You’ve said that for short games it’s reasonable to reset to begining in case of repeated failure, as in Curse of Issyos. While I can see that, it still comes off as frustrating when you want to practice a specific section, and the game keeps demanding you get from the begining to there. Plus, it creates the problem of unnecessary, trivial repetition, because you have to continually repeat parts that you’ve already mastered, which is a complete waste of player’s time when they’re wanting to practice a different section. Seems better to leave self challenge to the player, rather than ask for consistency, at least at this kind of level that demands a lot of time spending.

All arcade games are this way, and most games to some extent are this way. Dark Souls shunts you back to the bonfire, and you can’t get back to the part that gave you trouble until you get through all the stuff inbetween.

I mean, maybe there’s a case that these games should have more interspersed checkpoints, that’s what Super Mario Bros and Castlevania did on console, but I’m not gonna harsh on games of reasonable length like Contra sending you back to the beginning.

That and frequently you haven’t already mastered those parts, you’re still getting hit. Segments of this length get repeated in games like Ninja Gaiden or Nioh or Dark Souls all the time. I don’t think it’s a big deal to lose 6-15 minutes over this type of thing. It took me like 6 hours to beat contra, it’s probably gonna take me less to beat curse of issyos, both because it’s easier and because it’s shorter.

Even though practicing a single part continuously is a big convenience, in the broader scheme of things, you can’t just let the player do that anywhere. You gotta draw a line somewhere, and if the game is like 15 minutes long from beginning to end, I don’t think it’s totally wrong to draw the line at the start of the game.

I mean, frequent or constant checkpoints are a similar type of convenience to let you revisit any previously cleared level, but that has the design problem that you could grind out resources from that level, like many people do in mario whenever a previous level has infinite 1ups, or a powerup they want. If you don’t create limitations, then a lot of the more persistent aspects of play go down the tube.

In response to the person whining about getting punished: Getting kicked back to the beginning of the game raises stakes. It makes the game far more intense because you actually have something to lose, i.e. your time. Without punishment, action games become tepid and trivial.

Shrug. I’m not so big on stakes personally, but it’s there.

It’s just harder. When you have to go through such a long segment and cut down on every small hit. When you need to get and carry over every powerup and let as few things slip as possible.

And sure, it’s easy to rationalize it as, “oh, the early parts are trivial, they shouldn’t count”, but I’ve seen people rationalize a lot of things that way, “Oh, these enemies with more health aren’t actually harder, just more time consuming” and “they should just stick me in front of the boss, I’ve already beaten the level” “just start me on the boss’s second phase, I can already do phase 1 blindfolded” or stuff like that. It’s kind of a gray fuzzy calculation anyway. You run into the heap problem a lot. If we shouldn’t make players replay the intro level, then why make them replay the level after that? And why replay the level after that? Why replay anything but the level you’re on? Why replay anything?

You gotta draw the line somewhere. The beginning of the game is as good a place as any. I understand appeals to avoid repetition, I hate repetition myself, but single player games gotta involve repetition on some level. It’s just how it is. You can repeat more or repeat less, the big deal is, there needs to be some level of repetition to test consistency, or even to test whether you can accomplish a skill at all.

Getting hit mightn’t mean that you haven’t mastered it, just occasional dumb mistakes. And NG, Nioh or DS have depth counteract that, by making every run potentially different. What I’m against is repetition of trivial tasks, which the first portion of games like most arcade ones usually have.

NG, Nioh and DS have randomized attack patterns on enemies, making each run almost always different.

There’s a lot that can and does go differently in replaying even early levels of a lot of games, and because that stuff sticks with you for the rest of the game, you need to perform well.

There’s no static definition for what counts as having “mastered it”. If you can’t get through the levels without making occasional dumb mistakes, then why should you be exempted from them by skipping them?

Re: pushing back to the beginning of a game

All I can really say in regards to your situation is, it’s how the game is, you gotta deal with it. It’s over with much more quickly than undead burg.

As for future games, I think this more than anything goes to show that there’s a value in scoring systems, or systems for performing well to gain a bonus. With systems like that in place, even early levels can remain engaging, because you need to perform particularly well to get a leg up for later. Perhaps that is the origin of complex scoring systems in arcade games? It can add a second layer to an early level, so beginners can get their bearings easily, but experts need to go all out.

Curse of Issyos does have a number of hidden objects and other optional challenges in the first level, but they are not terribly difficult to find or deal with.

Yes, depth is great, and I understand you don’t care much about tension. But can you concede that sometimes all a simple action game really needs is constant tension and challenge?

No, because that would excuse stuff like super meat boy, which I think is inexcusable.

Making constant tension and challenge is easy. Making a hard game is easy. Not all hard games are good. Depth is the dividing line.

No, Super Meat Boy doesn’t have tension. It doesn’t have any stakes because it’s terrified of punishing you. I was referring to extremely hard arcade games that don’t have a lot of weapons or variety yet are still engaging because they’re hard and have serious stakes.

And I’d imagine those still succeed because they have depth in things like micropositioning. There are a variety of small things you can do to play the game differently instead of more big obvious things, where super meat boy is much more restrictive and asks for very specific inputs from you.

Whereas a game like Thief, which has long levels and is punishing as hell on the hardest difficulty is still inexcusable because it lacks depth. And a hypothetical super meat boy with longer levels, or a life system or some such still wouldn’t be any better as a game if you ask me.

Super Meat Boy is… inexcusable? How can you work off a criteria which excludes a game everyone loves?

Not everyone loves it. A lot of the more gameplay minded people I’ve worked with as I’ve come along, such as those on LTC, can’t stand games in the vein of super meat boy.

In real life conversations with people, where I basically argue that games should be harder/deeper, I’ve had people confuse me for someone who likes super meat boy and tell me that I’m wrong because I might like it, but they hated that game and therefore harder games aren’t for everyone. I think that’s happened twice actually with unrelated people, though the context might have been slightly different.

Super meat boy is a pain. It has very little variation in how you play across a level. You end up repeating most of the same inputs until it works because its levels are designed to restrict you to very tight paths without a greater variety of approach.

I mean, you could much sooner indict me for hating skyrim or call of duty if you want to say my criteria is bad because I’m excluding a game everyone loves.

2 thoughts on “GAME OVER YEAAAAAAAH!

  1. hyperknees91 August 30, 2017 / 5:43 pm

    I think this is more a matter of once again your points of certain players playing for the experience rather than the mechanics. Just because you become skilled at a section, doesn’t mean you’ve mastered it (whatever mastering a section means). Pretty much any skill-based task involves some degree of repetition and trial and error, even after years of practice (For example I do voice over, but I still have to do the same tongue twisters everyday).

    I think the bigger question is whether or not the game is interesting enough to invest getting skilled in. But yeah I think you can just generally point to rhythm games being popular, because that’s literally all they are.


  2. Yujiri April 28, 2019 / 3:22 pm

    My main problem with Dark Souls forcing you to run all the way back to the arena is a principle that boss fights should always be self-contained. It’s like if the last two chapters of a book didn’t have a divide between them.

    Another part of the problem is that often this run isn’t challenging in Dark Souls; some bosses, like Ornstein & Smough, take a 2 minute run before you even get to the enemies (which are easy to run past without taking damage). And Sif. And Bed of Chaos. None of these bosses have significant challenge in getting to them unscathed, they just waste the player’s time running through an area again and again for no reason. It’s the exact same thing as an unskippable cutscene, when you think about it.

    And about the “not really mastered it” argument: does anyone apply that principle to any other situation? When you kill a boss, should you be forced to kill it again every time you die until you’ve “mastered” it?

    The argument about “raising the stakes” is bullshit that shows no understanding of how emotions actually work. Being afraid of losing something is not fun; being excited to win is. But that excitement scales with the magnitude of winning, which of course is based on the degree of challenge you overcome. In other words, the real way to make a fight more exciting is to make it more challenging, and the runs to the arena don’t achieve that. The fear of loss on the other hand scales not with the magnitude of the challenge but with how much time you stand to lose. So making gameplay segments longer actually raising the fear of losing *without* raising the excitement toward winning.

    The only downside of excessively frquent checkpoints is the risk of players being able to “blunder through”, eventually succeeding through a fluke if they try enough times at a tight but short challenge. Since most games have a significant amount of performance variance, this is likely to happen with short gameplay sections.

    The other fun thing about boss fights – and the one that’s specific to bosses – is the feeling of grandeur, the feeling that the boss is special and epic (which is the reason why Dark Souls gives bosses cool sounding names and big health bars that stick on the screen and even music – giving these honors to bosses but not normal enemies increasing the exhilaration of fighting the boss). The reason boss fights should be somewhat long (and by extension this is why they should be self-contained, because they already fill they required section length to prevent blundering through) is to prolong this feeling because it’s so exhilarating (and it doesn’t really get weaker when you spread it out like this, at least not until a far point). But this feeling of grandeur doesn’t require or even benefit from having spent entire minutes running to the boss.


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