Friday, February 01, 2008

Back on Track...

I didn't mean to sidetrack everything so much with that little post. So let me get back to game design.

One of the things I really like in games is when they offer a very unique perspective on things. For example, my favorite level in Psychonauts was Lungfishopolis, where you were basically temporarily transformed to Godzilla-size.

But even in the old days, I remember loving light-bike (the Tron bike game, yeah?) not because I was any good at it, not because it was actually fun, but because it was a very unique perspective. The idea that you could "carve up" the playing field is so unlike anything that I had seen that I found it entrancing. To this day I have a weakness for games which allow you to carve up or build the playing field, like those pipe games and those games where you have to isolate bouncing balls.

This isn't simply a matter of offering up a new play mechanic. Some games have the same basic play mechanic, but apply it in a radically new direction. For example, the gameplay in Daggerfall (the game before Morrowind) wasn't particularly new or innovative. But the game let you play that gameplay in a wide-open world of unprecedented size and complexity, giving you a radically different experience. A radically new perspective on an old style.

Do any of you have favorite games - or parts of games - where this is the case?


Anonymous said...

Blade Runner PC adventure game from 1997. You realize something that starts to change the nature of your surroundings. It was subtle yet very effective. Hard to describe without spoiling both the movie and the game

Craig Perko said...

I own that game!

I never beat it, though.

Adrian Lopez said...

The level in Psychonauts where you play against Napoleon is one of my favorites. I liked the transitions between walking on top of the game board and moving within its larger counterpart, especially given my interest in video game navigation issues.

Another favorite of mine is the Mountain Tower in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. That level featured a worm called Moldorm that could push you off the edge of a platform, causing you to fall through holes down a number of floors. It's about the only frustrating gaming experience that I've actually enjoyed.

Craig Perko said...

I kept getting lost in the Napoleon level. I don't know why I had such trouble with it.

I've avoided playing any of the new Zeldas - not my cup of tea - but I think I know what you're talking about. Some feature of the terrain (in this case, holes) turns out to have a very unexpected use that is revealed later?

Adrian Lopez said...

The Zelda level in question (see walkthrough) did involve intentionally falling through a hole in order to find a necessary item (the Moon Pearl), but the part I enjoyed the most is exactly the part I should not have enjoyed: I had to keep climbing back up to Moldorm every time he pushed me off the edge. It was extremely annoying, yet for some strange reason I still enjoyed it.

Here's a video of the Mountain Tower level, and a video of the boss fight (alas, no falling).

Craig Perko said...

That's odd - I wonder why you enjoyed it?

Adrian Lopez said...

I'm not altogether sure why I enjoyed it, but I think it may have something to do with the feeling that -- even after being pushed off the edge -- you're still engaged in battle with Moldorm.

In a level such as the Mountain Tower, it's better for the player to be pushed off the edge than to simply be killed: Instead of a game over screen and starting over from the very beginning of the level, play resumes relatively quickly from one of the floors below Moldorm's platform (the actual number of floors you fall through depends on where you fall).

Craig Perko said...

That leads to an interesting idea...

Chris DeLeon said...

JezzBall was wonderful, but I imagine that's what you were referring to about ball trapping. Qix also fascinated me as a concept, but I could never really get into enjoying the game - I think I might have liked it a little faster.

Strictly on the mechanics end, rather than the story route, several of my game-a-day experiments try out quirky ways to carve up the playing field:

Closing loops with highly curvy perimeters

"Spotlighting" parts of the playing field to control growths

Disembodied vulnerability, related to scoring

Mechanic involves rotating an axis to split the field

Trying to maximize sum of angular deviations without crossing path

Are any of those the kind of thing you're referring to? I'm guessing PoisonButterfly is probably the closest fit...

Craig Perko said...

Yes, Poison Butterfly is the closest fit, but I never much cared for simple scoring games. The joy of jezzball and its parents, children, cousins, and clones is that there is a score, but more important, there are things to deal with. You win - regardless of score - if you chop up the area in the right way.

But that has nothing to do with the merit of the gameplay, it's just what I happen to like.

I'm impressed you make so many little games, even if they are generally very simple.

Patrick said...

You should play Coil.