Don’t Starve – I’M WATCHING

This is a post more about watching someone else play a game than me playing a videogame.

I bought Don’t Starve on Steam quite a while ago, it’s one of the games that I’ve technically played, but haven’t spent a lot of time on. I think I have a hard time creating my own fun and thus, I seem to always have a hard time getting into open-ish games like this. I need a central storyline to keep me going when I get tired of exploring. Think more Skyrim and less GTA.

Though, as soon as I saw Joce start playing it, it looked a lot more interesting. So now I have to take a break from The Walking Dead season 2 to write a few words about THAT whole experience.

Here’s the backstory: Don’t Starve is pretty popular. I’m not exactly HOW I know that, but I have a general sense that it’s true… and that’s really what good marketing is trying to do, yes? Anyway, Don’t Starve is releasing a free multiplayer expansion soon, and since we’re always on the lookout for co-op games to play, and since I already own a copy, Joce wanted to give it a try. SO, she played it for a few minutes on my account, liked it, and bought her own. (SEE! BEING ABLE TO TRY THINGS OUT ACTUALLY DOES LEAD TO PURCHASED YOU DIRTY COPYRIGHT BASTARDS)

But, why is it interesting to watch someone else play Don’t Starve?

That’s a good question. Part of it is that it’s easier for me to take the game in, if that makes any sense. I’m able to evaluate the game’s intricacies when I’m not occupied with the minutiae of not starving. I don’t have to spend time gathering grass, I can think about how the saving system affects gameplay, for example!

Saving is an interesting mechanic in this game: it auto-saves at as yet undetermined points, you can save but have to quit at the same time so it adds a bit of tension. And when you die, the game is over – no reloads.

It’s high stakes up in here.

It’s a simple thing, but it really does ramp up the importance. I mean, the damn game is about surviving and a lack of persistent saving makes the world a heckuva lot more dangerous. Need that bit of gold (required to build a science machine) over by that huge spider? Yeah, a science machine would be nice (and necessary to keep surviving in the long term), but how strong is that spider? Will it attack you? If it does, can you defeat it?

That’s just one thing that I’ve already spent waaaaay too much time thinking about. It’s one of the issues with retro games. No user-controlled save system makes even an “easy” game a lot harder, let alone a super difficult game like Mega Man.

Side note (and lifeprotip), if you’re like me and never had the patience for those old, meat-grinder-style games, try them in an emulator. Liberal use of ‘save state’ has made some of them more accessible to me. I’ve spent some time in Mega Man X that I never would’ve before because of it. But, more on that sometime in the future.

BTW – releasing a free multiplayer update is rad.

Plus, building a science machine is awesome.




10 thoughts on “Don’t Starve – I’M WATCHING

    1. The Otaku Judge

      Save states for old games can be a god send. Just reload from the moment before you died as opposed to playing the game from the very first level.

      1. rocketbouchard

        To the judge: I should have been clearer. I meant specifically for Don’t Starve.

        JB: makes sense. I haven’t played the game, so it makes sense that there are other notions of progress that one might want to maintain. As for the death penalty making it “real”, I think that’s too far for the dev to go. We’re in the era of hyper-fragmentation. Therefore, I should be able to make the game experience what I want. I would have the same reaction you did, JB. I actually did in Dark Souls, which everyone said was uber-hard and therefore fun. I beat the first couple of bosses (which were fun) then I fell off a cliff. Was it my fault? Did my dog bump me? was there a clipping error? Who cares, really. I lost all my shit in an irretrievable place (down an infinite chasm), so I quit. I also didn’t like the equipment progression. Spend a bunch of time grinding to maybe get an ok weapon that you could lose at any time. I don’t remember the details but the weapon system didn’t inspire me to want to grind.

        IN ALL, I’m not super interested in a game that dictates to me what is fun. I find building up in a low-risk-environment fun, so Don’t Starve probably isn’t for me.

      2. forsoothed Post author

        My initial reaction was to be a little ticked off. But, you know what, I came around to it. One of my issues with modern games is that dying basically involves no penalty. Sure, you have a spawn time or somesuch, but this actually ends the game for you.

        Also, and JB might mention it below, you gain XP to your ‘character’, with each game. So even though you “die” in one playthrough, you’re still progressing toward… something.

  1. jocelynb

    Yeahhhh, the save mechanic in this game is interesting. Having now played for a bit I’m not sure how I feel about it.
    -there’s no normal save option, just “save and quit” (so you have to exit and re-load the game to save)
    -it autosaves at intervals (timed) and maybe when you reach certain milestones (ie, discovering a certain area) as well
    -but if you die, any previous saves from that “life” (timeline) are deleted. The first time this happened to me I was VERY indignant.

    The saves are good if the game crashes, and there are four slots so you could presumably save and quit before trying something risky but not death-risky – so if you’re not sure if a particular thing will work out, at least if it doesn’t kill you you can revert to before you made the decision.

    The result for me is that it has made me a VERY cautious player, which I am normally not. It’s a test of my plate-wearing, melee DPS mentality. I avoid all monsters since I have no idea whether they can kill me. And I have a pretty good game saved right now, which I am actively NOT playing because I’m afraid I’ll mess it up. So that’s pretty dumb. I started a new game b/c I didn’t want to risk dying in the “good” game I had going.

    I understand what they’re trying to do (make the consequences of death in the game affect you more or be more permanent), but I think they’ve taken it too far because it makes the game less fun – at least for the kind of player I am. (Because in games like this, I like building, and losing all my STUFF and having to start over makes me so SAD.)

    1. forsoothed Post author

      Totally! And through dying and restarting, it’s making the player go through the first days of survival over and over. This helps with generally being better at surviving, but I can see it getting old quickly.

      That being said, I wonder if the XP plays a role at some point. You mentioned (offline) that one time you got a minion… I wonder if there’s anything else that gets unlocked?

      1. jocelynb

        Yeah, at the very least I unlocked another character… an adorable arsonist! She’s not really a minion though. So far, I can play as her instead of the original main character, but I can’t have both at once.

  2. jocelynb

    Also, because the terrain randomly generates with each new game, you do discover new types of things you haven’t encountered before. So the saving (or lack thereof) does force you to diversify your game skills. I once had a game where I spawned right next to some “beefalo” (like buffalo, but cuter). I wish I had appreciated it, and collected their manure like I was supposed to. DAMMIT. I could have had the best garden. I didn’t know what I was doing.

    1. forsoothed Post author

      lol – stupid beefalo!

      That’s a great point, the game is doing its best to make the replays unique.

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