Videogame Criticism

This is where you can deliberate anything relating to videogames - past, present and future.
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Michiel K
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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Michiel K » March 11th, 2018, 1:07 pm

I don't like to speak in terms of IT SUCKS, but sadly I agree with a lot of the points made in this video.



I wish the Mortal Kombat and Injustice games would appeal to me more. Their backgrounds sure look nice, as well as a lot of Injustice 2's facial modeling.

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Joshihatsumitsu
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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Joshihatsumitsu » March 13th, 2018, 11:23 pm

Michiel K wrote:
March 11th, 2018, 1:07 pm
I don't like to speak in terms of IT SUCKS, but sadly I agree with a lot of the points made in this video.



I wish the Mortal Kombat and Injustice games would appeal to me more. Their backgrounds sure look nice, as well as a lot of Injustice 2's facial modeling.
Thanks for sharing that. Now I've actually gone through other videos, and it definitely hits the nail on the head. It expresses far more eloquently (sucking and all) what draws me to Guilty Gear and SNK fighters, particularly the animation in Garou: Mark of the Wolves. Beautiful animations in that game!

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Flabyo
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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Flabyo » March 14th, 2018, 10:01 am

Guilty Gear Xrd is still the best looking fighting game of all time. (The new Dragonball one runs it close, but I’m not a fan of Toriyama’s art style)

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Michiel K
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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Michiel K » March 14th, 2018, 9:33 pm

I personally love Toriyama's art style.

Image

And though the series has lost a lot of its whimsy and charm along the way once it became about power levels and godlike beings charging up and clashing to cataclysmic effect, nobody has ever depicted that type of super being driven destruction and martial arts insanity quite like Toriyama...* which ends up being masterfully translated to FighterZ by ArcSys.

*The mangas are a much better representation of this than the cheaply made animation series, by the way.

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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Michiel K » March 14th, 2018, 9:36 pm

Joshihatsumitsu wrote:
March 13th, 2018, 11:23 pm
Now I've actually gone through other videos, and it definitely hits the nail on the head. It expresses far more eloquently (sucking and all) what draws me to Guilty Gear and SNK fighters, particularly the animation in Garou: Mark of the Wolves. Beautiful animations in that game!
I hear that.

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Craig
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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Craig » March 15th, 2018, 12:20 pm

Animation is one of those magical things that I have no idea how people manage to do it. I can recognise when something tickles my senses and feels alive, but I could never tell you why one example is better than the other. So I love things like this that peel back the curtain and let you see how the sausage is made. Not really a huge fan of this guy's delivery or tone (We can't let them get away with this!!), but he makes a lot of good points about the style.

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Flabyo
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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Flabyo » March 15th, 2018, 1:54 pm

Dan Floyd does a lot of good video on game animation. Looks up ‘Extra Frames’ on Youtube. This one is a good example of his work:


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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by KSubzero1000 » March 15th, 2018, 2:27 pm

I'll second the Extra Frames shoutout and would also recommend this one:


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Craig
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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Craig » March 16th, 2018, 2:32 pm

These Extra Frames are brilliant - thanks for sharing!

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Todinho
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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Todinho » March 16th, 2018, 4:29 pm

I sort of rediscovered the best games critic around MRBtongue, he actually posted a video this year and I think it's pretty great, also rewatched some of his best, including a video that 5 years ago talked about the problems of EA and Bioware, all worth watching:




(this one in particular I think also touches on the point I was making about Bioshock infinite and how it deals with it's setting, especially when he talks about Watch Dogs)



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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Scrustle » March 24th, 2018, 8:56 pm

Just read this thing covering a recent GDC talk about Nier: Automata. Very cool stuff that was relevant to some things I've been thinking about lately.

https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/315 ... l_good.php

The first part of it is more of a general thing about combat animation design. Interesting in its own way, but not something that's particularly new if you're familiar with Platinum's design philosophy. There's a few cool tidbits about the nitty gritty of animation timing I suppose, but the second part with Yoko Taro is what I found the more thought provoking part.

He's talking about how you create a sense of freedom in a game, and how bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. Especially in light of how people are starting to get fatigued with massive open world games these days. So instead, with the Nier games, which obviously didn't have the budget for massive worlds, he used a trick that ends up making those games feel like they have a sense of freedom to them, even when they technically don't. It's more about hinting that there's more to a game's world than you first expect. subverting expectations by showing the player something they didn't think was possible. It gets your imagination running about what this world is like and what the possibilities are much more than a game that just dumps a huge checklist of things to do on you.

It's something I definitely agree with. With all this talk these days about how gamers keep demanding more and more, making games get progressively bigger and more expensive to make, I find there isn't really much correlation in terms of how much more enjoyable these games are, or even how interesting their worlds are, or how much freedom they feel like they give me.

It also reminds me of a similar point Jim Sterling made in his recent video covering Bayonetta 2 on the Switch. That game feels "big" in many ways, despite the fact that it's technically pretty small. Ultra-linear, with levels consisting of you basically following a narrow path and beating up groups of enemies until the credits roll. Yet it feels like it has a big scope and sense of scale to it, because of the way it presents itself. The pacing, the environments, the way boss fights play out. It definitely manages to feel a lot more grand than many big open world games out there.

This also lines up somewhat with another more general point about game design I've been mulling over. I'm starting to feel like there are certain design truisms that really need to be questioned more these days. Stuff that we generally take for granted as rule-of-thumb "good design" that I feel like is actually hurting quite a few games now. One of those is how so many games these days try so hard to bend over backwards to the player, trying to give them what they say they want. It's nothing new in big games that are trying to have a wide appeal, trying to get the most sales as possible. But I think we're also seeing it become more common in indie circles, perhaps thanks to crowdfunding and more open development you see these days. Every little design decision is public, and when you have people preemptively putting money in to a game before it's even begun development, that makes backers feel like they have more of a stake in that process, and perhaps the developer feels like they have more responsibility to answer to feedback too.

Not that it's not a completely bad thing to try to answer feedback and make the game approachable to players. After all, like with a lot of these design truisms, there's a reason why they got popular. But there are a number of problems with it. Firstly, just because someone says they want something, that doesn't necessarily mean that's what they actually want, or that thing will actually make them happier and solve their problem. Another is that I think it risks the artistic identity of the game itself. If a developer wants to make a game, they should be totally entitled to make it however they want, and create whatever experience they want. Sometimes that causes a bit of friction between the player and the game, but that's intentional. It's the game trying to get the player to play in a certain way, so it can provide the experience the developer wanted to give. If you go too far in letting the player have things however they want, it's likely that they won't end up discovering the unique experience the game is going for, and the game will end up feeling like a lesser experience than it otherwise could be. Less of what it is trying to convey, and more like everything else that is out there. Sometimes in a way that makes it lesser than those other experiences too, since it's being retooled to be like that, rather than being built to be like that from the ground up. Even the friction itself of trying to adapt to a new game can be a big part of the intended experience.

I'm not trying to advocate that all games should be super hardcore and punishing to the player. Although I think if a game wants to do that, it should be able to. Nor am I saying that trying to make a game more accessible is bad. More that games shouldn't be afraid to be different, and that players shouldn't be so quick to demand a game bow to their will, or to judge a game as bad because it doesn't do everything the way all the others do, or that they don't understand everything in 10 minutes. Games can be weird. They should be. Sometimes that means you might not like a given game, but that's fine. Allowing games to have more freedom means there will be a wider variety of unique stuff out there to enjoy, and the medium can grow much more in new directions.

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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by KSubzero1000 » March 24th, 2018, 9:06 pm

Scrustle wrote:
March 24th, 2018, 8:56 pm
Another is that I think it risks the artistic identity of the game itself. If a developer wants to make a game, they should be totally entitled to make it however they want, and create whatever experience they want. Sometimes that causes a bit of friction between the player and the game, but that's intentional. It's the game trying to get the player to play in a certain way, so it can provide the experience the developer wanted to give. If you go too far in letting the player have things however they want, it's likely that they won't end up discovering the unique experience the game is going for, and the game will end up feeling like a lesser experience than it otherwise could be. Less of what it is trying to convey, and more like everything else that is out there. Sometimes in a way that makes it lesser than those other experiences too, since it's being retooled to be like that, rather than being built to be like that from the ground up. Even the friction itself of trying to adapt to a new game can be a big part of the intended experience.

I'm not trying to advocate that all games should be super hardcore and punishing to the player. Although I think if a game wants to do that, it should be able to. Nor am I saying that trying to make a game more accessible is bad. More that games shouldn't be afraid to be different, and that players shouldn't be so quick to demand a game bow to their will, or to judge a game as bad because it doesn't do everything the way all the others do, or that they don't understand everything in 10 minutes. Games can be weird. They should be. Sometimes that means you might not like a given game, but that's fine. Allowing games to have more freedom means there will be a wider variety of unique stuff out there to enjoy, and the medium can grow much more in new directions.
Yeees, amen to that. Signed and ratified.
Great post, man. :)

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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Flabyo » March 24th, 2018, 9:55 pm

Couple of GMTK videos on this topic that explore the options available to developers...



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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Scrustle » March 24th, 2018, 10:34 pm

Those videos are actually part of what contributed to this line of thought. That first video I think illustrates the point about how giving the player what they ask for might not be the best thing. Some of those design decisions are things that players probably wouldn't ask for, and might even protest at the idea of, yet they work very well to fix issues without watering down the identity of a game, and solve an issue in a unique and interesting way.

The second video is an example of a really good way to make a tough game accessible. It seems in line with the intentions of the developer, and also frames those options in a really good way. In fact, I'd say the way they're presented is perhaps more important than what they actually do.

At the same time though, I kind of feel like the (well deserved) praise for the assist mode in Celeste kind of has a bit of a dampening effect in the opposite direction. As if to imply through the praise for those features the game would be lacking or inferior without them. While there's nothing wrong with Celeste in particular going for that route, or any other game that might want to go down the same path, I don't want any developer to think that going the other way is somehow the "wrong" choice because of that.

There's also something about the language of this wider discussion too, which is used in that Celeste video, which I'm not too comfortable with either. A lot of the talk about this topic these days tends to frame the discussion as difficulty vs. accessibility. As if more of one necessarily means less of the other, and anything that makes less of the latter is always bad. I don't like that way of thinking. I don't totally buy that a game that puts people off for being difficult is always an "accessibility" issue. Can it not instead simply be a taste issue? Games can be niche for lots of different reasons. There are lots of games I don't like for various reasons. Genre, subject matter, mechanics, etc. But I don't feel like they're "inaccessible." They're just not to my taste. Why are we so resistant for difficulty being in that same kind of realm? It's not like I'm coming from this angle as some hardcore "git gud" type either. Difficulty puts me off a lot of games. I generally don't even like super hard games. But I'm fine with that, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on something, or that I want the games to have a mode to cater to me. The games are what they are, and that's just not something I enjoy. Simple as that.

Another thing that got me on this train of though, which I suspect might have even been an inspiration for that first video too, is this Twitter thread from a while back, where a bunch of developers talk about "hidden" mechanics they put in their games to make them more fun, or to encourage a certain type of experience. I think it first started in response to that whole thing with Hellblade supposedly deleting your save if you die.

Also another point I forgot to mention is that, of course, sometimes sticking to your guns as a developer will inevitably end up making something that is just bad. Mistakes in design. But those mistakes are valuable. They teach you something about design in a wider way, and lead to progress in future games. Something that you wouldn't have learned if you just stay to what we "know" works.

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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Flabyo » March 25th, 2018, 11:09 am

Accessibility is as much about trying to get a larger audience than it is any belief players want things easier.

Taking Celeste as an example, all the reviews said ‘it’s good but it’s super hard, but there’s a mode you can use to make it a bit easier if you want to’. If theyd stopped at ‘its super hard’ I wouldn’t have bought it. But I did buy it (the fact I don’t know that I actually enjoyed it all that much in the end is neither here nor there).

It’s a very hot topic in the fighting game scene at the moment. Should a game ‘dumb down’ to sell more copies? I think a fe developers in that space are confusing ‘simple to do all the cool special moves’ with ‘doesnt scare off a more casual player’.

Injustice 2 is not a simple game, but it has a huge amount of content in it that isn’t focused around ‘two human players fighting each other’. That makes it a more accessible game, there are ways for inexperienced players to have a lot of fun with the game without needing to ‘git gud’. But it didn’t require any reduction in the complexity of the games systems.

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite took the approach of adding in shortcuts, simple special moves and auto combos. But with nowhere near the amount of single player content new players are tossed into playing versus matches online quite early on (as they’ve exhausted other options available to them) and they get mauled. Because the ‘accessible’ auto combo system isn’t actually competitive.

One of those games sold a lot better than the other.

So yes, accessible doesn’t mean ‘easy’ or ‘let’s you cheat’. It means that it doesn’t do things to make someone turn the thing off in the first 10 minutes before they ever get far enough to find out if they actually like it. It’s about difficulty curves and finding the right amount of tutorial. It’s about introducing mechanics at a pace that lets a player explore the previous one a little before you throw the next one at them.

My problems with the Soul series have nothing to do with them being hard games (I’m an eighties child, the games i grew up with laugh at the notion of the souls games being hard) it’s that I find them obtuse and unfair. For many people they aren’t, and that’s fine, but I don’t think they’d actually need to change very much for them to find a much larger audience. They certainly don’t need to make the easier.

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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by KSubzero1000 » March 25th, 2018, 11:40 am

Flabyo wrote:
March 25th, 2018, 11:09 am
I don’t think they’d actually need to change very much for them to find a much larger audience. They certainly don’t need to make the easier.
So, what exactly would those changes be that make the games more accessible without dumbing them down or making them easier? Genuinely curious.

Because from the other side of that debate, as a dedicated player it's really not that I ever want to keep people from games that I enjoy, it's that I care about balance and design integrity. The reason why purists often balk at changes and concessions is not necessarily because they despise the riff-raff as much as it is that they love the specific experiences a game can provide.

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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Chopper » March 25th, 2018, 11:47 am

Idea #1: Lock the player in a tiny room with one large area of attack enemy and two small, mobile enemies, an environmental hazard/help, and leave them there until they get good enough to escape.

Oh wait...no, do the opposite of that. :)

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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by Scrustle » March 25th, 2018, 11:49 am

The point about tutorials is an interesting one. I like the idea that good tutorialisation is a better option for accessibility than just making things easier. I think that links back in to not giving the player exactly what they say they want. Sometimes you see people complain that a certain level in a game is bad, or a certain mechanic is too obtuse, and they just want to be able to skip it or not interact with it. But I think that's a bad way to go, and also kind of framing the issue poorly. Reminds me of another thing I read a while back on the subject. I can't remember where it came from now, but it was a blog post from some developer talking about this issue, using Metal Gear Rising as an example. Sometimes people have trouble with the parry mechanic in that game, and as a result, find the Blade Wolf boss fight early on very difficult, and want to just skip it. Except the thing is that boss fight is a deliberate skill check for that mechanic. Something the game relies on a lot going forward, so if you were to just skip that fight, you wouldn't learn that mechanic, miss out on a big part of the game, and be a lot more frustrated with it as a result. So the solution here isn't to just let the player have whatever they want, but to make a better tutorial. That's the design flaw, not that one level or single mechanic.

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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by ThirdMan » March 26th, 2018, 8:42 pm

I've just read the gamesTM review of Kingdom Come: Deliverance. They've given it 4/10. I'm tempted to say that's harsh, based on my first 10 hours with the game, however they were playing on PS4 and without the benefit of the various patches that have been released. So they've had a bug-ridden experience and subsequently gotten their knives out. That's fine and indeed it's not the first 4/10 that the game's received.

What really surprised me was the tone of the review and the lengths that it goes to. It opens by commenting on the issues of representation and the treatment of female characters, all of which I feel is appropriate. And not just because of the controversy surrounding the game. Those are issues that need to be spoken about, doubly so when the game's creator makes claim of historical accuracy.

But that's just the warm-up! The author then urges us to "look up Burzum and Daniel Varva" referring to one of the other controversies surrounding the game's creator. "If you try to fob that off as an innocent mistake, more power to you. You're able to ignore more than us". It finishes with "there will be a lot of you out there who get a lot from KC:D, but it needs you take a lot of liberties, both with it and yourself, to get genuine enjoyment from it".

I must say I find those latter remarks absolutely extraordinary within the context of a videogame review. I really didn't think anyone could out-manoeuvre Eurogamer's review and yet here we are. Directing that the reader look into an incident involving the game's creator, one that's completely unrelated to the production of the game or indeed any game, and then following it up by guilt-tripping those that ultimately enjoy the finished product. Wow.

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Re: Videogame Criticism

Post by KSubzero1000 » March 26th, 2018, 9:25 pm

ThirdMan wrote:
March 26th, 2018, 8:42 pm
They've given it 4/10. I'm tempted to say that's harsh
I know it doesn't really mean much in the context of the wacky inflated score system that most sites are using, but a 4/10 is actually just below average, logically speaking. Far from a death sentence, as far as I'm concerned. :)

ThirdMan wrote:
March 26th, 2018, 8:42 pm
I must say I find those latter remarks absolutely extraordinary within the context of a videogame review. I really didn't think anyone could out-manoeuvre Eurogamer's review and yet here we are. Directing that the reader look into an incident involving the game's creator, one that's completely unrelated to the production of the game or indeed any game, and then following it up by guilt-tripping those that ultimately enjoy the finished product. Wow.
I think it's important to keep in mind that political tensions are running pretty high at the moment, which can make people say and do things they otherwise wouldn't in order to fight the good fight.

Personally, I think it's usually for the best to give people the benefit of the doubt in most cases. The writer probably meant well when trying to warn readers from what they perceived as a serious problem. Not very professional in the context of a video game review, but I can understand how they might have felt it was necessary.

Zero tolerance policies usually come from a good place, but often end up causing more harm than good in the long term.

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