8) Bugs to the Rescue
In the words of Iroh, destiny is a funny thing.
I did find out about this indie game called Bug Fables before it officially released, but there was already a playable demo available, and play it I did. From this alone it was abundantly clear that this game was, and now is, what we had been waiting for.
There are a lot of thoughts swirling in my brain at once here. First, "we," because I have to acknowledge, as I did in previous comments, that I am in fact not the only person who cares about this stuff. But more importantly, what I'm trying to do here is make a point about how I would have loved to have found out about Bug Fables sooner than I did—specifically, soon enough to nab one of the boss design slots. And yet I can't help feeling that I wouldn't have done as good of a job with it as the people who did get there in time, and furthermore I have all of Ostinato to satiate my hunger for that sort of thing, so I don't feel too jealous about it. Nevertheless, I am jealous by nature.
But look. The game is so good that the joy it brings me overrules any unpleasant feelings. It's not perfect—the field physics can make the puzzles annoying, but any other complaints are pretty darn minor. As for the question of whether it's now my favorite game of all time, I'll have to let that one sit for a while. I would make the argument that games of different genres can't be directly compared, so for example Portal and Portal 2, which are very near and dear to my heart, are certainly in my top ten, but they're a very different experience than something like Paper Mario, and one which I feel doesn't need to directly compete. Then there's the whole Breath of the Wild can of worms, each worm of which is really its own separate can...
I'm rambling here because no words can really express what Bug Fables means to me. I would recommend that you play it, whoever you happen to be, but I've already done that. I'll certainly be adding a bunch of Bug Fables content to Arpeggio, but that too is obvious. It's just a very strange situation. Not inconceivable by any means, and much stranger has occurred, but... And I mean it's not strange that fans, being starved of what they want, would eventually figure out how to create it themselves. The small size of the development team is just kind of how indie games work sometimes—I've tried to pull a Cave Story myself, if not successfully.
I really just don't know, man. If I was trying to exude the hellish mixture of hatred, disappointment, bitterness, and learned helplessness that I felt throughout the whole Sticker Star/Color Splash saga in my last entry, here I'm trying to capture a comparable mix of good feelings, but it's not going very well. Maybe I'll come back later, but for now I guess all I can say is... Mar, Genow, and everybody... thank you. You've filled a hole in my heart that I thought could never be healed, and I'll never be able to repay you, but I know you aren't asking for that, and you made the game for your own satisfaction as well. Nonetheless, again, thank you.
ADDENDUM: Now that I've sorted out my emotions, I think that the main mechanical takeaway from BF is that, where Paper Mario started you out with 1 Attack and kept it relatively small with only a few story-based increases, Bug Fables proved that you don't even need to increase it at all. Sure, you get some opportunities to, but they come so late in the game that by that point it feels kinda wrong. I had vaguely considered, in a game of Arpeggio, not increasing the Attack stat and just using the players' Weapon Levels to provide potential power increases, which is still a viable idea, but the notion that you don't even need to do that goes to show that, indeed, BF is in some ways the Paper Mario to Paper Mario. I don't think I'll remove the option to increase your stats from Arpeggio, but a game could certainly be run that way. What will come of this, if anything, remains to be seen.
ADDENDUM II: Why it's taken me this long to figure out I'm not sure, but based on BF's use of enemies that burrow underground, I've now decided to make "underground" a Status Condition, much like flying is one. This is actually a much more important observation than the first addendum above, because, well... in Paper Mario you had ground, air, and ceiling, but the ceiling one was really weird and limited and therefore underused, and BF's idea to use underground instead, tied to the visuals of Leif's ice magic going underground, is just pure genius. So, to honor it, I'll try to make "ground, air, underground" the three primary states of being in Arpeggio, not necessarily excluding a ceiling option but it again being rare. Of course, so few non-BF enemies use a similar kind of burrowing that it's not going to seem as standard as flying, but making it achievable as a standard Status Condition is a start. So, yeah, you'll see that kind of stuff popping up around the site from here on out.