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March 5, 2019

Recent games

Recent Games

In this post I will go through some games I recently played. First some small but awesome games, then few bigger ones with more comments on them.

West of Loathing

West of Loathing is a small game developed by Asymmetric publications. It's full of funny jokes and great art. Lead developer Zack Johnson did a postmortem talk about West of Loathing at GDC 2018.

The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game

The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game is about 1 hour long game, and was created by Grace Bruxner. The writing is awesome, and its unique art style supports it very well. It might be a bit short, but that's just what it is—short silly island adventure.

Gris

Gris is a platformer from Nomada Studio. I don't particularly enjoy platformers, but this one is a bit different. It doesn't try to challenge the player and instead lets you experience its beautiful visual and audio design.

Apex Legends

Apex Legends came out out-of-nowhere. It was developed by Respawn Entertainment (Titanfall creators). It's a free-to-play game, and is doing extremely well even without any pre-release marketing. I'm not too interested in the Battle royale genre, but this game is very polished and pushes some boundaries of the genre.

The good

  • It's very well put together and with a lot of polish.
  • Great ping system that can substitute for verbal communication in most situations.
  • It fits neatly between Fortnite and more realistic BR games like CoD4 or PUBG.
The bad
  • Character art design is rather uninspiring. I can't expect Overwatch-level of character design, but given how this game is polished, I hoped for a bit more.
  • Networking isn't the best (see video).

Apex Legends Netcode Needs A Lot Of Work | Battle(non)sense
Into the Breach

Into the Breach is a small turn-based tactical game created by Subset Games (creators of FTL: Faster Than Light).

The good
  • The gameplay is great. The fact that you are given all the information about what enemies will do makes solving combat puzzles very interesting and rewarding.
  • Rules are simple, but the gameplay is deep. It's a great example of high depth (emergent complexity) and low inherent complexity.
  • The story provides a good justification of rogue-like type of gameplay.
Other
  • I'm not sure if rogue-like type of game is a good fit for a game that's a series of puzzles. Even if you can solve easy puzzles perfectly, they will cost you time and energy and can feel like a wasted time. I don't have a lot of experience with rogue-like games, but I imagine games that go more for flow-focused gameplay don't have this issue as much. Either way you have to love the basic game-loop.
  • While there are a lot of different mechanics that distinguish missions, the variety in main objectives is lacking.


Mobile

  • It's shame such game isn't on mobile devices. Its simplicity, turn-based nature and even the length of missions would make it a great fit for mobile devices.
  • The main issue would be getting UI to work on smaller screens. In this interview developers talk about how UI simplicity affected their game design decisions. UI/UX is clearly very important to them, and porting it to small screens wouldn't be simple.
  • I played it on my phone with game streaming; it wasn't perfect. However, in my opinion, a native mobile version would provide a better experience than having to use a PC.
  • It's just shame how many games, that would make for great mobile games, are PC only. Meanwhile, on mobile we get things like Diablo which isn't well suited for mobile devices.
Black Ops 4

Black Ops 4 was developed by Treyarch together with Raven Software and Beenox. I actually had a lot of fun with Black Ops 3 despite its many flaws. I found a cheap copy and gave it a try.

Overall, it's a similar meat-grinder, which can be fun. Some things were improved, and some got worse.


Technical side
  • Still the same old janky engine
  • Menus are rather unoptimized, and transitions take too much time
  • Good list of options in the settings
UX
  • Many elements are lacking tooltips. If you show a warning sign, the user should be able to find out what's the warning about. The same thing if you lock certain functionality, the user should be able to find out how to unlock it.
  • Menus are put together very unintuitively and without regards for good UX.
  • Overall it lacks polish and feels slapped on top of console version without care.
Game design
  • Secondary powers on specialists are a good addition.
  • Ultimate powers on specialists are still too strong and detract from the core gameplay.
  • Score-streaks are still too strong positive feedback loop, and only exaggerate problems with matchmaking and players leaving matches.
Other
  • Map pool doesn't seem as good as in Black Ops 3.
  • Grenades seem to be used less and are accessible later. It feels like a good change.
  • Team balancing is again very weak, but at least it can divide players into two teams. In Black Ops 3 you would often see 5vs7 or even 4vs8 teams at the start of the game.
  • Occasional cheaters as always. I'm not sure if the game being on Battle.net launcher helped at all.
  • Monetization is said to be bad, but I haven't engaged with it enough to know.


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