Month: February 2015

Endless Pride

Pride, a sense of satisfaction with one’s own accomplishments. Those that create often aim to make something that they can be proud of, something worth making. There is one game, that does an impeccable job of instilling that sense of pride in the player (or in me, at least). And that game is Endless Legend. Endless Legend is a turn based strategy game very similar to Sid Meier’s Civilization V, that sees the player building an empire, and competing for supremacy with the other empires around them. This sense of pride it creates stems primarily from the game’s progression, and the mechanics and art that accompany it.

The key to creating this immense feeling of pride in the player is the sheer difference between where you start and where you end. The game gives you next to nothing at the outset. You have a settler, a hero, and two basic units. From there, you found your first city, a small and unimpressive town, hardly worth calling a capital. But then you explore, find new lands, and settle new cities. And as the population and economic strength of your cities grow, so too does your technology and armies. Several hours later, as you near the end of the game, your tiny, pathetic country has grown into a sprawling empire that spans the globe, hosting an army and an economy that are truly unmatched. And there, as you survey your dominion that you worked so hard to build, grow, and conquer, you feel the immense sense of pride in what you have accomplished.

But the pride doesn’t come purely from reaching the end and being amazing, it’s also about the challenges you must overcome to get there. As I mentioned earlier, the game takes several hours to reach the end (we’re talking at least seven or eight), and this is because everything takes time. New buildings, new units, new technologies, all of it. And so throughout the game you are constantly trying to manage and optimise your resources and strategies so as to get everything you need in the quickest amount of time. Now, you might expect that you’d eventually find a strategy that will allow you to more or less find the most effective way to get straight from start to finish, but the game has another mechanic designed to keep things interesting.

Winter. Cold and harsh, you’d best be ready for when this season comes around. Every so many turns, the game will switch between the summer and winter seasons, each bringing major changes to both your military and your economy. Winter is a cruel and unforgiving season that reduces your military prowess and economic gains. As an added bonus, winter also gets longer and more merciless over the course of the game, with each appearance bringing more and more negative effects to your empire often forcing you to reevaluate your strategy. But during the summer months (when everything works as normal) you prepare ways to mitigate or even prevent its harsh effects. And it is this triumph over nature itself, against such great adversity, that makes your victory worth taking pride in.

All of this progression is satisfying itself, but the only way the player sees any of it is through the games visual (obviously). As each city grows, you build more and more structures around them, slowly turning them from humble villages to a sprawling metropolis. This really gives notable impact and weight to your economic growth. Furthermore, as your empire expands, each territory you take become highlighted by your empire’s chosen colour. Combined with the ability to zoom out and view nearly the entire map at once, allows the you to see the true size and growth of your realm. Whilst you know you’ve done the work and risen above the challenges, it’s seeing and enjoying the end result that really drives it home.

The exceptional progression, art, and mechanics make this game extremely fun and satisfying to play and even more so to win. With this quality of design and execution, Endless Legend is something its developers should definitely be proud of.

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PULLing Forward, Looking Backward

So, the university year has begun again and projects abound once more. I recently completed a game I titled PULL. This game was developed solo over the course of a single week. Now, the whole point of this particular project was to create a game capable of conveying an idea or message, one about something personal to us in some way. I myself decided to try and convey a message about the importance of science in modern civilisation.

Overall throughout the course of the week, I manage to implement everything I intended to implement, which is something my projects haven’t managed in a while. However, the game was still not perfect, in part due to insufficient communication, and a prioritisation of the art and the message.

First, let’s take a look at the communication. The main issue with the communication was that the links and portrayal of science were unclear. Whilst the main character was a scientist, his artwork was too small and lacking in detail to get the message across. Other than the main character, there were no more representations of science, another flaw in the game’s design. On a more positive note, all players managed to get the theme of perseverance, of having to advance despite countless people trying to hold you back, but that was typically viewed as a more personal struggle.

As for the game’s mechanics, they were simple and few, you pull and you shake. That is all. The mechanics were kept to a minimum to allow as much time as possible to get appropriate artwork done, as art is far from my strong suit. However, these simple mechanics left much to be desired by the player. One play tester described the experience as ‘tedious’ as there was no real motivation to continue pulling forwards. This lack of motivation not only stemmed from the simple and repetitive mechanics, but also from the lack of a win state (the idea being that the march of progress is endless). This meant that the player can only lose, which did not exactly coincide with my message about the value of science.

Through it all, it is clear that my next game needs to focus on having fully fleshed out mechanics that better coincide with the overall theme and message of the game. Hopefully, this should be much easier if I’m working with animators and audio students as that means mechanics will be the core of everything I have to do.

You can play PULL here.