What could be better: unit designers or craftsmanship?


Last time around, you decided that it was better to play with environmental objects (now called fiddlebits) than rocket jumping. A badass out there, no doubt; Thank you for your careful thought. Then we take care of the hand that shapes the game, whether you get down to business with your men or someone else lovingly makes the whole world for you. What could be better: unit designers or craftsmanship?

Unit designers

I have spent long hours in Stellaris designing numerous spaceships to fill my fleet with complementary and contrasting roles. I have great visions of how they counter my enemies, imagining that my choices of weapons, carriers and countermeasures will lead to masterful maneuvers and tricky traps. Oh, how stupid they’ll feel when they try to hit my baseline and get ripped apart by the flak! I’m pretty sure every unit I’ve hand-crafted is worse than the game’s autocomplete suggestions, and my decisions have resulted in billions of citizens being killed. But it makes me feel like a galactic brain.

Buddy, I don’t even know what a picket ship is.

I love designing my own units. Give me a set of perks, weapons, attributes or whatever and I’ll be happy to tinker and coo and probably forget what I was supposed to do. The pleasure of dressing character designers combined with the belief that what I do really matters. Sometimes it is. This is often the case! And I’m just bad at it. It is very good; I’m having a good old time. Especially if it’s a game like Impossible Creatures that lets me make stupid animals.

The edges of it are blurry. Do your handcrafted vehicles in the Besiege physical sandbox count as “units” if you only have one? Does customizing units in XCOM or even characters in RPGs matter? I suppose you could defend it, if you wish. Do you want? I’ll certainly let you try, even if it’s not me to convince.

Handcrafted art

Hylics is probably the prettiest video game series out there. Plasticine and real hands brush together in a dreamy look and oozing vibes. Also, sometimes oozing from the melting of the flesh. I love it. That’s wonderful. The first-person spellcasting animations with gloved hands conjuring up clay oddities are extremely cool. Some of the nicer games, these, are largely made with stuff you played with as a kid.

The Dream Machine! Lumino City! Old wine! So many games with clay and cardboard and paper and paints and crayons and wood and garbage!

I love dioramas, dollhouses and stop-motion animation, and I have great respect for the craft behind them. The best time I ever had at EGX was sending it back to visit the dollhouse show elsewhere at the NEC, cooing over tiles, houseplants, handbags, veg and so much. ‘other small familiar objects. I bought a tiny ebony and titanium corkscrew from a man who insisted he would outlive my mortal body. The little handcrafted things are a shortcut to wonder by turning the mundane into magic. Combining that with the Merlin quality magic that video games are can be truly wonderful. A magic multiplier.

But what is better?

Pick your winner, make your point in the comments, and we’ll meet again later to see who’s standing – and pose another puzzle.


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