So, it’s Borderlands 2.5 time!  I’m about 16 hours in, taking my time.

How is it?  It’s very Borderlandsy. That’s a relief, since it’s made by a different studio, and we’ve seen that not work so well. But 2K Australia has got the basic elements: the gorgeous visuals, the shooting and looting, the over-the-top characters, the redneck humor.

More things to accidentally drive into!

More things to accidentally drive into!

In terms of gameplay, the big things are the reduced gravity, allowing you to jump up and deal down death from above, and the oxygen mechanic. The O2 is done just about right: it’s rarely onerous (there are frequent O2 fields, and enemies drop canisters), but it provides a light constraint that will sometimes affect your decisionmaking. The jumps are fun; you can also slam down onto the ground, which I haven’t mastered yet. You can also use the oxygen to glide, which takes some getting used to.

There’s also a hovercraft, not like the skimmers from the BL2 DLC, but one that can actually go up in the air, which adds to the theme of verticality. There’s also lasers and guns that freeze your enemies solid.  Oh, and what are basically Portal 2 aerial faith plates (complete with a similar sound effect)

The story this time is set on that big Hyperion space station, and then on the moon, Elpis– which turns out to be populated by Australians. The accents are adorable. More cheekily, they’ve made Handsome Jack from BL2 into a good guy, more or less. Mostly less. He’s a mid-level Hyperion guy, who you have to rescue from an attack on the space station, and who then helps you save Elpis from the pirates who took it over and, for some reason, want to destroy the moon with a giant laser. And you play what were minor villains in BL2: Nisha the sheriff, Wilhelm the cyborg, Athena the assassin. Or a more than usually crazy Claptrap.

So far they’ve handled this very well, principally by keeping Jack’s basic character: he’s a total asshole. The arrogance, the sadism, the amorality, the fratboy pleasure in exercising power, are all there– they just haven’t focused yet into complete psychopathy. They didn’t Anikinize him into an actual nice guy.

I’ve been playing as Nisha, whose skill is a few seconds of auto-aim and high damage– not quite as fun as the Siren powers, but not bad. (It’s not entirely skill-less– she won’t fire at enemies behind you or otherwise out of sight.) I’m eager to try Claptrap, too.

(sound of Western music)

(sound of Western music)

The PCs talk more than in any previous BL. I think all you got in BL1/2 was a few grunts, plus comments when they leveled up or got a critical hit. Nisha talks back to Jack and to quest givers, and I think this makes everybody seem more human. It turns out that a silent protagonist really isn’t more immersive.

The level design is notable for not holding your hand too much. There are multiple routes through any one installation, and buildings you can choose to explore or not. You can get a little lost sometimes, but I like the move away from railroading.

I only have some minor complaints. They took away the “junk” icon– you can still sell all your junk at once, but you do this by marking “favorites”, which seems backwards to me. Some of the vehicle jumps don’t work well. I’d also have to say that Nina, who replaces Dr. Zed, is rather a clumsy stereotype.

Oh, and I still resent the price… $60 is steep, though I’d’ve happily paid $50. But Borderlands is about the only game on my must-buy-now list. Arkham Knight comes close, but there I can wait for a sale.

One more thing… again based on the first 16 hours, the game seems easier than BL2. The boss fights haven’t been as hard, and though you can face a bunch of bandits at once, it’s also rarely hard to find some cover to recover your shield.

Let’s start with the positive: this is an enchanting game for about the first 20 hours. The art style has a distinctive, toylike blockiness; the environments are big and varied; and as in Borderlands, there’s an endless stream of weapons and skills to try.

Are you a friendly steampunk monster?  No, huh?

Are you a friendly steampunk monster? No, huh?

It’s really a lot like Torchlight, except that rather than one near-endless dungeon (35 levels!), there’s a wide world, itself full of monsters, plus a number of smaller dungeons.  So, you still have several playable classes, a mixture of magic, swords, and guns, a pet who’ll fight alongside you and who will sell your loot back in town, fish to change the pet temporarily into another creature, portal scrolls to go back to town.  And the game consists of bundling through the rooms, blowing away a wide range of enemies, collecting gold, and evaluating loot.

Also as in Borderlands, the player characters from the first game have become NPCs in the sequel. Indeed, one of them has gone evil, and is the penultimate boss.

Your basic attacks (LMB) are supplemented by skills and magic– i.e., some of these use mana and some don’t. You can assign any of these to RMB, as well as to 0-9. I played as an Outlander– essentially a rogue, specializing in ranged weapons– and didn’t have much trouble anywhere in the game. If you like a skill, you can improve it by adding skill points; you won’t have enough points to try everything, much less max them all out.

A hint for the last two bosses: have plenty of health potions on hand. I had 71 going into the final dungeon, and used about 30. It’s really easy to run down your health bar quickly. (However, the boss doesn’t regenerate HP, so if you die you don’t have to replay the whole fight.) Mana potions are a little less important, as you can always just get out of range for a few seconds, but grab a few extra.

On the negative side… well, the last 15 hours or so were a chore. I never finished the first Torchlight: all the levels started to feel the same. And though the environments are more varied here, it’s pretty repetitive. It’s never terribly hard– even the final bosses go down quickly under a barrage of skill-spam– just remember to watch your health bar.

Also, it seemed that after a certain point, I only rarely got any loot worth keeping. Part of this is because you can add enchantments, and gems with their own enchantments. So I was making a lot of comparisons like this:


That’s a final boss item, and it only does 2/3 of the damage of the bow I’d had for many levels. The whole slots and enchantments thing is expensive and makes it hard to switch weapons– which in turn erodes most of the fun of finding loot. It’s OK if most loot is trash, but this kind of game really needs the feeling that the next chest might contain a really insane weapon.

The other problem is that the game is nearly characterless. There’s a plot– evil guy is gonna destroy the world– booring. No characters are memorable, no quests are quirky, there’s very little to care about. Plus, no jokes. Torchlight had its moments (check out the Sword of Adam in the link above), but Torchlight II, for all the cartoonishness of the art, is deadly serious. Maybe they figured they couldn’t top Dungeons of Dredmor.

Now, there’s also co-op, and maybe that changes everything. A lot of games really shine only when you’re messing around with friends. I have a good gaming group, and yet the only thing we play consistently is TF2, so I rarely get the change to try multiplayer in games.

When you finish, you can either replay it at a higher difficulty level, or play a bunch of random dungeons. I tried one, which was not hard, and also built up my distressingly low gold resources.  But I don’t see myself playing through the whole set.

I’ve written a lot about Fallout 3/NV, but not in a consolidated way. So here’s some thoughts on why Fallout 3 is the best open world game.

more like Nuka-Cola Futurity, 'cos you're dead

more like Nuka-Cola Futurity, ‘cos you’re dead

  • It’s got a killer theme: the devastation of nuclear war. Fallout tells us that war never changes, but it’s wrong. Before 1800, the European great powers engaged in near-constant wars, not least because they were rarely fought to the complete destruction of one side. From Napoleon on, great power war is played for much higher stakes, and is thus rarer. And nuclear war, which can destroy civilization, is so terrifying that even politicians can see they’re a bad idea.

    Fallout uses it as a background for a game, of course, and it embraces the ’50s-sf-movie style of radiation as a form of magic, giving us mutated giant animals and maybe superpowers. But it also viscerally communicates the horror of devastation in a way no impassioned editorial could. It gives everything a little punch and pathos that you’ll never get in Tamriel.

  • It’s gorgeous. There’s nothing quite like that opening reveal, when the vault opens, you’re blinded by the sun you’ve never seen before, and you look over the destroyed, strangely beautiful, enticingly new landscape.

    (I’m sorry, I don’t like the bird’s-eye-view-of-tiny-little-characters genre, so Fallout 1/2 don’t appeal to me.)

  • Bethesda creates the best first ten levels in video games. You want to progress and unlock the good guns and get your skills above 20 and not cave like a Radroach when the nearest bandit plugs you– but savor it, because you’re in the maximum fun zone. You’ll enjoy those bigger guns, but there’s nothing quite like the tension of facing a ruinful of bandits with rapidly dwindling ammo and not enough Stimpaks. Plus everything is still new and a short walk in any direction can give you three new quests.
  • Many games have beautiful level design, but it’s just set design for you to look at as you blitz past. Not here. Few other games create such a interactable, livable world.
    A knife is a good way to interact with bandits

    A knife is a good way to interact with bandits

    You can talk to anyone, at least anyone who’s not trying to kill you. There’s lore to find in every computer terminal and recording tape. Almost all the junk strewn about the map can be picked up, and even the lowliest bits can be used for something: people will pay you for scrap metal, cola bottles, holotags, pre-war books, and certain body parts, while everyday junk can be recycled into weapons. You’ll eventually get the opportunity to own your own house, which you can decorate it as you like. And it really will feel like your own little place in the Wasteland.

  • You can do as you like. The game booklet– I got F3 as a physical package, so there was a game booklet– tells you that you can follow Liam Neeson’s trail, or you can strike off on your own. And you can! There’s a huge world to explore, and people to meet, and other people to shoot. And your choices accumulate, and affect the world.
  • F3 has a quirky underbelly. The main quest includes the Twilight Zone weirdness of Tranquility Lane as well as a talkative Super-Mutant. And President Eden, with the mellifluous voice and delusions of still running the country.
    Now playing at the Museum of History.

    Now playing at the Museum of History.

    Then there’s things like the Republic of Dave, the vampires, the lesbian ghoul couple, Three Dog (because two dogs aren’t enough), Little Lamplight, the Mysterious Stranger perk, Tinker Joe and his robot companions, homages to classic comic books and Lovecraft, and Bethesda’s own studios.

  • It respects your choices. It’s illuminating to read the Fallout wiki on, say, the initial mission. There are a lot of branching paths– many of them involving things it would never occur to me to do. You can be the Wasteland’s greatest monster, or its savior.
  • The world is rich enough that you can make your own story. I did a whole playthrough concentrating on collecting bobbleheads.
    Got the intact garden gnome too

    Got the intact garden gnome too

    You could make it your mission to eradicate those annoying Talon ops, or blowing up slavers.

  • It has one of gaming’s cleverest tutorials. It starts with your birth– a natural time to choose your sex and appearance. You appear as an infant– perhaps the only game where the character is learning WASD at the same time you are. I wouldn’t want every game to do this, but it gets you through the basics while respecting immersion, and setting up the main story.

I greatly enjoyed Oblivion, but F3 is a far superior game: looks better, quests are deeper, theme is more involving. And though Skyrim is even prettier, it’s hard for me to get past the bland medievalness.

What about Fallout New Vegas? Well, overall, it’s more Fallout, and it has improved game mechanics (and a little more openness about sex), so that’s great. But I prefer F3, though that’s probably a minority opinion. It has poor voice acting, it’s more railroaded, and the middle of the game bogs down in endless gabbing. New Vegas itself, though initially impressive, is unconvincing: it seems dead and dull, not a hive of activity and depravity. Also, its plot deals with how you reestablish things after an apocalypse. That’s a great theme but it’s not explored in any interesting way (Caesar’s Legion is a boring answer to the question).

But FNV redeems itself in DLC. The four DLCs tell much more compelling stories than the main game. By contrast, F3’s DLCs are a bit meh, except for the refreshingly amoral Point Lookout.

I created a Steam curation page which consolidates just about all the game reviews from this blog. You can get the same effect by using the Games link over on the right, but in case Steam Curating is the next big thing, I want in on it.

Lego Batman 2 was on sale recently, so I picked it up.  In brief: the main story is fun and very cute; the open world bit is only half cooked.

Where should I stand to press G?

Where should I stand to press G?

I’ve never played one of these Lego games before, so here’s how that works: the characters are made of Legos. So are part but not all of their surroundings– in general, the Lego bits are the things you can interact with, which is a pretty clever bit of design signaling.  (If you’ve played the others, apparently it’s a big thing that in this one the characters talk.)

A level basically consists of a series of obstacles, to be solved by the characters’ special abilities. E.g. you might use Batman’s batarangs to destroy something out of reach, or Robin’s acrobatics to climb, or Superman’s super-breath to turn water into ice (which can be traversed). It looks like it’s optimized for two-player co-op, but it’s quite easy to play solo– there’s a key press to switch characters. At first you only get Batman and Robin, but later you get Superman and then a whole slew of heroes. The puzzles are designed so that you have to switch frequently.

Sometimes when you destroy something, they can rebuild the Lego pieces into something else. Often this is a suit dispenser: jump on it and Batman or Robin changes into a different outfit with new powers. In the screenshot, Bats is wearing his Electrical Suit, which lets him walk through electrified areas and power devices up or down.

The story levels are a lot of fun. The designers have worked hard to make the game look and act like a set of toys: the characters waddle around cutely, they look pleased as punch when they change suits, when a character dies it shatters into blocks, and you are encouraged to mindlessly destroy things. If you die yourself, you respawn right there, so it’s never a real setback. Most of the time it’s fairly clear what to do; I am not very good at the sort of thinking required and had to consult a walkthrough.

The game was evidently designed for consoles, so it comes with a pretty horrible set of controls– all keys, no mouse. I had to remap just about everything to have it make sense. (I recommend using the arrow keys for movement, using space for jump and E for action as in sanely designed games, then using T for tag and G for ‘special’. Then you move with the right hand and do stuff with the left.) There aren’t many controls, and most are explained in-game, but they neglected to tell you how to punch things (it’s Action, the one I remapped to E).

After the Asylum mission you can wander Gotham City as you like. The walkthrough suggested that you wait till the story mode is over before doing so, as there’s a lot you can’t do till you’ve unlocked all the basic heroes. This is bad advice, because the story missions are the best part, and you shouldn’t rush through them.

In any case, the main mission took me about 15 hours. After this you can roam Gotham and pick up new characters.

Robin and Catwoman on a date at the carnival

Robin and Catwoman on a date at the carnival

This part of the game is frankly disappointing. For one thing, you have to buy each character– not with real money, but with the studs you’ve collected by destroying Lego objects. This was a strange design decision, because it’s easy to run out of studs, so you can’t collect more heroes till you go on a rampage. And busting up objects, in the quantities needed to collect 50 characters, is not that fun.

There’s a lot to do– climb buildings as Robin, rescue citizens, drive or boat around. But it feels like you have to run a round quite a bit to find these diversions. Finding the unlockable characters sounds like it should be a great time– each one is slightly different– but for the most part the fights are too easy and the payoff is low. (One exception is Lex Luthor, who you want for his special gun that destroys black Lego objects, which no other character can do.) Plus if you defeat them and you don’t have enough studs, you’re out of luck, which is a strange punishment for the game to apply.

So, it’s fun to run around for awhile changing characters, but actually unlocking everyone and finding all the collectibles doesn’t seem very attractive. I think they would have done a lot better to have fewer characters, but more challenging mini-levels to get through to unlock them.  Or have more character-specific things to do, like the Robin acrobatics diversions.

Story mode has a story, by the way.  It’s pretty good, as Batman stories go. Probably the best thing about it is the interaction between grumpy Batman and cocky jocky Superman. It lightly pokes fun at their relationship, and yet it actually creates a character arc for the game, which is more than you might expect in a kids’ version of DC.

To my surprise, I’ve been playing League of Legends for over a month now. With an ordinary game I’d be a guru; with Mobas this means you’re still a bright green noob, but you understand the basic mechanics and have some favorite champions.

Sometimes fans come up with awesome game variants. In TF2 we occasionally play all melee, or maybe all one class, which can be a blast. LOL players came up with All Random All Mid, which means random champions fighting it out only in the mid lane. Riot turned this into an actual game mode. To make it even more deathmatchy, you start at level 3 and generate mana faster, but don’t heal if you return to base. And to lower the pain of having to play champions you suck at, you can trade before the game with other players, and have a limited ability to re-roll.


It’s a lot of fun. I’ve actually played far more ARAM than the normal game, and I recommend it to newcomers, for two reasons:

  • It’s faster and lower-key. People understand that you may be playing champions you haven’t mastered. Plus there’s far less strategy. “Stay together and try to hit the enemy” is almost all the plan you need.
  • The random process is biased toward champions you’ve played, or own, though it throws in new ones too. So it’s an excellent way to learn the frigging huge array of champions. In normal games, even with matchmaking geared to your level, there’s less tolerance for trying someone new.

My first loves are still Jinx, Ashe, and Sona. But in ARAM I’ve also done well with Quinn, Anivia, Heimerdinger, Nasus, Sivir, Karthus, and Amumu.

Today I realized why, when I play with my friend Ash, I seem to suck more. It’s because he’s a far higher-level player, so the matchmaking finds better opponents. E.g., last night in one of our games, I was Nasus, and had a dispiriting 1/16/16 record. But then I happened to play Nasus in a game with my peers, and dominated: 16/4/31. So if you’re playing with much better friends, be aware of this tradeoff: it’s more companionable but you’re going to be reminded how much you’ve still got to learn.

Champions all share the same basic controls: mouse2 for basic attack, Q/W/E for their main spells, and R for their ultimate (a powerful spell with a long cooldown). At first you can use the strategy “spam QWE and use R when you can”, but of course you need to be smarter, and understand your champions. E.g. Nasus’s Q is very distinctive: each time he gets a kill, it gets more powerful. That means you want to spend a good deal of the early game carefully hitting Q just before killing a minion– since you don’t get the upgrade if you merely hurt them. In a normal game you might spend 10-15 minutes doing this, but even in ARAM you want to spend some time at it.

With Nasus it can be very effective to first hit E to produce an area of effect damage (but be wary: players at my level are dumb enough to stay in it taking damage, but higher-level players aren’t), then W to slow down a champion, and Q to hopefully finish him off. As always in ARAM, don’t try to play solo; hit with your team.

Jinx has an entirely different strategy. Her W is a rocket with one of the longest ranges in the game, effective for harassing from a distance. E sends out some “chompers”, stationary mines which hurt and slow enemies; this can be used for area denial, thinning out a crowd, or slowing down a pursuer. Her R is an infinite-range rocket, which ideally is used to take out an enemy from across the map; it’s particularly effective on ARAM where enemies conveniently group themselves in a line. I didn’t understand or use her Q for a long time; it switches to a minigun that’s very powerful at close range. You want to use it only when enemies are near death, to finish them off.

How do you learn all this? Reading guides and watching videos can help, but there’s nothing like playing a lot, and seeing what works and what doesn’t. And again, ARAM is best for experimenting.


Recently LOL introduced a temporary game mode called Ascension. I enjoyed it a lot though I never got good at it. I did have one perfect game playing as Sona, screen-capped above. Sona’s Q is an area-of-effect damage, W heals her and nearby allies, and E moves faster; her R immobilizes enemies. We stayed in a close knot, I spammed Q and W almost constantly, and we ruled: team score 200-107, kills 64-28, four ascensions on our side, none on theirs. (But this was exceptional– Ash says that Ascension rewards jungler/assassin champions, and I’m not good at any of those.)

I did have a moment of glory in another Ascension game. The mode has a boss, and if you defeat him you assume his powers– you Ascend. The best strategy is to let the other team wear him down, then attack them and finish off the boss. The enemy team was battling the boss alone, and as Jinx, I sashayed in and got the last hit and the Ascension. Moments like that can make up for a string of losses…

Riot has an interesting monetization strategy: they make most of their money selling skins and other things that don’t directly affect gameplay.  (You can buy champions either with real money or with experience points, so they make money off of impatience.)  I read an article which pointed out that they could make far more money with pay-to-win.  But they prefer to keep their fans happy, which strikes me as a far better long-term strategy.  (Still, buying skins is a little disappointing: your character is so small on the screen that it’s hardly worth bothering.)

Yahtzee Croshaw not only does hilarious animated reviews of video games, he writes columns too, did you know?  His latest column is about gender diversity in video games, and it’s an excruciating near-miss.

All games do need a fatness slider

All games do need a fatness slider

The problems start with the title: “Should every game allow you to choose your gender?” Which is a straw man (and not a straw woman). No one has asked for that.  Many games are telling a story about a particular character– Batman, Chell, Sam & Max, Jade, Corvo, Lara– and it’s OK for particular characters to have a gender.  It’s when the character is Generic Space Marine or Generic Spaceship Captain or Generic Zombie Hunter or Generic Swordsperson that there is no reason to limit the player to one gender.

But it hardly matters if a choice of gender is merely aesthetic and means nothing to the game, because it can still mean something to the audience.

Here’s where Yahtzee almost gets it.  Yes, Skyrim doesn’t care if your adventurer is male or female, but it means something to the player. And you don’t have to have AAA studio resources to handle this; games as simple as Dungeons of Dredmor and Don’t Starve allow it.

…it might not be possible to separate a character from their gender. James Sunderland from Silent Hill 2 springs to mind, as a central theme of that game is frustrated male sexuality.

Ah, the GTAIV excuse– they had to have three male characters because they were “exploring masculinity”. Like just about every other damn game.  It’s not horrible to have one more male fantasy hero– it’s just extremely well trodden ground. And trying to use the game to subvert the standard male fantasy hero does not really work as well as some designers think. Your game is what the player spends 90% of their time doing, not whatever contrary thematic material you add at the end or in cutscenes. If what the player is doing is shooting, you’ve made a shooter, not a clever deconstruction of shooters.

Perhaps this confirms the existence of a lack of diversity, but I’m not sure how to fix that. Game developers do remain predominantly male through no fault of their own, and asking them, from a male perspective, to make games about a female perspective, would probably produce something rather disingenuous.

This is what we might call a Chestertonian objection… Yahtzee is being clever, but it’s still a silly rationalization. For one thing, it’s hardly a weird radical idea for men to write female characters.  They’ve been doing it for three thousand years.  It’s something an artist should be able to do. And many games do it very well!  No one complains that FemShep, or Portal 2‘s Glados, or  Ragnar Tørnquist‘s April Ryan, are grotesquely unbelievable; quite the opposite.

Plus, you don’t know how to fix it? How about hiring female developers? Kim Swift led the team that created the well-beloved Portal; Rhianna Pratchett was the key writer on Mirror’s Edge and Tomb Raider; Roberta Williams created the King’s Quest games.

I know that it’s very easy for me, a white dude, to say that about a white-dude-dominated industry. But I don’t buy the argument that biological similarities like race or gender strongly affect whether or not the player identifies with a character.

I’m a white dude too, which is why I defer to non-whites and non-dudes on whether they identify with white dude characters. And what they report is pretty consistent: if you’re not a white dude, you have to identify with white dude characters, but you’d like to not always have to.

Yahtzee reports that he identifies more with Lara Croft than with Kratos. That’s lovely, but Lara is still a rarity– Yahtzee is not often called upon, as a gamer, to trot out his empathy skills. Non-white or non-male gamers have to do it all the time, and it gets tiring.

Plus, many of us like to see the world from other people’s perspective. I like playing female characters, and I’ve argued that they make better player characters anyway.

I don’t think that hero-damsel enforces misogyny. After all, the protagonist, the male, is the one who has it worst. He’s the one who has to put himself at pain, and even die, over and over again, in an endless cycle of torment, for the benefit of the women.

Another Chestertonian paradox. But Yahtzee seems to have forgotten that he’s talking about games– there is no pain and no death involved, he is not sacrificing himself for the pixels arranged to form a female NPC. If you’re not trying to make cute arguments, it’s obvious that the hero-damsel trope is a male power fantasy. It’s designed to make males happy; females, not so much. And that’s precisely the problem: it’s a trope that alienates half your audience.

It’s not hard to understand that people like to enact a fantasy of being the rescuer. But it shouldn’t take Boddhisatva levels of empathy to understand that being rescued feels very different, and isn’t much of a fantasy at all. Plus, how many times in your life, past toddlerhood, have you had to be rescued? It’s really tone deaf of Yahtzee to imagine that this trope is somehow doing women a favor.

And if I object to that, it’s because it’s lazy, and tired [...]. Hero-damsel isn’t trying, it’s too easy.

This is where he almost gets it. Yes, it’s a tired, lazy old trope. But so is, say, red meaning “stop” or “blood”, or tutorial dungeons having giant rats and goblins, or a reversal at the end of Act I. Some tropes are old and good; some are shallow but extremely narratively convenient; some should be shaken up now and then to add variety. But some are past their sell-by date– they’re narrative survivals from a time when attitudes were much more regressive. It’s good to reject them for being hackneyed; it’s also good to reject them because they’re insulting and offensive.

I do think it’s true that games could use more diversity. But when I say that, I mean diversity of ideas, thoughtfulness, and perspectives. And that takes a whole lot more than just numerically equalizing the ham sandwiches to the sausage rolls.

Another almost-gets-it moment, followed by another straw man.

Where do you think diversity of perspectives come from? From diverse people. Put a bunch of white dudes in a room, and you’ll get some variation, but you’ll get more if you add people from other genders, races, and cultures. It’s strange and frustrating to see Yahtzee take this position, when half his reviews are scathing rants about the sameness of most games. Put it together, man. Put the same white dudes in the same room all the time, and what do you think will come out?

Of course, diversity in the HR sense isn’t the only way to get new ideas. But it’s a pretty good way to start, and if you take it seriously, it’s an excellent corrective to the groupthink and conventionalism that produce cookie-cutter games.

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