The Obvious (07)

When I was in college, I did a game pitch as part of a game design class in front of a fake board of directors. I had to act as CEO, answering design and marketing questions from this board. Our game was a Cowboy Bebop meets GTA meets Crackdown that took place on the moon. Now that I’m a teacher, I realize how “student” that idea is, but I digress. One of the board members asked how we would use the moon’s decreased gravity as a gameplay hook. It was something we hadn’t discussed. Since I thought they were trying to lead me into a trap, I made up something about how artifical gravity made the world act like Earth.

What? Epic fail.

It’s an obvious gameplay element. If it’s on the moon and if your bounty hunters have jet packs and stuff, why aren’t there crazy low-G jumps? There’s no reason not to. My example became a what-not-to-do for the next class. It’s like Chekhov’s Gun for video games.

I’m playing the graphic novel DS adventure thing 999. Besides being incredibly slow and contrived in many aspects, it violates this primary expectation. In the game, the various characters have to use these hand scanning devices to enter a room and then if they do not find the matching scanner on the other side of the room in eighty one seconds, a bomb in their small intestines will explode (yes, really). But how does the game handle these sections? Do you get 81 seconds to run through rooms looking for a hidden item?

No, the exposition happens automatically. You are told how stressful it is, but the characters automatically find and disarm the bomb every time. It’s like the game is trying to eschew any interactivity at all. They display the gun and never let you use it. I’m flabbergasted. Give me something to play!

3 Comments

  1. I’d identify what you’re describing as a stylistic choice in many Japanese games and not necessarily a bad one.

    As a counterpoint consider Mass Effect 2’s planet scanning mechanic which might be considered along the same lines: you’re going to different planets why not scan them for useful resources? The answer of course being that nothing wears down a compelling story so much as mindless grinding.

  2. I don’t think your ME2 example applies. If each time you went to a planet, it showed the Normandy crew scanning for resources but never let you actually do it, then it would be more apropos. Of course, it still has to turn into a fun mechanic.

  3. I wonder if people preferred the ME1 resource voyages or the ME2 resource probes

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