Sorry about the absence! I've detailed the circumstances of my Rough October elsewhere but after that, then moving, then getting set up, then PRGE, then Ohio, I feel like I haven't had two seconds to rub together. Here I am, in the gulf between Ohio (which was a blast, by the way) and Duckstream2015, and I figured I'd write up a little something about how we pick games for WOFF! I apologize if this has been covered before in some variety but hopefully I can still write something worth reading on the subject.
WOFF! game consideration generally comes down to three factors and I'll list them in descending order of importance.
IS THIS GAME INTERESTING?
A WOFF! game has to have something worth talking about. That's a silly and reductive thing to say, of course, because every game is worth talking about. The simplest Atari games have a history, programmers, an economic impact, etc. Even the worst games have base game mechanics behind them, even the most narrative light experiences have difficulty curves and rulesets. There's something worth talking about. What I mean by this is: is the game interesting when approached using our standard approach?
WOFF! is an experiencial podcast. We talk about the games after experiencing them, and our runtime tends to be 90 minutes or more. So we want enough to experience to talk about for 90 minutes. This could be enough plot or narrative, or enough mechanical depth, but our experience needs to support that much talk. Since we don't really get into history, that's not really a factor for us.
This means ideal WOFF! games have a heavy narrative component. In some cases this is the focus but in others, the story and characters exist largely to contextualize play and carry us from mechanical discussion to mechanical discussion. Most games we do exist on this spectrum and both extremes can work.
The flipside of this interesting coin is has this game been covered to death elsewhere? I'm not saying that we're some sort of hipster dickbags who only handle the obscure. A podcast that has done Super Metroid and Link to the Past has little hipster dickcred. What I'm saying is that we need to be careful with those choices. Neither Kole or I have interest in turning into a Greatest Hits tape. So, we do our best to spread out those heavy hitters.
Have We Covered This Genre Recently?
Though most games defy their genre a little bit, the common aspects in, say, a JRPG or Adventure Game, are always a little evident. We do our best not to harp on those aspects but because we're an experiencial show, we'd be remiss not to mention them. We have an interest in being thorough. So, if we cover an adventure game and cover all the quirks of that particular genre, we're careful not to cover another one right away. This is true even if the games seem very different.
If you take a game like Blade Runner and a game like Monkey Island 2, you might think that they have so little in common (despite their genre) that we'd have no overlap. This is false, however. Even though one is an inventory based traditional adventure game with a light tone and one is a dark, dialogue based mystery adventure game, they have a lot in common in what they lack. If we did them back to back, we'd have two episodes where we didn't talk about combat or movement or level design (in a traditional sense), which could get repetitive by omission.
Do We Have Time to Play This Game? Do We Want to Play It?
Note that this factor is last because we try not to arrange too much of our schedule around this stuff. I really love that WOFF! gets me playing games I don't feel like playing because, often, they're a treat. And who doesn't want to expand their experiences?
At the same time, a certain level of enthusiasm is necessary to cover a game with the completeness that we try to bring to the table. If a game seems outright bad or is of a genre we have absolutely no affection for, we usually steer clear (or at least visit rarely) because we have to beat these fuckers and we want to have fun and come to the game with few preconceived predudices. We don't want to come at the game with a chip on our shoulders. That's why sports games are so rare. Or traditional shooters or strategy games. Kole and I just don't like them that much. I'm not saying you won't see more of them. I'm just saying that we have to consider our own desires.
Second, we need to make sure we have time to play them. Someone on Slack recently pointed out that we usually do games that take most people more than two weeks to finish. That's totally true! We plan our schedule very carefully to have tactical overlap. For example, though we're technically in The Castlevania Zone as I write this, I'm getting ahead on Thief. After that, before Fallout 3, we have Rocket Slime. Rocket Slime takes less than two weeks to beat. So I'll beat that well before it's "due" and start on Fallout 3. The game we have after Fallout 3 should be fairly breezy too because we won't be able to get ahead on playing. It's all very intentional.
I imagine Kole might have some things to add to this but hopefully this clears it up! I hope to return with more regular backerblogs now that my life is more stable. Love you steppeppers.