts to decline, and at some point the operator concludes that life-time value (LTV) is now less that cost of user acquisition (COA), pull the plug on marketing, and the game drops into a death spiral. Existing customers churn out and few new ones enter, with the game being shuttered shortly thereafter."

***

Even though Digital Foundry fumbled a bit around the new consoles, there remain few places to read with their technical chops. Wii U is probably never going to achieve the mass market success Nintendo is hoping for, and Digital Foundry convinced a developer who worked on a third-party launch title for the system to explain what it was like to meet with Nintendo during the early days of the Wii U. It's just one developer's anonymous story, so we must treat it with that kind of weight, but it has some fascinating anecdotes. The one that stand out the most? The developer being told to actively avoid making comparisons to Xbox Live or PlayStation Network.

"This was surprising to hear, as we would have thought that they had plenty of time to work on these features as it had been announced months before, so we probed a little deeper and asked how certain scenarios might work with the Mii friends and networking, all the time referencing how Xbox Live and PSN achieve the same thing. At some point in this conversation we were informed that it was no good referencing Live and PSN as nobody in their development teams used those systems (!) so could we provide more detailed explanations for them? My only thought after this call was that they were struggling--badly--with the networking side as it was far more complicated than they anticipated. They were trying to play catch-up with the rival systems, but without the years of experience to back it up."

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
68 Comments
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Edited by BillWhiskey601

I've fallen into a DEEP DEEP Dark Souls and Desktop Dungeons hole. @patrickklepek you should give DD a try while your still experimenting with different game types. Spelunky had a grip on me for a long time and I'm loving DS. Hearthstone getting a grip on me too. It's a CCC but its really addicting. Keep up the good work and exposing the audience to new things.

Edited by WeaponBoy

That Wii U article is amazingly depressing if it's even half true.

Edited by Afro_Stevens

I've been putting off playing Dark Souls, but watching that montage of Vinny just makes me want to play it all the more.............or not. :/

Edited by drabnon

Patrick, I think you mispelled sophie houlden's name.

Edited by jimmyfenix

WOW at CEO Kaz Hirai!

Posted by HammondofTexas

The behind the scenes at the Kaz Hirai CES stage is nuts. I had no idea that was live!

Edited by DevourerOfTime

You got the power!
You got the might!
Get ready for battle!
Beat the Black Knight!

Posted by Lanceuppercut

DAT SHOTGUN ANIMATION

Posted by spraynardtatum

Every night after work I tell myself I'm going to continue my old Dark Souls save and every night I end up doing something different.

I really want to play Dark Souls....

Edited by Deathpooky

Vinny's Dark Souls run and Spelunky for $3.75 on PSN have also gotten me into each of those and I've had much the same reaction as you, Patrick. Dark Souls is as amazing as people have said, and not nearly as daunting as many have claimed in my run through. Sure I died a bunch, but as long as you learn, keep patient, and don't get overly frustrated, it's not impossible to beat by any means. And playing through a tough boss or area, dying, thinking about it, then coming in prepared and executing a strategy is immensely satisfying.

Though I have heard of a patch that eased the difficulty and increased soul drops, which may be part of the reason for the disconnect between early Dark Souls players and people going through it now. An extra 5-10 levels with extra damage and margin for error would make a huge difference. And if you avoid all the Internet in getting through it, missing out on the more obtuse systems would add more difficulty, though not the kind of difficulty I find enjoyable.

Edited by TheManWithNoPlan

That Load our Last Souls tribute is fucking astounding!

Edited by Trilogy

I've been thinking a lot about Spelunky and bit about Dark Souls as well. I'm not sure how much of it is watching you guys play those games in recent months. I'm sure that has a lot of influence, but Spelunky is a really special game. Dark souls I'm not as deep into, but I can appreciate it regardless.

I think I'm going to give Dark Souls another shot, and try to get as deep as possible before DS2 comes out.

Posted by russman588

Man, I hope LOS2 is good. If they use the darker themes Cox is talking about correctly, it could be amazing... but it could also fall flat if handled poorly.

Posted by patrickklepek

@drabnon said:

Patrick, I think you mispelled sophie houlden's name.

Thank you!

Staff
Edited by SlashDance

The pale blue dot by Dave Lang gave me a good laugh. Somehow it's still humbling.

Quick feedback while I'm here. It would be helpful if you wrote a short description of the games in the You Should Play This section. I don't always have the time to watch the video so it would be great to know at a glance what each game is.

Edited by cloudymusic

But such moments do not come easy, and the games punish those without patience. I'm not usually the most patient player.

Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.

Quite a pickle. Hmm.

Posted by Fobwashed

I play clash of clans. The ideas behind the game are pretty fantastic even though they're covered in a layer of F2P mechanics. That game @patrickklepek covered a while back The Castle Doctrine also works off the mechanic of building up your own base while you go out and attack others for resources. A seemingly bigger budget Diablo like implementation of the mechanic also exists on Steam right now. I think it's called The Quest for Epic Loot.

Also, man, that death compilation. Wow.

Online
Edited by getwimmy

You know, it's a testament to just how powerful Sagan's Pale Blue Dot speech is that not even that asshole Dave Lang can ruin it.

Posted by rmanthorp

#BatTech

Moderator
Posted by mrfluke

that dark souls tribute is just beautiful.

Edited by Pinmonkey

Haha, my dumb Dave Lang video. Great.

Edited by Crembaw

From the description given in Bailey's article and from others I've heard, that scene in LoS2 just sounds poorly handled even giving them the huge benefit of the doubt that they really did not include it just to shock people. I do hope they tweak that before the game's release.

I would dispute, however, that a character is supposed to be 'cool' in an action game. There were at least two action-centered games which came out this year where, for better or worse, the player-controlled character is not cool at all, whether through intentional depiction or, shall we say, confusion about the difference between sarcastic wit and being a stupid asshole.

With that said, it certainly seems like in LoS2's case they are trying to make him cool while spouting this 'he is evil' stuff in a manner that cheapens the latter's effect.

Posted by cloudymusic

I just saw that article about CSD's ridiculous success on Steam. That's awesome to see; I'm glad to see that game finally become a success story, especially given that Ryan played such a major role in it getting "discovered."

Posted by Pr1mus

YEAH! YEAH ASSHOLE! MOTHERFUCKER, FUCKING KILL YOU! - Vinny, the Dark Lord.

Posted by development

Project Rain World looks fucking gorgeous. I'd go as far as to say it's the most gorgeous 2D game I've seen in ten years.

Posted by aceofspudz

Far Cry 2 exhibited a mysterious level of control over me. I did every mission, found all the weapons, and found all the diamonds. The game did a good job of making you feel in danger.

Couldn't get in to Far Cry 3. It just seemed like another one of those 'whatever, you're a god in this sandbox, do whatever' kind of games.

Posted by GunstarRed

Project Rain World looks and sounds great. I hate cats and I hate slugs, but I think I'm ok with Slugcats.

Online
Posted by zombiepenguin9

I've been watching the Spelunky runs in the mornings before heading to work. I'll definitely be picking it up soon, thanks to Patrick.

Posted by russman588

According to Dave Cox, the scene they showed will be in the final game unchanged. He doesn't believe there was any sexual connotations, though. Haven't seen it myself so I can't really comment on it's nature.

@crembaw said:

From the description given in Bailey's article and from others I've heard, that scene in LoS2 just sounds poorly handled even giving them the huge benefit of the doubt that they really did not include it just to shock people. I do hope they tweak that before the game's release.

Posted by csl316

The Vinny Souls tribute and the Dave Lang business makes me very glad I clicked here.

Posted by PurpleMoustache

"Consider again that dot, YOU SELFISH FUCK!"

I die every time.

Great as always, Patrick.

Posted by Milkman

That Vin Souls 2000 video is seriously some of the best fucking shit I've ever seen in my life. God damn.

Posted by TheHumanDove

Vampires doing vampire stuff is rapey

Posted by intelix

i'm living in the lang zone baby.

Posted by golguin

Vinny's Dark Souls run and Spelunky for $3.75 on PSN have also gotten me into each of those and I've had much the same reaction as you, Patrick. Dark Souls is as amazing as people have said, and not nearly as daunting as many have claimed in my run through. Sure I died a bunch, but as long as you learn, keep patient, and don't get overly frustrated, it's not impossible to beat by any means. And playing through a tough boss or area, dying, thinking about it, then coming in prepared and executing a strategy is immensely satisfying.

Though I have heard of a patch that eased the difficulty and increased soul drops, which may be part of the reason for the disconnect between early Dark Souls players and people going through it now. An extra 5-10 levels with extra damage and margin for error would make a huge difference. And if you avoid all the Internet in getting through it, missing out on the more obtuse systems would add more difficulty, though not the kind of difficulty I find enjoyable.

The patch Dark Souls did make it easier in several ways, but the soul drop increase caused a much higher level increase than 5-10 Soul Levels. Anor Londo used to be an area that was set to soul level 40-50. You had a general sense of the area's soul level by the number of summon signs you'd see. If your level was too low or too high you wouldn't see anything. The huge staircase outside Anor Londo that lead into the boss area was filled with summon signs if your Soul Level fell within 40-50.

The first time I beat the game I was Soul Level 60 and it probably took me like 60-70 hours to complete it with some PVP at the Kiln mixed in. I did some farming to reach level 60. Now players are naturally going past level 60 in Anor Londo and they're beating the game at Soul Level 70-80.

Adding an extra 10 levels to endurance and vitality is going to make a HUGE difference. Add in that fact that now people know how to properly upgrade their weapons and equipment and you have a totally different experience from the early players.

Online
Posted by Sergio

I feel that some people, like @bobservo, who don't like when others use "Social Justice Warrior" as a pejorative don't quite understand why they use it sarcastically. I don't think many of these people are actually against social justice outside of video games. Many do believe that people should be treated fairly and with respect and not be discriminated against. However, they may not always agree with how some people latch onto a cause stirred up by some game journalist when they legitimately don't see the problem the journalist is railing against.

It's like they're white blood cells. They're great and serve a purpose in fighting off infections. Every so often they attack the person's own body - sometimes that's good, in fighting off cells that may be cancerous, sometimes it's not good, because they attack perfectly healthy cells. Sometimes people who strive for social justice go after things that others don't perceive to be a problem, potentially damaging a developer or game's reputation. And with internet mob mentality, they may find that to be a problem. More often than not, other game journalists will circle the wagons to defend them instead of calling out their colleagues, choosing to ignore that they're not infallible.

Edited by SuicideFLip

I ran into this same problem looking for the area5 thing on kickstarter, it's OutERlands.

Posted by masterpaperlink

@patrickklepek It would be pretty cool if you and jeff green have a kind of wrap up podcast / discussion on darksouls when you're both done (if jeff finishes in the next 5 years). Seems like a good time for a retrospective.

Posted by JillSammich

@sergio: to be honest, I think @bobservo misses the point of the sentiment. I can see someone using an article about social justice as click bait because those articles tend to be controversial, and as such, people will click on them. And there is a pretty large segment of the internet that will click them just to argue for/against in the comments. If you're the runner of an ad-revenued website, controversial click bait COULD actually make you rich.

I'm not even saying we shouldn't focus on social injustice. Just saying that it seems like an obvious thing that people could use it as click bait.

Posted by MonkeyKing1969

I just pre-ordered Leigh Alexander memoir about her personal experiences growing up with computers. I too think back on my life in the 1970s when personal computing was starting, video games being out in the world was happening, and when there was ONE telephone company.

When I was a kid I though back to a time when there were no cars thinking, "Well I'll never see anything like that...all the interesting times to live have happened" but I did live in an interesting time. I don't think anyone under 40 years old really understands how the world worked day-to-day because it is not just the personal computer revolution, its the business computer revolution, the telecommunications revolution, the cable television revolution, and half a dozen other revolutions that have occurred to make our world today.

When I was six...
- Bank tellers still worked in pen,m ink and paper...computers if any were in teh back...there was one.
- Stores were closed on Sunday
- Homes had one telephone...it was in the kicthen
- There were no ATMs
- Credit cards were rare, when your parents pulled out a credit card it was like pulling a knife...the damn thing was PROCESSED by hand in carbon copy form using a crazy little mechanical impression machine!!!
- Very few places took credit cards! You needed cash for so many things. Without ATMs and with few places accepting credit cards getting stuck without cash was like landing in Vietnam during Tet...your life was in danger.
- Stores has what they had. If you REALLY needed something one store could call another store, ask if they had it, wait 20 minutes for someone to look, and then call back...you stood there like a chump...so few people did it.

Posted by Smorlock

So I guess Outerlands is what Phil Fish is secretly doing now. He wasn't featured at all in the pitch video but it says that he is responsible for Area 5, which appears to be the group making the documentary.

Posted by BisonHero

@jillsammich said:

@sergio:

to be honest, I think @bobservo misses the point of the sentiment. I can see someone using an article about social justice as click bait because those articles tend to be controversial, and as such, people will click on them. And there is a pretty large segment of the internet that will click them just to argue for/against in the comments. If you're the runner of an ad-revenued website, controversial click bait COULD actually make you rich.

I'm not even saying we shouldn't focus on social injustice. Just saying that it seems like an obvious thing that people could use it as click bait.

Yeah, it seems like @bobservo was intentionally missing the point. Like, no, making articles about social injustice doesn't make you popular and doesn't magically make you rich, but depending on how your site is set up, page views could make you rich. And controversial topics tend to generate page views. It's like he's deliberately misrepresenting the criticism.

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