Thank you, poster, for preventing further loss of productivity.
-Samus often repeats the same mission over and over with minor changes. Her enemies are generally Kraid, Ridley, Mother Brain, evil Samus(SA-X, Dark Samus)
-Samus is constantly repeating work getting the same power-ups and soon losing them after she completes the mission.
-Samus is mostly completely alone, unless saved by something else at the end. Everything in metroid's design emphasizes isolation.
-She blows up the planet/starship/space station, with a desperate race against time.
-Soon there is a new mission...
She's forced to repeat the same thing over and over. Perhaps she is stuck here eternally, a hell created as a reflection of her life. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned, like with the infant metroid before she can live.
The game design emhasizes isolation - there are only enemies, except artifacts left by the Chozo. Samus can only depend on herself. The world is designed to emphasize isolation from the real world by putting her on caverns below the surface of uninhabited planets. The art is designed to look like no human has set foot here. The gameplay teaches you through the world.
Purgatory, as described in Inferno seemed like a reasonably well populated place, if not exactly a party.
Even though it was 16-bit and 2D, I was completely absorbed in the environment. It feels like almost every screen and task had been poured over and over and polished until it was perfect.
It's actually kind of hard to play other games that haven't received that kind of attention because you feel the subjective difference.
It's so wonderfully designed that, even though the game ends up being pseudo-linear (everything you're going to do to progress has been more or less pre-determined), it felt like a world I really wanted to spend more time in and that I had an amazing amount of agency.
It's definitely one of those games that clearly qualifies as art in the sense that it has a story to tell and emotions it wants to evoke, while at the same time remaining interactive. I feel like this is the kind of level that Ebert was challenging games to reach when he claimed they weren't art.
> Return of Samus is the only 2D Metroid with buildings the player can walk on and enter. Every door in Metroid II is located in abandoned buildings, and behind every door is an item that’s been sealed away like a time capsule. Each door is a barrier that is hopelessly locked, necessitating that you blast through it with missiles.
> Compare this to Super Metroid, where the continuity of the map is constantly sabotaged by the ridiculous bottlenecking of doors meant to transition into the next room. These doors are, of course, the perfect size for Samus to pass through and only her arsenal can open them. Some doors are located in outside areas where the sky is visible, making the game world feel like a box with holes poked in the sides of it. This problem endlessly reveals the artificiality of areas intended to seem organic and makes the game designers’ guiding hands hamfistedly obvious.
> The Space Pirates—somehow an entire species—mill around inside rooms between these doors as if they’re doomed to wait forever. Space Pirates don’t have missiles or Power Bombs, so how would they be inside places where these weapons are needed to ingress? It doesn’t feel like aliens on Zebes built those damn mazes or that they’re natural formations; it feels like sleep-deprived game developers built them
And as far as essays about level design go, this one about the level design in Super Mario Bros. is one of my favorite: http://auntiepixelante.com/?p=465.
> the SNES generation has yet to be topped [for those who prefer mechanics]
Starsiege Tribes. Tony Hawk. DotA/LoL/HotS/etc. Dark Souls. Portal. N/N+/N++.
I believe that all of those games emphasize intricate mechanics over cinematic gaming, though I admit that the majority of them are also hoping for cinematics (as were most games of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras). To my mind, on mechanics alone, the SNES generation has been topped. Of course, it's also nice when a game is also beautiful (Dark Souls) or also has engaging story (Portal).
This sub-thread is talking about modern games, all of them. My comment still stands. Games that make most of the market share, are burdened by graphics.
Ori is a good example that does that. It's an indie game with a major publisher and was profitable within the first week. Its graphics are turned up to 11.
One of the reasons I disliked HL2 so much was because my experience of it was so controlled and funneled. I felt like the designers removed my agency, and tried to ensure that there was one right way to solve a problem, to the point of punishing me , or worse, main-routing me when I sought an alternative route.
 One location early on requires you to break into a tunnel to come up behind and flank a guard shooting down at you with a mounted gun behind a screen. The problem is that the fact that a flanking tunnel exists means that the designers had no reason to make him possible to hit; it is actually possible to kill him head on, but it's difficult, and you will almost certainly take a lot of damage in the process (the punishment). The tunnel is just too damn convenient though, and breaks the suspension of disbelief; it's too obviously designed in.
 I invented the word main-routing to describe a situation where, when you're exploring shady nooks that you spot out of the corner of your eye, they look like they go somewhere interesting, so you go back to the main route to find out what the main stream does. But instead it dead-ends, and in fact that shady little corner you were exploring was the only way forward; what you thought was a secret shortcut was just the main route again, in a different guise. This is a double-whammy: not only does it break suspension of disbelief again, but it also punishes exploration. It teaches you that nooks are either dead ends that are pointless to explore, or that the main route will dead-end itself and you'll be forced to explore the nook. Either way, you have no choice in the matter, so you're better off sticking to the main route until it forces you to explore.
I really did not enjoy HL2. It was a cripplingly disappointing experience, especially after having played Deus Ex, which greatly increased my expectations from a game. Going back to playing a mute scientist with an alleged PhD yet whose only mechanism of interacting with the world is violence was like going back to the 90s.
I agree with the first paragraph, the first game was better since it didn't constantly trap you in rooms, where you had to wait for dialogue to play out, which were just glorified cut-scenes. For example, in the first game if a friendly character tried to convey some dialogue you could ignore/kill/avoid him, but in the second game you can only wait.
This notion also penalizes games that don't introduce fundamental new mechanics over time, and instead give the player all their tools from the start of the game. Super Metroid gets away with using animal NPCs to occasionally demonstrate non-intuitive mechanics because they space these encounters out instead of front-loading them all into the player's face the moment they get off the ship.
Contrast Dark Souls, which I've seen criticized because of its use of fourth-wall-breaking how-to-play-the-game text in its opening level. But, firstly, Dark Souls is not a game that particularly cares about holding your hand (to put it mildly), and secondly its basic mechanics are more complex than Super Metroid's (though its specific choice of controls is admittedly god-awful). This is a recognition of the idea that it is more fun to actually play the game and exercise the controls than to waste your time guessing at which unknown concepts happened to be mapped to which controller buttons.
I think games like Dark Souls strike a chord with people BECAUSE they have great mechanics that are fun in themselves without the need for story. For an EXTREME example of this, look at Flappy Bird. That game was pure mechanics. I'd also put Angry Birds in there as a game with very strong mechanics (with some framing elements). I think Doom is another game that did this wonderfully - to me at least, it plays very much like an arcade game.
I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I don't think it's the hand-holding per-se that presents a problem. I think what happens is that many games with very weak mechanics happen to have a lot of hand-holding, which leads us to blame the excessive hand-holding when it's just that the gamePLAY (emphasis on PLAY) was weak.
That's why I think it works fine for Dark Souls to have fourth-wall breaking text telling you how to play. The mechanics are strong enough that even when you're told what to do, actually doing it is a fun and playful challenge.
When I say 'play' what I specifically mean is - freedom to experiment within the game's mechanics to find a solution or defeat an obstacle. For that to work, the game has to provide enough mechanics and enough agency for the player to be able to explore them.
When I use the word 'mechanics', I mean anything that can be interactively explored in the game. So, a game's level design can provide mechanics. The way items or weapons work might provide mechanics, etc. A game might have really boring levels but interesting enemies. It might have no enemies and a really interesting world (Myst, for example). A game can make up for a lack of agency in one area (eg- a racing game set on real-world tracks) by providing lots of agency in another area (an interesting AI system that gives the player lots of ways to manipulate the AI in order to win).
The other factor with games like Dark Souls that does go back to hand-holding is that when you play them, you actually feel like you're becoming more skilled as playing the game, as opposed to just being really good at following instructions, or increasing some stat which basically amounts to the game artificially making things easier for you (I'm not saying this as a criticism, just as a point of difference to consider).
Shooting a super-missile at that block eventually leads you to Kraig.
I started listening to it about a month ago, and immediately dove into their back catalogue and have listened to about half of the episodes from their current and previous season. Even when the episodes are about something I have little knowledge of, hearing about a game or producer's impact and legacy is really interesting and makes me want to go back and check the games out.
I haven't played it in years, but I can still hear the sound of the power beam when you first land on the planet, with the lightning in the background. It sounds muffled and distant, like the atmosphere is really wet and heavy. They really nailed the 'alien' part of the experience.
"This analysis takes most of its material from the first playthrough of the game by my friend Rufus, which I had the pleasure of observing from beginning to end. Watching him, a complete newcomer to the genre, still find his way around Zebes in pretty much the same way I'd do, almost never once getting lost or stuck for any considerable amount of time, made me question how that could be. This analysis is my answer."
I presume this happened recently, with a gamer of "today".
Congratulations! You win nothing.
What's different now than the era of Super Metroid is that there are vibrant communities where people can deeply discuss the mysteries of games and help fellow gamers discover how to move forward.
Almost everyone who played Dark Souls probably has a story about heading in the wrong direction from the first hub world, and ending up in one of two locations that are almost impossible for a newbie (typically the skeletons) rather than the intended "slightly harder than the tutorial" area. The only thing that varies is how long they spent hopelessly beating their head against the wall before discovering the intended path.
In Bloodborne that's been replaced by half the players new to the series not realizing they can equip a weapon, and consequently spending hours trying to defeat the (rather tough) first enemy barehanded.
The most popular game right now is probably Minecraft. Note how it exactly takes advantage of this environment: in order to have fun in it, you want to read tutorials about how to build various stuff.
I'd love to see someone comparing the licence tests in each game.