Video Game Thoughts Bonus Bag #2
A nice sample of the world's fresh crazy. Plus, new game!
Time for a quick survey of neat stuff that caught my eye the last few months!
1. Crass Self-Promotion!
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2. So Is Halo Still a Thing?
One of my fondest gaming activities is playing shooters on the couch with my wife. Our peak experiences have always been with the Halo series, which has had couch co-op since the beginning. The early Halos are a blast played together in a living room.
When Halo Infinite came out in December, 2021, we were really looking forward to it. Then they said couch co-op was delayed. Then, in September, 2022, they canceled it completely.
This struck me as weird, and it still does. I mean, this is a trademark feature of a major, major game series being published by only, like, the biggest software company in the world. It's a software feature so crushingly difficult to implement that they did it with no real difficulty in 2001.
If they canceled it at the beginning, that would be one thing. When they say they’re going to do it for a year and THEN cancel it? This smells like dysfunction.
Also, couch co-op is still a hugely popular feature. Look at Mario Kart or Smash Bros. Nintendo really gets this, which is a large part of why the Switch is an enormous success.
So I'm pretty curious what the deal is here. Why couldn't they manage this? I mean, Microsoft's quality control has always been a little iffy, but at least they've always been able to ship things.
3. My Own Paranoia
I wonder about it because, and this might be my own confused imagination, has software been getting worse over the last two years?
I've been noticing that every app I use, by Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and just about everyone else, seems to have more bugs, and those bugs are slow to be fixed. (Psych! They are never fixed lol!)
This is just an idle musing, but I'd love to hear if anyone else has had this same deranged observation.
4. Which Makes Me Think About Working From Home
So, to be clear, I love working at home. Being able to work at home is a large part of the reason I write games, even though I could have easily made more money with a Real Job. I think most tech jobs could be done in part from home, and it's shameful that it took a plague to make some working from home standard practice.
Yet, there is one open question about widespread working from home: Can large products, with big teams that require a lot of coordination, be done as well by people who are spread out over the world and never meet each other?
Humans are pack animals, and being in contact with each other is one of the ways we maintain the standards of a society. I don't have any comment on the whole idea of "Quiet Quitting." Yet, I also wonder how many people will day-drink (or day-toke) if they don't have to be visible, functional, and free of the smell of booze around co-workers.
I don't have answers to any of this, and I want as many people to work at home as possible, if just to keep traffic low. It's just, this is still an open question, and I'll be fascinated to learn the answer.
5. Children Need To Feel Physics
I kind of want to write a full piece on this. It's interesting.
At the recent TwitchCon, there was an agonizingly unsafe foam pit. Basically, a thin scattering of foam cubes on a concrete floor, with ledges providing a 6 foot drop onto the unyielding floor below.
It resulted in multiple injuries, including this spectacular one. (Painful to watch, but highly instructive.)
This was not the only video from Twitchcon about young people with only a passing familiarity of how physics work in the real world. I could make a cheap shots here about how this symbolizes Twitch's attitude towards its streamers.
Let’s be clear. That second train video? That is how people die.
Here's what I'm really thinking. I'm a parent. Over the last couple decades, I've watched perfectly good, awesome playgrounds all over the place torn down to make them "safer". Any chance to slip or fall or get a bump must be purged, in order to make them perfectly safe (read, "boring") places for kids to play.
It turns out, playgrounds SHOULD make it possible for kids to fall. Why? Because it teaches them how gravity works and how hard different sorts of falls feel. A three foot fall feels like a bump. A six foot fall gives a MUCH harder impact. I've tried both, and I know this in my bones.
When I look at that poor streamer jump, I wince because I know, at an instinctive level, how hard she's going to hit the ground and how bad it will hurt.
At some point, she was denied the chance to learn that information as a child. The results were inevitable.
6. Vampire Survivor
I put a bunch of hours into Vampire Survivor, a super-cheap indie twin-stick shooter that only uses one stick.
It's a hit, and it deserves it. It gets everything right with this deceptively tricky genre in ways most don't. Lots of fun.
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Regarding Halo Infinite Split Screen Co-Op, the funny thing is, it's actually in the game and works, but was locked away. It's still accessible via exploits though...
After going through the trouble of implementing it, and the above impressions being so positive, who knows why it was cancelled. Halo Infinite just getting too much positive press?
Thoughts in order:
Halo: the decline of 'play game with friends in person' is a tragedy. LAN multiplayer and couch co-op are both vastly less available than they once were, and it seems a lost opportunity for a variety of reasons. Back when I had an XBox 360 the ex-wife and I looked for games we could play couch co-op on it. There was Halo, Army of Two, and Lego Star Wars. That's basically it.
Your paranoia: hard to say. I recently switched back from Outlook to Thunderbird not because it was buggy as such, but because it was poorly thought through, wanted to force me into doing things ways I didn't like, and did not give me control over basic UI elements that were necessary to making the workspace actually usable. Again, not bugs as such. But heaps of unnecessary complexity and bad decisions hidden behind shiny buttons. Which frankly I see as a metaphor for the general direction of computing and the Internet these days. I started up Windows 95 twenty years ago (because I accidentally found a computer with it on it) and was shocked even then by how fast it ran. I think there's a lot of emphasis on making things pretty and making sure they have nice transitions, and a lot less on writing something simple that works well. Put it this way...I should not be looking at dialup load times on modern Internet connections. But I often am.
Working from home: as a lawyer, I have long found your various videos about running a small creative business relevant (and law IS a creative business, oddly). Only problem is that the clients ARE the awful people, so cutting them out to preserve your mental health is a complicated process at best. Anyway, I think team coordination probably is best done in person on things where genuine collaboration is required. I also think the number of those things that actually exist are pretty damn small. Also, apparently SEC whistleblowing went through the roof during the pandemic because everyone involved was working from home. So lack of team loyalty can be a feature as much as a bug.
Re children needing to feel physics: I don't think that's what happened there. Honestly, looking at those cubes I was like "well, those should be fairly safe to jump onto, even ass first." They LOOK like they're thick and soft and safe. And I grew up on a playground that didn't even have gravel for the first few years - just dirt. Having looked up details about it, it's Adriana Chechik. Leaving aside all the porn-related jokes this permits, she tweeted about the resulting injuries after her surgery. Apparently "More fusions than expected, bones completely crushed & nerve damage to my bladder..." I'm not sure you could get injuries like that even on minimal gym padding, let alone on something that's supposed to take people being knocked onto it from above.
The train thing is...I think I'm more worried by the people not seeming to notice it's coming than I am by the people hopping through it. Waiting for freight trains to move can be a rather lengthy process, and if it was sitting there for twenty minutes I'd be very tempted to jump through myself. They don't exactly accelerate quickly.