Posts with ‘DavidRosen’ Tag

Aquaria Design Tour

By: Derek Yu

On: January 15th, 2009

Warning: the design tour has quite a few spoilers in it!

David Rosen of Wolfire Games posted his 4th design tour almost two weeks ago, and it’s about a game that I’m pretty familiar with – Aquaria! I’ve already mentioned this to David during our email discussions of the game and his tour, but apologies for not posting it sooner. I wanted to make sure that I gave the tour an adequate mindshare before I posted my response to it. (I’m also slightly hesitant to post news about my own games.)

First things first, I have to be honest and say that I was secretly hoping that David would do a tour of Aquaria, but I wasn’t sure if he had played the game or not. So yeah, I am pretty excited about it, considering the caliber of the other games he’s toured (World of Goo, Knytt Stories, and Gish). Thanks, David!

So anyway, my 2 cents (it’s actually more like a nickel) on his 2 cents:

David has a designer’s view of things, so it’s not surprising that a lot of the concepts he brings up during the tour were on our minds when we were working on the game. Chief among these was the idea of accessibility. Specifically, how much prodding should a developer give to the player to push him or her in the “right” direction, and to prevent them from getting stuck. “Getting stuck” has been anathema to game designers for a long time now, and it’s often cited as a chief reason why the classic point-and-click adventure genre died (in the mainstream industry, at least, but not so much in the indie scene). The holy grail of game design, it often seems, is to craft something that every person in the world can eventually get through and feel good about. And that’s not sarcasm at all – I genuinely believe that that goal underpins a lot of the choices that many designers (including myself) are making when they develop commercial games these days, for better or for worse. The fear, of course, is that if someone gets frustrated with your game or can’t get through it, then they will give the game a low score, they will not recommend it to others, or they will just give up before they get to some of the other goodies you spent a lot of time on.

And that’s something we did agonize over while we were working on Aquaria, and designing its puzzles, controls, and so forth, because it is a game we want people to play and experience fully, and yes, also purchase and feel good about purchasing. In actuality, a lot of the features that David mentions as being “hidden” in the tour (the hotkeys, the map, the hints, etc.) were added later on in the development (many of them as a patch Alec worked hard on after the release) to address those worries. As to why they are hiding in the game, rather than being displayed prominently, well… I think one reason is that we would prefer people to spin by spinning their mouse, sing spells note by note, and place each ingredient by hand, rather than using a hotkey to do it, and we would prefer that people get lost, even, rather than use a map hint. I won’t speak for Alec (even though I think he feels similarly), but I kind of wanted people to live in the game, and maybe even feel bad or bored about it occasionally. This is supposed to be Naija’s life, after all, and even though we didn’t want to make you watch her spend 5 minutes pooping after she eats, we did want you to feel (flashes, at least) of what her life is like, even the more mundane parts.

I’ll be the first to admit that it seems questionable to insert features into the game that you’d prefer the player not use, but in our case, I believe it was the right choice. Partly for the simple fact that it DID alleviate our fears with the game at a time when we were definitely worried that players would find the game too hard or too frustrating (i.e. it gave us more confidence in the game), and partly because people do find them and use them, but generally only if they are having trouble. It’s a bit of a fidgety situation, but I think it works pretty okay for the type of game that Aquaria is meant to be (your mileage may vary). I definitely should have added the hotkeys to the documentation, though – that was an oversight on my part that is easily rectified.

The puzzles – not so easy! The “Song Door” puzzle near the beginning of the game confounded us for a long time. If you had trouble with it now, you should have played its earlier incarnations (but I’m glad you didn’t!). I still feel like it’s a pretty simple puzzle, but I realize that that’s a meaningless opinion to anyone who got stuck on it for a long time. And David’s definitely right that, ideally, if a player comes up with a clever solution that should work within the context of the game, then it should work. I agree completely.

I am really glad David mentioned Alec’s level editor and animation editor, which are an amazing set of tools that we included with the game itself. I don’t think they get enough mention in reviews of the game. That the sprites have a slight “paper doll” quality to them is not ideal (we did try to think of ways around it), but it’s a small price to pay for the ease of the game’s creation (without which the game would not have been completed).

I do wish that there had been more mention of the game’s narrative and what was good or bad about how we executed it, because it’s a major part of the game and there were some interesting design decisions involved (like the use of voice over). But David told me that the original video was around 30 minutes long and he had to cut it down, which I understand. Overall, I, like the designers toured by David before me (that sounds slightly wrong!), am impressed with the things he pointed out and how close to home his observations were. In the end, I think we made the right choices with Aquaria, though it is not a perfect game by any means. But that doesn’t invalidate at all any of the things David pointed out.

Whew, okay, I said a lot more than I was originally intending to. That’s all (for now), and hope that it was somewhat elucidating! Thanks again, David. Looking forward to the next one!

Gish Design Tour

By: Derek Yu

On: December 16th, 2008

David Rosen continues his tour with an oldie but goodie from Edmund McMillen: Gish! Although at his pace, it’s less of a tour and more of a rampage. This one’s real fun.

Speaking of Wolfire, if you want a free copy of Lugaru for Christmas, all you have to do is join the Overgrowth Facebook page.

Knytt Stories Design Tour

By: Derek Yu

On: December 10th, 2008

Following fast on the heels of David Rosen’s last design tour (World of Goo) is a new tour of Knytt Stories. I’m really enjoying the style of these videos, and the analysis is fun, too. Keep ’em coming!

From the Wolfire blog.

World of Goo Design Tour

By: Derek Yu

On: December 2nd, 2008

Wolfire‘s David Rosen has started something cool: a “design tour” of innovative games, where he examines their design choices and shares the lessons on video. His tour begins with World of Goo, which is rife with interesting design decisions. As far as reviews go, I think it’s tops – David’s analysis is spot on, friendly, and feels like it is thinking about the game from both sides of the screen. Great work!