Reading Gamebow with LeVar Burton

By: Derek Yu

On: September 23rd, 2008


Auntie Pixelante interviewed Jesse Venbrux about his work, past, present, and future, including GAME OVER FOREVER, a game in which death is permanent.

Then EEGRA interviewed Auntie.

And Slash has interviewed Jeff Lait, the creator of the graphical roguelike POWDER, on Rogue Temple.

A man ironically named “Jason Love” wrote an article titled “”“>Fuck Metroidvanias” for Insomnia. But by his definition Cave Story is not a Metroidvania, so whew, amirite?

Ohhhhhhyeeeaaahhh, there’s an extensive Bonesaw post-mortem on Ivan “toastie” Safrin’s great new indie game development blog, *Play-Make, as well as an interview with Alec Holowka about Aquaria.

Finally, Lost Garden’s Danc has tagged all of his multitudinous essays, and compiled those tags into a simple directory for easy browsing.

UPDATE: Thanks, Tim, for pointing out that I missed Destructoid’s interview with Jasper “superflat” Byrne, who developed Soundless Mountain II for our Demakes Compo!

  • Cobalt

    Hey Derek, the Jason Love link is dead.

  • Derek

    Oi, thanks! Fixed now.

  • Dusty Spur

    Is the Jason Love thing worth reading? Insomnia tends to be pretty terrible but then again it’s usually written by icycalm.

  • deadeye

    I thought the Love article was an okay read. He makes some good points.

    It’s not really about hate for metroidvanias, but rather hate for common design problems in metroidvanias, and I guess trying to define what a metroidvania actually is. A little nit-picky maybe but not rage-inducing.

  • Malefact

    I really like both of the first two interviews – if because the people being interviewed are just so interesting. It also makes me respect Patrick (Auntie’s interviewer) a lot more; not that I didn’t rate EEGRA before.

    On the Love article, whilst it made some good points, he probably should have started off by discussing what makes a “metroidvania” rather than having us infer it from what he’d written. He also could have gone into a bit more detail on some of the more interesting points; “Miyamoto’s First Law” for example. What are the implications of designing a game which demonstrates the player’s limitations from the get-go? Sometimes I think it can work – and I think Abandoned is the most recent example of this – because of the character you’re playing. In Wind Waker you’re a little boy, so it’s natural you’re going to be pretty limited in what you can do. (I remember trying to swim out to the ships in the bay and drowning). In the Metroid series, you’re armed to the teeth, and usually forced to discard the cool weaponry from the last game for some obligatory reason.

    I agree with most of what he says about game design, though – especially the ‘better locks’ part. For me, the Eye of Truth in Ocarina was a particularly good lock because it allowed you to interact with the world in a different way. It gave you more to explore. Still, it could have easily been developed even further.

  • Cranky Old Man

    For me, the Metroidvania is the genre that sprung out of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It’s a marriage of Castlevania’s brand of action with Metroid’s nonlinearity and item collection.

    What irks me is that I loved the straightforward, linear, action-based Castlevanias, and Konami has forgotten about them. I don’t like backtracking, getting lost and collecting items. I like walking from left to right, killing monsters and jumping over pitfalls, preferably to an awesome soundtrack.

    Probably the most common error in game design is assuming that adding more complexity (more moves, items, features, etc.) makes a game better. Sometimes it doesn’t.

  • xerus

    Indie news is GOOD NEWS!

  • Del_Duio

    You had me at the picture of Geordi.

    Where’s the clip on his righteous VISOR technology?!

  • quack

    Jason Love needs a visit from the analogy police. His complaint that the “first law of Miyamoto” is like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer is a pretty harsh one. I like games that do this, provided they don’t involve too much backtracking, and lots of little secret areas. I mean, wasn’t it fun in A Link to the Past when you suddenly were able to push tombstones, and none of them were necessary to advance. The “first law” rewards patient and observant players. Part of the fun of metroidvanias, for me, is taking note of all the stuff I cannot get and guessing what I need to get in there. And Knytt stories is a good metroidvania (at least Nifflas’s stories are). There’s hardly any backtracking (unless you are looking for secrets), and what backtracking there is is exploratory and pretty quick.

    Slow characters, that I cannot stand.

  • FhnuZoag

    Jason Love doesn’t attack Cave Story, sure. But he does attack Knytt Stories, so well, screw him – apparently someone doesn’t understand that people like to explore.



  • Guy

    Well I don’t like to curse games, but jason does have some valid points in his argument.
    Some games may feel as if you are at work while playing them.
    They give you chores. The best example is something that is common in many games, and that is the blue locked door.

    For the blue locked door, you need the blue key.
    If it doesn’t take alot of time to get the key after you found the door, and it doesn’t take much time to get back to the door. Then it is not frustrating.
    In many other cases it is just damn frustrating.

    Knytt stories is a game I like very much(I enjoyed it more than cave story, for instance).
    But the good thing about knytt, is that you don’t have to fight your way through when you explore.

    Knytt is fun to explore, because you don’t need to face an enemy or an obstacle every step or two.
    In knytt you have a few but quality obstacles, instead of many low quality obstacles.
    Thats my opinion, at least.

    So exploration is not black or white, some pull it good, and some pull it awful.

  • Guy

    Oh, and another thing about the blue door.
    If you have other stuff to do except looking for the blue key, when you encounter the blue door.
    Then it is also not as horrible.

  • Zaratustra

    tl;dr for Fuck Metroidvanias: ‘Deferred rewards bad. Backtracking bad. Cave Story good.’

  • xerus

    I like backtracking depending on what it involves. If I get a new item in a Metroidvania, I fucking love crawling all over the world trying to figure out where I can advance next. DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFF’RENT FOLKS.

  • namefag

    don’t know why but this suddenly made me want to play cave story again. people talk about it all the time, but Zaratustra’s comment sums up why I loved Cave Story, which makes me want to play it again.

  • Dusty Spur

    So I had a dream that someone (can’t remember who) wrote a parody of this article linking to a fake interview I made with Suda51. Over and over and saying things like “kawaii desu ne” and whatnot.

    It was a fun little dream.

  • GeneralValter

    The only thing I can see when I look at that title is “Reading GAYbow”. I can’t help it!

  • Jad

    “The pleasure of the first law is the same as the pleasure of hitting yourself with a hammer — because it feels so much better when you stop.”



    No but seriously, this is totally retarded. Because, you know, longing for your birthday is just like running a marathon on spikes – it’s so much better when you just finally get there, AMIRITE? Man I just want everyday to be my birthday, gratification needs to be instant or everything just sucks. AMIRITE?

    Wouldn’t sex be so much better if you just came on a matter of seconds?

    No but seriously, shittily implemented miyamoto law makes games shitty.

    Well implemented miyamoto law is called “good game design/pacing” and noone takes any particular notice of it because it doesn’t annoy them. Aw goddamnit.

    Also, backtracking can be nice when the places you revisit actually offer a lot of stuff to explore and find. ): LIEK MERTIOD

    Oh what the fuck, guy just doesn’t like metroidvanias, i can get that, but why the hell is he writing an essay on his personal taste

    and why the hell am i reading it?

    fuck this, i backtrack adn doesnt afraid of anything ):<

  • Jad

    Oh, just read the whole thing, article basically reads “bad games are bad, good games have good game design i guess, lol, if bad games had it maybe they’d be good?”

    But I guess there’s merit in that. Still, it’s a bit like writing an article that says that platformers shouldn’t have sloppy control and boring level design. õ __õ Yeah. Um.

  • Paul Eres

    I like backtracking, that’s the heart of exploration games like Knytt and Seiklus. A game without backtracking is just a game rather than a world.

  • soulja

    Ain’t no point to tha games, you just walk around backtracking and shit.

  • Hooker with No BeViS

    @Jad: it’s actually quite positive that you find the main idea presented in the article obvious. And so do I. =)
    The question of course is, do some people think that kind of things at all?

    I mean I can disagree with what was written about Knytt but that is pretty much only becouse the game is short and the fun lasts. Make knytt a last as long as commercial game and the exploration might get pretty dull. Still it’s pretty damn well presented. So yeah. Fuck Love – Knytt is good!

    There’s good metroidvanias sure, but there’s lot of commercial and non commerial ones that are tedious as hell. To me at least. Which made me think what the hell were the makers thinking. So to present a guess to your speculations, why sould anyone write such thing, I can only say: Maybe to make people who are getting in to games think about what might work and what doesn’t.

    No before anyone starts to whine: I’m not saying there is or should be one right way for making games. But It doesn’t hurt to think about them a little.

  • Guy

    Am I the only one that a “design law” sounds like a fallacy?
    Its not newtonien physics, its art. As some people try to claim here. Yet they believe in laws, since when art has laws that determine if they are good or not?

  • Hooker with No BeViS

    @Guy, I can’t believe you’re actually going for it again =)

    Law doesn’t necessary establish a “rule” as in law of the state i.e.

    Even the laws of science like physics are drawn from theories that are then tested to see whether they hold what kind of signifigance. When new and better theory is introduced that either adds to, or proves old wrong, Old could be therefor expanded or discarded.

    Art has always been studied as well, and creating laws and commons is a way to apply a label for phenomenoms that occur frequently. it’ more a figure of a speech than A REAL LAW THAT YOU HAVE TO ABIDE or A LAW THAT BREAKS UNIVERSE IN HALF IF THREATHENED, which is self-explanatory in the case of cultural studies (I can’t belive I actually had to explain this).

    So in other words there’s no laws that determine what is good or not. I have no idea where you got that from.

  • Hooker with No BeViS

    Also, am I the only one who thinks that art doesn’t rule out the possibilities for scientifical thinking. I mean not everyone is Jimi Hendriz and is born with traits like absolute pitch and synaesthesia. In the genre of music what would another musicians without these traits do? Quit?

    No, they study so they can adapt into more different situations – develop a relative pitch.. work to broaden their musical horizons so they can do more different type of things.
    I do not think making games is that different on some level.
    Sure you can do games just by doing them but even thinking about jumping physics makes you work scientifically.

  • Guy

    There is confusing with the term.
    The term of art was classically refering to mastering a skill and for asthetics.
    That is art that stimulates the senses.
    What I was refering to is art that stimulates the mind. Creates emotions in the viewer.
    This sort of art doesn’t have to be very asthetic.
    This is the gameplay art people here have referred to.
    So it has nothing to do with the playing skills of jimi hendrix.
    Art that stimulates the mind, is completly subjective. Each person will have a different experience from the same work of art.
    Therfore there is no absolute standard to measre how good a work of art is in the sense of art I am referring to.
    And therfore, any suggestion that a game will be a better art if you even think of what this person have to tell you about games, is a fallacy.
    Because the experience from art is completely subjective.
    And what one person likes, the other person will hate or be indifferent to.
    Besides, the law as jason describe does not have room for interpertation.
    It says to show the player something he can not do as soon as possible.
    And even if it wasn’t, I find this sort of guide lines to be more harmfull than helpful.
    Of course that there will be situation that showing what a player can’t do, as soon as possible, will be good for the game design.
    But it won’t be good in many other situation, or even in the same game for different types of people.

  • Hooker with No BeViS

    @Guy, so I take it you think music doesn’t simulate mind and everyone hears music exactly the same? O_o what goes for the rest you said: I have absolutely no idea what your talking about? You said “how is it a law” I explained why it was called law.

    You’re now talking whether miayamoto’s law is good or not, on that I can only say, it depends how or where it implemented.


    “Art that stimulates the mind, is completly subjective.”

    So should we compeletely stop funding all the art schools. Stop having art & music classes for kids? Enjoy your ideal world!

  • Hooker with No BeViS

    @Guy, and if you haven’t realized hendrix music involved a lot more than his virtuosity on the instrument so your whole “it’s not comparable”-stand pretty much goes down the drain.

  • Hooker with No BeViS

    @Guy, And since I’m in love with ripping your feeble arguments into shreds like a wild beast I am.. I cannot stop myself..

    “Therfore there is no absolute standard to measre how good a work of art is in the sense of art I am referring to.”

    How can you measure how good a painting is? By how photorealistic it is?
    Not all people enjoy or even try to draw photorealistically – are they failures at start?
    Is there clearly ANY WAY to REALLY measure the VALUE of ANY pice of ART EVER made when you actually think about it?

    Please explain me how it is any different, without jabbering all sorts of unclear nonsense? What is the principle difference? How does this “the art of MIND” separate from “the art of senses”?
    I personally think the whole division is completely unnecessary.

  • Guy

    If the law does not tell me anything about what my implementation should be like, then this law is irrelavent and should be ignored.
    If it does tell me how I should implement my game, then it restricts me to what he thinks makes a game fun to all the people in the world.
    If this law implies that it is fun only to part of the people in the world, then it is a useless law anyway. And I should think for myself what I want to do.
    I have no problem with reading material about game design, about suggestions and etc.
    But there is two things about this kind of material.
    Usually, people who write such suggestions about game design, tell you to take it with a grain of salt.
    That is, you don’t have to agree with the writer’s opinion. And the writer himself admits what he writes does not always work or does not work for all the people the same.
    Secondly, I much prefer an in depth explaination of design aspects, rather than a one line “winner”.

  • Hooker with No BeViS

    @Guy, well its not like you’re writing anything in depth here yourself. And that’s a blog, not a programming book you paid for. No one said you have to agree 100%. I even said I disagree with some points.

    also I find something you write deeply disturbing:
    “If it does tell me how I should implement my game, then it restricts me to what he thinks makes a game fun to all the people in the world.”

    so you’re unable to read a text without completely being forced to do as the text says?

    “If this law implies that it is fun only to part of the people in the world, then it is a useless law anyway.” you think games should be the kind of games ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE should be able to enjoy? That’s impossible and completely in contradiction with your previous statement. This coming from a guy who’s afraid reading some words restrict him from making games he wants to make?
    Jeesus, hey! Do everyone a favour. if you want to please everyone and help everyone – stop making games. Join a humanitarian group! Start saving the world or something! You cannot make a game everyone loves or even likes.. or even less likely you could be able to make ART THAT EVERYONE LOVES!

    You should think what you want to do.

    “If the law does not tell me anything about what my implementation should be like, then this law is irrelavent and should be ignored.”

    It gave you the idea what it is like and you yourself agreed with the writer of the blog that miaymoto’s law isn’t that great. Scroll up it’s there. I don’t get your point? You whine that you like when the law implemented is a suggestion. True, so? Never questioned that. ScrollupScrollupScrollup. It’s there too.

    Then you WHINE becouse the law doesn’t magically command you what your implemention should be like? Jeesus. I haven’t had this much of double standards since you last wrote.

    Anything to win an argument is that it?

  • superflat

    Ooh thanks for putting my interview link up, Derek… Even though it’s a footnote, it meant a lot to me to finally grace the front page of my indie home of choice!

    Interesting discussion re: Metroidvanias, like many niche genres their appeal is polarising. For my part, I enjoy both styles of game – for example I’m loving Siren: Blood Curse at the moment, one of the most linear games of all time, but I’m also getting a real kick out of the Castlevania titles on DS.

    Also must get round to playing Knytt someday…

  • Guy

    Hooker, you relate to me things I didn’t said at all.
    You completely misunderstand what I am saying.
    I don’t see a point continuing to discuss with you about this.

  • Hooker with No BeViS

    Guy, sorry about being a douche, but thank god!

  • Breadcultist

    I like backtracking. I think. I haven’t played a non-linear game in… time.