Over at The Astronauts, someone figured something out. Sometimes, games work even when you're not shooting things.
Listed below, there are five well known action-adventure games. Think about your favorite, most memorable moments from the single player part of each, then click on the + spoiler button and see if I have managed to guess any of these moments.
What do all these moments have in common?
They are game-free. They are gameplay-less.
That’s right. You heard me.
If we understand gameplay as something that a challenge is a crucial part of, then none of these moments features any gameplay. You just walk, or swim, or ride a horse, but that’s it. You cannot die. You don’t make choices that have any long term consequences. No skill is involved.
There is no gameplay.
In other words, certain things worth remembering from certain video games are not what these video games are all about.
What this guy now figures is that you have to remove gameplay from games to get those moments.
But I don't think so. It has nothing to do with gameplay. But a lot with pacing.
A lot of games just keep stomping on, throwing new enemies to battle at the player even before he finished the old ones off, in order to make the game "gripping". The makers fear that if there is just the slightest lull, the players will become bored and stop playing. But will they?
In most other narrative media it is well known that ceaseless screaming action is very tiring and impossible to watch.
The praise that Bioshock has received from other critics is – after having played through the game – definitely well earned. Even though I'm usually not exactly a very good FPS player, I managed to get through the whole game. And it definitely was worth it. The world building in Bioshock is excellent, be its embedment into the historical background, or the rich story that shines through at every corner, or finally the beautifully captured art deco architecture, which simply is a joy to explore and walk through.
Gameplay itself is reasonably varied as well. While some parts leave the player wondering whether they were just added to draw out game length1, the "magic" abilities one receives over time offer enough variation and allow the player to change his tactics over time.
Later in the game, some near-failure states are added: at one point, one continually looses maximum health, forcing the player to react faster. At another, the player isn't able to choose his currently activated plasmid. Not only is the game randomly cycling between the equipped plasmids, but between others as well, allowing the player to test out previously unavailable plasmids – and requiring him to change his tactics to deal with splicers every minute or so.
With Bioshock having distinct horror elements as well, sound plays an important element as well.
Even though they might leave this impression, all parts are able to tell some part of the background story, allowing the player to dive deeper into the world. ↩
Clearly, Fable II has to tell a story. Unfortunately, the designers are so intent on telling this story that everything else becomes secondary.
Fable II is the first game I finished after my vow to actually finish games I started playing. I thought it would be a good idea to write reviews of those games as well, as a way to analyse its strengths and weaknesses, as well as strengthening my own analytical eye.
Fable II is one of the games my brother left me when he gave me his Xbox 360. Since most games by Peter Molyneux are highly praised, I decided to give it a go. And indeed, the first impressions are marvellous. The world is lush and richly coloured. The game features a day-and-night cycle, resulting in breathtaking sunsets and sunrises. You clearly get the impression of a world of wonders, made for you to explore. This first impression is not entirely wrong; in fact, it is wise to keep remembering that later on.
Sometimes, as a game designer, you tend to forget how well versed you are in your medium. You tend to think that all people are able to plunge into a virtual world and stroll around. You could not be more wrong.
This weekend, Oli, Käde and me had our parents over for a lengthy Easter brunch. And since recently Portal 2 was released, we figured that we showed them the first Portal as an example of a really well done and funny game. I am not really sure how our parents received the game. In fact, I doubt that they realised much of it, since they were mostly occupied figuring out the controls.
This was the perfect illustration for the generational gap. While modern games tend to write "Use WASD to move around" and leave it at that, assuming that the player will know what to do, because he has used that control scheme so many times before, this was clearly not enough for our parents.
At first, they tended to alternate between intently staring at the mouse and then slowly turning it and swooping over the keyboard with the index finger, trying to find the correct key to ... well, do something.
Just a few games I stumbled over this morning.
Now, a new game called Journey is to be released. It features nothing more than one person and a huge desert one has to cross. And that is all. It has multiplayer capabilities through the fact that one other random player is added to the same game. The players cannot communicate with each other. But they may share the journey for a while.
Not only is this a combination of two of my own, as of yet unused ideas, it seems to have been beautifully and poetically executed as well.
This kind of reminds me that I should get some of those XBox Live Arcade / Playstation Store Points / Credits / Thingies so I get a chance to play Limbo and Flower, some of the other small but exceptional games that are simply a must-play.