Nintendo Games Can Be Difficult

Remember the Struggle

I was ignorant in gaming for a long time.  I don’t mean racist or a straight-up gatekeeper or anything, but like a….kind of almost ignorant gatekeeper?  I hate when people say Nintendo games are for kids.  They are fit for them, but that doesn’t mean they’re designed solely for them.  It’s the same way how some animations are really well written and they’re for kids, but adults can definitely enjoy them.  I think a lot of the time, they’re even better as adults.

So, I grew up with the SNES and Nintendo 64.  Platforming games were the thing back then, so I played a lot of Mario, Kirby, and Donkey Kong games.  I think it was just a ton of privilege and I am very grateful for that.  Fast-forward to Super Mario Maker 2, and I was making levels that I felt were fit for the audience, only to find out that the success rate was pretty low on the level.  Now, I’m not a pro at platforming games or anything.  I am not that, but my vision of what a platforming game player was skewed.  And that’s when I realized I am super privileged when it comes to most Nintendo games.

Most people who are playing Nintendo games are younger, and most Nintendo games are platforming games.  I have yet to see a young gamer who, having received a present from their parents, do what I believed to be “well” on a new Nintendo game.  In fact, I remember being young and not being able to make it past certain worlds.  As I got older, the amount of worlds I would get to would go further and further.  I wouldn’t actually finish a Mario game until like, middle school or high school.  You know, the age when kids think they’re so cool and Nintendo is done and away with.

That’s the first set of audience, and the second is adults who want to start to play platforming games.  Introducing people to games or the genre has made me feel so ignorant.  I mean, I’ve done that a lot, but I never realized what a terrible teacher I was.  I believe I’m pretty good at teaching, but for some reason I never applied the proper teaching skills I used before on what I loved the most.  I am patient with the person, but I was just so ignorant.  New gamers don’t know what they can and can’t do.  That’s something that when you play as a younger gamer, you just kind of leap over because you’re a kid and you’ve got time and audacity in your hands.  

Especially for adults, they’re hesitant on what they believe they can do and move like.  Looking back I feel so dumb for not opening that door for them.  Not only that, but then there is the huge gap of just spending time to get better that I don’t really have to worry about anymore because I’ve played so many games when I was younger.  So, I think you get the point.  I just really had to check my privilege here.  But it’s also made me very grateful for opening my eyes to this understanding, and makes me grateful for how well Nintendo designs their games to be enjoyable even when you’re past these stages.  

I think in a way I was kind of soft-gatekeeping people by placing my expectations way high.  I never got upset at them, but in my mind I would still set that expectation, and I would rather I root that out than let it grow into something negative.  I want to be welcoming to all levels of gaming.  The best people in any profession always seem to be the ones that still remember what it was like to struggle, because they’re the ones that are the best at helping people.  Like my entire life with things I study, I want games to be a positive impact on my life, so I will do my best to keep humbling myself and remember the struggle.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you next time.

My 2020 in Gaming

I’m’a drop this real quick here. This was recorded in my notes, and I thought it would be nice to share here. My notes are even more casual than I usually am, so sorry if it’s a little erratic. Enjoy!

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My top 12 games of the year in no particular order.  These are games that I’ve played in 2020, not necessarily released in 2020.  Asterisks mark ones that are actually from the year 2020.  

Honorable Mentions:

DiRT Rally 2.0

  • I can’t really tell when I started playing this, but I think it was January/February.  So I’ma put it on here.

Celeste 

  • Nor can I tell with this one, since Epic Games doesn’t tell you, which is why it is here, because I think I played it like, the last week of December. But if it is from this year, most darn definitely it should be on the actual list.  This game made me cry and I love it, because I can relate to the story so well.  Number 9 on the ULTRA.  This game can boast the most absolutely perfect difficulty curve.  Tells a super super good and mature story through a platforming game.  Also, I’ve been following Matt Thorson’s games since Jumper 2.  It was his games that got me through the era of “I’m Too Young to Buy Games for Myself”, and his free indie games got me through life.

Path of Exile

  • Because I still play this wonderful game.

Fallout 3

  • This is a super good open world game, but I have very little emotional attachment to it.  If you want a good sci-fi open world game though, play it.  It even rivals Skyrim for me.  

THE ACTUAL LIST:

Crysis

  • Man.  This game.  I thought it was just going to be a show off of graphics, but it’s more than that.  The attention to detail is what makes this more than “graphics”.  There are a lot of unnecessary details that they have in this game that they just weren’t lazy enough to do.  Also, the gameplay proved to be quite fun.  The super suit really makes you feel like The Predator.  It mixes up the gameplay and makes it really unique.  The weird silly-movie-ish storyline is really fun as well.  

Dishonored series

  • Oh my goodness.  I can’t… I can’t.  Dishonored 1 and 2 slashed their way to the top of the ULTRA, getting 5th and 3rd place on the entire list respectively.  The world-building and lore are so insanely well done, and the level designs are definitely some of the best game designs I have ever seen in my entire gaming life.  The stealth mechanics are done very crisp.  Things react the way you expect them to react, making plans feel great when you pull them off.  Problems do not happen for arbitrary reasons, it’s because of planning.  But they also designed it well in the way the game plays after problems happen.  I actually do not flip out when I get caught, because the way the game moves after you’re caught is designed well.  If you want a good stealth series, or just a game with an awesome world, play this series.  Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is also great, but it’s definitely a smaller punch than 1 and 2.  I’m counting these as one game.  HA!

Kero Blaster

  • This game is made by Studio Pixel, the creators of Cave Story.  Amaya Daisuke STILL GOTS IT.  This is such a good 2D shooter, but you might have noticed it never got on the Top 12 Games list.  BECAUSE IT’S TOO DANG SHORT.  It’s such a tease because Amaya does such a good job at making these funny little 2D shooters.  

Psychonauts

  • Psychonauts is an…unexpected game.  I usually play these cult classics to see what the fuss is all about.  The controls are a little bit janky, and the graphics are old, but it’s still a great game.  The music is quite nice, but the thing that really gets me is it’s super progressive (at the time) approach to mental illness.  I also really love Rasputin, because his voice actor does a good job and also because Ras is someone who genuinely cares about the people who are suffering mental health or trauma.  The way the level designs are conveyed accordingly to each person’s experience are very inspiring.

Resident Evil 4

  • I’m not good with horror games.  You’ve heard me say it before, but… I really really really really really love a fun story.  And it turns out, the gameplay is really good.  The way you shoot is unique and feels great, which in turn I think would be terrible on a controller.  A small spoiler, [[[[[[[[[[]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]   

    NPCs that you have to guide around are NOT annoying.  Seriously, this is like a huge plus.  It’s one of the few times where I felt like the NPC didn’t actually feel very helpless and glitchy.

    [[[[[[[[]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

    Inventory management turned out to be kind of fun, and some of the designs of the monsters are really cool (and scary).

Transistor

  • Uhm…  this game is more like an experience.  I admit I had a hard time with this game, as in it was just difficult for me to play, because I suck at the strange and cool system they have for combat.  The art style is absolutely fabulous, as Supergiant Games is wont to do.  The story, characters, and world murder my soul.  If you want a top-tier indie experience, play this.

Borderlands 3 Super Deluxe Edition***

  • Ah, Borderlands.  I love the Borderlands series so much, but it kind of petered out for a little bit, until I finished the campaign and started playing the seasonal stuff.  I’ve explained before but I must say it again; the core of the new gun designs and gameplay mixed with the funny and well-written content for the seasonal stuff is what I’ve been wanting for a new Borderlands experience.  It’s a lot of good fun, and I’m lucky enough to have experienced it with someone who I very much enjoy playing games with.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons***

  • Probably the best in the series.  Every time a new Animal Crossing in the main series (sorry Amiibo Festival) makes a big jump (sorry City Folk) I feel like I fall in love with Animal Crossing all over again.  However, lately I’ve been pushing myself to finish more games, and so my play time with Animal Crossing has decreased, but whenever I play again, especially when I play with my siblings, I have a ton of fun.  We goof around a lot and do silly stuff but it’s a fun time.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

  • A weapon durability system that doesn’t annoy me?  Great turn-based combat?  Characters and story filled with emotions and dialogue?  Art style I friggin love?  Amazing music?  This game checked all the boxes.  I also just really love the art.  Also I love all the characters.  I want to hug them all.  This one is definitely up here more because of my love and emotion than the gameplay (although that’s good too).

Genshin Impact***

  • This thing.  Another surprise I was not expecting.  I gotta be honest, a huge part is that I’m so darn proud of a good Chinese game, and one that is (mostly) not battered by racist or typical comments about Chinese products.  And of course the other part is that I love all the characters and story.  The exploration and combat are fan-friggin-tastic.  Although if you get to the late game it gets kind of grindy and mobile-gamey, but the demand for your money concerning the gacha is not really there unless you desperately want a different character.  Some of the story elements in this game are really, really good.  The characters, I want to hug them all.  I feel all chummy because of all the story arcs.

Final Fantasy VII

  • OKAY.  Why did I play so many emotional games?  Final Fantasy is one of the long-standing gaming goals I have to play them all in order.  I’ve heard people throw their opinions of the ones I am going up against. Ever since Final Fantasy IV, this series has been slicing onions in front of my face and FFVII was no different.  I LOVE THIS SERIES SO DARN MUCH.  oof.   There are a few designs from FFVI that I prefer would be brought over, but it’s still such a darn good game.

Paper Mario: The Origami King***

  • Last one.  Maybe it’s because it looked severely disappointing.  Maybe it’s because I still hoped in my heart still even after all that.  OR MAYBE.  Maybe it’s just because Nintendo and Intelligent Systems actually made another darn good Paper Mario game.  It’s different, yes.  And the next one after this will also probably be different.  But, for now let us savor the fact that this game is really darn good.  Music and writing/jokes in the Paper Mario series has ALWAYS been up to snuff, even during the Sticker Star / Color Splash era.  That checks off here too (I REALLY love the music).  I’m surprised the world and characters are built so well even after the no non-standard Mario lore restriction.  And the puzzle attack gameplay turned out quite all right.  I never would’ve thought, but this game turned out to be one of the best ones of the year.  

Maybe it’s because of quarantine or something, but I finished a ton of games.  There are still more that are not on this list, but I didn’t put them because I’ve already eaten a ton of your time.  Here’s to another year of gaming! 

The Power of Implied Lore

What You Don’t See

Some people have a strong focus on lore in video games.   There are modes in games that are meant for the story, characters, and history of the world to shine.  I love lore in video games.  I may not have the greatest memory, but I sure do love to store as much lore as I can into my brain.  I love reading Mass Effect’s history of the planets.  As a biologist, I am so happy that they got a lot of the chemical and evolutionary biology correct when it comes to how life develops in other worlds.  The fascinating connection between what is real and the fictional elements are so brilliant.

But perhaps even more so are the things that are just mentioned.  The strange labyrinth of an ancient unknown race from eons ago.  Just through the story we think we know of old, old aliens, but these structures are unknown.  Or what about in Path of Exile, where many of the legendary items speak of old proverbs, that are absolutely fantastic and usable in real life, that mention great heroes or villains that are not part of the story anymore.  With the divination cards we hear murmurs of stories that take place in small worlds like one that really only involves only a lover and their lost one.  What happened to them?  Or what caused madness in another implied legendary figure?

I love implied lore.  It’s the kind of thing that makes science so captivating for me.  Science and mathematics always implies something bigger or stranger.  When mathematicians begin to see patterns in the way numbers are organized, or chemists recognizing similar chemical patterns in a far away planet, these things imply there is more to the picture than we know about.  That sense of curiosity is sort of a thing that encapsulates my mind.  My name in my native language was originally going to mean “wonder”.  I think that defines pretty much how I feel about these things.

The same feelings happen in real life when we see empty office buildings or abandoned industrial structures.  What history happened in these places?  What are their daily lives like when they’re active?  And what about right now, empty?  What is it like?  You don’t need to show every bit of history to let the player know there is history.  Let it be explored and excavated from the recesses of the virtual world.  Make legends and tall tales for the players to see glimmers of leftovers in the world.  There are few things so exciting as seeing a sly reference in the world when you first read or heard it in a game’s books or myths.  

I think implied lore is just as important and wonderful as concrete lore, because it allows you to explore the imagination of what the world is like, just as we do in real life.  
Thanks for reading!  I’ll see you next time!

Elise

What Makes an ULTRA Game?

What are the determinant factors that trend on the Ultimate Loosely-Thought Ranked Analysis?  

I believe there are two main factors.  Is the game entertaining?  Games are entertainment after all.  Does the game provide a good gameplay loop?  How does it handle design and difficulty curve?  Does it provide more artificial difficulty or natural difficulty?  How is the game feel?  Is it just fun to play?  Is it just…fun?

Games that have a greater focus on entertainment are things like DOOM, Dungeon Siege, Megaman 2, Star Fox 64, and Super Mario Bros.  The stories are not really a huuuge part of the game. The story is a platform for the action to take place.  There’s nothing wrong with a game that focuses just on the fun!  You don’t need to be a tea-sipping fancypants to know good games.

The other factor is whether or not it is inspirational.  Do they have good stories and characters?  Is the world built and designed well?  How well is the player’s emotion directed?  What innovations are there?  These are games like Final Fantasy VI, What Remains of Edith Finch, Baldur’s Gate, Genshin Impact’s character arc quests, and Psychonauts.  Characters don’t need to be super deep.  They can just be fun, have great synergies, or present the world in a way that makes you think about life.  Stories don’t need to be entirely plothole clean.  You gotta use your imagination too!  

I am a little biased because I tend to lean towards more story-telling, world-building, inspirational games.  That’s just who I am, but all gamers are different!  And that’s okay!  There’s also a third mini-factor that I also recognize: the history and context of the game.  What did the developers have to go through to make this?  What was development culture like?  How have they approached this game in the franchise as compared to the past?  What artifacts and history lie beyond the game?  Game history is important.  I love art history, and I think video game history is just as important.

Something that I’ve noticed as we get near the top of the ULTRA is that the games start to converge on both ideas of entertainment and inspiration.  The top ones are usually brilliant at being both.  These are things like Dishonored 2, Celeste, Bioshock, Guild Wars 2, Starcraft, and Hollow Knight.  

I think video games can be such an inspiration and entertaining thing at the same time.  I feel the same for films.  Artistic vision backed up with great cinematography makes amazing films.

I just wanted to let you have a little more insight into the way that video games are seen in my mind.  Although I’d like to believe I have a lot of insight on video games, as it has been a focus and study of my life, this list is definitely not going to be 100% solid for other people.  That’s why we like different games. 

What are some foci that represent what you like in a game?  
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time! 

– Elise

Change in Direction

Originally this was going to be a blog based on game design and talking about good game design in video games, but I think I’m going to head in a more casual direction to literally just talk about games that I like. I won’t delve super deep into game design unless I really feel like it because I don’t have the time in the normal life to do both research and play.

So now this is officially just a casual video game blog.

– Elise

The Responsibility of a Series

A Chip Off the Old Block?

This is just one big perspective thing, so if you don’t agree with it within reason, that is fine.

I think one of the interesting things about video game series, and well, any series that is in the entertainment industry, is the responsibility they have being a series.  Is there the obligation to continue being the same thing?  Or is it possible that finding the better thing is the right path?  And even more so, does the audience have a say?  Should they?

We love sequels.  I mean, at least when the game was good, we want more.  But do we really want more of the same?  If we look at sequels that people love, we can see that they gave us a brand new and great concept.  The sequel might look the same, but the development and design have definitely evolved.  I am talking about things like Super Mario Bros. 3, Dishonored 2, Half-Life 2, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between worlds.  They seem to play just like the predecessors, but there are new concepts that are brought in.  So…the same?  I don’t think so.  Can they kind of feel the same?  Yes.  Half-Life 2 does indeed feel like Half-Life 1.  Does Half-Life 1 have many physics-based puzzles and a gravity gun?  No.

So, I guess we want sequels that are not just improvements, but developments in design.  That is what we want and should be asking for if we want a sequel, not more of the same.  But…are the developers obligated to do so?  And should they?  I think… not?

“Wait, Elise, wait.  What about Mass Effect Andromeda?  That game–”

Yes, I know, it wasn’t amazing.  But if we take a closer look at what Mass Effect Andromeda feels like, it actually is more like Mass Effect 1.  Mass Effect 1 is still a great game.  So, why didn’t Andromeda feel like that?  It still feels like Mass Effect, just a very different, and older Mass Effect, but some core things have been tweaked just enough to make it not as comfortable.  Long, fetch-questy missions, and exploration that felt free, yet restricted at the same time made it feel…inefficient at feeling like Mass Effect.  Constant radiation restrictions, a lot of collectible side quests, and change in playstyle pushed fans even further away.  I think it was done in a style of Mass Effect 1 with some bad gameplay elements.  Personally I feel like the gunplay change was a good thing, but again, it was different.  Could Andromeda be the same while still being satisfying?  Yes.  I think with the same lore and content material it could’ve been better if the game felt a little bit leaner.  And saying that, yes, I think it could be that different weird Mass Effect 1 mix while still being Mass Effect.

“Okay, but how far are you going to let that go?”

I think if an idea is different enough, developers shouldn’t be using the same lore and name, because that brings up that responsibility of it having to be like the previous games.  I think it all comes down to lore.  We see games with very different lore and yet they can play similarly but still be distinguished as two different games.  Starcraft 1 and 2 feel very different.  But they still feel like Starcraft in the way that they approach the lore.  

Let me talk about two examples that have jarring differences in the audience response.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is considered a huge keystone now because of how amazing it is.  It is very different from the previous games.  It is now an open-world game with only a few small dungeons, and dozens of micro-dungeony things.  Crafting is a thing, and getting owned because you ran into a difficult monster is definitely a thing now.  Link can now climb and jump, which is very strange for the series.  The lore is still the same though.  It retains and is accepted as a new Legend of Zelda game.

Paper Mario: The Origami King is a great game with a very different fighting style than the previous four Paper Marios.  It is now more like a puzzle-adventure game.  You…kind of have partners and bosses are real life items.  You don’t level up at all.  You still have the durability item system.  World-building is fairly different.  Lore is largely the same without extremes as in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.  And …people are still hesitant to accept it as Paper Mario.  Now, you might say, well Paper Mario did GREAT with it’s first two and they shouldn’t have changed it up.  You’re right, but The Legend of Zelda also did amazing with its many predecessors.  The gameplay in Origami King is also not bad either.  Sure, it’s not like Breath of the Wild’s, but I cannot deny that Origami King is a great game in its own right.  But it still isn’t accepted very well.  So what gives?

Does the audience know what they want?  Yes.  Will they accept anything else?  … The audience of Paper Mario has become so adamant that the first two games are the only way.  A lot of Zelda fans, without hindsight bias, believed the old Legend of Zelda was the way as well.  And the big difference is that Paper Mario decided to jump off the face of the Earth and try things.  Some things worked, like Super Paper Mario, and other things didn’t, like Sticker Star and Color Splash.  Color Splash had at least a few things going for it though, I must admit.  The thing is, that is part of the process of innovation.  You fail, and that is because if you don’t you’ll never find something new.  Nintendo has a habit of taking that risk with games like Splatoon or ARMS.  Most of the time they do well.  Most of the time.  

Every time Intelligent Systems took a wrong turn, the fans strengthened their idea that the originals were the way to go.  The Legend of Zelda didn’t have the disparity of having games in the main series that were not well received.  I mean, there was Triforce Heroes, but nobody even mentions that.  I can understand the doubt with EA Games concerning their upsets with Battlefront II, Battlefield V, and Anthem, and when they finally bring something good, like Star Wars: Squadrons, people are hesitant.  Most people agree that Squadrons is a good game.  But Intelligent Systems took this one step further.  They didn’t use something familiar.  Squadrons hearkens back to the old days of 3D dogfighting, while The Origami King did something so strange and different.  

The lore still feels like Paper Mario to me.  And as a game, it is good and fun, and is that not the responsibility of a game?  

I think there is a heavy burden on developers of series to be like their predecessors, and I don’t feel like it is necessary.  I think developers have to be unafraid of changing things up to make great games.  Sometimes even to the extreme of The Origami King.  The difference between me accepting The Origami King as a good different successor and Andromeda being a mediocre successor all points to two things: is the lore the same?  Is the game still fun?

If we say yes to both, the game has met the responsibility.  Is it unfortunate that we likely will not return to the original Paper Marios?  Undeniably yes.  We may not even return to the Origami King.  But it is also fortunate that we can experience something like Origami King.  If you only choose to like one style, then you have chosen.  The truth is that they can both be great.  I think accepting that kind of breaks the status quo, and people don’t like doing that, especially as the consumer.  I am fortunate enough to be both a consumer and creator, both as a scientist and an artist, so maybe my view is very skewed. 

I think as just a consumer this can all seem kind of unfair, and, you know, that makes sense.  Unfortunately, I can’t really say that restricting what I enjoy to a narrow group of games doesn’t really seem that enjoyable to me.  

I think that’s the one thing that people despise me as a Game Praiser.  I enjoy everything, and that is both a blessing and a curse.  I place my thoughts here on this blog because I feel like it is a fairly unique viewpoint, especially with a video game audience.  I’ve met very few people who just really like gaming as a whole, and I want to share my perspective.  Maybe you completely disagree.  Haha.  That is fine!  This is just meant to be a perspective piece.

Thanks for letting me talk this out.  I’ll see you next time.

Checklist or Game? Both?

There are a lot of arguments against games that send you off on a checklist, especially if it is an open world game.  You might wonder how these games still sell when you’re just being led by the hand all the time.  This is like games that tell you exactly what to do in the quest objective and everything makes it pretty obvious: a glittering line, a ping above someone’s head, or pop-ups that tell you when something is going to happen or there is something you need to do.  Then there are side-quests or small things you can do, but they’re just pins on a map that need to be completed.  The same thing here or there.  Why do these kind of games still thrive?  I was just thinking about that this morning and I realized that it’s because although they are not exactly great game design, they can still be satisfying.

You want your player to explore and find the way by themselves.  Signposts and rules can only feel so…explorey.  But if you look at games like The Division, the Assassin’s Creed series, sometimes Skyrim or Fallout, and some others, they just pile on objectives and little collectibles everywhere.  In the end, you’re not really playing a game, you’re just doing a checklist.  Yes, you could explore without looking at the map, but since everything is already marked on the map, how much exploring are you actually doing for yourself?  

But we’re talking about why the checklist style is still present in some games.  I think it comes down to the combination of two things.  One, is just the base that checking off a list really can be satisfying.  The focus can end up focusing on checking off a list, but it’s still satisfying.  We do this with things like chores or goals that we set for us to do during quarantine so we can feel good about ourselves.  And we are doing things, so we are legitimately feeling accomplished.  

The second thing that combines with this is that video games make us feel good.  They are entertainment and art, and those two things cover such a vast distance of things that the satisfaction of checking off a list can feel like it fits in there.  I think there are times that playing a game just to check off stuff on your quest list or pick up items is not necessarily a bad thing.  Sometimes that’s what we need at the end of the day.  We just need to feel like we’re getting stuff done.  And…I guess we are.

This satisfaction is not the same thing as playing a game with good game design though.  It is a similar trouble with art and the layman.  Both amateur and professional art can be appreciated, but the difference is difficult to distinguish for someone who doesn’t understand how the painting process or color theory works.  Both levels, and all that is in between, can still give a feeling of satisfaction, but not the same understanding of what makes an art piece seem to be at a higher level.  

I said sometimes Skyrim or Fallout, because concerning the main exploration, all the guidance is is a marker on your compass to tell you that something is nearby, which is not too bad of a hand-holding thing either.  Just enough for you to get lost in the world.  The smooth tutorials of Half-Life 2, the extremely well designed difficulty curve of Celeste, and landscape design of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild bursts into our playthroughs.  We can feel that these games push us forward and make us feel like we’re out there in the video game world doing something great, without having us check off a list.  It makes us feel like we’re doing it because we ourselves are making our own list or trudging our own way through the land.  That feeling of fun is from good design.  At the right times, I think it is possible that satisfaction of checking off a list suffices, but can be misunderstood as that same fun from good game design.  Guidance doesn’t have to be removed from a game, it is how they approach it that makes it feel good.

Entireties of games are not just the checklist though.  There are still many good gameplay and design elements in these kinds of games.  Remember that this (hopefully) does not make the whole of the game.  I personally feel like they may bring the game down a notch, but I don’t think it should cause the whole game to feel like it collapses on itself.  There are good games that are like this, and that may be because of other elements in the game that hold up what may be a lackluster guidance in the game.  Because games are such a mixed media, no one pillar of games, whether it be graphics, gameplay, sound, or something else, can really bring down the whole game, at least not easily.  

You know, I think the reasons for playing a game are really up to you.  I’m not saying to not support these games just because they have this design.  If you really enjoy them, by all means, you should play them.  But we have to remember that these two types of entertainment are indeed different.  The checklist is using gaming as a medium, while the good game design is emphasizing that it is a game and works on engineering itself to be better at that.  I’m not going to say that the checklist style is good design, just like how I wouldn’t say that my art is professional, but just like how I can still appreciate my art even though it’s not perfect, games can still be appreciated for the level or style of design that they present to us.  I mean, unless they’re a glitchy mess or highly inappropriate or something.

This is Elise.  Thanks for reading!  We’ll see you next time.

Day 8 of Genshin Impact

This will probably be the last of my Genshin Impact diary things, but not because I won’t play it anymore.  I think I’m just done writing about it.

The longer I play this game, the more it grows its own identity.  I feel like the first prologue area was a nice dedication to all the things that have influenced it so far, but once you start moving out of that area things become more refined into the idea that Genshin Impact is its own thing.

So far, I feel like I’ve gotten enough characters to get myself through most of the stuff with the wishes I have been able to use.  I don’t think I ever directly explained that.  Wishes are gachapon tickets used to get stuff.  Every 10 is a guaranteed four star or better item.  Granted, I have been given a lot of those prismogems, which are one of the cash currencies.  This will not always be the case, as most have been given for an event for starting near launch day.  I’m already satisfied with the current cast I’ve been given. 

However, I am beginning to feel the tugs of lack of resources.  I am now at Adventure Rank 21, and I’m starting to feel the thing where if I don’t play every day I am falling behind.  The strange thing about that is, for most of the content I play, I really don’t need to care that much.  Of course I care a lot about story, that’s one of my favorite aspects of a game, but the combat is fun enough to log in and just fight some monsters and log out.  There will always be monsters to fight.  Some good fights to do for fun are those ley line ones.  They cost resin, which is the energy system, but the resin replenishes every day.  If I just play a little every day, not only am I secretly grinding, but I’m also making good use of that stuff.

Everything levels up.  The characters, the artifacts your characters equip, the weapons, and the adventurer rank, which is like your account level.  The first four can get strained when they need to ascend, because they require looking for certain materials that may only drop during specific days of the week.  So yes, I am beginning to see that, but that doesn’t restrain me from playing for fun.  And when the time comes that all that time playing for fun can pay off for moving forward in the story, I think it will be okay.  My prismogem growth isn’t exactly quick though.  Maybe more events in the future can provide for that.

There is a battle pass.  I hate battle passes.  Although different from gachapon, they force the same pressure where you must spend time on the game within a set period of time or you won’t get the reward.  Even worse, you have to pay.   I suppose if you’re chunky enough in cash you can pay to get the whole thing at once.  I mean, the honest truth is that all online game events are like this, so can I really complain?  Perhaps.  

I still like the writing and the characters.  I like the voice actors, although I don’t know about the English ones.  Sorry about that.

Two more things to note before I stop this diary.  The boss battles are really fun.  I like them a lot.  They’re very fun and they really let me show off the power of each of my people.  I can also get owned when I run into one that’s way too high level for me, but that doesn’t keep me from trying (and sometimes beating) bosses that are ten levels higher than me just through my combos.  I love when RPGs let you wander into areas that are higher level areas, or that there are high level monsters hiding in lower level areas.  It’s like running into a bear in the forest.  It’s a chance high level encounter.  Disclaimer, I don’t like running into bears in the forest in real life.

The second thing I wanted to note is the Spiral Abyss, which is a rotating dungeon that is simply chambers with enemies.  Each floor has three chambers.  You have to try and beat them as fast as you can for rewards.  The twist is that you can choose buffs that affect the chamber or floor.  I really like this rotating dungeon and it almost feels rogue-lite in the manner that you can choose the buffs and that the dungeon rotates every few weeks or so.  It’s kind of like a remixed version of those floor trials like in The Legend of Zelda or Paper Mario.  I love it.

And this is where we part ways concerning the writing of Genshin Impact.  I will continue playing a little bit here and there.  It’s a good experience, and I think it’s a game worth trying out.  It’s possible if it keeps it up (and maaaaybe make it easier to not have to grind too much later) that Mihoyo pulled off a good gacha game.  I will probably write more about this in the next few months or so, but that’s it for the diaries for now.

If you’ve tried it, what are your thoughts?  


Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all next time!

Day 4 of Genshin Impact

I think there are a couple of things to note about Genshin Impact.  It looks like Breath of the Wild.  We’ve established that already, but it definitely doesn’t feel like Breath of the Wild.  Even with the climbing and gliding it feels like a very different game.  And that’s a good thing!

I said it before, but I’m saying it again, the gameplay is very good.  The flashy strikes, switching of characters, and elemental combinations make it very fun.  Regular combat is actually fun and worth playing.  It reminds me of Black Desert, but I think I like Genshin Impact’s combat a little more.  I like being able to combine elements.  The differences between characters can range greatly.  Sometimes things are very small, like how Kaeya actually takes a step back when he performs his charged normal attack, but the protagonist takes a step forward.  And of course, the big things are their actual elemental skills and stuff. I want more of that variance, in both sizes.  It’s great.

Your elemental combos actually feel like they have a punch.  You could go through fights with just one character, but you can definitely see the difference when you combine the elements to cause status effects.  Mixing both the regular and ultimate (or whatever that move is called that is on Q) combat elemental skills with the different characters is not too difficult but has high skill potential.  I especially like characters like Xingqiu.  His ultimate provides bonus wet damage even after you switch the character out.  Other characters that likewise create fields or effects that last long after you’re done with the move help create some cool combos.

The other thing I wanted to note is the writing.  I am playing the game with the audio in Chinese and the type in English.  I’m very impressed with the way they’ve translated the stuff.  A lot of the things to read are amusing or interesting.  I think it’s funny that there are some really far out dialogue choices you can make.  I mean, most of the time the only thing you’ll change is a different reaction, but it’s still fun that I can say stuff that is weird or almost meta.  I also like the things the NPCs say.  Again, they did a great job translating it to feel good.  I like it when MMOs have NPCs that wonder about life or other random things.  I ran into Ross the Quick, and he’s talking about how he feels like he shouldn’t run from things in life anymore.  He also talks about taking a break from missions, which almost feels like he knows the UI.  

A lot of MMOs from China, Japan, and Korea has great music, and I think Genshin Impact follows suit.  There are some melodies that may sound a bit familiar, but it’s still got good songs otherwise.  

So far, the cash stuff still is not demanding at all.  If I played the game a bit more intensely, maybe they will, especially later.  For now, I don’t see it as a problem.  The game has already provided me with characters that do well enough on their own.  More characters would just mean more fighting styles, which hopefully aren’t strict on their necessity.  As annoying as it would be, if that kind of content isn’t too far out of reach and I can still do all missions with the normal characters I happen to get, I think I would be okay to keep playing this game.

If I have more impressions, I will continue to post them.  Thanks for reading!~

Initial Thoughts: Genshin Impact

Any Impact?

Genshin Impact is an action RPG featuring anime characters.  The graphical style is like Breath of the Wild, because it’s kind of…from Breath of the Wild.  Luckily, it seems they’ve veered off into less Breath of the Wild-ish stuff for most of the other things like story.  I hate plagiarism.  So, we’re going to state what IS like Breath of the Wild first.

The graphics could be said to be inspired by Breath of the Wild, but some effects almost look pulled from it, the grass and fire combo especially.  The layout of enemy encampments and the first small enemies in those encampments.  The music in the shrines.  The death animation for animals dying and turning into meat.  I’m not going to say cooking because cooking has been implemented as a normal thing in RPGs for a while now.  The climbing and gliding system.

So, that’s quite a lot for the short few hours I’ve played so far.  After that, it splits off into its own thing.  Obviously the anime character’s style is pretty different from Breath of the Wild, and the story and gameplay elements are pretty different.  It is fun to play, and the ability to switch between characters in your party makes the fighting more energetic and intense.  Every character feels at least a little different so it’s nice to collect them and level them up.  I noticed that they seem to have their own story arcs you can play as well, which would be very nice if they developed that well.

The music is quite obviously inspired by Breath of the Wild with some of the music sounding like it was inspired, and some of it sounding…a little too familiar.  Overall though, I think it could possibly be good enough on its own.  The sound effects of the different characters swooshing and slicing are fun and satisfying to produce.  The menu sounds are nice as well.  

Oh, that’s something that I’m quite pleased with.  The UI and menu are pretty well done.  There’s a lot of stuff to cover, as it is a mobile-style game, but they actually present it all very clearly and I think it’s pretty concise for all the stuff it has to cover.  

So, of course we have to bring up the last two things that make any gamer worried.  The gacha system, and the energy/real life money system.  If the gacha ends up being something where cheap, powerful copies of the normal characters are a thing and only available for like, two months, that is something I am not going to be happy with.  I am pretty sure this will happen for real life events, similar to how Fire Emblem: Heroes does this.  This “you must grind or feel left out” system sucks.  It’s a little different if you are not set to have to grind within a short period of time, like just added content.  Of course, the company wants to make you play their game more, but it’s in a seriously bad way.  We’ll have to see how they handle that.

And then the energy system.  A lot of mobile games have this thing where after you use up all your energy you are either highly restricted in what you can do (efficiently) or you can’t do anything at all.  And most of the time the energy returns slowly enough that you are brought to the idea of spending money just to get your energy back.  These are both systems that are in typical mobile games, and I frown upon both.  Again, how they handle it will depend on how things go from here on out.  If it turns out to be a cash-time eating monster, then I will probably just finish the main story and then go, because otherwise I don’t think it’s worth my time.  

If it ends up being a pretty easy-going game concerning this stuff, then I will keep playing it.

Thanks for reading my thoughts on Genshin Impact.

The graphics could be said to be inspired by Breath of the Wild, but some effects almost look pulled from it, the grass and fire combo especially.  The layout of enemy encampments and the first small enemies in those encampments.  The music in the shrines.  The death animation for animals dying and turning into meat.  I’m not going to say cooking because cooking has been implemented as a normal thing in RPGs for a while now.  The climbing and gliding system.

So, that’s quite a lot for the short few hours I’ve played so far.  After that, it splits off into its own thing.  Obviously the anime character’s style is pretty different from Breath of the Wild, and the story and gameplay elements are pretty different.  It is fun to play, and the ability to switch between characters in your party makes the fighting more energetic and intense.  Every character feels at least a little different so it’s nice to collect them and level them up.  I noticed that they seem to have their own story arcs you can play as well, which would be very nice if they developed that well.

The music is quite obviously inspired by Breath of the Wild with some of the music sounding like it was inspired, and some of it sounding…a little too familiar.  Overall though, I think it could possibly be good enough on its own.  The sound effects of the different characters swooshing and slicing are fun and satisfying to produce.  The menu sounds are nice as well.  

Oh, that’s something that I’m quite pleased with.  The UI and menu are pretty well done.  There’s a lot of stuff to cover, as it is a mobile-style game, but they actually present it all very clearly and I think it’s pretty concise for all the stuff it has to cover.  

So, of course we have to bring up the last two things that make any gamer worried.  The gacha system, and the energy/real life money system.  If the gacha ends up being something where cheap, powerful copies of the normal characters are a thing and only available for like, two months, that is something I am not going to be happy with.  I am pretty sure this will happen for real life events, similar to how Fire Emblem: Heroes does this.  This “you must grind or feel left out” system sucks.  It’s a little different if you are not set to have to grind within a short period of time, like just added content.  Of course, the company wants to make you play their game more, but it’s in a seriously bad way.  We’ll have to see how they handle that.

And then the energy system.  A lot of mobile games have this thing where after you use up all your energy you are either highly restricted in what you can do (efficiently) or you can’t do anything at all.  And most of the time the energy returns slowly enough that you are brought to the idea of spending money just to get your energy back.  These are both systems that are in typical mobile games, and I frown upon both.  Again, how they handle it will depend on how things go from here on out.  If it turns out to be a cash-time eating monster, then I will probably just finish the main story and then go, because otherwise I don’t think it’s worth my time.  

If it ends up being a pretty easy-going game concerning this stuff, then I will keep playing it.

Thanks for reading my thoughts on Genshin Impact.