Sunday, June 21, 2015

Catch and Release

(Skip to the game)

There's something interesting that Mark Rosewater mentioned in his podcast about things every game needs (or maybe it was his podcast on designing for emotions, I can't remember). He said that a common pitfall of junior designers is to build a game which is interesting, but not fun. Maybe the mechanics work together in an novel way, but the player isn't necessarily being engaged on a deeper, emotional level.

Catch and Release, and a lot of the games here, fall into that category, I think. Now, of course it's going to be difficult to emotionally engage someone when you're dealing with just rough primitive shapes and audio you've found online, but that doesn't make it impossible. I think both Shoot the Moons and Bolt had an aesthetic appeal which engaged a certain emotion.

In Catch and Release, I tried to polish up the experimental design I submitted here two weeks ago. I only made three levels, but I think I got the mechanics working the way that I wanted them to work. What I wanted to find out was how much design space would there be if you took this idea and turned it into a AAA production. My verdict is I'd still love to make this into a larger game. A thief in a medieval fantasy setting would be a great basic concept to spring from, and adding a third dimension and a second dagger really increases the applications of the teleportation gameplay.

Something you can do in this game is drop a dagger to block the beam of a laser, which isn't something I had though of doing initially. Having incentive to leave a dagger behind really makes later parts of the level very interesting. At any point, you can teleport back to the dagger, so it makes traversal and backtracking kind of... cool? You can also choose to bring your dagger back to you at any time, but imagine what happens if the player maybe sticks the dagger into some sort of keyhole, or into the gears of a mechanism or magical contraption. The dagger has to stay put, or whatever trap or machine it's activating/deactivating will be free to do its thing. Might be an interesting way to present the player with risk. One one hand, you could complete the rest of this level with only one dagger. On the other hand, if you bring the second dagger to you, the machine that spits out golems will come to life, or the drawbridge separating you from the palace guard will fall, or the trap that fills this tomb with sand will activate...

Something which worries me about this concept is how much of your brain gets dedicated to tracking flying objects. It's already a little confusing to do a rapid thow-teleport-throw. Imagine how disorienting it gets when there's two daggers you have to be mindful of. Maybe you should only be able to teleport to a dagger if it's been dropped, or if it's stuck in a wall. Mid-air daggers are off-limits.

Anyway, being able to chuck a blue dot behind an enemy, teleport to that dot, then slay the enemy with that blue dot, is the central idea of this mechanic, and (as you can see from these last four lovely pictures) you can do that in Catch and Release. Play it here!

Menu Music by CynicMusic, Game Music by Kerri Coombs, and switch sound effect by Nenad Simic, all used under this license.

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