Gaming on a budget: Some arguments in favor of short indie games

There are increasingly more arguments in favor of having more shorter, better quality games over sprawling, padded, big-budget games. There seems to be a persistent mindset that assumes the length of the game justifies the price, therefore it follows that a short game may be overpriced. Thus game developers see the incentive of padding their games to make their games artificially longer to justify their price tag. I believe these days gamers are beginning to see through their tricks, and I found myself avoiding games like Dragon Age and Skyrim because of their purported lengths.

The question that follows from this: Is worth it to spend your money on a shorter game, but getting a good experience overall? How much is a good game worth? Should you wait for the price to drop first?

Of course different individuals will have different answers. We can actually see what people on the whole think — by looking at Steam scores and the price!

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Some crude, semi-quantitative analyses on game length, price and quality

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There are always debates about what kinds of factors should be considered when reviewing a game. Should game length be taken into consideration? Is it better to play a ONE 30-hour game or THREE 10-hour games? Should the price of the game affect the review score? Should there even be a score at all?

In my mind, the right answer depends on what kind of review we are talking about. If we are discussing just the creative or artistic merits of a game, or some interesting ways on how technology is designed and implemented, then the price is not important, as Adam Sessler explains in this great video.

But if, however, the purpose of the review is to provide some sort of practical consumer information, say for a kid with $60 to spend over a few weeks of holidays, then the kid would need to judge the price of the game against its length. But these days many gamers actually prefer short games, or are less tolerant of fillers and grinding. Game length recently has been a topic of discussion lately, for example at PBS/Game show, and further continued by Polygon. So these need to be factored out. And of course, one wants to know whether the game is any good in the first place.

Let’s try to figure this out by attempting to quantify these things fairly, using information extracted from 30 games in my Steam library.

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Anti-climatic boss fights in action movies

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I came across an interview with director Lexi Alexander (it was the first question asked – around the 0:25 mark in the link) where they discussed how some movies seem to have anticlimactic endings. Since then I’ve been having fun going through the plots and scenes of some movies in my head to flesh out the reason why this happens. The simple reason could be that Hero and Villain have opposite strengths and weaknesses. And typically in the final battle the villain probably has already lost, yet the scene tries to pretend that it is an intense and exciting fight.

How many times have we seen this scenario: It is close to the end, climax approaching. With the Evil Boss’ henchmen defeated, the Hero is close to stopping the his plans. The Boss’ personal bodyguard was a really tough fight, the Hero barely managed to defeat the guard. It is time for the last battle. The Boss is all that stands in the way to saving the world. It might be our Hero’s toughest challenge yet…

…Except not really. Because the Boss, being the boss, is usually older, less athletic,  is shown throughout the story sitting in some luxurious mansion/lair, maybe with exotic pets, eating great food and yelling at servants. So the Boss is probably not a good fighter. The result is that the *CLIMATIC FINAL BATTLE* becomes somewhat anti-climatic.

This is the thing that usually bothers me when it comes to the climax of most action movies. Even when most of the movie is action packed, tense and exciting, but all that fizzles out in the climatic battle scene.

[Spoiler(ish) warning: The climax of the following movies are discussed — Quantum of Solace, Enter the Dragon, Sha Po Lang (SPL), Flashpoint, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Who Am I, Punisher: War Zone]

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Review: The Theory of Everything

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When I first heard that they are making a Stephen Hawking biopic, the word that immediately comes to mind is, “Oscar bait”. A movie about a real-life scientist taking place in the mid-20th century? Surely it would not be easily confused with A Beautiful Mind (about mathematician John Nash), or The Imitation Game (about mathematician/computer scientist Alan Turing). The Theory of Everything, in particular, is adapted from the book Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen written by Jane Wilde who was played by Felicity Jones in the movie.

[Spoiler scope: Presumably we know the general aspects of the real Stephen Hawking’s life and the state he is in today…]

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Movie Review: Taken 3

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First his daughter was Taken. Then he and his wife gets Taken 2. Now something was Tak3n from him again. How far can you stretch a franchise that has a really simple premise, and that very simplicity was the reason the original Taken was so great in the first place? Theoretically, sequels offer the chance to expand on the premise established in the original film, but there wasn’t much to build on.

[Spoiler scope: Taken and Taken 2 plots will be discussed. No spoilers for Taken 3 except for things revealed in the trailer.]

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The Swapper: A puzzle-platforming exercise in philosophy

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The first thing you might notice about The Swapper is that it’s stunningly beautiful. The opening sequence where your character gets launched from a space station towards planet Thesseus is breathtaking. It was evocative of Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey, and feels almost as alien and cosmic as Interstellar. The Swapper is one of my favourite games in recent memory, and I will talk about it below, spoiler-free.

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Extracting the core ideas from Lucy (2014)

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Lucy, in which Black Window appears in a Luc Besson movie. While we clearly expect lots of ass-kicking and general badassery, most reviews seem to agree that the sci-fi/philosophy elements in the story falls flat, according to Badassdigest, Flickfilosopher, io9, among several others.

Nevertheless, I still think the core idea is somewhat interesting and full of potential – think about it: We have a story about an average person who gets increasingly great powers through the course of the story. On one hand achieving powers and knowledge that humanity have been striving for, while simultaneously losing her own humanity. Meanwhile she is being chased by gang members, providing opportunities for amazing action scenes.

So here’s our theoretical sandbox: We have the core concept, with Scarlett Johansson in a Luc Besson movie, about an average person gaining increasingly omnipotent powers. Having learned the lessons from the reviews that point out the bad parts of the movie, what would we want from a movie like Lucy, which we never got? Let’s take a stab at this. Think of this as a reeeeaaaally long user feedback. [Spoiler warning: many plot details will be discussed]

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