It’s been a few weeks since Worth Reading, your weekly guide to the best writing in video games, but we’re back.
Hey, You Should Read These
Though we haven’t heard a lick about The Last Guardian since Sony re-premiered the game for PlayStation 4 at E3 last year, it’s presumably still in development. Presumably. Whatever happens with Fumito Ueda’s latest game, however, he remains one of gaming’s most interesting designers. Schmuplations recently translated a lengthy interview with Ueda, walking through his early days as a student and what eventually got him into video games. (Did you know he used to ditch school and go on 36-hour motorcycle rides? I’m not sure I’ll do anything nearly as cool as that.)
I see. After you quit WARP, and you were deciding your next move, why did you choose SCE?
Ueda: Well, it was probably all down to PaRappa the Rapper. That and I.Q.: Intelligent Qube. They were a big inspiration to me. PaRappa, especially, was huge. The first time I saw it was at the Tokyo Game Show, I believe. It looked so much higher quality than the 3D rendering movies I was making. It was 3D, but the way they used the paper cutouts… I remember I went back to the game show a second time, just to see it again.
What was so inspiring to you about it?
Ueda: I think it was the influence of Rodney Alan Greenblat, the artist. That was the first thing that jumped out at me, that you had this modern artist doing graphics for a video game. I also loved the game’s style, of course. It seemed to draw a line between itself and what had previously been called “video games.” It really felt like something new, and I think that was what impressed me the most.
If there’s a new Dark Souls game, there’s a new round of arguments about whether it should accommodate players turned off by the difficulty. Cameron Kunzelman, in favour of adjustable difficulty modes, thoughtfully walks through the arguments against the idea by a bunch of other critics. Not long ago, I’d have been on their side, but the more I’ve played these games and the more I’ve studied their storytelling, I’m inclined to think they’re leaving behind an audience that could appreciate the world, lore and characters. Of course, it’s up to the developer to say “no, thanks”, and I suspect From Software will keep on trucking, but it’s an interesting thought experiment. (Please try to keep the comments civil on this topic!)
Entangled in this first idea is a second uncomplicated assumption about what ‘easy mode’ might be. I don’t think that many people who advocate for an easy mode in the Souls franchise believes that they will get the exact same experience as the ‘normal mode’ playing easy mode. I don’t think that many people have illusions about how they would be treated by community if they said that they played in easy mode. I don’t think that the game would be the same in most ways. It seems that everyone I quoted at the top of this piece believes that some kind of point would be lost by shaving the difficulty of the game down in any way, but as someone who would like this mode, I see it in a different way.
The kind of experience I would like to have with Dark Souls is one where I am able to walk around the space of the game without having to be hyperfocused on the world killing me. I would like to be able to defeat bosses without slamming into them over and over again. I would like to be able to gather items and read their descriptions. I don’t want massive rebalancing across all enemies and objects across the world. In Smith’s article I cited and linked above, he offers some ways that he thinks an easy mode would be too hard to structure mechanically, and Franklin does a similar thing in his video. However, they are both thinking big and systemically rather than in the microactions that might chance how people interact with the game.
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Oh, And This Other Stuff
- Brock Wilbur interviewed disbarred attorney Jack Thompson about his fights over game violence, and whether he regrets it. (He doesn’t.)
- Clive Thompson dug into the impact Minecraft is having on a generation of children, something we won’t truly understand for years.
- Maddy Myers wrote at length about the complicated grey areas between “booth babes”, cosplay and professional cosplayers.
- Joshua Brustein and Eben Novy-William dug into the weird world of Counter-Strike gambling.
- Zach Budgor examined one of the strangest horror games ever, Haunting Grounds. (I keep meaning to play this. Gotta fix it.)
- David Galindo tried to make the case for why a PS4K makes sense.
- Cecilia D’Anastasio profiled men working out relationship issues by roleplaying as their former lovers in RPGs. Yes, that’s a real sentence.