Years and years ago, I remember reading a review of GTA3 in a certain American gaming mag that aped Famitsu's structure with multiple reviewers. One gave GTA3 a 10, blown away by Rockstar's brave new world and the possibilities within. The others, however, didn't give it a 10; one gave it a 7 or an 8, with the gist being it's neat enough, but the targeting system just sucks, doesn't it?

The next year, the same magazine awarded Vice City, with a virtually identical targeting system, three 10s.

Today's update reminded me of this. GTA3 wasn't immediately seen as a revolution; it wasn't discussed as a potential Game of the Year before it came out. Vice City, however, was. A game of that importance and pedigree? You had to have damn good reasons (and an iron will) not to give Vice City anything lower than a 9.

It can feel arbitrary, and in that sense, I understand the frustration of those developers: How come they get away with it? If we had done that, we'd have points knocked off. I imagine developers a few decades ago thought similar: Vice City's targeting system is no better than ours. Why are we getting penalized and not them?

But that's the beauty of our beloved profession: it's not just about technology, it's about art. Some games just make you feel things. They connect with you, they move you, they give you an experience you've never had before. The 3D GTA games did that. Yeah, targeting is fiddly. But, wow, walking around Liberty City for the first time, seeing the world move around you... I didn't care. There was nothing like this. It was amazing.

It sounds like Elden Ring is the same. I feel bad for those developers, I do; they're doing the best they can, following the best practices and ideas they can. But it's hard to compete with art.

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Mar 7, 2022Liked by Nathan Brown

If Elden Rings tutorial teaches you anything it's that this game aims to subvert your expectations so pay attention! :)

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I agree some things could be improved in Elden Ring, although closing the map hasn't been an issue for me (this is far from the only game that uses one button as a universal "go back", and it's key here considering nothing actually pauses the game).

But I think it's important to note that Elden Ring, like Breath of the Wild before, does something fantastic when it comes to guiding the exploration: it uses geography in lieu of arrows and dots on a mini map. It does it so well that after simply letting myself run wherever I felt, I discovered most of what the world had to offer me. I was guided, by simply looking around and seeing a rise, a ravine, a bridge that looked interesting.

Good geography is considerably more difficult to develop than any UX, and leading the player through the world without any markers is an achievement in itself.

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