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Experimental Game Design

September 28, 2008

Everyone once in a while I see a game that makes me stop and think. Not a game like Katamari that’s flat out inventing something new, but a game like Darfur is Dying that puts the player in a position they’re not familiar and maybe not even very comfortable with. These games don’t necessarily have to fall under the Serious or Persuasive category, but when they don’t – when they’re just trying to be a game – that’s when I stop and think.

My most recent project is turning into one of those. The team is taking a multilinear approach to the story, which basically means I have to write god knows how many stories that fit into the same plot. We are aiming to have a tech demo finished by the end of Applied – something that shows off the game and the engine we are writing in Multimedia Fusion. But I have never stretched my mind so far on a project. First of all, if it’s just chit chatting with NPCs… that’s not a game. There’s no risk involved. So we now have a mechanic that can throw the player onto a story path they weren’t expecting. And the best part is, we now have an editor for the story, so I get to actually write the story WITH someone. This project is a bunch of firsts for me and I’m not sure how to approach it since it almost feels… relieving. Like there’s just a few shreds of pressure being pulled off of me. But this is Brenda Brathwaite’s Applied Game Design class, so I will not relax just yet.

Which is why I will be very relieved when I can work on Triwing again. Me making a game for the sake of making a game, not for the sake of putting it up in front an IGF panel or having industry veterans judge it. Just to be like, “Here is my game, and it is the kind of addictive gameplay you have come to expect from me.” That would mainly be aimed at my cousin, who became obsessed with a Java game I made back in high school that was basically Poker Smash but without the hi-res graphics, and also years before it was released. It was never finished, just like all my games from back then. That was kind of the period where I was shying away from game design so I could jump out from nowhere with NightRise come college. Still waiting for that jump.

I’ve said over and over again that what I do after college depends on how this year goes. Now it’s starting to look more and more like that’s the truth. I know there’s a ton of pressure just waiting to slam down on me some time in these next two weeks (which, believe it or not, at the end of these two weeks, constitutes mid-term), I’d just like to have an idea of when in those two weeks it’s going to so I can go ahead and enter crunch mode already. It’s waiting around for that inevitable crunch time is what kills me.


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