Hello all, and welcome to Part 2 of our interview with Saur, renowned for his in-depth action game analysis and tutorials.
Read Part 1 of the interview here .
6. From your perspective, how have games changed over the years?
As someone who loves deep game systems and challenging tests for the skills developed within these systems, I am very disappointed with the treatment of skill-focused games recently. I grew up playing arcade games: smaller, skill-focused games which you played over a long period of time to hone your skills. These were games which I always used to play with other people. It was the melting pot effect of many different people all bringing different personalities, techniques, and skills to the table which enriched the games we enjoyed and the community and friendship we developed around those games.
These days, however, especially in the case of single-player games, many titles are treated almost like passive entertainment. The “personal experience” of the game’s narrative is placed above the quality of the core gameplay. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good narrative. I play role playing games quite often and love losing myself in the lore of such games. However, I am seeing that time and time again really brilliant skill-focused games are completely misrepresented and misunderstood because they are being judged on the quality of their narrative experience instead of the quality of their skill-focused mechanics and how much scope these mechanics allow for creative challenges and player self-improvement. These days you will often hear the phrase “This game is xx hours long”. The “value” of a game is quantified based on the total length of its narrative, not on the depth of the game’s mechanics or how long it holds the player’s attention as they strive to perfect their skills. This, I believe, is an attitude which is very damaging to the gaming medium as a whole. Games can be so much more than vehicles to tell stories.
I understand that professional game reviewers today have a very large number of games to review and cannot take the time to completely learn a particular game system, and at the same time it is also not reasonable for a studio to entrust the communication of a brand new set of game mechanics to the gaming press. But I would love to ask both parties to consider the implications of this situation: games which truly raise the bar in terms of play mechanics are suffering in reviews and in sales. What is the point of employing talented game designers to build new, original, and exciting game mechanics if the gaming press, and by extension the gaming public who trust in the press to provide them with information on new games, are not giving mechanically deep games an analysis which respects the purpose of these games?
I believe there are a significant number of players who want to be mentally stimulated by games which treat them with respect, and are brave enough to challenge themselves to the edge of their ability so that their eventual success is more meaningful. The whole point of these games is to learn how to play them well – it is this journey which makes them so satisfying to play and makes sharing ideas with other players so much fun. I would humbly ask that professional reviewers please consider trying to engage in this journey of discovery – if you need any help along the way I would love to provide it!
7. What do you feel is the most important aspect of an action game?
I believe the most important aspect of an action game is the way it respects and reflects the potential of the player. As such, I value a game system which allows the player to express their individual creativity and ingenuity. I love the idea of a game system which allows the player a great deal of freedom to develop their own unique style of play, then presents that player with a course designed outward from that core system to test the skills they have developed. I also believe the communication of hazards should be treated with the utmost care: the player should be able to develop a precise sense of the exact moment enemy attacks are triggered. To this end, clear audio/visual signposts are an absolute must. I especially love the idea of linking audio cues to the triggering of enemy attack signposts. With an audio cue in place, the player can know the exact moment an enemy attack is triggered, whether the attack is activated on or off-screen. I find I have the most fun when I achieve an acute sense of the precise amount I can push my attack before I need to take evasive action, and audio cues especially enable me to achieve that sense.
Of equal importance is to build an incentive into the game system to encourage the player to play well. Far too many games today have very simple game systems with no incentive whatsoever for the player to improve their competence within that system. The last thing I want to see after blundering through an enemy encounter is the equivalent of a perfect rank and praise for my valiant efforts! No, I want to be rewarded a genuine victory for learning how to overcome a challenge.
8. What do you look for in a sequel?
I find sequels most interesting when the game designers are allowed to iterate and evolve the systems they had previously designed, allowing the player to explore new ways to think about established concepts. With a new set of weapons, abilities, and enemies which have been designed outward from the newly evolved player system, a sequel can feel completely fresh and mentally stimulating.
9. Where will people be able to find your work in the future?
I am very surprised that so many people have found my work helpful! I have very little confidence in my ability, but I try my best because I love these games so much. Lately I have received a lot of support and encouragement from other players I have become acquainted with through mutual enjoyment of action games, and I would like to try and do my part to give something back to the gaming community. I want to really step up my video production, I want to cover more games more often, and finally learn how to work with a microphone for voiceovers. I have bought a camera, a decent microphone, audio interface and video capture equipment and everything I need to get started on this project. Please subscribe to https://www.youtube.com/user/Saur and stay tuned as I will have brand new content to present soon!
10. Your tutorial videos for The Wonderful 101 are a helpful resource for many new people getting into the game. Do you have anything similar planned for Bayonetta 2?
Thank you very much, I’m glad that people found them helpful. Ultimately I would love to fully cover the system mechanics and enemy strategies of Bayonetta 2. Perhaps a Bayonetta retrospective would be interesting in the lead-up to the release of the game’s sequel? It would be very interesting to start playing the game again from scratch to rediscover the brilliance of the game system and help other players to get the most out of it!
Saur, thanks very much for taking the time for this interview. We’re looking forward to your next video!
Check out Saur’s YouTube channel here.