Hate “Grindy” Games? Blame “Hard” Games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Etc.

Image of Bloodborne character in trenchcoat and bonesaw turned away from the viewer.
Image Source: https://www.gamedesigning.org/learn/game-difficulty/

So, a few minutes ago, I was watching a YouTube video for a gamer/commentator by the name of AngryJoe. Now, he is known for his “Angry Rants” and “Angry Reviews” for popular video games. While often fair, he does become quite “Angry” when a game is bad (esp. when it was hyped to be good by the game publishers ahead of time. Now, this is an older video in which he’s discussing prospective pricing for cosmetic skins for the sci-fi video game Anthem. However, he notes later in the video that the game is likely to be (along with other games), “grindy” (which is gamer-speak for having to multiple “quests” in order to get your character to the appropriate level to face new, harder challenges–i.e., one must “grind” those quests out to be able to grow their character). He notes, with sarcasm, that game companies claim they want gamers to fill a sense of accomplishment for their actions (rolling his eyes all the while).

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IKs4d5oj04&t=677s
(Warning NSFW (aka “Salty”) Language

Filling Out Surveys

So the very language that AngryJoe mocks in the video about publishers wanting to be rewarded for their gameplay by feeling a sense of accomplishment is literally in the text of the surveys that game publishers send to gamers on a periodic basis. How do I know? I filled out three of these surveys just this past year alone. Some of the questions are, of course, demographic, as in what age range, what race, what games do you prefer (either a checkbox or pick your top 3), etc. However, when you get into the heart of the survey, the questions usually change to how do you play your games and what are you looking for in the game? Do play to win or to feel a sense of accomplishment, do you usually play with your friends or alone, do you go online to have fun or do you prefer well crafted stories, etc.? Gamers have told companies time and again, through surveys and their buying habits, that they prefer “accomplishment” over well crafted narratives.

The Rise of the “Hard” Game

Not to take anything from those who like “hard” games (like Bloodborne, Dark Souls, and the like), but one of the major tropes that people (pundits and gamers alike) keep saying is that gamers love “hard” games because when you finally beat the game, you feel such a (say it with me) a sense of accomplishment. By choosing hard games (in both social media — to talk about and gush over and by the success of those games), gamers have tacitly given the approval to other studios to introduce mechanics in their game that make the game “grindier” and “less rewarding” than it actually has to be. While cynically motivated to keep gamers playing their games longer, publishers can also justify their actions through the answers on surveys (answers to the “sense of accomplishment” question) and the success of other games.

I remember when Bloodborne came out, a clerk at Gamestop nearly had an apoplectic fit when I told him I was cancelling my preorder. I did so because I do not enjoy “super hard” games, so I would have just been wasting my money. However, he was so invested in the “idea” of “hard gaming” that he couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t want to pound my head up a brick wall of a game for five hours a day before making progress. Having played the ridicously hard games of the Atari 2600 era (River Raid, Pitfall) and the NES era (Ninja Gaiden, The Adventures of Bayou Billy), I’ve more than put in my time on hard games and I can tell you that the sense of accomplishment (for me) was more than off-set by the ever building sense of frustration I had when playing. So, gamers today, by through around this idea of “accomplishment” in gaming, all you’ve done is given license to game publisher to exploit this into “grindy” mechanics to lengthen (some say “pad”) out games and to push narrative further into background. So, the lesson is: think long and hard the next time a survey comes in about whether you play games for the “story” or for a “sense of accomplishment.”

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)
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Weekend Round Up #15

Image Source: https://www.rocketcitymom.com/weekend-roundup-november-8-11/

This blog entry is me formalizing a format that I started earlier in the year of just giving a quick rundown of some of the highlights of my weekend. As I tend to do most of my writing, gaming, and media consumption on the weekends, it makes sense to give a brief summary/overview of some of the more important aspects of my weekend life, considering they all have relevance to my life in general, and the blog, in particular.

Gaming

Nothing major to note. I got closer to finishing the driving game Gravel. Actually, I’ve already finished it (seen the credits roll after completing the main campaign, but I’m hopeful that I can earn the ultimate reward for my dedication, a Platinum Trophy, in which I complete all the required conditions. I’m currently sitting at 97% complete on the game–needing only 2 online trophies to finish the game. However, that might be a hard task based on the fact that no one is really playing the game online anymore that I can see (on the PS4 anyway). We’ll continue to see, however.

Writing

Managed to send off a story (reprint–Faerie Knight) to a YA podcast looking for Halloween, Christmas, and Dinosaur stories (Faerie Knight falls firmly in the Halloween category). I’ve had very little luck (none at all, if I’m honest) in the reprint category–none of my stories have ever been reprinted in a different magazine from their original publication, but since FA was a Halloween story (it takes place on Halloween night), I thought I’d give it a try. In other news, I started planning a short-story “duology” over the weekend. I’ve actually already written the first story (I, Magi) and I now have a “sequel” for it in mind. I will be working with it over the week to get a “rough draft” down on paper and then put it on hold until I finish Project Dog, Project Skye, and Project Independent. I feel as if I have too many outstanding projects and I really need to finish some of them off before moving on to others.

Media

Not much to see here this week. Not into Game of Thrones. I hate the whole “Bad things happen to Good people” sub-genre, no matter the genre (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.), so I refuse to be a part of the cultural conversation here. I did start the Amazon Prime show Hanna, but didn’t actually finish the first episode–although I will. I don’t think it would be right for me to give my impressions until I do, however.

School

So, this is where the bulk of my writing time went this weekend. I had a school assignment due at 11:00 pm Sunday night for my Victorian Literature class (on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol). I finished it right around that time (after working on it since approx. 7pm). I really feel the Sunday night time-frame is a good writing time (when I’m not writing until 11:00pm or 12:00am), so as soon as school’s out (i.e., I’m finished with my classes, I would like to use this time-frame to actually work on some of my (many) “Projects.”

Well, that’s my weekend for this week–hope this week is a good one for both you and me!

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Weekly Round-Up (February 3rd-9th)

potpourri

Writing

  • 2nd Draft–Starlight, Starbright: “Exposition” — I worked on the beginning of the story and reworked it to add in more characterization, more character backstory, and to revise the introduction of the story so that it matches the changes that I made in the middle of the story in the 1st draft (I didn’t go back and revise it as I figured I would get bogged down and not finish the 1st draft which is what I wanted to do.
  • The market that I’m aiming this for is a yearly one and it stops taking submissions on February 28th. I already missed a different market that stopped taking submissions on Jan. 31st (& will have to wait until June for their next period), so I don’t want to miss this one and have to wait an entire year (along with it having a different theme, to boot).

Gaming

  • So, I finished the campaign for Star Wars Battlefront II published by EA. I bought it on sale (9.99) and I bought a digital copy. I played the first one (only because it was Star Wars) “day one,” and while it was fun, I really did miss having a campaign (I rarely played the first game, so it was money wasted). I decided that this time I would wait until the game went on sale before purchasing it. I thought the campaign was good–although Iden goes through a character change quite quickly about a third of the way through–and while I liked it, I did find it abrupt. I didn’t even bother with the multiplayer which is this game’s bread and butter because I didn’t like the “loot box” controversy–just let us play games EA, stop looking at you gaming customers as stupid sheep to be fleeced for your shareholders. Not cool.
  • Speaking of multiplayer, this week saw the release of Apex Legends, a first person shooter which mixes the best of Battle Royale games (like Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBg), “character shooters” (Overwatch) and cartoony action/combat (Fortnite). This game was released on Tuesday or Wednesday and it has taken the gaming world by storm. 10 million players have played it in approx. 72 hours. Whether it has staying power remains to be seen. Oh, I also one my first match today. It is a three-person team, and my contribution was healing, revives, and calling enemies, but even though I wasn’t the “star” on the team, my help was both necessary and critical to the win! 🙂

Miscellaneous

  • So, not much going on outside of work–for school and for my second job.
  • Oh, I got new contact lenses, but I don’t think there going to work out. I’m extremely near-sighted so we added a “multifocus” lens so that I could do better at reading, but in doing so, the distance is now very blurry and limited and I’m not really “feeling” them. While I can’t go back to my old pair (too old), I may have to try to see if we can’t give up some “reading” clarity to get some clarity for my distant vision because of all the driving that I do.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Day’s Gone — An Open-World “Zombie” Game

Day’s Gone is a game that I am quietly optimistic for later this year. This is an “open-world” game, meaning that there is a large map that you the player can explore. It is also a “zombie” game–the reason there are quotes around zombie is that technically they aren’t “zombies,” but “freakers.” In the game’s fiction, these enemies are alive, they eat, and they sleep. However, functionally, they act as zombies would–they shamble/run after you, they exhibit “horde” mentality, and they are extremely hard to “kill.”

I’m a Fan

So, I’ve been a fan of this game every since it was announced and demoed at Sony’s Press Conference a couple of years back. Many of the reactors were disappointed as the trailer was shown towards the beginning of the show and then the gameplay was revealed in the “last slot” of the show. Too many commentators, both journalists and fans, ALWAYS want that last slot to be a Steve Jobs’ “One More Thing” Iphone moment–whether or not that makes sense for the particular company (and/or moment). When they didn’t get their “new” thing that blew them out of the water, they turned on this game (Knack for the PS4 had a similar reaction, including people who should probably know better–“Knack is kack” proclaimed a former editor of OPM on the podcast covering original announcement of the PS4–knowing full well that he wasn’t the target audience for the game).

I, however, feel that (like Knack) this is a game that is worthy of my time (& money) as it does many of the things that I want from a “zombie” game. Like my favorite movie in the genre, World War Z, this game puts one character against a swarm of zombie-like creatures. While I’m not completely sold on the “biker” world of the game, I am sold on the character and the “freakers.”

A World War Z Biker Game

I may be putting words in the game designers’ mouths, but to me, this game is much like World War Z, but with a biker twist. Although it isn’t in the above trailer, your bike is an essential component to the game and you need to maintain it or else it could leave you stranded in the wilds.

I also like the focus on various types of “freaker” groupings (in this trailer), along with little bit about the weapons (also in this trailer). While I probably have too many games already, although I managed to finish one earlier this year (did I tell you that I got a Platinum Trophy on Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands? I did, well let me tell you all about it one more time . . . no, don’t leave, I’ll save it for another time.) 😉

Still, I feel that this game isn’t getting the attention that it probably deserves because of the “One More Thing” expectation and the idea that “zombies” are old hat and gamers are looking for something different. I could go off on diatribe about the damage that The Walking Dead “brand” had on the whole “zombie” movement, but I’ll leave it for now and say that, in the gaming space, at least, this looks to be a fairly awesome zombie experience that I’m (again) cautiously looking forward to playing in the near future.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Writing the Platinum Trophy Way — Going through ALL the Stages of Writing

I finished my first short story of 2019! YAY! Here’s hoping: 1) I finish many more and 2) the time I use to write creatively doesn’t come back and bite me in terms of my schoolwork. 🙂

One thing I noticed, however, is the sense of accomplishment that I felt when I finished my story, Starlight, Starbright. It was a mini-version of when I actually get something published and the feeling of being published is very much earning a Platinum Trophy in a video game–a sense of both accomplishment and mastery that I love to feel and is what keeps me both writing and playing games.

The Sony Playstation Blog team put together a 2018 Awards Post that really crystallized how I think of the writing process.

What is a Platinum Trophy?

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So, my goal when I play games is to “finish” them and see the credits roll. Sometimes that’s enough, and once the game is over, I’m done with it and will move on to another game. In the late 2000s, Microsoft introduced a series of points when one accomplishes certain goals in the game, you get points that accumulate and add to your “gamer” score. Sony took this idea and ran with it, creating a similar system based on “trophies.” Bronze trophies for fairly common/routine game achievements, Silver trophies for harder achievements, Gold trophies for some the hardest achievements (or for finishing a game), and Platinum trophies for earning all the trophies in the game.

Bronze Trophy = First Draft

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Finishing a first draft feels a lot like earning a Bronze trophy. It is fairly easy to accomplish, but still challenging enough at the same time that one might be lulled into a false sense of security. I don’t have to worry about continuity, or characters/characterization, or anything like that–I just need to get the draft finished (which can sometimes be a real accomplishment just by itself).

Silver Trophy = Second Draft

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This is where the real work begins because this is where (for me) the dramatization happens, the characterization, and making sure the work is internally accurate. I’m working on Starlight, Starbright and The Independent now in this area. It also (generally) isn’t as much fun as the first draft because all of the mystery/excitement has been expended getting it out onto paper. Now, its just work and (for me) this is where quite a few of my projects break down. What I’m finally realizing is that it is the character that really needs to drive this draft. Getting a character that I really enjoy working with and investing in will help me see the project through the hard times and hard work of the character.

Gold Trophy = Third Draft

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If I can get the project through the second draft, then I usually submit from there (or sometimes at the first draft stage). I sometimes add in a Gold Trophy stage–for polish and making sure that the story is consistent. I try to do this on my own, but I find that I miss a lot of simple things, even when I follow common “tricks” like reading my work aloud, or reading with a “reader’s eye” rather than “writer’s eye.” This, I think, is where a second pair of eyes might be helpful, but as I only have “one pair,” I think the Writing Center will have to suffice until I graduate and then we’ll see what happens.

Platinum Trophy = Publication

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So, this to me is the “holy grail” of writing. It is also the only step that is out of my hands. I can’t control whether or not I get published. The only thing I can do is make the story as interesting as possible and mimimize the grammatical mistakes so as to create a compelling story that isn’t bogged down by errors in grammar that hinder communication with the reader. Just like a Platinum trophy where I can’t control the list that the developers of the game create–if the list is too hard or onerous, I won’t do them because it would be a futile & frustrating waste of time (I have 16 Platinum Trophies with over 100 games). However, there are many, many gamers who have only 1 or 2 platinum trophies (or none at all). My 16 Platinum trophies puts me in rare company–as do my publications. I’m I as successful as Hakoom, the current PlayStation trophy leader, or Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, both undisputed leaders in terms of money and prestige as writers? No, but just being published is an accomplishment all by itself, and working towards publication is just as satisfying (to me) as working towards (accomplishable) Platinum Trophy.

Time + Effort = Success!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

What’s on My Bookshelf: Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier (PlayStation Game)

Jak and Daxter cover image: Jak and Daxter headshots and an advanced aircraft being chase and fired on by another aircraft over a blue waterfall.
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jak_and_Daxter:_The_Lost_Frontier

So, this is a game that I bought because it is part of the Jak and Daxter series. I enjoyed Jak 3 and Jak X Combat Racing. I thought that I would also enjoy this one, but unfortunately, Naughty Dog, the original creators of the series, moved on to work on what I presume would become the Uncharted series. The studio that took over, High Impact Games, while talented, just didn’t manage to match the same level of storytelling and characterization of the Naughty Dog created games in the series. This is one that had potential, but just didn’t come together. It felt like someone else “appropriating” a series by its original creator, but didn’t have the same level of inventiveness and creativity that made the original series so special.

Critique, Not Trashing

While there’s a lot of trashing other people’s work on the internet these days (and while that’s the thing to do), it’s not what I’m going to do. While I bought the game (& have it here still–I didn’t trade it in or anything), I quickly grew bored of the game and didn’t finish it. I think I abandoned it after the third major level. The story introduced a new set of characters and one who was a new potential rival to Jak for Kira’s affections, but he didn’t work at all as either a character or a plot device. I just recently watched a Let’s Play to see the complete ending of the game (again, I abandoned it myself early on), and even watching the game-play, there was just something off about the writing in general, and the character in particular.

Jak, Not Jak

The same could be said of the protagonist, Jak, who along with his side-kick Daxter, are the heart and soul of the series. While they do quip with one another, they aren’t truly characters in the way they were in other Jak games, especially 1 & 3. I’ve played and finished the entire Jak series (except for Jak 2 as it was too hard to go back to after finishing, 3 and then one). I went on to Jak X: Combat Racing when I abandoned Jak 2 and the gang were right on form. Cruising online, others note that this is the worst of the Jak games–while I won’t go that far, it certainly is missing that extra special sauce that Naughty Dog was able to deliver in the original games. I think it would have been better if the studio, High Impact, had been allowed to work on their own IP, where they could have developed their own characters, rather than trying to mimic what Naughty Dog had already done. Yes, I know the game is a port to the PS2 of a PSP game, but still, when it bears the Jak and Daxter name brand, there are certain expectations that name come with and, for me, the title just didn’t reach them due to story and characterization issues.

Overall Grade: I

Okay, so its not fair for me to rate a game that I didn’t finish–I had to experience the story through Let’s Plays and they aren’t a true indication of a game’s game-play, just the game’s narrative. The fact that I pride myself on getting to the end to see the credits run at the very least, and the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to do that for this game, however, should say how disappointed I was in it, however. This is one of those games that could have been, should have been, great, but ultimately, for me, it wasn’t.

Oh well, not so fond memories for this one . . . still, hats off to the devs for finishing it. There are so many “unfinished” games these days (Mass Effect Andromeda, I’m looking at you), that at least they have that as a kudos to them).

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Game Mode On: Weekend Gaming (3 Aug. 2018)

download

Man with a Playstation 4 controller in his hand looking at a Playstation 4 Menu Screen. Image Source: YouTube.com (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MZ1Hn260SQ)

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 23 (+1)
    Goal = 3 Pages a week. 20/20 Pages (for artist). 23/32 pages (for completion of 1st issue)
    Actual = 2/5 Pages done so far this week.
    Wrote a story page last night. Reorganized the project so that it shows Issue 1. Also started putting down Acts and Scenes for a Screenplay version of the story.
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

So, this weekend I’m hoping to do a little gaming (fingers crossed), but before I do, I wanted to update you all on my gaming efforts last week. Before I do that, however, I also want to note that this is the first Saturday of the month.  I will be sending my artist the comic book script pages that I’ve done so far and will be sending it to him (along with a collaboration agreement which he asked for–although he did ask for it after we send the proposal to the publisher but I found one that I really like). And now, on to the games:

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

So I didn’t really get very far on this one–I was able to do a couple of “Main Story missions, but didn’t really get to do much in the way of the “side missions.” I have one “main” mission remaining and then it is only the side missions for that province and then I should be finished with that particular province.  I estimate that I’ll have about 5-6 more provinces (all 5 star difficulty) remaining, but unfortunately, only playing once a week, there’s only so much that I can get done on such a large (& long) game.

Final Fantasy XV

It really is true–when I get stuck on a game, that’s my brain’s way of telling me to take a break. I failed the mission that had me stumped a couple of more times (mostly due to boneheaded mistakes on my part & relearning the game’s controls), but I was able to get past that mission and back into the open world. There was another fairly long “side” mission that became available and I almost took it, but decided that I’d been away from the story long enough, so I wanted to do the story and (hopefully) come back to it a little later. I was surprised because I spent the better part of a day trying to get past that mission the last time I played.

Call of Duty WWII

Finished this game (single player) a while back, but I try to dip into the multiplayer (Team Deathmatch) once a week just to try to keep up my CoD skills. I’m probably going to be playing this game for a while because I’m not planning on buying Call of Duty: Black Ops IV (I refuse to use Treyarch’s inane numbering IIII for IV. Not only is it moronic, it also confuses the issue–I’ll probably use 4 from now on when referring to it). I’m not buying the new CoD because I’m not buying multiplayer only games anymore–it must have a single player component to rate a purchase and this one is foregoing the single player mode.

Costume Quest 2

So, I made significant progress on this game. I keep feeling that I’m close to the end on this game. It is actually a larger game than it seems. I now have a “younger version” of the antagonist in my party and I assume the younger version will have a hand in reclaiming/defeating the older version, but I’m not sure when that’s going to happen in terms of the narrative, so I’ll just keep trucking along until I see the End Credits screen. Hopefully I close, but if not, it is an enjoyable game and not a slog, unlike Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon.

Well, that’s all I have time for right now, so I’ll talk to you next week! Have a good weekend and happy gaming/writing!

Sidney




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