Thursday, June 11, 2009

starting with the specific

I've never respected doing things differently only to be different; loving new things only because they're new. Traditions usually have some purpose that's only fully recognized when they're absent. But, occasionally, it can be good to take things completely back to the beginning and start anew.

Backbreaker seems to be a good example:

Whether or not this game turns out well or not, I admire the aim. Football games have traditionally focused on strategy, with few possible exceptions (like Super High Impact on the SNES). Backbreaker, on other hand, takes the camera down to ground level and exaggerrates the violence, thereby sacrificing some strategy to focus more on the visceral experiences of individual runningbacks, receivers, and linebackers.

I've heard many suggest, and I agree, that the initial step in designing a game should be defining the game in terms of individual experiences. It's not enough to outline the game in broad terms. You should begin by imagining examples of specific experiences in as much detail as possible. Those experiences symbolize the essence of the game and help guide consideration of gameplay structures and elements.

The essence of Backbreaker is the violence and frequent surprise of tackles. As Natural Motion's first video says: "Imagine a football game in where every tackle is different every time." Granted, the company's main objective is probably to advertise their physics technology, since they're primarily a tech company. But Backbreaker is a good example of letting desires for specific experiences guide design.

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