Archive for December, 2014

Sequelitis and Instructive Game Design

Sequelitis ,as it sounds is a trend that refers to sequels or subsequent installments of a franchise deteriorating in quality. But more to the point, today I’m referring to the web series named after the concept; Sequelitis is a series of videos by Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson about the qualities and design decisions of games compared with their sequels.

Similar to say “The Angry Video Game Nerd, Arin hails from a school of entertainment that emphasizes over-exaggerated and often vitriolic reactions to various video games. However, his points are generally concise enough that the viewer exactly why there’s issues with the game. While I don’t fully agree with the arguments he makes during his videos, he nevertheless does seem to introduce a level of critical thinking regarding the games we play and enjoy.

But the premise of the show is something I find a bit questionable. Often times a sequel is literally at most a game that happens to be in the same universe or has the same chronology. There are gamers that fully acknowledge that they’d enjoy this game more if it was a different series and not one where their expectation was one genre. Sometimes the complaints are purely from a gameplay evolution standpoint. In Super Castlevania IV, he talks about how the game evolved in one way but still felt the need to stick to convention (i.e. subweapons). If the whip is so effective, why bother using the sub weapons? It’s certainly an interesting, even convincing point. However, enhanced control is important for a sense of game feel and decision making.

There are always going to be developers that try to plan around an existing control scheme but does this work? I’ll leave you to decide that. For me, stiff controls tend to enforce a specific kind of play style. This is fine for developer intent but player enjoyment can be impacted when there are too many unfair situations.

While the concept of having more challenges that were tailored to the whip would be a natural way to heighten Castlevania IV’s potential, I think the end product is still a solid remake that still requires you to think but still rush through if the player is skilled enough.

In the Megaman X and Legend of Zelda videos, there was a recurring trend of the “Show don’t tell” approach to gaming. For MegaMan X, the very first intro stage, hell even the title screen, allows you to gain a number of insights on how to perform different actions. This approach can also be seen in the game Super Metroid; nearly every aspect of the game’s level design tries to nudge you where you need to go while simultaneously acknowledging the players curiosity. Roadblocks require to think differently about the direction of your exploration. You have an ultimate goal but if you’re dedicated enough there will be ways to gratify you.

In classic games of the 8-bit and 16-bit era, there was a greater utilization of “ante-pieces” and other facets of instructive game design. You’ll often hear many older gamers lamenting the days where you learned by “dying and dying over and over”. There’s a convincing argument to be made about utilizing this, especially for visual and interactive mediums. If you want your viewers and your players to feel more invested it only makes sense to use the mediums entry point in of itself.

But it’s not really a strict division; writing about various emotions and displaying certain facts rely upon execution and quality. While excessive exposition can often ruin the flow of any medium, it is also important for building a character. If a character ismeant to intentionally be sespedelian it works.

In writing classes, you’re often taught to write based upon contextual clues. Rather than saying, the room is messy, say “the room appeared to have been impacted by a hurricane”. In games, players want to experience the game physically rather than being bogged down by reading or tutorials. But this still exists on a gradation. Just because characters and games transmit information through text boxes doesn’t mean that it’s trying to insult the player’s intelligence. Games have evolved in purpose and function from the simple “rescue the princess, kill dictator” plots with the load of teaching increased. By all means, be creative with how you convey your information. However, sometimes you have to look behind the form to understand that they’re still similar functions.

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