I don't know if I'm going to be buying a PS5 anytime soon (or ever), so I may not have an opportunity to play Miles Morales, which is Insomniac's follow-up to its smash hit 2018 game Marvel's Spider-Man. Instead, I decided to go back and play the DLC for the 2018 game, "The City That Never Sleeps", which I had bought, but never got around to playing. This got me thinking more about how Insomniac implemented the web-swinging mechanics, and what I hope they'll do to iterate and improve the mechanic in future games.

This blog post is a transcript of the video essay above.

I had previously mentioned Marvel's Spider-Man essay about open world gaming's possible recent inflection point, but I didn't go into much detail. Basically, I just threw it in as an example of a recent open world game in which the traversal of the map had a large mechanical focus, turning the map into more of a play space and less of a convoluted, time-wasting mission-select screen. I didn't spend more time talking about Spider-Man, however, because as much as I like Insomniac's game, and as fun as the web-swinging is, I still felt like the web-swinging traversal in that game was pretty simple, and the environment did not act as much of an obstacle to the level of the other games in those videos.

Besides, Insomniac's Spider-Man didn't stray very far from the boring checklist-inspired open world design that my earlier videos were railing against. Traversal doesn't consume resources other than the player's time, and the player isn't responsible for balancing Peter's heroic and personal lives (the tension between the two has always been a big part of the Spider-Man story), nor are there any other mechanics that try to pull the player towards one set of content to the exclusion of another, and so where you are on the map, where you're going, and how you chose to get there is largely meaningless. It's any other open world game you've played in the last 10 years. The web-swinging is just a much more stylish and spectacular method of moving from filler content to filler content.

Spider-Man games make for an interesting case study in open world game design.

Spider-Man games in total do represent their own interesting microcosm of the virtues of open world, sandbox game design, and also of the ways in which open world games can fall flat on their faces and fail miserably. Spider-Man could make for an interesting case study to go along with Death Stranding.

Since the landmark Spider-Man 2 movie tie-in game, mainstream Spider-Man games have mostly been open world games. The most notable exceptions being Beenox's Shattered Dimensions (which was pretty good) and Edge of Time (which was awful). All the other Spidey games that I've played have been open world games in which you web swing around a virtual Manhattan to reach story missions or to thwart ambient crimes. The quality of these games has been very hit-or-miss, but (as we'll discuss soon) many of them still have their unique merits.

Beenox's Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time are notable Spider-Man games that are not open world games.

Web of Shadows, for instance, had lots of problems with its writing, pacing, and animation, but its novel aerial and wall-crawling combat mechanics made excellent use of the map's verticality in ways that other Spidey games (and open world games in general) rarely even approach. I won't be talking much about this game because I traded in my copy a long time ago, and I don't feel like blowing $45 of Patreon contributions on a game that I'll likely play for 10 minutes just to capture footage and refresh my memory of how the game played. So my apologies if you're a big Web of Shadows fan.

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It's summer time, which means that football video game developers are hard at work implementing features for the fall release of this year's games. It's probably too late to influence the design of the 2020 slate of games (due to release in September), but I'd still like to take some time to express some of my ideas for growing these games over the long term. This post should hopefully give both Canuck Play and Axis an idea of the roadmap of improvements that I'd like to see over the next two or three years.

For each suggestion that I'm going to make, I'm going to try to provide a general goal that I want to achieve with the idea. Then I will provide one (or more) ideas for how I think the games' developers can attain that goal. If Canuck and/or Axis like the ideas, then by all means use them. If, however, they think they can accomplish the goal with a different method or implementation, then by all means do that. You know your games better than I do. I'm just a blogger with a YouTube channel and little more than a basic understanding of how game development work. You guys and gals do whatever you think is going to make your games the best that they can possibly be.

Table of Contents

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Cities: Skylines - game title

In my last post, I pitched an idea for a new Cities Skylines expansion pack based off of an idea that Colossal Order had posted on its Twitter account. Today, I want to look at a couple of older tweets from Colossal Order that were intended to gauge player interest in some other mechanics and ideas. Those ideas are car wrecks and urban decay.

These concepts aren't as easy to "game-ify" and adapt to Cities Skylines current game mechanics when compared to the season and holiday ideas I pitched in the previous post. Car wrecks and urban decay are both going to require a bit more imagination to come up with ways that they would work within the game.

Colossal Order's Twitter account has apparently been fishing for new content ideas.

Car wrecks and road construction are a disaster!

One of the ideas that Colossal Order proposed in a tweet was the idea of car wrecks being a mechanic in Cities Skylines. Currently, the vehicle and pedestrian pathfinding systems will try to avoid collisions, but it's nowhere near perfect. If you zoom in close enough to any busy intersection and watch it for a while, you'll inevitably see a vehicle phase right through pedestrians or another vehicle. This is especially prominent when vehicles make a left-hand turn.

The game doesn't actually model collisions, however, so no matter how complicated, confusing, or difficult-to-navigate you might make an intersection or highway ramp, no one will ever get hurt or killed in a car wreck. This is a good thing, because if every collision did result in a wreck that would block traffic, traffic would simply never move in the game. I doubt that Colossal Order would ever implement such a feature, since it would probably be considered "in bad taste" by many people. It would also be very difficult to implement from a technical level, as it would require considerable changes to the pathfinding A.I., which would probably weaken the flow of traffic and/or completely tank the performance of the PC. Designing intersections that minimize wrecks would also need a lot more road customization tools!

Cars and pedestrians routinely pass through each other in any busy intersection of the game.

That being said, the idea of delays on the road got me thinking of another potential idea for the game: modeling road construction as a mechanic. I don't think I've ever played a city-building video game in which you had to wait for a road to be constructed before it can be used. Real road construction can often take months or years. Large highway projects can even take decades in real life. In the meantime, the city often has to designate detour routes and close off parts of roads at a time in order to allow access to businesses and homes.

This is a mechanic that seems like it would probably be too complicated to make work reliably, and be fun to play. You wouldn't get immediate feedback on whether your new highway would work, because you'd have to wait minutes or hours of real time (which would translate to weeks or months of simulated game time) for that highway to be constructed before your citizens would start using it. That would be terribly inconvenient.

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Cities: Skylines - game title

Here we are in December, and Colossal Order has yet to announce a second expansion for Cities Skylines since releasing the Campus expansion back in May. This will be the first year since the game's release that Colossal Order will only be releasing a single expansion. They have released some mini content packs, so there has been some new Skylines content -- just not a full-blown expansion.

Expansion titleOriginal release
After Dark coverAfter Dark24 September 2015
Snowfall coverSnowfall18 February 2016
Match DayMatch Day*9 June 2016
Natural Disasters coverNatural Disasters29 November 2016
Mass Transit coverMass Transit18 May 2017
ConcertsConcerts*17 August 2017
Green CitiesGreen Cities19 October 2017
ParklifeParklife24 May 2018
IndustriesIndustries23 October 2018
CampusCampus19 May 2019
* denotes a mini content pack, rather than full expansion.

But that doesn't mean that Colossal Order has abandoned the game. In fact, they've been very active on Twitter asking for people's opinions on what kind of new content we'd like to see. Most recently, they posted a tweet asking if we'd like to see buildings with seasonal holiday decorations (such as Christmas and Halloween). Earlier in the year, they also asked if we'd like to see mechanics for car wrecks or urban decay (among other propositions). Even though these ideas seem to have been positively received on Twitter, and lots of follow-up ideas were presented by commenters (including myself), no new expansion has been announced.

Colossal Order's Twitter account has apparently been fishing for new content ideas.

Though I wouldn't be surprised if Colossal Order announces an expansion before I'm able to finish writing and publish this blog post...

Personally, I've liked all the ideas that they've suggested, in principle. As you may know, I have some gripes with how Colossal Order has handled its expansions for Cities Skylines, so I would hope that any possible future expansion would try to resolve those lingering issues. So let's go through the ideas that Colossal Order has pitched on Twitter and see if they would be worthy of an expansion pack!

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Silent Hill 3

Last year, YouTuber Super Eyepatch Wolf posted a video titled "The Problem with Silent Hill 3: the Downfall of Team Silent". In that video, Super Eyepatch Wolf asserts that the design of Silent Hill 3 changed early in development, as a result of pressure from Konami. He claims that early designs for the game were going to be a more personal, introspective tale, in the vein of Silent Hill 2.

YouTuber Super Eyepatch Wolf posted a video last year asserting that Silent Hill 3
was originally going to be more similar to Silent Hill 2's personal and introspective story and style.

Konami may not have been happy with this early design because -- believe it or not -- there were apparently many vocal fans of the first Silent Hill game who were upset that Silent Hill 2 had not continued the story set forth by the first game. So Konami mandated that Team Silent make Silent Hill 3 be more of a continuation of the first Silent Hill, and so SH3 was re-written as a direct sequel to the first game, and returned to the narrative of a cult trying to birth a demon god.

I've adapted this blog post into a YouTube video response to Super Eyepatch Wolf.

It's hard to believe, but when it was first released, Silent Hill 2 was not universally regarded as the "gold standard" of video game horror. You can look at middling contemporary reviews from publications like Gamespot and GameInformer. In those days, the series was perceived as being "about occultism", and Silent Hill 2 was a stark deviation. Now, with a generation of gamers having grown up playing and loving Silent Hill 2, there's an effort now to re-frame the entire series as having always been about a haunted town torturing the guilty, even though three out of four of the original games are explicitly about a cult trying to re-birth its demon god, and repressed personal guilt is only featured in one of those four games.

Silent Hill 2 was the only of the original 4 games to be about the protagonist being punished for repressed guilt.

But that may not have always been the plan...

If Super Eyepatch Wolf is correct, then Team Silent may have wanted to pivot the narrative focus of the series away from occultism and towards more personal stories like SH2 -- though, importantly, not necessarily about repressed guilt or amnesia!

I have a complicated relationship with the question of "what is Silent Hill about?" Readers of my personal blog will know that I've rigorously defended the idea of Silent Hill (as a series) being about occultism, and that new entries in the series should respect that history, rather than trying to re-frame the entire series (and the nature of the town itself) to be about a haunted town that summons people to face their hidden guilt.

That being said, it isn't that I have a particular attachment to occult stories, even though a lot of the games that I like (such as Demon's Souls and Blooborne) also have strong occult threads. I also am definitely not opposed to more thoughtful, introspective stories. Silent Hill 2 is my favorite game in the series because of that thoughtful, introspective story! Rather, I've found all the third-party-developed games after Silent Hill 4 to be highly derivative of Silent Hill 2 and not particularly good.

Silent Hill 3 pivoted hard back towards the occult inspirations of the first game.
But is that really what Team Silent wanted?

Super Eyepatch Wolf does have some quotes and evidence to support the idea that Silent Hill 3 was originally intended to be a very different game -- all of which was taken from a single interview. But there's not much (if any) information about what the actual story of that game may have been. Nobody on Team Silent has (as far as I know) talked about it, nor do we have a leaked design document like what we have for Silent Hill: Cold Heart (the Wii-exclusive that eventually transformed into Shattered Memories).

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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