RoSoDude, what can I say to that but “thank you?” That’s an outstanding analytic description of what absolutely is a real and valuable way of having fun in a computer game. (These aren’t just empty words, either; I’m a collector of experiences like the one you described specifically because I believe that people are motivated by different interests, including in the kinds of entertainment experiences they find most satisfying.)
The first thing I’d note is that we agree: the Mooncrash DLC offers a substantially different kind of fun than the base game. Setting aside for the moment any better/worse analyses, I think it’s fair to ask whether this kind of fun is intended to, and will successfully, appeal to the folks like myself who enjoyed the base game specifically because it emphasized letting players explore at their own speed. If Arkane wanted to change that up in their first DLC, I don’t consider that entirely wrong – as I said, I can respect trying different ideas. For that matter, maybe it makes sense as a business decision; sales numbers for ImSims over the years suggest that there are more people who prefer Exciting Challenge over Thoughtful Exploration.
But I do still wonder: what about the people who bought Prey 2017 because they prefer Thoughtful Exploration over Exciting Challenge? How should they react to DLC that is so radically different from the kind of fun they like, and that they might reasonably have expected from DLC for such a game?
That’s the real question I’m asking, which is separate from the “why are high-risk challenges so much fun?” question that your comments answered so well.
But to poke a little bit at the differences between exploratory and exciting fun, I’ll bet you can guess how I feel about timed challenges. (Think “hatred exceeding the glare of a thousand Type Ia supernovae” and you’ll be in the ballpark. ) I’m joking a little here, but there’s a serious point behind this: I’m convinced that time pressure works against exploratory fun. It’s a powerful tool for promoting exciting fun. But it is highly counterproductive if you’re trying to deliver exploratory fun.
(I should probably mention here that I’m not suggesting most games are all-or-nothing between exploratory and exciting fun, or for that matter between emotionally satisfying fun or rules-following accumulationist fun. Most RPGs have some amount of all of these. The question is one of balance: the features the developer chooses to implement to give priority to one of these play interests will often operate against other kinds of fun. So it’s important to understand the interacting effects of these design choices with respect to the type-of-fun expectations of a game’s likely players.)
I put the value of a timer mechanic down to whether you want to prioritize the fun of thinking quickly or the fun of thinking deeply. Both of these have value, but in specific contexts… and in the context of exploratory fun where you’re trying to grok the nature of a seemingly complex dynamic system, it’s forkin’ irritating to keep having your Deep Thinking interrupted by some artificial/arbitrary timer expiring. Deep thinking (primarily a strategic function) and quick thinking (primarily a tactical function) are not fungible, and that needs to be understood when designing game challenges because people normally prefer one over the other and will have less fun when served the “wrong” kind of challenge for the game they thought they were playing.
I think this argument applies to games in general: features that deliver a particular kind of fun often reduce other kinds of fun. So what does that mean for immersive sims? What kind of fun is that kind of game, by its nature, mostly about?
I believe the central entertainment experience of ImSims – the kind of fun that a subset of gamers wants – is mostly about careful (deep) thinking to perceive the behaviors of dynamic systems in a complex game world, and the creative generation of theories to explain the rules that generate those world-behaviors, and thus to be able to cleverly overcome or bypass or exploit the systems expressing those behaviors. Shooting monsters, and reading audio logs for story, and collecting piles of loot, are also fun, but they’re secondary to the fun of systems-comprehension. For these gamers, the immersiveness comes from a world having interesting behaviors to figure out – not improvising under time pressure (even if that does happen occasionally for spice), but carefully devising a clever plan to test the accuracy of one’s perception of system-dynamics.
If that’s correct, then features that instead emphasize quick, adaptive thinking to immediate high-risk tactical challenges are going to interfere with delivering the core fun of ImSims. Players who like having time to think about possible solutions before being forced to implement them will bonk into “go back to the start repeatedly until you git gud” gameplay and wonder what just hit them. This does not mean tactical fun is “bad” or “wrong.” Millions of CoD/TF2/Fortnite players say otherwise. It’s an argument that implementing features that emphasize tactical fun is a sub-optimal design pattern in the context of designing a game whose players are more interested in thinking their way through challenges than blasting or talking or persevering through them.
So all this isn’t an argument that Mooncrash is inherently a badly designed game. Your description persuades me that’s not the case. It’s an argument that this DLC is very different from what most of the people who prefer ImSims were probably expecting. Whether that’s OK or not is something I guess the green-eyeshades folks who study sales data (and maybe sales of Arkane’s next DLC, and next games) will have to decide.
I don’t expect you’re persuaded by this viewpoint, any more than other folks here who dig tactical challenge in their games (including ImSims) have been convinced when I’ve expressed this view over the past several years. That’s fine – I’ve enjoyed the exchange of views, and I hope we’ll hear more from you in these forums.