GWJ Conference Call Episode 128

Conference Call

Resident Evil 5, World of Goo, The Path, Julian Hates Empire: Total War, Gaming on The Fringe, A New Contest!, Your Emails and more!

This week we get back to basics and tackle fringe gaming. Gaming systems vs. environments, how it informs the mainstream and what the future may hold. We're also launching a new contest this week! To win a Steam copy of Empire: Total War just listen to the audio file submitted by TempestBlayze and send your answers to [email protected]! If you want to submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined. You can also submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563!

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

REDONE "Parker's Root Beer" - (Eric Carl) - www.sans-concept.com - 0:32:10
"Natural Mother" - For Rest - (Adam Emanon) - www.myspace.com/nonameadam - 0:59:00

Comments

Elysium wrote:

I guess my fundamental problem continues to come down to the issue that many people seem to agree that The Path fails to be a good game. To me, when the art assets outweigh rather than complement the gaming, then we've wandered off the rails.

Or, to paraphrase another luminary who's frequented the podcasts, no one cares about your stupid graphics.

PS, you suck for not singing.

Elysium wrote:

I guess my fundamental problem continues to come down to the issue that many people seem to agree that The Path fails to be a good game. To me, when the art assets outweigh rather than complement the gaming, then we've wandered off the rails.

Sure, but why is it necessarily a bad thing to wander off the rails? I think the problem with The Path "failing to be a good game might come more from what we consider to a "game" rather than any failings of its own.
Back when movies were all black-and-white silent comedies, I wonder if people saw the first film that wasn't a comedy and went "That's not a good movie!" Now look where we are.

I'm not convinced The Path is wholly successful at accomplishing what it sets out to do, but I am happy that there are people out there who are trying to redefine, or at least make us think, of what the concept of a "game" is. It's just good for the medium, and I think that has to be respected, whether or not you enjoyed the experience.

Elysium wrote:

I'm not ignoring this conversation, by the way. Truth told, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the whole thing, and there is a part of me that feels like people who may feel like they've seen it all in gaming, certainly describing many professionals, may give some subconscious bonus points to someone just for daring to be different. The problem with feeling like that is that then it becomes tough to distinguish between someone that I can tell clearly has a genuine connection with the game, like Pyro, and others.

This isn't a problem that's unique to gaming. I'm a fan of both underground music and art house films, and it can be very difficult at times to suss out whether or not a particular movie or album is being praised for being outre or if the reviewer or consumer is genuinely enthusiastic about it. To be honest, at times I have a hard time telling if I like something because it's genuinely moving or if I like it simply because it's weird; like Rabbit, I am "wholly guilty of digging the weird simply because it's weird."

What I've learned is that you really have to develop a relationship with and trust the person who has recommended something to you or who has given something a positive review. In the case of The Path, I completely trust Pyroman and Dysplastic to only recommend something they have truly engaged with because I know that they're the sort of people who will call a spade a spade.

But I can completely understand where you're coming from with this. I have my own very mixed feelings about art games.

Elysium wrote:

I guess my fundamental problem continues to come down to the issue that many people seem to agree that The Path fails to be a good game. To me, when the art assets outweigh rather than complement the gaming, then we've wandered off the rails.

What's interesting about The Path is that it's designed specifically to not be a game. The "game" aspects of it, like the collecting of items and discovery of secret locations, is intended to be extremely difficult, if not impossible on some play-throughs. I found this comment by Michaël Samyn, one of the game's designers, to be very enlightening. He was asked about some problems finding a certain item that the player believed he should be able to collect.

Michaël Samyn wrote:

I believe the third object on the third row is one that only Rose can interact with and it only appears when the Theater is in the forest. So it can be tricky. But it's not impossible.

We were never really very serious when we designed these conventional game elements and we like that they are unfair, actually. I can understand that this may be frustrating for the gamer in you, but we feel that when you start playing on that "meta-level", you stop being involved with the game's narrative, which is our focus as designers.

We also thought that the extra difficulty of actually fully completing the game on this meta level, would be pleasing to people who are into that, because of the added challenge. That may have been a mistake. But if it was, we'd just as well rip out the entire basket as a solution and that would destroy the meta-game completely.

The score screen only grades the current playthrough. So if you stopped before going to grandmother's house, it will ignore everything you did. It's totally unfair, we know.

So your interpretation is correct: The Path is a game that you should never finish. Just stop playing when you're done. When the story has been told. Your choice.

Michaël hints elsewhere in the Tale of Tales forums that the collectible flowers in the game were meant to be a waste of time and a comment on the pointlessness of gaming. Insofar as The Path is concerned then, the art assets complementing or trumping the gameplay is beside the point as the gameplay itself is beside the point.

Now, what you think about that is something else entirely.

Sure, but why is it necessarily a bad thing to wander off the rails?

On the game end, it's not. I think we addressed that.

On the editorial end ... well that depends on how seriously you take gaming journalism and I am loathe to open up that debate.

Back when movies were all black-and-white silent comedies, I wonder if people saw the first film that wasn't a comedy and went "That's not a good movie!" Now look where we are.

Yeah, but The Path strikes me not as an evolution of gaming but an aberration of it. It's not evolution, it's a mutation, and I guess the difference there is subjective. This doesn't strike me as building upon the idea of gaming, but as a way to subvert expectations of what a game is. It's Yoko Ono vs. John Lennon. One of them had a meaningful impact on changing the way people thought about music and one of them didn't. Again, good for game makers to explore and even fail, not necessarily good for gamers to see a certain people, who are not Pyro, chalking up bonus points just for the effort.

I'm not convinced The Path is wholly successful at accomplishing what it sets out to do, but I am happy that there are people out there who are trying to redefine, or at least make us think, of what the concept of a "game" is. It's just good for the medium, and I think that has to be respected, whether or not you enjoyed the experience.

I agree with this 100%. Again, my entire issue is with the reception, which actually kinda makes me look like an absolute tool, but I can roll with that.

After all, what's love got to do with it?

Michaël hints elsewhere in the Tale of Tales forums that the collectible flowers in the game were meant to be a waste of time and a comment on the pointlessness of gaming.

See, I read that and I get annoyed. Not because he did it, but because that's somehow seems laudable. I don't need my past time to be deconstructed.

Elysium wrote:
Michaël hints elsewhere in the Tale of Tales forums that the collectible flowers in the game were meant to be a waste of time and a comment on the pointlessness of gaming.

See, I read that and I get annoyed. Not because he did it, but because that's somehow seems laudable. I don't need my past time to be deconstructed.

I'm annoyed that he did it, to be honest. I don't find it laudable; it's a prank disguised as a game, and I'd rather he left it out of the game than make a smug statement about what I'm doing with my time. What I'm doing with my time and my money is paying for and playing his game. Pointless, indeed.

My feelings about The Path have taken a pretty severe dive since I read some of Michaël Samyn's comments.

On the comment about Blizzard not being touched by Activision because they're Blizzard - I disagree. I don't think Blizzard has escaped Activisions grand scheme for franchising every property they own, and I'll point to StarCraft 2 as evidence.

Obviously I can't *prove* one way or another that StarCraft 2 would have been 1 game as opposed to 3 without Activision, but it's pretty damn suspicious. For 18 years now Blizzard has produced a title, then expansion packs for it, and now all of a sudden they opt to make it into 3 separate titles? That strikes me as being more than mere coincidence.

Additionally, as was mentioned in the podcast, Blizzard has suddenly promised to release 1 title a year, where as their stance up until now has been "it'll be done when it's done". I find it hard to believe that these changes were already in the pipeline, and were not influenced by the Activision merger.

Elysium wrote:

I agree with this 100%. Again, my entire issue is with the reception, which actually kinda makes me look like an absolute tool, but I can roll with that.

I think we can all roll with you looking like an absolute tool!

Also - I feel like I've seen just as much negative reception as positive reception. Apart from Pyro, RPS, and Tom Chick, I haven't really seen any write-ups that were positive, and RPS even says that he didn't like it.

On the other hand, I did find this review - which I could use as an example of the reception being wrong but from the other end of the spectrum.

If you're reviewing The Path by breaking it down into categories like "Sound", "Graphics", and "Replayability", you're doing it wrong.

Hey, Rabbit, I have a side-question: Since the game is about bad things happening to innocent children, do you think the fact that you're a parent influenced your perception of the game? I know that if I had a daughter my feelings about the game might be different.

adam.greenbrier wrote:

My feelings about The Path have taken a pretty severe dive since I read some of Michaël Samyn's comments.

Uh oh, we're entering into Jonothan Blow territory here. Let's not go down this road again.....

And about the flowers - they actually do influence gameplay, to a point.

Dysplastic wrote:
adam.greenbrier wrote:

My feelings about The Path have taken a pretty severe dive since I read some of Michaël Samyn's comments.

Uh oh, we're entering into Jonothan Blow territory here. Let's not go down this road again.....

And about the flowers - they actually do influence gameplay, to a point.

Perhaps I should rephrase this: I don't have a problem with Michaël Samyn, and he can say whatever he wants to about his game. My feelings about the game haven't changed because I've gotten a bad impression of the game's creator as a person. What has affected my feelings about the game is the discovery that elements of it were designed specifically to make playing it as a game an unpleasant experience. I have spent hours wandering through the forest looking for items that I was told I would be able to collect, and I'm not happy to discover that not only was I wasting my time but that I was supposed to be.

And you're right, the flowers do influence the gameplay to a limited extent.

Switchbreak wrote:

I think the reason that I enjoyed The Path as a game is tied in to why I play games, which I think is different than why most people play them. Games that I have loved (in general), have hooked me by providing a sense of place. That's always what I've felt that games as a form can do better than any other medium - they can't necessarily provide a world that is whole and consistent any more than a movie or a book can, but they can transmit the feeling of a setting with more clarity. This may be partially because it is easier to project yourself into the environment since you can wander around it, or just because of the longer amount of time you spend there. The Path, despite it's slow pace and frustrating mechanics, excels in this one area far beyond what you would expect from a low-budget production. The forest felt like a place, with a personality and a peculiar sensation all it's own. For me, this makes it very successful as a game.

And yet, I don't completely hate the game, and Switchbreak does a good job here of explaining why.

I think the reason that I enjoyed The Path as a game is tied in to why I play games, which I think is different than why most people play them. Games that I have loved (in general), have hooked me by providing a sense of place. That's always what I've felt that games as a form can do better than any other medium - they can't necessarily provide a world that is whole and consistent any more than a movie or a book can, but they can transmit the feeling of a setting with more clarity. This may be partially because it is easier to project yourself into the environment since you can wander around it, or just because of the longer amount of time you spend there. The Path, despite its slow pace and frustrating mechanics, excels in this one area far beyond what you would expect from a low-budget production. The forest felt like a place, with a personality and a peculiar sensation all its own. For me, this makes it very successful as a game.

Man, after railing on The Witcher and The Path, all Elysium or Rabbit had to do was hate on Far Cry 2 and I probably would have turned into an uncontrollable ball of nerd rage at work this morning.

Rat Boy wrote:

I don't know why, but for a second I thought Elysium was going to start busting out "What's Love Got To Do With It?" when they were talking about the game Love.

What was even better was SNL's "What is Love?!" skit going through my head, with Certis, Elysium, and Rabbit. Rob would was strangely absent, or could have possibly been the poor defenseless female that gets jossled around in the night club.

adam.greenbrier wrote:
Dysplastic wrote:
adam.greenbrier wrote:

My feelings about The Path have taken a pretty severe dive since I read some of Michaël Samyn's comments.

Uh oh, we're entering into Jonothan Blow territory here. Let's not go down this road again.....

And about the flowers - they actually do influence gameplay, to a point.

Perhaps I should rephrase this: I don't have a problem with Michaël Samyn, and he can say whatever he wants to about his game. My feelings about the game haven't changed because I've gotten a bad impression of the game's creator as a person. What has affected my feelings about the game is the discovery that elements of it were designed specifically to make playing it as a game an unpleasant experience. I have spent hours wandering through the forest looking for items that I was told I would be able to collect, and I'm not happy to discover that not only was I wasting my time but that I was supposed to be.

And this is something I'm finding as I do more Fringe Busters articles, I like it when games f*ck with me like this, and not everyone else does. Because I like to break a games rules, and so I enjoy being rewarded for telling their rules to go f*ck off. I'm the guy who played Counter Strike to figure out how to get stuck in odd bits of the level, or convince my team to stack in a big tower at the spawn point. Because I think it's fun to tell the rules that everyone else is playing by to take a flying leap.

So when he makes a game mechanic that seems pointless, and he actually intended for it to be pointless and for you to ignore it, I LOVE it. Because I do recognize it as pointless and I do ignore it, just as I do in every other game with tons of pointless collectible bits. I respect that other people can't get over that. But I feel like the creator of the game has finally expressed something that's been on my mind every time I've had to pick up a collectible pile of sh*t to move on. I guess in some ways, I see it as satire.

adam.greenbrier wrote:
Switchbreak wrote:

I think the reason that I enjoyed The Path as a game is tied in to why I play games, which I think is different than why most people play them. Games that I have loved (in general), have hooked me by providing a sense of place. That's always what I've felt that games as a form can do better than any other medium - they can't necessarily provide a world that is whole and consistent any more than a movie or a book can, but they can transmit the feeling of a setting with more clarity. This may be partially because it is easier to project yourself into the environment since you can wander around it, or just because of the longer amount of time you spend there. The Path, despite it's slow pace and frustrating mechanics, excels in this one area far beyond what you would expect from a low-budget production. The forest felt like a place, with a personality and a peculiar sensation all it's own. For me, this makes it very successful as a game.

And yet, I don't completely hate the game, and Switchbreak does a good job here of explaining why.

This is why I was espousing the taxonomy of gamers earlier. Explorers and tourists play games precisely for this kind of experience. Completionists and skill gamers play for entirely opposite reasons, and will hate The Path. Other groups will react differently. I think it's a very handy way to dissect the problem.

Elysium wrote:
Michaël hints elsewhere in the Tale of Tales forums that the collectible flowers in the game were meant to be a waste of time and a comment on the pointlessness of gaming.

See, I read that and I get annoyed. Not because he did it, but because that's somehow seems laudable. I don't need my past time to be deconstructed.

I think I'm coming at this from a satire perspective. I don't see it so much as the comment on all of gaming that it was probably intended to be. I just see yet another game that tries to get you to collect a bunch of stupid, pointless sh*t. When I play The Path, and I figure out that there's way too many flowers for my patience, then I find out they're really not that important anyway, I don't feel cheated out of a big collection spree. I feel, "Damn right they're pointless." Because every other game like this tries to make a bunch of collectible stuff seem worthwhile or fun, and I can't help but see a big field full of flowers and potentially wasted time. It's probably also why I hate MMOs.

This is why I don't see The Path as a dead end, or an aberration. Because it's made for people who play games like I play them. I think, from what I'm reading, is that it's just not for everyone. I don't think that means it's Yoko Ono screeching into a microphone for 45 minutes

Michaël Samyn wrote:

I believe the third object on the third row is one that only Rose can interact with and it only appears when the Theater is in the forest. So it can be tricky. But it's not impossible.

We were never really very serious when we designed these conventional game elements and we like that they are unfair, actually. I can understand that this may be frustrating for the gamer in you, but we feel that when you start playing on that "meta-level", you stop being involved with the game's narrative, which is our focus as designers.

We also thought that the extra difficulty of actually fully completing the game on this meta level, would be pleasing to people who are into that, because of the added challenge. That may have been a mistake. But if it was, we'd just as well rip out the entire basket as a solution and that would destroy the meta-game completely.

The score screen only grades the current playthrough. So if you stopped before going to grandmother's house, it will ignore everything you did. It's totally unfair, we know.

So your interpretation is correct: The Path is a game that you should never finish. Just stop playing when you're done. When the story has been told. Your choice.

Ok I was going to wait until we recorded our next show to say my opinion on The Path but the part of the quote I emphasized makes me incredibly angry! He can go f*ck himself! I will never touch anything that guy creates ever again. I mean seriously he can go screw himself! I spent half a day playing the game and found myself enjoying it for the most part only to feel screwed by the end thinking I encountered a bug or something.

I am ok with the fact that there were certain items I would not be able to collect with certain characters until certain locations opened up, I sort of figured that out on my own while playing.

The flower collecting was something I never saw myself trying to complete, and I think having so many to collect with so few available to collect all the time the game reinforced that decision.

However with all the talk about how this really isn't a game, there were still game type elements included! The first time I played through one of the characters I just kind of let the story unfold, which is what I heard I should do, I interacted with the wolf got to the end and figured ok that was interesting. But than this screen comes up telling me I missed several objects and thus didn't get to see some hidden rooms. This tells me as a person there is more to the experience than I was able to get, so I restarted and tried to figure out what it was I could do to get more stuff and see those hidden rooms. My interest was piqued, and if they didn't care if I saw everything why would they tell me I missed stuff!

So I started again to see if I can figure out what I did wrong to miss so much stuff. In my playing I find out they set up the game (or whatever you want to call it) so that a player can get back on the path and even go back to the character select screen by using the phone on the road before interacting with a wolf, which lead me and possibly others to believe it was OK to do that. They than reinforced that decision by keeping those previous items collected in the basket when you returned with a new girl. So I figured OK, I will do just that collect everything with all the girls before I interact with any of the wolves! Only in the end I find out that wasn't going to work.

I spent several hours playing through the game IN ONE SITTING only to end up with worse results than if I had just ignored all the game like reinforcement they threw in there, and now I find out they did that on purpose! Well f*ck YOU ASSHOLE!

So here is what I think. Either that mechanic in the game was a flaw they never caught before release and now he is trying to cover it up with some crappy "look at my art" excuse, or he is actually that big a dick! Either way the only thing I come away with is a burning desire to meet this guy and deck him. I mean seriously! You can talk as much as you want about how what you created really isn't a game and that it's more about the experience than anything, but you can't than constantly reinforce game type behavior from your audience while playing. Well maybe you can if you are willing to constantly punish them immediately for doing so. It's unfair to your audience to leave that punishment until the end, after all that time has been wasted!

If you will excuse me now I am going to find a wall to punch!

I'll have to say even as much as I enjoyed the whole flower thing, that part at the end with the items and hidden rooms was pretty screwy. I think he screwed it up, and just doesn't care because he doesn't consider it integral to the experience. Which it's not. But it trips alot of people up. I figured out pretty quick that I didn't think it was possible to get them all in one run through, and that I didn't care to find out. But I can really see that messing some people up, and it didn't really come from a place of expression but instead it came from a place of indifference towards the player. Which sucks out loud. I kinda just figured they screwed it up and didn't realize it.

But I still dig the whole "the game is unfair, it's messing with you, play it until you're done and enjoy it" vibe. I just think in this one instance, it doesn't come across as being "unfair because the world is unfair" or some other emotional expression like the flowers or the confusing map, but "unfair because I was too lazy to think this through beforehand."

Well.. I have no drama to add. I just wanted to say, I enjoyed the show. Well done and informative! Gamers with Jobs was part of our podcast news this week. I hope it draws some new listeners your way. You guys do a superb job!

Regards
Liso

Gaald wrote:

Hulk smash

Yeah, I'm right there with you on that point. I think the item collection, outside of its use as a way to draw the player deeper in the forest and make them do more things than just run to one of the endings, is a very bad mechanic. I don't have a completionist bone in my body and even I wasted a lot of time looking for one specific spot with one of the girls that I just couldn't find. The only reason that didn't turn me off from the game is that I almost never try to 100% games anyway - but for people who play games that way, I can see how the teasing at the end would just sour the whole thing.

surely the limited installs goes against EA's treatment of bioware. Of everything in gaming last year that made me the most angry. My PC is having issues and I can't afford to replace it so i have formatted a lot of times since buying ME which means I can no longer play the game i bought.

Activision can pump out all the sh*tty games it like and it won't stop me being able to play cod4.

System vs. environment? Isn't this just the same as the 'gameplay vs. story' and 'gameplay vs. graphics' conversations everyone has already had before rolled into one? The only difference is now we're talking about how the fringe keeps pushing the envelope of system vs. enviorment. So we're effectively talking about indie vs. mainstream, gameplay vs. graphics, and gameplay vs. story all at once while pretending it's a totally new subject. Maybe there's more to this, but it seems to me that you guys are just inventing new terms for things gamers have been talking about for years.

BlueBrain wrote:

Maybe there's more to this, but it seems to me that you guys are just inventing new terms for things gamers have been talking about for years.

I suppose that's fair, but then, I don't think we claimed this was a blinding insight for which mankind was not prepared. It was simply a thought brought about by recent launches, and recent coverage.

BlueBrain wrote:

System vs. environment? Isn't this just the same as the 'gameplay vs. story' and 'gameplay vs. graphics' conversations everyone has already had before rolled into one? The only difference is now we're talking about how the fringe keeps pushing the envelope of system vs. enviorment. So we're effectively talking about indie vs. mainstream, gameplay vs. graphics, and gameplay vs. story all at once while pretending it's a totally new subject. Maybe there's more to this, but it seems to me that you guys are just inventing new terms for things gamers have been talking about for years.

yeah, I said the same thing, but nobody paid attention when I mentioned it earlier. I think there's a bit more to the system vs environment thing, after listening to the whole thing and sitting on it for a while. But it can still boil down to graphics vs gameplay if you let it.

mrtomaytohead wrote:

But it can still boil down to graphics vs gameplay if you let it.

Huh. I took the discussion more in the vein of Juul's games as "rules and fiction" definition (http://www.half-real.net). That the controversial games receive attention specifically because their fiction subverts their rules (Killer7, Gravity Bone, Braid, Path). Satire, punk, deconstructionism, artfulness, call it what you will.

I also think recent triple-A titles that have been badly received are unintentionally doing the same thing (Prince of Persia, Mirrors Edge, HAWX). So it's not simply graphics/gameply to me. The grumbling of game difficulty lives somewhere in here... rules say no death, fiction says I was stabbed in the face with a 12' sword.

And here's where I can agree with some of the hesitation I was hearing. Gamers reward developers bizarrely. I have trouble finding in another medium the equivalent of evolving from GTA1 to GTA4 or Pong to Wii Tennis. Developers are all over the map with the next game, and we pay them to be that way up to a point. I can see how it would be easy to misinterpret satire with bad design. "Hey, this game was Tweeted about furiously, it must have something going for it."

On the consumer side, there's not much context when we buy a game. Most other mediums are forced by physicality to reveal some of their intentions. Shopping on Steam can be like heading for a Sinatra concert and ending up at a Stooges show. Developers invoking any kind of satiric elements are going to make enemies. Especially if they don't get out in front of their creations and explain some of this before someone hits the 'buy now' button. Don't think 'buyer beware' covers it, as a demo of Path wouldn't reveal all its intent.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe iPhones with 64,000 Bejewled clones will force the evolution of different consumption strategies in the next wave of gamers.

mrtomaytohead wrote:

yeah, I said the same thing, but nobody paid attention when I mentioned it earlier.

You didn't write it in a mildly offensive manner

I'm only about halfway through The Path, and I can definitely see both sides of love/hate thing. As a video game in the conventional sense, it has a lot of problems:

1) The controls take a lot of getting used to - once you make allowances for them, it gets better though.
2) A lot of the gameplay elements are verging on hostile to the player. The slow walking bits near Grandma's house are just plain painful. The thing that triggered the Rob smash - and the fact that the thing he got annoyed about may not actually matter. It gets you coming and going.
3) Some bits are just plain unintuitive. Triggering Carmen's wolf. Seriously, what the hell? I also don't understand any of the secret rooms I've been into so far. Am I meant to, or are they intentionally incomprehensible? And also:

Rat Boy wrote:

Art house David Lynch stuff? What, does Red Riding Hood run into Data talking in German?

That would've been easier to follow! When I got successfully got to Grandma's house with the youngest girl I initially thought the game had crashed. I'm still not entirely sure what the whole sequence that followed meant, but it made my housemate wander off muttering about not sleeping tonight.

Despite all that, I'm deeply into The Path. I certainly don't have the same sense of glee that I did with games like Portal, and I'm not sure that I'm comfortable enough with the ideas being explored to even say I'm enjoying it. I am finding it really, really engaging though. The ideas, the atmosphere, and the sense of place that someone previously mentioned are all phenomenal. Despite the frustrations, I'm enjoying the challenging nature of the story and themes. I'm certainly finding it more personally affecting than any game I've played since... well, ever.

The problem as I see it is that it's only a video game in the loosest sense of the term, and as a video game, it's not very good. As a storytelling medium, it's doing something I'm intrigued by. The best term I can think of is interactive fiction, but that's already taken.

As a footnote/disclaimer: I may be getting a bit carried away by the differences between The Path and conventional games since I jumped into it off the back of playing NFS: Most Wanted. That's right at the opposite end of the spectrum - good gameplay, lots of fun, but does absolutely zilch with story, intellectual challenge and so on.

PyromanFO wrote:

[[...] I like it when games f*ck with me like this, and not everyone else does. Because I like to break a games rules, and so I enjoy being rewarded for telling their rules to go f*ck off. I'm the guy who played Counter Strike to figure out how to get stuck in odd bits of the level, or convince my team to stack in a big tower at the spawn point. Because I think it's fun to tell the rules that everyone else is playing by to take a flying leap.

So when he makes a game mechanic that seems pointless, and he actually intended for it to be pointless and for you to ignore it, I LOVE it. Because I do recognize it as pointless and I do ignore it, just as I do in every other game with tons of pointless collectible bits. I respect that other people can't get over that. But I feel like the creator of the game has finally expressed something that's been on my mind every time I've had to pick up a collectible pile of sh*t to move on. I guess in some ways, I see it as satire.

Having taken a step away from it, and having spent a couple hours in the middle of the night working on a review of it, my problem with the item collection in The Path comes less from the flowers and more from the items hidden in the forest.

There's no reward for collecting all 1001 light seeds in the latest Prince of Persia or finding all of the heart pieces in a Zelda game, and those don't bother me. I resent that the creator intended the flowers to be a comment on the pointlessness of gaming, but that's something that I'm able and willing to ignore for the sake of enjoying the game.

What does bother me, however, is that The Path has a clear system for telling you which items can be collected by which girls: on the inventory screen, the items a girl can collect are darkened. However, this isn't necessarily true; there are items that the game will show as being collectible by the character you're playing but that you simply cannot collect unless you played the characters in the game in a particular order. The item mentioned in Michaël Samyn's comment, the one that can only be collected by Rose at the theatre, was one I spent hours looking for because the inventory screen lead me to believe that I could find it. If the item simply hadn't have been highlighted, or if the game hadn't included that item in the score at the end, I wouldn't have cared, but it seems unfair, sloppy, and pretentious to tell players that they missed a part of a characters experience that they literally couldn't have ever found.

PyromanFO wrote:

This is why I was espousing the taxonomy of gamers earlier. Explorers and tourists play games precisely for this kind of experience. Completionists and skill gamers play for entirely opposite reasons, and will hate The Path. Other groups will react differently. I think it's a very handy way to dissect the problem.

I'll admit that I'm a completionist/tourist and that this game aggravates one part of me and intrigues the other. However, since the developers freely admit that they didn't really care about the traditional game elements of their game, and because those game elements are implemented so poorly, I wonder why they bothered to include them? Your explanation of satire is interesting, but I find Rob's idea to be more compelling: they screwed it up, and now it's not a bug; it's a feature.

BlueBrain wrote:

System vs. environment? Isn't this just the same as the 'gameplay vs. story' and 'gameplay vs. graphics' conversations everyone has already had before rolled into one? The only difference is now we're talking about how the fringe keeps pushing the envelope of system vs. enviorment. So we're effectively talking about indie vs. mainstream, gameplay vs. graphics, and gameplay vs. story all at once while pretending it's a totally new subject. Maybe there's more to this, but it seems to me that you guys are just inventing new terms for things gamers have been talking about for years.

While system versus environment can be broken down into gameplay versus graphics, and it sometimes was in the podcast, I don't think they're necessarily equivalent comparisons. Environment is about the experience of playing the game, while system is about the rules of the game and their application.

A game with a great environment could have crappy graphics, and a game with a tight system could look spectacular. As an example of a game with a great environment, I'd offer Endless Ocean; it's not the best looking game around, and it barely has any rules at all, but it offers a compelling environmental experience. Alternatively, I'd offer World of WarCraft, which I've never played, but which seems to be more of an environmental experience than one built around an exciting set of rules. As an example of a game with a strong system and great graphics, I'd offer the multiplayer segment of Call of Duty 4; the graphics are great, but the experience of the game really boils down to the great implementation of the rules system. There are a lot of multiplayer shooters, but that one gets a lot of time and attention because the underlying system is well put-together.

At least, that's how I read the system versus environment argument, but Rabbit could tell me that I'm wrong. I will say that, taken from that angle, Elysium was wrong to say that system trumps environment or that a good system should be valued over a good environment. I think that different gamers will value different aspects of gaming and that it can be valuable to place environment over system depending on the type of gamer you're wanting to satisfy.

I don't think that they are trying to sell the item collection as a feature. This part of that designer quote:

We also thought that the extra difficulty of actually fully completing the game on this meta level, would be pleasing to people who are into that, because of the added challenge. That may have been a mistake. But if it was, we'd just as well rip out the entire basket as a solution and that would destroy the meta-game completely.

Makes me think that it was just something they fully admit to having not thought out that well. Which isn't a good excuse, granted, and I can fully understand something like that souring a person on the entire game if they were playing it as a completionist. But I don't think they are completely blind to the fact that it may have been a bad idea.

hm.. the flowers have some influence of how to play the game. at first playthrough I got distracted by them, I went off to collect them and got deeper and deeper into the woods... so that I got totally lost. It is actually quite an achievment how easy it is to get lost in this special wood. When I went to grandmothers house, I did go to the backside, there I went maybe 10 meters away from the house, I turned, and I could not find my way back to the house... and I never could find the path again by myself when I was lost in the wood.... it is really a wonderous wood.

cheers

brof wrote:

hm.. the flowers have some influence of how to play the game. at first playthrough I got distracted by them, I went off to collect them and got deeper and deeper into the woods... so that I got totally lost. It is actually quite an achievment how easy it is to get lost in this special wood. When I went to grandmothers house, I did go to the backside, there I went maybe 10 meters away from the house, I turned, and I could not find my way back to the house... and I never could find the path again by myself when I was lost in the wood.... it is really a wonderous wood.

cheers

It's easy to get lost in the woods and not be able to find the path again because once you lose sight of the path it's removed from the map entirely.

yeah but I had the illusion I could go back to the path anytime, but when I tried I failed. The only hope was the wolf... when I could not find the wolf I was in trouble. I left the PC running, did some other stuff, when I noticed that the white girl was leading me back to the path. what a great sad moment that was when she hugged me...

in this game, you cannot push through the game. you cannot force a solution. that makes the game great! (btw: I was bored to death by MadWorld ... hehehe).

cheers,