Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Interactivity and Choice

1 December, 2007

Some of the recent bifurcation of opinions about Assassin’s Creed got me thinking.  Some reviewers are marking the game down because there isn’t much variety of gameplay.  Other internet denizens are (essentially) saying that the process of trying to streamline the game to finish it faster decreases the fun of the game.  The game reviewers, they say, are playing it with the wrong mindset.

This disagreement points out one of the subtle misconceptions about games.  Players (or at least I, as a player) want interactivity in a game, but don’t want an overabundance of options.  The player’s actions should have an effect, but what actions can be performed, what things can be affected, should be constrained.  From what I’ve seen, Assassin’s Creed is a game with a lot of interactivity, as the main character can touch and take advantage of the environment in many ways, with a plethora of context-sensitive actions.  It’s also a game with a lot of choice in regards to how to approach the missions in the game.

One reason the two camps of opinion can’t see eye to eye is because they’re not separating the game’s interactivity and the choices it provides.  The reviewers apparently chose options that effectively limited their interactivity with the game, and it became repetitive.  Others just tried to interact with the game as much as possible, and the un-fun choices became invisible and, in fact, disappear entirely.

Maybe there is a game design flaw in Assassin’s Creed, but I doubt it’s what the reviewers are claiming.  The flaw may not be that the game is repetitive per se, but that it allows the player to choose to make the game repetitive.  Certainly it seems to be that if you play the game as intended, Assassin’s Creed is great.  The question is if you’ll play it as intended or not.


Now I’m Sad (about Shooter Games)

9 February, 2007

PopCap, the independent casual games developer and publisher, renowned for intuitive and addictive games like Bewjeweled, has put on their site one game I … just … don’t like.

Normally, I hold this company — one of the few internet startups to escape from the dot-com bubble burst, in the highest regard.  They know about design, and gameplay, and how to make a game visually appealing.  Their games consistently provide me with entertainment.

I guess this is the problem they have with being a publisher now: they themselves do not make all the games on their site.  So, this new game, Platypus, does one thing and a half things right and lots of things wrong.  Let’s dissect.