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The Purpose Of Power

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In player advancement and player/character/avatar growth in many games, the designer often allows greater and greater power to be accrued by the player, which inevitably, they will have to use (oftentimes) right around the next corner or at the end of the level with the superboss.

I realize this kind of immediate payoff is a great takeaway value for the players of games. I wanted to introduce a different approach to the purpose of power in my adventuregame. I wanted the power to have practical uses, as well as strategic, long term uses. Heck, it was hard enough trying to find a way where the player could 'save the world' without doing some trite and hackneyed reproduction of how other designers had saved the world in prior games, so I am not going to say by any stretch I've done something new.

But what I did find creatively satisfying after being my own harshest critic was that I wanted my player to obtain massive amounts of power, which they would logically need to save the world, in chunks that were utilitarian (they could use the power quite mechanistically to progress towards the final objective of saving the world), dramatic (the power they attained was objectively symbolized in anything but a sword, amulet, spell, cloak, superweapon or superfeature that had been done to death before [I'm following Peter Molyneux's advice of 'new, cool shit' from his lecture on The Future of Gameplay at GDC]) and was proportional in scale to the task necessary in the steps I'd designed to complete the function of saving the world.

Finally, I had to place and pace (time the completion or attainment) of the world saving power device or task to the overall progress pace of the victory condition as a function of the scale of the gameworld represented by all levels and settings I felt necessary for a broad, varied and contrast filled array of levels. This all has been done before in plenty of good game design, I am not sitting here trumpeting I've reinvented the wheel, but what I am happy about are three things:

One, my player gets what they need in the way the design needs it in methods of acquisition satisfactory to the play value I choose to design for fun. Two, just like in writing, it's not about every story having a beginning, middle and end, it's your story, your way, having a structure of beginning, middle and end. Three, I scale down the result of saving the world in such a way, that my player gets the 'whew, I just barely f*cking made it!" manner, instead of "the big parade and the shiny medal moment/FADE OUT/ROLL CREDITS"

Writing fiction books and scripts has taught me that if you are going to go to all the trouble to be a perfectionist, you might as well make the process as creatively satisfying to you as it possibly can. I'm beginning, as a result, to think my game is more unique now without losing fun take away value due to relying on devices that have come before, both in terms of mechanics and in terms of dramatic device symbology.

If my adventure game ever gets made, when you save the world at the end of the game, I want you to really like, "Wow, that feels really like how it would be to save the world." This is where I am departing from Molyneux in some sense; my game is very realistic, not a lot is stylized. The gameworld look and feel is very much like what is outside your window right now.

That was the big challenge of picking such a familiarized setting, in that what could I choose as a dramatic plot origin structure that was something all of us had not seen in reality before (that was the post about the multigenre plot crystallization some time back), knew too well and was bored with it and had turned to computer realities for the escape. Well, the plot solved that.

You won't be bored at all playing my game in a virtual world that looks a lot outside your window, and, when you attain world saving power ability (whether symbolic or mechanical) the plausibility (read: how believable could it actually be?) will be so dovetailed to reality's possibilities, even though you've maybe saved the world dozens of times already, here on earth or in time or on another planet or space, you're really going to feel like you saved *your* world. And, your going to save it in a very real way, which is good for a fictional approach. I hope that play value sells.

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