The endless, procedurally generated gameplay of A Valley Without Wind can sink into “what’s the point?” If you like Metroidvania a lot more than I do, having an endless stream with minor variations might be bliss, the way I could happily play Settlers of Catan every day. For me, it is one among many and not the best.
I started by jumping right in and exploring. Continue reading
This New Yorker article is a pleasant contrast between SimCity and Dwarf Fortress, using a classic version of SimCity rather than the recent debacle. (Fun note: “SimCity debacle” gets 36,000 hits on Google and 126,000 if you remove the quotes.) Representative quote about Dwarf Fortress:
(For a while, the melting point for the fat layer of the dwarves’ skin was set too low, resulting in instant death for any creature that got damp and then entered a warm room—baroque and violent bugs like this are very much in the spirit of the game).
I was once interested in trying Dwarf Fortress but the learning curve was more than I was willing to invest to overcome.
You track your own achievements. The PvP can be harsh.
But isn’t it always? More specifically, from yesterday’s comments:
But what if your progress was in accomplishing something in the world, discovering story, or exploration? Essentially, if you left a legacy behind, an impact on the world that everyone could see, then it wouldn’t matter so much if you died.
That is how A Valley Without Wind works. The character dies, but the town is still bigger, the lieutenants are still defeated, etc. (Also, RL functions somewhat similarly.)
But A Valley Without Wind is also a procedurally generated endless Metroidvania. Once you save one continent, there is a next one. And a next one. And it is not as though the NPCs are fully conscious beings, so the only person there to care is you as you run on the treadmill.
But isn’t it always?
A Valley Without Wind has permadeath. A character dies once and s/he is gone. And then you get a new character with all the same inventory, upgrades, etc. So…
I’m told that there was some progress lost in the launch version of the game. Now you just respawn as a new character and head back to the mission.
The Basement Collection is on Steam and was part of a Humble Bundle. I have played most of these games on flash, and I presume they are all available at the usual flash sites. Aether is one of these, with a spirit evoking The Little Prince, in which you go make some planets happy.
Aether has the obvious achievement for completing the game, and then it has achievements for finding things in outer space. Five of them are obvious: the planets’ moons. Then there are eight other things in space. You would have no reason to know they exist unless you looked at the achievements or happened to find one. They are … somewhere. Just go wander in space for a while. There must be a methodical way to explore space, and once something is found you can direct others by reference to its location relative to the other planets. Until you stumble upon one of the floating things, however, you are just flying blindly about. While peaceful, this is perhaps not the highest quality gameplay to incentivize.
“Cheating” is defined collaboratively in gaming. It is not always obvious what is a bug or intended, and if not intended whether there is any negative connotation to doing something. In a puzzle game, looking up the solution is pretty clearly cheating, but you may also want to check with others for hints or “am I even going in the right direction here?” Because sometimes you are and the game is just not cooperating. So the achievement is for finding things in space, where wandering is the spatial equivalent of grinding mobs; there is no reason why The Crybaby should be in that bit of outer space, so you just keep going until you find them all (or don’t).
Looking up the locations is pretty clearly cheating, but I don’t know if the task is respectable enough to merit any negative connotation to that. In a game with trial and error gameplay, I see no shame in just seeing which combination you are supposed to find by random guessing or brute force. But at least you do not run out of air and die in space if it takes too long to find one.
It’s like Explorer content…
Use tools like boards and springs to guide a little girl through uneven terrain with dangerous bugs.
Lucidity was part of Steam’s Swedish Indie Pack, and I thought I would try it despite the Metacritic reviews. This was a mistake. It never became fun in the first half-hour, which is about as much benefit of the doubt as I could spare it.
You are guiding your one lemming through the level. Instead of working from a limited pool of resources, which usually gives you a lot of information about how to solve the puzzle, you get an endless stream of tools randomly generated from a small pool. An early level might have just one or two, but that grows. Avoid the enemies, walk through the fireflies, reach the end of the level.
I presume that some levels have actual puzzles, and collecting every firefly would involve some creativity. Just getting through the levels: dodge the bugs, span the gaps, and you’re done. That is occasionally frantic when the pieces that come up are not optimal, but that seems to be the whole of it. There are reportedly a few hours of gameplay, probably a few more if you want to get 100%.
The art is lovely and the music is gentle. The text snippets at the end of each level seem appropriate to the setting but irrelevant to everything else. Maybe they build to something if you get more of them.
The lack of atrophy is a virtue of online gaming’s illusion of permanence. While enemies may respawn in a few seconds, the ratchet only goes one way on character and story advancement. You need not hit the gym to keep your points in strength from fading. Your house never gets dirty, and maintenance of everything you own is streamlined to a few clicks. You can wear the same clothes continuously for months, and you never need to iron the cloth armor in your vault. Your armor is always shiny and your sword is always on fire. Cooking and eating are optional, and the thousand stuffed cabbages in your backpack never rot.
Monsters and dungeons more closely resemble your floors and bathrooms. You can clean them out entirely, but you’ll need to do it again the next time you look.
Our testers can veto releases at work, but we have an allied tradition that half a loaf is better than none. We may not get everything we want from an update, but if it makes some things better and no things worse, we go live. We can add the rest in a future update.
A gaming example comes from GW2 crafting. At launch, crafting could use items only from your character’s inventory. Soon after, you could craft from the vault but discovery was still inventory only. Now both check character inventory and the entire vault.
This is easier in my work than in gaming because our users are not competing with each other. If we can implement new functionality for one interface but need another month to accommodate the rest of our users, bonus for the users with the easy update. If your FPS added rocket launchers for PC players but needed another month to add it to the Mac client, forums would explode, especially if PC and Mac players were on the same servers. You can see this in games that are gradually rebalancing one class at a time rather than all at once. The relative values of classes are having large swings each month. LotRO had “the month of the [class],” TF2 had class-specific updates, and other games have similarly revamped single classes. See also City of Heroes gradually adding heroes’ passive archetype abilities over time, so there were months in which only half the classes had them.
Sometimes half a loaf is worse than none. Beyond the cases where it distorts your competitive balance, a function that only half-works can make some things worse and no things better. Adding something that only works for a known half of the users is inconsistent but reliable, which can be okay; adding something that works for everyone a seemingly random half of the time is inconsistent and unreliable, which is bad. The new functionality must work as expected, even if only under additional assumptions, and those assumptions must not cause other problems. Half a loaf is better than a whole loaf with gravel scattered through it.
If you are on fire, stepping on a sandvich can douse the flames and save your life. A sandwich is not good enough. You need the letter V.