Video Game Thoughts Bonus Bag #1
A lot of fun little things.
Alas, it has been a long time since I updated this blog. This is mainly because of doing a huge amount of development, bug fixing, and PR for our next game, Queen's Wish 2: The Tormentor.
Elden Ring hasn't helped much either.
I'll get into writing again soon, but for now a few stray thoughts.
1. Elden Ring is Undeniable
Elden Ring is a huge success. It's sold a bajillion copies. It got good reviews. (Meaningless!) Based on Steam achievement percentages, players are engaging with this game to an wild extent. (Not meaningless!) It's big news.
I'll write a big thing about it eventually, because how can you not?
A title like Elden Ring is very useful for people who care about video games because it's a valuable reality check. Nobody has worse ideas about video game design than fussy video game designers (myself included), and people who write about games are generally free to say all kinds of nonsense without fear of contradiction.
A massive success like Elden Ring gives a reality check. It shows what people actually want and what actually works out in the wild.
Turns out, people want to be made to throw themselves off a cliff to enter the tutorial. Who knew?
I'll say a lot more about this once I've finished the game. All I'll say for now is that we have all been given a brief, blissful respite from "Sure, video games are an art and artists are free to express themselves however they want, but if your game doesn't have an Easy difficulty setting you are a Bad Person!" discourse.
2. Inscryption is Terrific
There's this indie game called Inscryption. It's a roguelike deck builder, like Slay the Spire. At least, it starts like that, and then it becomes something totally wild. It won a bunch of awards recently.
I recommend it very highly. Go into it as blind as possible.
It is a truly individual work, clearly the the product of a strong artistic voice voice. Games like this are where indie games shine brightest.
3. Writing About Gloom and Despair
I'm spending a lot of time thinking about these questions:
Suppose a young person wants to write video games for a living. When is it good to encourage him or her?
Someone wants to quit a job to write indie games for a living. How do you tell when this is a good idea?
You've been trying to make art for a living for a while and not getting anywhere. How do you know when it's time to quit?
People don't talk about these questions very often. You can kind of see why. It's a bummer. GDC will never, ever accept a talk on these topics. And yet, they are important questions. A life in art isn't for everyone.
I said a few things recently that got other developers a bit riled up. A worrying number of people told me recently that the answer is always to make games, more games, more more games, don't think about it, just make games, and I don't agree with this.
The thing is, the world right now is in a period of undeniable economic disruption. Our luxury entertainment good industry is overproducing and overextended. The time to be thinking about these questions is now. I’m not asking them about you. I’m asking them about MYSELF.
If writing games in your spare time helps you get through the day, go for it, but don't pretend there's unmet demand. I loved Inscryption, but if it never existed there'd still be 50000 other games to play.
I haven't written a blog post about it yet, because it's a hard question. I'm just saying for not that it IS a question, and you shouldn't be ashamed of thinking about it.
4. Old-School D&D
I've spent a while helping run a 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign, like D&D from the 1980s. I really love it. Two thoughts about it:
First. Once you get good and are used to the THAC0 system, the game goes very fast. It's easy to do 10 or 12 fights in a night if people pay attention. For me, newer D&D plays very slowly.
Second. In old D&D, it was expected that characters die a lot. In the old days, we lost characters and rolled new ones all the time. I really prefer it. It keeps the game fresh, it adds excitement, and, as Game of Thrones taught us, unexpected death leads to interesting storytelling.
Yet, I think I'm out of date on this one. New D&D (5th edition) makes death rare and difficult, and this edition is very popular. I think this is just a way in which I've been left behind. Still, being able to sit around the table and eat pizza and rock it like I did as a teenager has been terrific.