Saturday, August 28, 2010


I just finished writing/implementing a short cut scene in which two lumberjack terrorists discuss the impossibility of the player breaching their sanctum and rescuing the kidnapped kittens within. At which point, of course, the player character darts past them.

Then their butts explode.

Yes, it's that sort of game.

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.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wedge Update, Updated.

One thing you've probably noticed from even a cursory examination of this blog and the various dev journals it is composed of is that I change my mind a lot and dither back and forth. This is, I think, a normal part of the game development process-- at least for me-- and since my dev journals and blog posts are created in the very thick of the process and not after the game has been completed, you the reader get a glimpse into this.

All this is to say that, a handful of hours later, I've decided that allowing an entire team to win Wedge when a member of the opposing team has no legal moves left is a terrible idea that waters down the central concept-- that is, a game played in teams that can only be won by a single player. In the span of those few hours, I could see in my mind's eye the possibility of the two teams simply playing the game as teams, with no incentive to play selfishly, and thus no tension, dynamic or otherwise, between the co-operative and competitive impulses. And that being the whole point of the game...

And so, while I'm sticking with the revised board design, I've changed the win-by-making-the-other-guy-lose condition to award victory to the player responsible-- i.e., the last player to make a legal move wins the game all by herself, and does not share the win with her teammate. This might make the game a little more cut-throat, and emphasizes solo winning and strategy for all four players. Well, at least in theory. I still have to get some people together to play the damn thing more than once.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wedge Update.

Shortly after posting my recap of the first Wedge play-test, I got to thinking about how I might add a little more balance, how I might increase the chances of winning for a team that's lagging behind. They might never be able to get rid of their stones quick enough to match a player with a commanding lead, but they can-- through canny maneuvering-- deny him and his teammate spaces in which to make legal moves. The mechanic is there; how do I make it more feasible?

The simple answer is, I shrunk the board. What was once an 8 x 15 grid-- 120 squares, one for every stone-- is now 7 x 15. With 15 more stones than squares, it will likely requires more skill for a player to use up all thirty of his personal supply. (This might, I hope, add a bit more tension to the game.) I've also added three black squares-- one at the center of the board, one at the left-most border and one at the right-- in which no stones can be placed. This brings the total number of available squares down to 102, and should-- should!-- affect the ways players approach building their chains and fighting for territory. It's a simple little wrinkle to the formula that I'm hoping will result in a deeper and more nuanced experience.

I've also revised the winning conditions slightly; before, if a player had no legal moves, victory went to the opposing team player with the smallest number of stones. Now, while a player who uses up all his stones still achieves lone victory, a victory won when someone has no moves left is shared by both members of the opposing team. This might-- might!-- help motivate a player lagging behind his own teammate to step up his game so that he can share the victory.

I say should and might and likely because we have to try the damn thing out before we can start proclaiming what it does and doesn't do. But I've got my fingers crossed.

Wedge playtest.

Tonight, we had the first play-test for Wedge, my second board game. I was a little worried going in, because I wasn't quite sure if it was going to be fun or terrible. To make a long story short, I'm leaning towards the former.

Wedge started as a political simulation but quickly (and wisely) became about strategic spatial domination of the board. The game is for four players, divided into two teams, but only one player wins the game. On each turn, you decide whether to "work together" with your teammate, enabling each to also place one of their stones next to yours on your turn, or whether you want to "work apart"-- only you get to place a stone (sometimes two stones). The first player to get rid of all their stones win the game.

It's a little more complicated than that-- the teams build chains of stones to grant themselves bonuses and try to prevent the other team from getting a longer chain. And a "team loss" mechanic-- if you cannot make any legal moves, both you and your partner have lost the game and the player on the opposing team with the least number of stones wins by default-- allows players that've fallen behind to win the game with some cunning maneuvering. (At least in theory, anyway.)

With its hybrid of co-op and competitive game styles, I was, as I said before, really unsure if it was going to "work". I'm more sure of it now, but it's also been confirmed that it has a smaller appeal than something like Hextok. That game's points system allows for some speedy recoveries and reversals, and the head-on one-on-one competitive tactics play on a relatively small map has, thus far, proven to be pretty fast-paced and accessible.

Whereas Wedge-- at least from this single play session-- seems to be slower, knottier, nerdier, and much more unforgiving of mistakes and blunders. That's not necessarily a bad thing-- I'm sure there's an audience for it, just less of an audience than Hextok.

Speaking of the latter, the play-testing seems to be going quite well. (If anyone else wants to get in on the testing, be sure to e-mail me at joltcity at gmail dot com.) I might be organizing a tournament locally that will help promote Hextok (and get it some more testing, sneaky-sneaky!) and I'll try to document it in some way if it does come to pass. As for Wedge, I'm looking forward to seeing if it has legs, as soon as I can get four people in a room together again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

CALL OF THE WEST campaign setting.

Call of the West is a D&D campaign setting that melds high fantasy, the mythical Old West, and steampunk elements in more-or-less equal measure. In the mythos of this world, the gods split the great continent into two thousands of years ago with a river. East of the river, the land was civilized, ordered, prosperous, good, and safe. West, the land was a desolate waste filled with danger, mystery, evil, and monstrous beasts. The West has largely remained unexplored and forbidden. Until now.

Now, some children of the East feel drawn to the West. Some might be thrill-seekers enraptured with the promise of discovery and adventure. Some might seek understanding of the West or the reviled (perhaps unjustly) tribal gnolls that roam it on the back of giant turtles. Some might relish the chance to reinvent themselves in a strange new land, while others might be running to escape the responsibilities (or consequences) of their past. All the players are Easterners, and the first batch (more on this later) set out together on a wagon train.

I like this set-up, and it's intended to accomplish a few different things. First, it gives a bunch of strangers a more compelling reason to be in the same locale than, "Hey, you're all in the tavern and someone gives you a quest". (Of course, the first thing one of the players did when they got to the Dwarven mining community of Firepalm is look for a tavern and ask if there were any jobs that needed doing.) Secondly, at least potentially, it gives each player a specific motivation for being in the area, and thus a specific impulse that they can role-play. That also makes it easier for me to craft stories coming out of the characters and their motivations. Thirdly, the "let's just see what's out there"/road trip/no home-base-of-operations vibe allows for a more episodic "Dungeon-of-the-Week" structure. That way, it's alright for a player to miss a game, for new players or guest stars to join, without upsetting the sense of a cohesive world.

None of this is new stuff, of course-- but I find that by foregrounding it, making these features a deliberate part of the campaign setting itself, it makes it easier. The setting also makes ample room for my own personal D&D leanings. For example, with few civilized outposts the farther west the players move, there are no shops and thus no reason for the players to accumulate wealth; I never found "I just got 400 gold!" a particularly compelling reward. Instead of buying things, they'll find them-- a lot of hand-crafted pieces of loot. Instead of stocking up on supplies, it's up to the players to find the resources in the natural world that they need to survive (this is a harsh, barren West, after all).

The West also gives me more options, story-wise: not only do I have fantasy tropes to call on-- cursed tombs, monster-ridden dungeons, powerful artifacts, hordes of undead beasts, nefarious traps-- but I can throw in stagecoach robberies, revivalists, prospectors, temperance, Cowboys-and-Indians, drunken doctors, hookers with hearts of gold, showdowns at noon. This setting-- not exactly our West, but not exactly Medieval Europe, either-- allows for a more colloquial sort of speech than the sometimes stilted and flowery speech one associates with a fantasy milleau.

The Steampunk elements were a late addition to the setting-- one that's been shoehorned in, though with very little difficulty, because of player interest. One of my players created a Tesla-like Wizard named Irving, while another requested that his Filliam be an inventor with a repeating crossbow in place of one of his hands. You should have heard the giggles of glee when they crossed paths with an atypical gnoll in victorian dress wearing a bizarre pair of glow-in-the-dark goggles.

It's more, however, than just a bit of player fan-service, as it were. I soon came to realize that the steampunk elements bridge the gap between the two perhaps disparate settings of the Old West and your standard D&D fantasy world, in that certain aspects of steampunk are grounded in the West but that it possesses, above all, the thrilling sense of discovery and wonder that is part and parcel of D&D at its best.

Monday, August 23, 2010


It's kinda neat to stop and think about how the game has changed since the beginning. In an earlier dev journal, I wrote about how I wanted to step up the game's presentation: better graphics, better music, a more cohesive narrative element. And just a few short weeks ago, I decided to do the opposite, going even more lo-fi than usual and thus embracing the indie freeware game cliche. To match the new art style, the narrative elements have been drastically scaled down, with the once detailed and nuanced mission briefings reduced to a few, bold, sometimes surreal imperative statements.

This use of the imperative-- a very peculiar and deliberately "naive" sort of imperative with almost no punctuation, rendered all in uppercase letters-- extends to the game's instruction manual. For example, it prefaces the walkthrough section (detailing briefly the sequence you are intended to break) with


and sums up a particularly difficult section of the game with


Which might rub some players the wrong way, I know. But I think the tone is actually pretty amusing, and I hope it strikes players the same way. As with most things, however, there is a delicate balance to be maintained, a line that one has to be careful about crossing.

The second mission charges you with rescuing six adorable kittens that have been kidnapped by nefarious Canadians-- which should tell you something about how seriously I'm taking the game's new narrative direction. To transport said kittens, you acquire a Kitten Gun, which will shoot them across chasms and through special Kitten Doors, et cetera.

I was telling my wife (like myself, very much a cat person) about this item, and she expressed concern: "You won't be able to hurt the cats, will you?"

"They're invulnerable to all the enemies," I explained, "but there is one way to hurt them-- something you have to do very deliberately, something that can't possibly be done by accident-- and if you do, you get an automatic game over. A screen pops up and yells at you about it and then the game blips off."

"What does the screen say?"

It says,

And my wife, perhaps wisely, decided that that last part probably crossed the line a bit, and requested that I delete it.

Like I said, a delicate balance.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Cavalry Just Over the Hill.

Having presided over exactly one complete adventure, I'm still very much a newbie as far as Dungeon Mastering is concerned. While it has some things in common with other sorts of game design-- be it board-based or electronic-- I can't really test it the way I can other designs. It's meant to be played exactly once, and if something's off-- if, say, an encounter is too easy, like my big epic boss fight that ended three rounds in without any players sustaining any damage-- then it kind of spoils the experience. There's no way for me to tell if something's not working until we break out the battle grid and start rolling some dice. (Or, story-wise, until their eyes glaze over or they respond to a serious NPC with some wisecracks.) (Or, puzzle-wise, until they miss the "clue" that I thought, wrongly, was obvious.) (Etc.)

I'm sure it's something that I'll develop a better knack for as I get more experience with it-- I'll be able to eyeball an encounter and say, yes, I better nerf this down a bit, or, alternatively, beef it up. But until I get to that point, I'm still faced with the idea that I might be sending my players into the jaws of certain doom-- certainly not something I want to happen to a group of mostly-newbies their second or third time out.

So I've built in a fail-safe to each of the encounters for my second adventure, one that I can call on should the going prove to be a little too tough-- a sort of cavalry that comes to the rescue. They're not an actual cavalry, despite the campaign's Old West flavour. What they are, precisely, I won't spoil here, in case one of my players is reading. But I will say that they're specific to each encounter, and that they're set up, in a non-obvious way, within the story of the adventure.

That's the important point, I think. If the players are getting their butts whupped, and all of the sudden, a giant dragon flies down and scoops up the baddies in its talons, it'd feel kind of cheap and obvious. But if there's a sudden influx of allies that make sense within the context of the storyline that enable the players to turn the tide, if just barely-- well, that's something exciting and epic and thus an altogether appropriate conclusion to an evening of dungeoneering, yes?


Because the Metroidvania genre turns on gaining access to new areas as you acquire new tools, it stands to reason that a fair amount of the designer's attention should be focused on creating a variety of useful tools. And, because Seq.Breaker is about getting by with as few tools as possible, these tools have to be extra useful-- they have to be constructed with certain "unintentional" properties that the player can exploit in order to get to places they "shouldn't".

My current estimate is that there are going to be fifteen or sixteen different items in Seq.Breaker. If that sounds like a lot, consider that they're going to be distributed amongst the game's three missions. That is, at the start of each mission you have zero items at your disposal and in each of the game's missions you have access to a different set of tools.

These tools don't overlap at all. The first mission gives you access to a shield power-up, a standard gun, a laser gun, and bombs. This mission is very action-oriented, hence the preponderance of weapons (though it should be noted that someone breaking the sequence can complete the stage without killing a single enemy). The second mission is much more navigation-focused: there's scuba gear that allows you to spend more time underwater, an air jump power-up that allows you to reach higher and farther platforms, a "shelf gun" that appends quickly-disappearing platforms to the sides of walls-- and so-on. In total, there'll be six tools for the second mission, and only one of them-- acquired just before the game's first proper boss battle-- is a weapon. With almost no offensive capabilities and only one hit point, this second mission is going to be quite a challenge (especially if you're following the sequence).

For the third mission-- which, as I've said before, is about the size of your average freeware Metroidvania game all on its lonesome, with several bosses and branching paths and so-on-- I'm going to be giving the player five or six brand new tools.

So, each level has its own enemies and items, with absolutely no overlap in those two categories. In a way, they each feel like separate, individual games; I like that. It puts the emphasis on the connection factor, on the big idea, on breaking the sequence.

Friday, August 20, 2010


It is a truth universally acknowledged that extremely difficult games can be the most rewarding-- provided, of course, that the challenge is fair and arises from game design and not shoddy mechanics or programming. The greater the struggle, the sweeter the sense of accomplishment, et cetera: all common knowledge, old-hat, game design 101.

Seq.Breaker has a high difficulty level, but it's not intended to directly function in this same way. Rather, the difficulty is intended to be almost a kind of deterrent to taking a heads-on approach, a way to motivate the sort of outside-the-box player thinking upon which the game turns. If an area is much too hard, chances are there's a way to skip it; if a boss is giving you grief, there's some sneaky clever oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-I-didn't-think-of-it-before way to take him out of the picture. By making the game insanely difficult, I hope to get the player to work smarter and not harder.

And, if the player wants to man-up and do it the "correct", not-quite-impossible, non-sequence-breaking way, more power to 'em. There'll be that conventional sense of reward waiting for them on the other side. But if they break the sequence, I think they'll find an even greater sense of reward-- "I'm smarter than that lava boss, so there."

And either way, you'll always unlock the next mission; there's no penalty for playing the game you want to play it. That's important to me, and I need to keep that in mind as I continue working on the game.


Brief update: back to work on the game after a couple weeks of hiatus. I've decided to use water in this second mission; said water gives a player an air meter to contend with (at least until/if they pick up the Scuba Power-Up or some-such) and imbues them with a "floaty" jump (think Mega Man).

In implementing the "floaty" underwater jump in Game Maker 8, which involved tweaking both the gravity in the step event (but only when a certain variable was triggered by colliding with my deep_water object) and the vertical speed in the jump event (your jump speed is -4 instead of the usual -5, which, combined with the lower gravity acting upon you, gets you higher up but at a slower speed). In implementing this, and, most importantly, the constantly-resetting alarm events that turn this special jump off, I realized that I could approach this two ways: one way was solid and elegant, ensuring that the player only floaty-jumped when I wanted them to; the other way was an inelegant work-around that allowed them to get to places they weren't supposed to be. Seq.Breaker being the name of the game, I chose the latter, and it was kind of fun to create the coding equivalent of a Rube Goldberg machine-- i.e., going out of my way to make it more complex than it needed to be and intentionally buggy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

D&D Adv. # 1: The Curse of Firepalm Mine!

So, after roughly sixteen years of hemming-and-hawing, I finally ran my first game of Dungeons and Dragons today. It is, in fact, only the third or fourth time I've been present at a D&D game-- a grievous lapse in my geekery, to be sure. How did it go?

It went okay. At the start of the session, I tried too hard to set a certain atmosphere that ran counter to the rather goofy, rambunctious mood of the players; I also tried too hard to try and get them interacting with each other.

Things got better once they descended into the dungeon-- the Firepalm Mine in question. I made a few pretty questionable lapses in design that only became apparent roughly five seconds before they came into play: among them, the fact that, in giving them the quest to discover what was going on at Firepalm Mine, the mayor of the Firepalm settlement asked them to return with a bag of Firepalm Ore, and that said bag of ore was part of the loot on the body near the entrance to said mine. One of the players tried to convince the others to just go back to town at that point-- which was a nice bit of role-playing on his part that gave the others a foil to bounce off of. I could, I suppose, have just conveniently "forgotten" that that particular piece of loot was on the body, but I figured since it would come in handy in the big fight, it was better to let them find it. Of course, because it was something that was needed to complete the quest, they never took it out of the bag.

Speaking of fights, I had two of them. First, was a tense ambush encounter in which six gnolls (four level one, two level two) close in on the players from two sides, trying to pincher them in. This one was pretty tough, and took up most of the session in resolving. I figured it would be longer but far less challenging than the second encounter, which pit them against three "firedwarfs"-- that is, insane dwarfs who are constantly aflame and catch the players on fire with their melee attacks, made up of two level twos and one level three.

But the players never came close enough to the firedwarfs to be on the receiving end of one of those melee attacks, using a number of ranged attacks to chip away at what I thought were impressive health numbers. The other problem, though, is that I had given the players a custom-made Ritual Scroll just before this final encounter. And while, yes, I totally intended for them to use The Ritual Scroll of Blunderbuss Time, I thought it would give them a little edge in a tough battle. For some reason, it never occurred to me that giving the players two turns in battle for every one of the enemy's turns would make it ridiculously anti-climactic.

So: my enemies weren't tough enough, my loot was too good, and my ability to improvise-- which led to me pulling a last-minute and not-entirely-consistent-with-the-story-clues What-A-Twist finale pretty much out of my ass-- was kinda sucky.

But, the players seemed pretty satisfied with my dungeon-mastering, and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun (even if interest lagged from time-to-time). So, I'm very glad I did it, and I very much look forward to running my next (and hopefully improved) game a fortnight from now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I came up with a new board game yesterday while I was recovering from my surgery. So far, it's pretty terrible.

Most games-in-the-works are terrible because they're too complicated, with layers and layers of rules and systems obscuring the Bright Shiny Fun at the center. But in this case, it's just the opposite: it's all center, and right now it's not particularly Bright, Shiny, or Fun.

I think it can be, though. The idea at the center is that you, and the other players, are trying to win voters by shifting your position on unnamed wedge issues or by forging alliances with your competition. It's a wonky, geeky, nerdy kind of idea, but I think it's one that can result in some interesting inter-player dynamics. But right now, it's boring as hell. It's lacking That Special Something-- that mechanic or compelling goals dichotomy or flow-of-play-- that makes it worth playing.

I found that special something with Hextok, I think-- I'm really happy with the game, happier perhaps than I've been with anything I've created (book, movie, video game, you name it). We'll see if I can't get lightning to strike twice here.

Monday, August 9, 2010


The "Metroidvania" or "Exploration Platformer" genre-- which is one that Seq.Breaker in some ways seeks to subvert and/or pay tribute to-- is best thought of as a series of problems and answers nested within one another.

For example: to get past the laser barrier in Seq.Breaker's first level,
you need the laser gun.

But to get the laser gun, you need to get past this set of spikes.

And to deactivate this set of spikes, you need to pull a switch, which is guarded by this creature, which must be defeated with the zapper.

Which means, of course, that you need to get the zapper to beat the creature to flip the switch to turn off the spikes to get the laser to eradicate the barrier. It's like the gaming equivalent of giving a mouse a cookie.

There's a certain elegance to this construction, but also a certain nagging feeling that it's not really as non-linear as it seems. How much exploring are you really doing, after all, if you're doing it exactly the same way as everyone else? This is, again, the challenge I've set for myself-- I don't want to simply create two sequences, one long and by-the-nose, the other short and clever, but rather use this genre to create a context for exploration and experimentation.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Two Rules of Game Design

There are many rules to designing games. Above all, there are two game-design rules that control all others. First, and most important is:

Keep It Simple.

The second rule is nearly as important but is a bit more complex in its use. The second rule is:


Plagiarism is a dramatic way of saying, "Use available techniques." If you try to plow too much new ground, you're not going to get very far, and you will have an extremely difficult time in keeping your game sufficiently simple to be manageable.
-- James F. Dunnigan, The Complete Wargames Handbook (Revised Edition, 1992), p. 114

Offered not because I necessarily agree or disagree, but to spark thought and discussion.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Well, I've finished the first level more-0r-less to my satisfaction, making sure "both" games-- the One True Sequence and the Breaking Thereof-- are playable and intertwined enough that it won't drive the player too crazy.

This first level-- which, in a meta-joke that probably amuses only myself, I'm calling Mission Four-- is pretty short and schematic, with there only being one way to properly break the sequence, and the "first" game being chock-full of hints as to how you might go about playing the second one. It's more of an overt puzzle, this first level, and so in a way, it's cheating a little. After all, I'm not really asking the player to think outside the box, but rather presenting them with one box contained within another and daring them to find it.

This is the slippery slope that made Ultrageist lamentably straight-forward; that is, if you're going to beat Ultrageist, you had to do it the One True Secret Way that was hinted at by the One True (False) Sequence. As such, it wasn't very strategic and doesn't have quite the amount of replay value I want it to.

It's a trap I'm eager to avoid in Seq.Breaker. Certainly, the first level falls into that trap, because that first level, like all first levels (even if it's called number four!), needs to teach the player how to play the game. And presenting a fairly simple box-within-a-box, with ample hints, should indeed impart that information and the game's sensibility.

For the second level, however, I've decided to create two boxes-within-a-box; that is, I'm designing two specific ways in which you might break the One True Sequence and thus thwart the Ninja Looter. I'll give the player hints that apply to both of these boxes, and then it's up to them to do the rest of the mental work that leads them to a solution.

For the third and final level, I'm going to devise a general set of sequence breaking requirements that could be fulfilled any number of ways. My plan is to be just restrictive enough that it takes some thinking on the part of the player, but open enough to encourage creativity. In some ways, this final level might be easier to pull off than the other two, and that's fine; this third level, more than the others, is what the game is really about.

Length-wise, I intend to give it that weight. The first two levels are pretty short. The first stage, if you follow through the One True Sequence, will take you around seven or eight minutes to complete (provided you don't get clumsy). Breaking the sequence will get you through the level in less than two minutes, but that depends of course on how long it takes you to figure it out. The second level I anticipate being about twice the length of the first.

But the third level should run just under an hour to complete the One True Sequence at full-speed with no deaths or mistakes. Comprised of at least four interlocking areas with multiple boss fights, it is meant to function almost as a whole game by itself. Like I said, this is the level that the game is really about, the level that's intended to fulfill the potential of the concept.

Let's hope I'm up to the challenge.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


The biggest challenge with this project has been trying to create an in-game context for the sequence breaking. I'm not talking about the narrative back-story-- to recap, the protagonist is a "breaker" famed for finding creative solutions to what would otherwise be dangerous and time-consuming covert military situations-- but about motivating the player to break a given sequence. Remember, I don't want to punish the player for not exploiting loopholes by denying them access to the rest of the game (the way I did with Ultrageist).

I think, however, I've found that solution, and like so many things in the last few days, it came with the game's new aesthetic. When I had intended to take a more realistic approach to the game's graphics (and physics), I had tried to encourage sequence breaking through lots of support character dialogue and cut-scenes; break the sequence, I was saying, and you'll find out what really happened in the Colonies. But this approach wasn't particularly compelling.

The support dialogue and mystery story elements seem out of place in the spare, simple world of Seq.Breaker as it exists currently. That's when I started playing with the idea of some kind of silent rival; what if the rival swooped in (in classic villain fashion) and stole whatever you were after once you had done all the hard work for him? And what if you didn't do the hard work-- what if you, well, broke the sequence? He wouldn't be able to do his swooping. And if the player failed to break the sequence, maybe the scene with the rival could impart some kind of information, some hint or clue, as to how they might approach it when trying the mission again.

This all came together in my head in about the time it likely takes you to read this sentence, and the end result is the Ninja:
My hope is that when that smug, smarmy Ninja shows up and steals the macguffin, you'll want to show him; given the opportunity to either retry the mission or move on to the next, you might be more inclined to retry. Giving the player a villain that can only be thwarted by breaking the sequence, I think, proves a better motivator than having people yakking your ear off about how creative you are or watching the protagonist moping about in her room.