Oh man, I knew that article would be mentioned eventually. I have some time to kill right now and not much else besides a web browser, so let's talk about it then!
I'm guessing that many icycalm fans are doing a complete 180 on how they feel about scoring right about now... considering that he once wrote this about Ketsui:
Nope, always generally felt this way about scoring -- the essay just makes it clearer, stronger, and more specific for me (as well as proposing solutions to the issue, etc.)
And to answer the contradiction on Ketsui (the review, btw, was written about 5 years ago -- people tend to change their minds on things over time), here are some posts he recently made on Insomnia which should more than cover it (edited together into a few huge quote blocks, because they're actually around 20 or so posts made over time, etc.):
Okay, it's time to get around to answering zinger's opening post. The Pong review is three-quarters done but it doesn't look I'll be able to finish it today, so I am going to switch gears and tackle this in-between cooking some pasta and other stuff. It will be stream-of-consciousness and probably broken up among several posts as I eat, etc., but I am sure most people will get the gist of it.
First off, you need to understand why these comments did not go in the essay. They did not go in the essay because the purpose of the essay was to DESTROY scoring (and also, by extension, the cyber"athletics" and second-loop, alternate mode, newgame+ fagotries to which it ultimately leads), consequently anything that could DETRACT from this goal had to be cut. Even the last couple of paragraphs on the positive effects of cerebral genres were shoehorned in at the last moment and with some hesitation, because I didn't want to give anyone who wanted to defend scoring anything to hold on to, or ammunition to use against me.
That is not to say that the positive comments on cerebral games or what I am about to post here CAN be used to defend scoring -- what I am saying is that these comments could very easily be MISused to defend scoring, because, if you are dense and not capable of understanding the difference between theory and practice, you could misconstrue them to do so.
So I am going to analyze here the entire immediate PRACTICAL dimension of the issue, whose implications zinger did not fully grasp (since his post implies that he simply stopped playing for score, which as I will be explaining here is not quite a very good idea), and then I'll probably end up reshaping these formulations and adding them to the "Notes on the Arcade Culture" essay in Volume II, which will include a number of random discussions on the topic, including Recap's "correct" way to 1CC, etc.
So why is it a bad idea to completely stop playing for score?
First thing you need to understand here is the difference between theory and practice. Theory is a kind of practice, and practice a kind of theory, but the difference is that practice is concerned with IMMEDIATE things and actions, whereas theory for the FUTURE. So my essay explained why scoring systems in videogames with stage progression is a bad idea (except for transitional titles like Pac-Man, etc.), but that is an almost entirely different issue than the one we are faced with when we ALREADY have a game in front of us -- say, Mushihime-sama Futari -- and are trying to figure out what is the best way to play it in order to extract the maximum of enjoyment from it.
Here is an example outside of shooting games, so that more people will understand it. The first stages in Halo are awesome, but the later ones suck balls. Therefore, from a THEORY perspective, which is not really concerned with Halo but with A HALO SEQUEL, the later stages should be completely removed (at least if it's not for whatever reason possible to significantly improve them). But when we say this, we don't mean that someone should turn back time and remove the later stages from Halo and release it with only the first ones (since this is not only physically impossible, but even undesirable, since we only LEARNED that it's best to remove the later stages BY PLAYING THEM) -- all we are doing is setting down the PRINCIPLES by which FUTURE games in the Halo mold should be made in order to MAXIMIZE pleasure.
But all of that has nothing to do with two dudes sitting in front of their TV and trying to have as much fun as possible with Halo. For first off, the dudes have no idea that the later stages suck before actually playing them. Second off, when they get to the FIRST stage that sucks, they have no idea if the NEXT stage will also suck, or if things will end up improving there. And moreover, even if they know, from some other trustworthy source, that all the later stages suck, that means IN COMPARISON TO THE FIRST ONES -- not that there's absolutely NO PLEASURE AT ALL to be had from playing them.
See what I am saying here?
So in the specific case of Halo, the criticism/theory (and they work the exact same way here, because criticism is also not really ever concerned with its object, but always with the optimal method to construct similar future objects) would say that the game would have been better off if the later stages had not been included, whereas the best advice on how to play the game (which would again come from the critic, of course, i.e. from me) would be to play them with a friend in co-op, because at least then you can run through them faster (and thus experience less tedium), by piggybacking on each other's deaths (i.e. players dying and respawning in succession, so that they are always moving forward), instead of in single-player, where every death sends you back to the last checkpoint, and thus, if you are playing in Legendary, or even Heroic, it could take you fucking days to get through it -- IF you could stomach the tedium of those endless featureless corridors and identikit attack scenarios -- which I wouldn't be able to, which is why I am advocating the co-op tactic.
That does NOT mean that that fucking retarded co-op tactic is a good way around which to design a game, or even to just simply play it. If you play a great game like that, or, even worse, if you DESIGN your game with that idea in mind, YOU ARE RUINING IT. But in the specific case of the later stages of Halo, assuming you WANT to play them, and you don't just want to turn off the console when you reach them (which you understandably are not going to want to, since you ARE, after all, immersed in this game's high-immersion world, and would like some kind of closure before leaving it), then this is the best way to do it.
And here's an even more tangible example.
The theory says that eating fast food is bad for you. In ideal conditions no one should ever eat fast food; there is absolutely no reason to do so and you'd have nothing to gain by it; on the contrary, you'll only be harming your health.
And yet, when I was in Stockholm last year, there were a couple of nights that I didn't make the "kitchen closing" time of their retarded restaurants (something like 10pm lol), and was forced to eat McDonalds, BECAUSE I SIMPLY HAD NO OTHER OPTION. I can't even remember the last time I ate McDonalds, I think it was sometime around '96 or so in my student days, and even then only because I was dragged there by people with whom I'd gone out. And yet there I was in Stockholm last year, ordering two double cheesburgers with fries, etc., drenched with salt to the point of not being able to taste anything, because I couldn't stand the idea of going to bed on an empty stomach (I wouldn't have been able to sleep, or at least to sleep well, which would probably have been even more harmful to my health than eating McDonald's).
So the subhumans would immediately come out and say LOOK HE'S EATING FAST FOOD -- ALL HIS TALK ABOUT FAST FOOD BEING BAD FOR YOU WAS PURE POSING.
But as I hope everyone should be able to understand by now, that is pure nonsense.
Let's now take a shooting game, to start getting back to zinger, and let's pick a generally well-known one so more people can follow. Take Giga Wing, for instance. Now Giga Wing is a very aesthetically awkward game, which can even be called downright ugly, if you want to be mean about it. So being immersed inside its fairly ugly stages is not exactly a huge incentive to keep playing it. Moreover, due to the charge-shield mechanic, it's not a very hard game either (which in this specific case is good, by the way, since a hard AND ugly game is a bad idea, since the ugliness gives you one more reason to NOT put up with its difficulty, etc.)
BUT, here's where the scoring system comes in. By using the shield at the exact point when the screen is full of bullets, you can turn the bullets into medals. You can practically flood the screen with medals if you know what you are doing. Then you collect the medals and your score shoots up exponentially.
Now, from a theory perspective, all this shit is fucking retarded. WTF bullets turn into medals? I mean even in comic books, where basically anything goes, you will never see a panel with a spaceship in outer space surrounded by fucking medals -- even fucking comic book writers can't pull this stunt off while maintaining suspension of disbelief -- so what the medalling fagotry does is basically DESTROY the immersion factor of the game, AT LEAST FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE AESTHETICALLY SENSITIVE AND NOT AUTISTIC ASPIES.
So basically, you have two choices here. If you are determined to play only the NATURAL way (i.e. for survival, which by the way is a misnomer which I will also be explaining in the "Notes on the Arcade Culture" essay -- no one plays for "survival", people play for "domination"), then you might as well give up on Giga Wing because it's ugly and easy, and play one of the countless other STGs which are a hundred times prettier and harder.
On the other hand, if you try out the reflect-medalling mechanic a little bit, you'll probably realize that it is HELLA ADDICTIVE. Which is the point at which the aspies will exclaim SEE WE TOLD YOU SO! PLAYING FOR SCORE IS SO MUCH MORE COMPLICATED AND BETTER, AND HENCE MORE IMMERSIVE, EVEN GOING BY YOUR OWN THEORY!
But as people should be able to grasp by now, this objection is pure bullshit, for in the order of rank of shooting games Giga Wing played for score stands FAR LESS BELOW not of GIGA WING PLAYED FOR SURVIVAL, but of, for example, KETSUI PLAYED FOR SURVIVAL.
See what I did there? Take a look at the order of rank:
Giga Wing (score)
Giga Wing (survival)
It's the typical subhuman inability to conceptualize anything beyond an erection. They see that A SINGLE GAME PLAYED FOR SCORE is more fun THAN A SINGLE GAME PLAYED FOR SURVIVAL, but they fail to see the THOUSANDS OF GAMES PLAYED FOR SURVIVAL which stand ABOVE THAT SINGLE GAME (or five or six or seven) PLAYED FOR SCORE, get it? If I were to fully populate that list with all the shooting games ever, the top of the list would be full of survival titles (or titles played for survival), and the scoring ones (or titles played for scoring) would occupy the bottom part, or at least the middle.
So we saw that the theoretical problem is how to maximize pleasure IN FUTURE TITLES, whereas the practical problem is how to maximize pleasure FROM EXISTING ONES.
So, in the case of Giga Wing, the way to maximize pleasure is quite simply to play for score. So when the aspies defend the idea that playing for score in some games is preferable, they are not at all mistaken.
And this does not only hold for Giga Wing, but for ALL shooting games (and by extension all games). For even with a game like Ketsui, where survival-play is basically more or less the zenith, the highest point that shooting games have achieved, IF YOU ARE DETERMINED TO SUCK OUT EVERY LAST OUNCE OF ENJOYMENT FROM THE GAMEWORLD, YOU WILL SOONER OR LATER BE COMPELLED TO PLAY FOR SCORE.
I explained all this in the essay. It's why Josh mastered Metal Slug's scoring system, and when he was done with it even went BEYOND IT, by making his OWN scoring system, and in fact SEVERAL of them, and counting how many times he pressed up or down on the controller or whatever.
You HAVE to do shit like this if you want to remain inside that tiny world forever WITHOUT GOING FUCKING MAD FROM BOREDOM.
See what I am saying?
You know when you are eating a really delicious cake, or gulping down a great mixed fruit juice? And like, the first few mouthfuls, or gulpfuls, are pure bliss, and then you get to the end, and you are left with some crumbs on your plate, or a few drops of liquid in the glass, and are desperately trying to scoop them up, spending more time scooping than eating or drinking. Isn't that quite annoying?
Wouldn't you rather have a new glass of juice, or another plate of cake, than to keep scooping all the tiny bits that are left for half a fucking hour, only you can't quite justify to yourself the extra 5 or 10 euros for the new plate or glass (since you are, after all, at an expensive restaurant), so you are in this middle state which is more torture than enjoyment?
And then, there is the fact that, even if you were willing to order another plate or glass, you'd have to actually ORDER it, and it'd take a while for them to BRING it to you, so you keep procrastinating, and out of pure INERTIA simply keep scooping up or sucking on your straw or whatever, like a fucking idiot while everyone can see you?
That's what these dudes are basically doing, only worse, because in the food analogy you don't get the extra incentive to keep going from the prestige of being the person with the FEWEST crumbs on his plate or the LEAST amount of liquid in his glass.
In real life such a person would be ridiculed for being poor and a miser.
In videogames he becomes a champion.
Or take Rando's comments in the Shmups thread. Where he says that "the score helps the player to see how well he is doing" -- or something to that effect. It's hard to believe that someone as experienced with scoring systems as Rando could make such a mistake. For I might be on the very last stage, just one shot from killing the final boss, while having a LOWER score from someone who just died on the second stage -- so in what way was the score showing us how well we were doing? I was doing better than the aspie all the while having a LOWER score. I finished the goddamn game, and got a cool CONGRATULATIONS screen, whereas the aspie got a screen that said "WHY DON'T YOU TRY HARD NEXT TIME", so there's no question of who was doing better. Essentially, if you have really deeply understood what a scoring system is and how it works, you will have realized that it is IMPOSSIBLE for the score to be an accurate reflection of a player's progress in all but the most primitive of games. Even in something as simple score-wise as R-Type, the moment the player figures out how your scoring system works he can begin min-maxing and milking it, and all idea of the score actually representing anything other than itself goes out the window.
Did you get the last sentence? The score ultimately represents nothing more and nothing less than HOW WELL YOU ARE SCORING, just like IQ tests only reflect how good you are at taking IQ tests, and may or may not have anything to do with your actual intelligence (or even normal school tests, for that matter). Past a certain point, when the player has become, after a shitload of strategizing, etc., very familiar with how your system works, a huge score even indicates the OPPOSITE of progress: the player who pushed himself TO THE VERY EDGE in order to maximize his first stage score will ALMOST CERTAINLY end up DYING IN IT, just as someone who spends his whole time preparing for IQ tests, or studying for school tests with the only object of making the highest grades, without taking any actual interest in the subjects he studies, or extra-curricular activities, will end up a worthless idiot who is simply good at passing tests.
There's a ton
more interesting stuff in that thread, but that's what's most relevant to what you posted and I don't feel like copypasting more right now. Hopefully you get the general gist, he provided more than enough examples and analogies I think. If you still need more clarification I can try and provide it myself (if it wasn't already addressed later in the thread, in which case it's easier and more useful just to quote it.)
The problem with this logic is that by the time you've finished most challenging arcade games you've had to replay the same levels many, many times. Now, your argument has always been that the level design in your favorite games is so good that you don't mind replaying them over and over again... but you can't tell me that it's only worth it until you've seen the (usually very short and inconsequential) endings of these titles?
It seems like, in challenging yourself to beat arcade games on one credit, there's very little distinction here between playing for score and playing to see the ending of the game. In both cases you get to experience (and have to RE-experience, possibly more than you'd like to) the level design and audiovisuals. In both cases you're also receiving a fairly arbitrary measure of accomplishment within the game.
It's worth it the entire time, or else I would have just stopped playing.
The difference is that in the first case one of the main reasons I keep playing the same levels is because I want to experience what happens next
, a reward which is far less arbitrary and far more important than a number increasing in the top of the screen. In the second case the point is to basically make a number go up after
I've already seen practically everything (secret bosses, etc. notwithstanding) in the first place.* It's an attempt to basically extend the "life" of the game after you beat it by injecting a shitload of (usually unnatural) complexity into the scoring system, but the more logical and natural approach would be to integrate that complexity into survival (aesthetically/atmospherically as well ofc) and require the player to use it to beat the game in the first place (and if you really wanted you could make a "regular" easy mode or something, idk -- which is still a compromise of course, but it seems like a better one to me than having one natural system and one unnatural one), "endless replayability" be damned. In fact, link about all this below!
* Now you might say "but what about extra lives, don't you want those?" Yeah, that's generally the extent to which I play for score (to get them on the earlier stages, etc.) Ideally even that wouldn't really be necessary, though.
While we're posting Shmups links, I'd like to draw everyone's attention to austere's topic "Scoreless shooting mode: 'Scoring' for survival"
, which essentially serves as an application of the theory mentioned in icy's essay. I'd recommend that everyone read the thread (as well as the originating essay of course), he's a smart dude and there are some interesting posts by others as well. (Some of you might remember him on here as "substance." =P)
I can't think of a more deserving victim. Thanks.
I can: ξ