We Talk About Impossible Challenges and Forever Games on Waypoint Radio


#1

We had a special treat this week at Waypoint HQ, with the whole team in town for meetings, streams, and this very podcast. So Patrick, Austin, Rob and I talked about “forever” games, thanks to two pieces Patrick wrote this week, on a Mario Maker Creator who has spent close to 2000 hours playing his almost-impossible creation, and on a Die Hard Desert Golf fan who found the elusive ending to his favorite game. We chat about our very own “forever” games, from the endless appeal of immersive sims to the promise of near-infinite space in No Man’s Sky, and Patrick gets a very special surprise at the end!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/mbpxn8/waypoint-radio-impossible-challenges

#2

I’d always thought the Waypoint crew were a good bunch of Bolsheviks but today I learn @patrick.klepek is a member of the aristocracy!?!?! Off with his head!


#3

Lord Patrick, has a nice ring to it. I think the letter was part of some PR for a game but I don’t remember what game it was.


#4

The moment Rob referred to mass murder as depopulation I knew we had a future Republican speech writing superstar on the Waypoint staff.


#5

Referring to the hype around No Man’s Sky as a “collective hallucination” is kind of bullshit. The devs (particularly Murray) promised and “demoed” many “space adventure” things. Sure, if you actually read the extravagant things he says, like in the Atlantic interview (https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/02/artificial-universe-no-mans-sky/463308/) it’s obvious he’s lying and just trying to sound impressive on many things, but it’s still wrong to imply people made-up all these promises in their mind.


#6

I see the accusation of “liar” leveled at Murray a lot, and while I don’t know about their situation in particular, I think a lot about the gulf between what you hope a game is and what it ends up being at the end of dev. On projects I’ve worked on, there’s plenty of things where if you asked me “are you going to have X in the game?” or “what do you think Y feature is going to play like?” my answer would be completely different within the span of a few weeks.

Anyway, I’m interested in if y’all have games that are forever-ish! I’m pretty deep down the Kerbal well at this point, which feels near infinite because at some point knowledge in the game just crosses over into learning about real astrophysics.


#7

Austin: Thankfully Rock Band songs are 5 minutes long.

me: [looks at 2112, Metropolis Part 1 and In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida in my RB4 setlist] heheh, yeah, just 5 minutes long, yeah.


#8

Factorio is my forever game. But I have to take regular breaks from it or it ends up consuming my life.


#9

Did a short section of this episode loop? Or did I walk into a time warp? Weirdly enough the loop occurred exactly as I sneezed while walking so it was freaky deaky


#10

My forever game is Elite Dangerous. A spaceship, a 1:1 Milky Way, and (an admittedly unwieldy) photo mode. That’s all I need.


#11

Elite’s also a good example of people setting up imaginary expectations. I got into it a couple months after release and played it on and off since as a chill, fairly aimless, podcast game. I didn’t have any preconceptions and knew what kind of game it was. A sizable chunk of the community are still, to this day, furious that it’s not the ur-game they made up in their head. People just hoped it would combine the best of every space sim so when the final product wasn’t Freespace + Freelancer + EVE + X3 + Wing Commander they were so disappointed they wouldn’t accept it for what it was.


#12

Long time listener and Austin admirer here, just registered to converse about themes in this episode.

I’ve never heard the ‘forever’ game or impossible challenge game be discussed before. Was this the coining of the terms? Seems like they’ll stick because they are bang on!

I can see that on this the mismarketing, naivety, foolhardiness and desperation on the hype train can lead to some very tragic dumpsterfires of discussion, but I think its a mistake to dismiss as pipedreams forever games and impossible challenge games as pie in the sky. I remember in a previous episode I can’t for the life of me find, Austin pined hard for something that was suspisciously like this. Or at least as a rare “Devs, I command you to make this and hermetically seal me with it” sentiment. If anyone else can recall please let me know: It was around wanting a game with the live adventuring of good Bioware Dragon Age, the base vehicle management of something like FTL, and something like the team character development and co-ordination of XCOM, Darkest Dungeon and maybe even Rimworld. I feel like Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen might have been part of the discussion, yes, a roguelike Dragon’s Dogma. Add a little Sleep Is Death/Castle Doctrine/ via The DIvision’s ‘Darkzone’ for a real shot in the arm. There are examples, its not impossible.

I think its right to pine, attractive as it maybe to surrender the ideal in the hope of avoiding dissappointment. Its not that the forever game will be to the exclusion of other games, or even last forever, its just that it feels like forever, and perhaps would go on being quite good for the rest of your life if you were somehow stranded with it. Its a homecoming. Its not perfection, it is a distinct goal attained that many other games that are good to have in a collection don’t apply. There’s bound to be a lot of subjectivity around this but its not so much it makes it irrelevant. Minecraft served and satisfied on this standard for me and many others, though the game’s as service promise of its long development enabled me to have ideas of its developing geography and geology never to come true. Basically it is recommendable to those with the ‘forever’ demand, unless they have already exhausted it or they just don’t take to it. The point is its well worth a shot for someone approaching games on that most difficult measure, and so I think its viable and I’d love a top hundred list of games on this purist practical desert-island basis. Its not so frivolous!

It can be mixed up with the nostalgia thing, for the often-mentioned time gamers harp back too, usually in their early teens, when the few available games you had access to became a paradigm persevered with, and anything that was impossible to perfect or could keep you on your toes strategically or tactically forever was deeply appreciated. But sometimes to call it nostalgia feels like putting the cart before the horse, or like I want to talk about nostalgia for the future which sort of nullifies the word. Desire and hope for change (a change of conditions to me having a game that apparently as yet is unobtainable) will make for new creations but will be inspired by what we know: its not regressive to have hopes for the world and the things in it, its regressive to try not to care and to sit back pretending you are an impartial audience without responsibility, sadistically observing and picking at it. It reminds me of this article about consumerism and demoralization (as does everything these days) “the demoralized mind” Specifically how “Passivity and choice have displaced creativity and mastery”. We pine for mastery - thats part of the Forever Game. I do declare we are write to pine for mastery, and we shouldn’t give in, curbstomping this need but in our judgements look for what’s really keeping us disappointed, and be able to grapple with how we are systemically dissatisfied in our arguments and not take be making painful scapegoats, as if the advertisers lie filled hype train and dishonest communication was a one off thing not a constant intolerable onslaught we will all fall victims to in differeent ways as long as it stands - which is unacceptable, and rejectable.

There is something precarious in the obligation to always search for more content. I could theorise that this is more a fact of adulthood under capitalism than a fact of the human condition, but pending revolution the two are inseperable anyway. Videogames people certainly suffer terribly from planned obsolecence put into productions that don’t necessarily need to be consumable. Single playthrough short story games are a viable model alongside, like tickets to the cinema, but forever games also have a right to exist, and its a right as under attack by neoliberalism as good commonly experienced television, not hived off into different platforms and timezones. This is clear in the roguelikes genre especially, that was founded so hardcore, semi infinite and for free as hobby grade projects on the indie fan scene, but it has become unignorable and the games are designed to be more easily exhausted and the culture is kind of atomised, while Spelunky towers over all, copycats for a buck mean the gems are a needle in a haystack not given the oxygen they deserve to grow, and DeadCells is made to be finishable by critics in the churn.- Oh to be left alone with books and Dwarf Fortress, assuming I actually get on with Dwarf Fortress. And wish again for Grandroids.

Making games that will serve as Forever Games is not a simple matter but nor is selling COD year in year out, but it is very rarely attempted, and even more rarely properly funded. It doesn’t need to serve every escapist fantasy under the sun but I reckon it better serve the essential ‘itches’, capable of being the source of a wholesome and well survivable diet of videogame skills practised. Just as Lumosity apparently aims for, covering different skills from sensing momentum and trajectory in racing games to visual processing of shames in conventional puzzles to lateral thinking, managing, creative engineering, information processing and deduction, hand eye co-ordination - fine, but in one gameplay thread and part of the charming craft is not just min-maxing but the player finding ways to customise their role-playing of to get in the proportion of gameplay sensations and skills-uses that suits them: To be enthralled and forging identity while excelling.

Minecraft was a pretty good forever game. I think its not so much a neiche in the market as an enemy of the market. Sometimes it just comes down to small things, like not liking a run animation and that being the entire thing that ruined Spelunky World for Chris Remo, and differently abled people can be excluded on thematic and mechanical counts that will likely be common denominators in the core gameplay loop the player would make of the game. Some people just never Tetris. (as verb) I always wanted Spiderman 2 to be a forever game, the one on the PS2 console generation. It just needed a stage of managing the life as Peter Parker, with a montage of your day’s choices as they are encounterd and managing different priorities, being able to stop and go realtime whenever you like, and maybe drive a car. I certainly played the game so much it was missing something.

I’ll do the obvious thing and counter Patrick that we are only left fantasising about being capitalists because it can feel like as ever, We Sleep/ a dreamless sleep or drudge an unredeeming exhausting positivistic drudge, They Live: So that as its harder to conceive of fun enterprising endeavours in mutual prosperity because its harder to perceive them, so we are left taking the obvious to space. But even in Hostile Waters: Anteus Rising, where the player is basically Commander Struggle, the fun is in the challenge of beating the enemy. Barring emphasized text Its just a matter of the context in the fiction, believing in yourself and advancing your interest, whether they be the bourgeouise’s callous and ultimately self-destructive class interest or something more about moral and mutual-universal liberation. I think its fine entertaining a lot of vindictive fantasies in wish fulfillment fantasy, it just think its a bit stinks of capitalist publisher’s cultural inclinations that it seems to be all there is available. Some choice!

Will you hear my confession? I have a problem/passion with forever redesigning and never developing a Forever Game.


#13

It is and it isn’t. Yes, it’s clear that Murray talked a lot of game that he was either not going to deliver or was wildly off about what he thought he could deliver, but the No Man’s Sky train was running on a ton of steam added by people who were creating their own narratives.

That said, people were acting like the universe in No Man’s Sky was somehow going to redefine what procedural generation was and make a limitlessly engaging universe and… no. It was always going to be a remix of a few key elements repeated ad nauseam, and that was going to get old. Without community aspects or relevant persistence, none of which were explicitly promised to the best of my knowledge out of the gate, it was just going to be a progression of different looking planets over and over again.

Murray certainly lit the torch, but people gladly took it and ran with it after the fact.


#14

If I recall correctly, a Journey-esque multiplayer was directly promised by Sean Murray at least a few times in the months leading to launch (even in very elevated interviews like with Stephen Colbert). And it was sold as being revolutionary for procedural generation - almost every single piece involving NMS hyped up this aspect and the “amazing/magical/incredible maths” behind it. Moreover, it wasn’t just going to be tavelling from planet to planet, but there were promises of dynamic trade wars and factions. I believe this aspect was “demoed” live on stage at E3. And that’s another thing, is that this coverage wasn’t just low-key indie fluff, but featured at huge gaming events and even late night talk shows over many years.

The only way to “see-through” NMS and have the correct expectations would be to have ignored years worth of the Lead developers statements and footage, which is certainly possible as I and many others did it. But, it is some woke-gamer bullshit rhetoric to label the people that did follow it closely - and take the developer seriously - “deluded” (and also trying to tie it to some capitalist power fantasy, like what?).


#15

My memory is far from perfect, but I remember details about multiplayer being cagey at best. Journey style multiplayer does not lead me to believe there will be any sort of persistence as much as occasionally seeing another human that I can’t talk to or strategize with. All the other stuff, the factions and trade, if I’m remembering right were all communicated as being AI and procedural. Like occasionally I’ll run into some AI on AI fighting that has some internal logic I’m not privy to and I can intervene or watch.

Looking back on it, NMS very much seemed like people happily drank the Kool-Aid and mixed more of it themselves. The “mass delusion” thing to me is less like people created this dream out of nothing and more like people collectively put skepticism aside because they were excited. It’s all well and good to talk about it being some sort of next step forward in terms of procedural generation, but we’re also talking about a small company that had made Joe Danger games. It’s not impossible that they would be responsible for that amazing a breakthrough, but there’s also no real reason to think they would be either. I also feel like the footage was never really that impressive. It looked very nice, but it never showed these deep, dynamic systems or multiplayer that some people seemed to expect. Murray was certainly doing his best to twist things and torture the language, but few people were putting his feet to the fire or raising an eyebrow the way they would other developers.


#16

I think where I disagree is in the power dynamic between experts and lay-people. Many people, through no fault of their own, shut off when mathematics, computer science, and other technical topics come up. So it is really easy for experts (in this case the developers and the publishers) to deceive the majority of people. There is an enormous information asymmetry in place, so I do not think the average consumer has the responsibility to see-through the dev’s/publisher’s active deception. It is really the expert’s responsibility to not deceive in the first place, and blaming the average consumer for taking the lead developer seriously (when, as you point out, there weren’t many dissenting opinions and, in fact, NMS was highly elevated in its coverage) is misguided. The issue is further obfuscated because NMS does indeed do some very unique and cool things (like the seamless transition to outer-space from planets) as shown by their award at the game developers conference.
Like the people that love NMS have reason to do so, but the people that feel taken advantage of and lied to also have valid reasons.


#17

I agree totally about the power dynamic. In the instance of NMS though, it seemed like I was talking to people all the time who were traditionally way more skeptical about this sort of thing not being skeptical at all. The same people who rolled their eyes at every other game claiming it was being revolutionary were going all in on NMS. Even people who were on the press side of things seemed extremely eager to ignore the warning signs that others were pointing at. Maybe this is a situation of hindsight being 20/20 and re-perceiving the past as something it wasn’t, I don’t know.

There was a lot at work with the NMS debacle. Looking back on it I get the impression that it was this weird perfect storm where everything came together just so and under the right circumstances, and if you removed one single element or tweaked one single variable it never would have happened. Again, I don’t blame anyone involved for getting excited, and I’m not trying to say it was anyone’s fault other than Hello Games and the people pushing the narrative uncritically.


#18

Thanks for the link. I hadn’t read that article before.


#19

I spent much of 2017 defending Hello Games and explaining why I was convinced that Sean Murray never lied in the comments sections of various articles and extremely negative YouTube videos. I was concerned that we would lose insight into the early stages of development of other games if everyone who spoke about their work-in-progress had everything they said about their prototypes regarded as a iron-clad promise of that feature’s inclusion. I didn’t want to see this unreasonable backlash make other developers timid to talk about their games without every question being mediated by a cagey PR or in all likelihood lead to us losing all contact with those who actually make our entertainment products and who will act as spokespersons, talking about safe subjects like the identity of the protagonist and some idea of the story they get involved in sufficient to whet our appetite, as these aspects tend to remain the same even if the feature set changes in the years it is in development.

I felt this way because I had been working on my own dream game (much like Sean Murray, but for far longer), and thought that the out of control hype for No Man’s Sky could never be satisfied. This was largely stoked by its unofficial subreddit cataloguing every feature Sean Murray alluded to in interviews in their Information Repository, simultaneously taking it way too seriously, whilst also engaging in wild speculation about all the myriad ideas they would want to be surprised with on their travels. Many in the subreddit thought these would be Easter Eggs which they would stumble upon in the game, such as Space Whales. However, the games media was equally to blame as various irresponsible publications having headlines like: “No Man’s Sky, You Win E3, Forever”, which has to be the most ridiculous over the top headline imaginable (thanks Kotaku), didn’t help to check consumer’s expectations. Even if it had had a flawless launch and contained every feature ever mentioned in an interview, including those where Sean is asked if he can play the bongos, I think this hype would have left many underwhelmed. It seemed to me that only a few people were questioning “What do you actually do in this game?” and that struck me as a concern, not because a game of exploration and discovery should explicitly state everything you are likely to encounter in it upfront (quite the reverse, as to do so would dispel a vital sense of mystery that would motivate continued, perhaps, endless exploration), but because too many seemed to latch onto the unfounded notion that it was “an everything game” (with this categorisation being deftly parried by Sean Murray when it was levelled at him during the PC Gaming show in 2015), confusing the notion of a procedurally generated setting with procedurally generated roles to play in radiant quests with generative narratives that contained virtual dramatis personae which would engage in conversation with you using spoken dialogue that was neither prerecorded or prescripted line by line by human actors and authors but assembled from an jigsaw of interchangeable objects related to the topic at hand and spoken by assembling the sound files which not only matched the text but the ending inflection so that exclamation and interrogation sounded different from a statement, and unlimited tech trees of procedurally generated equipment could be disassembled and upgraded and tuned and traded as you hunted for those elusive Space Whales…

See the problem?

Expectations got totally out of hand.

So, why do I feel that Sean Murray never lied? Well, simple really. Nothing he said in early interviews is a promise that that feature will appear in the game at launch or with any subsequent free update. I am not even going to rely on the excuse that he never specified “When” to absolve him of guilt for features not being present at launch as every feature that was in the Steam store description of No Man’s Sky was in the initial launch version of the game. I take the view that these features are the only things that constitute a promise as they appear at the point of sale. I also repeatedly remind people that it said it was a Single-player title in large letters about an inch to the right of its BUY button.

People were so hard to convince out of the mindset that they had somehow been scammed by Hello Games that I became a little paranoid and decided I might be on weak ground, so I used the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine on the Steam page to get to the first version where the game was made available for Prepurchase. It didn’t say it was Multiplayer. Phew.

Sean Murray told everyone No Man’s Sky was Single-player on Hello Games’ official blog, on his twitter account, the IGN News had a story on 8th August 2016 whose YouTube video is called “No Man’s Sky ‘Is Not a Multiplayer Game,’ Hello Games Founder Says”, following the link to the article shows that Sean then goes on to say “The chances of two players ever crossing paths in a universe this large is pretty much zero” this could have been phrased as “The chances of two players meeting in a universe this large is pretty much zero” and you might think the meaning is unaltered, but it there is a big difference as what he goes out of his way to explicitly commit to is something the game supports and was demonstrated by one player crossing the path taken by another and seeing the discoveries they had named. Sean didn’t expect people to see other player’s named discoveries and therefore evidence of the path they had taken through the game so early on, and I expect it was the motivation to get everyone to start off spread out around the rim of the initial Galaxy and work their way towards its centre as that way there would be more chance of finding planets and indigenous life named by other players lone gone. This would be the collaborative process of discovery that would make you feel that you weren’t totally alone.

I think that “player encounters” had been a feature early on in development and actually worked, hence they mentioned them. A lot of potential players got unreasonably excited by something intended to be a cool thing (which arguably ought to have been kept secret as an Easter Egg as it would have had far more impact were it to then happen in the normal course of play to someone not expecting it). I’ve seen Sean Murray since this “debacle” give a presentation at the Games Developer Conference on the topic of terrain generation and he talked about the difficulty of testing and how they had thought it would get roughly the same number of concurrent users on Steam as Inside (about 3,000) and then Sony told them to revise their estimates as they would be pushing it hard with equivalent marketing to an AAA in exchange for it being exclusive to their console, so Sean looked at Far Cry Primal (about 14,000) and admits, candidly, that this made him nervous as to the number of players booting up their game day one and the load on their servers. When No Man’s Sky was released it exceeded this estimate by some margin (about 500,000 with a roughly even split between PS4 and PC) and it was just as well that, I think, he took the strategic decision, to remove player encounters and clearly identify it as only being a Single-player game for the entire time it was available to purchase on Steam to avoid what had only been conceived as a cool Easter Egg causing their servers to collapse on day one and impair the ability of players to share their discoveries, which was far more central to its gameplay dynamic than the extraordinarily rare occurrence of actually “meeting another player” and seeing their avatar, which I do believe the game supported at some earlier point in its development.

Obviously, had they kept quiet about this feature as it was planned to be a cool surprise that may or may not even get triggered by anyone playing the game, but would be more likely to occur sometime after release as most players were heading to the same destination, and I thought, as a programmer, that the only reason that you would go to all the trouble to implement such a rarely triggered feature, would be is if it became an inevitability if players completed the game by going to the centre of the initial Galaxy, where I thought they might encounter each other, and perhaps find The Atlas and as I had seen the Game Informer cover where multiple ships are shooting pieces off the outside of an ancient double pyramid suspended in space, I theorised that there may be a wormhole inside that would take that small lobby of players to another randomly selected destination Galaxy where they could explore, claim territory, and finally build the bases that were explicitly not promised by Sean Murray during his interview with Inside PlayStation free from the harassment of the Sentinels. As I thought everything I had seen of the gameplay looked like a progression curve with no mention of its application to an end game and with everyone told to head to the same destination there must be a big clue in that Game Informer cover art as to what to expect.

It’s entirely possible that I was right, and that Sean Murray did indeed intend to provide this end game, hence the illustration, but lack of money and Sony’s insistence that No Man’s Sky hit its unopposed launch window meant that he had to delay it to make up an inferior story that undermined your journey (I’m talking about the Nada story that is covered in “No Man’s Sky Ending Explained” on craveonline) in my opinion and wasn’t what the team at Hello Games would have wanted to have happen if they hadn’t had to remove the drop-in / drop-out instanced multiplayer lobbies that would need to support not only two people meeting, but the same number of other players as in “joint exploration” (which isn’t smoking weed whilst engaging in a chill out stroll whilst in Creative Mode with the HUD turned off) which allows up to sixteen players to see where each other are located, if not what they actually look like.

I’ve tried telling people that games change during development for aesthetic, technical, and business reasons, but that this has fallen on dear ears. People seem to want to feel cheated about a game that clearly wasn’t misrepresented at the point of sale, many obtained refunds on long after Steam’s refund window had elapsed and they had continued to play it obsessively for hours. These are entitled scum.

Does no one want independent developers to take creative risks and make ambitious games entirely free from paid DLC, Microtransactions and Loot Boxes, but given exemplary free post launch support – which includes many features not only mentioned in those “controversial” early interviews, but which were in many cases not guaranteed as being part of the initial game, and explicitly identified as being a feature that would come after the game’s release (as in the case of base building, which Sean Murray said would make people settle prematurely, rather than explore further and see more of the game if it was made available at launch), along with other free features never even mentioned in interviews like the addition of ground vehicles, which Sean Murray never needed to add to appease anyone and has clearly included for himself as he continues to work on his dream game, his forever game?

I can deeply empathise with that as I have been working on my own ridiculously ambitious intergalactic asynchronous MMORTSFPSRPG for over twenty-two years as a hobby project to stop me from getting bored and depressed. Much of that time has been spent conducting the research and development of the new multiparadigm programming language that I know I will need to boost my productivity about a thousand fold in the creation of my own middleware tools, which will then allow me to create my own universes with a mixture of mathematics, simulation, recycled thematically consistent user generated content, and incredibly sophisticated state of the art coauthored narrative.

I nearly gave up on doing my own game when I first saw No Man’s Sky as I thought that no one would be interested in my procedurally generated space adventure, but then I got the opportunity to ask Sean Murray the question “Will it have cities?” and he basically gave a long, circuituous, reply that amounted to “No” for aesthetic reasons of wanting it to be more Tatooine than Coruscant, with more of the emphasis on the wilderness than crowded urban spaces. Since then he has mentioned doing cities in their official blog as a long term objective, but I was relieved by his answer as it meant that he wasn’t simply saying “Yes” to everything put to him in an interview (out of a fear that saying “No” would lose him potential customers looking for that specific feature), and it meant that I could distinguish my game by keeping to my original plan to have cities (indeed, it had never occurred to me to have animals in my game until I saw the VGX 2013 trailer as I couldn’t see what relevance they would have to gameplay compared to another sentient individual with their own motives).

As to the whole, forever game / everything game, topic at hand I am actively trying to make a game that has no end, where you are rewarded for consistent role play as a succession of characters that then unlocks more challenging parts, where the gamepad is geared towards resolving conflict through communication before holding a bumper to shift into a quasimode where weapons and equipment can be utilised, any characters you out rank which form your squad can be optionally ordered around, you can “hotswap” between different characters at any time provided that they are in your line of sight and of equivalent or lower rank, then progress up through the ranks until you regard the battlefield from an aerial perspective and keep going until the scope of the conflict is seen from a flagship in space, then from the point of view of an admiral commanding multiple flagships across multiple star systems, and finally up to the political level of commander in chief, which equates to the role of president which can be reached through non military progression as a civilian character too, in an emergent narrative that coauthors itself in response to player action, where you are not the centre of the universe as far as it is concerned and plenty happens that is of importance “off stage” as it were, which you may not even find out about, but which is important to the operation of the simulation and history of where the action is set and your character(s) interpersonal relationships with those that they meet.

Whenever there has been a choice between making it have a larger scale, scope, depth, complexity, I’ve always picked more in the knowledge that it is only there to provide an authentic choice and not to be content that has to somehow be completed. That would be impossible. Every choice excludes the alternative, you have to move forward and own your mistakes and adapt and maybe fail and then go at it all again with a new character. I have toyed with the idea of allowing the player to not “save” progress but to “rewind” back along the mistaken path they have taken as far as technology will allow and then resume from there with a wisdom of one more thing not to do. This can work in an asynchronous MMO as you aren’t in synchrony with other player’s histories in a persistent universe. You merely see space populated by the AI mimics of absent players and they don’t care what actions you take against them as those players see you as an AI mimic which they can choose to destroy if they want without having any persistent global effect on your status. It is essentially the same tech as the Drivatars in Forza 5.

Obviously, I recognise that the whole process of making this forever game has become a forever thing in and of itself, so I am focusing on getting the core of my language finished this year after losing all of my R&D recently when I mistakenly formatted the wrong external HDD to NTFS.

It has been a lot to remember, but a few all nighters and I have the majority of the core syntax, order of precedence of its operators, naming conventions, lexical analyser, and understanding why it supports distributed processing through the use of the command-query separation principle even if I don’t rush into implementing that aspect of things anytime soon. It will support live programming thereby avoiding the wait for code to compile-link-run and not be how you wanted it to be and require another edit. Here it will just be a case of changing code on the portrait monitor to see it instantly impact the still running game on the landscape monitor. Highly productive tools making even more highly productive tools that form a virtuous circle of increasingly high productivity is the only way I can see myself finishing this and it will take a long time even then. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I am encouraged by a playable prototype. Someone who asked me about it recommended I support VR and I’m a little unsure as I feel it is something that deserves to be played for four hour sessions at a time and that can be nauseating with a headset, even whilst seated, so I think I’ll leave that to others to implement as I doubt that I’ll see the final version of my game as I will leave it to others to build upon what I have already done – hence, the user friendly middleware tools, and eventual reveal of the source code in my new language once it has been used enough to have become mature and well documented.

I won’t promote my game by name, or do a Kickstarter for it, as I don’t want to be pressured by those who would like to see it come out yesterday because they are excited by the sound of it. If I feel that Sean Murray made a mistake with No Man’s Sky it would have been agreeing to a simultaneous launch on PC which I feel would have been better to have been postponed a year so that they could use the initial profits from the sale of the game on PS4 to hire a QA team to fix all the bugs in the PC version ahead of its release and have fewer refunds and toxicity from those who had had it crash a lot and not even run at all on their rigs. Also a delay of a year would raise the average performance of most PCs on Steam, as No Man’s Sky is quite a demanding game, and many tried to run it on PCs that weren’t up to the job.

That said, I don’t know anything about Sean Murray’s finances other than he wasn’t funded by Sony, so it seems that he may have needed money for the PC version early. I’ve only put £22,000 into my game over the years, I expect No Man’s Sky cost him a lot more. I hope he has made back his investment.


#20

It is only a problem to be “forever redesigning and never developing a Forever Game” if you aren’t enjoying the process. If you are frustrated and sad that you aren’t playing your Forever Game already, then that should give you pause for self reflection on your intended goals, but I see nothing wrong with playing all the games you have mentioned with an idea of somehow blending their genres into one neverending megagame unbound by the limits of a single genre or narrative arc.

In essence, the Spider-Man and Peter Parker lifestyle simulator you craved, or maybe something broader and more gradiose, it doesn’t matter, so long as you are having fun. My game collection is full of titles I have played the first couple of hours of and then gone, “Ok, I get the idea of what they are trying to achieve with this, I’m not interested in the story and its protagonist, what intrigues me is the space of possibilities that opens to me as a result of the orthogonal feature set made available to me in its contextual control scheme and as I have seen everything it has to offer now and there are no more surprises for me there I’m disclined to continue with it just to see how the story plays out, as I rather watch a movie.”

As soon as I hit a boundary to the percieved space of possibilities and am not distracted by some other aspect of the game, but left alone with it until its clockwork gears is laid bare, I get bored and don’t want to waste my time with it anymore.

I crave that all encompassing, everything game, which could become my forever game.

I have a LOT of unfinished games. I don’t even regard them as a backlog.

As a result of this I started working on my own “everything game” a couple of decades ago and went about teaching myself everything I needed to know in order to do it. I looked into using the industry standard games programming language C++ but it seemed both slow and error-prone, taking a long time to compile my code and allow me to demonstrate some change, whilst also putting me off its cryptic syntax (which seemed to be perversely intent on making sense of any typographical errors), so that I was dissuaded from exploratory creative programming with a lot of iterative cycles taking place in a very short time. This led me to commit two years to the creation of my own programming language that would reflect changes made in it immediately and be free from double meanings, the only snag being that I was an order of magnitude out on the difficulty of doing this and got fascinated in the research phase which involved the then 1,401 existing programming languages and the selective feature extraction of their “best bits”.

As you can see a close parallel to what you are doing with your game design, but in my case rigourously structured around having to fit a coherent formal definition of a language.

I never intended to spend so long on making the productivity boosting tools for creating my own “everything game” but I don’t regret the time I have spent doing so. Unfortunately, it’s not as if I can recommend an existing language that does the job of making games easily, they are all still way too difficult twenty years later, which probably explains AAA production budgets being through the roof and the need to supplement revenue with supplemental paid DLC and Pay2Skip Microtransactions; although I think Loot Boxes are a step too far.

Don’t apologise for enjoying yourself when you aren’t engaged in anything criminal.