“Mobs, Inc.” Review
Developers: Pietro Ferrantelli, et alii
Verdict: 2/5 stars. Functional. Sometimes entertaining. Unremarkable, mostly, and what remarks I have made are miraculous.
Mobs, Inc. was proudly advertised as “Winner of the Ludum Dare 33 out of 2700+ entries, made in 3 days”, which shows that either 2,699 of the entries were shit, or the judges were. The format of the Ludum Dare competition, which I believe popularised the increasing amounts of workaholism epidemic to games developers since its 2002 inception, gravitates towards easily – digestible browser game experiences that demands one focus a majority of their efforts towards making a game look good despite the fundamental premise being acceptable at best.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a good browser game, as Gamma Bros shows, though the three day limit as imposed by the competition means one is forced to prioritise getting the fucking thing out there instead of trying to polish it, no matter how much it would benefit the game. The tragedy is how the stressful working conditions of game jams means developers are likely to recoil when they look back on their old work, like an abused dog recoils at men, and so will not re – release it.
I read this quote from Roger Ebert that stated he earned his reputation as the fastest writer in town not by being faster than anybody else, but because he spent the least time not writing. It’s the same philosophy game developers adopt when they are within The Grind that, though the same type of conditions that armchair developers write about on their blogs and on games sites about how much it sucks to be a wage slave without doing anything like unionise or found their own companies that would get them more results than complaining ever would, amateur developers decide to suffer the same conditions on their own terms, only they don’t get paid. Why? Perhaps they want to get used to Normie Hell.
One can rightfully state the harsh time conditions means that it is difficult to create a game which will ever be considered as polished as one which had several months to be created. I will point out how it took me only thirty minutes to find so many frustrating aspects of its design, and fixing them would require a few bytes of code at most — if they coded the game properly, which they didn’t, and we’ll never confirm that because Ludum Dare does not require the disclosure of source code under free software licences. I have no idea why the most popular games competition in the world does not want to drastically improve the educational and cultural prospects of a notoriously shady, secretive, protectionist, and manipulative industry, but I believe it has to do with the organisers just not caring. Apathy is a petty evil, but it leads quickly to much greater ones.
But the design, fundamentally, is no different than what you will find on any sort of Flash games website, and it’s so unremarkable that I wonder not only who the judges are to designate this game as the best overall out of “2700+ entries”, and what they judged to cause them so much fatigue which made them rate this one so highly. Some enemies come at you out of the woodwork, you click at their location to shove your body through their pounds of flesh, and they explode. There’s a token EXP bar which shows there is no game that unrefined palates will not appreciate more for having token EXP bars, and the more enemies you kill, the more access to spells you get. There’s your AOE exploder, your big bouncy ball exploder, and your teleport time – stop exploder, not that you care about the exact spells, unless you’re citing this article on Wikipedia only for it to be immediately removed for not being “notable”, those twats.
Yes, the main draw of these games are in their gimmicks, and this particular gimmick involves being a boss mob who has to answer to the big boss and then get promoted based on how many enemies you kill. The hierarchy and inner machinations of this corporate enterprise is not expanded upon in any meaningful way, beyond having a short cutscene taking place in a waiting room (and having a Minecraft reference in the year 2015), and the failure mechanism being getting yelled at four times. I don’t know if the super secret ending you only get after reaching “level ???” will have a thirty – minute long original animation explaining in lurid detail each and every aspect of the Hell – bound enterprise that you, the lowly magic skeleton, found himself starting at the bottom in order to rise through the ranks through murder and deception. But given how disappointing all browser game endings are, I doubt it.
This is the worst type of game for me to review because it’s so fucking boring to write about! What am I supposed to say about such a simple premise? What discourse can I add to a game where the entirety of its depth is seen in but ten minutes? Am I to act like a Gamasutra writer, or an /r/gamedev poster, and go into pedantic detail about each and every aspect of its design, down to frame and hurtbox data about something that you play for a half – hour at most and then forget about for the rest of your life? It’s not that type of game!
You’re supposed to get pedantic about the games which deserve pedantries, like Goldeneye 007 or Quake or Deus Ex, not this random – ass video game you find on Itch.io made by a nobody who’s public presence involves retweeting pixel art on his twitter! If you want a real pixel art twitter, you go to Kay Animations and get your ass in gear because you know you’ll never make something as fantastic as what this meme – loving fuck is doing. What emotions do I feel when I look at the first Twitter compared to the second Twitter? I feel a sense of smug superiority, because I’m glad I’m not in the same rut that so many game developers find themselves in: existing as nobodies, marketing to nobodies, and creating nothing that stops you from being nobodies. They take the pettiest of petty victories, like getting a top Reddit post or getting retweeted by somebody with five thousand followers instead of five hundred, and never get anywhere because they stay satisfied in mediocrity. Not because it’s the world stopping them, but because it’s them.
You know what this has to do with the game proper? I’ll tell you what: passion. When you see somebody totally invested in what they’re doing, when you see them give their all each and every day despite how much hell it puts on their body and mind and social status and the recollections of who they are in the world, and who they’re going to be solely because of what they’ve created, it puts in you the same type of feelings that heroes feel for being heroes, that athletes feel for being the pinnacles of humanity, and what the greatest innovators of all time feel for knowing that they changed the world. You feel pride. You feel inspiration. You feel like, but for the Hand of Chaos, you could have been them. But instead of accepting who you are, you decide to become them. That’s what you get when you have someone who cares about their work. That’s what you feel when you see art that deserves to be felt for.
I regret now bringing up that there was much of this game’s design that needed polish, because now I have to write about those decisions that don’t deserve to be written about, like how you aren’t invincible when coming out of a cutscene so you lose some of your health instantly, or how you aren’t invincible when coming out of a spell so you lose your health instantly, or how the enemies instantly know where to attack you within the very instance you relocate using a spell so you lose your health instantly… Do you give a shit? Do you care about any of this? I sure don’t. You’re a Gamer! You’ve played these Games before and you know, out of pure instinct, when something’s fucky with the game’s design! Writing about each and every design element when they could be just as easily characterised with a thirteen – year – old boy muttering “this is bullshit” seems like a waste of our limited time on this Earth.
I think the reason this game did so well in the competition is because of all the flash it presents. You have pixel art which doesn’t look like shit but isn’t remarkable, either, so the perfect combination for bored judges to give a five outta five to because they have no personal standards that don’t deviate from traditional ideas about what “good” art is and we are apparently trusting these individuals to judge the quality of artistic works. You have a lot of effects for the spells and you have some bootleg Matrix sound effects and animation which does alright. Perhaps impressive for three days, but an artist who spends the least time not drawing would be able to easily create such graphics, so I don’t feel the feat would have ever blown my mind.
It’s flashy and it looks decent and the gameplay works functionally enough, which I suppose is all one can ask for out of these games, but at the same time is stock as all hell and is something I’m likely to never look at again. So that’s that.