Your Attention, Please

Half-Life 2 BreenboardSome video games we lambaste for holding our hands, others we chastise for letting us wander. For developers, then, balancing the flow of progression means… a walking of the tightrope. On this topic, then, I would like to share with you two interesting articles that I have recently read.

In “Guiding the Player’s Eye”, Matthew “Gangles” Gallant directs our attention to the complexities of orienting the player in a three-dimensional world by illustrating, via a generous amount of example screencaps, Valve’s use of various visual cues:

The best approach is to guide the player organically, catching their eye with elements that fit seamlessly into the game world. In this school of thought, Valve is peerless.

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These Times

Times OnlineGetting a proper read of where video games reportage and research stands at right now is very difficult: By and large, we’re subjected to a hybrid beast of misunderstanding and sensationalism combined with real concern and ignorance. Much emphasis, of course, is put on the social psychology of gaming – its ills, woes and side-effects, leading to “expert”-citing sweeping statements and controversy-inviting headlines.

Where does the real enthusiast figure in all this? Always on the defensive?

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Collapse

Collapse is a 3rd-person apocalyptic combo-based shooter-brawler from Kiev-based Ukrainian chaps Creoteam (no, not the Croatian fellas Croteam! A one-letter difference in typing makes for 1,500km in distance) that has oddly succumbed to deafening radio silence after a bit of a media blitz in late 2008.

“In year 2013 a terrible catastrophe happened in Europe, with a cause remaining unknown still. The major part of the continent turned into a huge abnormal zone. Great numbers of people died or disappeared, and those who survived were telling unbelievable things…”

Odder still, the game had already gone gold as early as September ‘08. The announcement was further reinforced with the release of a playable demo (that can still be acquired from http://www.collapse-game.com/sadm_files/collapse-demo.exe – do be warned that the demo is in Russian, though neither the menus nor the game are hard to navigate) only shortly afterwards.

“The anomaly couldn’t be viewed from a satellite, and all attempts to study it gave scant results… After ten years of silence that followed the catastrophe, an event happened, later called the ‘First Aggression’ – the anomaly started growing swiftly, claiming the territory of Europe and begetting thousands of bloodthirsty creatures.”

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Small Worlds

Thanks to @SorenJohnson for the heads-up on this lovely little game. Small Worlds is a pixely exploration game with the most rudimentary graphics and controls, created by David Shute for the Casual Gameplay Design competition. You play as a three-pixel-high sprite that could pass as a human if you squint hard enough, moving him around an environment that slowly reveals itself as you progress.

Small Worlds Small Worlds Small Worlds Small Worlds

At first there is nothing remarkable about finding the way forward, with indistinct backgrounds and no clear goal. But as you play the black fog of war clears away, and view pulls out, making the pixels smaller and more defined. At a certain distance you realise that the three pixels are enough to describe your protagonist and the low-def world has a charm all of its own.

The way the game leads you along a path that winds back and forth and up and around and over things, makes the deliberate revelation of the background more evident. Stepping into a flashing object sends you to a new place, and completing that area brings you back, now with a goal in mind. The haunting and thematic music complements the quiet and atmospheric environments, and you feel there is a story being told even if it’s not quite so straightforward.

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