In the past few years there have been released a handful of indie games which share a kind of common form and aesthetic, one that strikes a chord with me. This design space is represented in my mind by Kairo, and the upcoming Fract and NaissanceE, though it contains many more.
The quality these games have in common is use a first-person perspective and an experience based around architecture and soundscapes, working in concert to elicit some aesthetic or emotional response. Continue reading →
Since Braid, 2D indie puzzle platformers have had somewhat of a resurgence (to put it mildly). Typically with such a release, we expect the game to have some unique, mind-bending mechanic, sport either retro pixels or hand-drawn art, and to be "atmospheric". Closure fits snugly into this paradigm. Going in, I was worried I'd be trudging through it, rapidly losing interest as the novelty wore off as has happened before with indie puzzlers. But this didn't happen; Closure grabbed me and, through its excellently designed levels and well-crafted difficulty curve, lead me through to completion in just a few play sessions.
Like many of its indie ilk, Closure's specific draw is its clever mechanic. In Closure, the world only exists when you can see it. Unfortunately for you, it's also in almost complete darkness. Patches of light are provided by portable glowing orbs and occasional adjustable spotlights. While you carry an orb, a path stretches out in front of you, but drop that orb and step out of its pool of light and you'll fall into nothingness. Come to a wall that's too high? Place your orb so as to leave the top in shadow and you can get over it easy. A spotlight tracking up a pillar provides an elevator. Tyler Glaiel, Closure's designer, explores strange possibilities revealed by this simple idea. Continue reading →
I watched this interesting talk on game design by Jonathan "Braid" Blow and Marc "Miegakure" ten Bosch. They espouse and explore a particular design aesthetic where the designer essentially plays the role of a mathematician. "Good design" then becomes a selection of orthogonal mechanisms (axioms), and an exhaustive-yet-minimal mapping-out of what's derivable (theorems), and then demarcation of the boundary. Since it needs to be fun, the real art has to come from crafting surprise and tweaking axioms to capture exactly what you want. They both make some very interesting points, and I thought this comparison with mathematics was a particularly cool and apt way to frame the ideas.
This aesthetic is particularly apparent in the examples they use in the talk, including Braid, VVVVVV, Ikaruga and the as-yet-unreleased Miegakure.