The games I play, part 2: Metroidvania

Have played Super Metroid? Or, say, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon? These are truly remarkable games! A Metroidvania is a game that resembles at least one of them. By inference, it must be great too! Are we done? I think we are! Thanks!

...are you still here? Okay, okay, I'll tell you some more.

You are a hero! What's your goal? Defeat someone evil? Find out what happened on an abandoned space station? Or maybe just find your way to safety? Maybe! Either way, there's a big area for you to explore. Be prepared: there will be a lot of combat along the way...

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The games I play, part 1: Roguelite

The original idea was to start with "roguelike" here, but unfortunately I'm not able to do that. The only roguelike that I spent a long time with is Angband (and I haven't even finished it once). However, show me something like Spelunky or Necrodancer or Risk of Rain and I'm guaranteed to spend a few evenings with it.

I'm not surprised if it's the first time you hear the term "roguelite" or "roguelike-like". I really think we should come up with a more approachable term for this basic idea. Let me explain it in one paragraph:

A roguelite is a game that you can finish in a few hours tops, but that you're not going to finish on your first attempt. It's a game where you're going to lose and then you're going to start over. However, losing is fun because playthroughs are short and expendable and you can quickly learn from your mistakes. Starting over is fun too because every single playthrough is going to be different: you will keep discovering new content and the challenges won't get close to repetitive for a good while.

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The games I play: intro

"Hey, this is Kos! Have you met Kos? He is a passionate gamer."

I get that a lot during introductions. The next line usually sounds something like "Hey Kos, nice to meet you, what games do you play?" sounds like a simple question, but I never seem to be able to answer that!

I could probably get away with something like "Old games" or maybe just "Factorio" and it would be mostly true, but hey, I can do better! Let's give it a little more thought...

Among all the random titles that I happened to launch, I can pinpoint a few genres that just resonate with me the most. I'm not a hardcore gamer and I have not explored any these genres to the core, but there's a super high chance that if you show me a game from one of the following genres, it will resonate with me instantly.

Here goes...

GIC 2016, Poznań - day two, continued

Okay, I admit - my recollection of events from here onwards is rather fuzzy. Might be not enough coffee, but it's probably related to the fact that at some point I got less scrupulous with note-taking and instead spent a good chunk of most lectures slaying hydras. However, after a valiant effort, I somehow managed to still walk away with a few pages of notes...

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Pokémon Go is a subtly broken game, and here is why

but more importantly, it's fun, go outside and play it!

Honestly, it's rather easy to pick at this new game because of the horrible bugs and overloaded servers. I really hope that Niantic rewrites the game client from scratch without Unity (they should afford that after such success, right?), so that we get better battery life and, hey, maybe even we could run the app in the background and hatch eggs without awkwardly keeping an unlocked phone in the pocket. We'll get there. We've got to work with what we have: Niantic released what looks like a prototype and I think that's cool! All lean startups are supposed to do that, no? "If you're not embarassed by your release, you don't release early enough" and stuff.

But that's not why we're here! Complaining about bugs is not constructive. It's also tempting to rant about the game's approach to micropayments, but let me leave this for another day. (Should I still call them micropayments when a bag upgrade and two bunches of lure modules total up to half of Minecraft?)

Instead, let's talk about something more civilised: Game design!

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Games with endings

Arrr, kids, Back in my days, when you got a brand new game, your goal was to start it and finish it. Some games were short and you'd finish them in half an hour. Some games were long, you'd only finish them after 50 hours in or more. Good games were replayable: I'd finish it once, and then start over: to find all secrets, do all the side quests, win on higher difficulty or make different decisions along the way, perhaps to find out another ending. Endings were meaningful and I'd stick to the game for a long time, looking forward and expecting it to be awesome. What happened to all of this?

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Provoking Mersenne Twisters

I've lost hours and days to various kinds of games, but one genre that appears quite often is the one where you're supposed to do the most proverbially insane activity: doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. I kind of think I should have a problem with that, but I don't really feel guilty. Somehow this gets recorded for me as "valid entertainment".

Before we analyse this further, let me open with a question: What does Mahjong have in common with Diablo?

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Games are generators of stories

So I was reading "A Theory of Fun for Game Designers" and one idea particularly resonated with me. Idea is: "Games are like story generators".

The book elaborated on the distinction between "stories" and "games". If you take, say, a book, the story is there on purpose and you consume it by reading. Most computer games (the non-abstract ones) have their storylines, and - in similar manner - you learn the story by playing. That's not what I mean. This is not "story generation" because the story is sort of already there. Non-abstract games tend to be like movies and books in this regard, even if the story branches off into different variants in predefined monents. The best stuff happens when it's not the game designer, but the game and the player who create the story together.

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