Tag Archives: game design

The Obsolescence of Lives

I twitted that “restarting a long multi-screen level on death” and “limited lives” are examples of retro mechanics that should stay dead. I thought that I would expand a bit on what I meant.

In part, this is a corollary to my past writings on challenge and punishment. In my definition, challenge is when a task is difficult to accomplish because it requires a high amount of skill, ability, or experience. Punishment is when failing a task imposes a burden on the player, usually in the form of lost time.
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One Measure of Bit.Trip Runner

The other night, I picked up Gaijin Games’s Bit.Trip Runner for WiiWare. This game is the best example of pure, brilliant game design that I’ve seen in a good while. This is the game designer as teacher and leader; it’s what Anna Anthropy calls design as sadism:

As a designer and as a domme, I want the person who submits to me to suffer and to struggle but ultimately to endure: I challenge her while simultaneously guiding her through that challenge. The rules of the game and the level design carry that idea.

Runner does this through the gradual layering of new game elements, high challenge with low punishment, and optional bonus goals. Most of all, though, it guides through repetition. This is a game about rhythm, after all. For my favorite example of this, let’s look at a single measure of rhythm from the game, no longer than 2 seconds, that appears everywhere.
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Fixing Silent Conversation

I like the concept behind my game “Silent Conversation.” The words of a piece form the physical structure of a level that is shaped by the setting, events, and feelings of the work’s content. Unfortunately, “Silent Conversation” is, well, not a very good game. It’s slow, because I wanted to encourage people to read the pieces. But it’s way too slow to be fun. The idea of certain words being “powerful” is promising, but the dodge-dark-red-things gameplay is more annoying than engaging.

A lot of people really resonated with the idea. I heard plenty of compliments for the visual interpretation of the text, and for making the text interesting to read, and for the potential of the game for education… but no one really said the game was fun. So here’s a question for you: how can I make a spiritual successor to “Silent Conversation” that’s actually fun? I’m seeking your help here.
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