Isaac's Salt


As you may or may not have noticed I'm a complete fanboi over the Binding Of Isaac (BoI) franchise. I missed the first round of the original, but got hooked right after the first expansion of the original game out (WotL). Then the complete remake came in form of Rebirth (:R) and this was followed by a DLC called Afterbirth (:A). The name may look a little strange to outsiders, but the same could and will be said about the game itself.

To those who don't know the franchise; it's a top down roguelike/roguelite shooter where you play a character, usually called Isaac, who shoots tears from his eyes and fights various enemies while running away from his mother. During his journey he finds various weapons and powerups which can make or break and change his run dramatically. And even though the main guide for a run only has a handful of variations, the levels are procedurally generated and every run is different. The item pickups and the way you use of various game available mechanics to you will determine how your run goes. Trust me when I say I have a lot of love for this game.

That said, I feel neglected. Let me explain where this is coming from.

The game is actually pretty popular. To illustrate; the last expansion introduced the daily run concept to the game and the first dailies were played by over 100.000 people. Today, four months in, the daily is still played by about 10.000 - 15.000 players every day, give or take. And that just counts the people that actually do daily runs, which might just be the tip of the ice berg. I don't actually know how many people play Isaac on a daily basis. I think the daily run does help to increase that number, at least for completionists like myself.

My point is, the game has a huge active user base. A large community that loves and plays the game daily. At least some of them check in on subreddit on a regular basis (has about 75.000 followers right now) and I'm sure there are many more on other boards and whatevers. There is also a huge modding community ( even though the game has no official modding support whatsoever. Yet. This is slated for the next expansion (dubbed "Afterbirth+", bleh name but ok) but why wait, right? The daily has a nice (community ran) score board as well. Again, no official word from Nicalis on any kind of scoring board outside of the game. I don't expect any either with greedbutt online now. It should have been them.

You would expect this community to get some love from the devs. And I don't mean hand holding, but just ... a sign of life maybe? But no, not really.

I wouldn't say there's no activity at all. I mean, the creator and the Nicalis founder (in charge of dev) are pretty active on Twitter where they drop small hints every now and then. Screenshots or cryptic remarks. This bites them in the ass sometimes, just search for "109" for an example. And there's The website. But that's pretty much dead in the water unless a release is imminent. And it is not really used to inform you about updates, bugs, or whatever. Mostly general announcements or cryptic dev updates.

They do come to the subreddit sometimes to ask for advice though. That's the weird part to me. Because when an update arrives on Steam there's only silence from Nicalis. IF an update comes at all because it's been like forever and there's still plenty of small stuff to fix. Why stay quiet about these changes? Is it really too much to ask for patch notes? Do you really just want people to reverse engineer your game to find out what changed? And yes, that's the current state of affairs. An update pops up and shortly after somebody will post most specifics to the subreddit by simply going through the byte code. Come on, that is not how you handle a community of this size.

My other gripe is the way daily runs are treated. When the dailies were announced they were saying there'd be special runs on special days. So far there has been a thanksgiving special (all boss rewards were turkey lunches), xmas special (isaac with an xmas hat and lump of coal), december 6th (Satoru Iwata's birthday, Nintendo's ex president who died, the run had a specially skinned character and some items were Nintendo related, probably the best example of a special daily so far), new years day (horrible bombs only run), valentines day special (maggie, charm tears, poke ball), and today a small special because it is Edmund's birthday (you start with an undroppable left hand). I think xmas should have obviously been an Eve run (xmas eve...). And seeing what they did in Satoru's honor I think the dailies could get some more customized love.

Oh and those special dailies get updated mid-day. So the daily rolls over on 11am CET (euro). But some of those special dailies happen mid-day, which ruins the daily run ranking. Same for patch days. They ruin the rankings with no word whatsoever on that.

It's currently unknown whether these dailies are curated at all. The new years special run had a room where you had to kill wall spiders on each side with a gap. You had to properly put bombs down and get in harms way to kill them. I died there, like many others with me. I wonder whether somebody bothered to check the seed. If they did, why they'd just leave that room in. I mean, it's a special seed. Why would you kill the fun for people that early on? I don't get that. And if you don't check the seed; well why the hell not?

Dailies have a more inherent problem though; they're not fair to compete in. Even though they're supposed to be seeded, the way the game is set up right now two players are unlikely to have the same run because they are very likely to end up with different load outs. Even if they're not trying to. Certain things like pills are still not seeded. But even the way item pools work means similar runs can desync drastically. There was an Isaac run where picking up or not picking up some crappy use item in the first floor item room would mean rerolling into the Mind or a crappy familiar. The Mind is huuuuge for a daily. That sort of thing should not happen in a seeded run. People should get the same items regardless of how they're getting them. If you can game the system to get more items; great. But that's what it should be; more items. Not different items. From a runners perspective you wouldn't know any different anyways, not until afterwards when you compare your run to that of others. This system can be fixed, or at least improved to the point where it's not very likely to desync anymore.

I strongly feel they dropped the ball on this and from what I hear it's pretty much a "wontfix". Okay, fine. If you don't care then I don't either. The daily run is relatively meaningless in terms of 1:1 comparisons. Sure, you can score consistently well. But at the same time you can easily get "beaten" by somebody who got carried because s/he did something just slightly different. So where's the competition in that? And if there's no competition then what's the point of a daily seed in the first place? Well, it's mostly pointless from a competitive pov. That's what it is. So I no longer put my videos under embargo until the daily rolls over. You want to do second screen cheat? Don't care. You want to cheat with one of a million mods available? Don't care.

Mind you, I realize it's still possible to put down fairly consistent scores by just playing well. Some people are doing just that. I seem to be a little jumpy in the top 10% myself, not super good but not too bad.

It's just frustrating to know that I could "break" the game with the d20 or blank card or something and reroll myself to a 15k schwag bonus just for having done it (a significant point increase which only takes time but has no other down sides after a certain point). I mean, seriously? Let's talk about the scoring anyways NO WAIT the points are a complete black box because nobody bothers to explain anything about them to "us". It took reverse engineering to figure out some of the formulae that make up the daily score. I get why you'd want to be silent about it at first, but after all this time still no formal word on it? That's just stupid.

So I had a bunch of ideas written down to implement in a mod for when modding was released (ETA in November, BUT WHO KNOWS RIGHT BECAUSE NO WORD ON THAT). But now I'm just going to dump that on Reddit and leave it at that. If the devs feel no need to maintain a community, I feel no need to invest my time and money into it either. Your loss.

Yes I still play the dailies. Like I said, I still like the game. I just really don't appreciate the way the community is treated. Would it hurt to focus a liiittle less on consoles and more on those thousands of players that are actually playing your game daily right now? Really? Come on...

/salt that's been piling up for a while now.