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  #31  
Old 08-27-2016, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by MetManMas View Post
When I first started playing Dark Souls, certain aspects of it reminded me of the Monster Hunter games. The stamina bar, different weapons having a different feel to them, enemies in general coming off as a little more intelligent and/or aggressive than your standard kill fodder, armor choice mattering for reasons besides base defense stats, minimalism as far as cutscenes go, etc.
Oh, yeah, they're definitely design cousins. The biggest thing both games do, in my opinion, is that player skill can overcome equipment/level deficiency. The core designs reward the extremes of two very distinct play-styles, both the DMC-esque never-gets-hit person that beats the game at level 1, and the very meticulous MMO-esque person who has a specific weapon for every situation and items to cope with every eventuality. The end effect for your average player is that your efforts for making a character are rewarded, but in situations your character can't effectively deal with, you can wing it pretty hard and get by.

I feel like most fans of one of the two have the potential to be fans of the other, depending on their favorite aspects of the games. Though if you favorite aspect of Souls is lore, or your favorite aspect of MonHun is multiplayer, well. Maybe not so much.
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  #32  
Old 10-28-2016, 12:00 PM
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This year I've heard the following retro games/series compared (with varying degrees) to Dark Souls: Punch Out, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Actraiser 2, the original Metroid. Previously people have compared Zelda 2 and Castlevania to Dark Souls.

This is my admittedly satirical-sounding setup for a more discussion-worthy question:

What are best alternative ways we can come up to describe these notions of design and/or difficulty? (not necessarily as it applies to retro games, but use these examples as a base if it helps)

Imagine you're the one hired to be these people's thesaurus. After all, the world isn't going to use the "Dark Souls" descriptor forever. With the actual Dark Souls series soon entering a vague slumber, it's a relevant time to advocate for enlightening terminology.
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  #33  
Old 10-28-2016, 12:37 PM
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It's impossible to come up with a single, punchy phrase to replace "like Dark Souls", because not everybody is talking about the same thing when they say it. Just looking at your list, I would say Punch Out!!, Castlevania, Metroid and Zelda II all have distinctly different types of difficulty.

The only thing that can really be advocated is that people actually take the time to explain what they mean, instead of falling back on a lazy comparison. And good luck with that!
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  #34  
Old 10-28-2016, 12:42 PM
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It's not even just difficulty. It could be a comparison to its spare, mysterious storytelling style, a combined exploration / combat focus on an interconnected map, repetition leading to mastery, or a number of other things.
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  #35  
Old 10-28-2016, 02:53 PM
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My intention was to preemptively deflect unimaginative replies, but I guess I need to expound on the idea in a future post.

Note that when these people compared various games to Dark Souls, they did use other words to narrow in on the common details. But often when people use "like Dark Souls" it reflects that it is still a struggle to communicate those details.
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  #36  
Old 10-28-2016, 03:34 PM
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I guess I'm just not sure what you mean. What elements do we need phrases for? And why? I think wilcoon did a pretty good job at concise descriptions.
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  #37  
Old 10-28-2016, 04:17 PM
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I don't see how any of those games are particularly like Dark Souls except for the latter 2, and even then, it's largely incidental to genre or setting. I mean, they're adventure RPGs. But Punch-Out? Fucking punch-out? Seriously?

If the only thing it takes for someone to say the game is "like Dark Souls" is that it's also difficult, we have a word for that: Difficult. See also: Hard, tough, challenging.

If it's a certain kind of difficulty, you'll need to be more precise.

If it's a combination of many elements that it has in common, like willcoon said, then you just go on saying "it's like Dark Souls" because the game is then, in fact, similar to Dark Souls. We still compare games to other old games all the time. They're not, like, going away.
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  #38  
Old 10-28-2016, 06:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul le Fou View Post
I don't see how any of those games are particularly like Dark Souls except for the latter 2, and even then, it's largely incidental to genre or setting. I mean, they're adventure RPGs. But Punch-Out? Fucking punch-out? Seriously?
Beating Artorias with no shield or armor and a stick is probably easier than beating Mike Tyson.
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  #39  
Old 10-28-2016, 09:28 PM
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A form of difficulty where failure and repeated attempts are an intended part of the game's rhythm, instead of the equivalent of a record skipping
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  #40  
Old 10-28-2016, 10:04 PM
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It seems like a lot of these things - repetition-based gameplay where failure is expected and integrated into the flow of play, minimalist cutscenes, little text (at least in the course of play proper) - are natural design consequences of the limitations and circumstances of early games, generally out of favor in more modern games.
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  #41  
Old 10-29-2016, 08:57 AM
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Better describing this mode of 'difficulty with characteristics of repetition' is one of the bigger questions to me. In the examples I listed, this is usually what the person making the comparison was specifically referring to. Metroid was the exception - where instead the comparison was about about unguided exploration and ambient storytelling - and those aspects seem easy to communicate with existing phrases. (Just to be clear, none of the comparisons were intended as a "whole package" analogy between the game and Dark Souls.)

Also, I wonder if there are other patterns worth pointing out?

Castlevania: you have a short range whip, keeps you stationary
Ghouls 'n Ghosts: you have a very limited, fixed jump arc
Actraiser 2: you have slow movement, very peculiar jump/gliding arcs

Is repetition standing out as a relevant factor just because these games are difficult, or is it more because the player has a very binding moveset?

I'm not as well versed with Punch Out, but it seems to fit with those games too. On the Watch out for Fireballs podcast (which made the Dark Souls comparison) I liked how they used the phrase "call and response gameplay" to describe it. Maybe that's hinting at this (since it suggests how judicious your moves must be), or maybe something else.

Last edited by dosboot; 10-29-2016 at 09:34 AM.
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  #42  
Old 10-29-2016, 09:22 AM
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Also: The conversation is moving along nicely now. I want to circle back to what I said before and explain even if it is less necessary now:

Basically, I'm assuming "like Dark Souls" is a phrase that is going to cease being said at some point in favor of (what will be considered) modern terminology. I was sensing objection to the discussion for one of two reasons: 1) it couldn't be replaced by any one phrase or 2) a replacement phrase wouldn't be as catchy.

The first objection answers itself (we should seek multiple phrases), but I see my initial setup for the discussion suggested conflation instead of distinction (my bad). The second objection is, to me, the unimaginative complaint. I'm not hoping someone will invent the perfect meme-like word combination to replace "like Dark Souls". It would be the obvious way to visualize linguistic change taking place, but it's also a narrow way. I could derail myself here why being punchy isn't necessarily the required factor but I won't if this isn't a big sticking point.
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  #43  
Old 10-29-2016, 05:23 PM
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From my Zelda II comparison, it was less about the repetition and more about a focus on close quarters combat with a specific ebb and flow (or defend-counter-defend if that's more clear) and high risk-reward that's tied directly to character growth and progress. Repetition is tied into both of those things but that's on the same surface level that can be said of a lot of classic games as someone else already pointed out. I feel like you really need to dig deep into the nuts and bolts of the mechanics personally, which is why Zelda II always felt like a closer comparison than to the go to Dark Souls comparison Castlevania.

In other news, my game was called the 'Dark Souls of tapping games' at the by a patron at the con I demoed at today. I feel this can only be a sign of great things to come.
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  #44  
Old 10-29-2016, 05:58 PM
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When people say a game is "like Dark Souls," I cringe and dismiss said game outright; I really dislike Dark Souls. But I don't think that's fair to Random Game.

"Like Dark Souls" is only useful if you qualify it:

"The difficulty is like Dark Souls"
"The world design is like Dark Souls"
"The gameplay mechanics are like Dark Souls"
"The art direction is like Dark Souls"
Etc.

Not that those tell you enough of anything either, but they are far more useful than a generic "like Dark Souls."

To wit, "<Random game> is basically the Dark Souls of <blank>" is a description without meaning.
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  #45  
Old 10-29-2016, 07:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by four-so View Post
"Like Dark Souls" is only useful if you qualify it:

"The difficulty is like Dark Souls"
"The world design is like Dark Souls"
"The gameplay mechanics are like Dark Souls"
"The art direction is like Dark Souls"
Etc.
"The emphasis on lore building primarily focused on observation and subtlety instead of cutscenes is like Dark Souls."
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  #46  
Old 10-29-2016, 07:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MetManMas View Post
"The emphasis on lore building primarily focused on observation and subtlety instead of cutscenes is like Dark Souls."
Does that make Super Metroid like Dark Souls, or Dark Souls like Super Metroid?
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  #47  
Old 10-30-2016, 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by four-so View Post
Does that make Super Metroid like Dark Souls, or Dark Souls like Super Metroid?
Dark Souls is culturally relevant on a much wider scale.

If Super Metroid had sold as many copies as Dark Souls they'd probably still be making them.
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  #48  
Old 10-30-2016, 08:55 PM
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"The detailed character creation made largely irrelevant for most players by a thick layer of zombification is like Dark Souls"
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  #49  
Old 10-30-2016, 09:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by four-so View Post
When people say a game is "like Dark Souls," I cringe and dismiss said game outright; I really dislike Dark Souls. But I don't think that's fair to Random Game.
I have a similar but not quite as negative reaction to it and more in the direction of wishing it were true. People and review sites love throwing it out there but almost nothing is actually Souls-like the way people use it as a descriptor and it's very sad, because honestly the industry could use a lot more games of this genre. Salt and Sanctuary was an absolute blast for me because it didn't just go for a single qualifier, it tried and more or less succeeded at being a full Souls-like game in 2D, with a way more interesting character progression system that shames the hell out of Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid. Every time someone says "it's like Souls" I hope for that kind of thing and it basically never is.

And then there are times when I'm thankful it isn't true and really wish people would stop describing a thing like that. I can't count the number of times the Dragon's Dogma steam discussions kept raving about how it's like Dark Souls when it released on PC. It's perhaps the least appropriate action-RPG comparison you could make to it, and I'm positive it turned a few people away from playing an otherwise really good but different action-RPG. So not only is it inaccurate, but Souls have such a distinct game feel that everyone has a very specific expectation and react accordingly when they hear it, either getting something way off from what they wanted or deciding not to get something they might've liked if they weren't misled.

I'm having kind of a hard time thinking of another title or genre that has that specific problem. It's weird.

Last edited by Oathbreaker; 10-31-2016 at 06:35 AM. Reason: Clarity
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  #50  
Old 10-30-2016, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Oathbreaker View Post
Salt and Sanctuary was an absolute blast for me because it didn't just go for a single qualifier, it tried and more or less succeeded at being a full Souls-like game in 2D, with a way more interesting character progression system that makes even Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid jealous.
AKA the second-worst character progression system in the series? Where you fill in a linear grid to level up every single stat one at a time? It sounds like Salt and Sanctuary doesn't have a very good progression system at all.
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  #51  
Old 10-30-2016, 10:26 PM
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AKA the second-worst character progression system in the series? Where you fill in a linear grid to level up every single stat one at a time? It sounds like Salt and Sanctuary doesn't have a very good progression system at all.
S&S's grid isn't linear in the slightest, but the rest is basically right >_>
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  #52  
Old 10-31-2016, 06:29 AM
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I meant it more as what everyone's first impression of the Sphere Grid was; oh look at this huge, sprawling grid full of options. I still hear people say that about it. Salt and Sanctuary actually bothered doing what everyone hoped the Sphere Grid would do.
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  #53  
Old 10-31-2016, 09:52 AM
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Salt and Sanctuary gave you more meaningful choices about character progression than FFX, yeah, but it didn't come across to me as justifying the contrivance of having a "skill tree" as opposed to "just pick the stat you want to upgrade."

Most of the "skills" in S&S either just give you a flat upgrade to one stat, or are of the form "can now equip level <N> <class of weapon/armor/magic>".
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  #54  
Old 11-10-2016, 06:56 AM
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This article about Dark Souls and history is really fantastic.
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  #55  
Old 03-09-2017, 08:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by four-so View Post
"Yeah, but explain to me how it compares to Dark Souls." - Nolan Bushnell, about Breakout, 1976
The absolute best thing about this joke is that the earliest known instance of "the Dark Souls of" was said about a Breakout clone.
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  #56  
Old 03-09-2017, 11:54 PM
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At this point, I think I hate Dark Souls through absolutely no fault of its own, just due to these comparisons.
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  #57  
Old 03-09-2017, 11:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Bunk Moreland View Post
At this point, I think I hate Dark Souls through absolutely no fault of its own, just due to these comparisons.
The Dark Souls of Blank is our generation's Doom-clone, don't hate the game for people's lack of creativity when it comes to descriptive language.
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  #58  
Old 03-10-2017, 12:00 AM
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Dark Souls analogies have become the Dark Souls of lazy comparisons.
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  #59  
Old 03-10-2017, 12:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Tefari View Post
The Dark Souls of Blank is our generation's Doom-clone, don't hate the game for people's lack of creativity when it comes to descriptive language.
Doom-clone meant first person shooter, encapsulating at the very least a base camera view and a method of interaction. "The Dark Souls of" means "this game was harder than I expected it to be/has a stamina mechanic/has worldbuilding that is not explicitly spelled out/any or none of the above" it's a way more nebulous descriptor that has been applied so broadly that it is literally impossible to divine meaning from in a vacuum. I love dark souls but I wouldn't blame anyone who hadn't played it for wanting it to disappear from the discourse entirely at this point.
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  #60  
Old 03-10-2017, 12:30 AM
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And I've seen Half Life and Deus Ex called Doom-clones. Which I mean, they are by virtue of being first person games where you have a gun, but that's still the same kind of lazy reductionist labeling that goes on when people refer to something as the Dark Souls of Blank. It's not a new phenomenon and I've never been a fan of dismissing stuff because it turned into a pop culture shibboleth.
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