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Tycho / on Fri, Jul 29 2011 at 12:00 am

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The nasty bit about Summer of Arcade is its density; I’m in no way finished with Bastion, and now they want me to play Lord for some nomadic dudesmen.  They aren’t finished with their claims on my time, either, with stuff from Signal Studios waiting in the wings and Robot Entertainment’s Orcs Must Die(!) outside the blast radius of the promotion yet still colonizing my forebrain.  I understand being able to purchase them all, like they want you to, but play them?  Who can do this?  Goro?

I don’t think that absolutely every game has to be co-operative, but it would help; as I am absolutely certain I’ve told you before, having to decide between being social and being solitary creates psychological jitter.  That is to say, I wobble; I become a creature of superposition, and I never really coalesce.  I’m as likely to watch Farscape reruns or edgy Korean thrillers a I am to play a game at that point.  But I will sometimes stop playing a game because I would enjoy it more cooperatively, that is to say, I would enjoy it more as a game which does not exist.

I went over and grabbed the demo of From Dust immediately upon watching Stephen Totilo’s (alternately, “Schtroumph Tingaling’s”) tasteful and understated video, and you’ll understand why I felt this way almost immediately.  He has to speed the video up several times while he scoops up this or that and deposits it, but he didn’t or couldn’t get enough of whatever it was, so he has to go back and do it again, only there’s no fast forwarding when you play the game.  As someone who spends a lot of time in literal sandboxes, the metaphor as we apply it to genre invariably omits this truth: an actual sandbox very, very rarely has a solitary participant.

There’s no jitter in a game like Dragon Age or The Witcher, as they’re games which are about how the universe shifts around personalities.  There’s no disconnect.  Here, not only would collaborative play make the game substantially less OCD, it also slots perfectly well into the notion of a multipartite deity.  It sells the core conceit.

Can we honestly claim to be surprised anymore when a game goes free to play?  I was just talking about Heroes of Newerth as a business model with a friend of mine yesterday, describing it as busted, even though the word is more prickly than is strictly necessary.  It might be better to say that it is (was!) “leaky” or “inefficient.”  He wasn’t wrong that HoN is a better deal, in that you once paid a set price and essentially got a lifetime subscription to new characters.  The problem, and this keeps coming up, is that you can’t have a “deal” on something you don’t want, and you don’t necessarily know if you want it without playing it.  I know many, many people who play League of Legends over HoN for no reason other than one has a cover charge and the other one doesn’t.  No aesthetic concerns (the game is beautiful), no anxieties about playstyle (they wouldn’t know), it has a nice tutorial, and it even runs on Macs - the only thing keeping them at bay was naked fact of a non-zero cost for participation.  They’ll be downloading it today, if they aren’t already.  All of them, down to the last man.

(CW)TB out.

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