[Game: Factorio, Wube Software, 2020]
Bug Hunt at Outpost Mine:

An Ecocritical Analysis of Wube Software’s Wildly Addictive Optimization Simulator Factorio

 

Introduction:

Any analysis of the relationship between the player-character and their environment in Factorio must begin with an acknowledgement that Factorio is a game that does considerably more to accurately depict the environmental impact of human industrial development than the vast majority of its peers in the simulation, management, strategy, and puzzle genres.

In Stardew Valley, for instance, not only do forests rapidly regrow and lakes never deplete of fish, but quarries, mines, and caves also replenish with stone and ore from day to day. Similarly, while Infinifactory does periodically foreground topics like mining, exploitation, and waste in its story and puzzle design—it nevertheless provides an infinite supply of inputs that can be accelerated or decelerated at will, even when those inputs are living creatures. Even games like Terraria and Minecraft, which go so far as to represent resource acquisition as a zero sum game, nevertheless depict all processing, combining, and consuming of those resources as a pollution-free, byproduct-free non-zero sum game.

By contrast, in Factorio, resources are finite; resources don’t always combine cleanly into singular products; pollution results from production; and pollution has consequences for both the world and the player. Nevertheless, despite its demonstrable steps in the right direction, Factorio preserves a great many of the negative practical and psychological trends embodied by such optimization- and development-focused titles. In fact, it is precisely because Factorio does so much to emphasize the topics of resource scarcity and pollution that its weaknesses in the realm of environmentalism shine so brightly.

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[Game: Factorio, Wube Software, 2020]
Bug Hunt at Outpost Mine:

An Ecocritical Analysis of Wube Software’s Wildly Addictive Optimization Simulator Factorio

was last modified: April 16th, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Pikmin, Nintendo, 2001]
Thinking, with Pikmin:

Why Pikmin‘s Campaign is Superior to Pikmin 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

 

Introduction:

Pikmin was one of the last few entirely original game concepts produced for Nintendo by Shigeru Miyamoto (the creator of Donkey Kong, Mario, Star Fox, The Legend of Zelda, and more), and it is certainly overshadowed by the worldwide phenomena of his earlier creations. Still, I feel that the original Pikmin is a tremendous game, well worth discussing, and is a very unique approach to the otherwise mostly warfare-focused genre of real-time strategy.

Dedicated readers of this series will probably find the title of this article oddly familiar. That is because it is almost identical to the title of an article I wrote previously about Valve’s Portal franchise. I couldn’t help but notice the similar thesis here, where I am saying that the campaign of a sequel to a distinctive and well-known title is weaker than the original, against the critical consensus, and on the basis of both tone and design. But in this case, I feel that the quality difference is much more pronounced. Whereas I consider Pikmin to be an excellent game deserving of classic status (like both Portal and Portal 2), I find Pikmin 2 to be a stale, stilted, and even at times boring game to play.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling plot details of Pikmin and Pikmin 2, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you do not mind spoilers or have already played the games.

Pikmin screenshot with bulborb and red pikmin - Nintendo, Pikmin 2, comparison, analysis

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[Game: Pikmin, Nintendo, 2001]
Thinking, with Pikmin:

Why Pikmin‘s Campaign is Superior to Pikmin 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

was last modified: November 10th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Defense Grid: The Awakening, Hidden Path Entertainment, 2008]
Towering Tower Defense:

In Praise of the Gameplay, Execution, and Aesthetics of Hidden Path’s Original Defense Grid

 

Defense Grid: The Awakening screenshot with mid-game challenge level - Hidden Path Entertainment - tower defense game

Introduction:

The topic of today’s article is a game which is roughly eight years old, and which resides in the curious genre of tower defense: Defense Grid: The Awakening. I call tower defense a curious genre because the formula of tower defense is a simple one, and yet one which is rather often poorly executed. For this article, I just want to talk about what that formula is, and how Hidden Path managed to impeccably nail it (in addition to doing other things right).

It is amazing to me that Defense Grid is almost a decade old now, as I first played it less than two years ago and, due in no small part to its economical aesthetics, the game still felt fresh and new. In short, it has aged incredibly well so far. Indeed, what is perhaps most striking is the fact that so very many tower defense games have been produced in the eight years since Defense Grid released, which by and large continue to make the same mistakes that Defense Grid so gracefully and thoroughly avoided.

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[Game: Defense Grid: The Awakening, Hidden Path Entertainment, 2008]
Towering Tower Defense:

In Praise of the Gameplay, Execution, and Aesthetics of Hidden Path’s Original Defense Grid

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: The Sentient, Uncaged Studios, 2016]
Galactic Potential:

An Introduction to (and Cursory Assessment of) Uncaged Studios’ The Sentient

 

(The article below remains in its original state for archival purposes, but work on The Sentient was abandoned by its developers in mid-2018, before it was completed and exited early access. As such, I am now forced to recommend that no one purchase the game. – The Gemsbok)

 

The Sentient screenshot with ship overview - Uncaged Studios - early access review

Introduction:

Alright, this is going to be a relatively brief article that doesn’t go into too much detail, as the game in question, Uncaged Studios’ The Sentient, is very early in its early access career. But I wanted to write this preliminary review because I have been rather impressed by what I’ve seen so far. If I could sum it up in one sentence, I would say that The Sentient has accomplished more of the things promised by the developers of Pixel Piracy before entering early access than Pixel Piracy has managed to accomplish in the year since its full release.

As you can tell if you’ve read that earlier article linked above, I am no fan of Pixel Piracy; so why even bother with the comparison? Well, as much as I think Pixel Piracy is a clunky, buggy, superficial, bad-UI-ridden mess of a game, its premise is very strong: you take the exploration and RTS gameplay of FTL, and you add in deeper crew management and ship customization features. And this is exactly what The Sentient does, putting the player in control of a fleet of human scouting parties as they search the galaxy for the means to research, expand, and survive.

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[Game: The Sentient, Uncaged Studios, 2016]
Galactic Potential:

An Introduction to (and Cursory Assessment of) Uncaged Studios’ The Sentient

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Pixel Piracy, Quadro Delta, 2015]
Swashbuckling Bored:

The Bad Design Choices, Game-breaking Bugs, and Superficial Execution of Quadro Delta’s Pixel Piracy

 

Introduction:

I have previously written, on more than one occasion, about games with simple premises or gimmicky attributes, which succeed due to the high quality of their execution. Today I would like to talk about a game with a great, interesting premise that fails due to the low quality of its actual design and execution. Pixel Piracy, a pirate-based RTS RPG with roguelike elements, is a game that was in an abysmal state at launch, but which has come a long way since then; the problem is that it has come nowhere near far enough, and does not seem likely to ever do so.

One of my biggest problems with the game is that its most grievous flaws are not apparent to the player until after a few hours in-game. In fact, Pixel Piracy is almost enjoyable, if a little repetitive, for almost half of its campaign. At that point, however, the small cracks widen into crevices, into which fall all of your hopes of ever completing the game with a positive opinion of it. I have completed the main campaign, and it was no easy task to do so (although the gameplay is easy as cake, the game’s technical problems and repetitive design made progress difficult). Now let me discourage you from doing the same.

Pixel Piracy screenshot visual effects comparison - Quadro Delta - negative review - criticism

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[Game: Pixel Piracy, Quadro Delta, 2015]
Swashbuckling Bored:

The Bad Design Choices, Game-breaking Bugs, and Superficial Execution of Quadro Delta’s Pixel Piracy

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski