Archive for September, 2017


Screenshot from Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.

Hellblade delivers an exciting experience but misleads players along the way.

If you’re like me, then you play almost every game on normal. In my opinion, this is how the experience is meant to be enjoyed. Once I’m done, I venture into playing on a higher difficulty. While many consider themselves try-hards, I’m more inclined to finish a game the way the creator intended. The base experience has more to offer me than soul-crushing difficulty.

Not everyone feels this way – mainly the players. Strong opinions are formed from the very community these games create, and most often, they go against what the developers present to the players. A recent example of this is Hellblade, developer Ninja Theory’s latest title. A game I’ve yet to dive into, however, it’s caused a bit of controversy during launch.

Hellblade greets players with the promise of permadeath, a feature rarely seen in most modern games. When you lose too many times, you lose everything – your progress and save. The game doesn’t actually tell you how many times you have to die for the feature to activate but it promises that the game will become more and more difficult. An unwelcome surprise for many players.

Here’s the twist, the permadeath doesn’t actually exist. The game does grow difficult the more you die but ultimately the threat of erasing your progress in a bluff. It’s a ploy to evoke tension, fear, and paranoia in the player, matching the feelings of its mentally ill protagonist. An interesting approach to the creators intent. However, it’s poorly executed.

Commitment and Honesty

Difficulty can be a part of the experience. It’s in those moments that I wholeheartedly accept the challenge. Some of the best games show the player no mercy, as a way of evoking frustration and helplessness. It also provides a challenge that players are compelled to overcome. The key to creating a game that is both challenging and engaging is the balance. The idea is to make a game seem impossible without that actually being the case. It’s why the Dark Souls and Bloodborne series work so well. It requires trial and error, along with the growth of your skills as a player to complete.

In the case of Hellblade, I didn’t have the same reaction many had to the prospect of permadeath. I found it interesting and innovative for the approach Ninja Theory was trying to take. However, my problem was with Ninja Theory’s lack of commitment and transparency.

No Man's Sky header.

No Man’s Sky developers promise features and game play that never made it into the game.

Developers should not lie about their games. Their word is a major deciding factor for players. Besides, it never works out well when a developer is misleading about gameplay, story, or content. Just look at No Man’s Sky or Batman: Arkham Knight. Both contain experiences that are ruined because of false promises from developers. Ultimately, Ninja Theory does the same when they fail to commit to their threat of permadeath. If you are going to take a bold action, then be bold – no half-measures.

You could say the fakeout is what Ninja Theory’s intended for the game but anyway you look at it, it’s a shitty attempt at inciting a reaction from players. In an age where companies charge for DLC that’s already on the disc and throw microtransactions in a $60 game, trust is hard to come by from gamers. Also, why not add permadeath? Why present a feature that doesn’t exist? You not only alienate the players who took offense to your decision but you betray the ones who were excited to play the game the way the creators intended.

Taking Bold Risk

I’m looking forward to playing Hellblade when I get the chance. I’ve always been fascinated by Ninja Theory’s games, and from what I hear, Hellblade accomplishes a lot for an independent game. Ninja Theory is a studio that takes a lot a risk, and I hope they learn from the game’s reception. I actually hope that all developers learn that what you promise matters to gamers, especially when it affects our purchase. We respect the creator’s intent but it’s still important to meet the consumer’s expectations.

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Interactive novel, The Thief of Wishes, arrives on iOS devices Fall 2017, according to developer All Blue Studio.

Screenshot from The Thief of Wishes

Taking inspiration from visual novels, as well as the storytelling of old fairy tales, The Thief of Wishes thrust players into a world where they can affect the narrative. You play as a young book worm named Catharine, who is task with traversing between her world and nightmarish version of it to save those around her. As with other ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ styled games, the choices you make affect the ending.

If you are familiar with my love for Telltale Games’ work, as well as the storytelling elements of the Mass Effect series, you can already tell why this game has caught my attention. There are few visual novels on iOS. Plus, I’m a little desperate to play a game on my phone that doesn’t involve an internet connection. While there isn’t much to go on from the trailer, the art style definitely stands out.

Screenshot from The Thief of Wishes

The Thief of Wishes is developer All Blue Studio’s debut game. The studio was formed in 2016 by a team of three. They expect to release another visual novel called The Drowney in early 2018.
Press Release:

Description

The Thief of Wishes is an interactive book which will take you again into a fairy tale world – where “…and they lived happily ever after” is only one of many possible endings.

The gameplay is focused on traveling between two different worlds (a lovely old town and it’s nightmare version) and choosing one of two available actions/questions to make the story progress.

The main protagonist of the app is a brave and book loving girl – Catharine. Her goal is to defend the dream distorted by a mysterious monster, save the villagers, and reveal the secret of the magic Fountain.

The application develops creative thinking, reading skills, and explores themes such as fulfillment or giving up dreams, giving parents a convenient tool for discussing them with their kids.

Age: 7+

Available directly from Homepage and via App Store

Language: English, Polish, German, French (more coming in future).

History

The Thief of Wishes project was started in 2016, when the third person joined the team – but the idea for the story is much older and the script or many of illustrations were finally created in 2015.

“We knew from the start that we want Catharine (“The Girl”) and the Thief (“The Monster”) perform together as a duo. But the theme of the script was more comedic, with continuous escapes, gags and many attempts to take the stolen coins away from the Thief. With time, however, we discovered that we would prefer a more serious story, which meant that a more interesting Thief was necessary. The current one also has magic powers. They are not, however, so comical. We also changed his motives – instead of acting out of greed or malice, he became a more complex character, the prisoner of the Fountain, whose past is shrouded with mystery.”

— Lucyna Markowska, scriptwriter & game designer

“At the beginning of our work on The Thief of Wishes, we had a difficult choice – which platform do we want to develop for? At first, we considered Unity with its flexibility. Of course, the free engine which we can use to develop for Windows, Android and Steam is a great advantage, but also a lot of problems. It was then when iOS was proposed. At first we were a bit… distrustful. Theoretically we had some experience with this platform, but we were afraid it won’t let us develop for anything else. “OK, OK, but let’s try…” – and this turned out to be a good choice.”

— Krzysztof Paczoska, developer

Features

Atmosphere of traditional fairy tales

Journey through two different worlds

More than 40 beautiful pages

Alternative dialogue options and endings

Original music

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