Cold Dark Heart

In response to “Falling Into a happy Aquarium” from the Escapist Forums:

My problem with FaceBook’s style of gaming isn’t the overall design… it’s what you have described as the best part of it.

The social aspect really kills gaming for me. I don’t want to have big brother looking over my shoulder telling all my friends about what I’ve been doing. If my friends ask me of my gaming endeavors I’ll tell them just fine, but I don’t want a computer doing that for me, regardless of whether they want to know or not.

I totally agree. Perhaps it is because the people I know tend to think that the games you play (and often your skill in those games) are somehow a judge of your character, and something one should be seriously assessed by, but I don’t like my achievements and actions being broadcast to the people I know, unless I specifically wish for it (in which case I can do it myself). Hell, I don’t even like people on Steam being able to see what I play, because of the ‘fly-on-the-wall’ aspect of any of those people knowing exactly what I’ve been doing with my time.

It’s almost like somebody following you around and writing up an itinerary of where you’ve been, what you did, how long you did it for, and how well it went. I don’t want that.


It’s not the games themselves that bother me, it’s the morals and users behind them.

It’s sickening for me to see people dedicating their life to a shoddy game that any developer could make independently in just a few days. Fine, maybe they have nothing better to do, but it’s when they start pumping tons of money into the game that it really bothers me.

I’d hate to see anyone i care for waste money on something so aesthetic, it’s essentially a scam.
I have to watch my little brother waste tons of my family’s money on Club Penguin, just so he can buy his penguin a fluffy jacket and get some extra snowballs, it’s painful to watch.

Comments like “Farmville/Zynga are the best game/developer ever” just add to the annoyance.



In response to “How Social Games Ate Our Lunch” from the Escapist Forums: I don’t know that it’s accurate to say Farmville distilled WOW’s mechanics – I could be wrong, but I don’t think you run a virtual avatar around your farm like you would in Harvest Moon. Games, to me, are about interactivity, and it’s hard for me to interact just with a menu, choosing option “A”, “B” or “C”.

In PuzzleQuest, for example, there’s lots of levelling and buying skills, etc. all done through a menu, but what makes it a game is the PUZZLE part of it, the matching of jewels, using the skills you have equipped to thwart the other player (or computer). If all I did in that game was get points and level up, I would become bored very quickly, same with any other game – if all I did in Final Fantasy was buy/sell equipment and level up my character, my interest would be lost almost right away.

All the number-crunching, meta-gaming type of play found in all kinds of games is always the least fun part of it, for me. Mario is so much more than collecting coins and getting power ups! Call me a snob, but social networking games and console games are not even on the same playing field. Mario stomps all over Solitaire, in my books.

Minesweeper, though? Sudoku? Those are games I can get into! Just not texas hold’em. Or Mob Wars. It’s just a different level of interactivity- I don’t lay the cards on a table when I play solitaire on a computer, but I can make my Mario avatar do a handstand on top of a tree. It will always be different, in my humble opinion. I don’t care how much money Zynga makes, they have yet to make a game for me.


The problem, or part of it, is that Zynga does have a ‘fuck the players’ system. That big bunch of scientific data you brought just proves that, if I force players to click this square every eight hours and not a minute sooner or later, they won’t be so angry they won’t do it. It doesn’t mean they like it.

So much of the bile flying around social games (ew!) comes out of confusing what’s bad about social games and what’s bad about Zynga specifically.

There’s a lot of fear around the games industry and gamers that social games will rush the AAA titles and cause games to be dumbed down for a broad audience. That’s nonsense, the AAA titles will destroy themselves without the need of any outside agency. The amound of money spent on them and the amount of sales that are needed to make a profit make it self-defeating. I kind of hoped that it would be the indie developers that would pick up the torch, but that is kind of hoping that after the Twilight series ends people who enjoyed it would be reading Saramago. Expansion happens towards the unnaffected areas by definition.

The Random One


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In response to “The Man Who Would be Zynga” from the Escapist Forums: Sorry, but I’m going to call bullshit on most of what I’ve just read.

Not what Bryan has to say about his experiences and such, he knows more about what he’s seen than I have.

What I am calling bullshit on is all this “Zynga is taking over the gaming market, run for your life!”

When was the last time anyone on this site even cared about Zynga anymore? We had March Mayhem, then a bit after that there was nothing. E3 was all big budget stuff, current videogame related news are about the Kinect or the Playstation Move, or it’s just about games. Hell, the last I remember about Zynga games is that news article about the Facebook game poking fun at Facebook games.

Zynga is like what the Wii was a long time ago: Something we all made a big deal about but now no longer bother with. The Wii doesn’t advertise it’s motion controls every 5 seconds anymore, much rather advertising it’s selection of games, and Zynga is keeping itself to Facebook while we have our attention pointed at either the big titles or the indie games on PSN/XBLA/Steam.

And guess what? I’ll bet you that the same thing will happen to Kinect and PSMove. People will make a big deal about it (come to think of it, many of us already have), then move on, and it will just be something irrelevant of the past. Still there, still accessible, but no longer in the spotlight.


I wish that Bryan would go back to his roots. I think that he developed the best interface ever for a RTS game (Rise of Nations, which I still play at least once a week, and what I believe is one of the most underrated games of all time, Rise of Legends). He did great work with all of the Civilization series of games (Civ II, Colonization, and Alpha Centauri) which really should have been named after Bryan, not Sid Meier. I just feel that he sold out both himself and all of the true PC gamers by joining Zynga. I keep trying some of the Zynga games, but all of them, with maybe the exception of the poker game, are just mindless clickfests that try to get people to spend real money for a virtual item that has very very limited usefulness. Even so, the poker game itself is annoying me, as it does everything that it can to try to get more money out of the end user.

I do understand that Facebook provides a useful social interaction, but I think that the Zynga games are becoming the Amway of the internet. We are all sick of the facebook spam that these games generate. I joined facebook to connect with my friends, not to have them (via the Zynga game) ask me to give them a virtual object that they need for some useless collection. I don’t care that somebody reached level 137 in the game. I think that it is not the sign of a good game when family and friends complain that that’s all they see from you. I know that the application can be blocked, but if the game was good, why should everyone have to block it?

I think that what Blizzard is doing (and something that Bryan should be doing) regarding integrating Facebook with is actually not a bad idea. Instead of Starcraft 2 being within Facebook, there are connectors that allow you to import Facebook friends into the game. They’ve also announced that they are going to provide further interaction, but I’ll never have to log into Facebook to launch the game.

Please, Bryan, I urge you, come back to where you belong. I’m just incredibly sad that you exchanged respect for cash.



In resposne to “Digital Cardboard and Electric Dice” from the Escapist Forums: While it would seem that some people might be interested in a nicely designed board game after developing a taste for strategy games on the PC, I’ve found that it’s more the exception than the rule that someone who enjoys a fantasy RPG also enjoys a game like D&D. That is, until possibly the most recent edition, which plays much more like a board game. I think the biggest obstacle for them to overcome is the need, at least in some way, to have to play as their character (the roleplaying part of it), rather than just move him around and kill stuff, though that could certainly be toned down.

Another board game issue is the very nature of unpacking, setting up and then teaching players the rules, and again I’m coming from a standpoint of people who like to game, especially on computers, and some might even be lapsed boardgamers or roleplayers. So many of them have drifted firmly into the clutches of the PC and console that there’s a pretty serious playability gap when there’s so much available online. I had a particularly hard time selling one such group on playing a game of Arkham Horror lately for just such a reason.

Now, especially with cheap and easy voice options like ventrilo and the behemoth that is WoW, so many players are happy to recreate those tabletop moments in a virtual space, and having been a significant part of both the tabletop and the online gaming community, the differences between the former and the latter are diminishing more and more.


I’m rather surprised that the article called Eurogames less cutthroat than American games. If anything, trying to force the other players to dump their crops in Puerto Rico or blocking the other players off of an exit route in Power Grid is more cutthroat than more randomly determined mechanics in American games. The themes are less explicitly aggressive in Eurogames, but the competition is fiercer because you know that if you can just out-think the other players, you can win the game – something that doesn’t apply in many American games.

I would say that simplicity of rules is a very good thing in all games; it’s not merely a limitation board games are forced into. If the important rules are too complex to be easily explained, then you can’t learn them easily. If you can’t learn them easily, then the game designer must either punish the player until he learns the rules or give up on challenging the player. A simple game helps new players by letting them learn and expert players by making the higher levels of play easier to achieve and understand.

Good digital games already keep their rules consistent, but what very few do is allow players to fully understand the mechanical effects of an action. That limits the strategic depth of play. MMOs, for example, tend to make higher stats a good thing but the numbers get so obscenely variable that you really don’t know how much more effective a +241 Gauntlet of Haberdashing will make you over a +201 Gauntlet of Impotence – you just know high numbers are a good thing, not that your abilities are noticeably changed. In some games, like RTSes or other non-turn-based games, even though it’s impossible to approximate the rules with board game rules, simplicity still makes it more easily understood.


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