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Archive for April, 2011

Fantasy Fulfillment

I’m given to understand that the first step anybody makes toward becoming a writer is the “fantasy fulfillment” stage. If you ever were or are an aspiring writer, you must have at one point written or at least thought of writing a story about you and your friends (or characters representing you and your friends) going on adventures as pirates or detectives or superheroes or something like that. Everybody indulges in wishful thinking at some point, and since the golden rule for writing is to “write what you know,” it’s easy to put yourself into the shoes of your protagonist and indulge yourself.

We see fantasy fulfillment all the time in movies, books, video games, all media of entertainment. The reason Twilight has been such a huge hit is because it allows young girls to indulge in the fantasy of being sought after by superhuman studs. And I’m sure the reason B-level action movies are so popular isn’t because people just think cuts and bruises are awesome. It’s because they like to imagine themselves being the kung-fu master and beating up the poorly written stock villain.

The reason I bring this up is because almost every video game out there is about fantasy fulfillment in one way or another. Most of the big-name mainstream titles let you act like a spy as Solid Snake, or tear monsters apart with your ridiculous chainsaw gun thing as Marcus Fenix, or save the universe from an alien invasion as Master Chief. Lots of combat to appease our lust for fantasy violence.

Some games don’t look like fantasy fulfillment at first glance, but most are. For example, take Super Mario Bros. I don’t imagine many people fantasize about being Italian plumbers and jumping on turtles, but strip away the paint job and you have a story about the everyman on a quest to save the princess from the big bad guy. Even Plants vs. Zombies lets you indulge  in the fantasy of leading a battalion of troops, except in order to be kid-friendly the troops are plants and the baddies are already dead.

And even the games that are considered more artistic and meaningful are guilty of this as well. Look at Ico. A boy rescues a girl and defends her from bad guys. And I love Half-Life 2 as much as anyone else, but think about it — it’s about a scientist who rallies citizens together in defiance against a totalitarian regime. That’s got to be the perfect fantasy material for nerds like me. It’s like if 1984 was reimagined as an action movie.

Many people often say that all games are about realizing a fantasy. While they may be correct about most games, I don’t think they’re correct about how the medium inherently works. I think we’ve locked ourselves into this mentality, and until we get out of it it’s going to severely limit the kinds of stories and concepts we can explore in games, and in turn cripple gaming as an artistic medium.

The only recent example I can think of for a game that doesn’t seem to involve fantasy fulfillment and can be considered artistic is Portal 2. There’s no combat, so you won’t find any fantasy violence. You’re not on an epic quest to save a kingdom (or anyone, for that matter). There’s no sexy young lady for you to seduce. If there is any fantasy fulfillment involved, I didn’t notice it.

And that’s not to say Portal 2 isn’t an absolutely fantastic and brilliant game. It’s just that instead of power fantasy, the entertainment comes from humor and wit.

I feel I should clarify that I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any games about fantasy fulfillment anymore. It’s fun to indulge every now and then. I’m pretty sure part of the reason I loved Deus Ex is because it satisfied my fantasy of being a Jedi ninja by letting me sneak around in the shadows and backstab unsuspecting guards with a lightsaber. But I think that as an industry, we can strive to do a little more than that.


Portal 2: A Sequel Done Right

In 2007, a company called Irrational Games made Bioshock, a first person shooter with a dash of RPG elements. It had a unique setting, an interesting story, and solid atmosphere, and it ended up being a big hit.

Fast-forward three years later and 2K Games, the company that published Bioshock, developed Bioshock 2. Its gameplay was largely unchanged from the original Bioshock formula with only a few minor alterations, and it made a bit of a hash out of the story of Bioshock 1. Bioshock 1 didn’t really allow for a sequel, and so they had to squeeze in retcons and contrivances in order to make it all work, and Bioshock 2 ultimately failed to make the lightning strike again.

This happens quite commonly in the gaming industry.  The publishers see a game succeed and decide to churn out more and more installments of the same game until it stops making them money, and the franchise inevitably loses its appeal.

I’m not saying all sequels are inherently bad though. If you do a sequel properly, it won’t diminish the effect of the first game, and will instead bring it to new levels of entertainment and depth. And luckily for me, Valve just gave me a perfect example of this: Portal 2.

You probably already know all about Portal 1 if you’re even remotely connected to the gaming community. It was a small game, but it got awards hurled at it from every direction and deserved every single one of them. And after beating its new sequel, I’m very happy to announce that Valve really has managed to make the Portal lightning strike twice, which doesn’t surprise me because they already succeeded years ago in making the Half-Life lightning strike twice.

And I’m gonna go ahead and clue you in on how Valve does it. When they decide to make a sequel, they don’t treat the first game as a template with which to base the sequel around entirely. They treat the original game as a sort of jumping-off point for a whole new game with new concepts, a new story, and new technology. They expand on the scope of the previous game in order to make it feel like a brand new experience, rather than just “more of the same.”

(Okay, maybe that’s not so much the case with Left 4 Dead 2, but hey, no one is perfect, right?)

Anyway, I have a feeling a lot of people were probably worried that Portal 2 wouldn’t live up to the glory of its predecessor. After all, Portal 1 is considered by many to be one of the best games ever, and not just by the people who call everything either the best game ever or the worst game ever.

But while I wouldn’t really put Portal 1 on that high of a pedestal, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to do so for Portal 2. This game is easily one of my top 5 favorite games now. It charmed and delighted me from start to finish, and I can recall at least one sequence in the first half that was the most thrilling gaming experience I’ve had in a long time.

Some people are saying that Portal 2 is good but not as good as its predecessor. I guess that’s inevitable. Whenever you have a popular game, movie, book, album, or whatever, and its creators make a sequel (or in the case of music, I guess just another album) there will always, always be fans that say the first one was better, no matter what. That’s the first lesson they teach you at Hipster 101. But from my own personal experience, I found Portal 2 to be superior to Portal 1 in every conceivable way, and I know I’m not the only one.

I was about to go on a list of ways in which the sequel is better, but it probably would have sounded just like what Shamus said in the link I just posted, so I’m going to mention something he didn’t: music. If I recall correctly, Portal 1 didn’t utilize music very much. It had a little bit of background music that played throughout a few parts of the game, but it wasn’t used as thoroughly or as effectively as in Portal 2. They used music all the time in this new game to make suspenseful moments more suspenseful, exciting moments more exciting, and spectacular moments more spectacular.

I know that complimenting the music in a game normally means the reviewer is desperately trying to think of positive things to say about a crappy game, but in this case it pretty much just adds more entertainment to an already fantastic game.

Anyway, as if you needed to hear it from me, this game is awesome. If you’re into puzzles and narrative in games, then you owe it to yourself to get it. And I’d recommend you get it for the PS3 or the PC, since the two platforms are compatible with one another. It’s fine on the 360 too, of course.

And if I could give one tip to help you enjoy Portal 2: DO NOT READ OR WATCH ANY REVIEWS FOR THE GAME UNTIL AFTER YOU’VE BEATEN IT. Excluding this one, of course.

I watched the Gamespot and Escapist reviews for Portal 2 after I beat it, and both of them contained spoilers. This is not the kind of game you want spoiled for you. Seriously.

Super Grind Boy

Yeah, I know it’s not Saturday. But I’m making a post anyway.

See, I have a lot of things I want to write about on this blog. But a lot of them I haven’t gotten around to writing, because sometimes I can’t think of 600+ words to write about those topics, sometimes these topics sort of retread stuff I’ve already discussed, and since I’ve so far only been posting once a week, I simply don’t have enough posts to cover all those topics.

So from now on I’m going to be posting more often than once a week. I don’t think I’m going to pick another day to set in stone as a “posting day,” but generally you can expect Saturday’s post to be your usual weekly text wall, and any other day of the week I may post a rant, an anecdote, a podcast video, or whatever I may or may not feel like posting at the time.

So anyway, I know I already talked about Super Meat Boy, but I’ve been playing it today for that whole potato sack business, and there’s something specific that I want to gripe about: the warp zones.

Each world has a few warp zones you can find within the levels, and each warp zone has three levels and two bandages (bandages are your standard collectible item for this game). You get three lives for each level. Once you beat the first one, you get sent to the next one and get three lives again, etc. And if you lose all three lives on one level, you get kicked back out onto the world map and have to start the whole process again. And the kicker: if you got a bandage in one of the levels, you have to beat the entire warp zone to keep it.

I only had one bandage left to grab in order to have completed all 100% of World Two. The bandage I needed was in the first level of a warp zone. Let’s look at it.

So I have to get from the bottom of the level to the top (where Bandage Girl is), and it’s hard to see, but the bandage I need to grab is floating at the very, very top of the picture. Each block on that white wall disappears a second or two after I touch it, and so I have to touch a few blocks on the wall, jump off, and then land on top of a block below one of the ones that just disappeared, and then jump across to the other side.

I have to do that three times, and believe me, it is harder than it sounds. Especially since you have to play as Meat Boy in the warp zones, and he controls like a bar of soap. This is by far the hardest level in the warp zone.

Next level:

You can only see two of the three rooms in this level. It’s sort of the same concept as last time; touch a white block, wait for it to disappear, jump down to the next room, repeat until you get to Bandage Girl. Oh, and those brightly colored blocks are being shot out from those red and white stripy blocks, and if you touch one of them you die.

It probably sounds harder than the first level, but it’s easier, since gravity is on your side this time.

And finally,

You can’t really capture this level in an image, since it’s vertically very long and narrow (hardy har har). Those bright blocks are constantly being shot toward the center of the level (where I’m standing in the shot) and you start out at the bottom. You have to wall-jump up to the top, then jump back down to the middle of the other side where Bandage Girl is. The hard part is when you’re on the left side, because acceleration picks up very quickly as you’re falling down and it’s hard to land right there in the middle.

Anyway, so after I got the bandage (which took me quite a few tries, mind) I had to get through the other two levels without dying more than three times in a row so that I could keep it. And of course, that didn’t happen the first time. Or the second time. Or the third.

In this day and age, there is absolutely no fucking excuse for not having reasonable checkpoints. Since the regular levels don’t have a lives system implemented, this shows that they went out of their way to make the warp zone levels more obnoxious and punishing. Why? Why the hell would you do that? It just turns the experience into a grind through the same few levels.

Today I’m going to introduce a new segment that I’ll be using whenever I feel like it. It’s called One Might Say, or OMS for short. It’s a Q&A style list of rebuttals that someone might say, followed by my hypothetical reply to their hypothetical response.

One Might Say: The warp zone levels were designed to feel retro, so that’s obviously why they added the lives system to them.

I Would Reply: Yeah, I get that. It was easy enough to extrapolate that from the blocky graphics and MIDI sounds and tunes. But was it really necessary to add a lives system after all that? I’m alright with making things retro until the retro gets in the way of the fun. A lot of old game tropes died out for a good reason.

OMS: The lives system is there to make the game harder so that once you do beat it you’ll have a greater sense of accomplishment. That’s what old school gaming was all about, you noob.

IWR: There’s nothing wrong with challenge. I’m fine with challenge. I’m not complaining about these levels being challenging. I’m complaining about the punishment for failure being obnoxious and needless. It deliberately wastes the player’s time, and it adds nothing to the experience, since all it’s making me do is replay levels I’ve already beaten several times before. Beating the final level of Super Meat Boy gave me a sense of accomplishment. Getting the last bandage in World 2 didn’t make me feel accomplished, it made me feel relieved because I wouldn’t have to play any of those stupid levels anymore. Speaking of which…

OMS: You don’t have to beat the warp zone levels to beat the game. They’re optional. If you don’t like them, don’t play them!

IWR: Okay, this bothers me for two reasons. First of all, the entire game is “optional” when you get right down to it. “Beating the game” doesn’t actually mean anything in the long run. If a level is optional, all that really means is that you can put it off until later. Just because it’s non-linear doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to criticize it for bad design. Second of all, it’s not like I’m just saying these levels are completely bad. If I ranted about every game that was bad, I’d never have time to talk about anything good. The reason this is particularly upsetting to me is because my frustration and irritation has been caused entirely by one bad design choice. If they simply cut out the lives system and let me try as many times as I want for each level, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

OMS: You should just be thankful that they reset your lives to 3 after each level.

IWR: Fuck off.

…Wow, I ended up with over 1200 words. I guess the reason I’m posting this now rather than this Saturday is because I’ve already ranted about crappy checkpoint mechanics before, and I figure people would want to hear about something else when they come for my weekly post.

Besides, Portal 2 is coming out in a few hours, and I need to keep my mind off of it so my hands don’t start trembling again.

The Portal 2 Potato Sack

Okay, before I get into this I want to say that if anybody is wondering why I stopped doing that podcast stuff, well, I haven’t. I stopped recording episodes for my own personal show, but that’s because my friends and I are making a group podcast now.

We’ve already recorded one episode, though I don’t know when it’ll be ready to be uploaded. We’re basically going to be discussing various topics about games and whatnot, so if you’re interested in hearing about games and the gaming thereof, I’ll let you know when it actually gets uploaded.

Okay, now onto the potato business.

For those of you who don’t use Steam, there has been a pack of 13 indie games on sale for awhile now called “The Potato Sack.” At first nobody really knew why it was called this, but somewhere down the road people started to notice secret updates going on in these games, some of which involved actual content relating to Portal 2. The Ball got an update that gave you access to a whole area of the Aperture Science laboratory where you fought turret drones and everything. BIT.TRIP BEAT got a Portal 2-themed level. Killing Floor got an Aperture map where you buy your items from GLaDOS instead of that one woman.

And whenever you completed one of these, you got sent to a webpage on the Aperture website that had some sort of cryptic audio file, and if you happened to check your Steam profile afterward, you would see a potato appear on it.

Nobody was sure what these potatoes did, but many collected them all anyway.

This wasn’t the only mysterious cryptic ad campaign Valve had been running for Portal 2. I don’t know many details, but apparently Gabe Newell sent e-mails with very cryptic messages to various websites, and when people decrypted the messages and put them all together, it formed a message that seemed to imply that Portal 2 would be released yesterday (4/15) instead of its official release date (4/19) on Steam.

So we all held our breath and waited excitedly for Portal 2 to come out yesterday, but it didn’t. Which is unfortunate, because I was really hoping today’s post would be “Portal 2: First Impressions.” What happened instead was that a link got posted on the Steam front page which leads to a page on the Aperture website, which states that if we play the 13 games in the Potato Sack, we can get Portal 2 to release early on Steam. If you don’t feel like clicking the link, it also has a countdown to the release of Portal 2, and that countdown seems to decrease whenever one of the bars for the games is filled up.

Some people think it simply means people have to play the 13 games a lot, but a lot of us (myself included) assume by “play the games” they mean “collect the potatoes.” I’ve heard there are a total of 36 potatoes throughout all the games, and so far I’ve collected five of them. I probably would have bought the full potato sack, were it not for the fact that I already own over half of the games in it (what can I say, I’m a hipster).

I must say, this is a very clever ad campaign on the part of Valve and all the indie developers they got to play along in this. Not only is it probably getting a lot of people more interested and excited about the release of Portal 2, but it’s a great way to get people to buy all these indie games as well. To somebody who hasn’t bought any of them yet, it’s $38.65 for 13 games, some of which have received awards for being awesome (Super Meat Boy, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, etc.), and some of these games have Portal 2 themed levels, and it gives you a chance to help Portal 2 be released early for everyone that uses Steam.

Hats off to you, Valve. Please don’t ever stop being so creative.

UPDATE: Turns out there’s a whole wiki devoted to this stuff. Derp.

Well I just read about how the whole early release thing works (the page explaining it is here), but the gist of it is this. Each of the game bars fill as more collective time is spent from people playing them on Steam. Also, the rate at which each bar fills is directly proportional to the total number of potatoes collected by everyone.

So if you want to help Portal 2 come out early on Steam, then play any of the games that haven’t already been finished on the launch site. Hurry! Go!

Old School Gaming and Super Meat Boy

So yesterday Shamus Young wrote an article talking about how people complain that games are becoming dumber. I’ll try to summarize his points as best I can:

  • PC gamers like to complain that games nowadays are too simple and shallow, and they tend to blame consoles and console gamers for this.
  • Console gamers like to complain that games are too easy, and they like to blame casual gamers (who are primarily PC-based, ironically) for this.
  • Bringing the platform wars into this whole complaining spree is irrelevant, because the real reason games are becoming simpler and easier is because game developers and publishers are trying to appeal to wider audiences.

So anyway, then Shamus talked more about this on his blog, and hell, this time I might as well just quote him directly.

“We keep looking to indies to deliver us, but is that reasonable? Note the gap in budgets. If someone wanted to make another System Shock 2, how could it be done? It’s too niche for a current-gen big-budget game – the development costs of making a game that big and open with today’s technology would be astronomical compared to the cost of making the game back in 1998. On the other hand, making a first-person game is really tough for indies. The jump from 2D to 3D requires an increase in the size of your team. Even if you’re working with old tech, it still takes a lot of different people to make a character, texture them, animate them, voice them, and give them proper AI. It’s probably completely unreasonable to attempt such a thing with the usual indie team of one to five people. Is it reasonable to say that some games simply cannot be made, even though certain people would love them?

I’m sure there’s at least one indie development studio out there that certainly can make a System Shock 2. There probably aren’t many, but we’ve seen the potential before. Amnesia: The Dark Descent was an indie game, and it pulled off the whole 3D thing quite nicely. And I know Minecraft doesn’t exactly have the most intelligent AI in the world, but I’m willing to bet that if Mojang worked at it they could probably do the job alright. But I don’t think any of the studios that can make those games are necessarily planning to. Frictional Games seems very intent on making horror games with physics puzzles, and I hear Mojang is working on a card game now or something.

But while I agree that there’s probably not a good chance of any indie devs making a game akin to System Shock 2 or Deus Ex (and believe me when I say that I’m just as upset about this as he is), that only covers half of the whiners he mentioned. I don’t know when and if PC gamers are going to find any niche fulfillment from the indie scene, but with games like N+, Splosion Man and Super Meat Boy, I think the old school console gamers already have their niche filled.

It’s kind of unfortunate for me, because while I do wish we had more games like Deus Ex, I don’t ever find myself missing those games back then that were so frustrating they made me try to break my controller in half.

Now hold on just a moment. Don’t start yelling at me about nostalgia. I only first played Deus Ex just last year, and I grew up with a SNES. Actually, I grew up on both console and PC gaming. In the living room I would play Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country, and in the computer room I would play Warcraft 2 and Diablo. (Yeah, I played Diablo when I was 3 years old. I’m sure that didn’t have any effects on my young impressionable mind…)  I guess you could say Nintendo and Blizzard were sort of my second parents growing up.

Anyway, I had a topic somewhere… Oh yeah, Super Meat Boy.

I figured what with all this talk about old school gaming, it would be an appropriate time for a review of this game, especially since I just got up to the final boss last night. Super Meat Boy really is a remnant of a bygone age. It’s a 2D platformer with loads of instant death traps and cartoony visuals. It’s about a boy made of meat who’s trying to save his girlfriend made of bandages from an evil fetus. And as ridiculous as that premise is, you have to admit that it’s not much more absurd than an Italian plumber jumping on turtles and eating magical mushrooms.

This game is about as old-school as it gets without 8-bit graphics and MIDI tunes.

Now, whenever some oldbie starts complaining about games being too easy nowadays I always get the urge to slap him or her in the face. Presumably they would like games to be like they were in the NES days, but those games weren’t hard because they were well-designed; they were hard because they were badly designed. It was a side-effect of the fact that game developers didn’t quite know what they were doing yet. Most of the difficulty came from shitty controls, unfair level design, and horrendously cheap attacks from baddies. Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania, Megaman, all those old franchises suffered from these problems. And for whatever reason, gamers ate it up.

I know I ate it up at the time, but I can acknowledge the fact that I didn’t really have standards back then. I was what, like, 3?

Anyway, Super Meat Boy faithfully follows these traditions with a disgustingly unfair movement system. I’m sorry but if you haven’t played this game or its flash-based predecessor, then you have no idea how bad it is. It feels incredibly slippery, and you’re going to spend a lot of time overshooting jumps, or undershooting jumps while trying not to overshoot. Some of the early levels look deceivingly simple until you realize that landing on that little platform is going to be a hell of a lot harder than you think.

Thankfully unlike the original flash game, you can unlock a whole cast of bonus characters (all of which are guest stars from other games), and they all control differently and have different special abilities. From what I’ve played so far, none of them are as slippery as Meat Boy. So other than during the boss battles which require you to play as Meat Boy for some stupid reason, you can choose whatever character fits your play style best, and it’s pretty intuitive.

Which is not to say that the game isn’t still ridiculously hard. Some of the level design is ridiculous, especially in the later levels. The most egregious level I’ve seen so far is the level required to unlock The Kid from I Wanna Be The Guy, and here’s just a little screenshot of it.

Level design 101: ...Wait a minute, what the fuck is this?!

Yeah, I get that they wanted to make it super crazy hard as an homage to the game it’s referencing, but not only is it unreasonably hard, it doesn’t actually resemble I Wanna Be The Guy. If they really wanted to resemble it, they should have put you in a level that didn’t look dangerous in the slightest, until you took one step forward and got savaged by an army of gravity-defying apples.

Oh, and for a reason completely unknown to me, you’re stuck playing as Meat Boy for the entire last world of the game, which just happens to be the hardest. It’s only five levels long, so I guess it’s not that big of a deal, but it still really pisses me off because those last five levels took the N+ school of level design; that is, make an obnoxiously long level with no mid-level checkpoints, and make sure that the hardest part is at the very end. THIS IS NOT GOOD LEVEL DESIGN, PEOPLE.

Yeah, some people probably enjoy being unfairly punished for failure, but refusing mid-level checkpoints in order to appeal to those people is like making the game stab you regularly in order to appeal to masochists. Yeah, some people might like it, but it’s just bad design, plain and simple.

Oh, and here’s a bewildering screen you get to see every time you boot up the PC version of the game:

The caption is different every time, but it always implies that gamepads are the sacred master race and that keyboards are for idiots.

Now, I do agree that gamepads are typically better for platformers, but I think keyboard controls can work just fine as well. Keyboard controls don’t work well in this game though, because someone on the dev team thought it would be a good idea to set jumping to the space bar and sprinting to left shift. Since you have to hold down the sprint button for most of the game, it feels really awkward and it makes your pinky sore.

But the thing is, that’s not the keyboard’s fault. That’s the game’s fault. I think it would have been better if they set jumping and sprinting to Z and X or something like that. Different people would probably have different answers for what configuration is best, so why not just let the player reconfigure the controls? It can’t be that hard to give that option, right? I mean, most PC games nowadays have that option by default.

And if the developers meant to use this game to show that gamepad controls are better than keyboard controls, then that’s just fucking stupid. That would be like trying to use a mouse with your foot, and then using that as proof that joystick aiming is obviously way better than mouse aiming. Luckily I have a gamepad and the gamepad controls are very convenient, since it lets you use either of the trigger buttons to sprint, as well as one of the thumb buttons. But still. How hard could it have been to let us reconfigure the controls ourselves? Did they just not care?

Anyway, I don’t want to get too nitpicky, because I have genuinely enjoyed playing Super Meat Boy. It’s frustrated me a lot along the way, but I guess the fact that I was willing to push through it all the way up to the final boss is a good sign, especially since my attention span tends to be on level with that of a rodent.

I still hold strongly in my assertion that old school games were hard because of their sloppy design, but Super Meat Boy does a lot to make the game varied and interesting enough to keep you going. It keeps a fast pace and whenever you die you can instantly start the level again.

I’m really glad the indie scene exists. Among other things, it allows niche genres like these to keep on living. I’m not sure if we’re ever going to see an indie developer give us the kind of depth we saw during the beloved “PC gaming golden age,” but at least some people are getting to relive their glory days.

Quicksaving: Part 2!

Awhile ago I said that every PC game should have quicksaving. To be honest I’m not sure why I said that, when what I meant to say is that every game should have quicksaving. Console games can have quicksaving, and quite a few of them already do. Every console game developed by Bioware or Bethesda has quicksaving. The only difference between the console and PC games in that regard is that since consoles don’t have 50 different buttons, they can’t pick two buttons to devote to quicksaving and quickloading, so you have to open the menu and choose to save.

However, I’ve been playing a game lately that’s forced me to rethink the whole concept of quicksaving. That game is Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

In Amnesia, you don’t ever have to save. There are no save points, there is no save function in the menu (unless you count “Save and Exit”). All the saving is handled for you via checkpoints.

This can really get on my nerves if it’s not implemented well (like in Velvet Assassin) but in this game it’s done very nicely. There are no sudden surprise deaths, and there are long sequences in which you aren’t encountering any monsters at all. When you do encounter monsters you have to run and hide from them or else you’ll be torn to pieces. The whole effect creates a strong sense of immersion and vulnerability. This has to be the best horror experience I’ve ever had in a game.

This is a game where I actually think that quicksaving would have a bad effect on the gameplay, in that it would be detrimental to the atmosphere. When I hear the sound of a monster growling from inside the next room, my first instinct is to hit the quicksave key and then run inside to see where the monster is, so that once I quickload I’ll know how I can evade it. That’s how I always did it in Deus Ex, and there’s nothing wrong with that in a stealth/action game. But in Amnesia, you’re very clearly supposed to fear the monster. And since there’s no quicksave feature to exploit, the game can actually pull that off.

The other reason the lack of quicksaving works in this game is because the checkpoint system is actually well implemented. If you do die, you won’t be sent back in time to half an hour ago and be left to traverse the last five rooms over again. I’ve only died a few times, but every time I died I was only sent back a minute or so.

I still think quicksaving is an important feature to have in games. But now that I’ve played Amnesia, I’m willing to acknowledge that it’s not appropriate for every game. So this raises the question of which games should have quicksaving and which games shouldn’t.

I’m not about to go through the list of every game genre ever and decide which ones need quicksaving, but at the moment I think that most action games should have it. Most games that have long levels should probably have it, because some people don’t have time to sit down and play a game for two hours straight, or even one hour straight.

It could just be that Amnesia is one of those rare exceptions to the rule that all games should have quicksaving. I’m not entirely sure. I suppose the addition of quicksaving becomes less and less necessary depending on how well the checkpoint system works. I don’t have to quicksave very often in Half-Life 2 and Portal because those games seem to autosave about every ten seconds.

I’m probably going to have to come back to this topic again later once I’ve played another game that gives me more insight into it. It’s an interesting topic, and one that I never really see brought up nowadays.