Single Player “Cheating”

The game I’ve been playing the most recently is the new Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I’ll be writing a bit more about it later, but something interesting came up in it recently, so that’s what this post will be about.

For a bit of context, I would consider Animal Crossing to be a fairly casual game. It has a huge amount of customization and content, and things to do, but it’s much more of a simulation game then anything. The game on the whole is fairly non-punishing. Your town will never get hit by a tornado. You will never get robbed. No one will steal your identity and use it to take out fake credit cards in your name, etc.

So when I say casual, what I mean is more or less the following: The game will not punish you for failing to learn its mechanics, and it also has no real win condition. If you are enjoying playing Animal Crossing, you are winning. You are having fun. It’s more akin to a toy/lego set. You can’t lose at LEGO’s. You can put something together wrong, or different, but you can then just take it apart and start over, and there’s no real punishment for it, except in terms of time investment, and again, as long as you have fun, it’s fine.

So…. can you cheat in Animal Crossing? Well, maybe. It depends on how you interpret “cheating” in a primarily single player game where you can’t lose in a traditional manner.

See, there are two main gates in Animal Crossing to interacting with new content. They are in-game time, and in-game money. Money in Animal Crossing is earned by selling things, and there are more and less efficient ways to get it. Time however, is tied to your game system time. And when I say in-game time, I don’t mean “Oh, wait a week, wait a day”. Some things don’t show up except during certain months. Some things don’t show up except during various seasons. So, if you’re willing to change your the time on your system, you can more or less warp around and massively speed things up, manipulate the prices of in-game items, and perform other such tricks.

For me, that feels like cheating. Right? For me, if you’re willing manipulate the games parameters to that extent, then you might as well just cheat. But when I reached out to some friends, I heard a few different things.

One friend told me they didn’t consider anything cheating in a single player game, and that for multiplayer, it really only counted as cheating if it everyone involved didn’t agree to it. Another said that as long as it was in the unmodified game, it was fine. So, for them, time travel is fine because it doesn’t involve actually hacking the game, just making changes to the settings of the hardware you play it.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion I had was with a friend who actually makes games. For him, whether or not something was cheating was heavily dependent on the intention of the game designers, and the intended role that something was supposed to play as a mechanic. He didn’t consider it to be cheating in Animal Crossing to time travel, as long as you didn’t go back in time, because, well, it doesn’t make sense to go backwards in time narratively, but forwards is fine.

I think the big takeaway for me is that what people consider cheating is a lot more varied then I had expected, even in digital games where you would expect the automatic enforcement of the rules to be automated. But I’m also surprised by how different the reasoning behind those standards were.

Woof! Long post. Less theory, more games for the next one, and stay safe out there folks.

The Tides Have It

I’ve decided to try to see if I can keep this blog updated twice weekly. Woo. That seems like it will be kinda tough, so I’m just gonna quickly talk about a few things about Animal Crossing New Horizons that have been bothering me. These are more or less extremely small nitpicks, and I’d suspect that overall, they’re not really worth thinking about for more then a few minutes, but they’re still interesting to me, so yeah, whatever.

Nitpick #1

You can release fish into areas of water that they didn’t come from.

Okay, so in terms of “Annoyed Complaints” I’d file this one up with there with “Zootopia is unrealistic because animals can’t talk” in terms of how much it actually matters, but the reason this bother me is really straight forward. The game doesn’t let us just kill fish by tossing them onto land to die, or whatnot, we can only release them with the implication that well, they’ll live. Despite this though, nothing stops you from chucking a sea horse into a lake pond, or a trout straight into the ocean. I’m not a fish person, it might even be that those kinds of fish can survive in those areas, but I feel like they prob wouldn’t do so hot. I dunno, really it just bothers me because the game on one hand says “No, you can’t just murder these animals” but on the other hand is like “Yeah, sure, cram that Sea Bass in that tiny lake pond. It’ll be fine!”

Nitpick #2

Going out and chopping down everything on a random mystery island isn’t just possible, the games mechanics almost encourage it.

I find this one “funnier” in the sense that I’m almost never bothered by content in video games.

There’s a subsection of the population that seems to think that Video Games are the Devil, but it seems like people thought the same thing about Rock and Roll, Dungeons and Dragons, reading Catcher In The Rye. I’m more of the opinion that “Shitty people are shitty people” and that if “The Youth” are being corrupted, its more likely that they went looking for it.

Point is, in terms of “Oh dear, the moral panic” I’m almost never bothered by content in games. Murder a dozen people? Sure! Blow up a boat? Why not. Kill your Minecraft villagers over and over again until you get one with the right recipes? Those books won’t make themselves.

The point is, simulated violence almost never bothers me, as does war, blood/gore/etc. It’s very easy to tell that it’s not “real”. However, the idea of just going to random part of a forest/island or something and just clear cutting it cause “Fuck it, it ain’t my home” actually does sorta rub me the wrong way. I feel like I was raised to have a certain respect for nature even digitally, at least as long as said nature isn’t trying to actively murder me. (That’s a different situation, more about Don’t Starve later this week maybe?)

There was an interesting post a while back on Penny Arcade that I can’t find at the moment, but more or less boiled down to the following:

  1. “It’s very hard to see people in games as real people, because eventually you’ll reach a point where they behave weirdly, or bug out, or start saying the same voice line or whatever.”
  2. But the corollary is “It’s a lot easier to make us care about dogs/cats/animals, because it’s not hard to make something that really feels like a dog.” If it wags its tail, run around, barks at stuff, you’ve pretty much nailed it. It’s way easier to make a digital dog that feels “real” then a digital person.
  3. As far as I can tell, this is how I feel about forests and wild places in Animal Crossing. They aren’t real forests, but they are real in the sense of the game, and to the characters of the game. So yeah, clear cutting a pristine bit of nature so I can have an extra axe or two feels bad.

Afterthought:

After thinking about most of this, I realized that it’s more then possible in AC to harvest wood and such without actually cutting down an entire Forest, but I still thought it was fairly interesting that I was more bothered by a game saying “You can cut down all the trees” and the message that it sends to our children. So yeah, time to get children back to playing Call of Duty, Animal Crossing teaches lessons that are far too dangerous about deforestation. Speaking of which, more about Don’t Starve later this week, a game with a VERY different game play loop, but some of the same occurrences.

PAX 3: The Third Part

That’s right, it’s time for Part Three, the part where I talk about everything I didn’t already review. It’s time for more

VIDYA GAMES

MAGIC: LEGENDS

Another one I got in line for because they were giving out a free pin, except they didn’t actually end up giving it out. Pretty bummed about that, gonna try to get it at another PAX I suppose.

With that said, actual gameplay was pretty decent. I wouldn’t consider myself a huge ARPG person, but Path of Exile is my second most played game, and I’ve played a decent amount of D3 on switch.

Overall, it seemed pretty fun. I’m not sure I would play for the story, as it was pretty “eh” or get into end game, but I can see it being something fun to pick up and play with friends. The whole Magic: The Gathering theme thing is reflected in the fact that you have a deck and your abilities are constantly switching. In theory, this sounds cool, in practice, I more or less just spammed whatever was off cooldown.

But like, show floor demo. You can find more about it here.

DRAGON FANG: Drahn’s Mystery Dungeon

For me, when I think the mystery dungeon games, I mostly think of the Pokemon ones. I know there are some others, but I really loved the first few of the Pokemon ones, and so every time I see a mystery dungeon game, I really want it to be good.

I’m gonna just get this out of the way. I don’t think Dragon Fang is very good. It has a very nice art style and whatnot, but unfortunately, it’s also a port of a Japanese mobile game. So yeah, while the actual game play could be good, and there are some neat ideas, it’s mostly just a very watered down dungeon crawler, where most of the enemies get more interesting powers then you do. Additionally, a lot of the good monsters are locked behind Gacha.

So yeah, skip this one, but if you really want to try it, it’s free on Steam here.

AREA MAN LIVES

Didn’t play this one, did check it out, but it was a neat VR title. it seemed weird enough for me to mention it. I’ll be honest, I’d really like to play it when it comes out.

Find out more about it here.

KEMONO HEROS

This was at the NIS booth, and since theey made Disgea 4, which has been my go to game on the switch the last few months since I got it around Christmas.

Not too much I have to say on it, it seems cute, just didn’t also seem like it did anything fascinatingly new for me to spend more then a few minutes playing it, and then mention it. Find out more about it here.

One more PAX post to go, mostly just about Sento Fighter, and how I don’t own it yet, and why can’t I buy it yet. Until then, see you next time.

PAX EAST – Part 2

Okay, let’s talk about some more stuff to cover. That’s right, it’s time for more

VIDYA GAMES

RELIC HUNTERS LEGEND

This is a sequel to Relic Hunters Zero, a free game that according to steam, I played for about 2 hours. I’m gonna be honest, I don’t remember it at all. I played a bit of the new one, and it was… fine. However, at a PAX, fine doesn’t keep my attention, and so I wandered on. Here’s a link if you’re curious though. If a cartoonish Destiny/Diablo mashup sounds like your sort of thing, you might enjoy it.

MAQUETTE

Maquette is published by Annapurna Interactive, the people who also published What Remains of Edith Finch. I’m gonna be honest here, I got in the Maquette line because they were giving out a free pin.

Clearly the moral of this story is that I do way too much book judging by covers, because Maquette was one of my top three games at the show. It’s a really cool puzzler where you move objects around to solve puzzles, except that your central point of interaction is a small model of the much larger world outside you, and you can move things in the small world, or the big world, to make them exist in the other.

There also seems to be as story about a relationship falling apart that’s also told in the game, and I’m gonna be honest, it felt a bit too real for me, but that’s a story for another day.

Just go play Maquette. If you looked at it and thought “Oh, someone made another artsy walking simulator” you’re dead wrong. There’s a really cool game here, with some big ideas, and I’m honestly really excited to see more of it.

You can learn more about it here, on it’s Steam Page.

RISING HELL

I was gonna write a bit about this, but it looks like it has a demo on steam? And the demo comes out in like two days? So yeah, I’m just gonna wait two days, play the demo for probs longer then 15 minutes I played it at the show, then write about it. That just seems like a better policy.

WUNDERLING

I have been trying to figure out what to say about Wunderling for a while, and have been failing, so I’m just gonna type things and post them. Wunderling is small and cute, and as a result, I want it to succeed. Wunderling’s primary game play mechanic is simply that you can’t actually control your character, you can only control your jump. And while that seems really simple, there were some moments in the demo that were really clever, and made me want to see what the rest of the game could include. For example, one of the secondary mechanics is that if you don’t pick up a collectible every now and then, you die. In the opening levels, this was really simple, but one area had a hidden chest that required you to skip collecting some of these earlier, so you could grab the chest later, and if you picked them all up, you would actually starve to death.

I dunno, I just want to see it work.

That’s all for now I think. This took longer to write then I was expecting, but I think I’ll be able to wrap the rest of this up in part 3, and finish giving my thoughts on the stuff I saw at PAX East.

Dungeon Defenders Awakened: Early Access

The Basics

Dungeon Defenders Awakened is the next iteration of the Dungeon Defenders series and the newest creation of the re-branded Chromatic Games. Dungeon Defenders Awakened is a return to the beginning that was the first Dungeon Defenders game, while retaining some of the good that came from Dungeon Defenders 2. At its heart it is a niche third person tower defense game with a lot to offer but with a core flaw that keeps a lot of people away. Like Dungeon Defenders 1 and 2 Dungeon defenders suffers from repetitive and afk’ble game-play. I use the term suffer lightly though as the “issue” is more of a matter of a core game-play style that defines the game. Once you clear the initial campaign you will be playing the same maps over and over to try to push past your limit to get better gear and climb higher. There is of course a limit to the amount of content chromatic games can put out(they have to sleep sometimes) and so if you put in enough time you will find yourself repeating the same map trying to get a slightly better pair of boots. That is not to say it is not enjoyable, I have 92 hours on Awakened and 500+ hours on 1 and 2, so I can say for sure that the play-style appeals to some people. It is definitely limited though, steamspy puts the peak concurrent user(CCU) count for dungeon defenders 1 pulling between 300 and 500 while dungeons defenders 2 has a CCU of between 750 and 1000. Respectable numbers to be sure, and although the stats only show an approximation it’s clear that the dungeon defenders series isn’t drowning in users. At the end of the day most of the people who are going to enjoy Dungeon Defenders are probably already a member of the community, although we always welcome new faces.

Value Proposition

With Dungeon Defenders being in early access and with a 40 dollar barrier to entry the key question is “Is it worth it?”, and like most things the answer is “It depends”. I would love to be able to give a clear answer as the bigger the community the better. However for many new people the game might not be worth the money in its current state. This is perfectly natural for a game in early access. From the games store page, the current contents of the early access is:

  • 12 Campaign maps playable
  • Four base heroes playable
  • Easy, Medium, Hard, and Insane difficulties available.
  • Four player online co-op.
  • Survival Mode available.
  • Session browser available.
  • Gear, accessory, and pets available to earn.
  • Quickmatch to play with other Defenders.

I believe the campaign has the widest appeal as it has the most opportunity for overcoming challenges and avoids most of the repetitive game-play that comes in once you begin to grind the survival game-mode. It took me around 20 hours until I “beat” the campaign, I did an entire run through on hard then beat a few maps on insane including the final map. Most of the time came from trial and error trying out different approaches to clear each map. This was by no means the fastest time, in fact I would imagine it is one of the slower times. At that point I was looking at about $2 and hour, which some people would find reasonable I believe most are looking for $1 an hour for their games. This however was from skipping the easy and medium difficulties in their entirety and so a new player might spend more time on the campaign. It is hard to say how much mileage any given person might squeeze out of the campaign because going up the four difficulties doesn’t change anything about the campaign itself it just makes the numbers bigger. Most, if not all, of the players will spend the most time in survival. The initial stage of survival is just as fun if not more fun than the campaign. Pushing higher, trying to find that next awesome piece of gear that will let you push higher, or trying to get to the end of wave 14 and 25 to get a new pet to boost you even higher. Sensing a theme? Struggling through the initial stages of the survival mode might earn you another 10 hours or more, but after that is pure unfiltered grind. This is where most people find out if the series is truly for them. This is where you play the same maps trying to find that next small upgrade, and the longer you play the less likely you are to find each upgrade as you approach the peak of what the rng can generate. Sometimes you will play for 1-2 hours and be rewarded with nothing but gold. For those who find out they love it, it is an amazing game that you can find yourself sinking hundreds or even thousands of hours into. It is definitively not for everyone though. For those of you who are on the fence about purchasing I would recommend waiting a few more weeks as Chromatic Game’s roadmap has them releasing a bunch more content this march. It might just be enough to push you over the edge even if you don’t see yourself enjoying the endgame grind.

MISBITS – Early Access

I got a free key for Misbits at PAX this year, and honestly, I’m not sure if the game is very good. At the time of writing this, I’ve played about 38 minutes. Before I publish this, I’ll try to play another 20 or so minutes so I can say I played it for at least an hour, but I really doubt the next 20 minutes are gonna change my opinion, because I’m simply not having fun at the moment with it.

I first went over to Misbits because it looked neat. It has a sorta nice toy box aesthetic, which makes sense given the game is based around the idea that you’re a toy head, and that the biggest game play element is that you can go around jumping onto different bodies, with different special attacks. You also have health on your bodies, so if you get hurt, you can jump to a different one. I think I’ve seen about 5 different bodies so far, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more.

So why am I not having fun? Well, simply put, everything feels really floaty and it feels really hard to actually connect with hits or attacks. It doesn’t help that everything is either a melee attack or a thrown weapon, the only ranged weapons I’ve seen are turrets. Also, it can be surprisingly difficult to figure out what to pay attention to. New bodies are constantly dropping down from the sky, as are items. Enemy players are marked sometimes with a sorta line, but it can still be hard to quickly and easily spot them.

There are two big features that are supposed to be added later to the game, a workshop for building your own levels and sharing them, and the creation tools for said levels. Right now they’re not just present.

For the moment, I wouldn’t recommend it.

You can find the Misbits website here, and you can find the game on steam.

PAX EAST 2020 – Part 1

Another year, another PAX East, another massive hole in my wallet due to purchasing way too many incredibly wonderful DND related objects I don’t need. But yeah, you’re not here to read about my wallet being eviscerated, you’re here because I’ve linked you to this page.

VIDEO GAMES

LUCIFER WITHIN US – As much as I’d love to just copy paste the games description of itself, I can’t do that, because 1. It wouldn’t be fair, this game looks really cool, and 2. I only have their handout for it.

So, here is the website for it instead. I’ll do a longer write up on this one a bit later, and hopefully, more once I’ve actually gotten to play it. But yeah, really neat aesthetic in which you’re a sort of tech-priest, comparing the testimony of witnesses to a crime to try to find out who dun did it. Thing I’m most excited to see how it turns out.

KNUCKLE SANDWICH – I didn’t actually play this one. I just looked at it. It looks sorta like a combo of Earthbound and Warioware? Weird shit. Looked neat enough for me to care about it though. More info here.

GIGABASH – I did play this one. I did not win. One trend I’ve noticed over the last few years is games that are really fun to play at Cons, but actually kinda suck once you play them elsewhere, because they’re intended for couch co-op, and I don’t have friends. But yeah, GigaBash is a monster brawler where you try to beat the shit out of each other while not being murdered. You play as a bunch of Giant Kaiju things. It looks really nice, I just can’t say whether I liked it because of the convention atmosphere or the game is just good. GigaBash can be found here.

GENSHIN IMPACT – It’s some anime thing. Gameplay looked kinda like a brawler? I didn’t get a chance to play it, didn’t want to wait in line. Looked pretty though. Click that link to get to it’s website.

TURNIP BOY COMMITS TAX EVASION – Yeah, that’s the name of the game. Seriously though. I didn’t play it, did watch for a bit. Catchy title if nothing else. Kinda hard to tell if it’s YouTube bait, or legit good gameplay. I’m gonna be keeping an eye on it if nothing else. Here is the steam wishlist page.

That’s all for part one. In the next several parts, I’ll work my way through the rest of the video and board games I saw, and then maybe finish with a few brief posts about how amazing Sento Figher is. Like seriously, I need to own it.