I recently finished SPACEPLAN and I was surprised to see it had an end. Now, I suppose on some level I was expecting it due to the emphasis on the story of the game, but it is so unheard of in this genre to have an end that I just didn’t think it was going to happen. I will say that the game left me feeling sad, not because of the story elements, but because I was not ready for it to be over. I found the story bits engaging and it was a very pleasant graphical experience. I am curious if people are going to try and move this idea forward in the future with more stories in their incremental games. Could someone make one that has randomly generated story so that you could keep going? A friend that was also playing it through with me asked if I was also getting everything potatoes. How neat would it be if that bit had been random and she and I had gotten different items to build? Mine could have been all potato related and hers could have been radishes, for example. Just some thoughts… should be interesting to see what people do with the concept this year. I certainly hope that the SPACEPLAN dev decides to write another game this year… it was great fun!
Recently, I’ve been revisiting the incremental genre through the particular vehicle of the game SPACEPLAN. For those of you who don’t know, incremental games genre includes such titles as Candy Box, Cookie Clicker, Clicker Heroes, Kittens, and Idle Civilization. SPACEPLAN was voted the best Incremental Game of 2016 by the subreddit dedicated to the playing/development of these types of games so I figured that I should try it out. As I was playing along, watching my numbers climb satisfactorily, I was struck by two things. First, how cool is it that SPACEPLAN has a story? I’ve never played one of these types of games that had a story and this one was incredibly well included in the gameplay. Second, I realized why incremental games were the next step for me as a gamer. As a younger person with more free time, I spent hours in Action RPGs (ARPGs) like Diablo, Torchlight, and Path of Exile (still do play these as a side note, particularly excited about Path of Exile’s upcoming season), and was fascinated by running around clicking things, to get things to get bigger numbers to kill more things. That is basically the same mechanic as incremental games. While incrementals take out the “gameplay” part of it with automation, the fascination of seeing numbers go up is still completely there. But now, with my more limited free time, I can watch the numbers go up without having to spend the hours grinding out rifts to find the legendary that I need to finish a build. There’s also a strong connection to roguelikes… but I’m out of space for now, so maybe next time!
Normally, I’m not one for sandbox games… I tend to get lost, not have a clue what to do next, wander around in circles for a bit, and then give up… never to enter the world again. This has been the case even for definite progression focused games like Terraria. And when you look at games like Minecraft? Never going to stick with it long. However, there is one game recently which has recently struck something inside of me and that is Factorio. A game about making a life on a distant planet after crash landing there, it’s not exactly a riveting story. There are aliens to concern yourself with (think the Zerg from Starcraft franchise), and that’s about it. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to head out and build yourself a fancy satellite and establish communications with anyone out there in the world. However, in the meantime, you have a lot of mining to do… so you better get to it. Until… you find out that you actually can automate it… and then automate the refining process. And then, once you’re done with that, you can automate the whole thing. Need to build a conveyer belt? Why not build a assembling shop to do that for you? It just continues on and on… with you just figuring out ways to automate literally everything in the world. Right now, in the multiplayer game I’m playing with friends, I’ve just succeeded at automating red and green science packs for research purposes and we’re attempting to figure out how to automate the refining of oil so that our cars will work. There’s so much to do… and the game is just getting started. We haven’t even had to fight any aliens yet!
Again… another day where I’m going to mention a bit of news. I watch general game/book bundle sales around the internet with great interest, because it’s a cheap way to get things that you’re interested in. Recently, Humble Bundle (kind of the daddy of bundle sites) released a new bundle called the Freedom Bundle… which is frankly, insane. There are SO many games in there and even if you ignore the random books/music, this is a bundle that is completely worth the 30$ that they’re asking… plus all the of the proceedings go straight to charity. I will mention that the game that alot of people were excited about in there (Subnautica) is no longer available to newer buyers, but even without that game, it’s definitely worth. I would without a doubt check it out… for me, it was an easy purchase even though I said I wasn’t buying video games at all this year. Check it out and tomorrow we’ll be back to regular content!
Along the same lines as yesterday’s post about watching other people play games, is the concept of not being able to play a game due to your own skill level. There are a few games that fall in this category for me, including Starcraft 2, Dark Souls, and others of the high skill variety. I’m also not great at Rocket League but I still play that one… and kinda push through me being bad. Lately I have realized that raiding in MMO’s falls into this category for me. Recently, in Guild Wars 2, a new raid came out with the latest Living Story update and I’ve been watching some of the content being played. Now, to be fair, I don’t think that playing at that skill required would be that difficult, there’s not that much going on there and it doesn’t rely on the complexities of GW2’s combat system like PvP in that game does. That said, between time requirements, gear requirements, and other food/utility buffs that I’d have to find, I haven’t been able to get into raiding. Also, since the game isn’t exactly easy to drop bosses, I think that trying to PUG (Pick Up Group, random versus a pre-defined guild/set of friends) would just frustrate me and lead to a non-fun gaming experience. I want to raid so badly… always have and love dungeon type content in these games… but I’ve never been able to break in. How often do these types of things crop up in your game experience?
It’s an odd phenomena where people enjoy watching other people play a game. There are definitely games where this is true for me, including For Honor, DayZ, and Starcraft 2. Twitch, as a broadcasting site, has become a huge source of money, allowing many people to make streaming video games into a full time job. It’s a culture that is quite odd, and for many people, completely not understandable. If I ask my parents if they’d be interested in watching someone else do something instead of doing it themselves, they’re at a complete loss as to why I’d even ask the question. So why do we consume so much gameplay in this way? There seem to be two distinctions in this type of gameplay: the first is people who are very good at the game and the second is people who are very entertaining while playing the game. For the first, it’s easy to see why you’d want to watch people that are good at something… this is the sort of thing we do all the time with sports, the Olympics, and any sort of world championship. You can’t play to those levels and can appreciate the skills required to play, so enjoy watching people that have perfected them. However, the entertainment is a bit more convoluted. Arguably, if someone is playing a game and you’re enjoying watching them, then wouldn’t you have just as much or more fun if you were actually playing the game yourself? Something to consider, even though I don’t have the faintest clue on an answer… and I’ll go back to watching the same couple on Twitch that I watch every day!
I don’t generally write posts on here about news items, but I wanted to mention that the new Path of Exile expansion has been announced. Why do I care you might ask? Well, first of all, I really like Path of Exile, even if I don’t get a chance to play it often in the stack of games that I play. However, the second reason is that this expansion is a big deal. If you’re unfamiliar with the current way it works, there are four acts in the game which you progress through until you finish, then the game moves you into a higher difficulty, but back into act 1 and you do it again. There are three difficulties to go through in this way and that’s the game. This new expansion however, removes the difficulty system and instead replaces it with six new acts. So yes, the next expansion will add more than double the content to the game. While it’s not going to be out until sometime in June/July, I can tell you what I”ll be playing as soon as it comes out. Also, again for those that aren’t well-informed on the issue, the game is a Diablo-like action RPG which is also free to play and is supported by micro-transactions which are largely cosmetic (you can also get more storage space). If you’re into the genre, you owe it to yourself to check this game out right now and learn some things so that you’re ready for the big expansion coming this summer!
I know that I said I was going to talk about Disgaea, and I will… but bear with me as we take a bit of a detour down a street filled with robots and feelings of “Firefly” nostalgia. I’ve started Steamworld Heist recently, as a fun little diversion from some of the more serious games that I’ve been playing, and it turns out that it’s quite fun. I’m a huge fan of turn based games, because I feel that is where strategy can really shine. However, Steamworld Heist has combined the normal TBS style of play with a shooting mechanic similar to something like A–Tanks where you have to manually aim your shot. It’s a small thing to change up and add, and I was surprised by just how much it feels good. There’s no more random misses based on dice rolls, only based on your incompetence when it comes to aiming. It started me thinking about the changes that developers can make (relatively small ones) that totally make a genre feel new and different. TBS has never felt as good in 2D as it has in Steamworld Heist with this combat mechanic. I’m looking forward to aiming my way through many more fights in the future, particularly with the great dialogue and snarky comments/robots that you’re fighting against/alongside/as.
We take a slight intermission in our normal series that we’ve been doing lately to discuss the newest episode of the Living Story for Guild Wars 2. For those that don’t know, GW2 releases content in an episodic format and is currently in Season 3 dealing with a threat which is quite familiar if you played Guild Wars 1. I finished the story this morning and I have to say, the nostalgia is real. Obviously none of the characters are the same, though there is mention of a deity that I don’t want to see again, but the types of speech, the mantras, the insignias… it’s all so good. I miss the first game still and this story arc with the particular enemy that we are facing right now just screams nostalgia and the feels. I immensely enjoyed this story update and played through the whole thing quite quickly, including 100%’ing the new map and getting quite a few of the achievements, though not quite mastery yet. I did PUG the last story mission just to save myself some frustration and I’m glad I did because this is the only time in GW2 where motion sickness is a problem. The last fight in particular…. so much spinning. But yes, great update and I’m excited to see what’s coming next, since we got a sneak peak of the next story arc and I am so excited!
Last time, I was talking about elements of game design that hampered the player’s enjoyment over the length of the game. On the other hand, there’s a particular mechanic that assists in making the game feel more compelling from a mechanical standpoint, which is what I wanted to mention today: Complexity. Using Druid’s Duel as an example again, the one thing that this game lacked was complexity. With only four druids, each with basically one ability, there was nothing to create a large strategic depth. I recently started a play-through of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (the Steam version) and one thing that was immediately evident was how much was going on. There was almost an infinite number of possibilities straight out of the gate, including character customization, itemization, tactical moves, and environment considerations. I’m less than an hour into the game and already feel overwhelmed with possibilities. I’ve had to look up information on how to pursue combo attacks, looked for a better tutorial on geo plates, and Googled some information on characters. Already, the level of complexity is so high that I’m having to go outside of the game to find information to continue. Now, part of this is the game’s fault and part of it is mine due to me liking to have lots of information about the game, but it’s telling that I’m looking for information within the first hour of this game. I can guarantee that I never once looked up information on Druid’s Duel once. Now, the next question is… how does the complexity fare to a player new to the genre? We’re going to spend some more time looking at Disgaea in the next few posts.