Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Interactive Play (TM)

I'm becoming more and more convinced that the classic iHOG - or puzzle-adventure if you will, depending on how au fait you might care to be with fashions - should be labelled 'interactive play'. (TM :o)

On quizzing peeps about their experiences playing the hidden object portions of an 'interactive play' TM, it quickly struck me that the players were, even with no timer, attempting to complete the HO scene as quickly as possible - perhaps to the point that it was regarded as a distraction.
I ran this observation by our BF contact and she concurred: Players hurry through the HO scene in order to return to the meat of the game.
Curious, thought I. Why, then, would we want to include HO scenes?
From a dev pov, one answer is straightforward enough: HO scenes can be fashioned in 2-3 man days, and typically equate to around ten minutes of gameplay, if played twice (which is de rigeuer). Ergo, bang for bucks.

Not a lot of meaningful change to be found here.

Now this demographic aesthetic doesn't translate so easily to the other components - to the puzzles and mini-games, or to the inventory item quests (use crowbar on planks, etc.).
I get the strong sense that our players enjoy participating in the story. A HO scene is a means to an end: it develops nothing within the narrative. However, if you solve a puzzle to unlock a door, or if you do, indeed, remove the planks from a boarded window, then the narrative progresses.
Perhaps I might even venture to suggest that the appeal of the 'interactive play' TM is that the player progresses through a story, just as a reader does, but the player doesn't (shouldn't!) have to read pages of text AND the player feels as though they are influencing the outcome.

This is, in its own right, a peculiar concept. Many definitions of a 'game' include the pivotal argument that a game 'has a variable outcome'. The outcome of a novel, of a play, of an iHOG, is fixed, and any assertion that the player can influence the outcome is an illusion. This furthers my reclassification of iHOG to interactive play. TM.

But consider the potential ramifications of making that glass thing do stuff!

Where this leads me - and my time spent sifting through the players' forums appears to confirm this - is that, rather than being tacked on, the story is the very foundation of the iHOG.
Haven't the time and/or inclination to read and turn the pages of a book? Don't fancy pootling down to the playhouse? Watching a movie too passive an act? Let the interactive play provide you with a story, and guide you through with pretty pictures and whimsical diversions, and the sense of control over your environment... all from the comfort of your own swivel chair!

*Above images from PuppetShow: Souls of the Innocent, downloadable here. (It's pretty darned accomplished.)

Haven't posted about dressing up as promised... will rectify shortly. In the meantime, enjoy designing your own wedding dress!

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