Congratulations, Your Brain Just Got a Little Bigger

Sometimes I think that Joystiq/Kotaku share some back-end engine that just creates the stupidest damn comments ever and they use it to populate their comment threads.

It’s like there was some law of conservation of intelligence where every profound thing said in the world has to be balanced by a hundred idiotic things. And I don’t just mean things that are lazy and stupid (Youtube comments and Xbox Live players), I mean things that trick you on skimming into thinking that they are sentences with insight until you process them and realize they are not only empty inside but are filled with incredibly dense matter that sucks all insight from three comments to either side into its gaping maw of mouth-breathing.

Some algorithm output or Joystiq user on Spore:

I hate it. I think it’d be a better game if they completely ommited [sic] the whole customization aspect, and simply made a cute little game following a species evolution (all pre-made) and offering RTS and RPG elements to n00bs. They could have made each game mode a lot less shitty if the didn’t spend the majority of the time working on customization features that dont [sic] have anything to do with the gameplay.

*knock knock on coconut head* The customization features are the gameplay. The rest of the game is supporting the customization features.

Here’s a question I have regarding not just hardcore game players looking at Spore, but hardcore nerds of any type looking at any game: Why do nerds only care about the dynamic loop where one enters and succeeds in a feature in order to increase the rate/size/magnitude/whatever of succeeding in that feature in the future?

They want the battle with the orcs to result in a sword that lets them battle bigger orcs that drop bigger swords. They want all gameplay to be extrinsically valuable. Any “play” that is intrinsically valuable is considered garnish.

These are the same people that say “Why don’t you just play a real instrument?” when talking about Rock Band. Or: “You don’t get anything for achievements, so why do them?” Or something I actually heard once in a design meeting: “People aren’t going to play our game if they don’t get anything at the end.”

If you have to give people a carrot and a stick to get them to play, you are doing it wrong. And if you are a player seeking that carrot, then go play World of Warcraft because you’ve lost the ability to have fun without getting a “fix”. (And that really bothers me that many folks play World of Warcraft in such a way because I’ve seen a lot of promising things in that game that would be intrinsically fun even without the level grind that the hardcore genus expect to be the core gameplay.)

Back to Spore. I’ve only logged about four hours with it, so I don’t feel comfortable making any final judgments. But half of the time I’ve spent twiddling making crazy creatures and that was intrinsically fun. Then I go into the world and do some tasks and go back and tweak some more. And watching what my roommates make is great. The only carrot is finding the additional parts which feeds back into the system that is meant to be intrinsically fun. It doesn’t feed back (directly) into the system that gives you more parts.

The key aesthetic of Spore is creativity. The key aesthetic of Age of Empires or Warcraft III or Diablo is competition. No wonder Joe Joystiq doesn’t enjoy it. He wants the mechanics to back up a feeling of competition, the ONLY aesthetic the hardcore ever truly care about. But the designers weren’t building mechanics to back up the feeling of competitiveness. They were building mechanics to back up creativity and stringing them together with mechanics that resemble those from games with a completely different aesthetic. Joe Joystiq wasn’t expecting that.

He was expecting his Cheerios to taste like Lucky Charms.

1 Comment

  1. I agree for the most part, though I think there is something to be said for the Bigger Sword thing. I think you need a balance- one without the other isn’t fun. Just like I enjoyed becoming more powerful in Diablo, I also enjoy reading my books to the end in order to find out how the plot finishes. That being said, I’m not just reading/playing for the End Game, I’m also enjoying the travel there. If the journey’s not fun I’m not going to care about the end, but the end can also keep me interested if I get bored at times along the way.

    That being said, the comment you posted is still completely dumb. It’s kinda like saying “I think GTA would be a better game if instead of making GTA they made Chrono Trigger”. True or not, it misses the point completely.

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