Unsolicited Mental Objects #6

Tony: So the “sequel” to Terraria was announced recently and the Terrarian in me got super excited. I recently started playing Terraria again and even picked up the Xbox Live Arcade version of it so my boys could enjoy it. I don’t think they’d admit it, but I think they might like it more than they like Minecraft. And they kinda love Minecraft. That affection could be described as “effusive”.

I love Terraria, too. I love that while it’s open-ended and sandbox-y, it has goals and “end points”. I love the exploration aspect of the game and finding new little pockets of abandoned houses and caves filled with ore gets my gears going. So when I read about the Terraria: Otherworld announcement and watched the teaser trailer, I was a little unsettled about this next chapter in Terraria.

See, while Terraria does have those previously mentioned “end points” (be they bosses or descending to The Underworld) those are completely arbitrary. Sometimes world events, like the attack of the Goblin Army, are unavoidable. But other times, it’s a conscious choice to summon the Eye of Cthulhu or the Eater of Worlds. Defeating these bosses doesn’t result in Saving The World. To me, that’s not what Terraria is about. Defeating them gets you a huge pile of loot so you can craft bigger and better swords and guns so you can summon them again, rinse and repeat.

So this new Terraria, with it’s theme of “saving the world” troubles me. I don’t like the idea of having an end point. I just want to do some exploration, mine some ore and maybe fight some big bad bosses. I’m just a simple guy with an iron pickaxe. I’m not a hero.

Nick: Sunless Sea bummed me out. Either my expectations were too high or the gameplay turned out to be a flop – or both – but, man, I don’t have it in me to continue. After 10-ish hours of game time, a pit formed in my belly whenever I thought of playing more, which sucks because on paper Sunless Sea has much going for it.

Part of this state of mind may stem from a personal aversion to text-heavy, story games. I’ve always been under the impression that if I wanted a good story I would read a book. Reading an abundance of text on a self-illuminating screen jars my concentration. Call me old fashioned, but it is what it is.

But, I was willing to make an exception with the text-heavy Sunless Sea. When researching the game prior to purchase I found the setting very appealing. I was engaged by the emphasis on exploration. Developer Alexis Kennedy quoted Joseph Conrad in a blog post on Gamasutra, which, in a small way, was a huge selling point for me. I also took heart to the promise that Early Access purchasers would acquire future DLC for free – of which, the game’s Kickstarter total has sealed the deal on at least one of them, a submersible to use to explore the depths of this Sunless Sea.

And so, for the first few hours I truly was engaged. Perhaps a little miffed I could not increase the size of the text, which makes zero (0) sense to me in a game whose main interaction with the gamer involves reading. I chose to not dwell on this and continued to plod along. I like the mechanic of captains passing down attributes to proceeding captains. I like that sea stories are a form of currency; this helps reaffirm the game’s themes of loneliness and longing.

But you know what I, player of Sunless Sea, longed for after a while? Some actual hint of gameplay.

My problem is not that the game moves slowly. My main issue is that this fictional world doesn’t evolve, which makes the game feel like that much more of a pointless, slow grind.

Upon the death of your captain, the fog of war floods the map once again and you must start afresh with a new captain. Only now, the game takes the islands and landmarks of the sunless sea and shifts them around. Should you embark and come across a familiar island from the previous captain the story of that island stays the same; the player is still clicking through the same narrative branches. This is unrewarding of the taxing efforts needed to get to these locations in the first place.

I’d like to see more life out there on the sea other than myself, monster and pirates. I want dynamic opportunities to intercept ships, besiege pirate strongholds, use the vertical canals to go to the surface, conspire in more detail with factions of islands, confirm whether this or that sea story is fact or myth. I want this stuff to happen sooner. The player can be the bridge between these solitary islands and their stories. To cast a beams of hope in a dank and dismal world (which, BTW, can be better presented. People are going all goo-goo-ga-ga over the atmosphere of Sunless Sea. I dunno, maybe I’m just being picky, but I think there is more to atmosphere than the sound of water drops processed with tons of reverb). But right now – and I may give the game another go – I am just another wayfarer locked up in my own mind and stuck on a ship with other crazies.

Jason: I’ll warn you right now, this UMO is filled with #firstworldproblems.

I recently took a plunge and ended up replacing the GPU on my machine.  I moved from an AMD Radeon 5770 up to a NVidia GTX 960. While I’m super pleased with the results a little part of me was let down.  The jump in framerate is really notable.  I’m pulling around 60fps on ultra settings for all of the games I play.

Something was off though.  I noticed that I definitely wasn’t as excited as I was when swapped my 2008 macbook for my custom built PC. The graphical leap there was REALLY notable whereas the jump here was slightly less huge.

That made me realize that this wasn’t a problem with the card, this was a problem with the games I play.  Going through my currently playing steam list I’ve got no games newer than 2-3 years old and most of them are not designed to be graphically intense.

So this week will be filled with me sampling the action filled, super pretty games that I keep avoiding to play MOBAs.  Bioshock Infinite, Batman Arkham (Fill in the Blank), and Endless Legend here I come!  Hopefully that’ll help me appreciate what I’ve got.

 

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