Not a lot to add in way of a long thought out post, but I thought I would update people on what I’ve been playing and doing.
1) God Games and Repetition: Even leaving aside the ludicrous Peter Molyneux Godus prize that was lurking inside Curiosity (which appears to have been an ARG all along), this has been quite a month for God Games. Both Reus (Abbey Games) and Skyward Collapse (Arcen) are a new type of God Game in that they both, to some extent, prioritize stability of the system over any real competition. Skyward Collapse is often explicitly about accepting that the mortals want to kill each other while you try to keep their production and military strengths in an equilibrium.
God Games, like City Builders, are more openly about systems management than most other strategy subtypes, so there is necessarily going to be some repetition in how things are set up. The system can’t be too complex, since you need to have predictable outcomes in, say, Populous or SimAnt so that you aren’t wasting time fighting against yourself. Maps may change and a few of the preconditions or objectives, but systems mastery and comprehension is entirely the point.
So when I am told that a god game or city builder is repetitive, I need to really dig deep and long to see if that is the case. Is it repetitive like Pawn to E4 or repetitive like an episode of Scooby Doo? What are the parameters for variation? When does the change occur? Populous set up a competition between gods, so you always had the difficulty spike (as well as varied map rules) to keep the game interesting.
Reus, at this point, I can see getting a little weary after many hours, but, like Skyward Collapse, it is trying to build a deep system of interlocking parts that require a bit of study. The tutorial levels in Reus move too slowly with too much handholding and the tutorial in Skyward Collapse moves to quickly with too little explanation of why I am doing things. (Telling me to build a myth unit first and then warning that this is a bad idea outside of the tutorial is kind of silly.) Further comments will be forthcoming.
2) Three Moves Ahead: I haven’t been on in a while, and this is Paradox month so I can’t be on. But right after E3, I will return. The Paradox heavy month is due to the release of Crusader Kings 2: The Old Gods and the fact Rob Zacny was in Stockholm last month for a press tour and had a chance to grab everyone he wanted to talk to. The occasion was a massive Europa Universalis IV preview event, and you can read Rob’s thoughts at PCGN, in two parts.
You can see me in the first photo in Part 2, third from the bottom on the right. I was playing Poland. It was going very well until it suddenly didn’t. Note to self – never forget to turn that army maintenance back up.
3) Memory Insufficient: The internet is so big that it is sometimes easy to miss stuff. For example, I didn’t know there was a free webzine about critical analysis of history in games called Memory Insufficient until the editor, Zoya Street, emailed me to ask if he could republish the Indian essay from my National Character series for their themed issue about portrayals of Asia in games. He had just discovered me, too, and the deadline was too close for him to ask me to contribute something original. I happily agreed, and there are some nice pieces in the final version.
The next issue is about the history of sexual diversity in games, and you can read the pitch here. Deadline for submissions is the 15th of June, and if I had time, I’d write something about God of War‘s approach to ancient Greek sexuality or maybe something about The Sims. I don’t have time, and I can do most of my free writing. cough.