Interesting Articles: Storytelling in games, without the stress

A while ago, I read this article on Games Radar that I shared on Twitter because it really struck a chord with me:

https://www.gamesradar.com/take-note-developers-somas-new-safe-mode-is-an-essential-option-for-players-who-value-storytelling-over-stress

The author, Alex Avard, writes about a new game mode which was added to Frictional’s game, Soma, called ‘Safe Mode’. This was a new game mode in which players could enjoy the game without the fear of getting hurt, and was added to the game post-release following player feedback; the game was that difficult for some players, there was even a mod called ‘Wuss Mode’ was created for it.

I’ve never played Soma, but it sounded like one bloody-hard game, and one I probably wouldn’t get on with. I struggle to get on with games that are long or difficult nowadays because I simply don’t have the mental energy or motivation to play them (after ~8 hours at work, a child to take care of, a house to maintain, trying to squeeze in some semblance of a fitness regime in, and the insane drive to work on personal projects and this blog, you do find yourself to be a little tired in the evenings).

And whilst I’ve accepted that, I’m slightly saddened by it too because I feel like I miss out on the amazing stories these games may tell, and the joy of examining the design features that I use to relish in doing in my younger days.

But with the addition of this new mode, I feel like Soma is a game that I could actually play infrequently and would actually be able to get through without getting stressed out about it.

The reason I like this article is because it was familiar to what I encountered when trying to play Final Fantasy XV.

I love the Final Fantasy franchise, with FFIX being my absolute favourite, and I was so excited for this game. I bought the special edition FFXV PS4 console that came with the game and the companion movie on blu-ray, and started playing it. I struggled with the combat initially, and found myself getting lost in side missions (as you do in FF games), and then I found myself not playing the game for a couple of weeks or so afterwards.

When I booted up the game again, I was completely lost, and I couldn’t remember how to fight or what any of the controls were; I died or came close to dying so frequently that I just didn’t have the energy or motivation to keep going.

I was gutted; The movie that came on the Blu-ray with the game was great and I thought it tied well into the start of the game. I was also interested in the DLC about each of the other characters too. But if I couldn’t fight the battles, then I couldn’t progress in the game, and I wouldn’t be able to find out what happens in the story.

That was until they released Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition. This made so happy! The combat was simplified, and with that I could pick it up anytime and play without the worry of forgetting what the controls are.

This was a revelation, and whilst I accept that this won’t work for all games, I really do hope that other developers take it into consideration; not everyone can sink the time and effort into a long and heavy game, or have the capacity to engage in complex battles and systems with enemies, so it would be a shame for those who fall into these camps to miss out on these amazing games.

There’s the argument that if you lose the combat or intensity, then it’ll sacrifice the thrill, fear, or sense of urgency in the game. But just as Alex had explained in the article: Soma still had it’s scare element, because players were able to experience more of the fear from the environment and the story, that was previously being overlooked because if the overburdening enemies.

And I feel the same goes for FFXV Pocket Edition; simplifying the combat and creating a more direct experience didn’t make the story or experience any less engaging or emotive (at least in my opinion anyway)

It’ll be great to hear your thoughts on this too:

  • Do you find it frustrating when there’s a game you’re interested in playing but can’t because of the worry that the difficulty would ruin the experience for you?
  • Or have you started a game that you were so excited to play, but were unable to finish it because of it’s difficulty or that it wasn’t and easy game to pick up again after a hiatus?

Leave a comment or get in touch with your thoughts on this.

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