Month: June 2019

The Ultimate Video Game: dev team

Now that I’ve established the main elements of my hypothetical point-and-click game, my thoughts have been turning to my hypothetical dev team, and who I’d have on it.

A recap of the game

In 2019, archaeologists uncover the IT basement of a 1980s bank. Pete, the architect sent to survey it for demolition, is captivated by the room and its perfectly preserved contents, and barricades himself in. He soon discovers that something sinister happened here, and using clues left by Head of IT, Earl, back in 1989, he is sucked into a story of government conspiracy and brainwashing. Who were The Suits, and what happened to Earl?

The game is an adventure point-and-click with parts told in flashback, and solving puzzles by toggling between Earl in 1989 and Pete in 2019; they work ‘together’ with the player bridging the gap between past and present.

Read more posts about the Ultimate Video Game >>

Who would help me make my ideal video game?

My team would consist of talented, enthusiastic and inspiring people who all have something valuable to bring to the mix. I’d embrace a team that questions my ideas, makes me consider things from all angles, and works together to ultimately deliver the best product possible.

Then we can all celebrate with a curry and a pint o’ grog.

David Fox and Ron Gilbert, programming and design

Ron Gilbert and David Fox drawnA no-brainer, really. Well-established veterans of the point-and-click genre and responsible for some of my favourite games (Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, Thimbleweed Park), their experience of programming, storytelling and dealing with the many bugbears of game development puts them firmly at the top of my list. I’m a picky, meticulous person in both personality and career, so I’d need people on a par with that.

Some key mechanics of the game would be tricky – toggling between 1989 and 2019 to complete tasks, and some very strict puzzle dependency towards the end – so I’d need their expertise. Their gaming ‘morals’ would also be a perfect match – I’ve already mentioned there will be no dying, no hand-holding tutorials, and logical puzzle chains.

I followed development of Thimbleweed Park (play it if you haven’t!) via their insightful dev blog and podcasts, and have had some great interactions with them too (David’s just as friendly as you’d think; Ron as delightfully cynical).

So if we’re treating this as an ideal scenario with no holds barred, David and Ron would be there (with me nitpicking over their shoulders).

Matt Nikutta and Octavi Navarro, artwork and animation

Matt and OctaviNot so long ago I played Unforeseen Incidents, a wonderful, fresh new point-and-click adventure game. Matt’s hand-drawn artwork was what grabbed my attention – unique and beautiful sketches that capture such atmosphere (and humour, when appropriate). I’d love to see him create eye-catching backdrops of Pete’s office, the excavation, the buried IT room, and the final, dramatic scene when the building is demolished for good. His vivid close-ups would be perfect for animating Pete and Earl’s anguished faces, and for the dry, sinister styling of the Suits.

I’ve been a fan of pixel art for a while, and Octavi just blows me away. Another member of the Thimbleweed Park crew – but it’s his personal portfolio of amazing cross-sections that I find so mesmerising (I have one on my wall as I type this). His pixelated style would be perfect for injecting some 80s detail into Earl’s IT room – the big computer monitors, Depeche Mode posters, retro inventory items, the 80s verb design (see Gameplay) and other little Easter eggs and features.

Kim from Later Levels, project management

Kim3Who better to put in charge of planning and scheduling than the person who started it all? If it wasn’t for the Later Levels Ultimate Video Game collaboration this wouldn’t even be a thing. Kim’s a legend in my blogging circles. She’s awesome at bringing the community together and inspiring other writers, all while churning out great content on a much more regular basis than me! I bet she’d have some great ideas, too.

Story and dialogue… well, me.

Naturally, I’d want to protect and preserve the characters, story and messages that I’ve scoped out so far – so I’d need the be the one in control of that.

I’ve written for a lot of different audiences over the years – with the exception of video games. This would be the ultimate challenge, bringing together two of my favourite things. Writing my characters and their story into life would be incredible. All with the help of my wonderful, entirely hypothetical team of course!

Given my error-seeking ways, I’d take care of QA, too.

That was fun.

I’ve had a blast fantasising about my Ultimate Video Game. I’d planned to explore more elements, but I think I’ve covered everything that’s important to me, and there’s only so far an imaginary project can go!

I’ve become quite attached to Earl and Pete, and often find myself daydreaming about their fates. I’m toying with the idea of turning this into a story project, where I’d write a chapter per post on a semi-regular (cough) basis, just for fun, and to see where it goes. But we’ll see.

 

Five games that gave me Tetris Syndrome

Tetris Syndrome is the result of repeating an action to the point that you start to act out or hallucinate the motions in real life – like piecing Tetris blocks together. It’s not limited to gaming, though that’s where the idea comes from.

Tetris Syndrome is also known as Tetris Effect, but that now means something else in our gaming world.

1. Tetris

tetris-mega-drive

No surprise there.

I regularly envisage things slotting together when I’m out and about – brick walls, high-rise buildings, people in my yoga class. It’s ingrained from years of playing Tetris, though it’s even worse when I’ve just been playing it. Sometimes I involuntarily fit blocks together in my mind as I’m drifting off to sleep, or just waking up.

On the plus side, it’s very useful for packing for holiday, cramming useless items into tiny cupboards and stacking the dishwasher. That sounds facetious, but I really do believe it helps. How can it not? It’s not like all those years of rotating shapes was a complete waste of time. Is it? IS IT?

2. The Witness

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Seriously, I really did draw a mental beam of light down my cat’s arm.

Anyone who’s extensively played The Witness will know that a large part of the game is spent trying to draw light beams from anything that remotely resembles a circle with a path under it. It means your brain is trained to look for this pattern everywhere – and it doesn’t take long before that extends into real life.

Cats, shower heads, fried eggs, zebra crossings… I’m surrounded!

Finding these pathways is kind of a side mission in the game, and as such the player is only partly engaged with the idea as they go about solving the main puzzles. I think that’s quite key – it easily becomes a subconscious pattern-seeking compulsion because it sits in the back of your mind, even when you stop playing.

3. Thimbleweed Park

Thimbleweed Park speck of dust

In Thimbleweed Park you can pick up tiny specks of dust while exploring the kooky town. It’s also an achievement to collect all of them, so that was me addicted from the outset. The fact that I’ve spent so much time playing it means I am now cursed to spot a tiny pixel of dust wherever I go.

Sometimes this is actual dust when I’ve been lax on the cleaning, so not all bad.

There’s also an achievement for not collecting any specks of dust, which I dutifully fulfilled. I think that merely enhanced the syndrome, since you still have to notice them to avoid picking them up.

4. Doom

Doom 1993

I’ve been playing Doom a lot lately (you haven’t noticed?)

This is really quite embarrassing, but I’ve found myself strafing around the house a few times. Yeah. Picture that for a moment.

If I go through a narrow doorway and I’m looking for someone (human/feline), an apparently innate instinct makes me flinch to the side when I see them. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve been trying really hard to improve my strategy in Doom instead of relying on my weapons. Particularly when it came to that cyberdemon – I think that was when I was at the peak of my household strafing.

Who knows, it could come in handy one day?

5. The ‘undo’ shortcut (okay, four games)

command-z

This is a super weird one. You know Command-z (Control-z on Windows)? At my last job when I used InDesign extensively, ‘undo’ was a useful shortcut. I’d use it all the time. I like to think I was meticulous rather than constantly making mistakes, but that’s beside the point.

Around the time of a really heavy workload I’d catch myself thinking I could undo my actions away from the computer. So I’d put something in the cupboard at home and then think, no wait I still need that, UNDO. Or I’d turn the TV over then want to turn it back again. UNDO. It was a very weird point in my life. It was extremely subtle and I only just caught myself doing it, and would then think, what the… what am I DOING?!

Of course, it would be pretty handy having an undo button in life. Though if everyone did, it could get messy.

Am I worried?

No, not really. I quite like these little intricacies of our brains. It means there’s a lot of complex stuff going on in there – and a lot of it subliminal. There’s evidence that programmers who develop Tetris Syndrome get better at coding. Our brains are learning these patterns in case we want to use them again.

And when you’re (still) trying to beat the world Tetris record, that can be handy.

Have you been affected by Tetris Syndrome? I can’t provide a Helpline, but I would like to hear about it in the comments.