Category Archives: Blog

Farlands Newsletter – 12.05.2017

Next Video
So in my last newsletter I’ve mentioned working on the next video on the topic of Ocarina of Time and its reputation in the gaming community. This particular video is kinda on a backburner now. I wasn’t too happy with the result and couldn’t get it quite right. Focusing just on Zelda felt like I was bashing it, which wasn’t what I wanted to do, and as I tried to fix it the video started transforming into a much broader topic regarding the iterative nature of games and time span of their relevancy. Which I think is an important topic, but also one that I need to give more thought to, so for now it’s in the backlog. I’m thinking to work on a video on the topic of characterization through mechanics, however I don’t know if I’ll manage to release any videos until the last full week of May, because…

DevGamm
I’m travelling to Russia next week to be a speaker at DevGamm, have a talk on the topic of Cohesive Game Experience. The trip will take the most of my week, and while I am excited for it, preparing and actually travelling will take time away from the work on the videos.

Bioshock Twist
I finally got to the twist in Bioshock, and I’m very disappointed. Like, to the point that some time after it I didn’t even want to finish the game anymore. You don’t do a twist meant to comment on the futility of player agency, and frame it all in a cutscene. Without even button prompts. The moment where we need to pick up a wrench is a better commentary on the topic than what the cutscene tries to be.

Tales from the Borderlands
Tales from the Borderlands, on the other hand, I did finish, and it’s absolutely amazing. I was actually really surprised how much I cared about the characters by the end, because Borderlands as a world and characters wasn’t something I was particularly interested in before. Makes me want to play the FPS game, because I’ve played only the first one, a long time ago, and not for too long.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
I’m also continuing my adventures in trying out classics that I, for one reason or another, did not play previously. This time it’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and I gotta say I’m having quite a bit of fun with this. The game actually teaches the player its mechanics in an interesting way, and either I’m gonna dedicate a little video to it, or have it mentioned in some other video on a more general topic, we’ll see.

So this is all I have to say this week. Thanks for your time! Feel free to leave any comments below. If you’d like to keep an eye on my future blog posts, feel free to follow me on Twitter @farlander1991 🙂

And if you’d like, consider supporting my work on Patreon! Thank you very much!

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Farlands Newsletter – 05.05.2017

Welcome to the first Farlands weekly newsletter where I’ll write about what’s been happening with the project and me in general.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
So I’ve been playing quite a bit of Ocarina of Time recently. For the first time. In fact, this is my first Legend of Zelda experience ever. It’s surprising how one can play thousands of video games and still never experience some classics.

I’ve enjoyed the beginning quite a lot. The whole young Link section has some excellent world-building, as well as very cool design decisions. And the dungeons have good difficulty ramp up.

For me, however, the game started falling apart a bit in the Adult Link section. There’s a number of design decisions that lead to frustration. For example, Forest Temple has a chain of locked doors one after another, I think there’s four in total. So many locked doors in a row make exploration quite a chore, honestly.

Fire Temple is much better in that regard, however the way we get the Fire Tunic makes absolutely no sense. We need to stop a rolling goron in the Goron City with a bomb. There’s a similar situation when we play as Young Link, and if we do that we get a bomb pouch. So you don’t expect this other rolling goron so important, especially considering that it’s clear that you need to go somewhere in the Death Mountain crater anyway.

These are just some of the frustrations I’ve met, there were more, and by the time I got to the infamous Water Temple, the act of taking Iron Boots on and off really just made me quit. And it’s a shame, because I think the game is good, exemplary even in a lot of areas, but it feels like the development through the Adult Link section was either rushed or not playtested as much as the Young Link section.

Next Video
Mentioning Ocarina of Time is very relevant, as currently I am working on the script regarding its current reputation as the best game ever, and the implications of that fact. I have noticed that topics along these lines can be considered touchy among gamer population, but I hope that, with me being constructive and respectful, there’s not going to be any pointless controversy risen, but a healthy discussion.

I also would like to note that this topic came to my mind while I was still playing the Young Link section before the frustrations of the Adult Link part started adding up, so that didn’t have any effect. I would just like to make that clear.

Hopefully the video is gonna be released next week, but might be later depending on my schedule.

BioShock
I started playing BioShock two times, and for some reason I’d always abandon the game after reaching Arcadia. However, recently I started playing BioShock for the third time, the Remastered version, and now I finally got further than Arcadia, beaten Fort Frolic recently. And… while I do want to keep going, I don’t know.

Even back in 2007, I didn’t really understand BioShock’s reputation as a game with absolutely masterful storytelling and narrative, and still don’t. It’s true that I didn’t get to the twist back then which got spoiled for me, but even knowing it and that it’s coming… I don’t know.

It’s a great game! It’s tense, suspenseful, the world-building is amazing, level design is great. But does it have masterful narrative as a whole? Eh, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll change my mind once I get further into the game.

But let’s even take Fort Frolic. It’s a section that doesn’t have anything to do with the main conflict, literally puts you out of it and blocks from even listening to the other characters until you complete it. People call it the greatest BioShock level, and on its own merits I agree, the level is amazing, but I can’t get rid of the feeling of just being ripped out of the whole narrative to just do something absolutely unrelated, even though Cohen is a very interesting character.

ABZU
Courtesy of PS+, I played through ABZU. It was an enjoyable meditative experience that I recommend to everyone, however it feels like it tried to emulate Journey too much. And I don’t mean the art style (the game’s creator is Journey’s art director, so that makes sense… plus the art style is very cool), but the overall experience.

ABZU is trying to pull the same strings in players that Journey does, and just like Journey its narrative and level design/progression are fully based on the monomyth, but for me it wasn’t as emotional as Journey. Still a great game, though!

Tales from the Borderlands
Another game I’m playing thanks to PS+ and enjoying quite a lot. I’m just two episodes in and I’m really interested to see where it all goes. Episode 1 was pretty fine, but Episode 2 is the one that sealed the deal for me to keep playing. And I gotta say, this TellTale series is worth playing just for the masterfully done intro sequences alone, they’re amazing.

So this is all I have to say this week. Thanks for your time! Feel free to leave any comments below. If you’d like to keep an eye on my future blog posts, feel free to follow me on Twitter @farlander1991 🙂

And if you’d like, consider supporting my work on Patreon! Thank you very much!

Relationship Between the Player and the Game Through Controls

In this video, I look at Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, The Last Guardian and Tearaway Unfolded to talk about how they use controls to elicit feelings and create strong emotional bonds.

Thanks for watching!

The 4 Types of Randomness in Hearthstone

Card games, trading and collectible including, always have had certain randomness to them – at least because the deck is always shuffled so you never know in which order you’ll draw your cards. Hearthstone, being a fully digital card game, tries to expand upon what kind of random effects one can achieve while playing. Some people are happy with these experiments, some are not. But let’s take a look from design perspective at the different kind of randomness in Hearthstone and how they can be perceived by players.

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Pros and Cons of a regular schedule for a side-project blog

For a long time I wanted to try and make it so posts on my personal blog would arrive on a regular schedule. At first I had very rare articles. Last year, though, I managed to post periodically (32 posts published in total), while this year, for the past month and a half, I published regularly 2 posts per week. Here’s what I learned and why I’m going to change the paradigm to publishing blogs without a schedule.

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Game Opinion – TorqueL

TorqueL feels like a prototype of a very interesting mechanic that has never really left the stage of being a prototype and sort of became a full game. The point of the game is that you roll around in a box, and instead of jumping, you extend one or more of the box’s sides to do the platforming.

I really like the concept and find it interesting. And as a prototype, TorqueL is a great proof of concept. It is not, however, a great game in my opinion.

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Video Games need to stop HAVING to be fun

I was playing This War of Mine lately, and what I do when I want to write a blog analysis of a game, is I first check online what posts there are already so to know if there’s a particular topic that wasn’t explored (I first wanted to talk about context of mechanics using This War of Mine as an example, but there already is a great post about it on Gamasutra by the game’s lead designer). But seeing some of the feedback and discussions around This War of Mine have inspired me to talk about a more general subject, one that I touch pretty regularly in conversations with other developers, and consider to be very important. Video games need to stop HAVING to be fun.

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The Risk/Reward Loop of The Swindle

If you’re interested in learning about risk/reward mechanics and how they affect player psychology, you should definitely check out The Swindle. It’s a procedurally generated heist game and is pretty much fully based on risk/reward loops. In this post I’m going to explore why The Swindle is so good at this.


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Azkend 2 and Match-3 Games on Consoles

Recently in a new PS+ free games update I saw a game that I didn’t know anything about, called Azkend 2. As it turns out, it’s a match-3 game (with a mix of hidden object to it), and I’ve got to say… if we want the match-3 genre to become popular on consoles, as it is on PCs and mobile, we need to fully rethink and repurpose match-3 mechanics there.

I’ve worked on match-3 games for almost 2 years, so I hope I’ve learned enough to say that the most important part of any game of the genre, and why it’s so popular, is that it just feels good to play. And I’m not talking about animations and effects and chain reaction mechanics, although it certainly is a part of enjoyment (and of course good level design plays a huge part as well). I’m talking about how it feels good just to do the basic actions of the game. Sluggish controls are the main reason I disliked Azkend 2, no amount of effects or pretty graphics or level design quality would have saved that, and I have a feeling that had I played it on a tablet or PC (the game is released on both), I’d have more enjoyment out of the game.


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The Two Conflicting Acts of Broken Age

I think Broken Age has got to be the game I’m most confused what to think about. Back in the day, I gave some money to its Kickstarter campaign, at the time known just as Double Fine Adventure. And when Act 1 got released, I was absolutely blown away. It was amazing. Though, because my save files were somehow lost, when Act 2 was released I didn’t play it. That is, until I got recently the final backer reward – the collector’s box for Broken Age. It prompted me to binge the full game from start to finish. And… let’s just say, Act 2 is not as good as Act 1, both narrative-wise and gameplay-wise. And that’s mildly putting.

I’m so disappointed by Act 2 that I think I’ve spent 3 or 4 days constantly complaining to everyone I know about it. Yeah, this is a matter of opinion. So this post I’m not going to talk about my thoughts on how the character arcs set up in Act 1 weren’t fulfilled, or how Act 2 jumps the shark with a bunch of strange twists or motivations. But I do want to discuss what I think are glaring design issues with the game, Act 2 specifically, and why they’re such a big problem. Be warned, there will be spoilers!

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