Demo Driver 8: Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory (#447)

The game isn't messy, if you're reading this pre-cut and are worried that we're looking at another angry rant in its purest form.

It would be really nice if even the designers could get a single shot of this game that did not make it look unbelievably messy, because that certainly turned me off.

The vast majority of games are mediocre.  We all know this even as we don’t really think about it.  Your game collection is, I’m sure, filled with games that you consider actively good rather than lackluster, and it’s easy to sort of extrapolate outward from that.  Most of the games you can find aren’t bad, though, nor are they really all that good.  They’re just… there.  They work.  They’re not worth feeling a great deal of joy or sorrow over.  They’re mediocre.  Filler.  Likely impossible to have any strong emotions about either way, even.

Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory is a game that is mediocre in every way, shape, and form.  It is yet another puzzle platformer in which you move from screen to screen and try to figure out how to bypass the game’s obstacles to get to the end.  It is also another game that falls victim to the “demo cannot sustain half an hour of play” curse that I get all uppity about, but even with that being said I feel I have a relatively solid grasp of the game from my limited play time.  It’s neither bad nor good.  It’s just there.

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Telling Stories: Keeping the faith

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.

Whatever you believe in your day-to-day life, religion can have a substantial impact when roleplaying.  It has some real meat to it, as a topic.  There are a lot of ways that you can portray a religious character, a lot of options offered by the game when it comes to how religion is handled, a whole lot of different permutations available.  It’s also a thorny issue to discuss, since discussing religion as a category tends to overlap with religions in the real world, and that’s an uncomfortable series of land mines no matter what you believe.

That also is part of why religion is such a powerful force in roleplaying, though.  Religion is tied in with your identity, a combination of things that you’ve been told and things that you believe that are tied intimately with your personal identity.  Your religion in real life (or aversion to same) informs part of your identity.  What your characters believe is just as important to them.

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Challenge Accepted: Why fake difficulty is still a thing

What, specifically?  It.  All of it.

Fakin’ it.

Fake difficulty isn’t a term of praise. Which is kind of obvious from the name, I know.

If you’re not well-versed in fake difficulty as a named concept, you’ll still know it when you see it.  The mandatory stealth section when this game had not required any stealth gameplay before now.  The camera angles that shift when you make a jump.  The sudden mechanical shift into a whole new sort of game that you may not be any good at.  A hunt for an object that would be easy to find… if not for the total lack of distinguishing marks from the background.

TVTropes does a good job listing the many, many flavors of fake difficulty, but it only briefly touches upon the fact that it’s not entirely bad.  There are a few reasons it still shows up in games, though, and while some of them are bad, a couple of them are actually better than the alternative.  So why is fake difficulty still a thing?

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The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy III, part 7

I don't expect it to last, but it'll be nice while it does.

Artwork from a sketch by Yoshitaka Amano

I shudder to think at what would happen if the Light Warriors were to put in an application for an airship loan at this point in the game.  They’d be laughed out of the office.  Our first airship got blown up, we used our second one for about three minutes before getting it chained up by some jerk who may have broken one of the foundations of the planet, and then once we get that back we get it shot down in minutes.  The skies here are just evil.

Leaving aside the fact that we can’t keep a flying ship in the air, of course, there is the minor fact that the Light Warriors are trapped somewhere strange after having their ship shot out from underneath them.  As we were in a vehicle at the time, everyone is perfectly fine but the ship is destroyed, leaving us kind of up the creek.  Boy, I sure hope this doesn’t mean we’re about to all be forced into changing classes for a big gimmick section!

(That is exactly what we’re going to have to do.)

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Creating the environment

There's always the arena.

You threw me into the arena, don’t be surprised that I plan to fight now.

During a conversation the other night with a fellow Final Fantasy XIV player, a statement was made: “It’s not the developers’ fault how players behave.”  Which intrigued me, because it’s a sentiment that I see a lot, and one that makes logical sense.  It’s also one that’s almost entirely wrong.

Obviously, developers are not coming into your house at night to tell you how the game should be played, or including notes in the instruction manual.  Although that would be kind of funny from a perverse standpoint: “press A to jump, but don’t do it in level 3 because that’s not the right way to play.”  But the developers are totally telling you how to play, and if you’re breaking the game or playing in a way that’s not fun for you or anyone, that’s entirely the fault of the development team.

It all comes down to the environment you create and what you encourage.  Because that’s what tells you how to play the game anyway.

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