Posts Tagged game
Description: Telltale’s episodic adventure set in Robert Kirkman’s famous zombie-apocalypse universe.
Conveniences: Mouse-overs display interaction-icons that can be selected using the mouse wheel and executed with a simple mouse click.
Annoyances: Invisible walls; bugs with save-game choices being carried over from episode to episode.
Standouts: A very well written and acted script that does a fantastic job of capturing the vibe of the comic books.
Not too long ago I praised The Witcher for a plethora of things it did really well. The sequel’s not bad either, but its minimap is absolutely horrible. The main problem is that it rotates with the camera, and the lack of compass directions also exasperates the issue.
Rotating minimaps are great for following a linear path, which is why GPS devices use this design. The user hardly ever needs to worry about whether they’re driving South or South-East, but they need to accurately follow the generated route. Consequently, it’s a lot easier if the path is always facing the same direction as the car, i.e., if the arrow on the screen is pointing right, they need to make a right hand turn.
However, if the map doesn’t rotate, then driving South with an arrow pointing right actually means making a left-hand turn. To avoid this confusion and unnecessary work with mentally rotating the map, the view of GPS devices is synched to match that of the car.
FPS titles also tend to benefit from rotating minimaps. Their levels are often small or just linear, and it’s very helpful for the player to be synced with the minimap view. The reason for this is that split-second decisions often need to be made based on the immediate surroundings.
For example, if the player is following a team-mate turning right but there’s an enemy hiding just around the left corner, it’s beneficial to instantly know which direction to face in order to counter the ambush. Since FPS games also inherently don’t possess a floating camera, it’s that much more advantageous to be aware of what’s lurking beyond the player’s view as there’s no other way to peek around the scenery.
Static minimaps, on the other hand, are much more suitable for games with large areas that need to be traversed multiple times.
In these titles, it’s important to familiarize oneself with the layout of the land in order to travel through it efficiently. Goals are often described with compass directions in mind, and landmarks are used to aid in the building of a mental map for the overall area.
If the minimap constantly swings around, not only does it keep changing the direction north is pointing, but it also forces the player to digest a radically different topography each time they glance at the minimap. A static view is superior to this as it facilitates the parsing and memorization of an area’s layout. This in turn allows the player plot their own paths and comfortably maneauver through the game’s environments.
Of course some players are only used to one approach or the other, in which case why not simply include both options?
We’re making a small iOS puzzle game, let us know what you think!
Whenever an airship boss is defeated in Super Mario Bros. 3, a wand drops from the top of the screen. Picking it up is required to move on to the next world, but doing so in mid-air is not.
Despite this, jumping for the wand is a common behaviour. It’s fun to sync up Mario’s ascent with the wand’s descend, fascilitating a dramatic grab that culminates with Mario falling back down to earth and saving the day.
It’s a very satisfying moment, but there are no gameplay ramifications to simply letting the wand settle on the floor before picking it up. Jumping for it is simply hard to resist.
- A representation of an optional action that does not result in any significant gameplay reward, yet is commonly carried out by a large percentage of players.
Let’s take a look at a couple more examples.
In the original Mega Man games, end-level bosses are always prefaced by an empty, single-screen room with two doors. These are a clear indicator that the end is just beyond the next turn, at which point many players choose to jump straight into the boss’ lair.
When Mega Man connects with the door, the action freezes as the entrance opens up and the screen scrolls to reveal the final segment of the map. There’s no reason to jump at the door, but it results in some areal acrobatics that firmly deposit Mega Man in the next area with punctuating, “It’s on!” flair.
Street Fighter III
Many fighting games used to disable collisions or simply cut-off player input whenever a round of combat ended. Street Fighter III was one of the first to buck the trend, enabling the victor to execute a few extra moves following his opponent’s loss. This proved quite satisfying as it allowed the winner to finish off a combo — a naturally stylish string of attacks. Furthermore, it represented a contrast to the rest of the game by providing a short window of time during which some free hits could be scored.
I don’t believe these “bonus shots” increased the super bar meter or affected the end-battle grade, but if they did, the rewards were minimal.
Doorways in Metroid Prime are triggered by the player shooting them, at which point they open up after a variable amount of time (usually between 0-6 seconds). The reason for this is to hide data being streamed in the background, which leaves the player largely idle. At this point, concern over whether the shot was registered — and plain frustration — tend to set in, resulting in more blasts bombarding the door.
Unlike the other two examples, this is more of a “get on with it” behaviour that helps to vent frustration rather than being satisfying in itself.
These irresistible actions seem to be largely accidental; as far as the games are concerned, there’s no reason for players to engage in them. They can be quite important to the overall experience, though, and once identified, they often become a defining part of a series or genre.
Are there any “irresistibles” you engage in on a frequent basis?
JRPGs, and by extension SRPGs, have an unfortunate tendency to use text as filler. Even with numerous types of fast-forward buttons — something of a band aid solution — their dialogue sequences are often very lengthy.
Verbal diarrhea is never necessary, though, and with Trudy’s Mechanicals we’re taking multiple steps to avoid it:
- Dialogue sequences are often optional. If the player doesn’t want to listen to a character, he can simply choose not to initiate the conversation.
- Colourful tid-bits are non-blocking. This means that if an enemy or an NPC wants to deliver a bark-style one-liner, it simply fades in and out. The text itself is aesthetic and doesn’t hijack the player’s interface, leaving him free to navigate the UI or issue battle commands.
- Cutscenes are short and to the point. Characters don’t prattle on if they don’t have anything interesting to say, and the player never needs to wait too long before he’s back in the “driver’s seat”. A skip option is also implemented as it’s an expected standard for those who are not interested in the story or might be replaying the game.
This less-is-more approach means that our script is much, much smaller than that of a typical tactics game. As a result, we’re taking extra care to make sure the language itself feels unique and interesting.
Here are some examples:
Planescape: Torment is famous for its cant, Victorian slang that adds personality to its setting. Seeing as Steampunk has its roots in a romanticized Victorian era, we decided to take a similar approach with Trudy.
Although it’s tempting to go overboard with jargon, it doesn’t help if the script can’t be understood by most people. Consequently the use of slang is somewhat conservative and the words we picked often have current-day connotations.
Here are some examples:
- Barker – A gun. Not immediately obvious, but easily grasped given proper context.
- Nibbed – Arrested. As in nabbed, or kidnapped. The word doesn’t have a strict association with the police, but its sentiment is easily understood.
- Lushery – A public drinking den. Lush isn’t a common term for alcohol, but this one was just too amusing to pass up.
Naming characters in a fictional setting is a bit tricky. You typically want to steer clear of popular current-day names that might break the suspension of disbelief, e.g., Mike Smith or John Brown. On the other hand, something truly alien might prove too difficult to vocalize internally, while symbolic names like “Black Lightning” tend to come off awkward and hokey.
Of course we could’ve simply used Victorian era names, but I wanted to differentiate Trudy from typical Steampunk pulp.
Our solution was to use old Greek and Slavic names.
The result is not entirely alien, but it’s enough to stand out. Characters are given names such as Renatus, Tatjana, Darko, Milos, Daria, etc., which keeps the naming conventions consistent and adds a bit of flavour to the world.
Finally, proverbs are my favourite trick for imbuing a setting with a sense of culture and history.
Proverbs are usually quite short, but they convey words of wisdom that often speak volumes about an entire society. In keeping with our naming approach, I picked out a couple of Greek and Slavic proverbs suitable to our script:
“Gray hair is a sign of age, not wisdom.”
“As long as a child does not cry, it does not matter what pleases it.”
“Eat and drink with your relatives; do business with strangers.”