Backlog: Our Friendly Northern Neighbor edition

I’m heading out to the Full Indie Summit up in Vancouver, B.C. this weekend, which means a whole lot less playing of games and a whole lot more learning about them. With speakers like Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail, former EGMer Nick Suttner, Campo Santo’s Nels Anderson and former Nintendo of America indie champion Dan Adelman, it sounds like it’s gonna be an invaluable experience for a nascent indie developer like me. I’ll see if I can’t put together a trip recap afterward, sort of like the feature I did on crashing the Game Developers Conference earlier this year.

In the meantime, enjoy another fresh heaping of game-related writing in this edition of your favorite weekly column, the Backlog.  – Nick Cummings


Butt Mode: it’s a thing

Butt Mode: it’s a thing

It’s been a pretty lightweight week on the gaming front for me. I’ve been laser-focsued on a couple of game projects and a few other significant life-related tasks, and that hasn’t left much time or headspace to dig into games. But because this is the Backlog and dammit, I believe in transparency, here’s where my leisure time went this week: Shovel Knight and Fez. Yep. Not too surprising.

I actually started Shovel Knight a few weeks back, but that was before picking up the Steam version. I was thrilled to see my save file carried over, but it seemed like my achievements didn’t pop on my Steam account.

Yeah, I know: achievements are meaningless, ephemeral accomplishments, and wasting any mental energy worrying about them is silly. But I really like having a visible, public log of the feats I’ve accomplished in games, especially the ones I really like playing. Realizing I would likely wind up replaying Shovel Knight more than a few times before shuffling off this mortal coil, I bit the bullet and deleted my save file.

A few moments later, while creating a new save file, I noticed this handy button in the corner labeled “Steam Sync.” Turns out that—you guessed it—it instantly syncs all your unlocked feats from the non-Steam version to your Steam account. I guess I assumed that wasn’t possible since no other game I’m aware of has that functionality, but in case you’re as petty as I am about your gaming reputation and as eager to show off in insignificant ways, don’t make the same mistake I did.

As for Fez? It’s free to PlayStation Plus members this week on PS3, PS4 and Vita, so I figured now’s as good a time as any to play through the game for a third time. The bright, rich color palette looks like it was created for the Vita’s vibrant OLED screen, and there’s something wonderfully intimate about exploring the game’s world on a handheld with some good headphones. Even having fully completed the game several times before, there’s still a quiet bliss to lazily leaping from platform to platform and solving puzzles that I’d since forgotten.

We’re working on a group activity here at Silicon Sasquatch to share a little bit more about where each of our members’ tastes in games comes from. The hope is that you’ll get a deeper understanding of the specific experiences that had the greatest impact on our individual approaches to games criticism, which in turn ought to help you better understand who you have more or less in common with and enable you to get a little subtext out of the work we do.

I just compiled my list of ten influential games, and the most recent game to have a profound impact on the way I approach games criticism is, unsurprisingly, Fez. It’s an absolutely beautiful experience start-to-finish, but that’s not why it changed my perspective. It’s because Fez is a singular example of how games are uniquely capable of having a dialogue with the player that subverts expectations and teaches people to see the world differently. By the time you’ve completed Fez, I’m willing to bet you won’t see games the same way ever again.