Lately I haven’t had anything shcool or work-related to occupy me, and neither have I been playing any exiting new games (I have been playing some new games, but nothing exciting). Instead I have read the Song of Ice and Fire-saga and played Dungeons of Dredmor. Both have been vast, time-consuming excercises with little chance to let my mind wonder. Thus I haven’t had anything interesting to write. Instead I’ll give you some tidbits.
I bought my first mobile game: Dead Space. The game is a tiny copy of its namesake, and thus does not fill any specific purpose. Dead Space was not a good horror game, but it was somewhat atmospheric when monsters were not about. The mobile Dead Space is not even that due to the limitations of the technology. I bought it mostly because I had stumbled upon it when I researched (read: Googled) game control methods. The player could press buttons and interact with objects directly by pressing on them on the screen. The idea was solid, but the execution poor. The character moves by pressing the left side of the screen, which acts as a sort of thumbstick. He aims by pressing the right side (as another thumbstick) and fires by tapping on the right side. Trying to aim is difficult and the touchscreen is quite temperamental on what constitutes a tap. I have missed a monster several times because the screen slid as I tapped it to fire. The object promised object interaction is there, but it is also temperamental. I have wasted several shots of ammunition when I have tried to pick up something. Using Kinesis to toss explosive canisters is pure madness.
What I would have done is to remove the aim thumbstick. Tapping at an object makes the character either shoot it or use it. This will remove the fiddly aiming issue. Sure, it will make the game easier and thus less frightening, but it was quite simple to detach limbs in the original Dead Space. I would have also made the game darker, added fog effects and made a single enemy much more dangerous. But then again, I am not the creative director of Dead Space series, so meh.
I have noticed that I like bad but interesting games more than good but forgettable ones. Race for the Galaxy is a good little card game, but I honestly can’t say anything about it. It has little interaction with other players, the mechanics are functional but quite stale, and in the end it boils down to victory point calculation. The player’s strategy is also defined quite early, and breaking it towards the end serves little. But it is fun to play, to see how you might win this time.
I find myself designing a game for little children… again. It is extremely hard to make something simple enough for them to understand, but interesting enough to feel worth designing. But I relish the challenge to design for someone so wildly different to myself. The enjoyment does not come from the challenge of outwitting opponents or performing good risk assessment, but from pure fun of doing stuff and getting rewards.
And I’ve been thinking about blind gaming. Almost every game has a necessary visual element in it. Cards must be read, screen must be watched, tokens must be differentiated… I heard about a blind gamer who plays Magic the Gathering with braille-coded card sleeves. It is a clever way, provided that no card will force control changes. I thought about the games I owned and thought if any of them could be played without sight. I think I found one: Pieces of Eight. A clever, simple game where the player makes a stack of coins representing his pirate ship. At their turn, the player can use one of the three active coins for some effect, usually to destroy one of his opponent’s. The game components are two-sided and their surfaces are three-dimensional, meaning you (probably) can differentiate them by touch. That got me thinking: How would I go about making a good, tactical game with no visual components? I havent’ found the answer yet, though I would think there are people who would appreciate a game like that.