Friday, August 27, 2010


So, one problem with making a game about sequence breaking is that it asks for a certain investment, both in terms of time and ingenuity, on the part of the player, and that asking for that kind of investment up front often puts a wall between the game and its potential audience. In order to break a sequence, after all, you have to become familiar with the sequence and dicker about with the game's physics/mechanics/interactions/what-have-you. Before you can really play the game, then-- as it is meant to be played, in a way that delivers the sort of experience that would make it unique and thus worth playing-- I'm effectively asking you to spend a fair amount of time with it.

This is a problem I've been aware of from the start, and I've got a couple of solutions. First and foremost, it's making sure that the "fake" game-- the sequence you're meant to break-- doesn't just exist to give context to the "real" game, but that it functions as a complete game and provides the pleasures inherent in the genre-- gaining power, gaining access to more areas, et cetera. This "fake" game might be insanely difficult-- insane difficulty being a prime motivator, I think, for creative thinking-- but it's not impossible, and the player can save the game at any time from the pause menu, effectively setting their own check-points. So, if a player does end up spending a few hours with the "fake" game before they dip their toes in the "real" one, it's hopefully not an empty or worthless experience.

The other solution is to give the player walkthroughs, taking them through the One True Sequence for each mission. Armed with that information-- or so I hope-- they won't be wasting time trying to figure out the "proper" way to complete the mission, but instead will spend that brain-power on finding the sneaky clever sequence-breaking ways to do so.

I was going to give the players these walkthroughs via the support characters, but when I removed those narrative elements from the game to suit the new aesthetic, I just plopped the walkthrough right into the instruction manual PDF. I realized, however, that this wasn't particularly user-friendly, and that asking a player to print up the manual is just adding more brick to the hypothetical law that might prevent them from getting into the game. And so, there is an in-game version of the manual and walkthroughs that can be accessed with a push of a button, which I just implemented today.

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