Feedback @ 50hrs of gameplay


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Self-declared as being thoughtful coupled with naming the hardest difficulty stalker of all things would have been enough to create some expectations. I however chooses to illustrate stalker with the silhouette of a member of the canis genus. Be it lupus or not, TLD makes a connection beyond a reasonable doubt and sets the bar for itself unexpectedly high.

While the easiest connection to make is to the iconic black dog of Tarkovsky's Stalker, because it's illustrated in a way reminiscent to a picture I cannot help but remember Tarkovsky's own Polaroids instead, particularly this one.


The iconic shot from the movie, with the stalker and the dog, is what most people know,


and the scene has sparked as many interpretations as there were people that had the luxury or inclination to come up with one.

Without going into why this is, for Tarkovsky this scene functions as a proof. The fact that man is the only animal that needs a master, and, taking everything that leads up to it into account, this scene is proof of that.

Which is ironic seeing how some if not most of the interpretations for the dog is that itself is God or, in any case, either supernatural or metaphorical in nature. The dog is just a dog. It being just a dog makes all the difference in the world. The dog has no need for a master, while the man lies broken without one.

An ultimate goal or a simple tribute, invoking Tarkovsky is a promise in a totally different regime than being zombie free. A promise of what exactly, it's not clear to me at this point.

Naturally, given the option players will say what items or mechanics they would like introduced in the game. And what they all approximate to is more gameplay. Ranging from dreams which you play in a kind of game-inside-the-game fashion and which give you a buff or debuff on waking up depending on how, and what, you do, to the addition of a watch.

Focusing exclusively on this would be, I think, a mistake. Games that have a large number of items and mechanics, bars and numbers the player has to manage in a pathological, bureaucratic fashion, exist. And they are not any better or even good because of this.

I'm not saying they should not be considered or implemented, or that gameplay, in whatever form it comes in, should not be added. But there comes a point, which I think, is close, of diminishing returns. Where adding gameplay no longer has positive effects.

The way we desire is simple and one of the axioms of desire is that we cannot desire something we already have; desire is always desire for something else. As soon as new gameplay is added, new gameplay will be desired. To no end.

I think the only way to overcome this while still being to add gameplay and at the same time transcend its medium would be to have moments and mechanics that destroy specifically that which keeps it firmly attached to its medium: gameplay.

There is another train of thought I have seen a couple of times, arguing that the game feels too much of a time sink.

I disagree. I would argue that precisely a time sink is what the game lacks and desperately needs. Nothing is a time sink. Every interaction with the world around you, barring movement from point A to point B, takes mere seconds. The game does a good job as speeding up time in the case of certain interactions but a terrible job at slowing it down, which it never does.

What is most lacking is moments where the game is devoid of gameplay. This means either moments of pure repetition either moments with no player input whatsoever.

There's an interesting point to be made about the former. While FPS games are sometimes blamed of being too repetitive and their gameplay lacking depth, the compulsion to reload, continuously, meaninglessly, is nothing more than a way to introduce repetition where it is in fact desperately lacking.

While I can only speak for myself, I think that when some of us desire a watch, frankly speaking, we don't need it to tell the time or have it double as a compass. I think that what we desire is a moment of pure repetition. In real life too, looking at your watch without learning anything whatsoever about the time is a common experience.

We are at our most thoughtful precisely through an act of repetition. It's a common experience to all of us, I think, that activities which we have done to the point of them becoming autonomous, like shaving or taking a shower or others, those are precisely the moments in which we are most thoughtful. Something costs less than nothing; to get nothing, you already have to do work. That work is repetition; concentration, thoughtfulness, contemplation, insight, are all a function of it.

And in regards to moments with no player input, they way this is usually handled is in the forms of cutscenes, either pre-rendered or in-game, or any other case where control is either taken from the player either minimal, like only being able to look around.

This is an attempt at pacing and storytelling. Even if at first glance it may not appear so, most games know that gameplay and story are mutually exclusive. While gameplay is taking place the story is stopped. Either the player dies and has to try again, either the player overcomes the opposition and the story advances.

Lack of player input wouldn't, or shouldn't, be imposed. The Forestry Lookout is marginally favoring a lack of input: you can see through the windows. You can take a moment and look outside. But soon the focus shifts to, I need the warmth bonus given by being in bed. Fine then, put the player in bed, and make it so that it takes time to fall asleep. Moments in bed with the eyes open would be moments to think, plan, contemplate, listen to the storm, watch the fire. Consider sleeping outside. Starting a dream would be the worst, more gamplay, more bureaucratic behaviour. Nothing should happen. Just look at the stars.

With more and more additions to gameplay, moments and/or activities devoid of gameplay consisting in a pure act of repetition or lack of player input would be beneficial.

Going back to the dog and stalker himself, we do not, and cannot, regress to being an animal. What we regress to is being a child, as that is when our need for a master is greatest. What this means is that the game needs something to keep the player's attention, like a toy keeps a child's.

A toy would offset the detrimental effects of large amounts of gameplay mechanics. Something the player can fiddle around with and with which mere interaction slows down the passing of time. An object that would alter the pacing which is extremely high and shift the focus from bureaucratic survival to planning and contemplation.

What that toy would be exactly, it's not as important at this time as is considering if this viable or not.

It could be anything from a watch to an vintage handheld tetris game.

It could be a radio receiver. Something with switches, lights and UV meters. The player would sit down at it and tinker with it, tuning into the weird and wonderful world of shortwave radio. Before somebody yells at me, geomagnetic storm, these are just examples.

Or perhaps, taking a hint from Tarkovsky, a Polaroid camera. You could take pictures and even write on the back of them. There is absolutely no reason a camera and film for it would not fit in with the world. That's the beauty of toys for grownups like these. They are everywhere people are.

Something comes to mind; war is like a fire — if you do not put it out, it will burn itself out.

The player needs a way to put the fire out, as it were, a toy, that assumes its purpose and goes to the end: void of gameplay. Pure repetition. Playing tetris inside during a storm. If you want to. No bonus to "morale", no gameplay, no nothing. You simply play as a pure act of repetition. To think and let the game tell you what it wants to tell you. Otherwise, you'll just press Esc and take a break; go do something else. At that moment, it's over.

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Nicely written! You speak out of my heart.

I kind of created my own method to slow down time in the game. I explore the world*. I frequently stop at places, and just overlook them. I try to memorize a map in my head. I try to plan ahead, if i can reach a certain spot at the horizon or maybe better return to camp and sleep till next day. All this stuff which creates your own personal movie in your head...I dont leave a map until i absolutely have to, otherwise my goal is to find the bunker on each map. Because well...put some motivation to it, like finding a loved one there.

I do not particulary need a toy like you said, but sometimes i wish i just could spend time in the game, by doing nothing in particular, without getting the feeling of wasting time...if that makes sense?! Or maybe thats exactly what a toy is for?

*On a sidenote: I watched the movie and played the Stalker games, and one of the most intense feelings was just to explore the world and see its beauty and danger. Those where the moments time slowed down and i think that those are the unique aspects of the whole Stalker experience. TLD does a very similiar job, or has a great potential for it.

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I do not particulary need a toy like you said, but sometimes i wish i just could spend time in the game, by doing nothing in particular, without getting the feeling of wasting time...if that makes sense?! Or maybe thats exactly what a toy is for?

That's exactly what a toy is for. Like I said, how this would be implemented and what the toy(s) would be is not important right know. What's important is enough people to have this need so that it's something that will be considered.

While for me personally TLD right now doesn't even come close to having the atmosphere of the Stalker games, especially SOC, I think it could surpass them combined, perhaps getting close to legends like Thief TDP in terms of sheer, raw atmosphere.

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Thanks for the feedback, it's clear you put a lot of thought into this. I'm always curious to hear how players would prefer to pass time in-game. Please feel free to share any other ideas or thoughts you might have!

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