Since I’m crabby about Nerd Shit today: I don’t like when video games try to excuse bad design by saying “this is a game where you’re doing terrible things, so you’re supposed to feel uncomfortable”.
(In context: Metroid II is widely regarded as a badly-designed game, to the point where it’s had two remakes. I haven’t played it, and there’s a case to be made both ways, but this is someone trying to defend it from the accusation that it’s badly designed by saying the bad design is supposed to make you uncomfortable.)
Nier Automata is one of the best-designed, most enjoyable games to play that I’ve seen. The world maps are huge and gorgeous, the combat is tight and satisfying- so satisfying that it’s a joy to watch, I can’t imagine how it must be to play- minigames that don’t completely suck, interesting characters, fun bossfights with Touhou mechanics to shake up your standard RPG formula, and an absolutely godlike soundtrack. I mean all I really need to say is ‘it’s a Platinum game with Yoko Taro in charge of everything but the gameplay’.
Nier Automata has also managed to make me more uncomfortable than almost any game I’ve ever played. It’s on par with the genocide route of Undertale– which is specifically designed to be unfun and to make you feel like a monster.
Undertale enemies keep attacking you regardless of whether you attack first. ‘Sparing’ them requires surviving a few rounds of combat. In Nier Automata, most of the generic enemies you meet in the first stages are non-hostile unless you attack them first. They just kind of wander around staring at stuff.
Most generic Undertale enemies don’t cry out or beg for mercy as you’re killing them. (Some of the bosses do, but not the regular enemies). In contrast, the Nier Automata enemies say things like “OW” when you hit them, or “hurts…”, and when you try to break up a big group of them… they start chanting. I’m just gonna link you to the soundtrack of the boss battle that follows.
… I’m not saying UNDERTALE IS BAD AND AUTOMATA IS THE BEST GAME EVAR. (Though it’s rapidly become one of my favourites). Undertale is a great game. It’s funny, it’s full of heart, and even though I don’t completely agree with the themes it’s trying to convey, I love the characters and the slightly-off-the-wall world. And while Automata is the game that’s been most on my mind lately, I could have made the same point with, say, Bloodborne. (Great design, fantastically satisfying to play, MASSIVELY UNCOMFORTABLE in true Lovecraftian fashion.) Or the original Thief. (Great design, satisfying as hell to play, makes you so paranoid you can only play it in 15-minute chunks and murdering guards Does Not Feel Good At All).
Good game design can still make the player feel uncomfortable, whether it’s because of dread, oppressive smallness, or ‘oh god what have I done’. Yes, it takes work. But it’s overall better for your players and your game and it makes sure people will remember the experience you’re trying to get across.
Me: this is my second DS1 play-trough, I will do better, play without cheats, don’t do stupid things and be reasonable! Also me: *fails at everything listed above aside from no-cheats-run, spends shitload of souls on Gwyn’s set*
Me @ also me:80k souls, sweety, why? Also me @ me: no regrets. We look fabulous, babe. We roll with style. Me @ also me: you are disowned, exiled, excluded from Annals of History and set on fire. Also riposted. Also me @ me: <3