Now Hear Me Out: Flashlights

I know what you’re thinking. Where could he even be going with this? As always, I ask that you hear me out anyway. Now, I want to start out by saying that I think we can all agree that lighting is a very important element in horror games. Everything is just scarier when things get darker and foggier and gloomier. It helps give off an eerie or even haunting sort of vibe that goes very well in a haunted setting. However, you can’t have a game be pitch black since games using typically have some visual aspects to them. There is a difference between having an atmosphere and having the atmosphere choke any and all light sources to death. So usually there will be some lighting of some kind to make sure you can actually see, especially if the game is first person. That is where the handy tool known as the flashlight comes into play. It is there to make sure you can see just enough so that you can at least make out your general surroundings. It may not be the best thing in your arsenal, but it is probably the most reliable thing you’ll use in a horror environment. Although I have to say, the game developers definitely don’t want you relying on it too much. As evidence for that, let’s take a look at some scary games you might know.

In Dead by Daylight, the flashlight is an optional perk you can give your character. Its purpose is simply to give you a better shot at survival along with the other kinds of items you can find and equip. However, it isn’t used it the typical fashion as it is mainly used to blind the killer so as to prevent the innocents from being caught. Unfortunately, it has some of the world’s worst battery life as it only works for a few seconds before it becomes unusable. So it is best used in that game as a distraction tactic. In Slender, another well known horror game, you have a more traditional flashlight to explore a dark forest. However, you have to pace it just as much as in Dead by Daylight since the battery life is also not great. It isn’t as bad as that game, but using it too much will ensure it will run out before you have reached the halfway point. And in a game where you are required to search for things in a dark environment while a mannequin in a business suit chases after you, it is helpful to have the ability to see. Even in the original Five Nights at Freddy’s game the lights were the last resort to not getting caught by the gang and let you know when to close the doors. Leaving it on would severely drain your power so it could only be used sparingly. Flashlights in other games in the series are used in similar ways as well and don’t really help you feel very protected.

However, there are times when the games give you flashlights that seem to never run out of battery and so they can only take them away when certain things happen such as the plot demanding it. Like how in Outlast when you have that indestructible camera that you can use to see just about everything and for some reason your character decides is the best way to not garner attention in an insane asylum. Or in Phasmophobia where the flashlight will last pretty much forever as long as there are no ghosts nearby waiting to cover your eyes and put you to sleep. And of course in the Luigi’s Mansion series where the flashlight is essentially a god-tier item that is the only thing preventing Luigi from being possessed by an angry ghost. I know that game isn’t actually that scary, but I will never miss an opportunity to somehow bring up the man in the green cap since he is the best of the brothers( #numbertwoisnumberone, #alwaysgogreen). Sorry, the point I am trying to make here is that lighting is either totally nerfed and only usable a couple of times before it isn’t very useful or it essentially indestructible and fully charged because the plot demands it. So can we have some sort of middle ground. Like for instance, and I am just spit-balling here, maybe adding a pickup that could keep your flashlight from going out and having it dim over time. You know, maybe call the pickups batteries or something like that. Then adjust the amount of batteries you find based on the difficulty you are trying to go for in the game. Look, I am trying to just keep things balanced. Every scary game feels like it is either on easy mode or hard mode with no middle ground between the extremes. This is just something I think could be used to help with certain balancing issues in the genre. Lighting is such a key factor and yet very few games use it to enhance the experience effectively. Half of them just make it dark and don’t even give you any breathing room. I am just asking for some time to breathe after you try and give me a heart attack. That’s all. See you next week.

Thoughts on Deception Games

You know, I kind of glossed over deception games in my previous post and I feel that they deserve more mention. So let’s talk more about them this week. The question that I want to focus on is what is it that sets it apart from single-player and multi-player games in the horror genre. If I think about it, deception games feel like they reach some kind of middle ground between the two types. On one hand you are on a team and are trying to work together with others, and on the other you are working by yourself because you don’t know who to trust. That is unless you are on the evil team and so your main focus is not getting caught. Everyone is doing whatever they can to prove they are not evil with no one having a clue until they are left for the innocent to find, usually in the form of a dead body. Now what makes this interesting is how fear can creep into the minds of other players and prevent them from being able to trust each other. That is especially the case in the games like Deceit where the game never gives you definitive proof that someone is actually a killer. Sure they give you a scanner to check for evil people, but you have to trust the person using the scanner first. Now let’s take some time to look at these games from both perspectives as an innocent party. We all know the bad guys are just there to have some fun.

So as a single-player experience the biggest sense of fear is the fear of the unknown. Of course the main reason for that is you don’t know who to trust. You know your goal to either to escape or survive and yet you can’t trust anyone. You might want to leave and do your own thing, but then you may be suspected for being the traitor/monster/impostor. So you try to stay in the group and be around others so that they don’t suspect you whenever a body pops up. In the multiplayer environment you are usually familiar with each other’s habits and find it easier to establish trust, but it just hurts that much more when you are betrayed. You work as a team player trying to do what needs to be done to survive and you just want to make sure you can do everything you can to help your team survive, even if they throw you out for it. A lot of the time working as a team is spent on deliberation more than anything by trying to figure out who are the ones not on your side. There is a good amount of tension involved with each game and yet it doesn’t feel like horror does it? Like it isn’t the same kind of game because even though you are helpless to the whims of those who would do harm against you, you don’t ever really feel that sense of dread unless you are getting down to the final stretch. Sure there can be horror elements, but the feeling of fear is different. The question is not when you will be attacked, but instead by whom?

That isn’t to say it can’t be scary. Getting attacked and viciously destroyed by something is enough to give anyone a good fright. However, there is a key difference is the relentless of the pursuit. You see deception games are based around deception. That means that the killers can only succeed if they are able to deceive successfully. Now imagine if Jason Voorhees tried to blend in with all of the camp counselors before he killed them. That sounds quite unnecessary since he is an immortal killing machine, figuratively speaking. The point is that deception is not necessary when someone is powerful enough to just stomp all over you without you having any way to defend yourself. While fear of the unknown can be quite scary, like ordering from a new restaurant on the other side of town, nothing is scarier than something that you have no control over, especially if it coming to get you at full force. As an example, think about the aftermath for your stomach after you have tried that new menu for the restaurant on the other side of town. You thought you could handle spice and you ended up paying the price. Okay there are obviously scarier things then that, but my job isn’t to scare you. You would know best what scenario would actually scare you best. So while deception games are fun to play, they do not give off a horror atmosphere because the bad guys are vulnerable. There is a way out where you can just get rid of the bad guys. Even if you are not 100% sure, the tension still lessens a bit as you get further into the game provided you are playing well. Compare that to being relentlessly chased or haunted by something and you see that what really sets them apart, no matter how you look at it, is dread. As a side note Metroid Dread is a lot of fun, but that’s for another time. Not next week though, I still want to play it some more.

Thoughts on Multiplayer Horror Games

Now this week, we will shift gears a bit. Some people don’t play horror games just to get scared. Not everyone is a thrill-seeker or looking for an excuse to get a new pair of pants. Some people want to use scary games as an opportunity to build close bonds with one another. Of course there is the slight possibility that they just want to have their friends experience the fear with them so that they can laugh at the later, but let’s just go with the more wholesome option. There exist a good number of games that are geared towards being scary and have multiplayer elements. Usually they go one of two different ways. The first type involves everybody being part of the same team against some sort of evil monster(s) and they have to work together to accomplish their goal (usually to survive). The second type is when there are two teams where one or more people is trying to eliminate the other team either through deception or just raw power and ability. Now, I don’t want to talk about whether or not these kinds of games are scary. They obviously are since they each give you a sense of helplessness in the face of some sort of evil threat. The question I want to look at is whether it is scarier if it is an AI trying to get you or if it is more terrifying for your friend to be the cause of your demise. So let’s get started.

Now the biggest difference is these categories is the fact that this is the AI vs. another player. So first let’s look at the advantages the AI in the horror aspect. I would say the biggest advantage that an AI has over another player is that their actions can be hard to predict. Of course, AIs always have some level of predictability, but that can’t save you every time. The AI is also programmed for a specific purpose in mind and unless the game allows you the option to alter its behavioral patterns in some way, there is not much chance to get the better of it unless you possess a decent amount of experience. Also, in regards to difficulty settings, I am pretty sure that at higher difficulties, the AI can go random to the extreme and break any rules it wants so long as it gets to crush you. However, the AI is not without its faults. So long as all the players are experienced enough there is no reason why they couldn’t predict the behavioral patterns of the AI where at least one of them survive. Unless the players get overwhelmed by a number of zombies like in the Left 4 Dead franchise, there is no reason that you wouldn’t be able to defeat an AI so long as you have a solid grasp of the game mechanics. However, everything changes once another player is the one pulling the strings.

Now, when another player is the person chasing after the others, there is a different sense of danger. The reason is because the player on the evil team can think ahead and adjust their plans should something go awry. They might not know where the players are, but as long as they have enough experience, they will be able to sabotage the players’ efforts to succeed. Games like Dead by Daylight usually set the win condition as escaping since there usually isn’t much you can go against an immortal killing machine. One thing that players do exceptionally well are laying traps the others are forced to walk into so that they can ambush them. Or maybe they want to do it to mess with them since there is really no telling what a player might do. The thing about a player on an evil team is that even if there win condition is clear, they may troll or do something crazy because they finally got the chance to mess with their peers and there is no way they can let the opportunity pass. So sometimes while they might not reach the target goal of eliminating the other team, it is possible they may single one person out for a nice playful game of constant mental torture. Some people can be harsh guys. So does that make them scarier? That is not necessarily the case if they are not very experienced. And typically being surrounded by people you know takes some of the tension out of it.

So we didn’t really come to a conclusion there since both have their strengths and weaknesses. Usually experience seems to be the biggest factor as to whether or not a game feels scary or whether it feels enjoyable to play. I think the thing that stands out to me from all of this is that this experience of enjoying scary games with friends is generally less inclined to the rush of single-player horror games. It probably matters less that you are getting through the encounters and more that your teammates are not dragging you down to be sacrificed as a sign of mercy. Everyone can have fun running away, so long as they are not tripping each other. Although from what I have seen, teamwork doesn’t usually get the job done. So I guess at the end of the day, it is all about the scares, but it is about trying to drag other people into getting scared with you. After all, no one wants to be scared alone. Well, unless they are a YouTuber.

Jump Scare Cliché

Now if we are going to talk more about spooky games, then we need to get something out of the way. Let’s talk about jump scares. Jump scares have become pretty much standard for horror franchises these days. In fact, it is hard to find a horror experience that doesn’t have a single jump scare in it. Now don’t get me wrong, jump scares do have their place in horror franchises. It is just that they tend to be a tad overused in more recent games. It is to the point where there are games that are just centered around jump scares. Now a jump scare cannot be used effectively if it is constantly used throughout the game. They are great for giving you a good scare for a moment, but that is it. It’s like on Halloween when you went to someone’s house for trick-or-treating and when you go to grad the candy an automated hand jumps out and grabs at you. Startling for sure, especially if you are eight, but once it is over the tension is gone. You relax and so naturally, it is harder to get back into that spooky mindset. Now you also be prepared for that kind of thing at the next house. So, what I am trying to get at here is that a jump scare can be used to produce certain changes in mindset and if overdone can lessen the effect the scary game is trying to achieve. So let’s talk about how I think they can be used effectively.

First, let’s talk about why they work in the Five Nights at Freddy’s series we talked about last week. It is simply because the jump scare is an indication of failure. Since failure is equivalent to death, there is no need to worry about the tension being broken since you have to start from scratch anyway. This is usually the most common approach to using jump scares in games at the moment. There is also the classic fake out where the tension is at its peak and you get a fake out that startles you and causes you to do one of two things. It will either cause you to lower your guard so that you are caught by surprise when it matters, or you are aware of the fake out tactic so you have your guard remain at its peak so you respond accordingly to the real scare. This way either the tension spikes real fast once you have lowered your guard or it remains at around the same level and helps keep you engaged. Imagine a bunch of people going on a rollercoaster for the first time and as it gets to the very top, the car just stops. They might think that they are getting a quick breather or that something is wrong with the ride. Now let’s say there is also someone who is experienced with rollercoasters there as well. They know this is just the calm before the storm of emotions the ride will let them experience. So some tensions rise while others fall and in the end everyone has a thrilling time.

Jump scares are meant to be a fun distraction to the horror experience. Well maybe fun isn’t the right word, but you understand what I mean. They are not meant to be all your game has to offer. There are so many games that come out thinking that just throwing in a few jump scares actually qualifies as a horror experience. I am looking at all those walking simulators who have no other gameplay elements save for maybe a flashlight with some incredibly questionable battery life. If a game solely relies on jump scares, then the game is not scary. One of the most essential elements of fear is not knowing what to expect, so if you use the same trick time and time again, then the whole experience will be rather boring. In fact, the fact that a game would have to rely on jump scares shows that it has absolutely no confidence in being able to keep any sort of tension or atmosphere for an extended period of time. I am not saying those games can’t have jump scares, but at least they should have another way of keeping me engaged. Why would anyone walk into a trap that they can see coming? Walking into an obvious jump scare is the equivalent of getting hit by a rake that you stepped on. If you didn’t see it coming, then you deserve exactly what happens. Look, all I ask is that we try and make a horror experience illicit a little bit of dread and foreboding every now and then. Is that too much to ask?

Now Hear Me Out: Five Night’s at Freddy’s Gameplay

You guessed it. This month is horror month. I know that it’s predictable, but what did you guys expect? Just because I go off on random tangents every once in a while, doesn’t mean I don’t think things through. That’s right! Some of those random thoughts were done for a reason. I think. Anyway, we are starting off with one of the most popular series of horror games in the last decade. You know which series I am talking about here. Mainly because I already put it in the title. Although I have always found this series to be a bit unique in its approach to the genre. In the Five Nights at Freddy’s game series, your win condition is simple enough. Don’t die. It sounds reasonable enough right? however, what’s special about this game is that in order to prevent yourself from dying, you have to play the most intense game of Red Light, Green Light ever. Many of you reading probably know of this already, but for those of you that don’t… if you fail, you are greeted with a lovely jump scare from some cuddly? animatronic animals (also known in some circles as animaltronics). Looking at the game objectively, it honestly doesn’t really feel like a horror game. Sure there are horror elements to the games, but for the most part the game is mainly built like it is some sort of tower defense game. Hear me out for just a second and you’ll understand that this game is closer to a management simulator than an actual horror game.

You see, the biggest reason for this is the fact that you are in charge of one location and your goal is survival by outlasting the enemy. Now there are plenty of horror experiences where the goal is to outlast those that are trying to destroy you. However, in those cases you usually have some way of defending yourself. In this series, you have nothing but a few places you need to keep an eye on and a few tricks up your sleeve in case things get a little bit too close for comfort. You don’t really gain anything for going through each night except for more knowledge and experience. Oh, you also get the pleasure of not dying sue to a jump scare. You become more adept in recognizing patterns are become more used how the animatronics work. Although the game will always throw a bit of RNG to make sure you don’t get too comfortable. After all, it is your goal to survive so there needs to be a bit of challenge. Each night the challenge escalates to the point you wonder why anyone would even come back to this crazy nightmare for such dirt-cheap pay. It really is like being an actual manager. All your maintenance goes unappreciated by those animatronics who just want you to fit into an uncomfortable suit. They could be a little more gentle at least.

There is a lot of micromanagement that goes into this game series and it creates a similar sort of tension that we see in horror games. The reason is because the stakes are so high. If you screw up even once it is game over and you have to start the night all over again. The reason why the game pulls this off so well is because it gives you a timer of sorts. They don’t call it a timer, but it is. It is that clock telling you what time it is and more importantly, how much longer until the next day. That tension of trying to survive for as long as possible is made even more strenuous by giving us a tangible way of telling time. Otherwise we would just try not to think about and put all of our effort into survival. The game is basically using this as another way of saying that you have to complete the objective by a certain time, the objective of course is not dying. Doesn’t it seem strange to have a horror game give you a time frame of how long you will be trapped in horror land? Not to mention the fact that you can’t go anywhere and are forced to stay for at least five nights? They even give you the option to extend your stay. Such great service. The whole concept is just so different from how most horror games operate. It still works, but that is due to the theming and secrets involved in the story elements. Otherwise it could very well be set up as a different genre. The developer essentially decided to use this kind of tower defense, management simulation and turned it into a series of spooky games that got multiple people jump scared into oblivion. Maybe in another universe the concept was turned into an entirely different game. Who knows? Thanks for hearing me out everyone. See you next week.

Now Hear Me Out: Multiple Endings in Puzzle Games

Now you know I have to mention game story at least once a month. It is sort of an unwritten rule at this point. At least it was until a few seconds ago. Now I am not going to pretend that every puzzle game needs a good story. That would be a bit unreasonable of me to ask. However, a little bit of context can go a long away. Nothing motivates you to work harder in solving a puzzle than getting closer to an actual resolution. At least in the longer puzzle games where I have spent a decent amount of time doing similar puzzles for hours on end. Look, my brain is like a hamster. It needs a little bit of stimulation to get the wheel turning. However, I want to focus on a particular part of the game and that is the payoff. The thing about having a story in a puzzle game is that there has to be some sort of closure for going through all of that. And yet, some games have the AUDACITY to have multiple different endings. Now just hear me out for a minute on why I have mixed feelings towards this concept.

Now I do like the idea of multiple endings as a concept. It adds to the game by allowing you to experience the game differently each time you play. That means that there is a lot of different ways you can approach the same problem, which is nice. I happen to like flexibility in videogames, especially when it comes to difficult problems. However, the flipside is that when completing a puzzle game and you only get one ending, that means that you still have yet to solve all the puzzles. Now when I try and solve puzzles I tend to have a certain amount of pride, useless as it may be, to try and solve every puzzle that the game has to offer. I may not do it efficiently. It may take me forever to accomplish. I may not necessarily do it correctly and the game will constantly remind me of that fact. However, I will do my best to bulldoze my way forward. Usually this is spurred on by my desire to see how it all ends since despite most puzzles requiring complex solutions, I tend to have a one-track mind. Why do you think I compared my brain to a hamster wheel? So naturally, i can be kind of annoyed when finding out that I haven’t necessarily gotten the best ending because I haven’t puzzled hard enough. I agree that the ending should be the reward for your efforts, but I think I worked pretty hard so why can’t I figure out what I missed? Maybe the hamster needs to refuel. Okay I will stop with that analogy for today. Moving on.

Now I should make it clear that there is a distinction in the different ways multiple endings can be achieved. The first way is when you are acting in a intricately woven puzzle in order to accomplish some sort of goal and the goal you end up at is determined by how you acted at certain key points leading up to the ending. The second way is when there are separate optional puzzles that lead you to tools you need so that you can get a better ending. The first one I can forgive because I feel like I am playing a different game each time. Okay maybe not that dramatic (most of the time), but at least the experience feels different enough to justify another playthrough. The second one though, makes me feel as though I have completed everything. Other games may not matter in that sense, but this is a puzzle game. You are in this for the puzzles right? So, naturally it only feels right to do all of the puzzles. Especially if the story leads you down this path and you can get a better ending through doing more puzzles. However, they like to hide those puzzles from you. You have to work even harder for them and man can that be exhausting. I am already mentally taxed enough going through the main campaign so and least throw me a bone here. Listen, it isn’t really a deal breaker or anything. It just feels like when you get a 99% completion rate and part of your brain is telling you that you can get that last percent without having any clue where to start. It’s not the best feeling, but hey maybe it doesn’t bother you that much and I have thoroughly wasted your time. Thanks for hearing me out anyway.

Thoughts on Physics in Puzzle Games

It’s that time of the week again. Time to give my random assortment of thoughts pertaining to the nature of electronic gaming. To translate so as to sound less pretentious, let’s talk about videogames everyone. Although in fairness, I tend to do most of the talking here. Now to keep up with puzzle game month let’s try to talk about a more advanced feature in puzzle games. That feature is of course… gimmicks. But not just any gimmicks are worth talking about everybody. The gimmicks that we are going to be talking about relate to physics. You know, physics, that word you nearly write as psychics every single time you type it. Or is that just me? Anyway it also allows for some interesting game mechanics in puzzle games. In my somewhat humble opinion, the mark of what a puzzle game good is how well the game mechanic is incorporated into the game and how natural is feel to use the mechanic. The reason why I am applying this to physics mechanics is because these make gameplay a lot more complicated and so if you are able to master the mechanic effectively, then that means the game was at least programmed well. Physics isn’t easy. I know because of the tests I had in high school. So to get it right means you have a good game on your hands. Let’s talk a little bit about those types of mechanics.

The first is a game that may not be super popular, but I find the puzzles to be quite entertaining so I feel the need to talk about it. This games is called Teslagrad and the main gimmick of this game is playing with magnetism. Sounds pretty simple right? Use your newfound powers to switch between polarities so you can move blocks and/or yourself through different challenges as you attempt to climb the tower and eventually defeat the evil king. Now the game is not that long, but the puzzles usually give you new and interesting ways to play with magnets and things become really interesting once you get the cloak that allow you to magnetize yourself. The amount of magnetic currents you ride in the late game is ridiculous and is honestly one of the most exciting parts of the game. you see the best part about having a good physics engines is having the ability to gain momentum since that opens up so many more possibilities for exploration. Take a more well known game like Portal 2. This game, unlike its predecessor goes really heavy on the momentum based gameplay, especially in the second half of the game when you start using the crazy gels from the old science center. That feeling of being able to move freely is something that is an absolute joy to behold. Not to mention it is entirely necessary to navigate through some of the later puzzles, since they really start to love bottomless pits. Whatever happened to just having pits with spikes in them? Wouldn’t that make more sense at least since Chell has those force nullifying shoes? Anyway, the point is that the puzzles become more exciting the more you can use the gimmick to your advantage in the game, since that leads to trying different things and looking at the puzzles themselves differently.

You see, there is a certain mindset that is absolutely necessary when solving puzzles. You need to know how best to approach a problem before you tackle it and that means that you need to be very clear about all the different cards you have in your arsenal. Physics can be a difficult card to read because you may not understand exactly how the environment will be affected by your actions. However, if you have a firm enough grasp on what you can do, then you can take things one step at a time until you figure out what to do. In Portal, if you see a button, you press the button to see what it does. If there is something blocking you from reaching that button, then your first thought is how should you use portals to access it. You won’t even realize you are doing it, but that is because the game has successfully gotten you in the right mindset. Once you understand the laws of physics in relation to the mechanics you are presented with, you won’t end up getting stuck on any sequences because you understand that the solution is only hindered by your imagination. In a point-and-click game, and yes I am still a little salty, if your miss clicking on one thing, you can never find the solution despite all your efforts since you cannot deviate from the path laid out for you. However, when the game is based on physics, you usually already have all the tools you need to proceed. You just need to figure out how to use them and once you have gotten into the right mindset ,then the amount of hang-ups you will have will be very few, if any at all. It feels like there is more of a difficulty curve here since your understanding of the game’s physics is directly proportional to the amount of time you will spend in a given area, not counting backtracking of course. Is that more fair than not being able to succeed due to having overlooked minor details. I’m not sure. I do know there is a difference though, because when I solve a physics problem I feel smart, whereas after I finally find the path in a point-and-click I feel dumb. Again, still a little salty.

Thoughts on Puzzle Games

Today I want to talk again about puzzle games. After all it is the theme for this month. Now puzzles have always been something I have enjoyed ever since I was a kid. I have worked through many different types of puzzles as I grew up and completed many different puzzles while playing games either by myself or with friends. Yet, today I find myself wondering what it means for a game to be a puzzle game. I know that sounds a little weird, but I don’t think anyone would disagree with me that many games that have puzzle sections in them would not be considered puzzle games. Puzzles are meant to just be another challenge and not the main focus of the game. That shouldn’t sound weird to anyone. So as puzzle become a more important feature of the gameplay, that is when we start to see the inclusion of the phrase “puzzle game.” Now you may hear it referred to as a “puzzle platformer” or a “Metroidvania,” but those are just different ways of classifying a game that incorporates a lot of puzzle elements into its core gameplay. The difference in naming sense is just to give a better sense of the main focus of the game itself. Puzzler platformer should be self-explanatory, Metroidvania focuses more on exploration, deception games focus on deduction, and point-and-clicks focus on clicking every last little thing hoping you don’t spend a hour searching for just one piece of the puzzle. What I want to ask though is what makes a game transition from a puzzle game to just a string of puzzles?

Now I established earlier that the games that have certain special names allow for different ways of looking at puzzle games. they each have there own unique way of being considered a game. However, what if the game has nothing but you searching for puzzles. There is this game I play pretty casually every now and then called The Witness and your task is to find puzzles of varying difficulties throughout the island and eventually finish them to beat the game. as of time of writing, I have not beaten this game. I might do it one day though. The thing is that I walk around and find puzzles and don’t do anything else during the game, so does this mean that I am playing a game. In most puzzle games, in order to solve a puzzle you need to use your skill set to interact with the environment as a way to move forward. However, things work a bit differently in this game. You do have to use the environment in order to find the solutions to the puzzles, but you don’t gain anything from doing this except for more puzzles. The only real sense of progression you get is through the beacons you light up at the end of each section. So I am wondering if I am really playing a game or if I am just solving puzzles? It is possible that I am thinking too much as usual, but I feel like there is a distinction between the two. The environments are interesting, the puzzles are challenging, and the game itself is quite clever in its approach to exploration, so why do I feel like something is missing?

Let’s go to another series I have mentioned before to see if we can resolve this issue. The Room series is a point-and-click puzzle game series that I mentioned in the previous post. Each puzzle section is broken up into chapters and you have to use the environment to solve the puzzles at hand. Granted the puzzles are more involved than the ones in The Witness since you are not just trying to draw a path from point A to point B in various different ways each time. What matters though is that you spend time interacting with the environment in a way that makes you feel like you are there. The missing piece of a puzzle should always be you, the player and so naturally when there is progress is the game, you should see it as part of your direct actions. If I am playing a game, I want to feel like I am playing with something. Even if I don’t know the destination or end goal, I want to feel the little victories along the way. I guess if I were to boil down my thoughts on the matter I would put it like this: a game should be something you play rather than experience. I don’t have any problem with good experiences with puzzle or narrative story-telling. I just want to feel like playing a game feels like more than just doing the daily crossword. Well, boing honest I am more of a Sudoku man, but the point still stands. So in the end, I want to be the missing piece to the puzzle, not a guy who wanders around and finds puzzles on the floor.

The Spiraling Logic Cliché

This month we will be focusing on puzzle games. I like to unwind a bit every now and then by trying to challenge my brain a little bit. However, there is something that crops up a lot in different puzzle games to the point that I would like to consider it as a cliché. You see, a puzzle as you are probably aware is impossible to complete as long as you do not have all of the pieces. Puzzle games work exactly the same way, except that typically there are extra steps involved in the process such as finding the pieces and then figuring out how to use them. After all, a puzzle is only considered acceptable if it has only one solution, but also gives you all of the necessary pieces to guide you to that solution. So, it should go without saying that the most frustrating thing in the world is when you are missing just one piece and you have no idea where it could be. What is equally frustrating is having a piece and not having any idea where to put it. The reason this usually happens is that since you failed to understand the game’s logic and spiral into your own logic until you get find your way forward. That is why I call this the spiraling logic cliché. Other people may have a better name for this, but for now let’s go with my idea. Anyway, the reason why I call this a cliché is because game developers usually do this intentionally by making the logic in their puzzle hard to grasp.

Let us take an example and say that you needed to find a way into a car. The car is locked on all sides and you don’t have a key to open it. You can come up with all sorts of ways to get into the car such as breaking the windows or picking the lock, but no matter what your train of thought is, it doesn’t matter if that isn’t the path that you are designed to follow. For instance, maybe you have to pry open the trunk with a crowbar and climb into the backseat. These kind of things happen the most in point and click games. I swear, thee logic for those is astounding and if I am being honest, I don’t think I have ever completed one of those game without consulting a walkthrough at least some point during the game. This is probably just the ramblings of a sore loser, but man I just to not possess the brain power to figure this stuff out. So I just keep clicking and clicking and clicking and clicking and clicking an searching and searching and searching and searching and looking and looking and looking and looking and I can’t find ANYTHING after spending all that time. If you can, then I fully admit that you are better than me at these types of puzzle games. You know even when I play games like The Room series, which are much more tame, I still can run into the same problems. Why is that? Or maybe I am looking at all of this the wrong way?

Maybe the point of all of this is not to speed through the challenge, but to enjoy the challenge of finding things. Even if I did spend an absurd amount of time looking for answers, it isn’t like I always come up empty handed. I guess sometimes the intention of a challenge is not to make us hate the developers, but to feel satisfied when we eventually overcome the challenge. Although sometimes I feel like they take things a little too far. They can be sneaky sometimes by changing things up on you, but I guess that is part of the fun. Personally, I do prefer my puzzles to not be easy, but why does it feel like sometimes I am my own worst enemy when it comes to solving things. I go too far off base and get into my own head and by then there is no saving me. The worst part is that my logic makes sense, I swear it does, and so it is even harder to let go. So I have to take a breather and come back to them later when my brain is feeling less wrong. So I have to unwind in a different game. Goodness my brain is a mess isn’t it. Maybe that is why I easily fall into these spirals. You know, maybe I am the only one who does and this has been a colossal waste of everyone’s time. Who can really be sure? All I know for sure is that I know for a fact I had already clicked there before, I SWEAR!

Thoughts on 2D vs. 3D Shooters

I’m honestly not sure what my first experience with 2D shooters was or when I first played one. I would love to say it was Space Invaders but that would make me a liar and I would prefer that if I have to lie to my readers, it wouldn’t be two sentences into a blog post. It is a little embarrassing to admit this, but I am pretty sure my first exposure to 2D shooters as a concept was in a Kirby game. Don’t ask me to remember which one. I understand that is a weird way to be introduced to a genre, but in fairness I pretty much grew up on Nintendo. That and there is some sort of law saying every Kirby game must have a shooter section. I am pretty sure every other experience I have had with the genre has been in a dungeon crawler. Oh wait, I have played Space Invaders since then so nevermind. That being said, I wasn’t very good at it.

My first experience with 3D shooters is a lot less all over the place. I was in high school when my friends introduced me to Halo: Combat Evolved in high school. I was utter trash at it. Especially in firefights because I could not rely on anyone but myself. At least in team matches I could potentially be a decent meat shield. Throughout the years I would occasionally return to the genre, with similar results each time. In fact whenever I was able to get a kill, it was usually because I managed to melee someone from behind when they weren’t paying attention. Not really something I should be proud of, but sometimes when life gives you lemons then you’ve got to suck them dry. Wait… I think that saying was so that you wouldn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth? I feel like something is wrong there, but I should probably move on before things actually get sour. Besides there is only so much time I can spend on how I am not good at shooters. So, I decided that I would at least try to understand why I have so much trouble adapting to 3D shooters.

Now I know what you want to say, it is because you have barely any experience playing a decent shooter. That’s most certainly true. If I hadn’t started to come across the wonderful world of bullet-hells in college, who knows if I would even be able to talk about 2D shooters, let alone shooters in general. However, it should be more than that. I don’t mean to brag, but I have played a good amount of videogames since I have been introduced to them. I wouldn’t consider myself a pro gamer, not by a long shot, but I would consider myself someone who is capable enough to get used to a control scheme after playing for a little while. So the most likely reason is because I just can’t get used to the gameplay style. I am used to going in guns blazing and having different ways to dodge around. 2D shooters usually give me the freedom to do that, whereas in an 3D environment I am not sure where I should run to or who I am even running from in the first place. Maybe I just can’t feel as exciting without knowing who I’m going after and what I’m trying to do. Maybe because 3d games are more complicated, I feel like I need more context. Or maybe I am making excuses here. After all, no matter which one you prefer the objective is the same: defeat everyone else and try not to die. And I don’t need to make this all about me. There are some games I just am not as good at and that’s just fine. So I guess my thoughts after all of this is no matter how trash you are at a certain genre, you can at least write a post about it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much to improve skills. Oh well.