What is Soulslike? The definition of this new genre from the language of game makers

We've seen many genres flourish and grow in popularity over the past decade, from auto-battles to battle royale, but none as much as Souls - Like unconventional, impenetrable and more than anything, they are not misused. I have to admit that I don't really know what Soulslike means, or rather I know what it means, but many of you will probably disagree with my definition. It seems that everyone has their own definition of this term and the majority do not have an opinion. I myself was one of this majority and for a few years I only sometimes thought about the meaning of this genre. But with the release of Elden Ring, the conversation and debates about soul-likeness revived. So I'm going to cover this self-made genre in this article, but I couldn't do it alone, so I sat down with a few developers who create games that are widely known as Souls-like to see what this subgenre means to them. Is the label Soullike a good label to use or not?

BingMag.com What is Soulslike? The definition of this new genre from the language of game makers

We've seen many genres flourish and grow in popularity over the past decade, from auto-battles to battle royale, but none as much as Souls - Like unconventional, impenetrable and more than anything, they are not misused. I have to admit that I don't really know what Soulslike means, or rather I know what it means, but many of you will probably disagree with my definition. It seems that everyone has their own definition of this term and the majority do not have an opinion. I myself was one of this majority and for a few years I only sometimes thought about the meaning of this genre. But with the release of Elden Ring, the conversation and debates about soul-likeness revived. So I'm going to cover this self-made genre in this article, but I couldn't do it alone, so I sat down with a few developers who create games that are widely known as Souls-like to see what this subgenre means to them. Is the label Soullike a good label to use or not?

What is your definition of Soullike?

BingMag.com What is Soulslike? The definition of this new genre from the language of game makers

Let's start from the beginning: What is Soulslike? The developers I spoke to mentioned a wide range of high-level elements, but less on the specific mechanics we might be quick to attribute to the genre. In other words, Soulslike is more about the mood than Souls, Fire and Stoss itself. For example, Arthur DeCamp of Evil Empire Studios believes that soul-like is a combination of "unrelenting action and the deep mechanics that make this genre special." It plays not only in the game world but in the whole game. In addition to dangerous and tangled areas, Souls-like games force you to try out different tactics and character types, and they have no problem letting you make many mistakes. Silva says about this: "Since you can make very bad decisions, the good decisions become much more meaningful in contrast to them."

Kron Ramdwar from the developer studio Mortal Shell believes that "the best Souls-like games have a sense of loneliness and intense struggle." "They have an almost player-suppressing, processing that is as important to the game world and atmosphere as the consistent hitboxes or the weird design of the enemies." He also sees a good Souls-like game as maintaining a "sense of mystery that is rarely found today", especially the secrets hidden in the worlds of these games that the player may not find. When you can easily ignore or ignore things, their success and discovery instead have a sweet taste. Is. "Every player's action is a risk-reward balancing act. The limitation of the player's health bar and tolerance adds to this risk, and a real sense of ecstasy and euphoria is formed in a person by being rewarded." Additionally, the health bar concept leads to an even more unique feature: the customization of combat. Fallen Flag's Jonathan Costantini describes the Souls-like combat system as skill-based action. Pierre Tarneau of Sloclap, maker of Absolver and Sifu games, noted the "calculated combat" and the high level of "commitment to the health bar and health regeneration".

BingMag.com What is Soulslike? The definition of this new genre from the language of game makers

Jane Kanlas, co-founder of White Rabbit, mentions the action beat. "Most melee combat games focus on quick attacks that sometimes land in a few frames and usually feel rewarding much faster. "Souls-like games often include attacks that require trigger frames for the attack to do damage." FromSoftware's games are known for their heavy weaponry design and use, and DeCamp points out how purposeful the battles are in a Souls-like game: "I know when I'm playing a game like this I have to focus on the action and try to get everything. to understand the thing Although these games are full of action, they need to be analyzed by the player instead of hitting the wall aimlessly and hoping that a crack will be created in it. What's interesting to me is that while talking to these developers, most of them focused on the big picture instead of relying on different mechanics to identify a Soulslike game like most fans and players do.

In fact, the number A few developers claimed that many games with mechanics similar to Souls are not Souls-like at all. Canales says Hollow Knight isn't a Souls-like game, for example, while Kobodra doesn't think Dead Cells falls into that category either, and I agree with both of them. DeCamp admits that Dead Cells has similar ideas "The game is different in other ways, the game format being one of the most obvious of these differences," which is why this popular indie game is officially described as a "soul lite" game. There's a risk of short-sightedness in making the distinction between what the game feels like and what it's trying to accomplish, and how it accomplishes those goals. Sometimes there is considerable overlap in how we categorize games as products and how we describe them empirically. As Kobodra explains, Often I feel like a person sees an on-death mechanic and that mechanic is enough to call the game Souls-like. Maybe there should be a short list of necessary features for this genre.

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Speaking of the list, I asked the creators if a high difficulty level is mandatory for a Souls-like experience and the answers were mixed. For example, Costantini believes that "a Souls-like game should be inherently difficult" but admits that "this may be different for the player," and he praised the rise of diverse approaches to difficulty in games. Silva, on the other hand, believes that the challenge is vital because "a well-designed patrol will mean nothing in the absence of large penalties for carelessness." Many builders believe that the difficulty level discussion can be misleading. According to DeCamp, games advertised as Souls-like are likely to be difficult, but there is one important point to consider: "Difficulty is inherent in these types of games, but ideally it shouldn't be... Basically, the science behind Fram Software's consistent timing and mechanics. It's what should be admired, not the difficulty of their games."

Kudobra and Kanlas share a similar point of view, and think that soul-likes don't necessarily have to be extremely challenging. "Difficulty should be calculated in such a way that it takes advantage of risk and reward. One of the things that makes a Souls game rewarding is overcoming mechanical difficulties by learning patterns and systems. If you can still create that sense of joy and satisfaction without any challenge, then you've probably created a new subgenre of soul-like games.

BingMag.com What is Soulslike? The definition of this new genre from the language of game makers

All of these answers help paint a clearer picture of the benefits of challenge, and most importantly they show difficulty as a function of game design goals rather than a goal in itself. Good games and Souls-like games don't make bosses, encounters, and mechanics difficult just for the sake of showing off, they do it to support the experience they're trying to create and the response they want to see from players. This belief was recently echoed by Fram Software CEO Hideta Miyazaki. "I feel like our approach to these games, not just Elden Ring, is to design them in a way that encourages players to overcome obstacles," he told PlayStation Blog. We don't try to force difficulty or make things difficult because we can. "We don't want players to feel like the game is unfairly punishing, but instead we want players to feel like there's a chance to win a difficult matchup and advance." It is avoiding the difficulty that has become the brand of Souls games and instead intends to showcase its talent in creating the game world and its characters, and at the same time invites players who did not like the other games of the studio to experience this title. Miyazaki says about this: "We know that Souls-like games are constantly known for unimaginable levels of difficulty and difficulty to win, but we try to design games that make the cycle of repeating these challenges to achieve success in itself enjoyable."

Why did Soulslike games become popular?

BingMag.com What is Soulslike? The definition of this new genre from the language of game makers

Featured games regularly As a shortcut to success, they are used as models and examples. Metroidvanias (combination of Metroid and Castlevania games) and roguelike games are other examples of this issue, but Soulslike games are more unknown than the ones mentioned. This style covers a wider range of topics, but it has the same underlying problem as similar genres: you can only recognize it when you know it exists. If you're not familiar with Dark Souls or haven't experienced it, the term Souls-like doesn't tell you much, and if you're familiar with the series but avoided it because your tastes don't match, the term is probably putting you off experiencing games you might enjoy. It discourages.

This style of naming allows players to easily form a mental picture of the game, even if it's wrong and misleading, says Tarnow. Sometimes this act is a quick means of conveying an idea. now when you want "Really get into the details of a game. Using these labels can be very misleading as it limits the concepts and mechanics used in the game and ultimately robs the game of its identity." DeCamp supports Tarneau's point of view: "Shaping a genre by a game in particular runs the risk of turning the genre into a cult and ideal for new games that are inspired by it, limiting creativity and innovation." Regarding this phenomenon, Kobodra says: "Is this work minimalistic? Maybe. But in theory it helps people find what they're looking for. Ideally there is an accepted philosophy that shapes each one." On the other hand, Silva compares this phenomenon to the erosion of the trademark of things like Bandaid and Kleenex, where a brand is equated with a private product. "People spread ideas they like," says Silva. If people wanted a more appropriate term than Souls-like, we'd be dealing with that now instead.

Should we keep calling games Souls-like?

BingMag.com What is Soulslike? The definition of this new genre from the language of game makers

The soul-like genre has become much more than a trend or tag on Steam. Whether you like it or not, this name is now a real genre in the field of gaming that is not going anywhere anytime soon, and as our understanding of this term evolves, so does its impact on games. This event is a great example of how terms shape player expectations and even influence how games are made.

Death's Gambit definitely started out as a Souls-like game, Kobodra explains. Perhaps our advertising focused too much on this issue to the point where players couldn't see past the obvious similarities and assumed the game was a derivative of it. But before Soulslike became a meme, fans of the Souls games were super excited about our use of the tag. If it wasn't for this positive feedback, we would never have found the initial motivation to negotiate for the release of the game. "Since then we've changed Death's Gambit into a more Metroidvania-style game, a genre that surprisingly makes up the majority of our fans." Referring to the initial feedback for the development of Salt and Sanctuary, Silva says: "Making an indie game inspired by Dark Souls in 2015 was a difficult task for many, but making a Souls-like game today does not involve any controversy and fuss."

Like the developers I spoke with, I don't mind a universal explanation. I had a concise and expressive term soullike that everyone could use to better understand this genre. If you know such a definition, share it with us in the comments section. However, these talks convinced me that we may never reach such a definition. I'm not obsessed with the genre, but I've come to accept that the soul-like genre is inevitable, and everyone I've talked to has agreed that the label isn't going anywhere. On the contrary, we may see an increase in the use of this genre after the release of Elden Ring and its impressive popularity among players.

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