SnomaN Should be Melted

Thoughts on this channels video’s?

This video has nothing to do with accomplishment. He didn’t choose subject matter that has to do with accomplishment more than any other game or subject matter.

One thing that really gets me about this video is, “and here, there’s two ways to go, this teaches you that you have choices.” Are you serious? That’s not only not the first choice of path offered in this level, but that type of rationalization is so useless. You could describe the effect of this choice, but it teaches you that you have choices? This is something players not only need to be taught, but it matters that it’s placed in the first level? I hear this type of thing a lot in level design analysis where it’s claimed essentially that the first time an element appears, the designer is teaching you that that element exists. The trouble with this reasoning is, couldn’t it appear arbitrarily at any point later or sooner in the game and have the same effect if merely introducing it is the lesson to the player? I heard this about the boulder in dark souls’ asylum too, “it teaches you that there are traps! Teaches you to always look out!” The arrows at the entrance of Sen’s fortress are more of a learning process about traps than the boulder in the asylum. You can’t call it teaching if it’s not specifically training a response or skill.

This one is solid, but also a dead simple topic, especially with shovelknight’s really obvious tutorialization. Sunder laid out the ground work on this one, and his video is plugged at the end. I feel like level design analysis of teaching mechanisms is the easiest type of level design analysis to do, and the best understood right now.

Also, he describes how shovelknight decided to change the game up from megaman by having a progression of levels instead of letting you pick any level then he says, “this lead to better game feel.”

Come on. You know that’s not what that word means.

This isn’t about growing stronger. This is about adventure game style progression and world design. The titles of these episodes aren’t very well thought out.

Also, stretching 4:3 footage into 16:9 sucks. Also using like 4 different kinds of filters, half of which are fucking ugly.

He mixes topics and this is more of a thematic thing than a game design thing.

Not a game design principle.

What’s the principle being demonstrated here? I don’t think this is clear what this is supposed to teach. This is just a feature list rather than an actual lesson.

This one narrowly dodges the actual lesson.

Not a game design principle.

What a cop-out topic.

Also he literally did the thing with the boulder that I mentioned in the previous answer. Same with saying the game “teaches you to take on adversaries one at a time” It doesn’t teach you that, it’s something you’re left to figure out.

A lot of the actual principles here aren’t such a bad idea. The idea of having isolated individual enemies that are a bit tougher makes sense. I mean, that’s what mini-bosses are.

In the process though he makes a lot of bad statements, “but it doesn’t feel cheap, because the controls are so intuitive, so your mistakes are your own fault” I’ve never heard someone call a game cheap because of the controls. I’ve also heard plenty of people complain about dark souls’ controls.

Also funny how he’s not so happy about the text prompts. It’s this amateur notion that the game should ideally convey everything without saying a word.

I never had that experience with the boar. I’ve never see anyone else have that experience with the boar. I’m kind of surprised this makes sense. Also points for, “it teaches you to […] But no one was telling me this, I figured it out on my own.” Then it’s not really teaching.

The hidden secret principle, growing stronger principle, motivational punishment principle, and accomplishment principle he mentions are all just things that happen to be in the game. They aren’t really principles. That and isn’t the motivational punishment/achievement principle in every game?

He’s not connecting these back to any sort of core principle or really saying what good game design is supposed to be in the first place, so it all ends up looking like a random cacophany of things he enjoys.

Whaaat. The claim here is that roguelikes are just hard from the get-go because all the elements are present from the get-go. Except that’s not true, they could entirely tune their difficulty procedurally. That’s not even hard to implement.

They’re kind of right about the replayability and game length. It’s like arcade games except randomized each time.

What, what, what. Huh? how is the game telling you you can go anywhere you want from the get-go? how does giving the walljump early on give that impression? You can walljump from the instant you get off your ship in Super Metroid. Ori gives you less options for progression than most other metroidvania games. Where the hell did he pull the idea that Ori gives you freedom out of?

Did he somehow not notice that Ori does actually autosave?

Also his plotting of the progression is completely wonky. The real point seems to be that the game is short, so powers are obtained quickly. Also lacks the specific analysis that Ori deserves or could have had.

Not going over his smash video. His analysis is disjointed, vague, and all over the place.

On the boulder in dark souls thing. A lot of people say this type of thing in game analysis, where the first time something pops up in a game they say it “teaches you that this is in the game” or something. The trouble is, imagine a hypothetical game where the first time that thing pops up is deleted, so instead the second time becomes the first time. If merely introducing the element is enough to teach you, then surely the critic reviewing the hypothetical game where the element’s introduction is pushed back by one incident would say this second, now first, time the element appears is what teaches you about the element. Hypothetically, we could keep pushing the element’s appearance back further and further through the game until it only appears once (or we could only have it appear once early on) and their amateur critique would still say the same thing every time.

The boulder at the start of Dark Souls works because it does almost no damage. The next trap you encounter, the burning barrel, can outright kill you if you’re at half health or so. The boulder also is the hardest to spot trap in the entire game (though I’ve seen multiple people spot it ahead of time, and I guess the first slime in the depths is harder to spot). Its at the top of the stairs in the dark. It’s set up to almost guaranteed bowl you over, but do so little damage it’s a slap on the wrist. The message is, “check for traps.”

That’s the real design behind it. They’re almost completely unfair on purpose in order to train a response from the player, but since it’s the very beginning of the game, and the tutorial, they don’t punish the player significantly for it.

However if your approach to level design analysis is just to say that the first instance of something teaches you that the thing exists, you’re modeling it wrong in your head. You’re not asking, “Why is this thing here now? Why is it here instead of anywhere else?”

The idea of having a false path choice in Mario 64 introducing choices of path to the player is especially ridiculous, considering it’s not something that needs to be explained or introduced to people, it’s not a skill that needs to, or arguably can be trained. People will simply choose when there’s a fork in the road, wherever the first fork is.

I see this really commonly, especially among people who think that game design is subtly teaching the player how to play the game, without the second half of the conception that the game needs to be built to challenge the player in clever/deep ways. Games like Shovel Knight tend to get praised by this ideology because even though Shovel Knight never got to do anything really super interesting/hard with its levels, it was a carefully scaffolded learning experience

3 thoughts on “SnomaN Should be Melted

  1. shinobody December 15, 2018 / 10:14 am

    In the Shovel Knight video, claim that Shovel Knight changed Mega Man formula by having level progression is straight up incorrect. A bunch of Mega Man games use a tiered level select system, just like Shovel Knight does – Mega Man and Bass, Mega Man III, IV and V on the Game Boy, and first three Mega Man Zero games. All of these games came out years before Shovel Knight.

    I guess it didn’t catch on in modern MM games because nowadays, they’re niche games primarily aimed at hardcore Mega Man fans, and said hardcore fans prefer more freedom and more complex weakness order puzzle, as a tradeoff for more jagged difficulty curve. In contrast, Shovel Knight was designed more for mass appeal and general audiences, so it prefers a smoother difficulty curve.


    • Chris Wagar December 15, 2018 / 1:33 pm

      Megaman 8 had it as well. I don’t think that’s entirely core to his argument though.


      • shinobody December 17, 2018 / 1:52 am

        It becomes notable when you consider his latest (atrocious, and I mean absolutely terrible in every way) video about “Bad Game Design: NES Games” where he attributes a lot of mechanics in Shovel Knight that were actually taken from Mega Man, claiming they were an improvement on the NES games. For example, he says that one-hit spikes in Shovel Knight are more forgiving because you can walk on them when you have I-frames… but that was invented by Mega Man games. Or that in modern games you can choose to make games easier by deciding to explore more, but that is present in Metroid (energy tanks) and Mega Man (E-tanks).

        He just can’t give fair credit to old games, for some reason.

        Honestly, I think you might want to critique said video but I should warn you, it’s the worst game design video I have seen in my life. The typical problem with those armchair game design analysts of ‘I don’t like it personally, so it must be bad design!’ is in full force here.


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