Welcome to Xed (Crossed) by Design, a new article series in which I’ll be examining a game feature that two different creative mediums have in common. In this inaugural post, I’ll be looking at the dynamics of puzzles and player interaction in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and table-top roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons.
Here I’m going to make a case that we can study Breath of the Wild to learn how to make better puzzles and encounters in table-top roleplaying games.
Continue reading Xed by Design: Breath of the Wild and TRPGs
This is the second Dev Log for Stars Fall Up. One good piece of criticism I got about the last Dev Log was that it was more about my personal philosophy on game design, rather than focusing on my process or the mechanics. It’s true, and the latter is where I want to be focusing with these Logs.
However, I’m also letting myself write about what’s buzzing about in my mind most, so a balance may have to be struck. This Dev Log is more about “game writing” than “game mechanics”, and I’m fine with that.
Continue reading Dev Log 2: Stars Fall Up (redesign 2.0 finalization)
The Unofficial Read-First Manual
So, I like this show called Kamen Rider. A lot. If you’ve been within proximity of me for a good amount of time recently, I have probably tried to convince you to watch it. And while I’m sorry about me, I’m not sorry about spreading the glory that is this four-decade-old live-action martial arts drama. I can (and probably will) say a whole lot more in future posts about what Kamen Rider is, is not, tries to be, etc., but for newcomers I like to boil it down to “a bunch of super-pretty Japanese boys become superheroes and deal with their ANGST by beating up thematic kaiju cosplayers and/or other super-pretty boys”. If this description seems lacking in some crucial details, here’s a more objective explanation.
Continue reading Kamen Primer 101
So, I’m writing about working on my game while I should be working on my game. Great.
For those who haven’t seen it on our Current Projects page, Stars Fall Up is a TRPG I’m working on—or, more descriptively, a mini-RPG for Us Damn Millennials.
A design factor that’s been on my mind a lot with this project is simplicity. That’s the word my brain goes to, but the full concept has more facets than the word “simplicity” can portray. I’m talking about simplicity in the way of “stripped of non-essential fluff and mechanics”. It’s the minimalism of game design. To be honest, this kind of simplicity is my modus operandi for creating games; I want to make games that other people who have little to no knowledge of TRPGs can pick up and be encouraged, not daunted, to try them out. I want mechanics that don’t feel like they have to be comprehended like the rules of a board game before any kind of fun can begin.
Continue reading Dev Log 1: Stars Fall Up (redesign 1.0)
30 Years of Games Manage to Justify the Amnesiac Hero Trope
Y’know, I would be astounded to find out that I was the only person who is quite over amnesia-based plots in shows and video games. For those who need a refresher (cuz you forgot? Cuz amnesia? Do you get it) here’s the TV Tropes page for the Amnesiac Hero. As you might know, the latest Legend of Zelda game, Breath of the Wild, has the non-titular hero Link awakening to find he’s lost all of his memories– he has no idea why he woke up in a tank full of glowing goo wearing nothing but some stylin’ boxer-briefs. And only recently, after about 50 hours of gameplay, I feel like I’m actually able to appreciate the Amnesiac Hero trope, maybe for one last time.
Continue reading It All Links To The Past
Sakura Quest is Unexpectedly Pragmatic for a Slice of Life Anime
A few weeks ago there were signs around my neighborhood that spring had finally sprung. Warmer weather and flowers and probably some other stuff, I wasn’t looking because more importantly, spring means new anime. During spoiler season, P.A. Works’ Sakura Quest made it to my “I’ll give it a couple episodes” list. The slice-of-life concept intrigued me, but it also had the flags of a squishy moeblob anime (a cast of hyper-saccharine girls doing cute things for the sake of being cute; for some people that’s their jam, but I had a near-fatal overdose of it circa 2008 with K-ON! and Lucky☆Star).
Continue reading Big Eyes, Pink Hair and Rural Economic Stagnation
So, BLP hosted its first DEATHWRITE yesterday (4/23/17) with a fully-functioning site and social media channels.
As for me, I ended up not even breaking 3k. But that’s alright, because I still got three articles written, that y’all will be seeing here in the coming weeks. My goal this time was not to produce a quantity of content in an aim for 10k; I wanted to take the content I had already produced from past DEATHWRITEs and polish it up into something I felt good about publishing.
I can’t speak for our other Contributors directly, but it seems all who participated had satisfying results, though no one got near the 10k mark this time. A friend of ours came over and made good headway on penciling for a new comic.
I wanted to write this to show that even though DEATHWRITE calls upon participants to “produce without excuse”, the spirit of the event lies in pushing yourself to make something that you might not have otherwise. To turn those “I should”s into “I did”s. We want anyone who’s interested in DEATHWRITE to feel encouraged to participate, rather than be daunted by the scale of the challenge. If you have something you want to make, come write it. Draw it. Record it. Plan it. We’ll be here.
Breath of the Wild, and Zelda games in general, are games in which there is a skill disparity between the canonical character and the player controlling them.
Legend of Zelda games are narrative-structured games; the story is the organizing device and the driving force behind all the elements the player encounters in the game. And unless you’re reading a choose-your-own-adventure book, there aren’t many narratives outside of video games in which the protagonist encounters a bunch of anticlimactic demises (and spontaneous resurrections unmentioned by the narrative) before striding confidently into the final showdown. If any Zelda game were a book, Link would go from his bed to the steps of Ganon’s fortress without a single “game over”.
So how do we rationalize the two narrative realities, the “perfect run” that represents the canonical course of events, and the multitude of hours we spend watching our character ragdoll from an explosion we can’t pretend we didn’t see coming?
I don’t have a good answer, but this train of thought came to me with the image of Zelda sitting tight in Hyrule Castle for a century, waiting for Link to get out of his regen tank, and fully assuming he’s going to surpass every single difficulty and trial along the way to get to her… i.e. not expecting the news that her most trusted and capable knight has perished after accidentally dropping a five-ton iron ball on their head once they were done utilizing it in a physics puzzle.
The conclusion I’ve reached is that the “canon-narrative” version of Link is the one who makes it from cryochamber to castle without a single game over; but who then are all the versions of Link that die tragic/stupid deaths from our own lack of skill? Aren’t they, in a way, more representative of us as players, as we spend way more time embodying them than the one time we get it all right?
There are many other video games that unite the narrative with the player experience by utilizing the “growth of a hero” narrative; you start shitty and git gud over the course of the game, just as you the player learn the controls, strategy, and in-game systems. I wonder what games out there effectively incorporate the meta-reality of game-overs? (Besides Undertale of course, y’all calm down).
(Edited by Chocomarsh)