Monthly Archives: September 2018

Indie Wonderland: Two Point Hospital

An interesting thing happened in the process of drafting this week’s review: An American friend told me that Bullfrog’s old Theme line of games, of which Theme Park and Theme Hospital are probably the most notable, never got quite as much traction in the States as they did in Europe. This was surprising to me, because I don’t think I knew anyone back then who was into games and didn’t play either of those two. I played both, and while Theme Park was the one I spent more time with, Theme Hospital is the game that stuck with me the most. I still occasionally hum some of its music. It stuck with me partially because it was one of the first business simulation-esque games I ever played, much moreso than Theme Park (which I played mostly as an excuse to build bad rollercoasters), and partially because I don’t remember seeing anything else like it since. Theme Park had sequels, competitors, spinoffs, Planet Coaster a fairly recent entry. What does Theme Hospital have?

Well, thanks to the efforts of Two Point Studios, Theme Hospital now has a proper spiritual sequel: Two Point Hospital, only the second-ever game I’ve ever played about building a hospital and trying not to kill a majority of your patients.

To which I can only say: I’ll try.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, nil. Mechanical, medium.)

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the break: Can Two Point Hospital stack up to that fondly-remember game of decades past? Probably nothing can, but we’ll see if it makes a good effort!

Indie Shortieland: Donut County

So an interesting thing happened last weekend. I’d gotten my hands on Ben Esposito‘s Donut County, acquired off the strength of a bunch of people talking and sharing screenshots about it. Earmarked as a review game, I figured I’d play it a little to close out my Sunday night, and then plan how much I’d have to play more to get a good enough idea of it and where that would fit in my schedule. You know, the usual stuff.

And then I blinked and it was two hours later and I had completed the whole game. Even got a few of the secret achievements to boot.

I’ve thought about doing a full Donut County review, since obviously I liked it enough to play the whole dang thing in a single sitting. There’s just… not that much to talk about? A full analytic deep-dive would pretty much turn into me describing the whole game blow-by-blow, and I don’t want to inflict that on anyone. Least of all you.

I still want to give Donut County the added publicity it deserves, though. And if that’s not what the Indie Shortieland formula was ad-hoc-created for, I don’t know what is.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, low-ish.)

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the break: Donut County, or: A whole bunch of mischief.

Ranneko Plays New Format In Production

Okay, so maybe, new isn’t exactly the right term given that the last daily video went out two months ago today.

Since then, as I mentioned back in April, I have stuck to a much lighter release schedule. Each week I release a tip video and a stream archive. The idea behind this lighter schedule was to cut out the content almost no one was watching (i.e. the Let’s Plays I started the channel to do), and consolidate them into a single video once a week. The hope was that reducing the amount of content that people didn’t care about more people would be tempted to hit that subscribe button and then stay subscribed.

How has it worked out?The first third of this graph is the last month of daily videos, the last two thirds are under the new format. What I see in this graph is an initial drop in viewership as my audience adapts to the changes, but not much of a drop because after all, not many people were actually watching the Let’s Plays as they were drawing to their close. More recently there are some peaks, but they are relatively isolated, which means they are probably from external sources, rather than something sustainable.

But what about subscribers? The view count might be mixed, but are subscribers hanging around longer?This is not exactly what I was hoping for, again we see a drop off shortly after the change from daily to less frequent videos, but on the other hand I have seen a burst of subscribers recently. Linked fairly closely to one of the peaks on the watch time graph above. I seem to be getting fewer subs that drop within a day, but I am not sure if that is simply a change in how subscribers are reported to me.

In conclusion, outlook hazy try again later. Changing the release schedule hasn’t provided any sort of clear signalling, it was neither an immediate success or an immediate failure. As things stand I will continue my current approach and reevaluate towards the end of the year.

Indie Wonderland: Molecats

…no, hang on, wait a minute. I could have sworn I’ve seen this game before. And I would be right, in a way: While Vidroid‘s Molecats saw release a week ago, it started life as ‘Molecat Twist‘, way back in 2011. I remember playing the demo a little bit, not backing it on Kickstarter, and subsequently losing sight of it.

Until today! Review coordination newsletter emails are a magical thing. Small world, huh?

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, nearly nothing. Mechanical, medium.)

(Game source: Developer review key.)

After the break: I’m sure that forgetting about Molecats for seven years straight in no way indicates the impression this new and exciting product will leave on me.

Indie Wonderland: Dead Cells

I’ve been waiting for Motion Twin‘s Dead Cells to go gold for months now. It’s been around for what feels like ages, but always with my most hated caveat: Early Access. “You can play our game now, if you want! It’s incomplete and you’ll spoil the full experience for yourself, but if you absolutely can’t wait…”

Okay, that’s an unfair representation of how Early Access was used here. I understand that many developers nowadays employ it as a method of user-involved development, and honestly, I can’t imagine a better way to get actual feedback from actual players under actual play circumstances — the user experience researcher in me appreciates it greatly. And I have played some Early Access games to good effect, most notable of which Sunless Sea; I noted in my review of it that having access to those early-build memories made for an interesting review counterpoint to the current game. That said, I think Early Access just isn’t for me. I’m perfectly fine waiting a game to reach what the development team considers ‘completion’ — I know that’s an odd benchmark in this day and age of constant content upgrades, but listen, I can’t influence how my own brain works.

At any rate, Dead Cells! It’s out now! Let’s see if it’s been worth the wait.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, medium-high.)

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the break: Dead Cells, which was absolutely worth the wait.