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Posts Tagged ‘Descent’

Sol Contingency

April 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Golly, it’s been a while hasn’t it.

I posted not too long ago about an ambitious project that brought the classic game Descent to Unreal Engine 3. This teaser trailer just recently hit the internet:

See their site for more info.

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Yes, Please

November 21, 2012 Leave a comment

That is all.

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Shifting Focus

April 29, 2012 Leave a comment

For this, the blog’s 200th post, I wanted to share some ideas that I have been pondering recently. Long time readers of the blog will recall an article I wrote about how the challenges presented in games are a core component of the design and to a large extent, “define the gameplay…”. In that article, I mentioned a classic game of old called Descent by Parallax Software. Lately, some friends and I have been getting back into the multiplayer portion of the game by way of the DXX-Rebirth project which adds some features and updates it to compatibility with modern machines. Descent is as excellent and classic as I remembered.

I can give some summary and identify some key points, but it’s hard to convey what makes Descent so special without you playing it for yourself, so if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. The full rotation and free-flying freedom are the golden basis of this game. Descent’s circle-strafing, dodging, rolling, flipping, fast-paced flight takes the combat of a typical first-person shooter and elevates it to true thrill-ride status. Every aspect of the game is multiplied by the additional freedom in movement, including tactics. Each of the weapons and missiles uniquely contributes another possible tactic. The game’s core design is fairly simple, but its implications are deep and varied. Modern designers could learn a few things by firing up some matches of this game with some colleagues.

Now that I’ve established the game’s quality for you, think about this: Descent was released a mere year and a half after Doom, and over a year before Quake. I recognize the accomplishments of id Software’s titles, such as classic FPS gameplay and the use of BSP trees for rendering and so on, and I like their games – I have nothing against them, let’s get that out of the way. Still, I don’t understand why Descent isn’t regarded with the same level of acclaim. While Doom has you running and gunning against demons in flat, minimally 3D environments, Descent gives you the freedom to fly without restriction in creatively designed, completely 3D areas. While Quake improves the technology, the gameplay still struggles to eclipse the lasting appeal of Descent. Don’t get me wrong, I like Quake and Descent. But what would the gaming world be like today if its participants had latched so tightly onto Descent instead of the origins that led to the flood of first-person shooters we see today? Better yet, what if it had learned from the best parts of both?

It’s food for thought, to say the least.

If you have comments on these classic games, or if you would like to throw in another great game that deserves more attention, leave a comment!

Categories: Design, Games, Links Tags: , , ,

The Challenge

June 2, 2008 2 comments

May was a little bit slow too, wasn’t it? Better than April anyway. June will be fun. I thought I’d talk a little about game design today, specifically the elements of the game that make it challenging.

A game is largely a goal, set before a player (or set of players), with challenges to beat, and a reward for accomplishing the goal. Without the challenges, however, the goal is hardly a goal. Imagine a game like Space Invaders, only there is just one enemy, he’s very large, he only takes one hit to destroy, and he doesn’t move or shoot. Not much of a challenge huh? Consequently, it’s not much fun either. Games should provide a sense of accomplishment, and thus goals are guarded by a variety of obstacles and enemies, often multiple in combination. Traditionally, we think of these challenges as enemies which are actively striving to keep you from reaching your goal. This works very well, particularly when there is a variety to which the player must adapt. However, these are not the only devices a designer can use to hinder a player.

Descent by Parallax Software is one of my favorite games. I still play it, not for the graphics or the fancy features, but because it is a well-made, fun-to-play game. For those who don’t know, in the single player campaign, each new level sees the player in another mine, where the player must destroy a reactor and escape before the level explodes. There are a variety of challenges that hinder the player. In addition to the many robots that are intent on destroying the player, there are locked doors which the player must find keys for, there is the player’s limited amount of energy, which he must recharge if he wishes to defend himself, and there is the challenge of reaching the exit after destroying the reactor, which is often compounded by the others I already mentioned. Now imagine this game if there were no enemies, no locked doors, and unlimited ammo, and the exit was always just a few seconds away from the reactor. The challenge would be gone, and there would be no accomplishment in completing a level. In fact, the experience would quickly become repetitive and boring.

One of the most important things to consider in designing a game is a specific set of challenges that the player will enjoy overcoming. These can be anything from something that hinders the player directly, such as goo that slows him down, or an obstacle that he must avoid, to enemies that are actively trying to keep him back, to a simple time limit that he must hurry to achieve. Depending on the style of game, you may want something that makes him think, or something that makes him twitch with quick reflexes. The point is, designers need to decide how they want the player to proceed. I don’t mean that they should leave the player a single choice in order to succeed, rather, the player should have a variety of choices, and plenty of freedom. The challenges a designer presents to a player greatly affect what the player does, and whether he enjoys the game or not. They define the gameplay in a very real sense. That’s what makes playing a game different from watching a movie.  As game designer Chris Crawford says, a game is about what the player does. If it was simply about graphics, as many seem to think, the players might as well just go watch the latest action film.

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