The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for recovering from a few days away. Best start by gathering the week’s best (mostly) games writing.

  • Naomi Clark writes about a lack of taste in games, and what it does to games and gamers. The media – eg, me – could do more to foster taste.
  • These are the impoverished gardens that have been grown by the best practices of games as a consumer entertainment industry: put money, time and effort in, get these emotions out. At worst, it stultifies the creation of games into a mechanical exercise, optimizing the efficiency of dopamine production via the stimulation of human brains in the same way that an industrial process would evaluate the quantity of ore extracted and transported from a mine. At best, we can talk about preferences, but we fall short of tastes. Preferences hover in the realm of “what works for you?” Mileage may vary, but you can find an effective treatment, the level of challenge and decision-making stimulus that activates the neural pathways you’re aching for.

    Tastes, on the other hand, are less about efficacy on individuals than about aesthetics. Taste isn’t the nutritional content of food or the recommended daily allowance; it’s not the amount of carbs needed to fuel endurance running or the quantity of protein that can be converted into muscle building through exercise; it’s not about filling your belly with calories or your brain with a satiated anti-boredom. It’s about what it fucking tastes like. The encounter of a tongue and a particular flavor, a moment of beauty illuminated by a material as well as the taster’s sum of experiences. Taste changes not only with a mix of molecules or mechanics, but through cultivation and understanding, appreciating a thing for what it is, and perhaps what it intends.

  • Mark Johnson – developer of 4X roguelike Ultima Ratio Regum and oft-cited round these parts – wrote this past week about the problem with the roguelike metagame. Mainly, that unlocks at the end of failed runs distracts players from learning why they failed, and thus stops them from progressing. Which I disagree with, or at least with the implied solutions, but which is interesting.
  • The important point here is this: whereas the player must figure out they are meant to learn – no roguelike says “You died! You should think about how you died. Would you like to play again? Y/N”, and instead it just leaves you to your own devices to figure that out – the unlock is obvious, clear, and explicit. When you’re given an obvious reward, few players are ever going to think about the non-obvious rewards, especially when the obvious rewards appear to enhance their chances of success in the game. I therefore fear that the player comes to learn that their deaths are meaningful insofar as they yield new unlocks, not insofar as they yield new information or understanding or ways to avoid their demise.

  • Interesting enough that it’s worth reading this response at Robot Parking, which delves deeper into different interpretations of roguelikes
  • Well, Johnson’s assertion is not that we should do away with the current state of the roguelike metagame, but rather that we should examine it closely and see if there are other lessons we can extract, other approaches. It’s something I can wholeheartedly get behind. I think we should extend that to examination to the role of permadeath as an educational and punitive mechanic. If it is “too” punitive, it is because players do not feel equipped to meet the challenges. At this point, it’s worth evaluating how something like combat is handled: are there a lot of commands, a lot of strategies and features? Is your game, like so many other classic roguelikes, a turn-based strategy game wearing the skin of a role-playing game? Are there lessons we can take from user-friendly turn-based strategy games that might help with the onboarding process?

  • Continuing the roguelike theme, Adam linked me to this from 2011. It’s a trove of descriptions of tricks, traps and room designs in a single enormous document. I feel like there is a world out there of similar websites, that perform acts of game design on paper, sometimes for fun and sometimes to aid with pen-and-paper campaigns, and I am just scratching its surface. See also: Goblin Punch.
  • Chris Donlan wrote a lovely thing for Eurogamer about gaming’s cruellest downgrade.
  • What is easy to forget, though, is that this downgrade – the tradeshow, big reveal downgrade – is actually the second downgrade that most games receive, and it’s probably the milder of the two. The first downgrade takes place in secret, and it must be truly heartbreaking for everyone involved. This is the concept art downgrade, the moment that beautiful 2D visions of a new universe are first translated into code and shaders and 3D models and maps, the moment that an idea starts to inch towards its own implementation.

  • Rob Fearon continues to write antidotes to everyone’s suffocating passion, not to discourage but to assist those that encouragement often stifles. Does that make sense? Christ.
  • It’s why I’m wary of the “everyone must learn to code” mantra. Nah. You’re alright. “But it’s the future”, says the dude with an interest in preserving a workforce first and foremost rather than having anyone’s best interests at heart. Probably better off learning knitting, we’ll need jumpers as the weather takes its turns for the worst.

  • Nathan Ditum writes on Kotaku about the difference between Game of Thrones and The Witcher 3. Or, not really. Actually he’s writing about The Witcher and Earthsea and their treatment of magic. Splendid.
  • In Earthsea, magic is the naming of things. Wizards gain power over objects – creatures, rocks, the sea – by learning their true names. This is a gloriously rich evocation of magic, touching on the idea of innate relationships between us and the world, on the rightness of naming, and the tethering of knowledge to power. The book follows a young wizard called Sparrowhawk whose true name – Ged – must be kept secret from all but his closest friends. Early on he learns a rhyme to herd goats, and compels a falcon to his hand by calling its name. As he comes more fully into his power Ged confronts an old dragon, and by sounding its name – by knowing the dragon – is able to command it not to come East, to the land of people. In saying the name “…it was as if he held the huge being on a fine, thin leash, tightening it on its throat.”

  • Also on The Witcher 3 – and with very mild maybe-spoilers – Keza MacDonald wrote on Kotaku about getting Geralt drunk.
  • Anyway, so, last night I ended up taking on The Witcher 3’s first big dungeon crawl, through some elven ruins (very mild spoilers follow). It was all very dark and spooky, though the enemies I was encountering weren’t overly troublesome; mostly amphibious corpse-eating things called Drowners, and goblin creatures that had an irritating habit of turning into mist, but which were fairly easy to dispatch once they became corporeal again. Then came along the first proper boss-like enemy: a golem. This was different. The thing smashed through my special Quen damage shield and walloped me a good few times, knocking my health right down. It was tense, but I made it through, with the able assistance of the sorceress that Geralt brought along for this particular adventure.

  • Joel Goodwin on Electron Dance writes about a phenomenon I recognise and he calls roguerush.
  • Perhaps you’re at home. Perhaps you’re on a train. The location doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’re enjoying your current favourite rogueish-type-like. You think you’re on top of your game, got all the enemy moves figured out. Yeah, baby, you know what to do.

    And then something goes horribly wrong.

    You just click, click, click quickly through three moves in one go, as if you’re trying to beat the computer before it gets in a countermove.

  • Also by Joel, this excellently edited video on the Minecraft Industrial Revolution. Ie, the almost irresistible pull players feel to make its beautiful natural worlds into mechanized, stripmined, efficiently exploited wastelands. And how Joel and his wife fought back against that pull.
  • Proteus indulges the fable of the “simple life” where we co-exist peacefully with the ecosystem. It asks me to lose myself in the majesty of nature and its joyous, playful manner is beguiling… but the code protects the island above all else. We cannot even take a blade of grass or petal of a flower with us and we leave no footprints behind. Violations of Proteus law are forbidden. Nature is immutable. Nature is God.

  • I haven’t listened to this episode of Daft Souls, but it is a fine podcast and the most recent episode features Joe Skrebels and our own Pip Warr.
  • Jerk headcrab.

That’ll do.

I forget what music I was listening to earlier in the week, so take Parts of Speech by Dessa. I first heard this when it was released in 2013 but I think only realised how good it was when Sin Vega linked it to me a few weeks ago. Huh!

From this site


  1. brgillespie says:

    I was disappointed when characters failed to react to Geralt being absolutely shit-faced during an important cutscene. “We’re about to fight nigh-omnipotent god-creatures and you show up completely hammered?”

    Also amusing on a meta-level: regenerating vitality through the consumption of such nutritious items as peppercorns, or a stick of butter.

    • mouton says:

      “he must be adjusting to his power battle potions”

      • PancakeWizard says:

        That’s the best fantasy-style excuse for being drunk I’ve heard!

    • sandineyes says:

      Butter is an extremely efficient source of energy on an arduous journey. Sledders in the Arctic apparently eat multiple sticks of butter every day, as they consume something like 7000 – 9000 calories per day.

      • Punning Pundit says:

        Oh yeah! The major reason modern humans have such high obesity rates is that we have mechanized so much of our productivity that we simply don’t _need_ many calories to stay alive and useful. For instance: the writers of this fine website* are required to sit and play games/write to do their jobs. Their output is of high social value, but does not require the burning of more than about 2500 calories a day. By contrast, a Fisherperson, miller, farmer, or other pre-industrial job holder would have to expend about 5,000-7,000 calories a day on _just their jobs_.

        And to make matters hilarious, the price of calories has plummeted just as we require many fewer of them. We defeated Famine and now Feast is killing us. Thought obviously many fewer of us than Famine got.

    • airmikee says:

      It’s only been within the last 100 years that a beverage containing alcohol wasn’t the most popular drink. Prior to the invention of public water systems clean water was a rarity, so for thousands of years almost every drank alcoholic beverages because there aren’t many harmful micro-organisms that can survive the alcohol. Ancient China was fermenting alcoholic drinks over 9000 years ago (literally, not just an old meme), and until modern times every relatively long lasting civilization since then has had a drink containing alcohol as a food staple. Let’s not pretend that a warrior getting drunk before battle has any commentary on modern life or that it’s somehow a new idea.

      As sandineyes mentioned, butter’s high calorie and fat contents are invaluable to people that live in climates that require more of those “bad” things. And black pepper is a decent source of Vitamin K, iron, manganese, some essential minerals and helps the body absorb precious selenium, Vitamin B, beta-carotene, curcumin and other essentials. Both products have been used for thousands of years, maybe not as long as alcohol, but long enough to prove their worth to proper nutrition. (I’m not saying everything our ancestors did is a good idea, but the knowledge and ability to produce food is one of their best gifts.)

      • Drakedude says:

        That beer instead of water thing is a myth by the way. When it was favoured it seems to have been for nutrition from the barley for ye labourers. Boiling water is not a new idea.

  2. PancakeWizard says:

    RE: A lack of taste in games.

    This seemed like a wild tangent to me. I think she was way off base with her initial ‘reading between the lines’ for the anecdotal player. It’s clear to me the player was frustrated over arbitrary repetition, which experienced gamers can smell a mile off and have little time for (there are too many games to settle for bad design). They weren’t experiencing ‘a lack of emotional payoff’. What an odd conclusion.

    The whole thing comes off as bruised egos trying to say that someone ‘just doesn’t get it’ because they thought the game in question allowed the player to see the wizard behind the curtain and they considered that a bad thing.

    To go with her tasting analogy, it’s more like this person went into an Italian restaurant and knew straight away that what he was being served was a frozen pizza.

    It seems Naomi wouldn’t dream of considering the game might have an issue, but rather it must be that the player has no taste. I’m starting to think we need the video game equivalent of one of these articles: link to

    I’m not even going to touch that this gives me the distinct impression that it’s another ill-advised ‘the death of the gamer’ from a more subversive angle. That’s a rabbit hole no one wants to go down right now.

    But finishing on more constructive note: gamers know the difference between thoughtful tasteful art and pretension, see here: link to

    Perhaps Naomi and her touchy developer friends might consider the benefit of the doubt next time!

    • Premium User Badge

      Gassalasca says:

      ” More than half a century ago popular storytellers like Christopher Isherwood and Somerset Maugham were ranked among the finest novelists of their time, and were considered no less literary, in their own way, than Virginia Woolf and James Joyce.”

      This is so not true.
      The author’s got an axe to grind, more so than Naomi Clark even, and he’s not afraid to spout nonsense.

    • Melody says:

      gamers know the difference between thoughtful tasteful art and pretension.

      Without touching other points, I’d kindly like to disagree. Gamers don’t know it, readers don’t know it, no general category knows it. That’s why the most famous/most sold games/music albums/films/books are by far not the “best”, 95% of the time.

      • Geebs says:

        Bogus (1), elitist (2) and timid (3).

        (1) provably false
        (2) condescending
        (3) “most”

        • Melody says:

          I know I am elitist. I wouldn’t deny it. I’m ok with being elitist. I don’t see it as a negative.
          Bogus, I disagree.
          Timid, I’m not sure where you got that from? Surely, if anything, it’s “kindly” that makes me sound timid, rather than “most”?

          • SlimShanks says:

            I don’t always agree with what you say, but I like your style!

          • Geebs says:

            There’s no point arguing with a determined iconoclast. They’ll just drag you down to their level and beat you with obscurity ;)

            But anyway: James Brown. Your argument is invalid.

        • gwathdring says:

          I don’t think it’s elitist (though it may have been in the above context) to suggest that most people can’t be relied upon to tell the difference between tasteful art and pretension.

          The reason I say this is that the concept of pretension is itself often an arbitrary elitism. “That person isn’t sincere, I know this because I know their thoughts; they do not mean what they say and they aspire to greater importance than they deserve.” That’s a rather intense value judgement for someone who isn’t a mind-reader. Nothing wrong with that, but say with me. The concept of tasteful art is even more loaded in that it has the implied value judgement, the famously messy idea of “art,” and then the ever-shifting, class-dependent concept of “tasteful.” Between the royal messes and inherent superiority complexes of those two phrases … no, I don’t think most people–gamers or otherwise–can be relied upon to “correctly” make head or tail of that without spending a lot of effort on trying to articulate something more complex than their plain reaction to the work in question–and smart, dumb, rich, poor, gamer, non-gamer … people don’t tend to dedicate an immense amount of critical thought to things they consume casually as entertainment.

          This isn’t a bad thing.

          We have a concept of “design” that doesn’t depend on how much people like a game. Many gamers will describe games as having well implemented features here or there but just not being there sort of thing. We have an established concept of not liking something but still thinking it is, as it were, tasteful art. As such, without going to classicst culture waring we can still start to hunt down a concept of good design that is far more useful and far less arbitrary than the concept of “tasteful art” and a concept of bad design far more useful than the concept of “pretension” or “bad art.”

          But I don’t think we can necessarily rely on gamers to always recognize let alone preference any of these concepts–design, art, petension. Some people art just here to shoot things. And that’s fine, but if they’re not even really paying attention and by their own admission they don’t want to think about games (and sometimes very loudly assert they don’t want anyone else to think about games in their presence) it’s weird to call it elitist to suggest that, yeah, popularity of a game doesn’t tell you much about it’s quality in terms of the concept of “design”, things can be popular for entirely arbitrary and unreliable/unrepeatable reasons, and many gamers won’t be interested in the difference between tasteful art and not-tasteful-art.

          • airmikee says:

            You don’t think its elitist to tell other people what is or isn’t art or pretension, both of which are entirely subjective and nowhere near the realm of being ‘factual’ or ‘universal’? Then you don’t understand the definition of ‘elitist’. :)

          • gwathdring says:

            You misunderstand.

            You seem to think I mean I’m the arbiter of pretension and art. I mean the opposite.

            That both are subjective and messy enough that there is going to be little enough disagreement about which is which and little enough merit to the idea of “correct” answers to such questions that it doesn’t seem elitist to me to propose that people can’t be relied upon to tell the difference.

            You could easily say that in an elitist way–positing that you, the speaker, know the difference unlike everyone else. I didn’t intend to paint myself as an exception, however.

          • gwathdring says:

            To recover my typo-ridden thesis statement:

            “Yeah, popularity of a game doesn’t tell you much about it’s quality in terms of the concept of “design”, things can be popular for entirely arbitrary and unreliable/unrepeatable reasons, and many gamers won’t be interested in the difference between tasteful art and not-tasteful-art.”

            That is, most gamers can’t reliably tell the difference not because they personally are bad at telling the difference but because

            1) The difference is frequently uselessly arbitrary.
            2) The difference is frequently very difficult to discern and requires effort to unpack.
            3) Many people are not interested in trying to discern the difference and are just here to enjoy themselves.
            4) Things can become popular for reasons that have nothing to do with “art”, “design” and “taste.”

            Put it altogether, and somethign being popular doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do with it being “in good taste”–and I mean that not by my PERSONAL discernment, but by the rough aggregate discernment of the public body and/or the public critical sub-body. There exists a body of memes dedicated to advertising one’s separate understanding of good taste and pleasure–guilty pleasure, the social media concept of “being trash,” etc. People have an idea, for better or worse, that “good taste” isn’t necessarily about how much you like something and thus that things that are popular are not–in the public consciousness–necessarily in good taste.

            On top of this, there is plenty of class-policing involved in the concept of taste. But that’s a whole separate complicated bag of angry cats I’d rather not open up right now. Suffice to make clear that I am not suggest I personally understand what is and isn’t tasteful art better than other people.

            I am proposing that the concepts of pretension and tasteful art are inherently elitist, classist, and complicated and that most people are going to have trouble coming to any conclusions remotely resembling a “correct” solution from all of that mess unless they dedicate themselves to it–and those that do dedicate themselves to it tend to get caught up in some rather nasty class warfare which further complicates even that dedicated analysis of the concept of taste.

            I’m proposing that taste, like taboo, is a right mess and it’s easy to misunderstand. Unlike taboo, there’s much less pressure to not get it wrong and a lot of people don’t bother or make it up as they go along and since all of this stuff is defined in feedback loops that in turn changes the definition of good taste which starts the whole mess over again.

            I’m proposing not that I know better, but that most people don’t know better either.

          • Melody says:

            Oh noes, everything is subjective, however will we do to communicate or judge anything ever? Let’s just confine ourselves to the realm of science, just to be safe!

            Seriously though. For starters, I think that although there is a degree of subjectivity in the choice of what parameters to use to judge an artwork, and in the weight that is to be assigned to each of those parameters, all in all it’s not nearly as “absolutely subjective” as some people like to make it sound.

            Secondly, there’s this idea that science is objective and there’s only one good answer, and the experts are the best at finding that answer; but since art is “subjective”, everyone is equally good at evaluating and criticizing it, and everyone’s opinion is equally meaningful and valid. It’s really not. That’s why we have critics and experts. That’s why people study even in the field of humanities. And then, of course, there are good critics and bad critics (and good critics one disagrees with), but regardless, some people are better suited, given their personal expertise, to evaluate and criticize art than others – and I never counted myself as one of them in any of my posts. And I say expertise because taste has very little to do with it: a good critic will recognize that an artwork is “good” even if it’s not to their taste.

            And it’s simply mind-boggling to me that I get called an “elitist” in a negative sense for believing that your average person cannot evaluate art as well as another person who has put in the time and effort to study said art.

          • Geebs says:

            I didn’t call you an elitist for suggesting that it’s possible to become an expert on an art form, I called you an elitist for that rather noxious argument that popular stuff is necessarily Bad Art because the unwashed masses don’t know what’s good for them.

            I’m not sure how “science” gets into your argument, but you should know that expert opinion is the lowest possible standard in the hierarchy of evidence.

      • wengart says:

        Shallow things being popular doesn’t mean that people don’t have “good taste”. Naomi used the example of food and having a taste. Whiskey, cheese, wine, etc..

        Now someone might have developed a good taste for whiskey, but that also means that they haven’t put the same amount of time developing a taste for cheese. These things at inherently niche. Meanwhile most everyone, regardless of their “taste niche”, is going to be fine drinking a PBR with friends.

        • gwathdring says:

          Well, you’re making the determination that there is a correct taste system within these subjects. I think that there is something that can be very, very, very, very roughly approximated as a correct taste system … but only very, very, very, very roughly if we’re speaking without much precision.

          That is, there are broad cultural acceptances which, on average, suggest a quality spectrum. But that quality spectrum is regionally, temporally, and otherwise culturally insulated. One could make some relatively objective determinations about whether PBR is a good fit for the definition of the word “beer” but determining how *good* a beer it is is a much more fuzzy prospect.

          For my part, I can’t tell good beer from bad beer becasue all of it tastes like soap to me. To me, the concept of “good taste” in beer is moot. The most expensive and finely tuned beers I’ve had foisted upon me taste remarkably similar to the least–I’m very sensitive to the smell of alcohol so I have the same issue with perfume in that while normally I can detect fainter scents than my peers I can’t tell most perfumes apart because the alcohol over powers even in the ones with very little of it.

          The same thing can happen with artistic and entertainment media. Taste is all very well and to some extent worth understanding as a way of defining a given culture and it’s norms … but one sensitivity or insensitivity can render the concept of good taste moot not just because the media is being consumed in a context where taste isn’t at issue, but quite simply because not everyone perceives the distinctions that certain taste structures make about certain cultural produce. And if you can’t experience the difference as significant, it doesn’t matter if you’re casually consuming or critically consuming–you’ll disagree as to in how good a taste the media is.

      • airmikee says:

        Yes, because you know what is “best” for everyone else, right? Anyone claiming to be a master of “taste” is just a gasbag full of hot air blowing off their nonsensical ideas, and with any luck, none of them will ever have any real power over another human being, lest they become the dictators of taste and opinion they so sorely wish to be.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Melody, I was extremely rude to you once in these comments and I still haven’t apologised for it, which is shitty. I apologise.

        Now I’m going to be even shittier (sorry) and drive-by your comment with a link. I don’t think KG would accept the Beatles just happened to be in the 5%, either. Things get popular for a reason. In the words of the immortal Dipper Pines, “Dang it, Top 40 hits are in the top 40 for a reason – they’re catchy!”

    • misterk says:

      I don’t agree with all your points (I certainly don’t think all gamers have refined tastes), but I have to agree that the framing device for Clark’s article, that of a gamer who didn’t like her(?) game, comes across as sour grapes. Frankly, I’m quite happy to play a game with very little repetition, as it is often used for padding games unnecessarily.

      So yes, gamers need more taste, but maybe not Naomi Clark’s?

      • PancakeWizard says:

        I probably should’ve clarified ‘gamers are perfectly capable of..’ as I didn’t meant to imply all gamers are nuanced in taste based on their purchase choices alone. I’d argue however, that if you put a seasoned gamer in front of two new games (like that video I linked to) the one they pick out as a better game, even if they can’t articulate why, will likely be the better designed one. When you start looking at things like biggest sellers, system/game tribalism and the like, things get murkier, but it doesn’t mean their brains have stopped working or that their opinions on whether a game is good or not isn’t worth anything.

        I’m someone who detests competitive gaming, btw. I’ve got no bias for defending CoD or Dota/LoL fans. I’m not ‘AAA blind’ by any means.

        • gwathdring says:

          Well, part of this is a problem of the concept of taste, which is what bothered me most about the article.

          “Well designed” is mostly about intent and execution of intent though it depends a bit on who’s using the phrase. There is overlap because language is fussy. Whereas “in good taste” is about trends in audience expectation in a feedback loop with high-class critical culture.

          Gaming has a very weird relationship with class-based criticism since in general high-class critical culture clearly doesn’t understand gaming and looks down on it which leaves our highest-class cultural critique in an odd sort of social middle-ground compared to other mediums. The dawn of blogging and the slow decline of major cultural hives like newspapers and ancient magazines has also altered this, giving wider access to better (or at least, more effectively personalized) critical writing from sources with less well-condensed cultural clout defusing somewhat the inherent classism of the concept of taste but by no means eliminating it (I will note that “calssism” is not the same as “elitism”–the former draws on extant social systems with notable consistency and power over people’s behavior whereas the former merely requires a self-determination of betterness without necessarily implying said self-determination has become a sort of broader nationalism as it were).

          In any case, weirdness of gaming’s relationship with class-based taste determinations aside for now, the concept of taste is nonetheless more of an audience-side social phenomenon informed in turn by the cultural taboos and preferences of non-gaming culture in the same way fashion does, at some point, sync back up with ideas about femininity, masculinity, and functionality of clothing outside of the fashion world. But design is even more indirectly linked to all of that. Sometimes the goal of a design, or at least one goal of design, is to be in good taste. But usually that’s a secondary goal, especially in gaming where taste is sort of a weird and less consistent creature.

          I agree with the article to the extent that taste is a weird creature in gaming and is less reliable about certain kinds of patterns it dictates than other mediums. But that’s such a small portion of what taste–let alone the concept of good design–is and we still haven’t even touched on all the problems more consistent and powerful taste structures cause in other mediums. We still haven’t even got to the part where the notion of taste enforcement and taste validation through events like the Grammys and the Oscars and so forth make a fucking mess of critical culture. We still haven’t even gotten to the part where taste policing at the critical level can reinforce lower-level social policing in ways both inevitable and perhaps preventable.

          We still haven’t gotten to all the things that are wrong and wrong-headed with the concept of pursuing a more robust taste infrastructure … and already the article is off-base in that it doesn’t seem to get how taste and games go together in the first place.

          • pepperfez says:

            I think you and Clark may be using “taste” in different ways. You’re talking, “in good taste,” while she’s talking, “to one’s taste.” Developing certain kinds of taste is a prerequisite for having the vague, socially-defined quality of “good taste,” but the reverse isn’t true.
            No cultural arbiter is necessary for me to know, for instance, that I prefer fruity dry-processed coffee and hoppy wheat beers, or that I prefer games to let me get lost rather than keep prodding me in the right direction. The first two are acknowledged as matters of taste and we (as coffee or beer enthusiasts) would look with justified suspicion at any review picking them out as flaws. The last, though, is a standard criticism of games and there’s a consensus that letting players get helplessly lost is Objectively Bad Design.
            And just as most people don’t like extremely smoky Scotches, perhaps games that sometimes leave a player at loose ends are an acquired taste shared by very few. We could still stand to talk about that, and why it’s true, without assuming that those peat-smoke-shrouded-quest-objective fans just don’t know what’s good.

          • gwathdring says:

            I think the concepts are so well entwined that not meaning to talk about one doesn’t change that you are talking about both.

            I think it would take collossal levels of denial to think that gamers don’t have taste-as-in-preference. Indeed she differentiates having “taste” and having “preference” in a convoluted way that attempts to dislodge the concept of taste from the concept of socially-conscious-preference also known as … well, taste.

            She tries to redefine “preference” as arbitrarily mechanical to make her point about taste being important, as though the two don’t blur together innately. What she defines as preference–some weird amalgam of mechanical needs and mechanical desires–isn’t the prevailing way of things in gaming. What she defines as taste–setting aside my confusion at why on Earth she would separate the concepts the way she does–is the prevailing rule in gaming. People like games for aesthetics; some of those aesthetics might seem “technical” but that’s an inevitable blurring of lines that occurs when your art and entertainment involves gadgets and circuitry and mechanics. This is really just a big word game that obscurs the facts of cooking, fashion and other mediums that try to hide their mechanisms in the jargon of aesthetics–but these are fields that however arbitrary and subjective and dependent on taste, create their rules about taste with reference to the fundamental mechanics of their mediums.

            Too spicy, too salty, this wine doesn’t go with that dish, you have to cook it longer, it’s too tough, too soft, needs more savory flavors, needs more sugar—these are mechanics as surely as pixels and UIs and all that other stuff we use to advertise games.

            This game has 50 hours–good but it should have been more.

            This dish is just the right portion–though I wanted more mushrooms on the plate.

            We use, both in criticism and in personal appraisal, the same damn types of “taste” in gaming as we do in other mediums. Gaming doesn’t lack a concept of taste–the author of the article lacks a sense of perspective.

          • gwathdring says:

            Listen to cooking critics and they’ll often talk about taste and preference as though they are universal laws all humans obey. That some people get silly about it like that doesn’t magically make it a more objective, more mechanical medium.

            But just so, that people talk about games in terms of hours, balance, statistics, pixels, and so forth doesn’t magically make it a field bereft of “taste.”

          • wengart says:

            Once you start talking about game design you get on a sliding scale of “is this a good idea”, which allows for a certain amount of broad brushing. In that allowing players to get hopelessly lost, for example, is bad 90% of the time. In fact, it is such a bad thing to do that it has become a common sense development rule.

            Now some games do play with allowing the player to be lost, such as Eidolon and Proteus, those games become much more an argument about a person’s taste than objectively saying “that is bad design”.

          • gwathdring says:

            Fair enough, but that puts us right back to gamers and game designers both having a robust system of design knowledge like that and a robust history of Taste and Design and Stimulus being separate categories of recognition in gaming.

            It is not unusual for gamers to have the self awareness to say “Yeah, it’s not really very good but I just really like the way this one gun works” or what have you.

            That is, the thesis that gaming lacks jargon and taste or that gaming is all about neuro-stimulus and not about aesthetics … could not be more wrongheaded without great effort.

          • BooleanBob says:

            I can never tell whether I’m reading a Gwathdring post in full because I agree with it or I’m agreeing with a Gwathdring post because I’ve read it in full.

      • wu wei says:

        The whole “I shouldn’t have to repeat anything in a game ever (because I am a gaming god) and all real gamers agree” line is one I see extremely frequently in game forums, so it didn’t come across as a sour-grapes criticism at all to me. This is a very real attitude.

        Contrasting it with the “Gone home isn’t a real game because there’s no replay value” arguments that get thrown around is quite fascinating to me.

        • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

          No, Gone Home isn’t a real game *because there’s no fail state*. The distinction between games and toys or installations is an important one in my view, which shouldn’t be lost as a result of it all being wrapped up in an .exe file.

          • Niko says:

            There’s no final and universal definition though, but I suspect if you’ll ask a number of game designers most of them will say that Gone Home is a game.

          • iainl says:

            There’s no fail state in most Lucasarts adventures, and that innovation was generally regarded as a Very Good Thing. But then, there’s no fail state on any game with infinite lives (i.e. just about every game out there these days), really.

            Gone Home is a puzzle-based adventure game, just like so many others dating back to the 8-bit days. If you want to call it a “fail state” it’s not knowing where to go next to continue the story; not being able to find the Basement Key, say. You might argue there aren’t a lot of these puzzles, or that they’re fairly simple. But they are there.

          • wu wei says:

            But here you have a tester getting angry because a game had a fail state. What makes your opinion that games-have-fail-states more valid than the tester’s games-shouldn’t-make-me-fail position?

    • Wedge says:

      It’s just that the entire premise is nonsense in the first place, and her analogy to food proves it. Gaming has always had a huge variety of “tastes”, some that certain people will never be inclined to. And just as with food, that doesn’t preclude there from being a game that is simply bad. It is entirely possible for a game to fail to achieve a taste that anyone finds palatable, or is otherwise sub-optimal compared to a similar taste.

      (I can only hope) That’s the kind of junk article that get’s a link because someone is friends with someone here, instead of due to any degree of quality content

      • pepperfez says:

        “I didn’t agree with it. It was a conspiracy!”

      • simontifik says:

        Just because an article is not to your taste, that doesn’t make it junk.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Here’s the line at which you should stop taking Clark’s essay seriously:

      “The time invested isn’t exactly the problem either–not in a cultural context where gamers still evaluate many game products on ‘hours of gameplay.’ ”

      Because some “gamers” out there buy products based on how many “hours of gameplay” are promised, that means that nobody else is allowed to care about time invested? Nonsense. We all have finite time in this world. The time (and, perhaps more importantly, patience and attention) that I spend on a highbrow art game is a resource that I could have spent reading literature, watching film, visiting a museum, or pursuing any other highbrow tasteful pursuit. Without seeing the game in question or reading what the testers actually said we can’t rule out that there was some deeper aesthetic or thematic meaning in the repetition that went over the heads of the testers. But we also can’t rule out that they *did* understand it, they just didn’t think it was worth the demands on their patience.

      • gwathdring says:

        My partner is obsessed with cooking shows–the number of times I’ve listened to dishes critiqued because of the portion sizes not being perfect or because they needed slightly more or less of a certain arbitrary flavoring … well, if that doesn’t invalidate cooking criticism and cooking “taste” than it sure as heck doesn’t invalidate taste in gaming either.

        • blind_boy_grunt says:

          interesting point about the cooking shows,
          there is a baseline of cooking where everybody can tell it is bad, undercooked, burned etc. What the article maybe was getting at is when a cook gives you a “fusion cuisine” hamburger, and you then start complaining how that is not a hamburger because a hamburger has these exact ingredients. All the cook can do is shrug his shoulders because the point of the dish is not to give you a “correct” hamburger. Taste vs. “objective” criticism. A “i don’t like it” is enough, no need to bring in imaginary higher authorities.

  3. draglikepull says:

    re: that roguelike article

    I’ve noticed that people who like roguelikes often claim that a key part of the genre is that “it’s always your fault when you die” and that “death is a learning experience.” People who play the Souls games also like to brag about that. But they’re bizarre things to say, because they’re true of every game in which the results are non-random (which is most games).

    If I lose in a fighting game it’s my fault. If I lose in an action game it’s my fault. If I lose at a puzzle game it’s my fault. This isn’t a unique feature of roguelikes.

    It seems like people who are really into the most difficult roguelikes are just looking to pat themselves on the back – “This game is hard! I’m great at hard things! People who don’t like it are lazy!” – rather than trying to understand what specifically it is that turns off people who like other skill-based games (which, again, is most games).

    • Ultima Ratio Regum says:

      This is very true on all counts, but I think there *is* a particular nuance to it for RLs. Saying “it’s all skill” when the game is the exact same every time (a la Souls) is one thing, but saying “it’s all skill” about a game which *appears* to have a lot of luck involved – although skilled players understand randomess != luck – is a very different thing, and can rub a lot of people up the wrong way, because it’s easy to look at a game with randomness and blame that for one’s failures (whilst naturally attributing one’s successes to one’s own skills!).

    • SlimShanks says:

      Ok, this is super simple. In most games, when you die it is usually due to a lack of skill in the specific meta of that game. Let’s say for example that I am losing at Soul Calibur. The only way to win is to fight better. So dying is my fault in that specific way, but it’s not like I have any other options. In Dark Souls, or in most Roguelikes, you always have many options in terms of how to approach challenges. You aren’t forced to survive based purely on fighting ability, and therefor when you die in a fight it really is your fault, and can learn to approach it a different way.
      For that reason I don’t think you can compare difficulty between many games, because it often difficulty of learning (Dark Souls) vs difficulty of gameplay (Soul Calibur/whatever fighting game).
      And ya, many of us who like these games do think that players who don’t are just too lazy to learn.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      If I lose in a fighting game it’s my fault. If I lose in an action game it’s my fault. If I lose at a puzzle game it’s my fault.

      Not true. There is certainly some merit in alleging people praise the Souls games now because they like the cachet of being able to say LOOK WHAT I CAN DO, but they also get that praise for lots of perfectly legitimate reasons. It’s far harder to design a game which is “fair” than “unfair”. You know, starting a Souls game, that you’ll probably die inside a couple of minutes; you also know it will be perfectly possible to complete the entire game using nothing more than the tools you possess to begin with and never dying once. There are literally countless action games where this is not the case. I mean, Christ, have you ever played an Asian F2P ARPG? At all? And you mention fighting games – uh, you may not play them single player, but plenty of people do, and SNK bosses are legendarily anything but fair.

      • wengart says:

        However, there are also countless games where this is the case. The Roguelike genres claim to “know that dying was your mistake” isn’t a unique claim by a long shot.

    • pepperfez says:

      I’ve always thought the emphasis on “It’s always your fault” is meant to affirm that the random stuff (which appears to be everything at first) is secondary to the core of building skill as a player. It’s sort of a training mantra, I guess.

      • Premium User Badge

        FhnuZoag says:

        Hmm, yeah.

        To put it another way, it’s less that this is uniquely true of roguelikes, than in fact the opposite – roguelikes tend to actually obscure the way to which any particular death is the player’s fault. “Oops, a dragon breathed on me from off the screen, fuck,” does not clearly imply that the player should have gotten a fire resistance ring five hours earlier.

        That statement is more a statement of the implicit contract of a roguelike player, the idea that the game is ultimately fair and winnable. Without which most roguelikes are unbearable.

        • Bugamn says:

          I think that is the point. In a fighting game, you know that if you lost, it was your fault (although some people will blame cheap characters or moves). In a good roguelike, it might seem as it was the game’s fault, but you actually had options. In a bad roguelike you will start with a Dragon eating your face if Arnie says so. And the problem with unlockables, as I see it, is that they might start to look necessary in order to have a chance. Then the player won’t think, “how could I have escaped?”, they will instead think, “I still need to kill 99 more goblins in order to have a chance of surviving level 3”. As an extreme example, there are plenty of flash games that depend on unlocks so badly that they are impossible to win in the initial state. I used to play shoot’em ups like Tyrian or Stargunner, which allow you to buy weapons, but you have to decide wisely. On a modern upgrade based shoot’em up you can grind the same level in order to get credits to buy a better weapon, and sometimes it feels as if you really can’t win a level without grinding.

    • iainl says:

      Surely it’s more that in a traditional Roguelike that doesn’t have unlocks, the difference between a person who’s been playing it for 20 minutes and dying a lot, and one who’s able to get really far after playing it for 20 hours is that the latter has learned how to deal with particular situations, has developed an overall strategy to stay alive and efficiently use the resources they find, and so on.

      In a game where you’re given trinkets that make your next round easier, the temptation is to believe that you failed to beat the game because you haven’t yet unlocked the items that make it easier – “progress” is being slowly achieved all the time by grinding coins or whatever, and so there’s less attention paid to progression through learning. I’ve done it myself enough times in things like Rogue Legacy.

      Sure, I’m -supposed- to be progressing by getting better as well, but it’s really easy to overlook that side when “of course I can’t be expected to beat that boss without a double-jump” is sat there as an excuse.

    • blind_boy_grunt says:

      i think a main difference is that not fighting is an option in roguelikes, in the games you cited there is always a correct sequence of input that makes you win, in roguelikes even if you play the best way you can you still might die (The only winning move is not to play). And that is maybe why unlocks are not “really” in the spirit of roguelikes because they make those decisions of flight or fight fuzzier. or something.

  4. Melody says:

    Stephen Beirne on why he writes about games
    link to

  5. prometheanbob says:

    Accusing people of having poor taste in their aesthetic choices always seems ridiculous and self-important. As if the person is saying, “If you knew as much as I know, then you’d know that you really don’t like what you think you like.”
    In this case, Naomi Clark reduces much of game development to simple optimization of neurotransmitters, but then hand-waves over an explanation of how “taste” is different. She offers a metaphorical tautology and attempts validity through linguistic brute-force: ” what it fucking tastes like” but doesn’t address or fails to realize that the taste of food can be similarly reduced to chemical reactions.
    Now, I doubt that Clark is as elitist as she comes across in my own reading. I think she’s frustrated by thoughtless or immature comments on her friend’s game. (Then again, maybe her friend isn’t making the game they thought they were making, or they’re targeting it to the wrong audience, or they should refine their screening for testers) Either way, she needs to more clearly define what she’s looking for before I’m convinced it isn’t just a matter of subjective preference amounting to, “Hmmm, nice opinion you’ve got there, shame it’s not the same as mine.”

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yes, this; especially your first paragraph.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      Accusing people of having poor taste in their aesthetic choices always seems ridiculous and self-important. As if the person is saying, “If you knew as much as I know, then you’d know that you really don’t like what you think you like.”

      Yes. Yes it is like saying that.

      Why is that impossible? Why is it always a bad thing?

      I’ve read reviews or listened to people’s opinions of games I’ve played, books I’ve read, films I’ve seen where I thought I really, really liked them, and after I’d heard people explain why they didn’t, thought “Huh. Christ, I never really considered that before. I think they’re right. I can’t in good conscience carry on playing/reading/watching this thing, knowing that, and if I’d have known that or really thought about the issues this person brought up beforehand I never would have considered I ‘liked’ it in the first place”. The whole idea that “Well, if I like it, that’s all that matters” is one of the most pernicious, reductive pieces of nonsense the internet has ever helped disseminate, and yes, I mean that quite literally. You do not always know your own mind. Nor do I. Nor does anyone. It is not a sin for someone else to say “Yeah, “your opinion” just sounds like you’re not thinking this through very hard, and I’m pretty sure that if you really thought about it there’s a good chance you’d change your mind”.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        “Look at him, talking like an idiot and he can’t even get his code right.” Sigh. That’ll teach me to try and format my posts at past midnight o’clock.

      • gwathdring says:

        To a point. Of course new information changes your perspective on things. But there’s a difference between recognizing that engaging with analysis of something will change your perspective on that something … and claiming that spending a lot of time trying to understand something that is incredibly subjective and fuzzy makes your taste in that thing better simply because your taste has an elaborate system of justification.

        It’s one thing for a sound engineer to say “No, this one has higher quality sound reproduction. I’ll show you with graphs.” It’s another thing for the sound engineer to say “No, this one should sound better to you and if it doesn’t you’re an ignorant person with bad taste.” Maybe the person in question really likes how the worse headphones sound–hell, we mess with mixers and digital effects to screw with sound all the time when we make music. It’s not so strange that perfect sound reproduction isn’t necessarily going to sound as GOOD to some people as this or that crappier sound reproduction.

        Just so, it’s one thing to say you understand games on a deeper level than other people who don’t study and design them. It’s another thing entirely to say that if only people knew more about games they would have “better” taste in games. That’s a much weirder argument to make and much more dangerous in terms of blindly biasing oneself into quietly deleting one’s theory of mind.

        • gwathdring says:

          Put differently, understanding how to design games and understanding how people thing about games are two different pursuits in much the same way that knowing how to make a hit song and knowing a lot of music theory and knowing what music does to the human brain are yet again three different pursuits. There’s clearly some useful feedback those pursuits can hand-off amongst each other.

          The error is in suggesting that IF someone thought harder THEN they would change their mind rather than in recognizing that they haven’t thought about this very hard and separately analyzing what makes it work for you personally in terms of a more robust and hard-thinking criticism.

      • wengart says:

        Largely because aesthetic taste, at least to me, is incredibly subjective, and not something easily definable by any person much less between people. While you can develop your taste in something over time having someone tell you that your taste is wrong has absolutely no standing. Their own taste is most likely different than mine so they have no factual basis for telling me what to enjoy.

        Reading your post though I get the feeling that you aren’t talking about aesthetic taste.

    • simontifik says:

      Where in that article did Naomi criticise people for having poor taste? Some of the comments here are doing a good job of proving the point of her article.

      She’s bemoaning the lack of discussion and vocabulary to describe people’s taste in video games. The play testers comment that ‘the game sucks because of repetition and I should know, I’m a gamer’ are completely useless to her as a developer. If said play tester was a little more self aware and could actually describe his own tastes beyond ‘I’m a gamer’ he may be able to critique on a more meaningful level.

      Naomi with her food analogy was acknowledging we all have different tastes, just because something is not to your taste doesn’t mean it is terrible or pretentious, it may be a masterpiece to someone with a different taste.

      • gwathdring says:

        Right, but she acts like gaming is unique in that compared to food or whatever.

        How so? We have genres, we have memetic complaints, we have jargons (maybe you’ve forgotten that some of what we take for granted in gaming is in fact jargon … but we have TONS of jargon both for play and design), we have systems of providing more specific feedback.

        That some people aren’t very good doing all that and critically assessing themselves and the games they play has jack-shit to do with gaming culture. You find that in food and film and everything else, too. Hell, even professional chefs can’t necessarily identify the ingredients of a dish just by eating it. That kind of skill at analysis is not a given even among the professionals, it sure as heck isn’t a given among casual food-loving aesthetes.

        So why does she make a hullabaloo about gaming being special?

        • gwathdring says:

          Grab five people out of their seats at a random movie theater or restaurant–you’re not necessarily going to get any more cogent a criticism than the above.

          An analytical, self-aware perspective about entertainment media requires some amount of diligence and training (accidental or otherwise) that just doesn’t necessarily come along with being interested in consuming the media in question.

          The solution isn’t to fix gamers who lack self awareness and create more jargon and create more awareness of “taste”–there are plenty of gamers with all of those things. Just listen to people talk about the definition of an RPG or which whether Planescape Torment, Fallout or Baldur’s Gate II is better. You’ll get plenty of nuanced analysis and robust taste discussion.

          That stuff is out there already.

          The solution is to get better playtesters.

          • gwathdring says:

            Or make an effort to educate your playtesters in-situ.

          • gwathdring says:

            I mean, if someone is bad at explaining why they don’t like your food as a chef … do you campaign for better understanding of french cuisine among restaurant-goers and better systems of jargon and education for explaining to people what food is and how it’s made?

            Or do you, while maybe wanting all those things to happen TOO, acknowledge that maybe the issue is that your food isn’t to the customer’s taste, that taste is difficult to articulate for most people, and there’s only so much analysis worth doing on the matter.

          • gwathdring says:

            It’s just not reasonable to blame the gamers and gaming as a whole for your not being able to work out a good system of communication during playtesting. That’s part of designing–you have to learn how to communicate with people who aren’t as well versed in game design as you are about very fine details of game design. If you can’t do that, you need to hire someone who can and/or get better playtesters not moan about how gaming needs a better understanding of taste.

        • simontifik says:

          That’s the point though isn’t it, we need better play testers. The problem is that the attitude shown by the individual in the article is wide spread through the gaming community. As a result, games across the board are worse off, especially in the AAA space where things are focused grouped to the nth degree. If people were more open to different ‘tastes’ in games we would see a greater breadth of experience rather than the same old ideas that try and fit the expectations if this self proclaimed ‘real gamer’.

          I always cringe when people take offence to these pieces criticising gaming and gamer culture, likes it some personal affront. The criticism comes from a genuine love of the medium and a desire to see it grow and improve in a positive direction.

          • Premium User Badge

            gritz says:

            Good post, well said.

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            How much do play-testers get paid? Hear many game designers talking about testers? how would you say testers rank in the profession of game making? Whats the long term career like?

            I suspect that game makers are getting the testers they deserve.

  6. DigitalSignalX says:

    In my limited experience with Roguelikes, the impediment to fully enjoying the breadth of the game most is pure RNG in terms of failure. Random encounters (especially in early stages) that have literally zero chance of success makes me simply want to toss it all aside. Then to a lesser degree, pure RNG fate rolls also are annoying, because it’s essentially removing player agency from the conflict. Great games like Darkest Dungeon mitigate this issue somewhat with other tactics and strategies that can allow you to still progress from a bad roll.

    • Ultima Ratio Regum says:

      Hey! Author of that article here. Can you suggest some roguelikes you feel are “pure RNG” in terms of failure?

      • MattM says:

        I got pretty frustrated with SOTS: The Pit. There was a lot to learn and mange in that game, but I felt like many runs (on normal difficulty) ended when the RNG decided to deny me a key piece of equipment. Even when you focused on scavenging skills there was a good chance that you would never get a gun chambered for one of the common ammunition types. Good play was essential for survival, but it wasn’t always enough.

        • B1A4 says:

          Yes, I think that SOTS: The Pit (Gold edition even) is a good example. I wanted to add FTL, but… I am still not sure if it is not just me fcking things up.

          • Ultima Ratio Regum says:

            SOTS the Pit isn’t a game I can speak to personally, but I know a lot of people have issues with it. FTL – there are people out there with win-streaks on Hard mode using every ship there is (my personal best is eight), so if that isn’t proof that there’s no real luck in FTL, I don’t know what is! NetHack, ADOM, DCSS, TOME, FTL, Isaac, etc, should all be basically 100% winnable with perfect (or at least, you know, near-optimal) play!

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      In theory, well designed roguelikes avoid pure RNG deaths. There’s always something you could have done, like kept a stack of teleport scrolls to get out of danger, buffed the skill that lets you avoid enemies, or so on. Though yeah, this is not obvious.

      I kinda wonder what a roguelike designer could do to make the process of defeat more obvious. Some way of uncovering why exactly the player died? In the good old days, you could post Yet Another Stupid Death postings to the relevant newsgroup, but no one does that any more.

      • LionsPhil says:

        It does make me wonder if you could do some kind of expert-system-y analysis of the last few moves, having effecitvely recorded a replay, that then suggests an action which could have got you out of trouble, or identifies a crucial mistake: “you were killed by massive poison damage because you went into the SPIDER DOMAIN without poison resistance; you could have roamed the REALM OF ENDLESS BLUDGEONING instead to look for suitable gear first”, or “…maybe you shouldn’t have left your FEZ OF PURIFICATION in you stash on level 2”.

        But I doubt it would actually work very well.

        You could even let the player rewind to undo their error, but this means not being ironman mode and thus is HERESY OF THE HIGHEST ORDER against the roguelike peoples.

        • Kitsunin says:

          God do I wish more games had Invisible Inc.’s rewinds. The big thing stopping me from playing proper dungeon-crawling roguelikes is that they tend to take tons of time to get into, yet until you’re experienced, they invariably end because of one stupid mistake because you either weren’t paying attention or you didn’t understand how something works.

          That’s fine in something like Spelunky because what did you really lose and aren’t the first few levels fun anyway? But when you’ve been delving for two hours and the game is just starting to feel like it’s properly opened up, only to have to deal with the crappy first hour where you don’t have any gear all over again, deaths due to as-yet not understood mechanics are blatantly unfun.

          It feels like when you’re playing a board game with someone who insists they’re teach you the game, rather than letting you read the rulebook first, you’re doing great and having fun, but then they mention “By the way! If you have twice as many resources as someone else, they get to take half of yours. You should have sold your resources in the last trade phase!”

          • Ultima Ratio Regum says:

            This is definitely true (and I love your final paragraph analogy) – to me, the solution is actually to enable so many options at the start (like DCSS’ species and religions, and what I’m trying to do in my own game) that the early-game feels wildly different each time. I think Isaac is extremely strong at this (though clearly playthroughs are shorter so that yields a different play experience anyway) and FTL is good once you have a nice choice of ships. the “repeating the early game” is definitely a problem with lots of the classics, though (NetHack is a particular criminal in this regard, I think).

        • Ultima Ratio Regum says:

          In some cases I think you… sort of can. Though more so (see my other comment) in classic RLs where deaths are normally tactical rather than strategic in nature – there are many instances where I have died in NetHack/DCSS/etc and I know if I’d done X, Y and Z instead of A, B and C, I would have survived; of course there are situations you can’t survive, but those in turn should (in a well-designed roguelike) always be from earlier strategic errors!

      • Ultima Ratio Regum says:

        There’s often a difference here between the game flow of classic and modern RLs – in classic RLs, you usually die because of a short-term tactic mistake from mishandling a certain situation, and going from full health to no health. In Isaac/FTL/other modern RLs, by contrast, your error is usually strategic – “I bought Weapon X instead of Weapon Y two sectors ago, and that set me on the path to death” and you lose health more slowly and gradually, and it’s much harder to develop the kind of general game sense/understanding to be able to trail back what happened to slightly more distant strategic errors which lack the immediacy of a particular battle. And YASD postings do still continue for some of the classics!

        • Kitsunin says:

          I’d never really considered this. It’s probably why I don’t like more modern rogeulikes.

          You spend a long time building up lots of things which are typically powerful enough to get you out of many situations, but then something happens like, you get hit by a sleep spell and die before you wake up. You had a fireball scroll which could’ve killed the lethal enemy instantly, boots of teleportation to get away, a ring of sleep prevention for a more fair fight, but in the end you die regardless of these things because you didn’t consider that enemy would have a chance of putting you to sleep.

          In hindsight, the solution is typically obvious, but because every last thing you gathered becomes useless the moment you misjudge, so much of the time taken to gather all of these possible solutions end up feeling like a giant waste of time, because you failed to use them properly, and you only get a very brief moment out of the potentially hours you spent playing to actually learn what you need to avoid next time.

          In more modern roguelikes even the quieter moments feel more important, because a stupid mistake down the line is less likely to render them worthless. At least, that’s how I find it playing say, Invisible Inc. as opposed to Dungeons of Dredmor (relatively light as that one may be, it keeps most traditional trappings).

          • Kitsunin says:

            But then while you’re learning, at least, a pretty obvious solution to this is just to turn permadeath off, so you can see more of those mistakes more frequently and so learn quicker…which I’m probably much more stubborn about not doing than I should be.

          • Kitsunin says:

            *why I don’t like OLDER roguelikes, yikes!

  7. PancakeWizard says:

    Here’s a good Medium blogpost from Adrian Chmielarz (Vanishing for Ethan Carter dev) on Feminist Frequency’s criticism of the Witcher 3: link to

    • wengart says:

      Really nice article, thanks for the link.

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        First line of this screed: “Geralt does it with two swords, while I do it with a pen — but we’re both fighting venom-spitting creatures. So let’s talk about Feminist Frequency.”

        What a load of bullshit.

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      Very, very good, even better than the one where he had a go at Arthur Gies. That stuff about such people wanting art to reflect their world view rather than provoke thought on its own articulated something I had believed in more general terms for a while. I don’t like this sort of puritanical reform-of-manners ban-this-sick-filfth stuff one little bit, if for no other reason than because it’s SO obnoxious it sours a lot of people to legitimate social problems due to signal distortion.

      We can never “win” against femfreq or the like, nor would it be morally desirable to suppress such societal criticism even if we could. The best that can be done, as this article does, is to articulate the fact that there are two sides to this “evil tropes” argument, and that it is a debate between opposing critics rather than good feminists vs evil MRA #GamerGate shitlords, or whatever caricature is current. After that, one can only hope that people make their own decisions unfettered by what they *think* the collective consciousness unanimously demands of them.

  8. luis.s says:

    Re: the Eurogamer article on “downgrades”:
    “As you zero in on all the wonderful things your game or movie or book or song will be, you are simultaneously killing off all the wonderful things it will not be. ”

    That train of thought always boggles me with creative stuff. To think of all the different ways your favourite music/books etc could have gone. Sometimes when I am listening to a song I wonder about the different points in the process where the artist(s) thought “right, that bit of that song goes like that, moving on”. If they’d deliberated for another minute, they could’ve made a completely different decision. Although I guess you can say that about anything.

  9. Agarthan says:

    Re: good stuff from pen and paper games, the 2015 1 page dungeon was drawn this week. Lot’s of great ideas/ways to present said ideas.

    link to

  10. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    That ‘taste’ article is quite heavy-handed, to the point of being ridiculous (primarily because of the analogies used). Just to play the position of more-elite-than-the-elitist, there’s a problem with the both the pretensions of the ‘real gamer’ and those of the ‘developer as real gamer’: they do not account for an actual discussion of aesthetics. The word is used in relation to taste, but if you did your research on the topic you’d find out that the word ‘aesthetics’ means much more than ‘experience’, and that there is no good or bad taste (no, visual arts are not like food, it’s an analogy that will never hold beyond a quick rhetorical point).

    In any case, what constrains the relationship between devs and players is not an attitude or an issue of education, but the context that pushes them into each other, which in this case is primarily based on commercial production (yes, games are art, but their field of operation is that of the commodity). This context is what determines the meaning of the word ‘real’, and so when the ‘real gamer’ says he/she’s a ‘discerning consumer’, it’s not exactly bollocks – they are consumers, and they do expect industry standards. Their demands are circumscribed by the context, so what is actually needed is either to dissociate from that relationship in order to create and attend to new audiences (go full indie, and release stuff to people who do not identify solely as consumers paying good money for their ‘fun’); to confront that attitude by making games that assume that identity but reveal the cracks (even Gone Home looks like an FPS); or adjust to the contextual demands and give in, if what you want is good money. There’s no use in critiquing the attitudes of some audiences (as if that ‘real gamer’ stood in for all of us) if you don’t even know what your position in this landscape is, and the author of the article seems a bit lost as to what this self-reflection entails.

    TL;DR: I really need to go back to work