Ask @Evilagram:

I don't have a question but I wanted to thank you for your years of high-quality vidya analysis. I hope you keep it up forever.

Thanks and you're welcome.
With that said, I'm not going to be using this Ask.fm much anymore. I've received too many questions, they're too hard to answer all of them, especially given many require long-form answers. And I feel like writing more content isn't a good use of my time.
I think if I want to get my ideas noticed, I need to produce videos. This is tough for me to get started on and follow through with, which is why I haven't produced any video content yet.
If you want to contact me or ask me stuff, try twitter DMs or my discord at http://discord.gg/EfPY4r9
I'm not going to be checking here actively anymore.
Writing here has been fun. It helped me figure out where I stand on things and develop my ideas into something coherent and robust. Thanks to everyone who has asked questions!

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I hear a lot of people complain about super moves with long, drawn out animations but do these things legitimately hurt the depth of the game? You could reasonably say they make the game slower but it seems people draw upon that too heavily to critique fighters when there are more valid complaints.

They don't hurt the depth of the game, it's just a hit to user experience. Cinematic supers can be a bit samey in some regards, because they don't allow other actions to take place while they're going on, but that's about it.

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When it comes to stealth games (specifically Dishonored, Deus Ex and most modern stealth games), do you think giving players multiple tools to kill/knock out enemies ends up being more counter productive to the genre?

PencilManners
I think these games treat knocking enemies out as if they were dead, and I think that's counter-productive. If someone turns into a corpse when they're knocked out and never gets up, then what the fuck is the difference between knockout and killing. Knockout is just a more silent version of killing at that point.
Giving players tools is good, but those tools need to have tradeoffs! Dishonored and Deus Ex make nonlethal strictly better than lethal in most circumstances, which is totally a flaw. (I'm aware deus ex enemies can wake each other up, but this doesn't happen often)
The drawback of knocking someone out should be that they come back to haunt you, that they wake up. This is a big deal for the stealth playstyle in particular, because it means either you kill an enemy to remove them permanently, but it's loud, or you knock them out, but they're gonna come back and be suspicious. If knocking them out is the same as killing them, then you're neutralizing a lot of the stealth challenge by steadily removing all the enemies you would otherwise sneak around.
This is why people did ghost playthroughs of Thief, because if you never knock anyone out, then you're preserving the "puzzle" for yourself when you exfiltrate the building, rather than completely disassembling it.
Stealth games keep making knocking people out a moral choice rather than an interesting one. If it means I can kill people silently and keep my goodboy points, why the hell would I not do it? In MGS3, you don't always want to knock enemies out, because they will wake up and they will search for you.
I think stealth games need to come up with ways to knock enemies out that have more drawbacks, and give players more distraction tools.

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You cited SMT Digital Devil Saga as an RPG with depth, so i would like to ask you to elaborate further. I've never played any SMT game but you aroused my interest. I don't play many JRPG's because a lot of them just seem like a grindfest to me (i'm aware that's a generalization though).

SMT DDS is a bit of a grindfest. It and Nocturne are deeper than most RPGs because they push really hard to create situationality in each fight. They push you to make interesting decisions by having the situation change and force you to use all your options. This is accomplished through having strong buffs/debuffs that are temporary and the press turn system.
Buffs in SMT games typically double your damage or whatever other stat for 3 turns. The most powerful ability in SMT3 Nocturne is fog breath, which can reduce the opponent's accuracy to almost nothing. This means keeping yourself buffed, the enemy debuffed, and avoiding the enemy's debuffs eat up up a lot of turns, which you could be doing damage or healing on, and you're perpetually losing your buffs.
Then there's the Press Turn system. Basically, you have a turn token for every party member, you spend them when you do normal actions, but you keep them if you hit an enemy's weakness, or if you pass your turn. Your party acts in a set order, with excess turns rolling over to the first party member. You can't keep a turn token more than once, so at most every member of your party can take 2 turns. Getting extra turns can help your party do a lot more damage, heal more, and get more done in general.
Making it even more complicated, when one member of the party does an action that keeps a turn token, the next one will always spend that turn token, so it falls on the party member after that to do another action to keep a turn token, making it more complicated to get all of your bonus turns.
This means, trying to line up extra turns with party members who need them can be complicated, and since different enemies will have different weaknesses, and your party members have different mixes of elemental spells, the optimal way to retain turns will be changing every battle. Plus your party members need to accomplish other jobs, like healing and buffing/debuffing, and that may fall on the extra turn earner for a particular battle.
Digital Devil Saga has 3 party members, each with a different elemental weakness and resistance. It lets you earn skills from a skill tree and once a character has learned a skill, they can equip it to a smaller list that they're limited to during battles. This is super forgiving, but you still can't have all the skills on everyone, so you need to make tradeoffs, which creates that interesting dynamic with the press turn system.
The standard pattern RPGs tend to fall into is, use your strongest attack, exploit the enemy's weakness, heal when you're low. DDS and SMT3 Nocturne give you convincing reasons to choose differently and it's usually necessary to win.

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Thoughts on chess? How deep and balanced would you say the game is? Anything you'd change to make the game better?

I don't like chess personally, something about it rubs me the wrong way.
The way I understand it, chess at a high level is about memorizing all the different ways the game can go, and trying to push your opponent down a pathway that you know better than they do, and if you end up pushed to somewhere you aren't familiar with, playing the game to a draw. This is where all turn based games of perfect information hypothetically go.
I don't have any suggestions to make the game better. Sirlin made Chess 2, which I don't really know how that works. Other people have made random chess variants so as to recapture the feeling of chess at a low level.
I like Go better because it has too large a possibility space to ever submit to memorization like chess does, so it's more about the player's own heuristics. Go also rewards knowledge of situations and how to defuse them, but I feel like you learn a more generalized knowledgeset in Go rather than a specialized one.

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Why do you say Melee doesn't need a patch? Fact is, I can't beat top players or win majors with Bows or Link. You can't say that "Melee has perfect balance... if you only play top 8 or stick to locals." Of course it'll never get that patch because the cult of Melee is too stronk. Just look at

I don't understand why you think I'd say that Melee has perfect balance. It doesn't even have good balance.
It doesn't need a patch because balance isn't that important. Balance is nice, but a game doesn't need to be balanced to be good.
An unbalanced game is effectively a game with less characters. If you deleted half the cast, it wouldn't really change how the game gets played. You could have a fighting game with 1 character left over and if that character is fun to play, then people would still play it. That's basically Marvel 2.

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Joseph Anderson just recently released a video dubbed "Subjectivity is Implied". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gu8u2SxarEE What do you think of the video and its argument? Also, what do you think of MauLer's response? (If possible what do you think of him as a critic, I enjoy your Critic Reviews)

Okay, I've weirdly argued both sides of this issue (one of which with Mauler on twitter actually) and I sit in a strange center point.
I agree with the main thrust of Joseph's video, if you claim something about a game that isn't an indisputable fact, if you make some type of analysis or state some type of opinion, that's obviously subjective to some degree. People don't like how Joe's videos talk in a factual tone of voice instead of qualifying everything with, "I think" or "in my opinion". Joe's saying, "I shouldn't have to qualify every thing I say, you should know from context that I'm just stating an opinion"
On the other hand, I think opinions can be more or less objective, more or less based on facts. Joe doesn't state it this way, but he does say that he cites tons of evidence to back up his opinions. I think Joe could argue better about a number of things, but I've always said that I respect his methodology of gathering evidence and using that to make conclusions. I think the goal is to try to establish things with as much objectivity as you can manage. The end result is still subjective, up to personal interpretation, so nothing is beyond reproach, but you can do better or worse. I don't think Joe would disagree with this, his video implies a similar sentiment, worded a bit differently.
Mauler on the other hand thinks that his criticisms are completely objective and lumps in Joe with a lot of bad faith critics like Jim Sterling, who have said that reviews are completely subjective and purely just your viewpoint.
I haven't watched any Mauler videos and don't plan to, but he seems petulant, nitpicky, and like he includes a ton of unnecessary filler statements.

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We all know your stance on immerson, but given that this is the first buzzword that comes to mind in regards to horror games i've found myself wondering: for you, what is an example of mechanically efficient horror game that doesn't rely on artificial fabrications?

SCP containment breach? I dunno, I don't play that many horror games, but I've seen people freak out at stuff that's blatantly unreal. The horror atmosphere depends on a lot of stuff that doesn't have anything to do with suspension of disbelief, things that are distinctly mechanical. Untelegraphed surprises, lack of information, spotty visual or auditory feedback (difficult to see, difficult to hear), uncertainty about the enemy, a feeling of not having total control over your success, of defenselessness versus uncertain inevitability, tension over having to divide your attention and focus on a task, but also not getting screwed over.
Horror movies obey these same rules, and I mean, people got scared of Five Nights at Freddy's. I'm pretty sure you can skin a horror game as whatever you want and it would still be scary as long as it had the same rules.

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What can make combat "repetitive?" I feel as though this critique is thrown around loosely these days.

Easy answer is a lack of depth.
Depth is related to state space, which is essentially the range of things that can happen. If that range is really big, then a lot of different things can possibly happen and people are unlikely to repeat the same few.
Slightly harder answer is how that depth is leveraged, which could be called, "design space". The system might theoretically have a configuration with high depth, but the developers didn't set up that configuration. Like, maybe they reuse the same few enemies in the same placement a bunch of times. Maybe all the enemies have the same core design idea (like Witcher 2) so you fight them really similarly.
The cure is to promote more situationality. There's a lot of things you can do here: make the spacing and timing of attacks matter more / more exaggerated proportional to enemy options and each other, add more options in combat and make sure they're balanced, make enemies more varied and use differently mixed groups of them more frequently, and vary level design and make sure the other mechanics are impacted/play well with more varied level design features. These tend to bring out the differences in each encounter and make them feel more different, and make repeats of the same encounter feel more different too.

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You're weird in how you seem to hate review styles that are different from yours. You love going in depth about how mechanics can impact gameplay as a whole. That's great. But others like to analyze who mechanics create meaning. That's great too. Different styles create interesting discussion.

Not totally wrong.
More often than not though, I think other people argue their points poorly and one of the biggest reasons I advocated for Joseph Anderson was because I might not always agree with him, but he's completely laborious in applying evidence to his conclusions. I was going through my blog traffic and one person said one criticism I had of Egoraptor was vague, so maybe I'm a bit guilty of this too, assuming more context is available to the reader than they have.
So here's my other angle, there's WAY too many people "analyzing" how mechanics create meaning. There's way too few people analyzing how mechanics impact gameplay as a whole. And very few people are being very rigorous about it.
That and I don't think that type of analysis is very important for this medium. It's like the cherry on top rather than the sundae itself. It feels like discussing the meaning of a painting, rather than the way the painting itself is painted. It's assuming everything is a narrative medium and should be evaluated as such. Thereby, the glut of people reviewing for meaning are vastly disproportionate to the handful of people reviewing mechanics.

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So have you played the new God of War? Did you like it? Is it worth checking out for the combat?

Yes, I have. I really like it actually. I haven't finished it, and I've been so busy lately that I probably never will, but I think the combat system is REALLY solid. The way I'd describe it is, it has all the core fundamentals that a combat system should have, but it's lacking for advanced play. It has a bunch of different attacks that are rather clearly differentiated in function and based on how well you use them, you can win exchanges, or extract tons of damage in the right scenario. It has dodging and blocking, and it forces you to use both, making them good in different circumstances, by using a mix of unblockable attacks, and difficult to dodge enemies that you won't get advantage for dodging, as well as attacks that are blockable, but you get more advantage by dodging them. There's a lot of nuance to the design of your defensive options versus the enemy attacks.
You have some basic combos, and can string together more complex juggles through your various attacks and arrows from boy, but it never feels particularly technical or constrained. There's nothing that really feels like a technique to master, it's just solidly constructed combat.
I recommend playing on Give Me a Challenge (Hard mode, not very hard mode) because the normal difficulty is extremely easy. Enemies on hard and very hard are unfortunately really spongey, but it gets better as the game progresses.
It has a lot of what DMC has been lacking as a series, in terms of enemy design, and attack/defense options that are meant to really interact with enemies. None of the enemies are anti-fun like fausts, chimeras, or blitzes, or have shields that need to be broken and which unilaterally repel all attacks (one enemy has a shield, but it can be circumvented, and he's vulnerable during many attacks, so it fits).
It also borrows a little from Dark Souls, in terms of having your pace be a bit slower on many moves, so you need to read the actions of enemies and set yourself up in position for a future attack.
Oh, and the open world structure is basically just a ton of linear authored content duct taped together. It's a lot like Zelda in structure, with the not-puzzles frequently interspersed, but it usually doesn't blatantly waste your time, and the combat is a lot better.
Overall, I really like it.

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Do you have any interest in pen & paper rpgs?

Not anymore. I have a huge bookshelf filled with D&D 3.5 books that I'm probably literally never going to read or use ever again. The combat in D&D ran so slow, I got bored with it, and basically don't want to bother with games like that again. I have read up on a ton of P&P RPG systems, and their lore and all, and that's cool, but I'm not playing them ever again.

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I was taking about the general concept of counterplay in SP games. Lets say FPS, how many guns or abilities can you make for a game to be deep ? lets say you have 11 weapons how many enemies can you create to counter the players options? many fps have 50+ weapons because they think more = deep.

There isn't a set number. Something about my approach to depth is trying to sum up how both a game with 3 guns and a game with 50 guns can both have the same amount of depth.
You can build 3 guns so that they can each be used in 50 ways, and 50 guns so they can each be used in 3 ways, and ultimately you end up with 150 ways to use the guns you have in both games. Neither is distinctly better, it's about how many ways you have total in the end, not how many things you start with. So you can choose whatever number of weapons you want, whatever number of enemies you want, but looking at it in terms of purely numbers of features isn't right, it's about looking at how many distinct situations you can ultimately create.
This is a devil in the details type of scenario, I can't tell you "yes, with this number of weapons you should have this number of enemies." It depends on the specifics of how each option works. You need to think more low level, about the physical processes operating each weapon, each attack, each enemy. How do they move? Over what time period? In what shape?
My general rule for counterplay is, everything should have something it's better than the other things at, but never completely so. Things should counter other things, but how much they counter should depend on timing and spacing, or other factors of the scenario. Enemies should have a counter for every strategy the player has, but it shouldn't be a perfect counter, that counter should give the player some means of manipulating and getting an advantage on the enemy too. Like enemies investigating disturbances in stealth games. It's a way of enemies attacking players, such as to counter players moving quickly around them, but it also gives players a way to manipulate enemies by distracting them.
An attack in a melee combat game has 3 parts, the startup, active time, and recovery. Players can take advantage of attacks by interrupting them, counterpoking them, or whiff punishing them. Enemies make themselves vulnerable in the process of attacking the player, and the player needs to pick the right option based on the attack the enemy does, but the enemy needs to also have options to guarantee that the player can't just keep doing the same thing, that they need to mix their tactics and respond to the situation. The situation, such as timing, spacing, number of enemies, arrangement of enemies, current enemy state, needs to evolve over time to continue to force the player to vary their attack patterns and adapt to the situation.
Think more about the specifics of how the moves work, think less about high-level roles, more about low-level functionality.

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+1 answer in: “You have game where the player only has 4 abilities. fire, lighting, water,ice. How do you design enemies and have enemie vareity that counters the player strats and abilities if the player only has four abilities for example. I have hard time grapsing the ememy design concept.”

You seen to know every single person who writes about games wheter you like their stuff or not. Do you think that being familiar with how your "antagonists" elevated uour level o knowledge of gaming?

Antagonists? Nobody cares about me enough to be an antagonist.
I've read through nearly everyone else's thoughts on games, I think it's helped me realize a lot I wouldn't have otherwise, spurred me to think about a lot of topics I wouldn't have normally.
I've fallen behind on other people's writing since 2016, and generally don't care as much, because I think I have everything I need to know for now. This might be hubris, but I'll change my mind when I get more active and have more indication that other people are doing stuff I haven't seen before.

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I think you've already expressed your dislike for Chain Combos, and while I understand where you coming from, I can't imagine a way to totally get rid of them in 3D Beat em Ups without making the controls an abomination to use

Does DMC4 count? Or is that an abomination?
I'd say God Hand is a reasonable example too, it has 1 chain on square, then command moves on X, Triangle, and down + X/Triangle/Square. Plus it has hidden contextual moves on triangle that are just direction + button, and dashing attacks. Since God Hand lets you assign any move to any button, you have a fair number of moves that you could potentially assign. A chain + 5 command moves.
This obviously isn't the most in the world, but it's a fair number of moves with no chains required.
So how do you get more moves? You need to dedicate more buttons to attacking, or you need modifier or moveset toggle buttons (or modifiers buttons that allow you to toggle movesets, like Nioh with the stance change button).
Modifiers are pretty simple. Moveset toggles are closer to abomination I'd guess. So the question is, how do you make the most of your modifiers?
The obvious modifiers are the lock-on button and held directions. These are probably the most intuitive. The lock-on button can modify which attack you do when locked on and off, the directions can modify which attacks you do when you're locked on.
So basically, start with at least 2-3 attack buttons. Give them all a unique attack when locked off, give them a unique attack when locked on. Give them a unique attack for when forward, back, and sideways are held when locked on. Assuming you have 3 attack buttons, that's 3 * 5, or 15 attacks. 10 attacks for 2 attack buttons. That's more than God Hand and you've only used 3 face buttons and a trigger. if you forgo a jump/dodge button on the face, that's 20 attacks. If you have moveset toggle buttons on the triggers, you could probably get even more attacks. Imagine all the moves get toggled at once, 3 * 5 * 2 = 30. Dante in DMC4 has like, 77 moves because of all the moveset toggles he has.
You could also have back to forward inputs, mash inputs (like crazy combos in DMC3), and even directionals when locked off if you require a back to forward, or a forward forward tap when input.
There's a lot of ways to fit moves on the character that I think are reasonably intuitive. If you use tank controls like god hand, then you don't even need a lock-on button.

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I meant in games not based around collectables, like in GTA, where I don't really understand them, because the only way to find every single one of them is with a guide, so searching for them on your own is counterproductive. Those kind where it appears they're just there because it was easy to do.

Shrug, probably because it is easy and it gives people something to do.

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+1 answer in: “I don't understand the purpose of collectables in games in general (not talking about games based around). It appears that the idea is to incentivise exploration, but the best way to collect them is to actually not bother with them unless you have a guide, cause you dont run the risk of missing one.”

You have game where the player only has 4 abilities. fire, lighting, water,ice. How do you design enemies and have enemie vareity that counters the player strats and abilities if the player only has four abilities for example. I have hard time grapsing the ememy design concept.

4 elements isn't enough to build a game on. Like, what type of game is it? RPG? FPS? Action? Platformer? What do each of the elemental abilities do? Are they all the same ability with a different element attached? Do they each have unique physical properties?
Elements are generally a bad starting point, because an element doesn't necessarily mean anything. One element might as well be the same as any other. You need asymmetry between them, or they're redundant. Asymmetries such as differences in range, which counter which, damage, speed, shape, etc.
Try thinking in terms of more physical factors, things you can visualize, not just abstract things like elements.
Think about the patterns enemies move in, the speed, range, shape, of their attacks. Think about it in terms of raw hitboxes, not the things those hitboxes represent. It's okay to derive inspiration from representation, but it's the hitboxes that matter in the end.

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I don't understand the purpose of collectables in games in general (not talking about games based around). It appears that the idea is to incentivise exploration, but the best way to collect them is to actually not bother with them unless you have a guide, cause you dont run the risk of missing one.

The purpose is simply, people have a desire to collect things.
On a more broad level, collectibles can be used to point people in the right direction, as they often are in Mario with coins, they can be used to add optional challenges (either in optional challenge areas, or in ), they can be used as a form of currency for progression, or they could exist solely to prey on the way people desire to collect things.
And when I say desire, I mean something different than enjoying collecting things. People don't usually enjoy collecting things, they want to collect them, but it's not exactly connected to making them happy. Collectibles can be a way to drive enjoyable interactions, but the collection isn't what's fun, it's what you do in order to collect things.
Collectibles can be used to drive challenges. Make a platforming landscape, scatter collectibles across it, it's a challenge to find and collect each collectible. It's a challenge to reach them. It's a challenge to cut across them in the most efficient path, vacuuming up as many collectibles along the way as possible. There's a lot of tangential benefits that can be attached to collectibles, just as long as you remember the collectibles aren't the reason people are playing, they're playing for all the other stuff. You need to succeed on the core level first.
This was the failure of Mario Odyssey, too many collectibles, too trivially obtained. It's fun to roam around and grab random collectibles while doing the core platforming challenges plus some bonuses occasionally, but it's lame when you need X number of collectibles to proceed and it's pointless when the collectible is just sitting there and there's no reason challenge to obtaining it. In a speedrun context this is more fun, because every second counts, so optimizing your movement is way more important, but in casual playthroughs, there's no risk, so there's no fun in it.
Collectibles can push people to move through the environment in a more challenging way, or take on additional challenges, but if they're just stuck around and the player needs to walk around grabbing all of them without doing anything to earn them, then it's rather pointless.

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Why is AM2R one of your favorite games? How does it rise above the other Metroid titles?

Really strong enemy, level, and boss design. It's not as non-linear as other metroid games, and generally doesn't do the metroidvania thing as well, but I value strong core interactions above non-linearity, above stat systems, above progression, and so on. I think that a game needs to deliver on the core level, the actual interesting choices you make in the moment with short term consequences relating to whether you live or die, before worrying about higher level concerns.
I think the Alpha Metroids are a good encapsulation of what AM2R is about. They weave around you in semi-predictable fashions that aren't strict orbiting. They're only vulnerable on the bottom side, so you can see when they're vulnerable coming up and plan for that. You need to make fuzzy evaluations of exactly what's going to happen, simulate the situation forwards in your head and make a prediction. And the way you move affects the way it moves, and hitting it knocks it into a different pattern, so you gotta make the predictions fresh. If you're good, you can get them caught in a pattern for extra hits, but the arena is also set up to make that difficult.
Everything in the game works this way to some extent, it's about being pushed to evaluate the situation and make a judgement call. AM2R does this amazingly with every boss and most enemies in the levels, except Omega Metroid, which sticks out like a sore thumb.
It's just really marvelous design on a core level, worth studying. It forces you to make interesting choices and test core platforming, aiming, and predictions skills at the same time. This is what a good game should do.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK1X5RhxDFs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WlWG1_56Iw

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What are your thoughts on Totalbiscuit, specifically as a reviewer and journalist?

I was asked this before he passed away.
As a reviewer, I didn't think he was great. He mostly reviewed options menus, especially FOV and FPS. He was critical about those because restricting FOV options and having a low FPS on PC could, in certain rare cases, literally make people sick. His wife was one of these people.
As a journalist, he did pretty alright. He championed a lot of smaller games. He called out a lot of industry abuses. He helped highlight a lot of bad industry practices that we probably will have to deal with more now that he's gone.
I wasn't a big fan of him, but we're in a worse place with him gone.

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What was your most recent paradigm shift/change in perspective in game design? For example, I personally hadn't thought about how limitations such as mega man being unable to aim specifically where he wants to shoot forces the player to use movement/positioning in interesting ways.

I don't remember.
I've been in a relatively steady state for a while now. I've had a lot of paradigm shifts over time, but as I've written more, I've mostly evened out. I've figured out where I stand.
I had an argument with Lambhoot a while back over his definition of depth versus mine, and after discussing it with my brother, I think there's a way to merge the two, but I never got back to him on that. Should get around to that eventually.
In case I don't, my definition of depth is basically statespace, selected for the non-redundant and relevant states. His definition is the comp-sci definition, look at parts of the game as nodes, breadth is the range of different nodes that can be traveled to from the current node, depth is the number of nodes that can be traveled to in order. So naturally he thinks breadth is more important than depth, which given his definitions makes sense. Dante is one of the deepest (my def) action game characters because he has such a breadth (his def) of moves. The depth (his def) of moves meanwhile is practically a useless statistic, because you can have a deeply nested move in something like dance macabre with dante (forward + ■ ■ ■ ■ [...]) but that doesn't really indicate anything about how complex the game is, where breadth, in his terms, is a much better indicator.
I've frequently talked about connections between elements as a way of heuristically gauging depth, and he's pointed this out. After a lot of consideration, I think that taking some terminology from graph theory might make sense. Breath of the Wild attempted to have as many elements as possible be connected to one another to create what they called multiplicative gameplay. If there were some metric to judge the totally interconnectedness of a graph, I think that might be a good heuristic for determining game depth (my def).

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