Evolve is designed around an ideal situation: You knowing and understanding your role within the group, playing with others who similarly understand their own unique roles, all of whom are in constant communication with each other. In that moment, with those people, Evolve is a fantastic and exciting experience, but the real world is often less than ideal, which raises the question: Should the design of a game dictate the nature of the community that plays it, or should the community dictate the design?
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Tragedy struck early this week. Afflicted by a particularly annoying cold, I willed myself out of bed and towards a day at work. My calendar was a solid stripe of back to back meetings, my email inbox a teetering tower of Monday-morning emergencies. As I settled into my seat on the train and tried to pretend the screeching metal noises were soothing violins, my itchy throat grew sore. I reached into my bag and my heart sank. I had left my cough drops at home.
After a few wistful moments of starting at the emergency door release lever, I decided to think about Earthbound. I was in the middle of an inventory crisis, something with which Ness and his friends were also very familiar.
Shadow of Mordor features some beautifully designed mechanics, combat, and an innovative and interesting system, the Nemesis system, that approaches the development of your opponents in an innovative way.
It also tells a really stupid story.
“Our hurdles are design related, not tech related.” So says Thomas Grip of Frictional Games at his keynote during IndieCade East. The whole of IndieCade East was devoted to talk about narrative in one form or another. Whether it was the structure of how narrative is conveyed in the medium like in Grip’s talk or the craft of delivering narrative information or discussion of what narratives get told by games, these were the topics of the talks. Additionally, and more important perhaps was discussion about what narratives get lost in the industry.
Consistently the most interesting part of IndieCade East is the Show & Tell exhibit portion on Saturday and Sunday. There indie developers get to show off works in progress, little experiments, games that are ready to play, or something you won’t ever get to play in any other environment. Generally, narrative-based games don’t show well in a convention-like environment, but here’s three that caught my eye.
Valiant Hearts and Never Alone are what I would call docu-platformers—puzzle-platforming games that seek to educate the player on some aspect of history or culture. As such, they share a striking similarity in approach. They purposefully avoid being literal or realistic, instead cherry picking certain aspects of World War I or Iñupiaq culture that can be easily integrated into the typical puzzle-platformer gameplay. They then use collectibles to expand upon those gameplay moments.