Friday, April 29, 2016

ONE WRONG THING: Runner2


Don't give the player a "bonus chance" that's really just a chance to fail.

You can get Runner2 at http://www.runner2.com/

Other footage from:
Little Big Planet
NHL 16 (thanks, Senpai-Chan!)
Rock Band 3

Transcript:
Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is a rhythm platformer, just like its predecessor Bit.Trip Runner. Your character runs automatically and you avoid obstacles by doing things like jumping and sliding at the right time. The timing is rhythmic and your actions affect the music, so in a sense it’s like DDR or Guitar Hero expressed as a platformer.

There’s also gold to collect, which is technically optional. While hitting an obstacle is instant failure, if you miss a gold pickup, the level continues. If you finish a level without collecting all the gold, it just ends… but if you get all the gold, you get a "bonus chance” at the end of the level - you hop into a cannon and shoot yourself at a target. The closer you are to the bullseye, the more points you get.

If you miss the bullseye, you still get a “Perfect” on the level - after all, you got all the gold. But if you hit the bullseye, you instead get a “Perfect Plus,” meaning you got all the gold AND hit the bullseye. There’s an achievement for getting Perfect Plus on every single level, so to 100% the game you have to hit the bullseye on every level.

The bullseye presents a challenge that is unrelated to the rest of the gameplay - it does technically require timing, but it’s not keyed to the music and it’s not part of an autoscrolling level. It’s just watching the cannon and hitting the button when it’s at the right angle. It’s essentially a separate minigame that you play when you finish a level, but it’s still required in order to get full credit for that level. And it’s the exact same challenge for every single level. To complete the challenge for the very first level, which teaches the player to jump, you have to shoot out of this cannon at the right time. And to complete the challenge for much later levels testing much more complex and difficult skills, you have to shoot out of this same cannon at the same right time.

It’s boring, and you have to do it over and over in pursuit of the Perfect Plus ratings. And if you’re going for Perfect Plus, failing to hit the bullseye is actually the most heavily punished failure in the game.

When you hit an obstacle, your punishment is to be whisked back to the level start - or to the midlevel checkpoint if you activated it. When you miss a gold pickup the level continues and you can generally just hit an obstacle to get whisked back if you want to try again. But if you miss the bullseye, you’ve still “completed” the level - you get your Perfect, not Perfect Plus, sit through your score screen, press a button to retry the level, wait for the level to load, and then finally get back to the beginning - a transition that's nearly instantaneous if you hit an obstacle. That means that hitting an obstacle right before the level ends - which is supposed to be considered failure - is better than successfully completing the level but missing the bullseye. The difference is even greater if you’ve activated the mid-level checkpoint, since then hitting the obstacle would only take you back to that checkpoint, but missing the bullseye means replaying the entire level.

Simply put, this isn’t a “Bonus Chance”. A bonus is something extra given freely. If hitting the bullseye is necessary for success, then this is a failure chance! It’s a chance to turn success into failure. Seeing the cannon and target show up doesn't feel like a reward for completing a level perfectly, possibly after a lot of practice - it's a stressful moment in which you wonder if you're about to invalidate your own achievement.

So how would I do it if I had my way? If I were Videogame King for a day?

Perfect Plus should have nothing to do with the cannon and bullseye. Getting the top rating on a level, and thereby getting all the achievements, should not require completing a rote task unrelated to the game’s main challenge and with the game's harshest punishment attached. Instead, you should get a Perfect Plus by getting a Perfect on a level without the use of the mid-level checkpoint, as this means that not only did you avoid all obstacles and collect all gold, but you did so in a single and complete perfect run. If you fail an attempt by hitting an obstacle - you're just sent right back to the beginning for another try. No extra waiting. And when you pull it off, it means you've really learned to play the entire level flawlessly, start to finish. This is a much more meaningful accomplishment that relies on mastery over a particular level’s challenges.

For the cannon itself - the easiest thing would be to remove it. But I think there is something worth salvaging here. There is something to be said for ending levels with a bang, to give the player a bit of a catharsis.

When you finish a level in Little Big Planet, the game gives you a few seconds during which you can move and dance freely to celebrate your victory. This would be even more effective in a game like Runner2, where you spend most of your time reacting to very specific timed cues. Just like with goal celebrations in NHL16 that let the player express themselves or Big Rock Endings in Rock Band games that encourage the player to just wail on the inputs they previously needed to hit in a very structured way, a few seconds of celebratory freedom would be a great way to release the tension built up by running a level perfectly. Let the player make their own music by jumping, kicking, sliding, and dancing to their own rhythm. That's how you end a level with a bang.

All the ingredients were already there - there was no need to add in the cannon mechanic and dilute the central gameplay. Runner2 is a great game that gets a lot right, but the “Bonus Chance” cannon is one wrong thing.

Monday, April 25, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: DuckTales Remastered


DuckTales Remastered
Capsule Review!

See also the And in the game? comic.

You can get DuckTales Remastered at http://www.capcom-unity.com/ducktales or http://store.steampowered.com/app/237630/

Transcript:
DuckTales Remastered is a 2D platformer that's a remake of the NES original. It's lovingly-rendered nostalgia that holds up pretty well, with gorgeous character animation, beautiful soundtrack, and tight gameplay as you explore levels looking for treasure. A single play-through is two to three hours or so. The intro and finale levels, which were added for the remake, aren't as well-designed as the original levels, but those are all still there and quite fun. The difficulty settings are a bit odd and for most players I'd recommend playing on Easy.

Friday, April 22, 2016

DOCPLAYS: Little Party


Little Party
Let's Play!

You can get Little Party at https://turnfollow.itch.io/littleparty

Transcript:
So this is Little Party. You can see from the controls here that it's what is sometimes called a "walking simulator" where you explore an environment with limited interaction. It's a short game where you play as a mother keeping an eye on her daughter's all-night art party. It does some interesting things that I thought were worth talking about.

The game has a five-act structure. The first act serves as the tutorial, teaching the mechanics and rules as well as introducing the game's most important characters. First is the player character of the mother. Most walking simulators are first-person, but Little Party adopts an over-the-shoulder perspective that keeps the player character on the screen at all times. I think this is because the player character's identity is actually very important. This isn't like Gone Home, where the player learns about family happenings that they weren't really involved in - here we're taking part in an established family dynamic, and our role in that dynamic is central to the experience.

Four pictures on the hallway walls give us an abbreviated family history. Mom and dad, young and happy together, and then their daughter Suzanne. Rounding the corner we see an aerial view of the house, nestled between a lake and a country road, and then finally a graveyard. Since we're playing as Mom, and Suzanne is still around, the implication is that the father has died.

Now we're ready to meet Suzanne. When we find her, a large blue text prompt appears - these indicate things we can interact with by hitting the space bar. So let's hit space and talk to Suzanne.

The conversation with Suzanne - like all conversations in the game - is brief and has no dialog choices. Like with the over-the-shoulder perspective, this is because we aren't creating a character, we're inhabiting one - so we just see what she says rather than deciding for ourselves. And what she says introduces the dynamic between her and Suzanne that's at the heart of the game: Mom is well-meaning and clearly appreciated but increasingly unnecessary as her daughter becomes an adult. Mom offers to make some guacamole for the party because she genuinely wants to help. Suzanne seems to understand and appreciate her mother's intentions, but would probably rather her mother not get involved. Still, it's hard to turn down guac without being rude, so the conversation ends with Mom planning to make the guac. Notice the blue text here - that indicates a goal for Mom.

When we head to the kitchen, we find Suzanne already there. This is another piece of tutorial, showing that other characters will move around when we aren't looking. This recurs throughout the game, and creates a sense that the other characters are moving with purpose, while we are just sort of wandering to find them and see what they're up to and whether we can help. It feels like we're playing an NPC, and it's a great way to line up the player experience with the player character's experience, since Mom is just having a normal day on the sidelines while the kids are having their art party.

Anyway, we can talk to Suzanne again and this time she and Mom just joke around with each other. This conversation shows that the relationship between Suzanne and her mother really is a healthy and friendly one, in case there were any doubts. It also shows Mom's willingness to laugh at herself, as she's just as amused as Suzanne that she accidentally claims to not be sober.

With that done, we can now make the guac. This closes out the tutorial with the final lesson - interactions with objects are act breaks that advance time. When the guac is done, the guests arrive and thus begins Act II.

A quick note about this line - it's attributed not to Suzanne, but to a misspelling of the word "daughter". My guess is that a previous version of the game simply called Suzanne "Daughter" the same way it calls the mother "Mom", and at some point they did a global find-and-replace to change it over. But since this instance of "Daughter" was misspelled, it wasn't caught and changed. So now it's this weird artifact - an incorrect spelling of an incorrect word.

The conversation ends, and we're left contemplating the pile of shoes by the door that are the universal symbol for "a bunch of teenagers are here." We have no explicit goal, so we wander around and find the kids. Suzanne gives a speech to kick off the event, and opens it kind of offensively by implying that at least artistically, mothers don't get things done. It's kind of a weird thing to say, but nobody calls her on it. We can also talk to her friends and get a sense of what they're here to do. Nicholas is anxious and overeager and already started his project. Biff holds a camcorder and adjusts to the house - the set for his film - being different than he expected. Isaac is splattered with paint, and intent on finding his inspiration inside himself.

Heading upstairs, we find Biff filming. Mom gets in his shot, but he's cool about it - as before, he's trying to be open about how his film goes. In the kitchen we can find Nicholas struggling with his game design and offer him some guac, but he's anxious about that too since he didn't recognize the fried shallots. As we keep walking around we start to hear music coming from the basement, luring us downstairs to find Suzanne playing. She refuses to accept Mom's encouragement, thinking at first that she's being made fun of. She also prompts Mom to state her next goal, and if we head to the office to send those emails we find Isaac getting ready to paint, who says thanks for putting them all up in her house.

Sending the emails advances time again and moves us to Act III. The kids have had some time to make progress, and we're presented with the fruits of Isaac's labors so far, though Isaac himself isn't around. Again there is no explicit goal, so we wander around and find Nicholas fussing over cards and trying to figure out how to show their intended order. Mom's willingness to say the dumb thing comes in handy here, because she proposes the simple solution of just numbering them, which Nicholas had apparently not considered in his overthinking of the problem. It's Mom's first chance to be genuinely helpful.

Isaac and Suzanne are out on the patio while Isaac smokes. He seems to be an inexperienced smoker, though. Suzanne is talking about her father's music, in a way consistent with the implication that the father has died. She clearly respects his work and wants to keep it alive, in contrast to the way she's been treating her mother. But then, a deceased father is no threat to her independence. She can safely enjoy his art.

Out front, Biff is filming near a picnic table, speculating on family history. When Mom appears, he incorporates her into his process, accidentally calling her a "relic." But Mom rolls with it and says she takes it as a compliment.

Again, music draws us downstairs where the kids are working. Talking to Isaac, Mom has another moment where she's semi-awkwardly willing to laugh at herself, but then it's revealed that Mom used to paint, and Isaac is impressed with her work. Mom says thanks, but dismisses the art as behind her, echoing Biff's language and saying that she's just a relic now. It adds some color to the contrast between Suzanne's treatment of her father and mother - Mom's made some art too, but has no apparent interest in continuing to do so or any concern in preserving it for the future - Isaac just happened to find her work and pull it out of storage. She seems to consider art something for young people, not her. It's not clear when she stopped painting, or if the father was still making music up until his death - but if he was, then Suzanne would remember her father as an artist and her mother as someone who'd given up her art. This could certainly explain why she respects her father as an artist but not her mother. It's not really fair to Mom to compare her to the impossible standard of a dead person, but it's exactly the sort of comparison a kid in this situation is likely to make.

Biff is filming the others as they work and trying to find his film's story. His approach is still free-flowing as he clearly improvises some narration. Suzanne is making progress too, as her music becomes more developed, but all she has to say to her mother is an offer to keep it down if they're being too loud, and Mom volunteers her next goal, which is reading a book. Nicholas, meanwhile, is panicking. He's been working with physical cards and dice and is starting to think the game should be a phone app instead, and thinks maybe he should start over, and worries there isn't time. Suzanne tells him to relax, that failure is okay, which he seems reluctant to accept.

Heading upstairs to find our book, we advance time again and move to Act IV. Mom has dozed off reading her book, and the kids have had time to get even further with their work, so naturally we want to find them and check in. After seeing some furs in the basement, we find Biff and Nicholas out front filming a scene. Nicholas is in costume as some sort of woodland monster, apparently having given up on his game to help Biff with his film. Biff explains that Mom can't be in this shot, as the monster needs to be alone to make his home.

Out back, we hear music, different from the music we heard before. It leads us pretty far from the house - we have to go out of our way to find the source. It turns out to be Suzanne standing by the lake with a guitar, and as soon as she becomes aware of us she stops playing. She seems a little embarrassed to be caught, since she's experimenting with her musical style and isn't pleased with the results. Mom tries again to be supportive, Suzanne again rejects the attempt, and there's an awkward silence. Only when we leave does Suzanne resume her experimentation. After all, the monster needs to be alone to make his home.

Heading inside, we find Isaac in the kitchen nursing a coffee. Mom says "Howdy," calling back to their earlier conversation, a little joke that goes unremarked. Isaac offers her some coffee, but she reveals that her next goal is to go to bed. Isaac mentions that he's having trouble with his self-portrait, and Mom relays some advice from an old professor, that the way we represent things outside of ourselves says the most about our insides. Isaac doesn't quite get it, and Mom simply laughs at herself for not explaining it well. Isaac asks about Suzanne, and Mom says she's out by the lake trying to be alone. This was probably clear to Mom even before their awkward conversation, based just on Suzanne going so far from the house, but Mom wasn't able to resist her curiosity to check in on her daughter any more than the player was.

Heading downstairs, we find Biff and a cleaned up Nicholas playing games. Biff is excited and trying to help, but Nicholas just finds his attempts distracting. Nicholas needs to figure this out himself, even if Biff has useful insights, providing another echo to Suzanne's journey. And why is it so hard for Nicholas to concentrate? To me, it's because he's finally getting out of his own head and looking to other games for inspiration. He's playing this game like a designer, looking into what works, what doesn't, and why. Biff's coaching, then, misses the point, as it's aimed just at completing the game's internal objectives.

Mom goes to bed, and time advances once more, taking us to Act V. It's morning; the art party is ending and the artists are displaying their works. In the living room we find Isaac's exhibit, titled "Outside" Art - he's apparently taken Mom's advice to heart, and has found his inspiration externally, revealing himself by revealing the way he sees the world. In the basement, we see the TV playing Biff's film - and it's about Mom. In looking for the right way to tell the story of his fellow artists, he ended up telling the story of an outsider, and how she interacts with them. We also find Nicholas's exhibit titled "Failed Card Game." He's accepted that it's okay to fail, and still laid out his work for presentation anyway, showing that he understands it still has value.

But where's Suzanne? In her room, we find a power cable going out the window and up to the roof. Out on the patio, we find a ladder and can climb up ourselves - to find Suzanne giving a rooftop recital. Biff sees Mom and gives her a welcoming smile, but - crucially - Suzanne does not. Unaware of our presence, Suzanne keeps playing. We finally get to see our daughter as the artist we knew she was. All we can do is stand back and quietly be proud.

Little Party is ultimately a game about self-discovery through self-expression. The most prominent story is Suzanne's, because she is the most important person to the player character. Unlike the other kids, she can't benefit from Mom's perspective - she needs to reject it and find her own path. It's overcompensation, but it's what she needs to prove to herself that she's independent from the person she used to rely on for daily survival. As much as Mom would like to be part of Suzanne's life and help her blossom into the amazing person she's becoming, she can only get so close without being intrusive and disruptive. It isn't anyone's fault - it's just a fact of life that you have to stand back from your child for them to grow up. And that's okay, but that doesn't mean it's easy. By casting the player in this role, and tantalizing them with glimpses of artistic process and with haunting melodies heard from a distance, and proving that Mom has useful things to say but can't say them to her daughter, Little Party creates empathy for Mom by creating the conflict in the player as well - you know you're disruptive, and it's up to you whether to mix in or not, but if you're like me then you just can't stay away.

So that was Little Party. I hope you found it as interesting as I did.

Monday, April 18, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: SteamWorld Dig


SteamWorld Dig
Capsule Review!

You can get SteamWorld Dig at http://imageform.se/game/steamworld-dig/

Transcript:
SteamWorld Dig is a 2D mining and platform game with Metroidvania elements and a lightweight plot. You dig up ores to sell, find and buy upgrades and new abilities, and periodically have platform challenges and a boss fight or two. There's maybe a smidgen too much resource management, as your flashlight has a limited timer that resets when you exit the mine, and buying ladders or teleporters back to the surface uses the same finite resources used for upgrades, though there's enough that it's not really a problem. The game is superbly paced - new abilities, challenges, and environments come up just when you've mastered the old, such that nothing wears out its welcome.

Friday, April 15, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: Analogue: A Hate Story


Analogue: A Hate Story
Capsule Review!

You can get Analogue: A Hate Story at http://store.steampowered.com/app/209370/

Transcript:
Analogue: A Hate Story is a visual novel about investigating a disaster that occurred on a generation ship drifting through space. There's a lot of reading as you dig through text logs and interact with AI NPCs to uncover the truth. The game is notable for presenting an incredibly fair and even-handed examination of moral relativism. It depicts a society that is horrifying and deplorable by modern standards, but at the same time is clearly made up of people who are just trying to do what they believe is right. There are a lot of characters and some pretty complicated family trees - more visuals would have helped keep them straight, but the writing is strong enough that it's still very easy to believe in these characters and to care about them.

Monday, April 11, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: Super Meat Boy


Super Meat Boy
Capsule Review!

You can get Super Meat Boy at http://www.supermeatboy.com/

Transcript:
Super Meat Boy is a precision platformer with incredibly tight controls and jump physics. It feels really good to play - especially since the devs focused on stripping away frustration while still presenting a high level of challenge. There's no limited lives (outside of a few bonus levels), respawn is instant, and the levels are small enough that the goal is always visible. At least, that's how it starts. The levels get longer and longer and have multiple different kinds of challenges, but you still always respawn at the start of the level - meaning that the punishment and therefore frustration increase as you go. If the devs had stuck to their design goals, the game would be just about perfect. As it is, it's merely very good.

Friday, April 8, 2016

A quick note on DOCPLAYS

TL;DR: I've unlisted the older DOCPLAYS videos because they were terrible. If you'd already stopped watching DOCPLAYS, you may want to give the newer ones a shot - they're more about insight into design choices now.

I've often said that if you want to get better at something, do it in public, which is why I'm publishing two videos a week in 2016. Keeping up this pace forces me to experiment, learn, and grow, and one of the ways I've grown is by learning that my early DOCPLAYS experiments were flawed. The format I tried - live commentary as I play the game for the first time - doesn't use my strengths and I don't think that the results are worth watching. In fact, I've unlisted those videos from my YouTube channel. They're still accessible if you already had the URL, or via the embeds in the corresponding Pixel Poppers posts. But I want it to be the case that someone who stumbles onto my channel and clicks around finds only content that I'm actually proud to share.

The newest DOCPLAYS videos follow a different format: I play the game and write up some notes on the design, highlighting what works and what doesn't. Then I record new gameplay with that commentary. These videos take a lot longer to put together but it's worth it. If you stopped watching DOCPLAYS because the old ones were crap - I don't blame you. The new ones are better so give them a try.

I'm still experimenting so if you have any thoughts about what's working and not working in my videos or ways you think I could make them better, I'd love to hear them.

CAPSULE REVIEW: Thomas Was Alone


Thomas Was Alone
Capsule Review!

You can get Thomas Was Alone at http://www.mikebithellgames.com/thomaswasalone/

Transcript:
Thomas Was Alone is a 2D puzzle platformer with strong characterization that creates a lot of empathy, despite the cast consisting entirely of colored rectangles. This feat is accomplished through quite good narration of pretty decent writing, paired with evocative visuals and an incredible soundtrack. Some of the mechanics support the narration, though they never really reveal anything beyond it, and mostly just present competent puzzle platforming. Creator's commentary is also included and quite interesting, justifying playing the game a second time to hear it in context. Though be advised: the DLC is worth neither your money nor your time.

Monday, April 4, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: You Must Build A Boat


You Must Build A Boat
Capsule Review!

You can get You Must Build A Boat at http://eightyeightgames.com/you-must-build-a-boat/

See also the Capsule Review for 10,000,000: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r12oXPh5waA

Transcript:
You Must Build A Boat, like its predecessor 10,000,000, is a match-3 game with infinite runner and RPG elements, where obstacles and enemies must be overcome by matching the right kinds of tiles, and other tiles grant resources that can be used to purchase upgrades between runs. But there's a lot more spectacle and complexity going on between runs - you're expanding your boat, recruiting allies and monsters, traveling between different areas with different enemies and different bonuses and penalties active in the dungeons. It's better balanced and more engaging than 10,000,000 but still has the same design philosophy, where each run makes you better off for the next, and eventually you reach a satisfying end. If you only play one of them, play this one.

Friday, April 1, 2016

DOCPLAYS: An Exponential Problem and Right Click to Necromance


An Exponential Problem
Right Click to Necromance
Let's Play!

You can play An Exponential Problem at https://lastresortgames.itch.io/an-exponential-problem
You can get Right Click to Necromance at https://juicybeast.itch.io/right-click-to-necromance

Transcript:
Today I want to talk about two small games. They're both fundamentally about the exponential growth of infection, but they handle it differently with very different results, and I think those differences are worth discussing. They're quite short and both can be played for free, so if you want to take a couple of minutes to try them out first, the links are in the description.

Our first game is called "An Exponential Problem." Here you protect a virus during the initial stages of outbreak. The virus grows automatically, and you need to left-click to kill threats and right-click to spread to new targets. Here in the first level, where the virus is in a single host, the threats are white blood cells and the targets are red blood cells. It's an interesting idea, but the execution doesn't live up to the potential. The thing is, your growth is exponential, while the threats are linear - if you survive the first thirty seconds or so, your success is a foregone conclusion. The challenge decreases the longer you play, to the point where you can stop playing and still win. This is the opposite of how to keep someone engaged in a skill-based game. One way to mitigate this would be to take inspiration from Katamari Damacy, another game of inevitable exponential growth where the challenge comes from imposed constraints - how quickly can you reach a target size, or how big can you get in a certain amount of time. That approach requires continual attentive play and rewards skilled play with better outcomes.

The other major issue with An Exponential Problem is that there's no real risk/reward tradeoff to manage. The best strategy is to quickly infect targets and guard new infestations for a few seconds until they are self-sufficient, and then infect more. There are parallels here to real-time strategy games, where building multiple bases can dramatically increase your power - but in those games, doing that is a risky investment, since it means spending a lot of resources that could otherwise be used to fortify existing bases or advance up the tech tree. If your new base gets attacked before it's established, you could be out a substantial amount of resources while your main base is left unable to defend itself properly. But here in An Exponential Problem, new infections cost almost nothing. They just mean clicking over in a different area for a few seconds - they don't slow your growth or leave you vulnerable. It might have made the game more interesting if you had to, say, cut each existing infestation in half in order to create a new infection. Like with the real-time strategy games, it'd be a short-term cost with long-term upside, and it would at least be a decision the player has to make, as doing it too early or too often would be a losing strategy. Without such a cost, there aren't really any decisions to make in An Exponential Problem - it's always correct to infect new targets. The game has a simple strategy that's obviously dominant, presents no real challenge, and just involves rote actions.

So - An Exponential Problem. Neat idea, having you play as an unstoppable, infectious threat - but the threat's a little too unstoppable, with no persistent challenge or interesting decisions to engage the player. What would it look like if we found a game that fixed those problems?

Today's second game is called "Right Click to Necromance." In this one, you play as a necromancer who can raise fallen enemy soldiers to conscript them into your own army. The game is unfinished, but it's already a lot more fun than An Exponential Problem - let's talk about why.

First off, you're responsible for your own growth, since it only happens when you kill enemy soldiers. That means you're more engaged and making more choices, as you select your own targets. The choice isn't trivial, either - your own troops still take damage, and once they fall they're gone. You don't want to bite off more than you can chew, but more powerful soldiers make better additions to your own army. Also, you can't resurrect individual soldiers - only groups of them, and only once the entire group has been killed. That means that you can't just take on a huge force one by one, growing all the way - you can only take on groups that are weaker than your own, and ideally only one group at a time.

So, you watch the patterns of enemy movement, and select a group to attack. You're continually making decisions, setting goals and achieving victories. There is always a risk/reward tradeoff - smaller groups are safer bets and will be defeated more quickly, but won't improve your army that much. More powerful groups are juicier targets, but will do more damage to your own army along the way and take longer to defeat. Enemy groups move somewhat unpredictably, so the longer a battle takes the more likely it is that you'll inadvertently draw the attention of more than one group at a time. This means now your army is taking damage more quickly, but if you manage to defeat one of the groups you're fighting, you can immediately add it to your own forces for a quick turnaround and crush the next group. That means there's a flow of tension and relief, and of course it's more satisfying to come back from the brink of defeat than to just auto-win the way you do in An Exponential Problem.

This is also a source of increasing challenge as the game progresses, since the enemy groups become stronger over time and your own army becomes larger, making it that much easier for enemy groups to notice you and attack - often more than one at a time. It's still pretty hard to lose if you play conservatively, but now that's a choice that the player is making, over and over with different conditions as the game continues. Even if the victories aren't especially hard-fought, they're still due to the player's deliberate actions. There's a much greater sense of ownership of the player's success or failure.

So - Right Click to Necromance. Neat idea, having you play as an unstoppable, infectious threat. By making sure the threat isn't quite literally unstoppable, and leaving the spread of the infection up to the player's management of risk versus reward, the game creates a continually engaging experience that's a lot of fun, even in an unfinished state. It's not clear from the game's Itch page whether they intend to revisit it, but if they do, they've got a good foundation to build from.