How I rate your games for theme

Posted by (twitter: @JohanRasten)
August 22nd, 2011 11:36 pm

In case anyone is wondering, here’s how I reason when I hand out Theme-ratings.

The main question is how important is “escape” to your game? It’s very easy to start any game with a text box saying “you have to escape this XXX!”, but in how many of these games could you replace that sign with “you have to find the treasure” or the “…evil XXX hiding in his dungeon”?

Many, you say? Indeed. If you could simply exchange one or two dialogs and the game would still play exactly the same, that’s going to give you a lower Theme score. Not necessarily a 1, but low. Notch’s game is an example of this. Overall it’s a fun game and incredibly impressive for being made in 48 hours. But IMHO it’s more a game about killing monsters and gathering trinkets than an escape themed game. I’m not going to give him all 5s just because he’s Notch 😀

On the other hand, if something is so intimately tied to escaping that it would be an entirely different game without it, you get higher scores. If you look at ChevyRay’s Flee Buster the escape (though technically, it could equally well be “chase” but I’ll let it slip this time) is very central to how you play.

And I might have to add, if you write a story driven game and it’s about escaping, it’s of course possible to get a high score – if the story actually is about escaping. But I’m not sure there are too many of that kind here, most games I’ve played yet focuses on gameplay and mechanics. Nothing wrong with that though, there are a lot of good games where the story is unimportant! :)

Finally, what do I consider perfect (theme) score? I had a look at my ratings and the only game that has a 5-star theme so far is Gjarble’s Beyond the Fourth Wall. In other aspects, it might not rate as high as Notch and ChevyRay, but it’s a solid mini-game 100% dedicated to an escape. Flee Buster could still be a cool platformer, but take away escape from BtFW and you pretty much have nothing left.

So there you have it. Luckily there are many aspects to give points for, and personally I’m basically focusing on humor and theme (guessing I’ll have pretty low scores for overall and fun, because as a game it really sucks). If you’re going for a high theme rating, or perhaps got lower than you initially expected, hopefully this provided something to think about.

Now I have to go back playing all your entries. Having great fun doing so! If you know any game that took good advantage of the escape theme, please post a link in the comments!


I also rate [theme] based on how originally it is used. Bonus points for not using the most simple and common “escape from prison-like facility” and “escape from XXX chasing and trying to kill you”

Tags: , , , ,

4 Responses to “How I rate your games for theme”

  1. Kouta says:

    What about escaping from an infinite map?

    • Kouta says:

      Yeah. I mostly focused on the ambition of doing a multiplayer game this LD rather than a good storyline.

      • JohanAR says:

        Hmm, escaping from an infinite map.. I think you’d have to add story etc. For example in different ways making the player feel that s/he ought to escape while being reminded that it’s probably not possible. My first thought being that it is probably better to let the player gradually find out that escape is impossible, to give a feeling of despair and loneliness, if that’s what you’re going for :) Or you could twist it, so it’s not about physically escaping (the infinite map) and you work with metaphors instead. Maybe the protagonist went to this place to escape from his/her past? But then you’d have to go really heavy on the story and character development to pull it off.

        Don’t worry too much about ratings though. Just know what you’re aiming for and do your best!

    • KevinWorkman says:

      Ha, my game is exactly that!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

[cache: storing page]