Ask @Evilagram:

What are your predictions for gaming in 2018?

I think all the big players have tapped out their reserves, so I expect a middling year.

View more

What do you feel like so many people don't like you?

I talk a lot of shit and criticize people and things that people like. And I act like I know more than other people, and frequently do think I know more than other people even though I have nothing to show for it except my writing. And I get frustrated when I see people do stuff I don't like, and speak rashly. I argue fiercely for what I believe in, as I think I'm entitled to do given I believe it in the first place; which leads people to think I don't argue in good faith, and won't admit it even if I'm wrong; which tends to surprise them when they're right and I change my mind. Even if I know I have all these bad tendencies, I still want to push forward on criticizing people and things because I think it's the right thing to do. I still want to know things and demonstrate my knowledge, because I like showing that I know things, even if it's an unlikable trait. So I'm kind of at the point where I'm just gonna live with it all and try to minimize or apologize for where I overstep, because I don't really want to hurt anyone, even if I'm critical of them.
It's not even that "so many" people don't like me. I'm basically unknown. A small group of people don't like me, a small group of people like me. I think the group of people who like me is slightly bigger. I'm not getting any hatemail, so if people dislike me then they're generally quiet about it. I'm smalltime and that's unlikely to change unless I make videos or get absurdly lucky, which are unlikely to happen any time soon.

View more

Have you checked out "Characteristics of Games" by Richard Garfield et al? IMHO it's one of the few works that goes in the opposite direction of the 'pseudoscience' that dominates game literature, although it's quite introductory in nature. Thoughts on it?

I have not, and it's one of the few books I don't have already. I checked online and it's $49, which is a bit too expensive for me right now, especially for a book I don't even know if I'll like.
Richard Garfield is pretty legit though.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av5Hf7uOu-o

View more

What do you think of auto combos in fighting games?

Short answer: Letting people mash a single button to get an okay-ish high-commit combo that does not mix up on block in a game that is heavily based on landing difficult high-damage combos is a good idea.
Marvel style games and anime fighters are frequently about landing big, high-execution combos for tons of damage. I've learned a few combos in skullgirls and marvel 3, and they get pretty long and tough, even if most of the individual stages are fairly lenient.
Individual hits in these games tend to be low damage, and exist more to define the entry-point of the combo, limiting your ability to confirm and what route you take through the combo. Damage scaling and proration also affect the total damage of the combo based on the opener. It might be easier to confirm off a light (because they self-cancel and come out fast), but you might be shaving off tons of damage in the process.
The perspective to take for these types of games is to think of the combo as one extremely high-damage hit, imagine that in in-game time, you're skipping directly from the beginning of the combo to the end. Having the combo have all these moves in-between allows combos to vary more widely in their effects and damage, so in "one hit" you can have a much wider variety of outcomes, pieced together by all the moves the attacker chooses to assemble in the combo. From that they can get pure damage, resets, corner optimized combos, corner carry, hard knockdown, character switching, etc.
It also means that different players can demonstrate their skill and creativity with the combo system, practice to improve their damage output, produce different results from the combo system.
However getting to that level is hard. It requires understanding a lot about the game, and having skill at actually executing combos.
So auto-combos give people an easy in. They can play the neutral game using all the different moves they're given, then confirm into an auto-combo off their openers. They let people deal respectable amounts of damage in a game about dealing a lot of damage, but ultimately to get the real damage, they're gonna have to learn. Autocombos don't really affect competitive play in any way, they don't imbalance the game, they let beginners get an idea how to use combos, how to confirm, etc. So in this respect, pros don't care about autocombos, so it's fine to have them.
At a low to intermediate level however, autocombos feel weird. I did a twitter thread on this: https://twitter.com/aGrimVale/status/953268702056763392
As a beginner who was good at neutral, bad at combos, I felt like autocombo systems were a violation of the idea of effort vs reward, and they are. I disliked combos in general at the time, so I didn't really like games based on long combos. Combos feel unfair, even if they aren't actually unfair. It's like, "why are we even playing each other if only one guy is doing anything?"

View more

Auto-Combos part 2

Beginners don't have a good sense of the fairness of fighting games. A common perception is that mashing is just as good as deliberate play, and autocombos add to that, because low level players aren't familiar with blocking and punishing. It's also feels like handholding, like simplification of the game, and you'll see the same combo a lot and you know they're never ever gonna drop it, so that kinda sucks. So in a way, it simplifies the game at a lower level, because low level players shoot to just do the same thing over and over again, because it's so much more rewarding than anything else you can do, and it's frustrating to try to play without that until you can do real combos. You feel like you're trying to engage with the actual game, but you're being punished for it, because using multiple moves in neutral and trying to make do without combos is so much less effective than just using the damn auto-combo.
The trouble with auto-combos isn't that they're broken, it's that they give people an easy crutch, but they don't understand how to build from there. We don't have the best on-roading structures for leading people to develop better fighting game knowledge and skills. A lot of it requires research outside the game, or having a friend who knows better, and even then, it's difficult to really understand the basics. The tutorials are insufficient, and they're external to the process of actually playing. The game doesn't have a medium between autocombo and manual combo, and it probably can't.
I don't have a good solution to this, but hey, autocombos are a neat stop-gap that hurt the game less than people think. If we can figure out a way to lead people to naturally learn about combo systems without having to divert them to another mode, that would be great, but I just don't see how we can do that.

View more

Is it too little too late for SFV AE?

We'll have to see. My guess right now is yes.
This patch has finally delivered a lot of stuff the game was missing, and the game did make it up to 2 million sales before this patch dropped, and this means a new physical release, but it's really hard to predict whether the new version will sell particularly well given how bad the first impression was.
However, SFV did manage to sell 2 million copies, which is nothing to sneeze at, even if it's not a runaway success, and the new physical version means new game site reviews, which are more positive this time around. So this may turn into a new chance for the game.
The balance changes are generally for the better, little by little, various small issues have been going away. AA normals now AA more consistently, Jabs AA less consistently (though annoyingly still exist). However overall, I think they're still just shuffling around the characters at the top and not improving the balance of the game overall by very much. Their changes seem random, haphazard and purposeless in the majority of cases.
Rumor has it the input lag decreased, though there are mixed reports:
https://www.reddit.com/r/StreetFighter/comments/7r12j3/the_input_lag_of_ps4_sfv_ae_is_reduced_to_about_4f/
So we'll see, but it's undoubtedly a complete game this time around. I don't think it's gonna do amazing, but it has a chance.

View more

What did you think of the Monster Hunter: World demo? Did you try out the Charge Blade? I really love its mechanics.

It seemed pretty cool. Always meant to get into monster hunter, never got around to it. The control scheme confused me a bit, but I guess I'll figure it out when the game comes out. I'll be waiting for the PC release though.

View more

Is there anything you're hoping for with Dark Souls remastered?

Fix Lost Izalith, no further changes. I'd be happy with this and this alone.
I don't want Capra Demon changed at all, except maybe remove the arch, and prevent him from walking next to the bottom of the stairs, so you can't drop attack him, and remove the tree for better visibility.
Don't fuck with silver knight archers.
I could ask for a lot of other small changes, but honestly I really would just want a fixed Lost Izalith.

View more

What are useful applications for Marth's Dancing Blade other than air stalling and spiking with the third down hit?

None really, it's a gimmick.
3rd neutral hit can kill, this is a gimmick like anything past 1 hit.
First hit can pop up floaties, setting them up for up tilt, or ken combo at high percentages. This is not a true combo, and can be DI'd out of. It's semi-legit.
It is accessible when you dash, since it's a B move, so it can be used as a poke in footsies, but that's a really terrible move compared to dtilt or grab. This is totally illegitimate.

View more

Any games you're looking forward to this year?

PencilManners
Lemme see:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_in_video_gaming
Dragon Ball FighterZ
This is obligatory, the game is looking great.
Monster Hunter: World
I tried the demo, always wanted to give monster hunter a go. Gonna have to wait a long time for the PC version though.
Metal Gear Survive
The last trailer was intriguing. Might be worth considering. Zombie enemies usually mean dumb AI though, so lets hope there's other stuff besides just zombies.
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
Looks cool. Arc Sys always does well.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
I'm willing to give this another shot because I generally like metroidvanias.
Anthem
The movement looked cool, so I think I'll try it out.
Code Vein
Dark Souls Clones are worth a go in my book.
Praey for the Gods
I'm interested in a real followup to SOTC.
Vampyr
Made by the Remember Me guys as another dark souls clone. Sure, why not?
Overall, got like, 3 games I'm actually interested/confident in, and a bunch that I'm willing to give a shot.

View more

What do you think of danger time from Xrd?

It's stupid. Lets take a rare event in the game and make it sometimes randomly shift the entire game into a mode where a single hit can lead to 70-90% damage. If you clash on a dragon punch, then you're extra screwed because you can't cancel that.
It's forced hype, like a deus ex machina. People go crazy when someone lands a big hit that leads to a ton of damage, because it happens rarely, it's like a slot machine thing. For a spectator or competitor, that's a really cool moment. Like landing a double perfect. So this system exists to deliberately create moments like that on rare occasions. It doesn't augment the strategy of the game because it's not something you can plan around or deliberately trigger or watch out for, it's not a factor that characters are realistically balanced around. It's not a factor that players can really take much credit for. It's like Critical Hits in TF2, if critical hit chance were basically just plain random. It's almost as bad as tripping in Brawl, with the saving grace of at least being rare.

View more

Have you ever heard of the book called, "Understanding Comics"? Does it do a good job of explaining the comic medium?

I've read it before, took a cartooning course once. It's a great book for getting an idea about a lot of common conventions people have settled on for drawing comics. I love stuff like this, like Every Frame a Painting.

View more

What should be prioritized in making a fighting game? Is balance near the top?

The way I like to put it is, Balance is the least important thing that is still important. It's way more important for the game to be fun than for it to be balanced.
In terms of sales success, I'd say it's important to have a lot of characters and good single player content. Also looking good is a big factor.
In terms of making the game good, it's about making Rock-Paper-Scissors loops. It's about making it so there's a good web of these RPS loops going around everywhere, so you can beat everything in a couple different ways, usually varying by scenario.
Fitting into these loops and creating new loops is what makes something like Parrying nuanced.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UoNExrfJ4Q
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAUP4DC2MzM
You want to avoid situations like Rock-Paper-Scissors-Bomb, where bomb blows up rock and paper, but gets defused by scissors, because options like that strictly replace existing options. No reason to play paper when bomb does the same thing but better. You can sometimes fit options in like this, but only if they lose to other things.
It's also a matter of making different RPS loops for different parts of the game. Different attacks gets stressed in the wakeup game compared to neutral. Neutral has hit > throw > block > hit, Footsies have poke > throw > whiff punish > poke. KoF adds on top of that shorthop, which has its own triangle of hop > low kick > standing punch > hop. So you have all of these loops fit on top of one another and the game gets really complex.
In turn each character should emphasize these principles differently, so as to be deep in their own right. Each character should have a mix of moves that allows them to engage with unique RPS loops with all the other characters, and some of the core RPS loops that define the game. Also going back to my 4 criteria for depth, all the parts of a character's moveset should emphasize each move having its own niche, each move having multiple uses, each move having some way for you to express skill, either through combos, or positioning, or otherwise, and each move having interactions and synergy with the other moves around it.
Even a simple game like Divekick has a lot of that third criteria, allowing you to manipulating the height and distance of your Divekicks to have radically different matches each time.
Balance is what you do after you've ensured the game and the characters are fun. After you've ensured that the game is about picking from a variety of moves to fit the situation and also counter what the opponent is picking.
Having a good concept for the game is also helpful, but that's a matter of taste.

View more

What's the most common way you use the term "mechanic" used inappropriately? In other words, what are things most people refer to as mechanics when they are not?

Honestly, the word mechanic itself isn't very well defined. I don't have a good definition for it, and I haven't seen anyone else who does either. It's a hard word to define, much like "game".
Like, ostensibly "mechanic" is supposed to be the smallest unit of "game" possible. The elementary (small, unsplittable) rules that games are made out of. It's worth noting that the word predates video games, and was used in board games, primarily to refer to use of dice, cards, etc. However the trouble is, what's the smallest unit that comprises a mechanic?
If you've ever coded before, it should be fairly obvious how complex this question is. Is jumping as a whole a mechanic? Or is gravity a mechanic? Is the means via which jumping is modulated (holding the button down to jump higher) a mechanic? Is every line of code that assigns a variable a mechanic? Or are these supposed to be summed together into a whole mechanic (jumping) that has various properties (its gravity, initial jump speed, terminal velocity, jump modulation)? What's the line you draw? It's kind of a Sorites paradox kind of problem.
Some people have a more rigid definition of mechanic, they define mechanic as any action the player can deliberately initiate, such as jumping, running, sliding, etc. This is much more clear, but doesn't fit the way people currently use the word mechanic at all. It excludes things like Regenerating Health, or Death, which are not deliberately initiated player actions. It can also exclude automatic actions that occur outside the player's direct control, like a timer or turn counter, or the interactions of objects in the environment, like many of the interactions in the Chemistry Engine in Breath of the Wild, or units attacking in RTS games (so armor is not a mechanic, their attacks are not mechanics, only the player issuing orders like attack, hold, etc, counts as a mechanic under this definition). As said, this is much more clear and obvious what constitutes a mechanic and what doesn't, but it doesn't match common usage and leaves us without a word for these types of common actions that can occur in games.
So my position currently is, I don't think the definition of mechanic matters too much. I think we can generally just use the word and understand each other and that's more or less good enough. Oh, and interestingly, Japanese does not have a word for "mechanic". It has no equivalent for the term.
As for silly stuff people have called mechanics. There's occasionally been, "Think up an original mechanic" threads on /v/ and the annoying thing about these threads is, nobody thinks up mechanics, they all think up thematics. And I've called people on this and been told, "oh, it could be the inspiration for mechanics." Like reading one person talk about how they imagined that sweeping up floors was clearing out alien scum, which made it more enjoyable for them. Or some person's fantasy idea. Or someone refluffing an existing mechanic with a new theme.

View more

How do you feel SFV and MvCI's approach to catering to newcomers compares to Sakurai's approach with Brawl and Smash 4?

It's not nearly as bad, but it's very similar in its heavy-handedness.
Instead of trying to lower the skill floor of the game, they did that and lowered the ceiling as well. Honestly, I don't know as much about MVCI, it sounded like that game did fairly well except for hitstun decay being tied to damage, and the discoveries people (infinites, hitstun decay glitch, the new unblockable) making progressively making the game less and less interesting to play, but whatever.
Characters in SFV don't have as much potential for combo creativity as characters in SF4. They made combos easier and more understandable, but they also reduced the number of moves on each character that link and limited the juggle properties of characters even more severely than the juggle points system in SF4 (unless I'm mistaken. SFV's juggle system is still a bit weird and hard to understand). SFV was intended to correct SF4's mistakes, but they overcorrected and ended up making new problems.
The issue is, they removed a lot of the potential for advanced play from the game in the name of making the game easier to pick up, and those two goals aren't mutually inclusive. Having a lower skill ceiling doesn't attract beginners, and honestly, neither does making the game easier. SF4 was one of the best selling SF games in the franchise, despite being arguably so difficult. Casual fans are more attracted by having a large roster of characters that they like than anything specific about the game systems. Casual fans are more attracted by single player content like Mortal Kombat's. Brawl and Smash 4 at least delivered on those fronts, there's a lot you can do without needing friends to play with you, and the rosters are large.

View more

What do you think of the video "Why Mario Odyssey's Depth Doesn't Matter" by LambHoot? Have you seen it? Curious to know what you think since i just read your review of Odyssey.

For context: We mean entirely different things when we say depth. Not even remotely similar things. I use depth to refer to the total range of possibilities that exist within a game, narrowed down to just the ones that are different and which matter to players. He uses depth to refer to the number of actions or "user stories" that can be performed in a row. This is as opposed to Breadth, which is the range of actions you can perform at any given time.
I skimmed the video, so please forgive me if I'm wrong, but I think the gist of the video was, "The big long super hat-jump is cool, but at any given stage of it you don't really have any choice other than to continue it, and there weren't really any cool options other than the big hat-jump."
I can sympathize with this, the game did feel lacking outside of the big fancy hat-jump, but I disagree that there are no choices within the hat jump. You can enter it from a number of different types of jump, including a roll off a ledge, or a ground pound jump. And during the hat jump, you have multiple chances to make decisions, just not between explicitly different actions, but rather between which direction you throw the hat, and what timing you perform each action with. This is why I define depth as I do, in terms of state-space, to attempt to capture these smaller decisions within moves. The fancy hat-jump lets you do things like jump around corners, and vary how high or far you go depending on the direction and timing of your throws and jumps. It's one long sequence, but there are a lot of choices you can make with how to perform and use that one long sequence, and like Mario 64 and sunshine, it probably could have used some other movement tools instead of nerfing the carry-overs.
To reiterate, LambHoot is not using the word "depth" to mean what literally everyone else talking about games means by depth. Watch his video for a better explanation.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eT7lsCdlBPo

View more

Have you heard of the cancelled fan game Card Sagas Wars?

Yes, I follow the pixel artist on twitter. Looked like it would be cool.

View more

What do you think of beginer's traps? Can they be interesting? Or are they just doomed to be frustrating for players?

I'd prefer that games don't have beginner traps. I generally don't think they're particularly interesting.
One exception would be Undertale, where it's used for comedic effect, where they mislead you in the ruins into thinking that it's possible to spare enemies by weakening them, like pokemon. Then Toriel has a range where you'll instantly deal a ton of damage to her as you're weakening her. So you're set up with a false expectation, then it's taken advantage of, ruining you if you're going for mercy. Flowey will even taunt you if you reset and try again. This is pretty cute, and no big harm if people fall for it.
The bigger trouble with beginner traps is things like Firelink Shrine in Dark Souls, where you can potentially go to New Londo or the Catacombs from the start, which is completely the wrong way, and filled with enemies that vastly outclass you. The trouble with beginner traps generally is that you can end up wasting a ton of time on them.
In fighting games, there's a similar trend, some moves are really good at crushing other moves in neutral, like self-projectile moves or dash punches, but are unsafe on block. Similar for jumping. This makes them very attractive to beginners, and it's easy to get stuck using them as the foundation of your offense if you don't learn about their downsides quickly, and aren't punished for using them. This can also be called a local maxima.
In general I'd say it's best to playtest a game thoroughly, and avoid any beginner traps that can lead to an unpleasant experience. There may be cases where a beginner trap is something positive, because it sets up for an interesting experience and doesn't trap them for very long, but I wouldn't bet on it.

View more

When it comes to visual/audio cues, should it always be made as obvious as possible that an attack has unique properties? (i.e. hyper armor, unblock able etc) Or is it sometimes okay for the player to discover these properties through trial and error?

PencilManners
I've always been in favor of communicating as much as possible personally. Have it labeled in the movelist, etc.
Whether it's okay for them to discover those properties or not, that depends on how important those properties are to playing the game, which depends on how common the moves are, and how they're intended to interact with other moves. For example, if you played god hand, and didn't know which attacks could guard break, that would be a huge problem.

View more

What do you think makes an action "beat em up" like (nioh,dmc etc)combat good?In my eyes they basically consist of slashing and punching enemies but in different ways. How can I look at these various actions games and tell which one is good and which one is bad.

Well here's a classic question, is a punch just a punch? Or is it more than a punch?
The way I like to put it is, these games have a bunch of moves, and ideally, they make you think, "Which of these various moves is the right move for this scenario?" It's an interesting choice.
The big question is, "What's actually DIFFERENT about all these moves?" And how are they similar enough in function that it's an interesting choice which one you'll use?
The purpose isn't just, use a ton of moves, it's cool. It's to choose the right move in the right position against the right enemy pattern.
These games are good when they push you to think, and actually use your entire repitoire of moves to eke out efficiency. These games are bad when all the moves do the same thing, when one move is clearly the only one you ever want to use, and when each move is so specialized that it's basically used for one thing and one thing only, and no other move can do that thing at all (zelda syndrome).
The point is, it's not just a punch. It's more than a punch, it's a specific punch with specific properties, and learning those properties and properly using the punch are what make the game interesting and varied.

View more

I've heard you're an animator, is there a difference in techniques between western animation and Anime? Even in Ghibli films there's a different feeling about the animation itself, so its probably not because its cheap, and I don't think its just the artstyle. I'm unable to find articles on this

Yes. I've read a few good articles on this, but it's hard to pull them up right now. The east and west have extremely different and separate traditions of animation.
The west is more about character animation. Historically, they'd hand control over a certain character to a specific animator, and ask them to basically direct the character. The analogy you'd commonly hear for animators is, "actors with a pencil". Animators in the west have been trained in acting, and their animation is like giving a performance.
In contrast, animators in Japan were typically handed control of an entire scene, and different animators would pass off scenes to one another. (and of course, in both east and west, inbetweeners fill in frames within scenes.)
This lead to western animation having more of a focus on the performance the character gives, and eastern animation having more of a focus on the cinematography overall. In the west, the animator is the actor. In the east, the animator is the director of the scene.
This is one of the best articles I've ever read on the topic:
https://wavemotioncannon.com/2016/01/08/why-over-sixty-years-of-animation-history-still-remains-obscure/
And here's another article on how western animators look down on japanese animation for a lack of character animation:
https://cartoonrevue.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/character-animation-east-vs-west/
Japanese animation is also typically drawn with less frames than western animation, so this lead to a stronger emphasis on strong key-poses instead of consistently good animation throughout. They can't match the framerate, so they make what little they can put in count for more.
Here's some more articles:
https://www.tofugu.com/japan/anime-vs-cartoons/
https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2015-11-11/the-secret-of-one-punch-man-success/.95251
http://www.tested.com/art/movies/442545-2d-animation-digital-era-interview-japanese-director-makoto-shinkai/
https://www.thoughtco.com/sakuga-animation-in-anime-144807
https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/editorial/1998-07-09
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9534852
I also recommend looking up Sakuga, a term used by western fans of japanese animation. Sakuga fans are known for focusing on specific scenes, and following the animators who produced those high quality scenes, in a way replicating the production process.

View more

What do you think of games like Octodad or Snake Pass, where most of the difficulty comes from dealing with odd controls?

What do you think of Call of Duty, God Hand, or Mario Odyssey, where most of the difficulty comes from dealing with odd controls?
Learning new control schemes is fun thing to do. All the control schemes we regularly use used to be awkward or confusing when we first encountered them.
What makes these control schemes so odd really is just unfamiliarity. These games are modeling specific types of interactions, and presuming the actual mechanics were mostly the same, are the controls they chose for these games really the worst they could have done to model those types of interactions?
Mark Brown did a pretty decent video explaining snakepass, and something he showed rather well was the progression from being bad at the game to coming to a fuller understanding of it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NNPr2Ay4OM
Weird control schemes are a bridge to modeling new types of interaction, and creating new, unfamiliar systems to learn about and develop competency in, which is what games are all about.

View more

Next