Monday, June 19, 2017

Tough mobile puzzle games

Monument Valley 2 shipped, and needs no net-boosting from me. It was mentioned in Apple's WWDC keynote; that's max visibility in ten seconds.

I played MV2, and indeed it was as lovely and finger-satisfying as the original. But, like the original, it wasn't particularly puzzle-intense. Once you locate all the movable objects on the screen, move them, and see how they match up, you've done most of the job. Which is fine: the creators are clearly aiming at the general audience, not at puzzle fiends.
So, the question: what recent puzzle games are as pretty and whimsical as MV2, but will also melt your brain out your ears?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The combat-free environmental-survival MMORPG

Seltani was built, to some extent, on ideas I'd tossed into a 2008 blog post. Myst Online had just been cancelled (early 2008). I was interested in how such a game -- an MMO puzzle-exploration-adventure -- might have been built without MOUL's technical or scaling problems.
Neither the 2008 post nor Seltani really addressed the question of what players would do in such a game. (Neither did Cyan, of course.) I pretty much threw that problem into the "user content" bucket. People will build stuff and then explore each other's stuff! Well, I'm very happy with Seltani's world-writing model, but this is clearly not enough to feed an active fan-base.
So. This weekend I hung out with two friends who got to comparing their Guild Wars characters. (They're not serious about Guild Wars, but, you know, they raid.) I don't know the game, so their conversation was a cheerful torrent of opaque terminology, but I got to thinking about the depth of MMORPG mechanics. That's a genre which keeps the players coming back, right? It's not a solved problem: most MMOs fail. But we know it's a solvable problem.
This is the MMORPG formula, as I understand it:
  • A deep combat system with lots of options. (Different kinds of attack and defense, different character specializations with synergies.)
  • Long chains of equipment upgrades which require players to go out and complete many different kinds of tasks.
  • Big fights that require lots of well-equipped players to cooperate over an extended interval.
But does any of that make sense in a social, non-combat-oriented scenario? Spoiler: yes.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Rime: design ruminations

I bought a PS3, in part, because I figured there might be another Fumito Ueda game someday. Then I watched The Last Guardian skitter away into an uncertain future. Then I lost patience with the Playstation platform, and set up a Windows gaming box. Then The Last Guardian shipped for PS4, and I realized that I was never going to play it because Sony was just too awful to put up with.
(Did I tell the story of how I bought all my PS3 games using store-bought gift cards, because I was too paranoid to give Sony my credit card number? And then Sony got hacked and proved my paranoia right? If I'd been a real conspiracy theorist, that would have been the happiest day of my life. I'm not and it wasn't.)
Anyhow, I've seen Rime floating around the convention show floors for a couple of years now, and it looked like a pretty cool... PS4 exclusive. But no! It showed up on Windows, so I get to play it after all.
Rime is a beautiful, moving, lovingly-polished, wordless narrative adventure game. It makes me want to say that the wordless narrative adventure game is a dead genre.
It's not dead dead. But I'm going to be more skeptical about it in the future.