Last month, while writing an article for Rock Paper Shotgun, HM asked several developers for their thoughts on the physical interface between player and game. Robin Arnott, the audio engineer behind Deep Sea and Soundself, responded with a short essay. Extracts of this essay appeared in the completed article, but today Electron Dance presents the essay in full.
The original motivation behind Deep Sea was a dirt simple question: how do I maximize immersion? It was a curiosity drive! I started out knowing from my own experience that fear can short-cut the rational mind and touch players at a pre-cognitive level. But all the design decisions, like blinding the player, or playing back their breathing to obscure the critical information, all of that was me blindly reaching into the darkness and holding onto what seemed to work. I'm very fortunate to have stumbled onto some ideas that worked incredibly well, but the great irony of Deep Sea's development is that I didn't know why they worked. It took about two years of watching people play Deep Sea for me to reverse-engineer my own game and figure out the why.
HM is on sabbatical for June and guest writers are filling the void. This week it’s one of HM’s favourite Twine authors, David T. Marchand, who is the brains behind Úrquel: The Black Dragon, Eioioio and the sublime When Acting As A Wave.
Joaquín Guellada recently wrote about Se Busca, the last (and as far as I know, only) game by the enigmatic Sofía Arquero. He described it as “a rather uncomfortable combination (una combinación algo incómoda) of those adventure games whose arbitrary designs knew to dig their own grave and the management games that are so ashamed of what they are they don’t even want to be called by their name.”
Before him, Karen Benotti praised in the game “the double, implausible influence of Monkey Island and the Gods Will Be Watching demo.” A simple enough observation which Guellada merely parrots, though in an angrier jargon.
Essentially, both reviewers agree: the game revolves around managing your time and inventory, developing strategies that allow you to stay afloat, while at the same time it asks you to solve puzzles that involve talking to people, collecting clues and combining items to accomplish your goals. This hybridization may lead us to suspect a certain kinship with Jasper Byrne’s Lone Survivor. We’ll quickly find out that no such affinity exists.
It’s time for another site sabbatical. During June, I’m taking a break from writing Electron Dance articles to recharge my drained brain-batteries and also, possibly, to play some games.
But I have not abandoned you. I know your weeks will not be the same without something to grind your thinking teeth on. Over the next four weeks, I’ve persuaded several writers to provide guest posts in my absence.
Just one piece of advice: don’t like their work more than you like mine. I couldn’t tolerate that.
When I return, we'll see about getting this video rolled out...
In this episode of Counterweight, Eric Brasure and Joel "HM" Goodwin discuss celebrated pocket puzzle game Threes (Sirvo, 2014). Yes, we know it's not a PC game.
03:00 "It's just a very well-constructed game and it's also a joy to play."
08:00 "The uncertainty can be devastating to your game."
12:00 "The key to what makes it difficult is the movement."
16:50 "It's a very mindful game and you really have to be present when you're playing it."
24:30 "I'm staring at this... feels like an impossible board."
26:30 "I think you just must be an old man, Joel."
29:10 "2048 trumps Threes straight away."
31:50 "I don't know why people like this sort of thing."
35:40 "Trying to convince someone who's played 2048 to read a 60 million word article on the development of Threes is not going to work."
43:10 "If people can undermine you with free-to-play... then you might need to do that too, but that will change the game you make."
Download the podcast MP3 or play it right here in your browser:
- The Rip-offs & Making Our Original Game (the history of Threes)
- 2048 Numberwang (totally safe for work)
- Why is 2048 more successful than Threes? (Gamesbrief)
The Farfield is an occasional series where I write about something other than gaming.
The trouble with being alive for such a long time is that you tend to feel like you’ve seen it all before. It doesn’t matter what it is, blah blah been there bought the T-shirt. I think I’ve had my fill of vampires, for example. The last vampire thing that managed to grab me is Buffy and that was five years ago on DVD.
But zombies. Ah, zombies. They never worked for me. I watched a few zombie films when I was younger such as Zombie Flesh Eaters and Return of the Living Dead. At some point I also indulged in some of Romero's work; Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead were entertaining enough but never hooked me. I tried out The Walking Dead show but we parted ways after the first series. I never ran around hungry for
brains more hot zombie action.
Except, when I think about it, this is lies.
Okay, this is an actual first. I have written an article for Rock Paper Shotgun.
Since the last Warm Up, I’ve had this idea about using Luxuria Superbia (Tale of Tales, 2013) as a starting point to discuss how controllers define the kinds of games we can make. But then recently I was asked if I’d like to write for RPS and came to the conclusion this piece on the physical player/game interface would suit them.
But I made it bigger. I did some Q & A with Doug Wilson, George Buckenham, Robin Arnott, Steve Willey and Tale of Tales to beef it up into something more substantial than a personal opinion piece.
Here's an excerpt:
Wilson can only see Microsoft’s recent decision to make Kinect optional for Xbox One as a negative development. By reducing the number of players who own Kinect, the financial risk for developers increases and, inevitably, chokes off the supply of games. “Console-based motion control and physical play was already largely ‘dead,’ but Microsoft dropping the Kinect is a symbolic moment – another nail in the coffin. What Microsoft lacked was developers who knew how to think beyond the immersive fallacy and subvert technological constraints. As I see it, Microsoft could have done a better job supporting and incentivizing Kinect developers.”
The finished article is up on Rock Paper Shotgun right now.
(And, yes, this is precisely why Oil and Water was late last week.)
There's been a long-running game recommendations thread on the Appendix. Without any commentary, I thought I'd list every game that was mentioned.
- Cities in Motion
- Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days
- Advance Wars
- Project Reality
- 7 Grand Steps
- Fallout New Vegas
- Civ 5
- Call of Pripyat
- I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream
- Master of Orion II
- Kingdoms of Amalur
- Might & Magic VI
- Lords of Thunder
- Waking Mars
- STALKER again
- Probability 0
A fresh new recommendations thread has been opened.
Take Sokobond (Hazelden & Lee, 2013). It’s a wonderful slow-burn puzzle game that is suitable for snack play. If you can’t solve this problem, no bother, just try another one. Or stop and come back another time, no big.
Now imagine a parallel universe in which the final level of Sokobond is a dexterity challenge which you have to solve in a time limit otherwise SO SORRY TRY AGAIN. I’d be angry enough to kick a sheep.
I haven’t finished Sokobond but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have a rhythm game playoff or a boss fight – but other games do.
Think of all the games you loved. Hand on heart, do you know if they’re actually any good in this day and age? We’re all victims of nostalgia-tinted glasses and revisiting a game is always tainted with those memories of your first engagement. These signals from the past disrupt attempts to be level-headed in the present. Especially when we’re talking about Half-Life (Valve Software, 1998) which has got “historical significance” stamped all over it.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve been playing Black Mesa (Crowbar Collective, 2012), the remake of Half-Life in the Source engine that had been in development for eight years. It’s done a bang-up job of messing with my head. Black Mesa has altered my memories of the original.
Hands up who doesn’t want to be moved by the books we read, the films we watch and the games we play? Anyone? We always want to feel something, whether it’s excitement, contentment, anger, sadness or gas.
Games are often talked up for being the more involving due to the special sauce of “interactivity” yet there is such a chasm between the talk and reality. Developers have to employ plenty of tricks to bring us emotionally deeper into the material. How about some bombastic music? Some quavering voice acting? Photorealism?
But then you have Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier, 2011) and Papers, Please (Lucas Pope, 2013) which dial down the graphics to grfx and dispense with voice acting. The response to these games is measurable on the Richter scale.
With this in mind, I want to discuss Rehearsals and Returns (Peter Brinson, 2014).