Low battery…

Posted by (twitter: @AlphishCreature)
September 15th, 2014 9:46 am

Seriously, if I see pink rabbits with batteries on their backs, it means I should probably take a break from whatever I’ve been repeatedly doing recently and find something else; otherwise I’ll become very, very bitter and nasty about it and start ranting randomly. I guess I can’t stop now, though; the train of thought has went past the point where it’s better to hold it in rather than let it out. Here comes the rant, mostly related to theme, innovation and choice of genres…

So you thought you had come up with great and original theme interpretation, huh?
No, you didn’t. Probably. Except when you did. If after playing 100+ games you still think your theme interpretation is great and original, then you either have poor judgement or you’re actually right. If the latter, I’d expect innovation and theme scores to be in top ~16% (as far as I recall statistics, that would correspond to results being above 1 standard deviation from average).

Now then, let’s start with the very theme, letter by letter. Like so: C-O-N-N-E-C-T-E-D W-O-R-L-D-S. If you used “Connected” or its variation in the title (like “Connection”, but not necessarily e.g. “Bond” or “Link”), you get penalty for uncreative title; likewise if you had “world” there. For using both you get triple penalty (gosh, now I see why Judge from Ace Attorney series was so eager to give penalties; it really is fun in a way!). On the other hand, you can have a cookie (e.g. by going to the nearest shop and buying it) if you didn’t use either word in the game itself, and yet the use of theme is definitely apparent.
(Will Edwards: you are forgiven about that, but not about the choice of game rules)

Next, I’m not sure what you people were thinking when deciding to make a game about connections between people. Maybe it was something like “I’ll interpret this theme creatively and use metaphorical worlds; after all, each person has their own world”, but having played quite a few of such “creative” games it started to seem more like “ack, clock is ticking and I still don’t have the game idea; well then, how about connecting humans and interpreting it as each of them having personal world?” Sorry, people, it’s just that at some point it felt like few games that would follow the theme “Connected” wouldn’t be also caught by “Connected Worlds” for wide enough definition of “world”.

Special case of these human relationships is love (as in, romantic love as e.g. between married people, but not parent and child). Sure it’s nice to see that game development scene isn’t only about shooters, crafting etc., but out of the wide array of these relationships love is greatly overrepresented. Well, at least I don’t recall seeing there a shooter where the main character fights his way through various competitors to win the heart of his love interest.
Mind, I have nothing against love in general, especially when shown from a perspective different than usual. It’s just that it usually is presented from the same old perspective I’ve seen way too many times.

Quite a few of you were connecting “real” world with “unreal” world; world of the living with world of the dead, real world with world of dreams, real world with world of imagination. Not exactly what I’d expect from “Connected Worlds” theme, yet apparently too prevalent to call it truly creative. Still, as long as both worlds were properly exposed (rather than having the world left to player’s imagination), that use of theme was perfectly valid in my book. Like, in one game (about love, yes, though adorable and original enough not to make it completely repulsive to me) scenes from the world of imagination were directly corresponding to player’s actions, and in other the arrangement of obstacles in imagination world was identical as the real one (including a poor, poor sister).

Also, there were quite many entries with planets being connected in one way or another, though simply travelling from world A to world B and calling them connected felt a bit forced to me; I’d prefer to see both worlds at once (or in quick succession) and the link between them. Well, I guess that’s what comes to mind if we have worlds that should be connected; not uncommon were various games about interplanetary business (but why dragging optical fiber between planets must involve shooting to aliens, whyyyy?) or strategies. Sure most of these entries weren’t particularly creative about theme, yet its usage was still valid.
(plus, a few of you probably thought that it would be funny to make a game about sentient personified planets connected somehow; well then, I’ll tell you something – you were right)

Simultaneous gameplay could very well make a category of its own, with two characters doing the same and either one stopping at obstacle while the other carries on, or both stopping. As long as multiple worlds are shown, I guess it’s a proper (if not particularly innovative) interpretation, though a marble maze game seems to forget about worlds a tad too much. One notable example that uses that idea more creatively than the others is BOND by ConflictiveLabs (post-Jam version recommended; feel free to use your own soundtrack, as there is none); the ability to disconnect and reconnect characters allowed some pretty interesting challenges. In fact, that game would be a positive exception from what I’m about to describe…

Namely, something so utterly overused that it deserved its own mention in don’ts for games (thanks for Pockets for pointing it out in comments about themes):

“DON’T make a platform game where the gimmick is you can shift between two overlapping worlds. If you think you’ve had an idea, and that idea is that in your platform game you can shift between two overlapping worlds, then you haven’t had an idea at all. This is a bit like waking up one day and declaring that you’ve had the idea to put foodstuffs between two slices of bread. That’s someone else’s idea. That’s the 4th Earl Of Sandwich’s idea, and he’s going to beat you up. Coincidentally, he was also the first person to think of a platform game where you shift between two overlapping worlds, and he died in 1771.”

For that matter, how about ditching the platformers altogether for a while, unless you’ve got, really, *really* good and original mechanics to back it up (or story, at least)? I guess I might be taking it really far, and won’t be surprised if you people won’t comply, but I won’t write it without a reason. You see, I’ve got my MAD PLATFORMER SKILLZ tested over and over again, with squares, humans, elephants, penguins, llamas and whatnot, and, y’know, I kinda got tired of that; might have something to do with not providing experience substantially different from what I’ve already seen. Hard to tell whether all that platformer popularity among devs is some echo of Mario games or they’re just too easy to make (or both). Honestly, next LD I’m going to subtract 2 Innovation points for any platformer I see, unless it proves itself worthy to get these back. u_u”
(on the other hand, metroidvania platformers don’t bother me as much, especially if they are backed up with great story and don’t rely as much on platforming skills)

On the bright side, visual novels or point n’ clicks are pretty fine to me, at least as long as they don’t try to be too philosophical or artsy or otherwise sophisticated (Socrates Jones, while completely unrelated to LD, interestingly doesn’t count as too philosophical in my book); though that dislike might have a lot to do with having potentially 2500+ entries to check and not really having time to ponder about emotions, human nature, meaning of life and similar stuff (as long as the main theme isn’t romantic love; few exceptions aside, I’m getting tired of these sort of games, too). I guess what’s cool about these genres is that they rely more on the story than game mechanics, which means it can go pretty much anywhere. Technically you can make a shooter where you’re spreading friendship (NOT LOVE NOPE) instead of bullets, but usually some other concept (e.g. shooting zombies) comes to mind when that genre is chosen.
(oh, right, zombies are many, many times more overused than love, apparently; though it seems this theme didn’t promote zombies as much as layer-switched platformers)
(and yet, I somehow enjoyed a platformer with zombies and love (wonderfully inclusive, I must add); yup, sometimes I have hard time figuring out myself)

To sum it up, if you have some mercy, please follow these:

  • no multiplayer games with non-existent or seriously crippled single player mode, especially games that require many, many players for improved experience, even more especially games that require these players to be online
  • no platformers, unless really fancy
  • no love, unless really fancy
  • no layer-switched platformers about love, unless you come up with something jaw-droppingly creative and amazing
  • no zombies, unless really fancy
  • not too much artism, unless Ib or at least as fancy
  • story, please
  • difficulty playtesting, please

Or don’t, if you feel like that. These are just ramblings from a girl who has been playing a bit too many too similar games recently; who is she to decide what you should create, anyway?

But the actual conclusion is: if you make a game that I find truly enjoyable, then it doesn’t really matter how well it follows the theme; in the end, I just play games that happen to be made with some theme in mind (IMHO not counting Will Edwards entry that I’ve got mixed feelings about, Garden of Oblivion is still the best thing that happened to me during this LD, despite following the theme in rather elusive way).

That’s it, rant’s off. You’re actually all awesome for doing something productive these 2-3 days and making game; it’s just there are so many of you and so many days of voting that I get pretty exhausted… ^^”


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