With spite and finally, with an open mind, I made it through.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/qvjxdm/the-real-dark-souls-was-finding-the-right-community-to-help-me-beat-it
With spite and finally, with an open mind, I made it through.
To be completely honest all my playthroughs of Souls games, which means all but DS3 which i’ve yet to play, were all decidedly solitary experiences not just in the sense that i did not summon real life players in any situation (or was summoned myself), but also rarely interacted with the community other than reading the game’s wikidot pages. I’m often left feeling negative and regretful about my tendency to avoid communal playing but that was not the case with these games.
A true shame that Walker’s protest did not carry the day
I’m glad that Kunzelman found a solid community to play Dark Souls with, and I feel that he’s absolutely right in his assessment. My first engagement with Dark Souls was coming out of watching the first area or two in a Let’s Play, which gave me the feeling of a micro-community that gave me guidance up to a point, but let me figure out the rest for myself. My only community engagement outside that were a few threads on Something Awful, which were, by and large, fine. However, by relationship with 2 + 3 was fundamentally different. While I enjoyed both of those games at release (2 less so), I found myself souring on both when my community hubs were Twitter, Reddit (only for informational purposes), and (for 3) podcasts. Negativity sapped my will to enjoy or dig into the games as I had with the first; while I was over poisonous outer coating of ‘git gud’, I still think the communities around the series just aren’t to its benefit.
With that said, I do think there’s something worth teasing out here. I remember that when Super Mario Maker came out in 2015, there was a lot of debate around the universality of the experience, with some folks saying that it was different to be a game reviewer (with an audience keen to play your levels) than an audience member (who would be much less likely to have their content seen). Part of me can’t help but wonder if that discussion can be connected to this at all, although that may be too far afield to be a substantive discussion here.
I will have talked about it in the forums here before but I didn’t start to enjoy the games until I ignored the advice to “don’t read any walk throughs or spoilers!” Going in totally blind was incredibly frustrating for me and when I said “fuck it” and read a bunch of wikis about stats, weapons and their usage, etc. When I understood the basics it made the enemy and environmental difficulties much more manageable. But they’re not things that you would ever learn from trial and error without spending a lot of time playing (which I don’t have).
Ignoring the “learn it from the game” advice from the community is what made it click.
I do think it’s worth saying that there’s a huge spectrum in the community, especially depending on where you go and even who you talked to. For good or for ill, a lot of advice isn’t universal. As I mentioned, I found that the SA subcommunity for Dark Souls was the opposite of ‘learn it from the game’, and I remember a PDF w/ basic info and tips being circulated as a ‘Beginner’s Guide’ that would give you a lot of the early grounding. It was obsoleted by patches over time, but I still found that is a really good way to get into the series.
I think when a given community first got into FromSoftware’s games plays a part in it too. Like that SA community began before Demon’s Souls was even released outside of Japan, so everyone was lost and trying to put together how that type of game worked for some time. When Namco Bandai picked up Dark Souls for publishing outside of Japan, all of the marketing was based around how the game is super hard, I mean the official site for the game was literally www.preparetodie.com. So you had this sort of informal extreme split of communities of people that were all obliterated by Demon’s Souls (or King’s Field and Shadow Tower even) that were used to it being a given you weren’t going to figure everything out on your own, and communities inspired by the marketing into thinking the “true Dark Souls” experience is to go in completely blind with no help and anyone that asks for help is a chump. I mean obviously there’s plenty of community in between that.
It’s interesting though because the games were designed assuming you wouldn’t play completely blind or without assistance. IIRC Miyazaki compared it to old adventure games like Legend of Zelda, not from a difficulty standpoint (that’s there though, like Zelda, Neutopia, etc. when you die you go back to the beginning of the current dungeon but with all the stuff you earned) but from the standpoint of how it was a given that you’d talk to your friends and each share completely different experiences about the same area and trade little tips with each other and stuff. I’d say it’s really successful in that respect.
It’s built into the games too with the way players can leave messages for each other. I always considered going into any of those games completely blind to be the worst advice ever, even for stuff like King’s Field 1, it was assumed that you’d like, read the manual and have a gist of how leveling up your skills works. There are people with enough disposable time to do that with Dark Souls games, but even if I had all the time in the world, and as much as I’ve been enthralled by FromSoftware’s fantasy games since King’s Field, I don’t think I’d play it that way.
I do like how vaguely told the stories are though. They’ve done an incredible job over the, oh my God, King’s Field came out over twenty years ago, I’m too old, of taking the story delivery of those older games, born of hardware limitations of the time, and using it to weave an air of mystery into what could easily have been very by the number high fantasy stuff. I read an interesting interview with Miyazaki where he said this was also inspired by his trying to read English fantasy/etc. books at his local library as a kid, to duplicate the feeling of powerlessness and mystery of understanding certain pieces of a story really well but having huge gaps in others and trying to piece that together.
I think that’s done so successfully that if anything I love reading the story takes from people who haven’t read anything external about them, just because they tend to differ wildly.
Lots of Souls community folks take the difficulty from the games and their esoteric systems as the reason for their success, but it’s how they’re used to 100% commit to the game’s atmosphere while still having the same structure as a game from the 80s or early 90s that makes it successful to me, otherwise there’d be no reason to play a Souls game over, like Dragon Slayer I or Hydlide.
You could even lower the difficulty of the games and they’d still be amazing to me. I know people blanch at that but the games allow such great character customization, it’d be great if other difficulty levels were a thing in it so more people could see all of the awesome level design and cool weapons and weird characters instead of being turned away by the game’s reputation or by happening to run into less accepting parts of the community online.
A lot of people are scared that if they don’t defend how hard a blind play-through can be they will have their opinion drowned out by “it wasn’t that hard” players that used guides the whole time.
There can be a big difference between playing until hitting a wall and doing research versus having the games answers spoon-fed in real time during every play session.
That being said there should be no shame in researching the stats and how they effect gameplay as a new player, it can be an egregious waste of time and irreplaceable resources to max out a weapon you aren’t using effectively, or worse, leveling up the Resistance stat. That is a true waste of anyone’s time and is not satisfying to have to puzzle out yourself.
Also feels a little like taking the easy way out to call the few loud git gud trolls “the community” when in fact the community are the people dedicated to dissecting and documenting every drop % and obscure mechanic for the benefit of all players.
This post came like half an hour after I finally decided to give Dark Souls a shot after having had it in my Steam list for years.
I played it blind for maybe an hour, and then I had to look some stuff up. It’s an incredibly challenging game but I don’t see any virtue in artificially restricting my knowledge of it just for the sake of “purity.” Dark Souls is a good game, but it is incredibly poorly documented, and artificially making it harder by refusing to look up BASIC MECHANICS adds nothing to my experience. You can jump in Dark Souls, but the only way you’ll ever know that is by blind luck or someone telling you, because the game never tells you. There’s an entire statistic that doesn’t do anything. These are BAD GAME DESIGN. The fact that parry windows are tight is good design.
Anyway, I died like 14 times to that guy downstairs in Undead Burg that’s really tall until I figured out that I could take my armor off and cheese the backstab mechanic and when he died I felt really good about it even though it was blatant cheesing. Later, a dragon set me on fire.
I quickly accepted that there’s no concept of cheesing in a Dark Souls game.So much of the game is difficult enough for the uninitiated that I never felt bad for ANY tactics I employed to beat a boss/enemy.
I’ve tried playing these games blind and it’s just not for me. I appreciate the exploration, but I’m so bad at the game that I have to look up sections to progress. Eventually I hit a wall and put the game away.
“Purity” be damned, there should be absolutely no shame in engaging the games summoning mechanics.
It’s built right into the framework of the game, and if you can find summonable co-op partners for the more frustrating parts of the game absolutely do it.
It made my first play-through of DS 2 much more enjoyable.
Of course playing online invites random invasions…
I actually haven’t run into a summon glyph yet, but I’ll use one if I see them.
But I’ve seen the community telling people that going to wikis to learn the dang controls is bad and I will not stand for that under any circumstances. There’s no excuse for how poorly documented the basic systems and controls of Dark Souls are.
There is a platonic ideal of learning all of the functions of your abilities and stats incidentally through trial and error, but honestly who really cares.
Those badge of honor concepts are ridiculous and the game is too good and so much fun is had past the learning curve it is ridiculous to tell someone not to look up the stats and weapon requirements to avoid tens of hours of wasted time.
my experience of bloodborne was largely solitary, and it was like any time I’ve read a >1,500 page book, a self-flagilatory effort, where at a certain point I’m alone yelling at a book LOOK HOW MUCH I’VE READ and can’t tell if it’s any good. I like the feeling of making progress, and think I would enjoy it a lot more if I had a bunch of people helping me along the way.