Hotline Miami Is Nuts, FTL Is Gambling

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Hotline Miami Is Nuts, FTL Is Gambling

Yahtzee likes a game that handles madness well.

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I can't tell if he likes it or not. I feel stupid.

You were surprised by people picking up on your FTL allusion in the review? You mean the part where you prominently displayed the FTL icon for about 2 seconds?

erttheking:
I can't tell if he likes it or not. I feel stupid.

Well, it wouldn't really be fun if we had nothing to discuss, rage, and argue about here, would it?

OT: I bought Hotline Miami after mister Yahtzee did the review, and I can confirm that it is a completely mental game. Brilliant. But mental. And you need to be able to handle violence if you want too play it, though I believe he said as much in last weeks ZP.

..Still can't beat the final boss either, damn ninja stripper. >.<

He's dead-on, FTL is gambling. I must be some kind of moron, because I've been playing for 3 weeks straight and can't get past Sector 5, no matter how awesome my ship and crew are. Yet I can't stop playing, thinking "this will be the day". I've been referring to it as FML to my girlfriend.

Well there was a lot of cocaine back in the eighties.

Ashcrexl:
You were surprised by people picking up on your FTL allusion in the review? You mean the part where you prominently displayed the FTL icon for about 2 seconds?

I actually had to go back and check that again "Trying to keep up with the indies" Oh yeah I did see that the first time.

Ugh, I hate randomness in video games. That was one of the biggest problems I had with Fallout 2, you could get random encounters with huge bands of raiders right off the bat when all you were armed with was a fucking spear.

When it comes to portraying insanity in a game, I think Far Cry 3 had a nice take. There are the obvious hallucinations, but there are also subtle clues that something's not quite right the rest of the time either.


What makes it different is that the game never comes out and tells you "oh hey, this part was real and that part was just a dream": it leaves you to try and figure out for yourself just how much of it is "really" happening.

Weeeeell FTL isn't ALWAYS about gambling. You can ignore a lot of events that can royally screw you over, such as the Alien Spider event or the Planet Drifting through Nebula event. Blue event options for example, almost always remove the 'gamble' element from quite a lot of events.

"But you have to rely on luck to even get the prereqs for blue events in the first place!"
Yes, that's true. And you'll never have all the prereqs to have a blue option in every single event. Randomness and luck is still a part of the game, but a lot of it has to deal with tipping odds in your favor.

I think calling the entire game a gamble is a cop-out. Looking back on my many, many failures in that game, it's safe to say that a great deal of them were the result of bad decisions on my part. Not because the game randomly decided to put me in an unwinnable state. Although I'm sure the latter has happened once or twice.

Although I will say that unlocking the crystal ship is a complete crap-shoot.

He said he wanted to avoid doing a Zero Punctuation on two games he liked, but instead ended up doing an Extra Punctuation on two games he liked....

Well, the subject of insanity is hard to deal with in games because it typically requires a fairly functional protaganist to be insane. The thing is that insanity is usually pretty consistant and well reasoned within itself and rarely involves just doing stuff "for the heck of it" or is as simple as "this guy believes something that simply isn't true" if that was the case it would be rather easy to deal with. What's more sanity or insanity can oddly be a matter
of perspective and priorities more than anything else.

As someone who has brain damage and has been on both sides of the sanity coin (as odd as this sounds) including having had hallucinations a few times, I will say they Hollywood and Video Game writers just don't really "get it". Some people writing novels do, and typically strike me as having either suffered problems themselves, or been close enough to confer with people who have.

The thing is that storylines in games and movies usually have very specific needs, and "insanity" is used as a crutch to explain behavior that just doesn't make sense for anyone to do. Or as a way of getting around political, or moral issues that might make people uncomfortable. It's easier to say have someone engaging in mass murder because of some vaguely defined "insanity", maybe having a hallucination show up once in a while to reinforce it, than to actually build up a logical series of events and reasoning that would cause someone to get to that point, which might disturb people more if they find themselves wondering if maybe the supposed bad guy, and his methods, are actually right. Very few stories explore that, and those that do are quite powerful, but are generally too much for the average person and the current climate of political correctness.

I'll also go so far as to say that I do not think many of the so called "psycho killers" that have become famous were insane, in many cases they simply chose to do wrong for their own reasons. People aren't comfortable with that so it's easier to label them as being "insane", which I believe has also destroyed the system by making the insanity plea a "get out of death free" card for anyone who does anything really bad due to the catch-22 arguement that no "sane" person who understood right and wrong could possibly do what they did. Something that has been heavily exploited, after all someone who just flat out decided to be evil for their own gratification can claim they heard voices from the neighbor's dog that drove them to it, and nobody can prove otherwise.

The point being that I don't give Hotline Miami much in the way of credit for it's gripping and accurate portrayal of what it's like to be a crazy on a frantic murder rampage. No doubt it's a fun game, but doesn't deserve credit for any kind of depth (I've played it a bit, but wasn't impressed enough to get my own copy, maybe if it shows up in an Indie bundle or something).

Some people might not get it, or why I make this point, but the bottom line is that I think the differance between crazy and just plain evil needs to be understood.

I can actually agree with the FTL-gambling issue, because as fun and addictive as FTL is (it was a narrow 2nd-place contender for my Game of the Year 2012) it's painfully luck-driven.

Now, luck is just part of the Roguelike experience. Nethack provides you with a bevvy of different opening strategies in the form of Classes, and some of those are definitively harder than others. But everything after the opening class tends to lean further and further away from that class's innate powers, and more towards a general strategy*.

(*usually. The Wizard class would be the major exception since they can actually use all magic, which gives them tremendous flexibility as the game goes on. Every other class is positively crippled in their magic selection in comparison, including the other spellcasting classes!)

But the point in Nethack's favor, is that if you know what you're doing, you can win with each class, each strategy, 100% of the time (sounds improbable. I've done a Nethack tourney, and there are players who have Ascended several dozen times in a row without Savescumming or cheating).

And what's also different about Nethack, is that for 95% of the game, you aren't on a timer. Nethack rewards planning, stopping to identify random loot and making caches of resources. FTL rewards some planning, but without reasonable luck, you cannot reach a point where you can get ahead to win using most of the cruisers.

If you were able to stop and hit every node and acquire every piece of scrap imaginable, FTL would be a much easier game to beat. But it's not. Because the game deliberately limits your OPPORTUNITIES from the get-go (incidentally, this also makes unlocking certain cruisers an unholy task).

FTL's "Easy Mode" can still be soul-crushing in its difficulty. Normal Mode is fucking absurd.
I have several victories under my belt in Easy Mode, with just about every cruiser and type, but Normal Mode is a goddamn luck-driven mess. To compare, I've beaten Normal Mode only three times, and only with the "best" (most-consistent) cruiser types.

If you cannot acquire 100 scrap by the end of Sector 1, you are usually in deep shit. If you get locked into a Nebula or Mantis sector for 2 & 3, you can usually kiss your ass goodbye.

Man, I had several people I know, including my brother, who suggested FTL to me, so I put it on my Steam wishlist. My brother bought it for me for Christmas.

Steam tells me I've put 30 hours into this game. 0_0

I still have not beat the final boss' second form. On easy. O_O

Speaking of crazyness in games, I always had this idea for a game where you play as a serial killer and it keeps tracks of statistics and shit behind the curtain to make a profile out of you as you rack up more victims. Like the first person you decide to kill in blonde, so the game subtly makes future potential victims more appealing to be selected if they're blonde, and it starts making certain types of weapons to kill with more appealing or other types less appealing until you're flat out not allowed to use anything but kitchen knives or something. I imagine it'd use a system like Mirrors Edge where it'd highlight those certain elements more and more while greying out everything else. It would be meant to build up a deteriorating mental state of a killer like that until you finally get tracked down by the cops and end up playing as the other end of the awesome climax of Condemned. Possibly against another player online who is the cop, cuz you can chose to either be the cop or the killer at the beginning and it would randomly assign you the aftermath of one of the players playing the killers crime scene to investigate. Ect.

The B version of the secret ship turns it from gambling into completely curbstomping everything. It has a brief period of vulnerability at the start of the game because it starts without weapons but even the smallest pea shooter allows it to deal with supershielded and drone enemies. It specializes in boarding and cloaking and starts with the best boarding crew in the game. As strong as that final boss is its inside is still filled with squishy little humans and boarding lets you break subsystems at will. No shields, no drones and only one gun make even the final boss just target practice, never mind all the tons of loot you get on your journey for beating most enemies in boarding combat (which gives FAR more rewards, both scrap and random item drops, than shooting the ship into bits).

Therumancer:
snip

You have some decent points there, but keep in mind that the definition of "insanity" varies from person to person. The most popular definition to quote (used by 12-steppers) doesn't fit either your use of it OR Yahtzee's. The broadest, most agreeable definition of insanity would be mentally unstable or not "right" in the head. This could manifest itself as either simple hallucinations, or it could manifest itself as full-fledged sociopathy/psycopathy, which usually leads to the whole "evil/murder" thing. It's hard to argue that Captain Jack Sparrow, for instance, is not insane, but it is a different type of insanity from, say, the guy in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Both are quite insane, but the two are nothing alike, and from the sounds of it you aren't a whole lot like either of them. So keep in mind that "insanity" is a broad, sweeping definition in most cases, and most people associate it with, say, Psychos from Borderlands. That kind of insanity.

Back on the topic here, yeah, I hate randomness to a point, but it usually keeps things interesting enough, especially in games like FTL. I promise you, FTL would not be HALF as fun as it is if it weren't for the randomness of it, it would get quite stale after a while. I view it as playing poker. You usually start with a bad hand, and no matter how you try to fix it, you usually have a bad hand. The fun is in making the bad hand work by your personal skill. You'll lose a lot, but the times you win are so worth it, you wanna keep playing.

Now I will sound like I'm a plant from the makers of FTL but....

If you want to pick up the game, go buy it directly from the FTL site, you get DRM free downloadable versions (Win/Mac/Linux), plus the Steam version to boot!

Appart from that, and back on topic.... Shields on a stealth cruiser?]* How dare you, good sir!

* Picture on the article.

Oskuro:

Appart from that, and back on topic.... Shields on a stealth cruiser?]* How dare you, good sir!

* Picture on the article.

Well, unless you enjoy getting torn apart by beam weapons, drones and asteroids, Shields are rather useful even on a ship with a maxed cloak.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Incidentally it is nice to see a sci-fi story where our sympathies don't automatically lie with the rebels.[/b]

You mean like Star Trek and Warhammer 40K? And Gundam SEED and Skyrim?

Now I want him to do The Binding of Isaac. It combines the randomness of FTL with the insanity of Hotline Miami and throws in child abuse and religion for good measure.

The randomness of FTL never really annoyed me much because I feel that part of the skill involved in playing is the ability to take your luck, bad or no, and turn it to your advantage.
You find tons of drone schematics but no weapons? Buy a drone bay and put them to good use.
Alternatively, sell that shit and buy up every little weapon you can to maximise your fire power quickly, and at the same time, since your offence is lacking, buff defence. Max your shields, and get cloaking. If you have a lot of crew doing bugger all, get a teleporter and go space pirate on their asses.
On the flip side, you find or buy a really good laser weapon early on (Burst Laser Mk. III, for example). Build your strategy around it, because it's your best source of damage output.

Personally, the strategy that works for me (on the Kestrel, both types, and Osprey Type A, other ships yet untested) is to get as many laser weapons as possible as early as possible. Nothing wrecks the flagship's shit more than 9+ lasers all directed at a single target, with a teleporter for taking out its triple-missile launcher. It has yet to fail me, so I must be doing something right, aside from the occasional spat of luck.

Starker:
Now I want him to do The Binding of Isaac. It combines the randomness of FTL with the insanity of Hotline Miami and throws in child abuse and religion for good measure.

Two of his colums covered BoI:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/extra-punctuation/9226-Battlefield-3-Is-Scary.2
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/extra-punctuation/9669-Why-Randomly-Generated-Content-Sucks

alfinchkid:

Therumancer:
snip

You have some decent points there, but keep in mind that the definition of "insanity" varies from person to person. The most popular definition to quote (used by 12-steppers) doesn't fit either your use of it OR Yahtzee's. The broadest, most agreeable definition of insanity would be mentally unstable or not "right" in the head.

Seriously, though, the original quote is what I think when I hear the phrase "definition of insanity."

saintdane05:

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Incidentally it is nice to see a sci-fi story where our sympathies don't automatically lie with the rebels.

You mean like Star Trek and Warhammer 40K? And Gundam SEED and Skyrim?

I got that same impression from the GekkoState crew on Eureka 7. Even though Renton's a whiney little pud who's in love with a possibly alien (I think; they didn't do a properly establish the setting, like what year it is or what planet theyre on) girl who gets sick for long periods of time, he's well within his rights to turn on the gang of misanthropes with dubious agendas who yell at him all the time and treat him like crap. Really, the government they're rebelling against doesn't seem so bad, and what are the Gekkos going to replace it with?

I'd denounce luck altogether if it weren't for Fire Emblem using it so well.

Falseprophet:
He's dead-on, FTL is gambling. I must be some kind of moron, because I've been playing for 3 weeks straight and can't get past Sector 5, no matter how awesome my ship and crew are. Yet I can't stop playing, thinking "this will be the day". I've been referring to it as FML to my girlfriend.

Well, once you realize that you got to stay in every system as long as possible to "grind" for scrap, weapons etc. the game's difficulty level drops slightly. Although some ships are better than other, at that point you should be able to clear it at any level. The one thing I dislike about the game is the existence of an "optimal build path". You want to:

1. rush shields +enough power to get 3 shield bars to minimize hull damage and maximize net gain of scrap
2. Upgrade doors to 2
3. get weapons + power (ion bomb overpowered, burst lasers good)
4. get cloaking by sector 6-7 and max it
4.5(optional) get crew teleporter if you lucked out and got enough crew. If you did, upgrade sensors to 2
5. dump points into engine and power

Oxygen, medbay, auto pilot are all waste.

Of course this is slightly different depending on ships, which is a good positive since they really do make you tackle the game in a new way.

I still don't agree that FTL games are mostly, or even largely, dictated by chance. Chance is a factor, yes, but every scenario, every shitty situation, has an out, or a counter- you just have to make decisions based on the ship you have.

I wouldn't say that playing FTL is a gamble- I'd say using any of the special ships, such as those that don't start off with any direct weapons, is a gamble the game lets you make. As long as you visit every shop, and you've stuck around in each sector long enough to make decent scrap, you'll find something useful- maybe not weapons, this run, but ooh! A teleporter!

When I first started playing, I barely was able to make it out of sector 2- now I never fail to make it to the last sector. This isn't me being some sort of gaming legend, it's just a lot of practice. FTL is a game that you can practice at, and get much better at, and so I disagree that it is mostly about chance.

Atmos Duality:

Well, unless you enjoy getting torn apart by beam weapons, drones and asteroids, Shields are rather useful even on a ship with a maxed cloak.

Pshah, Shields are for sisses! Real space captains go at it bare!

... not really, but trying to do a playthrough without shields is an interesting challenge, which, once you can reliably smack the boss around, is another motivation to replay the thing.

I agree and disagree with Yathzee, though. I agree that randomness-based games are essentially gambling and you skills as a player have little bearing on the result; I disagree in FTL being so random. The events themselves are mostly random chance, but it's the triggering of these effects by exploring the galaxy what the player has control over. You take a risk with every move, specially when moving into troubling sectors (nebulae for example), so there is a lot of control there.

I think a lot of people haven't figured out the game yet, it's real core is not the combat, but rather the exploration. Good management of the exploration to maximize the risk/reward ratio is what allows you to bitchslap the mothership in the end.

Tohuvabohu:
Weeeeell FTL isn't ALWAYS about gambling. You can ignore a lot of events that can royally screw you over, such as the Alien Spider event or the Planet Drifting through Nebula event. Blue event options for example, almost always remove the 'gamble' element from quite a lot of events.

First thing people should learn about FTL, giant alien spiders are no joke and will kill your guys the first chance they get. Conversely the crazy old hermit CAN kill people but in my experience never does.

The Glaive beam can actually do as much as 15 points of damage when the architecture of the enemy ship allows you to cover five rooms. It is pretty much a massive Fuck You gun.

I've got the same issue with the bossfight. While most of the game will let you experiment and use different approaches to more or less equal success, some things just work far better for tearing down the mothership's defenses. Missiles are basically useless against its drones. Beam weapons are neat for once you got the shields down but not much else. Regular laser fire works, but you need a pretty large volley to go through four levels of shields and do some damage, and with that many individual shots you're bound to miss at least one or two. Often times coordinated attempts will just scratch the shields, not break them.

Ultimately bombs are probably where it's at (plus something to damage the hull when you're through). They might still miss, but that's governed by a single check, not several as with volley fire, and they bypass the drone defenses. A successful hit should knock the shields down far enough to tear through with your remaining arsenal, and if you got the kind that breaches hulls or starts fires that can help slow down repairs, too.

I find that (on Easy) the Mothership is not that big of a problem if you have the following:

  • Maxed Out Shields, with a level 2 operator: High shield regeneration that will negate most volleys.
  • High (or maxed out) Engines, and a level 2 operator: Increases dodge chance, and I tell you it is noticeable.
  • Level 2 Pilot: Even more dodge chance!
  • 4+ Weapon Array: Any Weapon combination able to bring down level 4 shields and deal damage
  • Missiles/Bombs: Starter missile launcher ok, or breach drones, meant to quickly do Step 1 below.

Step 1: Kill the mothership's multi-missile launcher and operator (it is repaired and re-crewed for each phase)
Step 2: Do your thing.

We can all agree FTL has a large random element to its design, but the one thing we're assuming incorrectly is that it's somehow a bad thing. Strip chance out of FTL entirely - it becomes a linear management game where all objectives and encounters are set by the developer on launch and stay there, no matter how many times you play through the game. FTL then takes on the shades of a puzzle game, where there's a handful of functional ways to progress, a fixed path to completion, and little-to-no replay value. Would this improve the game? I doubt it.

The thing is about games that randomly generate content: It's not about the game randomly screwing you over, it's about how well (or poorly) you respond to those situations, it's about how well you can adapt. A ship twice your power attacks you and you have no chance to win? Then you died because you didn't jump the frack out of there; your bad decision killed you, not the game.

The same can be said for games with an even greater degree of randomness, like Ancient Domains of Mystery for instance. The game will occasionally throw you in situations you can't possibly deal with at your skill, but almost always you have some way out of there had you taken the right decisions. And yes, as with AdoM, sometimes you can get into an impossible situation where a bad dice roll decided your entire game - I'd rather have that than a run-of-the-mill linear scripted game.

I've played through 2 runs on XCOM, both normal, one ironman (I'll get to classic later) and I must say I haven't had as much problem with the randomness. The only bastard-thing I remember is that I had to shoot down a special UFO for the mission. It appeared all right, but I hadn't researched, much less built, the Firestorm interceptor yet, because the first time I played it I didn't know my old interceptors would suddenly become useless. So for a month or so I had to research and build, while that UFO kept flying over all my nations, and the council was bitching about all the dozens of UFO's I failed to intercept, even though it was the same UFO the entire time.

You need to play it more, and less with the starting ship. This is precisely how I felt about the game until I had a couple of wins under my belt.

Most encounters have three options. The first is somewhat of a roulette wheel. The second is the trusty fight option that engages combat. The third is the blue option which is almost universally a good outcome but has a prerequisite. Basically things only turn to luck when you encounter a choice without a "blue option item" (BOI) onboard and unprepared to take the fight option. That blue option "item" can be anything from a Level 2 Medbay (a very cheap one to get that almost guarentees a free crewmember in the first sector or two) to a Rock man on board; not necessarily an actual item.

For most ships, this makes it a bit of a breadcrumb trail. You take the fight option where you can until you stumble upon a blue option provided by your ship's starting BOI. Then, as a reward you get another BOI or enough scrap to buy another BOI. And the cycle continues, with your frugality and combat efficiency determining whether you get enough BOI related scrap by the final sector to actually take down the boss.

The key problem with FTL is that this gameflow is apparent in every last ship except the bloody one you start with. The Kestral is very random-luck heavy, this is a solid fact, as you start without a single BOI and are basically forced into taking the non-fight random luck option in each encounter in hopes of a BOI, or otherwise dying. In other words, you're pushed to start scum. The other ships simply don't feel this way. You initial combat items, and BOIs will suffice through to at least the beginning of sector three, and your primary goal is just to pass sectors one and two whilst
a) visiting as many nodes as you possibly can without hitting the pursuing fleet and
b) not buggering everything up.

The thing with the Kestral however, that you'll truly appreciate after playing with the other ships, is that it starts with decent combat efficiency. Its one of the few ships where a crew teleporter typically doesn't become a prerequisite to winning in combat later on. Upgrade your shields one level and you're pretty sweet. Its a suprisingly easy ship, but unlike the other ships, it forces the player into adapting. The gameflow basically involves always taking the combat option until you stumble upon some sweet loot or a BOI. Then, you pretty much have to build a strategy around that first groundbreaking item you require. Other ships will see you begin with a strategy and sell lots of pickups for scrap to support said strategy. If combat in the Kestral is too difficult for you, then you're going to have to pause and micromanage more. That includes everything from juggling teleported enemies around the ship to strategically cutting the oxygen to charge high power consumption weapons (and flicking it back on for a sec at the start of cooldowns to preserve your crew). A high combat efficiency lets you run a leaner ship, which in turn lets you focus your hard earned scrap on BOIs rather than combat-related items and upgrades, which in turn increases your scrap production from non-combat encounters.

I'd also seriously jump up to Normal difficulty. Playing Normal mode forces you to think outside the box in combat and build reliable strategies or you'll be beaten to the ground in the first sector or two whereas Easy does not due to the higher scrap letting you bulk up your ship and get away with a less frantic playstyle. The catch is that the final boss has a frantic pace irrespective of which mode you chose. If you've played on Easy, I could imagine this being quite jarring. On Normal, its not. In fact, if you've managed to even make it to the final sector (whilst still visiting as many nodes as possible per sector) you'll probably find it a cakewalk.

Strategy, strategy, strategy. And pausing. Lots of pausing.

The fact that it can take 5-10 hours to start unlocking other ships and seeing how the game works is however, a very valid criticism. If it weren't such a damn engaging game (and hilarious, watching your crew suffocate to death due to a meteor slipping through a momentary gap in your shields is just plain hilarious) it'd have failed to hold my attention before it finally took its kit off and blew my mind.

I went and almost beat the game on normal on my first try. Of course, "almost" meaning I made it to the last boss and got to see the glorious hail of missiles that would engulf my ship in flames, leaving my pilot and his female gunner waiting for their death in the middle room of the ship. I like to think that they hugged each other as they burned and suffocated.

That's when I knew this was a good game.

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