General Question about Game "Themes"

Posted by: Reenie

General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/05/17 05:45 PM

You can't help noticing how 95% of Casual Games fall back on the same clichés over and over: Demons, witches, possessed or insane people, mythological figures come to life, magical totemic items that control behavior, characters turning into animals, outer space "infections," other-dimensional creatures crossing over via time portals, and so on. It is almost exclusively a magical universe out there in Casual Gameland.

The games with real protagonists operating in a recognizable human environment (like a Dana Knightstone or Angelica Weaver game) are pretty rare on the ground. There may be lip service played to your character being a "Detective," but this seems more of an effort to avoid referring to the player by gender than it is an attempt to ground the game in real life.

So I'm curious what everyone else thinks: Is this trend because most players prefer games with magical or demonic undertones or is it simply a convenient trope for game designers to fall back upon rather than dealing with contemporary world issues or creating a "real" story that is engaging?
Posted by: GuybrushThreepwood

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/05/17 10:36 PM

Dana Knightstone (I'm playing one I missed now) deals with ghosts and keeps going backwards into the past. Actually I'm not playing it at the moment as I never play games involving anything remotely horror on Sunday. Or watch horror movies on Sunday.

Most casual games the player character is female. Rarely does a game give me a choice to be my actual gender (male). And then all it means is I get an occasional picture of the character I'm playing and its a man not a woman for a change.

Even when they don't specify gender you can tell by the glimpse of the hands that its female.

I just played a game that incorporates what ever profile name you use in the game in one brief scene. And I always use my first name and I've never heard of any women with my first name so it was odd seeing my name appear in the game when I know the character is a woman.


Posted by: Sparkle

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/06/17 08:07 AM

Since many developers are in Eastern Europe, it appears they draw on legends and myths from that part of the world. I can see that popular sci fi movies and video games also influence storylines. Also, to comment on Guybrush's assessment, I've read that the audience for casual games is primarlly female. Just appealing to the majority I guess. As a female, I really wouldn't mind if the protagonist in these games was more often male. There are a few series in which this is the case. I see the games as more like movies, so the gender of the protagonist isn't something that I notice that much.
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/06/17 01:49 PM

Sparkle, I hadn't thought of the fact that many casual games are coming out of Eastern Europe and that they might fall back on their own mythologies and legends for ideas. Interesting.

Like you, I don't pay much attention to gender when I'm playing the game, either. Since we seldom "see ourselves" while we are playing these first person games, it only is noticeable if the character speaks a lot. As for the kinds of "action" things the character does in a game, I was always a tomboy and an outdoorsy sort of gal, and wouldn't find climbing a cliff with ropes or handling a hang glider to be beyond the normal scope of things for me to do. So this doesn't throw me out of the story, either.

I would like to see more creativity begin to enter into these games, though, at least in terms of the story line. I get tired of the witches-demons-supernatural-fairy tale monster thing and periodically have to bail out on the casual genre for months at a time due to the repetitive and derivative nature of the plots.
Posted by: Jenny100

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/06/17 02:59 PM

Originally Posted By: Reenie
Is this trend because most players prefer games with magical or demonic undertones or is it simply a convenient trope for game designers to fall back upon rather than dealing with contemporary world issues or creating a "real" story that is engaging?

I don't think it's a "trend."
It's been like this a long time.
One of the main reasons people play games is for escapism, so "dealing with contemporary world issues" when you've already had quite enough of them in real life would not be desirable in a game. The last thing I want to see in a game is more suburban sprawl and litter by the road.

"Magical" can refer to a lot of game types. I don't like it when it's too "silly" or you have some silly "magical" helper. But there's also "steampunk" which could be considered "magical" since it uses technology that wouldn't work in real life.

I don't care for "demonic" though ghost stories can be OK.

I used to like the "Dana Knightstone" stories but I don't think they make them anymore. I've got 5 of them.

Like "magical," "ghost story" can encompass a lot of things, from the Dana Knightstone type where you help the ghosts of the past, to something more like "demonic" or Lovecraft-inspired where there is some unspeakable horror you must vanquish.

I want to go somewhere else in a game -- not modern day.
Historical would be OK -- an investigation like Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie. Unfortunately many game developers don't know the difference between 20 year old technology and 300 year old technology, so it's essentially "magic" masquerading as historical -- which gets really annoying.
Posted by: Mad

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/06/17 03:01 PM

The gender of the protagonist really doesn't bother me but I do agree there have been "enough" variations on the same themes yes

I, too, would very much like to see more realistic stories being played out by more realistic characters but having said that, there are some gems amongst the "demons/fairies/witches" offerings that I do like to replay at times laugh
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/06/17 05:01 PM

Oddly enough, I stumbled upon a new game today called Fright Chasers: Dark Exposure. If it is a series, I only discovered it today, and have only played the Demo so far, but I think I may buy this one the next time there is a sale. Yes, it has some other-dimensional weird stuff going on as a guy seeks to bring his wife back from the dead, but the story is contemporary, not set in Atlantis or some ancient Norse island in the fog, involves no vampires or witches or demons, and the puzzles are pretty innovative. So it can be done! happydance
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/06/17 05:15 PM

Sounds like "trend" was the wrong word for me to use, Jenny? Should I have said "tendency," instead? Would that have made more sense? Anyway, all I mean in that regard is that I would love to see more variability and diversity in themes and protagonists. When we read a new book, it is not always on the same subject as the last one, nor do we always go to the same kind of movie every weekend. When we play a game, we don't necessarily want it to be the same as the last one or two ~ or hundred. "Variety is the spice . . ." as the saying goes.
Posted by: Mad

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/06/17 05:23 PM

I should perhaps clarify that the "more realistic stories being played out by more realistic characters" that I would welcome doesn't necessarily require they be in a "present day" setting smile
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/06/17 05:43 PM

Absolutely agree! I understood that from what you said. I've enjoyed the Victorian London ones that have come out recently. But then, I love Jules Verne and steampunk and all that. Wouldn't mind one that took place during the Wild West or the Renaissance or something Victor Hugo-ish, really just about anything else but the vampire/witches thing. There is SO much unplumbed ground for stories!
Posted by: Jenny100

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/06/17 06:26 PM

Originally Posted By: Reenie
Anyway, all I mean in that regard is that I would love to see more variability and diversity in themes and protagonists.

I think we'd all like more of that.

Originally Posted By: Reenie
When we read a new book, it is not always on the same subject as the last one,

It might be the same genre though. Someone who likes science fiction will probably choose a science fiction book, someone who likes mystery stories will choose a mystery, someone who likes historical novels will choose one of those. There can be quite a lot of variety between books in the same genre. I'm not sure if that's possible for games.

Originally Posted By: Reenie
When we play a game, we don't necessarily want it to be the same as the last one or two ~ or hundred. "Variety is the spice . . ." as the saying goes.

No we don't want "samey" games. That doesn't mean there can't be variety within genres, but I don't see it so much with games as with books.
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/06/17 08:28 PM

Maybe I'm the oddball, but I vary my reading considerably. In the last month, it was a series of essays by Harold Bloom first (still working on that one off and on), the next week was an anthropologist's field report on the Kung people of Africa, the week after that was a layman's book on physics, and now I am reading and Agatha Christie mystery. It is more engaging to vary subject matter than to read the same sort of thing over and over. happydance
Posted by: 8dognight

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/07/17 10:02 AM

I think one pragmatic reason for the horror/fantasy/supernatural settings is the that nothing has to make sense so lazy developers and publishers can crank out schlock. Glowing rune battle using magic eye or glove amulet? No problem this is the schlockian universe, not the Sherlockian.
Posted by: 8dognight

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/07/17 11:10 AM

I also think sameness arises from publishers and developers mistaking the kinds of algorithms that make for high rankings and up next status on Google and You Tube for what players consider stellar in a game universe. The two are not identical. I want games whose unique qualities run the risk of disqualifying them from that formulaic, algorithmic mass production line.

The closest comparison that comes to me is literary. One is Harlequin’s over and over tried and true ironclad formula; the other comprises discrete novelistic achievements in many genres, think the best of Jane Austen and Stephen King. I have read Harlequins and will admit to once making a tidy sum writing for Silhouette. When I want a literary world to get lost in and savor, I need more than Harlequin.

We can journey back to the 19th century and make the same comparison between penny dreadfuls with titles like Oliver Twiss and serialized novels by Charles Dickens like Oliver Twist.

There used to be something called a plot wheel. I saw a photo of one once in an essay that included advice on what not to do. You could spin the patented wheel and get the next step in plot development. This was from the era of the joke that “Lincoln’s Mother’s Doctor’s Dog” is a title that would top the sales charts because those four nouns denote things Americans love and buy stories about. I fear the plots in casual games are generated the same way using algorithms. Word salad combos like Lincoln’s Mother’s Doctor’s Dog produce bad melodrama when comedy is the approach more likely to work, only comedy is hard.
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/07/17 06:54 PM

I love all you wrote, 3dog! Made me laugh at the same time as I was shaking my head in "Sad, but true" recognition, even though I have never read a Harlequin book.

I do love these little games, though. Buying one is a lot like buying an "Airplane book" before getting on one of those loooong flights to Europe or Asia when you have to have something splashy and trashy to keep you engaged until you land on the other side. Sometimes, a serious book won't do that after several hours of flying. Same with these little games. If I want to relax on the weekend, I don't necessarily want a Stephen Hawking game. ha ha

However, it would be great if they could vary things a bit more. Maybe still use their plot wheel as you described, but with more pizza slices in it than just the four or five they fall back on with most games. I tried out the Demos on three different games this weekend and all were basically the same, which made them boring and indiscriminate. I didn't buy any of them. It makes me really appreciate a game that steps outside that small plot wheel!
Posted by: 8dognight

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/08/17 02:39 PM

I like casual games a lot, too, and I am a sci/fi, fantasy, horror fan. That's why I am anxious to see variety in plots.

In addition, I am heartily tired of kidnapping as motivation for the usually female player/protagonist. I can imagine how that particular quest structure became almost a guideline and certainly a signpost for success with publishers: "The players are mostly women, right? Women are nurturing and protective of babies, children, and family, therefore saving a kidnap victim will hook the player." As far as I am concerned that hole has been fished out. I am no longer biting.

Runes: Abolish runes thrown in with no story connection or translation puzzle or even translation.

Some of the better reality only games are visually dull, a pattern that for no good reason seems to plague Art Deco settings. I love a richly detailed non-gritty setting. Fantasy/supernatural casual games often have beautiful settings that invite exploration while the settings in more realistic detective and save the baby stories tend toward blandness. I dread the idea of a spate of reality only casual games with dreary or boring settings. I shudder at the prospect of grocery store HOs or even worse more flat tires and broken generators in more garages. Give me a pile of authentic horse trappings in a creepy castle any day over an HO screen featuring Fischer-Price toys in an apartment furnished from Rooms to Go. To maintain my immersion in a quotidian game world, story and characterization must be extraordinary, and story and characterization almost never are in casual games. That isn’t going to change, so instead of mundane realism I vote castles and ancestral stately homes either well maintained or fallen into disrepair. Two of the Dana Knightstones fit that bill for me, the one in Romania and I think the first one.





Posted by: 8dognight

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/08/17 03:17 PM

Originally Posted By: Mad
I should perhaps clarify that the "more realistic stories being played out by more realistic characters" that I would welcome doesn't necessarily require they be in a "present day" setting smile


Originally Posted By: Reenie
Absolutely agree! I understood that from what you said. I've enjoyed the Victorian London ones that have come out recently. But then, I love Jules Verne and steampunk and all that. Wouldn't mind one that took place during the Wild West or the Renaissance or something Victor Hugo-ish, really just about anything else but the vampire/witches thing. There is SO much unplumbed ground for stories!


I agree with Mad and Reenie on these points and, in fact, with all the posts in this thread. My fear is the equation or conflation of realistic with unremarkable because publishers and developers tend to go overboard with a theme once they latch onto it as a potential money-maker.

(Edited to add: I see I'm way too noisy. I'll be quiet now.)
Posted by: Jenny100

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/09/17 12:18 PM

Originally Posted By: 8dognight
I dread the idea of a spate of reality only casual games with dreary or boring settings. I shudder at the prospect of grocery store HOs or even worse more flat tires and broken generators in more garages. Give me a pile of authentic horse trappings in a creepy castle any day over an HO screen featuring Fischer-Price toys in an apartment furnished from Rooms to Go. To maintain my immersion in a quotidian game world, story and characterization must be extraordinary, and story and characterization almost never are in casual games. That isn’t going to change, so instead of mundane realism I vote castles and ancestral stately homes either well maintained or fallen into disrepair.

I agree.

One example of a game that was brought down (for me) because of boring settings is "Fright" -- a game that was rated well and had reasonably good puzzles, but that I didn't care for because of the mundane, uninteresting environments.

In contrast, when Big Fish had the 60% off sale a couple of days ago (only 42.9% off for members), I bought "Witches' Legacy: Awakening Darkness" -- and the "story" and environments turned out to be terrible. I have no idea how it got 4 stars at Big Fish. Most of the environments beyond the beginning area were incoherent "dream world" messes with no sense of continuity between scenes. The story was "cookie cutter" and insulting. I usually don't care about whether the protagonist is male or female, but in this case, where the only powerful female characters were unredeemably evil, the person to clean things up should also have been female. Puzzles were way too easy, and those with unfamiliar controls were often accidentally solved by random clicking while trying to figure out the controls. On the positive side, it didn't crash and the SE didn't have popups appearing after every little thing you do. But it was definitely a cookie-cutter game that seemed to be designed according to the "Lincoln’s Mother’s Doctor’s Dog" method of throwing together disparate elements that were considered to be "popular" by some measure.

Between "Fright" and "Witches' Legacy: Awakened Darkness" I wasn't particularly fond of either one, but at least "Fright" had some decent puzzles and a somewhat interesting story.

Between mundane environments and nonsense environments, I'm not sure which is worse. Both "psychological" games where you enter someone's mind and certain "fantasy" games where you go through portals to discrete imaginary scenes have issues with discontinuous, incoherent environments and I don't like either. Fantasy environments (and even environments where you enter someone's memories) don't have to be fragmented and nonsensical.
Posted by: Mad

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/09/17 04:57 PM

I must admit, I mainly play "Casuals" as a break from Adventures and RPGs. Both of which require much more concentration.

And yes, a lot of them ARE the same plot in a variety of disguises.

And yes, they ARE certainly a simple format.
[That must be how so many can be churned out so frequently ??]

But they do what I expect of them. They don't over tax my brain lol
Posted by: SharonB

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/09/17 11:40 PM

This has been a good conversation about game themes. I can say that I absolutely love the casual games. Not all of them, of course. I get tired of the ones that just make the screens bright and shiny, sparkly, etc. Too much color can get on your nerves. But I do like a good vibrant color scheme depending on the type of game theme. Some games can be pretty brown and gritty, but if they are detailed it makes a difference. I'm not really into the games dealing with magic and fantasy, but they make a break from the usual games I play. I prefer modern times and detective stories. They can have some paranormal effects as well, but I can definitely say I prefer the modern themes.

However, you mention puzzle difficulty and object finding. I'm still not tired of the hunt for hidden objects. Given a choice between another type of puzzle and the usual hunt, I will almost always do the hunt. I've learned to suspend my pride in most game puzzles. I used to really struggle to do them (Unfortunately, I'm not as smart as I would like to be...) and now I only really try if they are of actual interest to me - or my ire gets irked because I feel like I should be able to solve it with a little effort.

My memory is very poor. I'm not exaggerating. I can replay games again and feel like it is the first time I've played it. So that is both a blessing and a bane.

This has been a very long post. I'm not sure any of it was very interesting, but I wanted to contribute to the conversation. Hopefully next time I will be able to give a more intelligent response.

To get back on topic, I think the thrust of this topic has been how repetitive some themes have been and you are all looking for some variety and a fresh perspective. I hope and I'm pretty confident it will. I don't have those expectations. I see a new game and it's "Oh! A new Mayan story. I wonder how this one turns out." lol
Posted by: 8dognight

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/10/17 09:53 AM

Originally Posted By: Jenny100
Between "Fright" and "Witches' Legacy: Awakened Darkness" I wasn't particularly fond of either one, but at least "Fright" had some decent puzzles and a somewhat interesting story.

Between mundane environments and nonsense environments, I'm not sure which is worse. Both "psychological" games where you enter someone's mind and certain "fantasy" games where you go through portals to discrete imaginary scenes have issues with discontinuous, incoherent environments and I don't like either. Fantasy environments (and even environments where you enter someone's memories) don't have to be fragmented and nonsensical.


Can we give Jenny100 a standing ovation?

First, she highlighted a serious flaw in psychological enter-the-mind or dream world games where we pop over to different dimension/reality set in fragmented surreal universes. If I see those blocks of floating islands in the BFG images of the game, I rarely buy. I actively dislike those idiotic floating chunks of game time. I see purple and lavender floating steps to a floating location and mutter, "Lazy writers. Lazy developers. Lazy publisher."

I can think of only two casual games with floating nonsense islands that worked. One was a rare treat of a comic game which even managed to get away with a wisecracking cat set in a surreal stepped series of environments in which our protagonist could not tell which twin was good and which evil; another was a short portion toward the end--that point at which production gets hurried and sometimes sloppy--of one of the great casual games, Christmas Stories: Nutcracker.

Second, Jenny100 pointed out that the elements distinguishing the flawed game Fright from the no redeeming qualities Witches Something or Other* were passably interesting story and decent puzzles, to which I say amen. I miss decent puzzles. I miss door puzzles combining whimsy with diabolical cleverness. I miss challenging logic problems. On the theory that puzzle difficulty increases as a game progresses, I bought a recent Halloween offering because there was the teaser of a fairly simple slider in the demo so I overlooked second thoughts created by forcing me into a garage as prelude to rescuing the usual snatched child. As I have said, overuse has desensitized me to any sense of tick-tock, time crunch urgency intended in game world MacGuffin disappearances. My reaction is: Oh, go get yourself a milk carton; I want to explore the armory.

To Mad's and SharonB's points on why they play: if I had been in a no-thinking-for-me-today mood, I could have skipped the slider just as I did the gear puzzle in Nutcracker the first time I played. There's still one puzzle in Nutcracker I have never cracked except by accident, the surround the enemy flag challenge, and there are two over my head push the block puzzles in Grim Tales: The Legacy that I will set myself to figuring out by replaying.

Decent puzzles do not eliminate players. Everyone can still play. There ought to be some way for the BFG reviews and the more prolific reviewers to make this clear because 9 times out of 10 decent puzzles indicate thought went into overall design. I say this because the easy or hard option for puzzles doesn't seem to work out very often; when employed, both options are usually easy.

*As an aside, I note to Jenny100 that Witches Legacy: Charleston Curse is pretty good if she hasn't already tried it.



Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/10/17 11:58 AM

I sure agree about good puzzles making the game. I play these games for the puzzles far more than for yet another errand to save my friend/child/newlywed/lost parent from whatever scrape they've gotten into now. I have jumped on games like the old 7th Guest and 11th Hour and Safecracker that consist ONLY of puzzles.

As for the "Hard" vs. "Easy" thing, I've only come across one game in all my Casual playing where changing the setting to Hard made the puzzles harder. I'm not even sure what those various settings are supposed to do unless it is turn off the damned Sparkles. I recently played a game where, once you opened a mini-game puzzle, there was a toggle available between Hard and Easy for that puzzle. That was a first. (It may have been the latest Dead Reckoning, but I can't be sure.)

I also agree about Fright versus Witches' Legacy. Totally. Fright was excellent, long, very good mini-games, a decent bonus game, and low on the HO load. I played six of the Witches' Legacy games and rated them all over the chart from Top Ten to Dreadful. Talk about inconsistency! ha ha ha
Posted by: Jenny100

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/10/17 01:43 PM

Originally Posted By: 8dognight
*As an aside, I note to Jenny100 that Witches Legacy: Charleston Curse is pretty good if she hasn't already tried it.

Yes I have Charleston Curse. Apparently I purchased and played it back in February 2012. I don't remember the game itself, but I remembered it as a decent quality game -- and that vague memory was part of the reason I bought Awakened Darkness without playing too far into it -- I was expecting similar quality. I also have "Lair of the Witch Queen" from 2013 and I don't remember details about that one either -- just a vague memory that it was decent, though maybe not as good as Charleston Curse. It might be time for a replay.

Originally Posted By: Reenie
As for the "Hard" vs. "Easy" thing, I've only come across one game in all my Casual playing where changing the setting to Hard made the puzzles harder. I'm not even sure what those various settings are supposed to do unless it is turn off the damned Sparkles. I recently played a game where, once you opened a mini-game puzzle, there was a toggle available between Hard and Easy for that puzzle. That was a first. (It may have been the latest Dead Reckoning, but I can't be sure.)

I've seen that puzzle-specific toggle too. But the puzzle wasn't one of those ridiculously super easy ones to start with. It was one of those sliders where you slide the whole row at once and every move affects several tiles. I'm not terribly good at that type, so didn't choose the "hard" option. The trouble with that type of puzzle is that you have to plan ahead of time -- you can often solve it in 3 moves if you know exactly what to do, but if you try to solve it without planning ahead you can get into what looks like an unwinnable state. The drop-dead easy puzzles that actually need a "hard" setting rarely have one, or there is little difference between "casual" and "hard" modes.

Originally Posted By: Reenie
I also agree about Fright versus Witches' Legacy. Totally. Fright was excellent, long, very good mini-games, a decent bonus game, and low on the HO load.

My only complaint was that I didn't care for the "mundane" environments. But as I tried to point out, it was still a good game for me overall because it was good in other ways -- far superior to something like "Awakened Darkness." I have no idea why both games got 4 star scores at Big Fish when there is such disparity in quality. I'd thought the scores at Big Fish were supposed to give some indication of quality, but apparently they can't be trusted at all.

Just as with "old-fashioned" adventure games, casual games are some combination of puzzles, environment, and story/characters.

Originally Posted By: Reenie
I played six of the Witches' Legacy games and rated them all over the chart from Top Ten to Dreadful. Talk about inconsistency!

I didn't realize that the Witches' Legacy series had such variation in quality. Which ones did you think were "Top Ten" material? Were any of the later ones decent or only the early ones? Was the quality only good in the early games or did quality go up and down?

According to Wikipedia, these are the gems in the series:

Witches' Legacy: The Charleston Curse (2012)
Witches' Legacy: Lair Of The Witch Queen (2013)
Witches' Legacy: Hunter And The Hunted (2014)
Witches' Legacy: The Ties That Bind (2014)
Witches' Legacy: Slumbering Darkness (released on February 26, 2015)
Witches' Legacy: The Dark Throne (2015)
Witches' Legacy: Awakening Darkness (December 24, 2015)
Witches' Legacy: Dark Days to Come (July 30, 2016)
Witches' Legacy: The City that Wasn't There (January 7, 2017)
Witches' Legacy: Covered by the Night (July 13, 2017)
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/10/17 05:32 PM

Had to look them up in my database. I often abbreviate names that are long, so they'll fit my spreadsheet format, so they might not match exactly your posted list.

Best One: Covered by Night ("long and complex but puzzles still too easy").

Next two on my rating scale: Dark Throne ("long bonus game, too easy, but excellent story") and Witch Queen ("long play, good puzzles, variety of environments, good artwork").

Lowest Rating: Ties that Bind (OK, but not a Replay), Charleston Curse (I don't remember it well, but wasn't in love), Into Beyond ("cartoony, short and too easy"), The City that Wasn't There (this one started well but was so buggy that it wouldn't run properly and I had to bail and ask for a Refund).

One thing I have noticed when I have gone back to play older games again is that my standards have risen over the years. A game I noted in 2014 as being Pretty Good often doesn't measure up now, in 2017. The games have improved, overall, but I don't go back and change my ratings because I no longer remember specifics years later.
Posted by: Jenny100

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/10/17 06:31 PM

Quote:
One thing I have noticed when I have gone back to play older games again is that my standards have risen over the years. A game I noted in 2014 as being Pretty Good often doesn't measure up now, in 2017.

It varies. I really have to replay to be sure, but I've found quite a few older games (older than 4 years) that were more enjoyable than newer ones in the same series. For example, Grim Tales: The Bride was still quite enjoyable, though I didn't like all the newer ones in the series.

Then there are the obnoxious additions to newer games that detract from them. Having "Tasks" pop up and make you sit around waiting several seconds for the box to disappear can really kill enjoyment of a game. Despite many newer games having "custom" modes that offer the ability not to show "Tasks", I've never seen where the option was actually functional, and you get "Tasks" popping up no matter how you configure the options. "Collector's Editions" of older games don't have all those annoying popups and slide-ins that the newer ones do.

I'll consider trying "Covered by Night" but "too easy" puzzles doesn't sound great. I'll replay "Witch Queen" (which I have) and see what I think.

Thanks for the suggestions.
Posted by: Marian

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/10/17 06:35 PM

There is no Witches' Legacy game called Into Beyond - maybe this is referencing a different series, Reenie?

I also played The City That Wasn't There and had no bugs/glitches at all.
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/10/17 11:06 PM

Oops! Yes, Into Beyond was a Whispered Secrets game, on the line just above all the Witches' games in my database. blush

I suspect sometimes when a game is "buggy" it is because of a glitch during downloading, and I could try deleting and re-downloading it, but I have seldom done that unless I found the game exceptional to begin with.
Posted by: 8dognight

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/11/17 09:36 AM

I think using the Witches Legacy as an example is a little unfair because a couple of them are way above average. Reenie, you picked Covered By Night for replay. I abandoned it part way through because of the of the surreal settings, exactly what I think Jenny100 was referring to by "nonsense environment." The game fits squarely into the "almost exclusively magical universe" whose plans for casual game world domination Reenie wants to challenge. I emphatically do not mean that Reenie's proposal for more variety is inconsistent. If you can stomach the nonsense Daliesque world, then "Covered By Night" probably is a good one. I like the older ones myself.

What I am gathering from the whole discussion is a plea for better puzzles and more realistic characters and stories that do not fall into the trap of an endless stream of ho-hum or ugly settings. Fright was a good game in spite of the setting. Those depressing environments were rendered with great skill, and the actors were good. I like games with live, human actors. Abandoning their use was a grave mistake, much the way that eliminating a reasonable amount of world detail via journals and letters was a mistake.
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/11/17 07:58 PM

I definitely prefer real people in real world situations, but yes, we humans can be inconsistent. Given my preference for the real world, I still will "like" a fantasy game if it is challenging because, for me, the puzzle part is the reason I play. (I had, as the intro to my notes on that particular game, "Yeah, it is Witches again. Still. ... " and then my rating comments commenced.) Sometimes, the pickings are slim, and you take what you can get when looking for a new game. wink

I am playing a Dead Reckoning game now, one I bought because it was set in a contemporary university (my character has a cell phone instead of a game-related PDA), and I have been invited to the campus as a former alumnus, to receive an award for Literature. However, the first "normal world" thing that happened at the very start was that, when I arrived, I had to help rebuild a hang glider and then sail it down from the mountainside to the campus. SO "real world." ha ha ha So you never know . . . I wonder if I will end up Liking this game?
Posted by: Jenny100

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/11/17 10:47 PM

I just finished a replay of the first two "Witches Legacy" games, and that series has certainly changed -- almost unrecognizable between the first two ("Charleston Curse" and "Witch Queen") and the later two games in the series that I've played ("Awakening Darkness" and "City That Wasn't There"). You wouldn't think they were the same series at all.

I actually started remembering some of the game locations in "Charleston Curse" once I started playing -- like going out the window near the end of the short hall, into the treehouse, and down the hatch in the floor. I didn't remember the environments in "Witch Queen," but "Witch Queen" had quite a lot of enjoyable puzzles -- not terribly difficult, but not drop dead easy like in "Awakening Darkness" and "City That Wasn't There."
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/12/17 01:20 AM

Jenny, thanks for the heads up about Awakened Darkness. Yikes. I haven't tried it, but now I will pass.

I did like Fright. Good puzzles and a decent length game, easy on the HO scenes.

There was a series a while ago, Otherworld, that had several "Chapters. One game ws on Spring, one on Summer and one on Autumn. Summer was too easy, but the other two were pretty decent. Anyway, the format suggested a fourth game would come, for Winter. Have you heard of this and do you know what is planned?
Posted by: GuybrushThreepwood

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/12/17 08:18 AM

I've played several games that had the "Hard" or "Easy" option for puzzles.

Last few "Surface" series games I've played all had the same opening scene with a fire hydrant exploding. I don't know if Elephant Games has something against fire hydrants or if they've just gotten lazy and recycling opening videos.

In most mythologies the Fates are female. "Strings of Fate" for some reason decided to make them male. And despite the title, they're playing dice not the traditional weaving threads of a person's life, which makes the fates random.

There was one series I played in which I liked the earlier games better because they all had a different special feature. The latest ones all have the same glasses that let you see a small portion of the past. Which irrationally are usually hidden somewhere in the place your investigating as if the protagonist stole them then put them for your to find.
Posted by: Marian

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/12/17 09:35 AM

Originally Posted By: Reenie
There was a series a while ago, Otherworld, that had several "Chapters. One game ws on Spring, one on Summer and one on Autumn. Summer was too easy, but the other two were pretty decent. Anyway, the format suggested a fourth game would come, for Winter. Have you heard of this and do you know what is planned?


According to Wikipedia, there was a fourth game planned called The Eternal Winter, but in 2015 it was announced that it would not be released. No idea why.
Posted by: 8dognight

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/12/17 03:07 PM

I am replaying Charleston Curse and have paused to write this because I noticed an important part of why I like it: the music. This is unusual for me with casual games. I ordinarily have to turn the music so low that I can barely hear it in order to stand it at all.

The score in Charleston Curse is pleasantly reminiscent of traditional folk tunes like Shenandoah and of Russian born Dimitri Tiomkin's work for I don't know how many Hollywood movies; some were High Noon (Don't Forsake Me), Alamo (Green Leaves of Summer), and The High and the Mighty (although that is whistled in the film).
Posted by: Marian

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/12/17 03:13 PM

I really liked the music in Charleston Curse as well. There are a handful of games I bought on Big Fish where my purchase decision had a lot to do with the fact that I loved the music. It can really make a substantial difference in terms of how I feel about a game.
Posted by: 8dognight

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/12/17 03:46 PM

Originally Posted By: Marian
I really liked the music in Charleston Curse as well. There are a handful of games I bought on Big Fish where my purchase decision had a lot to do with the fact that I loved the music. It can really make a substantial difference in terms of how I feel about a game.


Can you remember any of them?
Posted by: Marian

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/12/17 04:15 PM

Oh, yes. I do remember most if not all of them, because they were, well, memorable.

New York Mysteries: Secrets of the Mafia CE (stirring music at the main menu)
Princess Isabella: Return of the Curse CE (Disney-esque, but very fitting for the game)
Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward CE (very moody, atmospheric, understated)
Timeless: The Forgotten Town CE (in some parts, the music would not have been out of place in an epic movie)
Youda Legend: The Curse of the Amsterdam Diamond (a great soundtrack for a much older game)
Legacy Tales: Mercy of the Gallows SE (evocative, conveys the mood very well)

and the more recent Enchanted Kingdom: A Dark Seed. I really liked the music you hear at the main menu - I haven't played any more than that of the game as yet, but I remember thinking that if Domini Games is starting to realize the importance of music in a game, that this was a very good start.

If I think of any more, I will add them to the list.
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/12/17 08:21 PM

Me, too, 8dog. The first thing I do is turn down the music, but then, it rarely is "music," is it? Most of the time, it is simply noise, and on such a short repeating loop that it is worse than being in an elevator or working in a venue with taped mood music. I worked at Disneyland one summer and their repeating theme music tapes drove us all crazy.

In the Cadenza games, the music was at least thematic. That is the only game to sprung to mind for me.
Posted by: 8dognight

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/13/17 07:20 AM

Legacy Tales: Mercy of the Gallows is a favorite of mine. In fact, I have been trying to think of the name for a few weeks so that I can replay because I liked the game play, the environments, and the inclusion of background on story world details. For example, in the opening minutes after clicking on a skillfully drawn skeleton in an iron cage hanging from a branch, we get a mix of historical and intriguing but not overwhelming specifics of the back story: such cages were used to suspend and slowly kill pirates in public as a warning to living buccaneers yet our ghostly friend Elisabeth would secretly give them water.

I'm also a big fan of Timeless: Forgotten Town, Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward, and New York Mysteries: Secrets of the Mafia.

I don't remember the others on your list and am going to check my voluminous purchase history, then try both any I may own already and those I don't.

Mikael Nyqvist said in an interview something on the order of if he had to identify the most important element in a game (I'm pretty sure he said game) he would choose music. I couldn't find the interview I originally read that in but here is a quote from another one:

"You have said publicly that music is an important element of your design process, so much so that you create the music before the graphics and even the story. Why do you take this approach?

"I got into the habit of using music as the basis when I was making films, so the film could be edited to fit the rhythm of the music. This is not so important when it comes to games, since the player decides the rhythm of the game while moving from frame to frame. But it's still a nice way to work."

I am not at all musical, so music in games is likely to have a huge and hitherto unexamined, unexamined because unconscious, impact on my response to a game.

Reenie said, "The first thing I do is turn down the music, but then, it rarely is "music," is it? Most of the time, it is simply noise, and on such a short repeating loop that it is worse than being in an elevator or working in a venue with taped mood music." So true and especially so when intended to add drama or urgency. The only urgency I feel under those circumstances is the pressing need to head for the main menu and close the game.

(ETA: I looked up Enchanted Kingdom: A Dark Seed on BFG and one reviewer said, "There is nothing I dislike. I even left the music on which is unusual for me.")



Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/13/17 01:13 PM

Legacy Tales is one I don't have on my list, so I definitely will check it out. Thanks for that! I do have Legacy: Forgotten Island and Legacy: Witch Island. (I can no longer find the second one on BF, so it is possible I got that title wrong in some way.) The former got my second highest rating, and for the latter, I wrote, "No voices, TOO easy, silly music, popups, you name it." This, and a few other such experiences, is one reason why I now prefer to play the Demo first, before buying a game, even if I liked a previous game in that series.

I love the whole New York Mysteries series! Like the Lost Lands series, every one of the NYM series got me raving about it. They issued a new story on a roughly annual basis, so I was watching for the 2017 game but no such luck yet.

If the game music is well done, I agree that it adds a LOT to the atmosphere of a game, same as with a film. With some films we love, we remember the music and sound track almost as much as the story. Theme songs, even from cliché movies, can stay in your mind and heart for years. Sometimes, we have bought the CD of a film's music. I can't remember the last time a game's music came close to having this effect on me, though. Most of the time, game music will pertain in some way to the overall mise en scene of the game but still does not respond to the action (or vice versa) and is more akin to the Muzak sort of background that I've grown to dread in public places.

As for my wish that more games were based in non-magical worlds, I just finished Dead Reckoning: Lethal Knowledge, one "set in a prominent University," involving faculty intrigue, and it was pretty flat. After playing Dead Reckoning: Sleight of Murder recently and noting, "Unusual plot, clever, not too much HO. Puzzles good," I was hoping Lethal would be good as well, and bought it without playing the Demo first. Ha! It had very few real puzzles at all, just Find-and-Insert-Inventory kinds of things. Of the actual puzzles, none was something a child couldn't finish in moments. I actually was waiting for the game to end.

Edit: Finished Dead Reckoning: Lethal Knowledge. Would not recommend it. Ended up being boring, no challenging puzzles at all, ridiculously easy, added nothing new to the genre, more like a game for children or people new to HO games.
Posted by: 8dognight

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/16/17 10:30 AM

Resist Game Themes World Domination Plan:

I hope it’s clear from the title above that I’m a “Day of the Tentacle” enthusiast.

Revisiting “Day of the Tentacle” got me thinking about changing characters in games, a feature I have enjoyed in several other games as well. I look forward to character hopping. Then the idea of too much of a good thing seeped into my consciousness. Suppose that technique had taken root and pushed out most other developments or puzzles or quest structures (I’m not sure of the right term here) in adventure games or in casual games. While games with character switches and puzzles based on passing inventory and information back and forth are entertaining, I cannot imagine being pleased with a steady diet of games so structured. Ugh.

After reflecting on that possibility, I wanted to recap that what Reenie was getting at with her original post was not the elimination of supernatural themes or even of surreal environments although I don’t like the latter personally.

Reenie, who I am sure will correct me if I have misunderstood, and everyone else suggest more realistic settings, characters, and stories (and some of these stories can include supernatural elements without being overpowered by them) as well as more slices in the plot pizza, and better or at least less annoying music. Every single post in this thread has elements I agree with.

Based on those elements, I intend to make a sporadic hobby of writing polite and articulate requests to still extant developers of games that meet my standards. Second, I plan to review more games on BFG that I think are gems and worthy of replaying. I am going to be concentrating on older games like “The Void” (which I think is a Mystery Trackers), “Grim Tales: The Legacy,” and “Christmas Stories: The Nutcracker.” While Nutcracker is still popular, I have yet to see a seasonal offering of equal quality.

EDITED TO ADD: I should have said: more realistic but not mundane settings, characters, and stories. etc.
Posted by: Mad

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/16/17 01:03 PM

I think the only way any "trend" gets established or done away with is by sale results.

And that requires large numbers of people all to be of the same mind rolleyes
Posted by: Reenie

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/16/17 01:35 PM

Originally Posted By: 8dognight
Resist Game Themes World Domination Plan:

Reenie, who I am sure will correct me if I have misunderstood, and everyone else suggest more realistic settings, characters, and stories (and some of these stories can include supernatural elements without being overpowered by them) as well as more slices in the plot pizza, and better or at least less annoying music. Every single post in this thread has elements I agree with.


Absolutely! I enjoy all manner of themes and environments, just not a steady and unvarying diet of the same ones, and the repeating clichés therein. happydance

Originally Posted By: 8dognight
Resist Game Themes World Domination Plan: Based on those elements, I intend to make a sporadic hobby of writing polite and articulate requests to still extant developers of games that meet my standards. Second, I plan to review more games on BFG that I think are gems and worthy of replaying.


While it can't hurt to offer constructive feedback to game developers, I am afraid I have to agree with Mad and others who feel it may fall upon deaf ears. As the old expression goes, "Money Talks." Computer games are a business, like selling cars and Cable TV subscriptions. It is unlikely game developers care very much whether or not we actually like the games they offer, but simply look at the sales numbers and make more of the games that sell.

In that vein, I love your idea to present more feedback here on 'Boomers, with regard to what you feel makes a good game, and specifically "Reviews" on games played. 'Boomers is not the only venue on the web where gamers gather to talk about their game experiences, but it does have some breadth of influence. If we go beyond just giving notice of every new game issued, and supplement that with feedback from those who play them, we might have an influence on which games get purchased ~ and this could influence what direction developers take.

When Marian posts each new game offering, she always asks us "...(if you play it) come back and tell us what you think." I post my own opinion on games I play, whether it is a "Buy this one because . . . " or a "Ugh! Waste of your time and money because . . ." review, it is in that spirit. While it would be great if developers listened to us, my main concern is to help fellow players sort out the wheat from the chaff and have more fun playing the games.
Posted by: Mad

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/16/17 06:14 PM

Sadly, not all of us have time to write in with our likes and dislikes. And I'm certainly one. I only manage it now and then .... In fact "very" now and then blush

But also, as with most things, what suits one person won't suit another. So until you actually play a game yourself you can't really know whether it's one for you or not think

Unless, of course, you know for sure that the reviewer likes ALL the same things you like laugh
Posted by: Jenny100

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/19/17 05:23 PM


Originally Posted By: Reenie
I do have Legacy: Forgotten Island and Legacy: Witch Island. (I can no longer find the second one on BF, so it is possible I got that title wrong in some way.) The former got my second highest rating, and for the latter, I wrote, "No voices, TOO easy, silly music, popups, you name it."

I have a "Secret Mission: The Forgotten Island" that I bought in 2011.

I can't find anything about a "Legacy: Forgotten Island" game, so maybe you're thinking of the Secret Mission game.

"Secret Mission: The Forgotten Island" was one of the few casual adventure games made by Frogwares. Too bad Frogwares didn't make more casual games because they were good at it. Their "Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles" and "Dracula: Love Kills" games were both well above average.

Big Fish has Legacy: Witch Island here
https://www.bigfishgames.com/games/8185/legacy-witch-island/
but considering what you said about it,
Originally Posted By: Reenie
"No voices, TOO easy, silly music, popups, you name it."

it doesn't sound worth trying the demo.
The popups alone would disqualify it.

Originally Posted By: Reenie
This, and a few other such experiences, is one reason why I now prefer to play the Demo first, before buying a game, even if I liked a previous game in that series.

I always try demos before buying. I've had some games that didn't even start -- at least not in XP, they worked in Vista on the same laptop. A game has to be really really good for me to buy it if I have to boot to my laptop's Vista partition in order to play it.

Originally Posted By: Mad
But also, as with most things, what suits one person won't suit another. So until you actually play a game yourself you can't really know whether it's one for you or not.

You can narrow down possibilities though. It usually takes less time to search for keywords in a review page than it does to install a demo.

Originally Posted By: 8dognight
Revisiting “Day of the Tentacle” got me thinking about changing characters in games, a feature I have enjoyed in several other games as well.

Although the different characters worked well in "Day of the Tentacle" I've played more games where it was just a gimmick and detracted from the game than games where it worked.

Another "gimmick" that I'm heartily sick of is having some magical gizmo that you have to stop search the screen with when it flashes.

Originally Posted By: 8dognight
While games with character switches and puzzles based on passing inventory and information back and forth are entertaining, I cannot imagine being pleased with a steady diet of games so structured.

Absolutely. It's not a "feature" that works with all games.

Originally Posted By: Reenie
Absolutely! I enjoy all manner of themes and environments, just not a steady and unvarying diet of the same ones, and the repeating clichés therein.

Yet that's exactly what automated ratings systems select for -- enumerate a list of features that worked in certain popular games, and combine them all into a mishmash. And you end up with a "Lincoln’s Mother’s Doctor’s Dog" mishmash that is far less than the sum of its parts... Then the developers/publishers just can't understand why the game isn't successful because they "did the research."
Posted by: Marian

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/19/17 05:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Jenny100

Originally Posted By: Reenie
I do have Legacy: Forgotten Island and Legacy: Witch Island. (I can no longer find the second one on BF, so it is possible I got that title wrong in some way.) The former got my second highest rating, and for the latter, I wrote, "No voices, TOO easy, silly music, popups, you name it."


I can't find anything about a "Legacy: Forgotten Island" game, so maybe you're thinking of the Secret Mission game.


It could be The Legacy: Forgotten Gates, which is a 5-BN game. Their games are virtually always a cut above the usual.

Oh, and you can find Legacy: Witch Island here.


Posted by: 8dognight

Re: General Question about Game "Themes" - 11/23/17 11:23 AM

Music Again

I looked at the credits for "Witches Legacy: Charleston Curse" and found one name for both sound and music. That name is Alexey Dikansky, and I add this note to the thread to give him a shout out for music I like to hear.