Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Liebster Chain

Been a while since the last post. I honestly did not mean to go so long without posting.

Talarian tagged me with this Liebster chain, so I may as well answer it. I'll post questions and tag people in a later post.

1. What is your favourite game mechanic?

Hit points.

HP are probably so ingrained that we don't really think of them as a mechanic. But they just work. They're very intuitive, they scale well for progression games, and they allow partial successes, and the ability to go back and forth. They allow for interesting risk/reward calculations. For example, a big weapon that does lots of damage but few chances to hit versus a small weapons that hit often but do little damage.

Often in the tabletop games, people decry hit points as not simulating reality, and they try to come up with other mechanics. But nothing seems to work as well as hit points.

2. Is there a character did you think would be cool when announced or first encountered, but in practice turned out terrible? Who? Why?

Not really. It might just be memory speaking, though. A good first impression might be enough to color the rest of the experience with the character. Or possibly if the character ends up really disappointing, all you remember is the disappointment.

3. If your entire life turned out to be a simulation or part of a video game, would it change your outlook on life? How?

What sort of simulation? Are we talking something like the Matrix, where there is an outside reality that I can exist in or can affect? Or a pure simulation, where I exist solely in the simulation?

If it's the Matrix, I'd probably prefer to try and escape, and see what's real. In the pure simulation scenario though, I don't think it would change anything for me. If all I can affect is the simulation, than for all intents and purposes the simulation is real for me.

4. What is your favourite colour?

Blue. I usually pick the blue team.

5. If you were an astronaut and going to space for 6 months, what personal item would you bring with you?

A good paper journal and a few of those pens that work in space. It might be redundant, given that I could easily record thoughts on a digital journal and have them transmitted and archived safely. But paper has a certain permanence to it, a feeling of weight that would be appropriate for something as monumental as going into space. You can't backspace on paper, after all.

6. Which of the Seven Deadly Sins is your favourite?

If you think about it, isn't this an odd question? It's like asking who you like better: murders or child molesters?

Plus, does anyone really ever give an answer other than Pride? I blame John Milton.

7. Is there a moment in your life where you felt you were finally "in the future"? What precipitated it?

No. Frankly, for all of my life technology has advanced in an evolutionary fashion, rather than revolutionary. I was born after the computer displaced manual calculations. What is the internet but an extension of the telephone network? There's nothing wrong with this, of course. Thousands of small incremental improvements can add up to a major improvement over all. But it's hard to feel like you are in the future when you see each of those incremental improvements pass by.

8. Cliffhangers, good technique, or annoying technique? Why?

It's a good technique when the resolution is on the horizon. For example, to end a chapter in a book, or end an episode of television.

But I don't like cliffhangers when the wait is much longer, like for the next book, or the next season. Stories need endings, and the artists who get addicted to cliffhangers often fail to end anything in a reasonable manner.

9. Has there been a game mechanic that enraged you or felt supremely unfair? What was it and why?

I don't like mechanics that break the established rules of the world without warning. There was one puzzle very early in Braid that I felt broke the rules that the game established. I don't actually remember what the puzzle was, but I had to google for the solution. As soon as I saw the answer, I uninstalled the game.

I still harbor an irrational antipathy towards Jonathan Blow because of that experience.

10. Tortoise, or the Hare?

Tortoise. Steady, incremental progress is a lot more powerful than we give it credit for. Plus, the Tortoise wins in the end.

That being said, it's interesting that Western stories always present this dichotomy. Slacker with talent, or conscientious average person. It's a real shock to the system the first time you encounter and recognize disciplined Hares in real life.

An interesting take on this issue is Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo. Although theoretically a romantic comedy, it has a very interesting perspective on genius, hard work, and envy.


  1. "does anyone really ever give an answer other than Pride?"

    Gluttony and lust, mate! Can even do them at the same time, with some chocolate sauce.

  2. Woohoo! More responses. Some good ones in there, you've bucked the trend on the simulation question. Almost everyone else would try to break it, but I'm actually in agreement that if the only thing I can affect is the simulation following the rules of said simulation, it's indistinguishable from real life.

    Hit points. Basic, to the point, and designers do keep coming back to them. An useful abstraction, truly.

    As to Careon's chocolate sauce, that doesn't work out nearly as well in practice as it sounds in theory. Trust me.

  3. Sloth, of course. I'm a big fan of Sloth, particularly on rainy Sunday afternoons.

  4. Those aren't really the Deadly Sins, though. Sloth isn't lazing around on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

    Sloth is seeing someone hurt or in trouble, and choosing to walk away because it is too much trouble or effort to help them.

    Lust is not having kinky sex. Lust is King David sending Uriah to die on the front lines of a battle so that he can marry Uriah's wife, Bathsheba.

    That's why I find that question odd. To me, the choices involved are all pretty unpleasant.

  5. Regarding the simulation question. There are some very nice philosophical arguments as to why being in a simulation of the 2nd kind you consider actually makes the simulation "reality" (David Chalmers for instance). I think you are spot on with not feeling the need to leave the simulation :-)