030: Is Stray GOTY?

Surviving the asteroid field, our heroes pass a nearby planet, and run into a friendly sci-fi feline and his robot companion.

Games Discussed in this episode:

  • 0:53 Stray
  • 5:44 Death Stranding
  • 17:53 Elden Ring
  • 24:24 Horizon Forbidden West
  • 25:41 Splatoons 3
  • 27:09 Tunic
  • 27:36 Evil Dead
  • 27:47 Ghostwire Tokyo
  • 28:06 Bioshock
  • 29:02 Moonlighter
  • 29:15 Cult of the Lamb

Introductory Guy
Welcome to design thinking games, a gaming and User Experience podcast. Card-carrying UXers Tim Broadwater and Michael Scofield examine the player experience of board games, pen and paper role-playing games, live-action games, and video games. Play through the backlog on your podcatcher of choice and on the web at DesignThinkingGames.com.

Michael Schofield
“Design thinking” is a process that is used to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and create innovative solutions. In this podcast, we apply design thinking to gaming.

Tim Broadwater
we’re going to talk about Stray. We both beat the game, just out. But then we’ve had some buzz about, like, what are some thoughts here soon are the predictions for Game of the Year awards. And I know we have some feelings about Stray’s gonna get nominated for some awards, or all awards or whatever. But the criticism that the Game of the Year awards gets is because the video gamers only their votes are only 25% or 10%. Of the deciding factor. And so no, you’re like, shut the fuck up, stakeholders, get into your lane. It’s essentially like, you know, this is our award ceremony. We’re awarding it. We do this shit every year. I mean, we definitely want to hear from you. But you know, you’re not the deciding factor. You know, there are many deciding factors. So I know that’s criticism that it gets.

Michael Schofield
No, it’s totally right. Like, generally, I’m on the side of the gamers here. But I think, like, here’s my prediction: Stray is going to get a game of the year nominee. I think it has a good chance of winning because its press is Great. There are a lot of great things about it. But I don’t think it’s that high caliber, which I know is against the grain. And so in this case, I’m like, on the side of the academy, you know, like the people who actually know a little thing or two, like fuck the gamers. Right! But no, I mean, it’s, it’s a great game. And it’s like, really, it’s really good.

Tim Broadwater
So there are a couple of criteria worth mentioning for Game of the Year. And Stray that pertains, and as relevant, Candidate, there has to be decided before November like the game has to come out before November essentially. That’s one thing. But then, you know, the gameawards.com? Like, if you ask them about you know, why don’t the flat? Why don’t the fans choose 100% Choose, right? I mean, they say there are problems there. And they’re pretty, you know, forthright and opaque about it. That, you know, some games are exclusive to platforms, that’s really not. So well. How can people vote on it if it’s not even available for them, right? So if you’re exclusive to a platform, that’s potentially disadvantageous. And they understand what happened in the election with Reddit, they understand what Facebook does, and so they definitely don’t want socially engineered social media feedback or social socially engineered kind of swayed voting, like manipulation, right? That’s, and they say that, so that’s why we do a plan to vote. You know, that’s why we do it has input from it, but it’s not solely from it. And so, stray, however, is out on every platform.

Michael Schofield
Let’s see what we can say. Like, the game has been out for a month. What are you doing? Right now, this is definitely a game that I think you should play. You play as a cat, some three / 400 years into, into some future I don’t know. Earth’s future. And you effectively stumble into this kind of slum world of robots and neon signs and techno and 80s CRT monitors. That is like devoid of. I don’t know if a spoiler out is devoid of human life. We are a cat. And you know what, for whatever reason, like you’re the cat that’s gonna save the day.

Tim Broadwater
you’re the Savior.

Michael Schofield
Yeah, we talked about the game mechanics we love, and we’re talking about simulations. And this is an excellent cat simulation, you want to scratch on some curtains, you want to lay down and take a nap. You want to knock shit over.

Tim Broadwater
— and a bunch of weird spaces. You can take naps where only a cat can?

Michael Schofield
Yeah, totally. So um, so it’s a cat simulation. And a really, here’s how I was like, trying to describe it. So, to me, this has strong like walking simulator vibes. Are you familiar with like Gone Home?

Tim Broadwater
Oh, yeah. So a lot of people say that. Death Stranding? I played a beat that game. It is definitely a walking simulator. Yeah, it’s the idea.

Michael Schofield
You walk around, like, it’s your it’s a cat simulator, walking around and exploring this really cool world. And the story presented to you isn’t. So in your face, there’s a there’s a degree of discovery, you know, if you go and read everything, or discover or run or, you know, remember everything, or walk around enough begins to puzzle together. things that just aren’t, you know, given to you through like exposition, and there is an ending and there’s a and there is there is a climax, but in a way, it’s also just like a cat. That day, like a few days in the life of a cat and like some like really cool setting that you walk around and whether or not it affects the cat’s life deeply at the very end. Like who knows, you’re just you know, like an all all of the all of the day of life of a cat.

Tim Broadwater
It’s not just, it is a futuristic sci-fi walking simulator. Where you’re playing a cat, cat-sim, I don’t know if you’ve played Death Stranding. There’s a lot of notes that are very similar. This futuristic synthwave music that is like, holy shit, am I in Blade Runner? Or am I because that’s the music feel. But then also kind of what you hear in Dune, like the soundscapes you know, to where a lot of the sound and just exploring is the story and understanding what happened, right? And it has this I will say, what sticks out to me, it’s like when you watch like a life-affirming movie, something that just like it makes you feel something that it’s maybe sad, but it’s also it’s teaching you something or it’s making you feel something right. I feel that’s kind of where this is. And I guess not to spoil too much about it. But there is this if you ever watched the old sci-fi movie Logan’s Run. And I know I’m talking sci-fi movies here which are like Logan’s Run or like, Blade Runner, but it’s that kind of feel of the game. But you’re a freaking cat dude. And you don’t you can’t like combat per se, but it is this combination of like soundscapes and exploring and discovering and puzzles that pieces together. What I think is actually a very beautiful story that you kind of find out the more you find out the more clues the more information right, the trailer does show that you’re a cat walking around and there are robots.

Michael Schofield
Yeah, exactly. Like one of the things that got like, perfect. I realized I might have just punned there – purrfect.

Tim Broadwater
You have to do it like Earth Kit

Michael Schofield
Purrrrfect. The highlight of my entire experience in this game is really early on whereas a cat, you you bumble around and you find your way you start getting pointed in various directions by these monitors who are are trying to communicate something to you you are being watched through cameras, there’s something in the network that is paying attention to you. And you discover that oh my gosh, it’s this kind of little cute AI that transfers its consciousness to this little drone that’s called B12. Which I’m sure they’re gonna be plushies of and I can’t wait to have one. But you have like this little cute little like drone that gives like hovers around and they give you the 12 gives you this harness and you’re a cat and he puts the harness on you and the cat-like walking like for like the first like 10 seconds is like walking around like dragging its stomach on the ground. Because oh my god, it has a harness on it and it’s just so like uncomfortable. I have an orange tabby. And anytime I tried to put like a harness on him he just like, like lays down immediately or the only way he can can only like belly crawl his way like around they have the cat so perfect. And this was like my favorite moment I like laughed out loud because I just see this in my own orange cat like all this time. But this thing was amazing. I played on PC, and so like you had to, you had different buttons to to right paw, left paw, right paw, to smash things and stuff. And I gotta tell you, it’s a real, it’s real fun being a cat. Like I loved it. I was like, this is everything.

Tim Broadwater
I played it on PS five. And you actually did this with a controller left and right. And I actually just sent you an image of all of the cat cosplay that’s already out there and the existence of street racing, and I don’t want to spoil anything. But I would say that not spoiling us saying its future. It’s sci-fi humans, aren’t there robots are and you’re a cat. I don’t feel like that’s spoiling I think that’s kind of almost what the trailer says. You actually in the game? I will say this no spoiler. You don’t know what’s happened to the humans? I mean, you don’t know if they’ve laughed? Or if they’re dead, or if they’ve moved on or left the planet because, like the technology so advanced, but then the technology has been left for hundreds of years, that it’s like, here’s advanced technology that’s been left around for hundreds of years. And so you have no idea you don’t know. You kind of start the game with what is a group of cats called? A litter? Yeah, you get separated from your litter, like very first thing in the game, right? And so you’re kind of trying to get back to your litter, right? And so you don’t know. And so you’re experiencing kind of all this, but you cannot communicate with robots. And so you to your point, you get it kind of like an assistant or companion like a NaVi to your Link or your Cortana to your Master Chief. That is this kind of robot, but this flying little droid. And so you get all the story through your guide the whole time and that, yeah, and I’m dude, I can’t even like it is so I can speak to a PS five, I’m sure it’s just the same on everything. But it’s so beautiful. Like the game is really had like great art direction. And it’s and then the soundscapes and the music. Really good, too. And so I definitely think I’m not sure what awards I would say that it’s up for. But I definitely think it’s in the fact that it’s on every platform. And it’s a cat sim and it’s all the things we described, I think it’s going to be up for something.

Michael Schofield
I think the world, every scene was so like, meticulously crafted. So that, again, like this really isn’t like the Stray’s story, right? As you are experiencing the world that these people put together? Well, I bet like they’re just, there’s so many talking points there. Its soundscapes are amazing. The structure of the world makes sense. From you know, from like Midtown to the slums, it being a physical like hierarchy. The fact that they did build these, like giant walled cities, the cities aren’t named, they’re just numbered. They had all this technology clearly at some point, this technology could have been used to leave the planet. That’s something I didn’t even like to think about. It is some 100 years or so or several 100 years since the last human at least. That any of the characters you encounter know of or has been encountered. There’s like some weird kind of like alien creature like down in the especially down in the sewers, whereas I think it was a sewer as well like underground that is like really like grown out like this kind of like biomass. And then of course you got Yeah, I think I think I got all the story there.

Michael Schofield
How many clues and memories that you unlock? Because I got 21 out of 27. And I wondered the same thing. I’m like, is this what happened to the humans?

Michael Schofield
I think I got about like, 22. And so like, yeah, my like, so I’m kind of interested to, like, hit up youtube or whatever. And look at like, some think pieces.

Tim Broadwater
There’s so much I don’t know.

Michael Schofield
I’m just left with questions. But these are fun questions. These are fun hypotheticals. Which again, we’ve talked so many times about, like, like, so much of the success of like a great game. We always talk about, you know, the Supermassive Games is kind of like the hallway conversation that happens around them. Elden Ring, too, it becomes like a community event, like talking about all this different kind of stuff, all this different kinds of lore, all these different ones. And Stray really like pushes that button.

Tim Broadwater
Elden Ring I almost forgot about it. I could look at Stray, knowing that it came out on all the platforms, and it’s a new game. And Game of the Year has won the gameawards.com has 30 awards. That’s it. 30. Each year, that’s what games are nominated for. So Game of the Year, maybe Stray? I don’t know. But there’s also most anticipated game. I mean, a lot of people I’ve been looking at straight since last year. Well, yeah, it was announced last year, and it was just like, hyped up. There’s also like, best art direction, which I could see Best Indie debut indie game, right? music score, I mean, so these are just some ideas about what it could be. But when I think of this year, and I think of Elden Rings, and I think of Horizon Forbidden West I, to me, those three games like standout the most for like, I don’t know what you think I know one it’s a PlayStation exclusive, which is the Horizon Forbidden West, but it will probably go out like to other platforms that just takes a long time. Stray is on everything. And then I can’t remember what Elden Ring was on was out and ranges PC.

Michael Schofield
It’s multi-platform, I think. Yeah. Like so. So. So what does Stray do that’s like truly unique? I think, I think the world who building the art direction, a triple-A, the sound design, triple-A the narrative, triple-A, the hype and the marketing and like being a cat-like amazing, amazing. I think the thing that like fell a little flat for me. And like my only critique of the game, but I think it’s an important piece of the critique is that I got I found myself getting I found it getting repetitive, right, like, like, I found it getting a little I was starting to get a little bored. Like being the cat. I was motivated to see what the end of the story was. But many of the puzzles had the same elements to them, walk around, knock something over, find a little plug, or like a power supply / block thing. The moment to moment of playing the game ran on a little too long. And I feel like I’m probably in the minority there. But like, you know, many of the things I felt like, like I just started seeing the pattern, you know? And then I couldn’t I couldn’t look away from the Matrix. You know, I was like, ah, like, so it just started distracting me, the more I saw it.

Tim Broadwater
I actually didn’t experience that I was really pissed off for no map. There were places to where, right? Yeah, so you’re in like, over the course of the game. There are places that you can only go one way for whatever reason being chased or map or whatever story. But essentially, you’re in like three different complex maps three cities zones or three places, right? And then the game actually requires you as a cat to remember where things are. And so my most troubling, the thing that I did that was the most irritating to me is tuck this corner did I go down this hallway, she was already here. And so I spent so much time I I feel like I could probably beat the game in eight hours, instead of 10 or 11. Because some of the maps weren’t that big, but you’re a cat, you’re small. And so and you can climb up on every roof. You can go down every hallway, you can, you can sneak in and stuff. And so I just felt myself like, Dude, give me a map. You know, just, I don’t need you to point me to waypoints of like where things are, but do at least give me a map so I can see where I’m at. But then I realized, like, Dude, you’re a cat, a cat sim wouldn’t have a map. So I don’t know if that was it. I would think it’s intentional. But that was the only thing that I would say, you know.

Michael Schofield
If it were intentional. It probably was, I’m sure it was, it forces you to explore, right? And it forces you to see like, the murals on the wall. And it forces you to see like little signs and stuff. But yeah, like, there was a literal plenty of times where I’m like, boop, boop, boop, boop, I go over here because I couldn’t figure it figure out what to do. Like, because like, where I had to go was like, like up a roof and over or something like that. And I just like, I just kept walking around. You’re right, I didn’t even think about some of the things like it really did have the kind of like a reduced HUD and didn’t even have a HUD at all. Right? Sometimes you got to prompt like, you know, like, oh, right mouse left mouse to to CLI .

Tim Broadwater
why I enjoyed it and saw it more as like this really fun cat Sam noticed more and listened more because there is no hide, and there is no map

Tim Broadwater
don’t know, I had not played Elden Ring. I know, it was so hot. And I don’t know. If it’s, you know how it stacks, so I don’t want to speak to it and say it’s crap or not, you know, I played Horizon Forbidden West, you should start Horizon. By the time you get to the third game. Even if it’s translated over to Xbox was the first one is ideal. It’s worth playing it because it is an ancient futuristic Mass Effect. It’s huge. It’s got this it’s a trilogy, dude, it’s just got this epic quality to it. And halfway through the second one, you’re like, this isn’t gonna be over this game. It’s this big of a trilogy, it’s this big West story. So people are gonna love it. That’s an action sci-fi game. However, I’m not going to, I’m going to also make a prediction, which is here in a couple of weeks. Splatoon 3 drops for for switch. And that is going to be probably the game online game of the year. Just because it is gangster hella fun. It is so enjoyable. And I don’t know how it will not explode. Like just because I’ve played hours and hours and hours of too.

Michael Schofield
Yeah, it’s really getting hyped up to like, just like everybody who has a Switch, which is I’m not gonna say everybody that’s but like, lots of Switches out there, man. Like, everyone has good memories of Splatoon like, I never played Splatoon too, but I played a lot of Splatoon one. And that was fine. Like so like, it’s just one of those things where like

Tim Broadwater
It’s one of those things where Nintendo doesn’t have a lot of great online games, whereas most other platforms have all on all the games are online, right? However, and I’m not I can say my fanboy. I’m not a fanboy. I’m kind of on the fence with Nintendo to be honest. But when in tendo does come out with online games when it is like Mario Party and it is like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, or it’s like, Super Smash Brothers or Splatoon 3 like they they get online. Right? And people love it. So I don’t know, what are your thoughts about how Are there any other games that you played this year or no that are coming out at least in the next couple of months to make the deadline that you think

Michael Schofield
here’s the hard part. And ever since I joined the PC master race, like I’ve been playing like most of my backlog has been old games. And so like I don’t actually feel more detached from this specific year than I have in a while. So I’ve been playing like I’ve been playing like older games.

Tim Broadwater
I will say a shout out to we’ve talked a little bit on the podcast about Tunic. I think tunic is a phenomenal indie game that I recommended to you that it they’d be up for some awards as well. I played it this year. It’s out this year. A lot of people played it. It’s on multiple platforms.

Michael Schofield
You said November.

Tim Broadwater
And then of course, we’ve played like, we both played vampire blood hunt. But I also know the other things that come to my brain that’s like big releases this year, that Evil Dead game dropped this year, that people like synchronous horror, like a lot. And I’m currently literally one hour and 10 minutes into Ghost Wire Tokyo.

Michael Schofield
Oh, how’s that that was on my list

Tim Broadwater
It is like this crazy future. But retro Japanese mythology kind of action-adventure game that feels like Bioshock kind of, but it’s got like, Japanese mythology and the undead. And so I don’t know, I’m intrigued though. In one hour, what I’ve played is pretty cool. So I’m just going to keep going. I think it’s the story that’s interesting to me more than anything else. Because I’m not a person who likes first-person shooters. I mean, I actually liked BioShock because it was simple. And I loved the story.

Michael Schofield
You thought BioShock simple?

Tim Broadwater
Well, I mean, it’s, I guess I think first person shooters are simple. Oh, yeah. But I also know like, there’s another indie game that you shared with me last week Cult of the Lamb.

Michael Schofield
Do have you been seeing the press for that recently? Like people are like, hooked on that shit?

Tim Broadwater
Yeah, so I love as you know, for like, Moonlighter it was my suggestion for the game for you to play this year. And, and yeah, and lastly, at the end of the season, we’ll talk about it like your experience and playing it. But halfway through you sent me Cult of the Lamb and I’ve been looking at him like, oh, it’s very similar to Moonlighter. Except instead of managing your own shop, you’re managing a cult. And you’re the cult leader. So yeah, so it sounds like what we’ve identified is Stray, Elden Rings, Horizon Forbidden West, and then Cult of the Lamb. Those are the four that were saying. Those are our predictions for like Game of the Year. Is that correct? Maybe tunic. I don’t know. Maybe tunic. But that’s, but that’s more from my side, I guess. Because I liked it.

Michael Schofield
Same thing with like, cultivar the lamb-like, like, I don’t know if that’s gonna be one of those things that that make it or if it’s caught our attention, because that’s the kind of shit we pay attention to. But let me tell you, let me tell you, I’m driving. I’m picking up my daughter from like school today; I’ve got NPR on because I’m the kind of parent who, whose windows are down broadcasting my allegiance. And, and they start talking about Cult of the Lamb. And they’re like, there’s like, like, I had, like, it was like, it was like, it was like. Like, there’s like the like, the holy debacle around the new cult, or whatever was like the headline, and turned out to be just like call to the land, the fact that it’s getting like NPR coverage, because you have to go and sacrifice your little cute sheep, you know, like, and I guess like, there’s something where like, oh my gosh, you really want them to like like you so of course you have to like build them outhouses, and you can do all the things, but sometimes serving is just a little too much. So what you could do is give them all magic mushrooms and then sacrifice one of them. And that’s going to make them really worship you.

Tim Broadwater
As one does.

Michael Schofield
feel like this is like but they said like all of your land or all of your little lambs are individual. So like if one person isn’t high enough, like they might be unsettled by you sacrificing one of their compatriots, and they’ll start like, creating some sort of dissent.

Michael Schofield
Thank you so much for listening to design thinking games, the podcast where we apply design thinking to games. I’m not 100% sure how this episode turned out. We went on a ton of different tangents, but I hope you enjoyed it. There are a lot of really cool things coming up in our future the future of the community here like this fall, maybe we some things that we can really talk about super excited about it. We would love for you to give us money through a number of different ways. Perhaps you heard one of our excellent ads, we put a lot of work into making sure that they work and that they convert. We record them ourselves, and they’re really affordable. You can find those at designthinkinggames.com/advertise Or if you wanted to join our many Patreons on Patreon, you could go to Patreon.com/DesignThinkinggames, where you have a backlog of every episode without ads. And I don’t know maybe if we actually get people over there like you’ll have access to some of this really cool stuff we’re talking about in the future. You can find us on all the social media, especially Twitter design DTG games podcast, they’re just look for Design Thinking games, they’re Tiktok, Twitch. We’re trying to have like a relatively reasonable presence. I am not sure why I’m explaining to you to your listener who’s made it this far. We only have like a few more episodes this season. We hope you stick around to the end, they’re going to get crazy good. And then we appreciate you being here.

Tim Broadwater
That was good.

Michael Schofield
Design Thinking games.

Introductory Guy
Thank you for listening to the Design Thinking games podcast. You only have so much time and it means a lot you shared it with us to connect with your hosts Michael or Tim. Visit Design Thinking Games on tick tock twitch and Twitter. DMs are open. You can also check out design thinking games.com where you can request topics, ask questions or see what else is going on. Until next time, game on.

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