Lost Island: Annotated Notes
Virtual Worlds vs Games

Adjusting Focus

Five weeks to GDC, and I need to get my head back into thinking about games for a while. I'm not saying I won't diverge onto other topics, as I most assuredly will, but it would be good if I could stay with play and games for the next month or so. So what game thoughts do I have rattling around?

  • On the subject of GDC, I am pleased to announce that I made it onto a panel this year. Finally, I get my GDC pass for free, after years of being registered as a speaker but still having to pay. I'll write more about this panel once a few more details have settled.
  • Where are the reviews of Play with Fire? I haven't seen any yet.
  • Playing a lot of Tetris on the DS with my wife at the moment, it's not the first time in my life that this game has occupied a large amount of playing bandwidth (playwidth?). If one counts all of the iterations of the game, has it sold more than Super Mario Bros. i.e more than 40 million units? The Gameboy version alone racked up 33 million unit sales. Is the secret of its success that of the first mover - the Genre King effect, as Danc puts it - or is there something more fundamental behind its impressively wide appeal? I suspect the latter, but the former effect is hard to eliminate.
  • Just reached the Temple of Time in Twilight Princess... The more puzzle-focussed the play of this Zelda game has been, the less I've enjoyed it. Really, I'd like more excuses to ride Epona and fewer play-halting braincrunches.
  • I haven't turned on the PS2 in more than a month now (since getting the Wii, in fact). Am I really going to return to any of those PS2 games in my 'Currently Playing' list...? Starting to doubt it.

Feel free to prod me with game-related thoughts. I could use the impetus!

Comments

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Well, it's a simple idea and lots of people are asking this in different places...

Now you've had a chance to get used to the Wiimote and think about it for a while, what would you say is the game you are most looking forward to playing with the Wiimote?

E.g. many people are looking forward to Tiger Woods/ after playing Wii Sports Golf, as the action of swinging your club is much more meaningful than stopping a swing-o-meter.

So, I am asking what sort of mimicry are you looking forward to - or do you feel that the Wiimote will fail to deliver the thing you want most?

And as for LoZ:TP, I have to say the Temple of Time was one of my favourite dungeons (and I'd really not liked several up to then). Plenty of chances remain for you to thunder around Hyrule on Epona. :-)

I'd be glad to see some game writing-related topics (finally got your book btw, great stuff). I'm a writer for a small hobbyist computer rpg project and we've been having some quarrel with the designer/project leader about the focus and themes of the story.
He'd like the main character not to have so much of an impact on the big events of the story (wars and whatnot) but be more of a victim of circumstances. I myself find this a bit problematic since the game mechanics are pretty basic rpg stuff with the character getting stronger and stronger as the game progresses. In my opinion, having world shattering things going on with the story but no way of interfering with their progress seems a bit daunting for the player.

Would you think it's possible to have a game that's a rather basic rpg at heart with a story that would not evolve around the player saving (or possibly having a choice of not saving) the world/kingdom/domain of choice in the end?

Suikoden II tried it, you should give it a play and make up your own mind.

Where ARE the reviews for Play With Fire? I suspect that since Manifesto isn't a monetarily copious publisher with complimentary shwag bags going to the offices of the gaming press, we need to spike them with the intense novelty of the game itself, injected in a short time span. The video I'm making should do just that, we should get a list of mails and try to batch out invitations to watch, then play, once its done.

Neil: "So, I am asking what sort of mimicry are you looking forward to - or do you feel that the Wiimote will fail to deliver the thing you want most?"

At this point, I'm intrigued at exploring the possibilities. Although I am not a big fan of FPS games, for instance, I am interested to see how one feels with a nunchuk. And fighting in Zelda gives me a taste for a Battlefield Action game (a la Dynasty Warriors) using a similar system. It's a shame that the next Resident Evil isn't being developed for the Wii, because I love the idea of a shooter with defensive gestures on the wiimote ("get offa me!")

As for the thing I most want, I think what I want these days are single player virtual worlds I can play in without being forced to jump through hoops. Sadly, I don't see this happening any time soon. :)

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Arto: "Would you think it's possible to have a game that's a rather basic rpg at heart with a story that would not evolve around the player saving (or possibly having a choice of not saving) the world/kingdom/domain of choice in the end?"

It's certainly possible; it comes down to the story or stories you want to tell. I can understand the desire to not tell a world shattering epic tale (we've seen enough of these), but I also understand your concern that if you are getting more and more powerful surely you will eventually serve to have signficant influence.

One possibility you might like to consider is that the major world shattering events are concluded by the time the player is of sufficient level to intervene - that is, they miss their chance to affect the outcome. So in the end game, the player cannot change the outcome of world events (these are already concluded) - but they can still be a significant force in the aftermath.

Imagine, for instance, a game set against the fall of an empire, but the empire falls at the midpoint of the story. The player cannot affect this story, but as the surviving kingdoms and tribes vie for space in the world, the player can enjoy a prime position of importance in the latter stages of the story.

Talk about it some more with your team and I'm sure you can find an approach that satisfies all your needs.

As for more posts focussing on game writing issues - I thought there would be more of these, but it transpires that my imagination is seldom caught by this side of things. I will keep my eyes open for things I might write about, though, and I will certainly be talking about the dynamic narrative systems for Reluctant Hero in the near future.

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Patrick: One possibility is that because we didn't have review copies prior to release we now have to wait the usual 2-3 month print delay before anyone will cover us. However, the lack of reviews in the online space is conspicious, and a cause for concern. We'll have to keep pushing at it and see what happens.

Thanks for the comments everyone!

Hey Chris, there is a Wii Resident Evil in the works...

I'll get a Wii when the price drops I think. I've played one (and smashed the obligitory lamp... man that made me feel stupid, but you really DO get into the game :)), and I'd like to buy it, but the price is still too much for me at the moment.

Have you considered giving some free copies of Play With Fire to some key people? (I don't mean neccessarily the IGN/Gamespot-type hardcore people, but rather some other influencers who might promote it.

RodeoClown: We've distributed free copies of PwF to a good two dozen people at key websites and magazines... hoping this will bear fruit.

And congratulations on smashing a lamp! :) My only anecdote of mass destruction is the amount my arms hurt after the first week of playing Wii Sports. :D

Take care!

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