Rants and raves, Vlogs

What actually IS a walking simulator?

Last week, I made a vlog about walking simulators. I quite like walking simulators, and I recently played a couple of them on my stream — Dream and Caligo — which I liked, but with some major caveats.

I tried outlining what I found interesting about walking simulators, heaping tons of praise on games I thought did it spot on (Gone HomeWhat Remains of Edith Finch) and lamenting some elements of otherwise brilliantly-executed ones (the stealth sections in Observer can still fuck off and die for all I care).

Some interesting comments arose from this vlog which helped me understand that perhaps my definition of a walking simulator, as rambly and lengthy as it was, was not entirely clear.

To wit: A walking simulator — at least a perfect walking simulator in my mind — does not have, or has at least a significantly limited presence of:

  • Puzzles
  • Dangers
  • Anything that obstructs the player from moving onwards with the story

Consider the closest physical relative to the walking simulator, the printed book. Most books won’t tell you that “I’m sorry, you’ve fucked up; please go back to page 11 and try again.” Likewise, a walking simulator should not impede the player’s progress in any significant way.

It’s okay to put a locked door or a little combination-lock puzzle in a walking sim. Especially when it’s done right, as Gone Home does with the locker in Samantha’s room, because that invites exploration of the house. It’s not much of a brain-teaser — in fact, you could argue that it’s hardly a “puzzle” at all. It just puts up a soft barrier that enables the game’s designer a degree of control over how the mystery is revealed — notably without frustrating the player immensely.

I saw someone in the comments refer to Myst as the progenitor of walking simulators, and I would entirely disagree with that — the obtuse and baffling logic of Myst‘s puzzles are severe cockblocks for people who have no patience for sitting around and working out some stupid machine’s whims and fancies through repeated trial and error.

Anyway, here’s the vlog in question will now make a bit more sense (although I doubt it).

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Rants and raves

Do Let’s Players hurt sales of adventure/narrative-driven games?

I got into an interesting discussion on Twitter last night — which, frankly, I probably should have been more awake for.

The debate was about how developer Atlus have effectively told Let’s Players not to play their game (at least, not any more than the beginning of the game).

The official explanation is that it’s a story-based game and Atlus doesn’t want the story spoiled for people who haven’t had a chance to play it themselves. A cynic like myself, however, might entertain the notion that it’s also an attempt to prevent people from just sitting down and watching a playthrough on YouTube or Twitch instead of going out and actually buying their own copy.

“You can just put the cash right in my hand, thank you.”

The question then becomes: do streamers or YouTubers who play games from start-to-finish — particularly games that rely heavily on an unfolding narrative, like adventure games — hurt sales of those games?

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Rants and raves

The importance of good world building – or, how Resident Evil 7 won me over

Not so long ago, I watched some Let’s Plays of Resident Evil 7, and wanted to write about being surprised that, for the first time in my life, I found myself actually giving a shit about a Resident Evil game. I’ve also watched the DLC stuff — in fact, recently, I watched some of the second DLC package, in particular the “Daughters” segment.

You be quiet, you little demon spawn!

You be quiet, you little demon spawn!

Now I feel like I have a handle on what I actually want to talk about, which is what made me suddenly give a shit about Resident Evil. It’s not just the masterfully creepy suspense that I think almost everyone agrees is done to damn near perfection. It’s also the keen sense of world-building and history that went into crafting the story.

Because, on the surface, Resident Evil 7 sounds like any survival horror game: you’re trapped in a confined location, monsters are out to get you, and you have to survive while the game does everything in its power to dick you over. Monsters will jump out when you least expect it; you’re always running out of space in your inventory; you’ve never got enough bullets in your gun to take down even the puniest of enemies.

Even story-wise, at least on paper, it sounds kind of hokey. A rural family in Louisiana has gone batshit insane, apparently taking your wife hostage, and your first instinct is to just go in there after her, instead of doing something sensible, like call the police or, at the very least, bring a fucking gun.

Luckily, the Baker family anticipated your arrival and kindly left some out for you to kick their asses with.

Luckily, the Baker family anticipated your arrival and kindly left some out for you to kick their asses with.

There’s more going on here than what’s just at the surface, though. So I want to dive into that for a bit, but first:

Huge, dinosauric spoiler warning. If you haven’t played Resident Evil 7 yourself, and you intend to at some point in your life, you might want to find something else to read.

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Battle of the U.I.s, Rants and raves

Battle of the U.I.s, Pt. 3: The One U.I. to End Them All

This has been a long time coming, but I was recently reminded of this topic as I have been (glacially) doing the groundwork for Space Quest Historian: The Adventure Game. When you’re making a game, one of the things you have to settle on early is what kind of user interface the game will be using.

And for the SQH game, I wanted to use my favorite type of adventure game U.I. ever. Turns out that’s not easy to do in AGS, but that’s not what this blog is about. Right now, I just want to tell you what that U.I. actually is.

It's this.

It’s this.

Surprised? Well, don’t be. Whatever you may think of Leisure Suit Larry 7, I will fight anyone who says that isn’t the best adventure game interface ever devised. Let me briefly explain how it works.

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