Letters to the Editor

Season’s Gamings


In response to “Get the Hell Out of Dodge” from The Escapist Forum: Of what I played of FFVII, Midgar was the only part I liked. I hated the Saucer, gave up the first time in the desert, picked it up later, managed to slog through to the part where you can try to get Vincent, got frustrated with continually dying in a place that was a half hour away from a save point, threw the controller at my TV, and resolved never to play FFVII again.

I agree with the author on one point: Midgar certainly has an impressive, if oppressive atmosphere. IMHO, the rest felt like it had no atmosphere at all beyond “Generic Fantasy Village #36”, and the gameplay was so boring I felt no incentive to continue, just in hopes of occasionally getting some half-decent dialogue with Tifa. If anything, what the game failed for me was in consistency of theme and storytelling–every region felt like an entirely different game to me.

People keep telling me how great the writing of the game is, and then I remember the line from the red kitty: “I think I grew up a little!” I think I threw up a little. And then I went and replayed Torment.

Disclaimer: All of the above is my personal opinion on the game, and I mean to cast no judgment on people who do like the game. It is obviously popular for a reason, it just missed the mark with me.


I can’t imagine having a more different reaction.

Midgar was great. The music was eerie, the enemies were mean, and everything was just so well put-together. And then I got out of it and… it was like being thrust into some long-winded cartoon that I didn’t care for. Enemies became more or less random, things were often annoyingly colorful, the dialogue is boring and oh my GOD the Golden Saucer is the most annoying thing I have ever endured in a video game. A bunch of goofy-looking minigames with half the polish of a random browser Flash game, all for obscure and difficult-to-acquire special weapons and things which I knew I was supposed to want, but couldn’t care about because the weapons I had killed things just fine.

Granted, I didn’t play the game when I was young so I don’t have happy happy memories to fall back on. (I have happy happy memories of Prince of Persia and Marathon and other games to fall back on)



In response to “The Pains of Being The Guy” from The Escapist Forum: Hmm… The game has gained a reputation for being unreasonably difficult, right? Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my personal study of game design, it’s that “understanding justifies difficulty.” That is, the more threats a player can see, comprehend, and reasonably deal with, the more threats you can cram into any one gameplay sequence.

Obviously, that’s completely thrown to the wind in the case of IWBTG. But maybe “understanding justifies difficulty” can come to encompass an entire game. That is, IWBTG is almost universally recognized as one of the most difficult games of all time, and most new players at this point are going to be drawn in by that claim. Those that do play for its absurd difficulty understand its role in the entire game, and therefore find it somewhat justified.

Maybe not. I’m just trying to wrap my own head around the game’s popularity.


This is definitely the most unfair game I’ve ever played. I gave up after making it to Dracula, I could never beat him. And like many other people, this game also did drive me insane at some parts. Mecha Birdo was so incredibly frustrating.

It’s amusing enough, and I’m all for difficulty, but I’m fundamentally against any game where the only way to improve is to memorize every screen.

This is why I don’t consider IWTBTG to be the hardest game ever. Instead, I just say it’s one of the most unfair games ever created. Tons of hazards that you could only predict with clairvoyance will instantly kill you. All of the Bosses have cheap attacks that require perfect timing to dodge. These things don’t make the game hard, they just make it unfair. Though when you are designing a game with the sole purpose of frustrating people, that’s not a problem.

Internet Kraken


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In response to “Save Our Souls” from The Escapist Forum: Interesting article. Of course, losing a save can be just as frustrating even if you don’t lose the entire character. The Discworld MUD recently had an unprecedented rollback of about 15 days, meaning anything anyone had done in the last 15 days was gone. Relatively few people lost an entire character, I believe, but the frustration for some was unbearable.

What’s interesting is that I don’t think it’s the big characters who were worse off, it was the young ones who’d barely grown a commitment to their character. The problem is that, like many games, Discworld works on a diminishing returns basis- so it takes more xp to gain a single level as your level gets higher. Therefore, those with high up cahracters will have gained relatively little in that 15 days, maybe the odd fighting level or whatever, while younger characters might have learned entire skills like stealing, or their first spell, or something. While these abilities might be quite cheap in xp terms, they’re a hell of a thing to lose when you were able to do them just the day before.


About time someone wrote about saving! It is such an integral aspect to the gaming experience, and yet people let it stay all-too-invisible, even as the changes to how it works in recent years have caused untold stress to millions of gamers.

The thing with saving is that there are always huge flaws with each type of saving used by games. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses. But there is a solution. It’s costly, but not as costly as the loss of the life of some poor unbalanced soul who couldn’t take it when they lost their level 80 Priest, or their Oblivion character made to kill things on Hardest with no cheats.

My solution, of course, is to include every type of saving possible in every game. That’s right – have a default setting that makes sense for the genre, but allow players to change to another type of saving if they prefer it. This diverts blame from the company in individual cases of data loss, allowing the legal shield to come down a bit in the long term, and would save the frustration for the hardcore who often find one type of saving that they prefer and hate all the others. As for casual gamers? That’s what default settings are for.

I realise that this would be somewhat costly to develop and troubleshoot, but what exactly, apart from obvious formatting issues, is so hard about finding even a small independent developer willing to design a mass production model of an all-purpose save system to be integrated in any and all games, at only a small fee to developers using it? Any such company could make millions of dollars over the years if the system was well-designed enough to impress. It would not take much to get such a project supported by a large community who point out bugs and other issues and get them fixed, either.

The mod scene could so get onto this. In fact, I’m astonished that it hasn’t happened already. I suppose every developer likes to have their own “flash”-looking save system, but really that’s just adding glitzy graphics to essentially the same spreadsheet, the core of which could be applied en masse. Why constantly reinvent the wheel? After all, Sony already has one of these in a lesser form; it is only a matter of making another that is more ambitious and reaches into the realm of PC gaming as well.



In response to “Developmental Stage Select” from The Escapist Forum: Good article – nicely balanced overview.

Dr Cash:
no screens before age 7

I couldn’t disagree more strongly with this. My daughter is eight now and has been learning a huge amount via interacting with her computer and the internet (since age three). Dr Cash seems to see things in terms of a distinction between “screens” and real life. In reality, kids of this generation will grow up into a world where everything is screens and computers. But they won’t really notice them, just as Dr Cash doubtless doesn’t lose much sleep over at what age children interact with paper right now. (Think of the risks! They’ll lose themselves in a world of words and pictures!)

Experts love the word “cautious”. Here’s reality: for my daughter’s eighth birthday, one of her friends gave her a USB peripheral. Just think about that for a minute.

Dom Camus

I’m not sure that recommending that kids shouldn’t play games because it stops them really “feeling their feelings” is such a great idea. Do we really need that many people in society who cry at bad movies and are obsessed with their own emotional state? If it made kids scared, unstable or violent then I might be more concerned.

I generally disagree with the sentiment that all children should go through the same factory style development process so that they end up as well rounded and functional products when they enter the adult world. Let some of them rot their brains with video games or reading books above their age level or whatever. I don’t think we need new generations who think exactly how educational experts, or even worse their parents, want them to think.

More Fun To Compute

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