The News Grandmaster 4000


Yeah, overall they’re solid publishers with a track record that would be envious if we didn’t live in a time of plenty; I don’t think we’ve ever had situations where there are enough games that a publisher can curate an aesthetic like we do now.

Plus, Annapurna represents the beginning of a film-style ‘rich folk who just want to fund cool art’ that’s been too long coming; having a channel of games with solid midsize budgets and whose highest responsibility is expanded aesthetics is needed.


Quietly the bar keeps going up. One belief I have is that I swear to god Environmental Station Alpha would’ve been received with rapture and a 500-post thread on this forum if it had come out in 2005 instead of 2015. But it was too late, it was just another Metrovania, and it was completely ignored. Even us videogame aficionados only have so many hours in the day to devote to videogames and we are both novelty-seeking and community-seeking (even in single-player, we would prefer to play a game those around us are also playing).

Still, ultimately, I’m not sure I truly get more out of videogames than I did in 2005, and on the other hand it must be brutal to be a dev on the other side of this. It’s something really unfortunate about capitalism and human nature that is reproduced in many areas.


Wait, I just learned Environmental Station Alpha was made by the same person as Baba Is You (!?!?!?).

That’s insane game design versatility. Like I mean, Environmental Station Alpha is notable for me among other things for really fun boss battles, also grappling hook platforming and a generous and weird postgame. And this guy’s breakout hit turns out to be a mindbending sokoban puzzle game???

Is that enough for y’all to finally try playing ESA


actually, yes


ESA feels exactly like the sort of very solid game a bright designer with a small pile of quick games can build; there may be only a couple dozen of these people in the world at any time but I expect it to exist. Baba Is You feels like the bolt of lightning that sometimes strikes a gamejam project; the real miracle is how well is was contained and expressed in the final game. It’s the execution of Baba that makes this developer feel really formidable to me.


It must say something about the core game design skillset. (At a minimum, to experiment extensively, iterate extensively and to have a deep empathy for your player’s psychology.)

Is this really that unique, or would more devs be capable of this kind of leap, if they didn’t pigeonhole themselves or the market didn’t pigeonhole them after their first hit (surely the fact that ESA was not a big hit has something to do with this turn, right)?


ESA is a traditional enough game that I’d expect a great many solo devs to be able to do something like it, if not to that quality bar (the ‘dozens’ qualifier I used). Many solo devs, especially those raised in the Newgrounds community, have an institutional knowledge of platformer design. And many solo devs would like to experiment with different game forms, though fewer are able to execute in multiple spaces.

But the kind of analytical and empathetic thinking that makes a good designer is rarer and harder to acquire than genre-specific knowledge, and transcends those bounds.

Another (innumerate) way to put it: I’d trust about 10% of my classmates to have this profile, about 35% of the indie designers I know, and about 20% of the AAA designers I now work with.


FWIW, personally, Baba is a game that I admire but so far don’t enjoy. It feels like I’m bashing my head repeatedly against a brick wall of impossibility, and then when I succeed I’m immediately faced with the next brick wall. On the other hand, ESA doesn’t awe anybody but it’s hella fun.

Some action games have a similar satisfaction-by-means-of-brick-wall experience with bosses to be sure, but ESA did not (probably in part due to my skill level hitting the sweet spot of who it was designed for).


I’m saying this example surely proves that the “quality bar” skill that leads to ESA’s really fun bosses and the “analytical and empathetic thinking” that leads to Baba Is You’s mindbendingness must be one and the same skill. It seems to me you are describing the first as being quantitative/incremental and the latter as being qualitative/quantum, and that is true with respect to the result, but it must not be true with respect to the process.

ESA merely appears on the surface to be just another generic representative of indie-community received wisdom and experience. But I think what you said about “the real miracle is how well it was contained and expressed in the final game” applies equally to ESA.


I played and enjoyed Vanilla Shovel Knight but I can concur with it feeling weirdly empty even with all the charm and love put into it. For me I think it Shovel Knight lacked a strong mechanical hook. The shovel of Shovel Knight felt like it could’ve been any other weapon in most places. I was kind of expecting more in the way of digging stuff up and chucking it. Having what type of ground you were on would effect your actions and such. I haven’t played any of the side Knights games yet but they do look like they have more of a mechanical identity to them.




I’m rating the skill to develop puzzle games, and the caliber of Baba Is You, higher than ESA. And that the step in puzzle creation of lateral thinking that’s very close to puzzle solving is not as important in level design (it pokes it head out during ‘clever’ moments, mostly).

I agree with you that ESA is my favorite small Metroid-like of the last ten years, but it has a lot of pretty close peers, while I feel Baba has very few peers in the last decade.


It’s fine. Throws enough disaster sci-fi tropes at the wall enough to somehow end up with a flavour of its own.


I hope that this is as good as Her Story.

I’ve been kind of wanting to play Shattered Memories again, though I imagine that I would still find some of the action parts a little annoying.


I thought Shovel Knight was pretty cool, until the final boss which I just couldn’t do for some reason. Having to redo all the final level to get back to it put me off, and so I never played the expansions either.
I also have minimal nostalgia for the NES, so that aspect didn’t really do much for me either


alterity here with today’s artifact update



This is much, much sadder than my revelation that I am going to play WoW Classic when it releases

Save yourself


yeah play uno


it’s heartening to see valve fail spectacularly at something


I mean, they do it so often