Picking the Lock-box

  • Reading time:2 mins read

by [redacted]

Desktop Dungeons brings with it the old discussion about unlockable content. It’s designed as a short game; Rogue by way of Minesweeper. Finish the game under the right conditions, and you get more conditions that facilitate further unlocking. The game is hard, so you’re only going to beat it some percentage of the time. As you get better — or at least get further into the unlocking process — the game gets harder, forcing the player to put in that much more effort for the next unlock.

It’s a regular progression: play, play, play until you play well enough to meet a condition; then move on and play some more. There’s always another carrot, until finally there isn’t. And look at all the time and energy you’ve invested to get there.

Since I downloaded the game, I have found myself in a feedback cycle. I imagine it’s the impulse that a compulsive gambler feels. Hey, it’s only another ten minutes; I’m on a roll now; I know I can beat that boss if I just choose the gnome and conserve my potions. And so okay, I die. But this next time I’ll make it for sure.

This isn’t healthy. By no measure on Earth is this healthy. And yet for about ten years this has been a popular way to extend the life of simple games. You might call it a sort of meta completion compulsion. Often large-environment games will riddle their worlds with stars and packages and honeycombs to collect, and unless you track down every last one you’re not playing the game right. Often hardcore skill-based games will hand out letter grades for performance, and unless you earn the highest grade in every challenge, you’re not playing the game right. In either case, you’re probably missing out on something. This unlockable business comes from the same place, but translates a little differently.

( Continue reading at DIYGamer )

Compelling a Complete Performance

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by [name redacted]

So somewhere after the early ‘90s game design became affected, vertical, content to build on established concepts for their own sake and so distort them out of all the representative or practical value they might have had. This became exacerbated after the industry’s multimedia and “virtual reality” phases, and the eventual rush for polygonal majesty. Early polygonal games were expensive to make, and only so many polygons would fit on the screen. Contemporary hardware could hold only so-large an environment in memory. It took developers about seven years to figure out what that extra Z-axis meant for controls, a sense of space, and all the assumptions about design that had built up since the mid-’80s.

In the short term, developers relied on the novelties of real-time animation and 3D space. They built modest, often jury-rigged, playpens where the dodgy collision, imprecise movements, weird cameras, and minimal detail would be less likely to stand out. Either that or they went hard in the other direction and used 3D animation to glam up familiar 2D twitch-based design. Those games were, of course, struck with the same technical limitations as their free-roaming cousins.

( Continue reading at DIYGamer )

Ambition and Compulsory Design in Animal Crossing

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by [name redacted]

The thing about portables – and not everybody cottons to this – is that people use them differently from other game systems. You cradle them in your hands, within your personal space. You drag them around with you, pull them out of your pocket like a dime novel, then snap them closed when you step off the bus. Where console and PC games ask you to set aside blocks of your time, portables fill the cracks in your day.

All of these situational dynamics, and the psychology lurking behind them, inform the basic checklist for a portable game.

( Continue reading at Game Career Guide )