Everything is composed of systems; interconnected and interacting. And each of this systems are designed and governed by specific set of rules. If you know the rules, you know the system. Sometimes rule-set can be exhaustively large and complex which will, in turn, increase the complexity of the system itself. Break it down to small chunk of systems and you find out more specific relevant rule-set for smaller systems. Our mind is evolved to understand such systems in peculiar way of creating the model of the system rather than actually solving rules by which it is governed. Let’s take example. Lionel Messi’s brain not always go into resolving friction equations or movement of round object in curvature to have quick pass or amazing goal; Or Federer’s mind won’t do all force formulas to quickly come up with number to use in back-end shot, nor their, or in such case anyone else, minds capable of finishing calculations on the fly. Minds just do what they supposed to do “as per learned model” which in turn needs regressive learn pattern.
Why I have elaborated so much was the phenomenon gamers worldwide face in their day-to-day gaming sessions. Games are most prolific “systems” which gamers learn to play. Each new game present new set of rules to learn. Game designers face most daunting task of devising the system driven by elaborated rule-set, make users learn them fast, mold their minds to think with provided rules and along with all;most sought accomplishment; make it all fun and enjoyable. Some games fail due to one or other of above. And some excel with the same. Let’s explore few of the games in my gaming life which has garnered the awe-inspiring amazement along with joy due to their unique appealing trait: novelty (in no particular order).
1. Braid ( Creator: Jonathan Blow, Artist: David Hellman )
There are puzzle platformer. There are excellent puzzle platformers. And there is Braid. Uniqueness of the Braid was not time-manupulation, but the way each level introduces new aspect based on time. Starting with fairly straightforward time reversal, Braid just pulled all kind of time-trickery in the each advancing level. One level adds time-unaffacted objects, while other introduces “time-ring”. And my favorite one where time moves when protagonist moves. Without spoiling much novelty (especially the last absolutely genius level), Braid has achieved cult status with its underlying deep philosophy which was fan-favorite discussion topic amongst various forums.
Also Braid had been the flagstone of revolution which has moved gamers focus on indie development like never before.
2. Her Story ( Creator & designer: Sam Barlow, Actress: Viva Seifert )
Gaming industry is always fascinated with idea of merging movies with gameplay from initiation of digital interactivity. FMV ( Full Motion Video) games were at some point considered as major step ahead while era was mostly composed of low res sprites and environments. Tex Murphy adventures or Phantasmagoria were few series which got attention for their novel FMV interactivity. Most recent Late Shift or partial FMV AAA title Quantum Break are testimony of gaming industry’s unabated love for integration of full motion video in games. But nothing has succeeded so profoundly as Her Story which has changed the idea of FMV gameplay. Best part of Her Story is that FMV seems the inevitable design aspect rather than just another “back of the box bullet-point”. Brainchild of sole person; Sam Barlow and exquisitely acted by Viva Seifert, Her Story puts you in shoes of investigator trying to glean the connection out of disjointed interrogation videos of old case. Not spoiling much, Her Story is addictive short campaign.
3. Untold Stories ( Developer: No Code, Publisher: Devolver Digital )
Most ancient genre of gaming which is again getting traction due to most innovative take like Untold stories on them; text adventures. Untold stories has coat of new graphic processing power but core element is text adventure. Short, precise and genuine ; Untold stories is pinnacle presenting “New wine in old bottle”.
4. Portal/Portal 2 ( Valve corporation )
In 2007, at the most ripening time to reap the popularity benefit, Valve released most audacious game bundle of all time called ” The Orange Box”. Riding high with Half-Life 2 and preceding episodic instalments, Orange Box was going to provide most value for money playtime to gamers. Valve Corporation knew it was going to be hit. But what it never gleaned was that the small title thrown in; almost like Santa’s small free present, along with other biggies in the Orange Box, called Portal, was going to steal the show and going to force Valve to cash in with its follow-up, Portal 2.
To say that Portal was ingenious first person puzzler is disservice to the game as whole. It was cleverly designed to incorporate Portal rules and way of overcoming them. Concept was simple enough to have ability to generate two portals on any (not all though) flat surfaces so as player passing through one emerges out of other. Throw in exemplary physics engine to take care of gravity and hence velocity out of other portal and you have sandbox rule set to play around.
Portal 2 has high expectations given the popularity of the first. But so rare the event in this world in any media has happened here also; second part surpassing the first. Once Portal 2 introduces the varying gels, rules got more complex and playful.
However intelligent gamers felt by solving the puzzles in Portal and Portal 2, one fact was appreciated by all that at the end game designers of both were true genius of all. After completing the game, if you look back you’ll realize how much complexity your brain has gone through and that also in very simple and fun way.
Kudos to games.