Why I Love: Subnautica

Fear and Fun

Subnautica is sci-fi, exploration-survival at its best.  Let’s dive right into it.  Er… sorry.

Subnautica is a survival game where you crash land on an ocean planet.  The normal survival mechanics exist where you have to manage hunger and thirst.  You’ll have to manage your oxygen as you dive into the depths.  You can scan objects and creatures to learn more about them and the absolutely rich ecosystem in the game.  You can build bases to expand your exploration prowess.  Subnautica excels at providing a beautiful ocean of creatures that gives you an amazing sense of wonder.  

I’m not exactly the keenest on survival mechanics.  They tend to get really annoying at some point.  I don’t want to have to find more food to eat.  I just want to explore, and while that option is available as a way to play the game, I definitely would not recommend it.  One of the difficult things about survival games is designing how the player manages their progression.  How do we make it so food is a challenge, but not annoying?  Should we make it so tools break?  And how do we design tiered tools?  Subnautica smooths out those experiences so these things rarely are an issue.  If you’re continuously doing your gameplay loop of survival, I feel like these things don’t ever feel like much of a problem in this game, but they receive just enough attention to make it still feel like you’re surviving on an alien planet.

This brings me to the thing that I enjoy so much: you don’t really have a weapon.  Okay, you get a knife early on, but that thing is puny.  It is clear in the game that you are a guest in a foreign world.  Creature designs are beautiful, strange, and sometimes dangerous.  The world is hand-crafted, so everything has its set place and I think that was the better way to go here.  Every time I stumble on a new area my mouth is agape.  I’ve really never felt such excitement and joy from exploring a new world as I do in Subnautica.  However, this may be a bit of a bias having studied biology as a focus in school.  I love learning about the physiological properties of creatures when I scan them.  I just…I need to scan them.  I need to know more.  If biological lore is a thing for you, then you’re playing the right game.  Or maybe you just like codices.

I’m also…incredibly scared of this game.  There is a story in the game and it is a game you can finish.  I love stories in games, but it’s also frightening that, in order to progress, sometimes you have to go into huge spaces of open water.  Maybe that’s also what makes Subnautica exploration so invigorating is that while there is a sense of awe upon finding a new biome or area, there is also fear.  You are a small human in a big ocean.  Sometimes all you can see is darkness or foggy water.  The fear is so natural.  It’s not like there is going to be a person with a pyramid head or a zombie leaping at you.  It is just…water.  I admit it, there have been times I swam forward and had my eyes half closed…maybe, maybe fully closed.  But I think this fear of the unknown is done very well here and is a core part of Subnautica.

Oxygen.  I’m going to say one thing that I think is both frightening and so visceral that I really love in Subnautica.  It’s getting lost in an underwater cave.  Perhaps you’ve heard this from divers or instructors before.  In real life, underwater caves are extremely dangerous to dive in.  If you don’t have a guide or a line to keep yourself in check, even experienced divers can die from lack of oxygen.  And all these things are definitely felt in Subnautica.  I think the intense panic I’ve had knowing my oxygen was running out and being completely disoriented from the multiple dimensions of being underwater is some of the best panic I’ve felt in video games.  Frantically and desperately swimming around hoping that I remembered things right.  It’s a rush.  I know I’ve run out of oxygen before in video games, but I think it’s the whole mise en scène and maybe claustrophobia of it all that makes it such a great underwater experience.  I mean, it is called Subnautica after all.

I hate spoilers, and definitely won’t ruin the game’s story here.  It is a good story though, and it is well worth your time, or at least I like it.  But like most things as games, it has to hold up well as an experience, and I don’t know if I’d play through the story if the way you move through the story wasn’t as well done.  I think in survival games, story tends to be pretty minimal.  I mean, actual survival games, I don’t mean open world games with survival elements.  Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are open world games with survival elements.  You do have to “survive”, but you can also get stronger and survival kind of gets cast to the wayside.  That first area with the plateau in Breath of the Wild is the survival part, the rest is exploration.  Mostly.  In Subnautica, you’re always just trying to survive.

I think the biggest factor of all these things is just awe.  It is a game that puts my feeling of how much I love exploring the world of video games into overdrive.  But even if this is so great, don’t go forcing yourself to like something if exploration is not your thing.  Perhaps you may find a certain aspect of it exciting enough, like creature design.  No matter how much I can praise a game on its strengths, if they’re not to your liking, it may be an unnecessary playthrough.  While I won’t deny those strengths are there, I would like to remind everyone that your opinions on what games to play are always valid.  Just remember that there may also be a new thing to love if you’re willing to give it a go.

Subnautica is a game that brings me back to childhood exploring Super Mario 64’s levels again.  And for a game that is good enough for making me want to keep playing even though I’m so scared of open water, it is #29 on the ULTRA.

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you again!
Elise

Note: If you’re feeling woozy because of being in the water and going around disorienting caves, try adjusting things like motion blur (…if the game has them I don’t remember because I always go straight to options to turn this off) and the field of view.  If you feel like puking, adjusting the field of view almost always seems to do the trick.

Slave to the Game

Deadly Dailies

I find it very interesting that the format that most mobile games use is that you have to come back every day.  They usually also give you a daily thing to do as well, to keep you there so that you’ll hopefully spend money on stuff that you want.  Now, you likely already know that I am one of those people that like to spend money on random stuff I want in a game.  So…this isn’t great.


It’s different when something is subscription based, and that’s all there is to it.  Ultimately, if I cannot play for the day, that is fine.  Sure, I didn’t use that one day I paid for a subscription, but I’m not going to tear myself apart for it.  There are also weekly dungeons and stuff in games like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, or Final Fantasy XIV.  But again, less pressure because it’s a weekly thing.  

Games that are free like Genshin Impact or Hearthstone have dailies that they give you.  And while Hearthstone’s piles up to three at a time, Genshin’s dailies are extremely important.  I’ve actually decided to stop playing Genshin, which is a huge thing for me, because it has a strong cultural impact and I want to support Chinese games.  They deserve better love.  But all these games that want daily things done for them are starting to eat into my time.  By the time I have finished all the dailies for my games, I have no free time left.  That’s just it.  There’s no more of the day left after I get back from work, and it’s really cutting into my single player gaming time.

Not to mention the stress of it all.  Knowing that primogems from the dailies in Genshin were my only access to getting more characters, going in every day was a must.  Guild Wars 2 gives you two pieces of gold and achievement points, of which the latter is harder to come by.  However, both of those are still not a huge deal.  They’re important, but I’m not kicking myself for missing a day or three.  I think part of the stress of Genshin was that I started on Day 1 and I didn’t want to lose that streak.  

And now that I’ve stopped…it’s been extremely relieving.  This actually happened with Fire Emblem Heroes as well.  I don’t regret any of my time in both games.  I enjoyed them a lot, especially Genshin Impact.  But I can’t keep up with the time I have left in my day.  I spread myself thin trying to go to work, practice art, keep up with entertainment media, and do chores.  I usually paraphrase the line from Bill Watterson: “There’s not enough time to do all the nothing in the world.”  

I get myself so worked up about getting skins in games where I don’t play with people.  I usually play solo, even in multiplayer games.  I think for me it’s more of a “dress up” thing than it is presenting myself to people.  This means I still care about doing the time-limited stuff.  It still eats at me now, that I’m missing out on stuff in Genshin Impact and I have to push myself out of that mindset.  I guess the feeling of missing out is very real.  Worse even, Genshin Impact’s events also include lore and story elements, so if you miss out on that, you’ll never get to play that story.

However, I just can’t commit to this sort of binding anymore (says the person who plays Final Fantasy XIV).  I think it really started eating at me when I was looking at my subscriptions for streaming services and realizing how unsustainable it was getting.  I’m not “financially successful”, so I probably shouldn’t be writing about video games or something.  I’m starting to cut down on streaming services and other subscriptions because I can’t afford it anymore.  It goes both ways.  In a way, subscriptions really aren’t that much money.  Like, an hour’s worth of work, but many subscriptions start piling quick.  Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Discovery+, HBOMax, Humble Bundle, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, and so many other possibilities almost without notice.  It ends up becoming several days worth of work.  I don’t have all those, thank goodness, but look how fast it happens.  And don’t forget the subscription to life, like food and other monthly paid services.  Even if some streaming services are shared in a group it still is so much money in the long run.

It really is that feeling that I might not have the means to play catch up and be with the crowd, but I also would like to not be homeless.  Also, ironically, all this talk about subscription and demanded time makes me realize mobile games really should not be isolated for this.  Many games are like this and we should stop stigmatizing that only to mobile/free-to-play games.  I always mention how we should be healthy about our approach to video games and life, and yet here I was slaving away my time.  I’m glad I noticed, because the stress relief has been very helpful during a stressful time outside of video gaming.  Playing what I want to play has been so cathartic, and it makes me wonder what other underlying stress comes from me restricting myself.


I feel like all this focus on fomo really diverts people’s gaming away from fun.  Fun almost always requires that you’re not worried about time and meta-efficiency.  Until time begins its stretch into the eternities, we mortals have to make sure that we’re not burying ourselves in the chains that we believed bound us to our passions.  

Stay safe out there, I’ll see you next time!
Elise

I Didn’t Know What I Was Doing

Reminiscing on the Misunderstood

Sometimes after I’ve played a game for a while, I will look back at places that seemed new, or concepts that I didn’t quite understand and feel nostalgia.  I mean, the game has to be at least a couple hours long or something, but the mind space where everything looks and feels different brings nostalgia.  These cases especially so when I think about games that I played in my childhood and teens.  There were so many times when, looking back, the ideas I had were so ridiculous.


I remember playing SimCity 3000 Unlimited, and trying to build a city.  My young mind absolutely did not comprehend the logistics behind good city planning.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I was having a ton of fun.  I mean, there were always the pre-made cities that you can purposely destroy using the disasters.  I admit I did have fun with that.  But I really like the moments where I was still struggling to understand not just games, but systems in general.  I didn’t understand commercial and residential zones!  Why were people abandoning their homes!?  I built too little power plants, and now I built too many?  

If I remember correctly, there was a point where a neighboring city wanted to buy the extra electricity and I was like, “Yeah, that sounds great!”  I then proceeded to zone a ton of lots and they were like, “This isn’t working out.”  And I was so confused and did not realize all those lots were using that supposed extra electricity I had.  I mean, this is basic stuff, right?  But I was still growing and understanding how things connect and work.  I think this kind of slow, personal learning of systems is one of the longer, persistent barriers to newer players.  However, when we’re young we have the time, and by the time we’re older we have that experience.  It’s like when you start a new hobby any time after high school or college, everything feels slow and miserable because you’ve had zero experience here.  It’s that beginning growth we have to get over (and trying to find time to practice because later in life time is very lacking).

Two other games where I didn’t get it yet were Age of Empires and Starcraft.  Misunderstanding resources and how to manage them (I never learned until much later).  In Starcraft, believing that the pylons warped in units (which they do in Starcraft II).  I was going to go on more about these two other games, but I realized they’re both real time strategy games.  In fact, SimCity is kind of a real time strategy game as well!  Let me think of something that has had similar experiences that aren’t RTS games…


There’s a bit of that in the old point and click adventure games.  I feel like these classic adventures are making a bit of a comeback, but some of the old ones have some major barriers to newcomers.  I remember playing Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and I could not for the life of my young mind understand some of the logistics.  I didn’t understand the systems of point and click games.  I didn’t understand showing objects to NPCs, asking about information, or knowing what things look likely clickable (or to click on less obvious clickable things).

In other point and click games I didn’t understand, as Sean “Day[9]” Plott calls it, “moon logic.”  Some crazy, “unfathomable to the normal person” logic as to why that NPC needed a dog bowl.  Or why, for some strange reason, that person needed bird seed, but the game somehow connects that to your objective and hey, somehow that bird seed gave you the casino coin you needed to get into the building.  Every long once in a while, I do play point and click games.  There are few genres I refrain from.  I think people might think of them as old school.  Perhaps they’re not for everyone, but I still think people should try the genre if they haven’t yet.  Sometimes it makes me feel smart, especially compared to young Elise who had no idea what the world she was doing sometimes.


I suppose other genres are a lot more intuitive so this kind of misunderstanding is less of a thing, but huge RPGs like Guild Wars 2 or Genshin Impact still have that feeling.  Still trying to understand how specializations for your classes worked in Guild Wars or not knowing how to manage daily resin properly in Genshin Impact.  I think some people, especially in games that entice you in for daily play or mobile games, are afraid of not being efficient enough in the beginning and just going in like a train. Full force and full efficiency.  But I like the feeling of going in blind and wandering around like a child, full of wonder and excitement.

I will always have that feeling of nostalgia in games because I usually go in blind.  I trust the track record that I love almost every game I play and let this experience be a thing.  

I’m not afraid to go in blind, because I love the sense of wonder.  I feel like we have the most fun when we’re not thinking about being productive.  We’re not thinking about having to know everything.  I mean, according to the supposed spoilers research, people do like knowing things beforehand, so I could be totally wrong.  

But that’s just the thing, I feel happy that I didn’t know what I was doing back then, or whenever I start a new game.  I love the chaos and the unknown.  I think it is because I enjoy that feeling of discovery that I’m okay with being bad at things (…sometimes).  That isn’t to say we’re to go about making gaming difficult for ourselves or anything.  I mean, obviously sometimes it doesn’t feel great in the moment, but in the end I’m grateful for all the ups and downs.

That’s life, though.  Maybe all this thinking is making me be more grateful for all the life I’ve had so far: the good and the bad.  I’m grateful for both.  I’ll just keep learning and growing. I just didn’t know what I was doing, and, every once in a while, I can say I know now.  And I’m okay with that.  

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

Elise

The One Note NPCs

Love the passions

This is for those NPCs in video games that have great designs, but they’re pretty one note.  I’m talking about the NPCs who are so focused on a single goal in their life.  Their character designs are usually fantastic and when you meet them you feel like you can immediately get what they’re like.  The eccentric bug collector that will buy all your bugs or take them for upgrades.  The man that is so fascinated by this very, very specific kind of rock that will give you a bunch of cash for them.  And those rocks just happen to be in places of great achievement.  

I know that these characters are frequently just filling in the niche roles of some side quests or collectibles, but there is so much darn character in them and I love them.  We’re always pushing for more interesting and complex characters, but the passion in someone so one note in these games, which are usually RPGs, is so charming.  I can’t get over how happy I am for this person when I finally find that golden beetle or whatever it is they’re collecting.

Maybe they’re someone fascinated by flowering vines, and it turns out flowering vines indicate secret climbable areas.  If it weren’t for this person saying, “Oh, look at that one.  That flower is purple.  Ooh!  This one is pink!  Oh, I just love flowering vines.  Don’t you?” we never would’ve guessed!  Okay, maybe we might’ve guessed, but it’s a cute way to point out things.  I admit sometimes these people can be a bit annoying, like the guy in Pokemon who just wants to teach you how to catch a Pokemon.  I get that that is an important aspect of the game, sir, but I do want to move on with the game.  But still, his passion is noted, and I’m glad he just wants to share it.

I guess that’s a good sign of someone who is very passionate about things: they want to share their knowledge and their experiences.   It’s the reason why we don’t talk about certain things in games, because we want people to experience the same shock and awe that we went through not knowing a plot twist or something.  

If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you’re passionate about games.  That’s great!  However, it is also quite likely there is something else outside of games that you’re super into as well.  Maybe the people in these worlds do have other things they’re chasing after but we just don’t know it in the context of the game.  Luckily for us, we can always have many passions.  It’s still great if games are your only passion!  Don’t let me stop you there!  

I get excited with people just starting to get into video games, but fully committing to them.  Sometimes they struggle with the disparity between the controller and their character.  Maybe they’re getting used to understanding game system intuition.  But they still push on through, and it makes me so happy to see them develop a new love for something.  Their growth is just as important as mine no matter how long I’ve developed mine.  

Wait a minute, maybe in your world, I am the NPC who is just really passionate about video games.  Well, I suppose then that you’re part of the community and I’m one of many video game loving NPCs.  Don’t let other people push you away from what you love.  If what you love is starting to get unhealthy because you’re staying up until four in the morning to play, okay, maybe slow it down a little.  Don’t let your dreams be thrown away by someone who doesn’t own them.  A small insight from someone who has let that happen, it is debilitating and humiliating.  It really cut into how I felt about my self esteem and self worth.  Let’s be frank, the video game community can be choking to the individual.  They can easily smother what they hype up.  It has taken me years and years to repair the damage, and I’m still working on it today.

Oppositely, that is why I love those NPCs.  They are unabashedly showing off that they love this thing.  They’re (usually) not interrupting anyone else’s lives, but they definitely want to talk about their excitement for something.  They’re free.  

Too many times I regret falling to that choking idea that what I love to do isn’t good enough for someone else.  Or even that I’m not “hardcore” enough to have a passion to belong to a community or something. 

And that simply isn’t true.  I hope none of us ever has to feel embarrassed about what we love.  

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you again.

Elise


The Open World Crab

A lateral journey

I really don’t like the idea that open world design is an evolution of gaming.  I think it’s progressive in the fact that our technology can now handle it, and that we can create such things, but a game going from linear or another design to open world is not necessarily an evolution.  I think it’s a lateral change.

Like most things in design, from art to games, changing the rulesets always have consequences.  You can’t change the variables in your style and design without consequence, no matter how abstract you make it seem.  In abstraction you willingly remove authorial interpretation and put it up for the consumer.  I’ve probably said this a million times, and I will say again, I believe authorial intent to be important.  The mistake is always believing it to be the most important.  How important authorial intent is depends on the context of who made it and who is consuming it.  

Open world styles will give up some paths for others.  It’s difficult in a linear game to have the Red Dead Redemption moments that are the source of much hilarity or amazing feats.  You won’t get that in DOOM, but you won’t get the level designs in Red Dead unless you’re playing a mission or something.  Open world isn’t so much an evolution as it is a choice in design.  It could be that a game’s style better matches the open world setting, and even then we sacrifice much.  

One of the things that tends to be commonly sacrificed is story.  To have a story work well in an open world means spreading content.  You give up pacing if the player is allowed to go on a 20 hour journey into those mountains on the map.  Subnautica would be very unfortunate as a linear game, but there is a story in there and the writers are restricted to building it in a way that allows it to be approached in any way and timing the player chooses.  You can indeed choose to go view that beacon that popped up on your HUD, or you can spend more time harvesting that copper.  

You give up development time for the advanced writing you’re going to have to make if the player wants to get creative with their progress.  As I previously wrote in an article, most open world games have custom characters, and that means sacrificing some story telling developments of your choice.  Sacrificing these things are not necessarily bad things, but they’re exactly that: sacrifices.

An unfortunate example of not sacrificing things just to fit your bill is Far Cry 5. The game is a fun open world sandbox, but too many things are squished in just to try and be the open world sand box game. They want a story, but they don’t want it on the terms of an open world. You are constantly interrupted by the story and the open world feels staggered because of it. You are restricted in some points in the story, and then it openly mocks how bad your “choices” were when you couldn’t really make choices at all. The whole time I was just kind of thinking, “Well, I was just trying to wander around and do stuff.” I felt pushed to the point where the story was an annoyance and felt unworthy of my time. Far Cry 5 could have been good if it was story based shooter or the open world jaunt, but it chose both, and it did not work. Can you implement a story into an open world well? Yes, you can, but you have to play within the consequences of your designs. Otherwise your designs will end up competing with each other.


The linear world is easier to control.  As a designer you can set the stage, and you can arrange the scenes.  What do you want the player to see?  What do you want the player to feel?  You can get some of these things in the open world.  How far along the spectrum of the two extremes do you want to pull it?  

I think the other difficult thing is changing development mindset when designing open world games.  I don’t think The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is some sort of evolution.  It’s just an open world with a lot of design implementations in it.  They made sure climbing, running, and gliding felt good.  And yet, those are not things that need to be in an open world game.  They took into account how locations looked at different angles as players were approaching them.  Hills, mountains, trees and all geography was taken into account.  Where they hid treasure and secrets were considered in the design of the landscape.  These are all things that you also consider in more linear games.  It all goes back to design, and how well you implement it.

You can always create a systemic game and plop large swathes of land and say it’s an open world game, and you will get those open world moments naturally, but designing the world to also be a huge, explorable set piece is what sets Breath of the Wild apart from other games.  Red Dead Redemption 2 leans towards the large swathes of land with random events, but that’s the whole feel of Red Dead.  It is a large, untamed land full of animals, mystery, and highwaymen.  There is a balance between what is handcrafted and what is meant to be accidentally encountered.  You can say they handcrafted what wouldn’t be handcrafted.  What you intend to do with your open world can be a guidepost to how you want it to be designed. 

There are a fair amount of games where it’s just a content dump.  You can feel some of that in the Assassin’s Creed series, especially in the earlier games.  Dynasty Warriors 9 takes the franchise and sets it in the open world, but it really doesn’t adapt the series well to the new design.  What you do and what your guidepost is, which is usually some sort of franchise core concept, is what can really hold your game design together.  


There is nothing wrong with having open world design.  There is nothing wrong with having linear design.  The only thing wrong is not having good design.

Thanks for reading.  I hope you’re all staying safe out there.
– Elise

It’s Okay to Grind

A little bit of that

There is a parallel in gaming that always makes me think.  In a lot of RPGs, especially MMOs, we are just grinding to get that next weapon or cosmetic.  Every day, every hour, every minute, we’re moving that little progress bar forward.  Sometimes when we do this it’s that little movement that makes us feel satisfied.  I feel great that I filled that exp bar again.  I suppose in those situations it can seem a little more justified, as that skill point can make a difference in what I can do.  

Maybe we’re grinding because we are undertrained for that boss that we died from.  Maybe I just want to open another engram in Destiny.  Sometimes we’re grinding the grind, like in The Sims, where I’m just trying to earn enough money to get a new piece of furniture.  We’re literally playing a game where we grind to earn money just like in real life when we could be doing the exact same thing in real life.  The weird thing is that one of the versions is considered entertainment.

Is there something wrong with just chipping away at life to get to the next thing?  While I believe that enjoying the journey is important, what if we really just want to learn that skill or get that sound system for the home entertainment room?  I think there is a lot of good that can be found in the grind, especially if it involves community or friends.

Let me be clear, it can be a negative thing.  It’s often not a good sign if we’re grinding months away of our lives just to get that one object.  It’s probable that the satisfaction won’t last very long.  This applies to both real life and in game.  Maybe that weapon wasn’t as exciting as we thought it was going to be when we finally wield it.  I think what I’m getting at is that the best situations are when the grind and the end result are both enjoyable.  Sometimes the grind itself isn’t enjoyable.  I’m thinking about long term goals like getting to a good place in physical health, earning money only to spend it on fixing something in the house, or the grind of working at a place I don’t want to work at but I still have to to survive.  Some grinds are more valuable to me than others, and cutting some out or adding some in can greatly affect my health.  This includes games.

Some games won’t be worth my time anymore.  I stopped playing Destiny 2 because I’m a lonely person who pushes away those who try to get close to me, but also PvE as a lone person was not great.  The grind for the engrams/lootboxes got even more tedious with their newer updates.  I love cosmetics.  I like the grind to search for an item, but…who am I doing it for?  The games weave in and out of my life depending on how important those grinds feel to me.  Guild Wars 2 appears every once in a while when my small community pops in to play for a couple of weeks.  Is my daily maintenance of Genshin Impact worth it?  The gameplay is always fun, and I love the characters, so it remains.  I still play Path of Exile, but I’m running out of themed characters to make.  Will it still be worth it to me?  I guess that depends on why I’m doing it.

Some people can go for hours because they’re with friends.  Or maybe they just really want that Dragonbash stuff in Guild Wars.  I think for me, while there is some feeling of missing out at times, I grind mostly to unwind.  If I don’t have the mental strength to commit to a story, the grind is the way to go.  I am often in a bad way because of a collection of mental illnesses, but grinding is something that is alright for me during those times.  And sometimes it’s the opposite.  

I think the idea that grinding is such a bad thing is not inherent.  It all depends on how we use it.  Sometimes you need a break.  It’s okay to slow down and just chip away at something, hang out with friends, or just recharge.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Maybe design-wise grinding can be bad, but how we use it can be healthy.  It is easy to fall into bad habits of letting the grind takeover our lives because we don’t want to be doing things, but with good management I think grinding can be a refuge.  It can be a refuge from our refuge of gaming.  We just need some time to not worry. 

It is perhaps in times like these that that kind of feeling is a sanctuary to us: a place where we can rest and say, “It’s okay.”

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

Thoughts on Summer Game Fest Part 2

Alright.

I’m only going to talk about the stuff that excited me, which is a lot.

Redfall
Redfall excites me because it is Arkane and I love Arkane.  I know it’s kind of different because it’s Arkane Austin, but hey, we might be getting something good here.  However, I don’t…like the way the game was demoed.  It didn’t…feel very good.  For a game that’s a co-op, class based shooter it felt very tame, and not in a good way.  I’ll have to see it when it gets closer to the release date and people are playing to show it off at as a presentation.

Hollow Knight Silksong

Yeah, we’ve been waiting for this forever, and I didn’t even watch this trailer because at this point I’m just going to wait for the game to come out to experience any of it.  Still excited though.

High on Life

I was not expecting this one at all, but it looks so unique I am actually interested in it.  The dialogue and voice acting might…turn me off though.  

Forza Motorsport (2023)

This looks GOOD.  But I don’t know how progression is going to work.  I like Gran Turismo 7’s progression a ton and most of Forza’s progressions are not…like that.  But everything looks beautiful and I still want to try it.  Unfortunately, that also means having to work with Microsoft’s super high prices for their games.

Overwatch 2

I quit Overwatch a long time ago.  I still grab loot boxes every so often when they’re handing them out, since cosmetics should carry over.  I just don’t handle PvP very well.  Less of a problem if I’m actually good, but more of a problem if the community isn’t great.  …I think you can surmise which of the problems Overwatch has.  But Overwatch 2 has me interested and I will probably play it until PvE comes out and then never return to PvP.

Scorn

It’s finally going to be here!  Will I be brave enough to play it?  Maybe…

These are all games that I’m interested in, but I don’t have much to say about them:

  • Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn
  • Minecraft Legends
  • Lightyear Frontier
  • The Last Case of Benedict Fox
  • As Dusk Falls
  • Pentiment
  • Cocoon
  • Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Starfield

I admit that Starfield is looking super interesting to me.  This is especially so when I just finished Fallout 4Starfield looks like everything I ever wanted in a space RPG.  The mechanics are familiar but also different.  I’m so excited for this game.  Some people are worried the planets will be empty, but I want empty Mass Effect 1 like planets.  I love that feeling.  PCGamer wrote an article about empty planets and also referenced Mass Effect 1.  When I read that I laughed and cheered out loud.  That person knows exactly how I feel.

There’s something about that realistic weirdness of stumbling upon something that feels like “it had to happen to” be there instead of “everything designed to make you happy” be there.  The only thing I’m worried about is taking care of people in a base or a crew or something.  I hate managing people.  I’ve mentioned this previously, I always adventure alone if I can.  I’ll always tell off AI.  It’s rare that I find an AI I like enough that it doesn’t bother me.

UPDATE: Wait, wait! I forgot something. The System Shock remake. Oh, that looks so good!


Most of everything from the second half was this Microsoft conference, which I think went very well.  Capcom showed off a few more things, but stuff that was so far ahead of my obligations I wasn’t as excited.  And Nintendo showed off Xenoblade Chronicles 3, and that’s…just too much.  Unless I was lazy and just wanted a PC release of all of the Xeno series.  Yes, actually that’s just what I want and I’m stubborn.

I’ll get back to normal writing and less of this short stuff now that this is all over.  I feel like these past few weeks have been hectic, and having Summer Game Fest here is both a boon and a curse.  Good because I have something to write about, but curse because it still feels like I have a ton of work to do at the same time.

So, all in all, what games are you most excited for from all these presentations?

Can’t wait to see what Nintendo actually has in store for us.  As always, be safe, and happy gaming!

Elise

Thoughts on Summer Game Fest Part I

Summer Time Lovin’

This is just going to be a bit of rambles on my thoughts of, as the title implies, Summer Game Fest so far.  These are just selected things out of the huge group of games, so don’t expect all of them.

The Callisto Protocol

I admit I’ve never finished Dead Space…1.  I got about half way through it and it was really good.  I’m not good with horror games, but there are certain horror games that don’t scare me.  I don’t know why, because I am really easily scared.  Dead Space is one of them.  That being the case I was able to play some of it and I really, really like it.  This game captures that same feeling again.  I’m just worried about Dead Space (2023), because now it’s going to have to compete with a game that’s really meant to be almost the same.  It’s not even like, two competing games in the same genre.  It’s Dead Space and Dead Space: The Callisto Protocol.   Even more so now that the latter is no longer involved with PUBG.

I will likely be playing both anyway.

Final Fantasy XVI

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but I have a fixation on completing games in release date order.  …and this is XVI.  I still have a ways to go.  However, I’m still really excited about this.

Resident Evil 4 (2023)

Another horror game that I was actually scared of (which is dumb, because I feel like Dead Space is technically scarier than RE4), that I somehow played through.  Resident Evil 4 is my favorite game in my small pool of horror games.  So I definitely am ready for this one.  I’m excited for expanded story elements.  And Ashley, who I still feel like is one of those characters that you have to save that doesn’t feel like a derp AI.  I know she frequently calls Leon for help, but for some reason to me, she still felt kind of independent in her preemptive actions.  Maybe it was just a coincidence for me, but the AI performed well.  She showed that she was still scared (who wouldn’t be?), but that she could still do things even if she was.  I like the co-existence.

Wait, this is about the Remake.  Yes. I’m ready.  Sorry. I rambled.

Spider-Man for PC.

Yes.

Modern Warfare II, not to be confused with Modern Warfare 2

…look.  I’m a campaign gal.  And frankly I’m quite tired of the reused-ness of Call of Duty.  It’s not that there was a lack of effort in the making of the game, but that reusing old stuff that isn’t even that old is just…it doesn’t look great.  It feels like money-making.  The reason why I like indie games and Nintendo is that they take risks.  Nintendo has had some major flops, but I really feel like they learn from them.  Unless you’re the Online/Virtual gaming side of Nintendo.  I don’t know what’s going on there.

I like weird attempts like Call of Duty: Ghosts and even things like Call of Duty: Vanguard.  I liked it when they went a different route back then with Black Ops.   I mean, Battlefield took a bunch of weird turns and look at their multiplayer fanbase.  It is torn to shreds. But I still like that they keep going in unique directions.  Man, I guess what I’m saying is all that weird stuff they were going off the rails with in Advanced Warfare and stuff, that was great.  Even if it wasn’t…great for multiplayer.  It was great for the campaign.  Well, I guess I just proved their point then, huh?  It has to be Modern Warfare II if they want the money from multiplayer and Warzone.  Okay.  Fine, Activision, be that way.  Hmph.

Aliens: Dark Descent

I like games like Alien Swarm, but…this game looks a little wonky.  That, like, five seconds of gameplay at the end looked kinda weird.  But, we’ll have to see when it’s done.  I love co-op, but finding people to play with is difficult, especially because I am super picky, and I’d rather people not have to deal with me and vice versa.

Stormgate

I love Starcraft.  And I’m really hoping this can scratch that itch.  I mean, not that Starcraft 1 or 2 are anywhere near dead.  Well, maybe SC2.  Thanks for abandoning co-op, you sickos.  Anyway, maybe this will be good?  I have no idea.  I need to see in game stuff for this to really try and dig into the wallet.

Honkai: Star Rail

…I will probably play this?  I think I know, I mean, er, yes but it’s all wrong.  I still play Genshin Impact, and, oh no, there’s also Zenless Zone Zero.  Mihoyo is trying to eat up all my time.  But I do still want to play both.  There aren’t enough games that are originally in Chinese that I can play.  I mean, some people say that it’s originally Japanese.  In that, that is, I think I disagree, but it’s nothing to get hung about unless people get colonist about it.  (Which is almost every single time.)

Warhammer: Darktide

Well, if you read my previous article, you know that I am so ready for this.

The Last of Us: Part I on PC

Yes.

Animal Well and A Little to the Left

These two indie games are the ones that I’m really interested in.  I love the weird liminal feeling of A Little to the Left and Animal Well brings me back to old, creative indie platforming days.

There are other games that I am also interested in, but I have no interesting thoughts on them other than that I am interested in them.

This has been a pretty mellow summer game time, but I’m still pretty hyped for stuff.  
Thanks for letting me ramble. 
But also…what games are you getting hyped for from Summer Game Fest so far?!    

Elise

Cheers if you noticed The Beatles.

Why I Love: Warhammer: Vermintide 2

Rat rat rat rat rat rat rat

I’ll admit that I don’t know that much about Warhammer.  But I was craving co-op games and stumbled upon Warhammer Endtimes: Vermintide.  I got a close friend to play it with me, and then we got another person.  So there were three of us just playing this random weird game about killing rats in a cool fantasy setting.  It was good.  It was fun.  Still didn’t really get it, but whatever.

Then Vermintide 2 came out and then…for some reason we just got really hooked.  Actually, that’s not true.   There are good reasons why, and that’s the whole point of this article.  Sorry for being misleading there.

When making a game, you have to make sure it is fun at its core.  Unless you’re going for something artsy, you better have something truly enjoyable at the center of it all.  You need to make the game feel good to move and to do the actions you perform the most.  Mario’s jumping needs to feel good.  Celeste’s movement needs to feel right.  Miyamoto spent an hour just climbing trees during the prototype for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  The prototypes for Splatoon were just blocks of tofu shooting color at each other.  These are all Nintendo games and I am both sorry and not sorry for that.

So long as we can convey the game design using the prototype, most of the time the graphics can just be blocks.  It needs to be fun at its core.  So, what is Vermintide’s core?  First-person melee combat.  I know there are ranged weapons, and those are great too, but the melee combat is where it is at in this game.  

Each weapon type plays differently and they each have different sets of swings, chops, and stabs.  It’s fun mastering each one’s style and how to fight in frenetic combat.  When the game calls itself (well, it was called Endtimes, but I think it’s just called Vermintide now) Endtimes, it is not kidding.  There are tons and tons of rats and northlanders that are running at you.  Chopping with your axe and cutting through an enemy and then feeling your weapon get caught in the shoulder of the next is amazing.  Smacking a chunky chaos warrior and feeling your weapon get stuck in the armor.  Or swinging really wide with a sweeping weapon like a hammer and just smashing through four or more enemies at once.  These things are all part of the intense combat.  

But it’s not just slicing and dicing, just like its ancestor Left 4 Dead there are special enemies that fit really well because of their Warhammer background.  Aforementioned chaos warriors, assassin rats, ratling gunners, and more will keep you on your toes and force your team to work together. Bosses such as rat ogres will smash your party apart if you don’t work together and keep your wits about you.  

I’m not a person that really likes hyper violence.  Which is ironic because this game is exactly that.  And I do love the combat.  I feel like it’s the juxtaposition of us having to fight for our lives when the world is ending kind of situation that makes it not as disturbing to me.  I still feel bad about killing enemies sometimes.  Even chaos warriors.  Especially slave rats.  Especially when they burn to death.  Man, even blightstormers, which cast huge areas of effect storms that are annoying, I sometimes feel bad about killing.  Granted these people are pretty corrupt, but still…

The tension and relief design really feels like an epic fantasy adventure.  I feel like I’m in a war in the Lord of the Rings universe or something.  I don’t know of any game that does it better or comes close. Maybe Deep Rock Galactic.  But I think it’s the high amount of well designed, melee combat that really makes it great.  

While that’s all good, what makes the icing on the cake for Vermintide is how much the developers really care about their project.  Vermintide was a buggy game.  I’m not saying that it’s okay to release buggy games, but it says a lot when developers spend a lot of time actually fixing the bugs that plague their games.  There is constant progress on them fixing things, and you can actually feel the difference.  The disparity between the attitude of developers is sad.  I suppose it helps if the development studio is smaller.  It feels less like a boss saying, “Just deal with it.” and more like a friend that says, “I’m working on it.”  They feel so human.  And that’s good, both that they try and they’re clear they are doing so because they love their game, not just because people are complaining.  It means that when people aren’t complaining, they will continue to improve, and that is what really separates developers.

And that also leads me to the way they handle characters.  You can tell they love their characters.  Each character is so loveable and the way they interact with each other is entertaining.  Even now, after having played over 500 hours of the game, I’m not tired of any of the character’s lines.  I feel like they’re always adding new lines as well.  It’s something that I noticed the Path of Exile developers do.  It’s not always about adding giant blocks of content or fixing bugs.  Sometimes it’s about going back to old stuff and improving on it.  Without prompt from the players or anything.  It’s like going to an old painting and improving upon it.  It shows they really care about it.  Or they have extra time, heh.  But even then that means they’re still thinking in their extra time, what else can I do?  

Vermintide is one of the few games where I’ve played up to the hardest (non-modded) difficulty.  I love Cataclysm difficulty because it’s so intense.  You have to perform your best.  I believe I mentioned this before when I was talking about playing to just focus on something.  It really brings me out of other mindsets and just lets me focus.  If I want to just not think about depressing things I can just hop on cataclysm with my friends.  

Which reminds me of one last thing.  This was added later in the game but the Chaos Wastes update added a roguelite campaign and that has just extended the life of the game by such a huge amount of time I really feel like the game could be endless at this point.  And I don’t mind that at all.  It’s one of those games where if they kept updating it for the next ten years I’d definitely be playing it for the next ten years.  

I didn’t say anything about the classes or the talents.  I like those too, but what I really love about Vermintide is how it mastered the core gameplay of intense co-op combat and how fun and loved the game is by the developers.  I love the characters so much and I will never not enjoy this game.  It’s that thing where I love games, I love when other people enjoy games, I love teaching people to play and enjoy games, and I love when people enjoy making games.  

And there are all these elements about that in this game.  However, there is one…caveat.  And that is that this is a co-op game, and people can make or break the experience.  I am very fortunate to have a group of three to play with (which is rarely the case in other games for me),  and they’re a great joy to play with.  I hope that if you try this game you have some friends or siblings or someone close to play with, because it’s so much better like that.  Maybe the game only feels so good because I have a good group.  That’s very possible.  I apologize if it doesn’t end up as fun as I’ve written due to social factors.

I still think that the game design and character designs are great.  And I still stand by it by putting Warhammer: Vermintide II: (Chaos Wastes) at #33 on the ULTRA.  Huh, I think that’s one of the highest ranking games I’ve written a Why I Love on the ULTRA.  I think I write less on the higher ranked games because it tends to be more sentimental, but I’m sure I will write about them eventually.
Thanks for reading, and I really hope you enjoy the Skulls event stuff going on today!  Be safe!  And happy gaming!

Elise

Gaming Identity

Master of None

I’m usually trying to find a set arc of things to write about in every article, but this is also a personal “blog”, if I can call it that.  A lot of things here are based off of personal experience and opinions, but at the same time I want it to be worth reading and fun to read.

Sometimes I lament my lack of skill level in video games.  Granted, I think I am better than a casual player.  I think I am a little bit better than the average?  And yet, place anyone who has even the slightest bit more focus on a game or type of game that they like and I can assure you they will be better than me.  As I got older in high school I thought a lot about what makes my pride and identity as a video gamer important to me. The more I think about this, the more I realize there are certain things I want to be  part of me as a gamer, and some that I really don’t care about.

Socially, I used to be upset that I wasn’t as good as other gamers, but personally, why did that matter?  The joy people get from their competitive spirit is nothing bad, but to define myself and my value through someone else’s lens just wasn’t working out for me.  I think there are three main things I tend to focus and work on as a video gamer.


I value the history, diversity, and humanity in video games.  This is one of the driving forces behind me playing games that are perhaps more mediocre than others.  I want to see what makes games that aren’t the best still likable.  I want to see a development team improve over time.  I want to see the struggles of trying to make good game design decisions.  I love the stories of Iwata Satoru as he grew Nintendo, or the struggle of Eric Barone as he created Stardew Valley.  All of this included, I think I value my versatility and diversity in the games I play.

In terms of piracy, I am always on the front of anti-piracy, not for the sake of capitalism, but for the sake of morality and humanity.  Which is also why if it takes piracy to preserve history, I don’t necessarily discourage that side.  I think it is the moral responsibility for developers to preserve their games and the games’ history, and if they do not it may be up to the players.  This is the history side of my values.

Games that show humanity in their storylines and the poking at our lives to become better people are also very enjoyable.  Games don’t have to be deep to be good, but some games can be good because they are deep.  Undertale and some of the quests in Genshin Impact that really push what it means to be human and how we can improve are so valuable to me.  My siblings and I often poke at anime because they tend to hit the hardest notes in what makes us human.  I love the struggle between the self and what is right in Path of Exile’s implied lore.  “We see ourselves reflected in those facets, twisted beyond recognition.”  It remarks how people do not become mad in a single moment, but it is almost always a string of events unnoticed by those outside the mind.  And sometimes how certain things in their simplicity are what makes them impact how we feel and think, like in Alan Wake. I wrote an article about that.

I value the spread of knowledge that is good.  The only thing in the media industry I enjoy more than consuming is teaching about it.  I love talking about game design and helping new gamers find their place in the field.  I want them to discover what games really drive them to play.  Few things are as enjoyable as seeing a new gamer find out that they really love in a series or seeing their skill levels improve as they put in their efforts to be better at a game.  

I love seeing games as a diving board to raise interest in things.  I love studying, so learning new skills like lockpicking because of its universality in video games has been great.  Although, I’m still not as good as I’d like to be, trust me.  Learning about how politics and misuse affect the everyday lives of people in Deus Ex and relating that to real life.  Or other pokes like racism and refugee crises in Guild Wars 2.  To learn and see from outside my mind is good knowledge from video games.  

And bringing it back around, just people learning about the lore of worlds outside our own.  That excitement, the fandoms, the burning passion of it all.  These things are good knowledge because it brings people together and we carry joy together.  Just lore of games themselves, even if not as useful in real life, that is good knowledge that I love immensely.  

I value the relationship between myself and games.  This has been kind of talked about in my Breaking the Fourth Window article.  I value how games change how I treat others in positive ways.  Understanding communication and how to better be myself around others.  Setting boundaries and respecting boundaries.  I am not a social person, so all of this is a good thing.  I value how I feel about the characters and the worlds in these games.  When people cry over a beloved character’s death, and moreover why they were close to them in the first place.  Was it because they had a friend similar to them?  Was it because we loved or hated a similar situation?  Is it trauma?  …was it because they were hot?  Okay, that last one is not really something I could personally relate to, but to each their own in their video game relationships.

I think some people categorize my relationship with the game worlds as nearly as dangerous as what some…unhealthy fandoms do with characters, but I don’t relate to them in the same way.    It is a bond to strengthen my values and ties to everything around me.  I want to be with the hurt and misunderstood in games, to “talk” with them and interact and think about how I feel.  It has helped me relate to those who have been hurt in real life.  It is not that any of these relationships in our outside video games are fake, rather it is that they all uplift each other.  And in one full circle going back to my first point, it helps me become more human.


Is this all a bit cheese?  Maybe.  Does it feel a bit preachy?  Kinda.  But all in all, it’s what I pride myself in playing video games to be.  I think a lot of the reasons I play are for uplifting me and those around me.  I want to help people be more human, or even just have good fun.  Sorry if these rather personal posts are not as exciting as my other posts, but I just hope that we all have positive growth in ourselves by playing video games.  I want to prove that there is so much more to video games than just violently shooting at demons.    …although, that is fun too.

Stay safe, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Elise