The Indie Gamer Chick Mailbag: April 21, 2014

I typically get a lot of questions on Twitter about random game stuff. Thoughts on the indie scene, on mainstream gaming, etc. I’m quickly learning that Twitter is a lousy place to answer any questions. It’s tough to explain complex opinions in 140 characters or less. So I figured I would start a mailbag feature. I announce it, and suddenly I go from getting questions every few minutes to getting no questions at all. Grumble. Well, a few guys did ask some stuff, so I’ll give the whole mailbag thing a try.

@LostScarf asks

Do you think Indie games would be more successful if they took the time to add Online Co-op, or it wouldn’t matter?

It depends on the game. Some titles really could have benefited from a more robust online experience. But there are roadblocks if you attempt it. On XBLIG, getting online working was overly difficult. Developers did not have access to Xbox Live when making games that would utilize Xbox Live. But even when you’re not developing for a system that actively seems to be trolling its own developers, optimizing an online co-op experience is extremely difficult. Especially if you give a shit about the emotional and psychological experience of your game. There’s almost no way to measure how effective your work is in those areas, especially if your concept involves two strangers working together. It’s a leap of faith.

Does it make a difference in a game’s sales? I’m not totally convinced. My favorite aspect of Terraria was playing it with Brian on two PS3s and two TVs. We also very much enjoyed sharing some of our extra plunder with my fans on Twitter. Hell, I met my best friend Bob that way. But, I was surprised to learn that most of the Terraria fans that follow me on Twitter never played it co-op at all. That’s not that uncommon with many indies that have an optional co-op mode. So I guess, unless a game is designed specifically with online co-op in mind, it won’t make a big enough difference that anyone should lose sleep over it.

@iilusionofchaos asks

If you could change one thing about your favorite game, what would it be?

My favorite game ever is WarioWare Inc.: Mega Microgame$ for Game Boy Advance. It just got re-released on Wii U’s Virtual Console. Easy answer here: I wish it had online leaderboards.

@TerrorSkwirl asks

Who/what do you think is the most well written character in recent memory?

Clem from Walking Dead. Her actions, speaking style, reactions to situations, and emotional state all feel like a real person. The strange thing is, there are a lot of secondary characters in the Walking Dead games that feel like lazy stereotypes, if not outright parodies. There’s just enough of those type of characters that you wouldn’t expect to see such an incredibly authentic character emerge. Clem is a real person in a real zombie apocalypse.

I’ll give a close second to Balloon from Doki-Doki Universe. Her undying love for protagonist QT3 was so moving and, again, authentic. Doki Doki was, as of yet, the only game I streamed my entire play-session on Twitch. I had some tough guys admit they were tearful as the ending between QT3 and Balloon played out. No violence. No cursing. No high-stakes. Just love and admiration between two friends, and it was more real than many of cinemas highest-paid actors are capable of delivering.

@Scott_A_Bennett asks

if you could only change one thing about the indie scene what would it be?

The perception that the community is too exclusive for newcomers to jump in. I think people expect the scene to be populated by anti-social, standoffish artsy types. They exist, but they’re very much the minority. The indie scene at large is so very welcoming and encouraging to newcomers. Hell, you don’t even have to be an active developer. I’ve never made a game, never will, and I have a site that, more often than not, doesn’t speak highly of the games I play. If the general perception of the indie scene were true, I would have been run out of town a week after I arrived. Instead, I’ve found an endless stream of new friends and fantastic relationships. And I’m certainly not alone in this type of experience with indies. That is the story that we need to make sure gets told. Unlike a lot of other things I wish would change, this one is very easily doable.

@Rabite890 asks

do you find the reports about the number of steam games that go unplayed/uninstalled to be as bad as some do?

Whenever I go grocery shopping, if I’m hungry when I go, you can bet the shopping cart is going to be overflowing full of all kinds of stuff I would normally not pick up. Then it will linger in our kitchen cabinets until it goes past the  expiration date.

That’s probably what happens with Steam, or hell, any platform when a sale hits. I have 217 PSN games on my PlayStation 3 and there’s at least 40 I’ve never booted up. I either got them with PlayStation Plus, or I bought them when they were on sale and just never got around to playing them. I do it on my Vita too, then the shitty, too small memory card fills up and I have to start deleting stuff. I can always redownload it any time, of course, but I probably won’t. It’s impulsive behavior from people with too much disposable income, but by no means indicative of any problem on the indie scene.

And finally, @Bonedwarf asks

I’ll give you a tough one. You can give 12 words of advice to all aspiring indie devs. What are they?

Nothing will go exactly as you envision, so be patient and humble.

(points at the screen and counts the words silently)

Damn, I’m good.

Well, I had fun doing this. If you guys had fun reading it, just send me a tweet with the hashtag #IGCMailbag and we’ll do it again. It will help keep the content on this site going when I’m post seizure and unable to get my game on.

Like my new logo? The gentleman who designed it, Kenneth Seward Jr., is for hire! Visit his site and check him out on Twitter. Reasonable rates, awesome work!

Still here? Cool. I have a new blog that will contain my non-gaming related ravings.

 

Dinora

Dinora bears a strong resemblance to Terraria, the sleeper-hit that’s climbing up the charts on XBLA, and of which I reviewed the PSN version.  As a reminder of what I felt of Terraria, I was annoyed by its numerous game-killing glitches, then went on to lose 50+ hours to a borderline-addiction to it.  So, I guess you can say I’m a fan of it.  Oh, I’m done with it.  For reals this time.  I swear.  No really.  Stop looking at me like that.  Look, Brian and me went to play it a little more and the glitches they patched out were replaced by even worse glitches that made half the world invisible to me.  So seriously, I’m over it.  It’s out of my system.  Had a good time while it lasted, but the thrill is gone.

At least until they patch it some more.

And possibly a reunion if they do DLC for it.

Never did kill that wall of flesh either.

You know, we had just started doing plumbing the last time we played it.  There are lots of unexplored uses for that.

NO, STOP CATHY!  Remember that 12 step program.

Hey look, it's a giant disembodied head that attacks you with it's two disembodied hands. Just like in Terraria!

Hey look, it’s a giant disembodied head that attacks you with its two disembodied hands. Just like in Terraria!

Of course, if you can’t get Terraria out of your system, there’s always Dinora on XBLIG for 80 Microsoft Points.  It will either curb your Terraria addiction or give you nuclear-level cravings for it.  Feast or famine.  For me?  It really did help to strengthen my resolve to never play Terraria again.  Which impressed the hell out of Brian, who has since gone on a quest looking for the Dinora-equivalent of something to help me quit smoking.  He’s wasting his time, since that’s probably lung cancer.

When I said Dinora had a resemblance to Terraria, I wasn’t being coy.  It looks just like a cheap, unrefined, non-pixel-art version of it.  But endearingly so, like when a kindergartener draws a picture of his family.  Sure, it’s crude, but hey look, it’s your family!  Not sure why the dog looks like a shark, but whatever.  And that’s Dinora: looks the part, if the part was left out in the sun too long.  And guess what?  It plays the part too!  Well, kind of.  I suppose it’s like if you had a friend who got sucked into a jet engine and his broken body was held together by staples and kept alive using a machine.  It’s still your friend, but not really.  And that’s Dinora: like Terraria on life support.

Everything bad about Dinora I can explain using something as simple as a door.  In Terraria, you have to build a shelter to stay safe at night for when the monsters come out.  This involves putting up walls, then covering the back wall, and finally sticking a door to enter through.  This is typically the first thing you do when you turn the game on.  Dinora does the same thing, only it does it badly.  In order to place a door in Dinora, you must have four spaces of clearance, plus solid blocks above and below you.  Okay, that door is just way too big, but it gets worse, because you can’t actually reach five blocks above you to place a block to hold the door.  Thus you’re required to build a staircase to create enough clearance to have room for the door.  Sure, you could just have your house dip slightly underground, but what if I don’t want that?  I mean, it’s unsanitary!  It’s so badly handled and stinks of careless design that it makes me sad.  I really loved Terraria, and I would be totally game to enjoy a clone of it that offers more features.  The problem here is that Dinora does everything Terraria does, only it does it worse.  So who cares about the new features?

Correction: Apparently you can adjust the building reach in the options menu.  I’m not sure why the default is so low, nor would I have thought to check to see if you can adjust reach.  I still think Dinora is bad though, for many more reasons.

If I seem like I'm being too harsh on Dinora, I'll remind you that Terraria was developed by two guys using XNA.  Two guys whose brains I assure you are no bigger than yours or mine or the guys who made Dinora.  But Dinora looks so much worse than Terraria, in addition to sounding worse, playing worse, and lacking the multiplayer aspect.  What makes me shake my head in disappointment is that to make a knock-off that is this close to the original in so many aspects took actual talent, I think.  I just wish they had applied that talent to something original.  I hope these guys gut it out and make something quirky, weird, and new.  Something not done before.

If I seem like I’m being too harsh on Dinora, I’ll remind you that Terraria was developed by two guys using XNA. Two guys whose brains I assure you are no bigger than yours or mine or the guys who made Dinora. But Dinora looks so much worse than Terraria, in addition to sounding worse, playing worse, and lacking the multiplayer aspect. What makes me shake my head in disappointment is that to make a knock-off that is this close to the original in so many aspects took actual talent, I think. I just wish they had applied that talent to something original. I hope these guys gut it out and make something quirky, weird, and new. Something not done before.

The enemies look lame, and on the default difficulty, they utterly swarm you.  Pretty spongy, too.  Your character moves too slow, jumps to shallowly, and is pretty much useless.  At least as the class I picked: a miner.  This multiple-character types function seems like it would work better when playing in a party.  When I played Terraria, Brian and I divided responsibilities.  He built our shelter and tunneled to hell, while I mined for precious metals and fought bosses.  There’s no multiplayer in any form for Dinora, which sucks because that’s the hook that kept me coming back to the original.  The enjoyment of playing it with the man that I love.  Left on my own, the world was quite boring and I just wished I could play it with Brian.

The controls are much clunkier as well, though this stems from the best of intentions.  You can now equip stuff to both hands, with the left and right triggers and bumpers used to scroll through items.  Great theory in concept, but it turns an already unwieldy design into a digital form of patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time.  Even the most staunch fans of Terraria on consoles will probably admit that the controls were anything but intuitive.  Could they have been done better?  I don’t know.  But at least with Dinora, now we can point to something and say “but it could have been a lot worse.  See?”

Alan with the Tea said it best to me: they tried to do what Terraria took years to perfect in short order. Or, at the very least, the game gives that perception. For all I know, they've been working on Dinora for years. I sure hope not.

Alan with the Tea said it best to me: they tried to do what Terraria took years to perfect in short order. Or, at the very least, the game gives that perception. For all I know, they’ve been working on Dinora for years. I sure hope not.

Dinora comes from the root of Dinah, a Hebrew name meaning “justified.”  That’s ironic, because I honestly can’t justify the existence of Dinora.  It’s just one bad issue after another.  While it does aim to add complexity to the Terraria formula, adding new minerals to mine and giving you new tasks to keep up with, it ultimately feels like a really bad, hastily made knock-off.  Terraria is a game that’s been being developed and refined for years now.  I certainly don’t expect the level of sophistication it has in an XBLIG clone.  But this doesn’t even come close to offering the satisfaction of that one.  Even if I had never played Terraria before, I wouldn’t have liked Dinora.  The bad movement parameters that need way more thought put into them, and the overall shoddiness of the control design need way more time in the cooker.  Is there a good game buried in here somewhere?  Sure, I suppose.  If you ignore every single major flaw, of which there are numerous.  But, if you strip away all of those, you’re left with a game that is already out and available for this platform.  The Minecraft clones on XBLIG came out before the real Minecraft hit the console, which makes their existence mean something.  Dinora is a poor-man’s Terraria and simply can’t escape that shadow.  So what do you do if you only have $1 and want to experience what all the hype is about?  Well, you probably should try to remember how you got that $1 in the first place and just repeat the process fourteen times.

xboxboxartDinora was developed by Neuron Vexx

80 Microsoft Points appreciate that the guys at Neuron Vexx warned me about the ultra flashy company splash screen in the making of this review.  Of course, my attention span is roughly that of a Cocker Spaniel, so I promptly forgot the warning and I nearly had a seizure when I booted it up in the making of this review.  Actually, I did that twice.  Why?  Because I’m a fucking moron.  That’s why.

Second Thoughts with the Chick – Terraria

On Monday, I reviewed Terraria for PlayStation Network/Xbox Live Arcade.  I said that I did have fun playing the title, but I didn’t recommend it because it was too glitchy and unfinished.  I also said that I had lost interest in the game.  Since then, there hasn’t been a review up at my blog.  Why?  Because I’ve been busy playing Terraria.  So allow me to eat some crow and do a 180 here.  Terraria IS worth your time, glitches and all.

By the way, even more annoying glitches have popped up over the last few days.  The game froze after we defeated the Eye of Cthulhu, crashed while I was harvesting meteor ore, and Brian got a really weird one that forced him to start a new map, then exit that map and reload the old one.  Naturally, the one that required that was “our world.”  The one we built together.  The one that has all of our shit in it.  We were seriously worried that we had lost access to it.  Apparently, it has something to do with the placement of the bed in the house.  Who knew this game was one of those weird “feng shui is real and you must obey it” weirdos?

Starting next year, you'll be fighting pelicans instead of hornets.

Starting next year, you’ll be fighting pelicans instead of hornets.

But, despite dozens of bugs (some of them game-enders), I’ve been pressing on.  I figured Terraria was a possible life-ender, and I was spot on.  When a game like this owns me, my only choice is to “get it out of my system.”  Brian’s heard that term before with me, but this is the only time I’ve dragged him along for the ride.  It’s okay though.  We’ve both made projects for ourselves.  I’ve been focusing on exploring the sky.  Brian is alternating between building our house and mining Hell itself.  He also built an elaborate trap that we use in the event of a goblin army attacking.  Of course, said attacks are rare.  Mostly, his trap just kills innocent bunnies.

We named this "Rabbit Season, FIRE" after watching a dozen bunnies off-themselves using it.

We named this “Rabbit Season, FIRE” after watching a dozen bunnies off-themselves using it.

It was sometime a couple of days ago that Brian asked me “do you want to reconsider your review?”  After thinking it over, yes.  Yes I do.  I still stand by all the complaints I said in that review.  Terraria is clearly not completely finished and needs a lot of work.  But I can’t deny the sheer scope of things you can do in this title.  It’s insanity.  It’s consumed my thoughts and utterly devoured my free time.  I had a seizure earlier this morning (completely unrelated to the game), and since then all I can think about is “I hope I feel good enough to play Terraria later.”  It’s single-handedly crippled my productivity here at Indie Gamer Chick.  It really says something about a game that, after forty hours, I’m still anxious to dive in.  I make no apologies for it either.  Look at this game I’m supposed to be writing a review of.

This is Short Circuit for XBLIG by developer Jason Yarber.  Jason's a cool dude, but his game is so fucking boring.  I've always been bored silly by Lights Out, since the moment Santa Claus put one in my stocking when I was ten years old.  And this version doesn't look paticularly engaging.  It has that lazy XBLIG font that makes me break out into hives.  Now, I can either spend hours trying to be snarky over this, or I can spend them fighting monsters and harvesting rare ore.  Hmmmm.. sorry Jason.  For what it's worth, your game isn't total shit or anything, but I can play Lights Out for free at any number of sites.  I can also take a handful of sleeping pills and feel the same stimuli.

This is Short Circuit for XBLIG by developer Jason Yarber. Jason’s a cool dude, but his game is so fucking boring. I’ve always been bored silly by Lights Out, since the moment Santa Claus put one in my stocking when I was ten years old. And this version doesn’t look paticularly engaging. It has that lazy XBLIG font that makes me break out into hives. Now, I can either spend hours trying to be snarky over this, or I can spend them fighting monsters and harvesting rare ore. Hmmmm.. sorry Jason. For what it’s worth, your game isn’t total shit or anything, but I can play Lights Out for free at any number of sites. I can also take a handful of sleeping pills and feel the same stimuli.

I haven’t really paid too much attention to recent XBLIG releases.  Over the past couple days, a couple of titles have hit that will be reviewed over the next seven days.  Well, maybe.  When a game utterly owns me the way Terraria does, I can’t make promises.  I don’t take back anything else I said about Terraria, except the part where I said I can’t recommend it.  I can, and I do.  Put it this way: I got the new Bioshock earlier this week and was enjoying what I was playing, until I started playing this.  A little $15 indie game on PSN is completely dominating my game time.  And now I’m like one of those evil drug pushers, encouraging players to just take one hit.  Come on, one won’t kill you.

LogoTerraria was developed by Re-Logic

Seal of Approval Large$14.99 said crow taste quite bitter in the making of this review.

Terraria is Chick Approved and shame on me for not realizing that three days ago.

Terraria

Update: I had second thoughts on Terraria, and you can read them here.  Terraria is now Chick Approved. 

Being primarily an Xbox Live Indie Game critic, I don’t get a whole ton of requests for XBLA/PSN titles.  But, when I do, they usually come in droves.  Terraria was such a game.  Partially that’s because none of the major sites have a review up yet.  Also because people are simply dying to know what I think of crafting games.  Not a day goes by where someone doesn’t ask me about my opinion on Minecraft.  I still haven’t played it.  Not out of any moral or anti-bandwagon objection.  It’s just one of those “I’ll get around to it at some point” type of deals.  Plus I live in fear of the potential addiction factor.  Time sinks like Minecraft have ruined my life in the past.  Now that I work and have a boyfriend and shit, I’m not really up to risking that by playing a game with life-ruining potential.

But, I aim to please my readers, so I decided to go ahead and buy Terraria on PlayStation Network.  And, just to be on the safe side, I brought my boyfriend along for the ride.  If I’m going to destroy my life, I’m bringing him down with me.  It’s the gaming version of the Days of Wine and Roses.

I guess Terraria is supposed to be Minecraft in 2D.  Maybe that’s over simplifying things, but that’s the game in a nutshell.  You have to mine for materials that you use to build shit to mine for more materials.  There are enemies to fight, a huge (and I do mean fucking huge if you pick the largest map) world to explore, lots of different items, and a few twists along the way.  Brian created the world, chose “large” because he’s a total clod who forgot that I needed to play the game as fast as possible so that I could crank out a review, and away we went.

My world started out in a snow-capped mountain.  Brian's started out in a beautiful, serene forest.  I think the game was trying to send me a message with that.

My world started out in a snowy wasteland. Brian’s started out in a beautiful, serene forest. I think the game was trying to send me a message with that.

As a young couple that’s getting ready to buy a house, I figured this would be a good test to see how we do at the whole “co-habitation” thing.  The weird thing is, we sort of fell into what our real life roles will be.  Brian became the home maker.  Literally.  He built our house, while I set about bringing home the materials we would need to survive.  For the first couple hours, Brian never ventured far outside of our home.  He kept adding floors, furniture, basements, and buildings for NPCs to live in.  Meanwhile, I was off fighting monsters and tunneling all over the Earth looking for shit to build us more shit with.  It was quite fun, and very 21st century of us.

Finally, I think Brian got jealous of me constantly going “look at all this cool shit I’m finding!” and built a mineshaft, then proceeded to dig a hole straight to fucking China.  That got me all jealous.  Suddenly he was the one saying “hey Cathy, look at all this cool shit!”  I responded to this in a completely rational way: I dug a tunnel to a lake and flooded his ass out.  We’re going to make a great couple.

We put about fifteen hours into Terraria, but it felt like a lot less.  Despite being a time sink without shame, gameplay is rewarding.  Every piece of progress you make is exhilarating.  And really, what else can you say about a game where at least once every thirty minutes, we looked at each other as if to say “can you believe how much fun this game is?”

So I recommend it right?

Well, no, actually.  I don’t.  Terraria is too unstable and glitchy in its current state.  Over the course of fifteen hours, a laundry list of bugs popped up, grew, and frustrated the ever-loving shit out of me.  Chief of which was the game had a tendency to crash at the worst possible times.  It happened to me twice, and both times I had lost all the materials that I had harvested.  To say I blew a gasket is an understatement.  Who knew I was capable of crushing a controller with my bare hands?

How come our place didn't look this nice, Brian?  You suck at interior design.  Suck suck suck at it!

How come our place didn’t look this nice, Brian? You suck at interior design. Suck suck suck at it!

I can’t stress how furious I was when this happened the second time with Brian.  After hours of searching, I had stumbled upon a vein that was the mother lode of precious metals and rare gems.  I stuffed my pockets and was about to head home with, poof, gone.  Game crashed.  Not for Brian, just for me.  But all those metals that were in my pockets were gone.  Gone permanently from my pockets and from his world.  Ceased to exist.  They can’t be replaced.

At this point, I was done with Terraria.  This had already happened once and I was pretty pissed then, but I was having such a good time that I wanted to go back.  After the second time?  Fuck that.  The game was a waste of my time.  I begrudgingly played on my own just because it seemed like the professional thing to do, but the magic was gone.  That took a lot of work to get those.  Hours of gameplay.  Am I bitter?  Fuck yea, but with just cause.  Call me old-fashioned, but I think a game that cost money should, you know, fucking work.

That crash also made a lot of the niggling little glitches that seemed minor before seem not so innocent.  Such as:

  • Going to craft items and being told I didn’t have the materials.  Even though I did.  Right there, in my pocket.  So I would have to exit out of the crafting menu and reenter it.  Sometimes I would have to do this two or three times before the game would say “oh hey, look, you actually do have them.  My bad!”
  • It had issues keeping track of how much money I had gathered.  I would fight hoards of zombies, picking up coins from each one that died, then go to put my cash away in a chest at home only to find out that the dozens of coins I had picked up was now four or five.  We never actually spent all that much money, so I wasn’t that annoyed by it.  But still.
  • We had trouble picking up the shooting stars.  It seemed to be a networking issue.  Brian would see stars that I wouldn’t and vice-versa.
  • Offline, the game froze for me while it was loading up the world.
  • I had the music start to glitch out on me upon respawning more than once, making it sound like nails on a chalkboard.

It’s also worth mentioning that I had a couple reports on Twitter of XBLA owners also crashing their game.

While going through the screenshots on the official page for Terraria on the PlayStation Store, I realized how very little I had seen of Terraria, even after fifteen hours of gameplay.  I want to keep playing.  But I won't, because I don't want to get burned again.

While going through the screenshots on the official page for Terraria on the PlayStation Store, I realized how very little I had seen of Terraria, even after fifteen hours of gameplay. I want to keep playing. But I won’t, because I don’t want to get burned again.

As far as the non-glitchy elements go, movement physics are fairly smooth.  Jumping is decent.  But, the interface is so cumbersome and clunky that, even after over ten hours, it never feels intuitive.  When we finally got organized and created a room that was nothing but chests to keep all of the stuff we’d dug up, we could spend fifteen or more minutes just fumbling to empty our pockets into them.  Brian got more used to it than I did.  I just couldn’t get the hang of it.  Have you ever been stuck in line at a supermarket while some asshole has to get a price check on a pack of gum, then decides to pay for it with his card instead of the quarter you just fucking know is collecting lint in his pocket?  Every single menu in Terraria feels like that.

I sure hope that patches are on the way for Terraria.  I can’t stress enough: this game is fun.  Very, very fun.  But it’s not worth getting right now.  Simply put: it’s not finished.  Hopefully it will be someday soon.  If you’re one of those types who can put up with great games rendered too buggy to enjoy, have at it.  For me, Terraria can be fun, but it’s too unstable to recommend.  Funny, because that’s exactly how my parents described me to possible suitors.

LogoTerraria was developed by Re-Logic

$14.99 briefly thought about taking hostages and demanding that the 73 Gold Ore, 103 Silver Ore, 17 Demeteor Ore, 15 emeralds, 7 Topaz, 8 sapphire, and Skeleton Statue that I lost when the game crashed were returned to me, but Brian said “honey, the cops made it clear, no more hostage situations” in the making of this review.  Well fuck.

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