Make it juicy!

Often in IF design I think back to an old Gamasutra post on rapid game prototyping. (For a while I couldn’t find it again, having sort of sketchy memories of when it ran or what a good search term would be. But now I have, I thought it might interest other people as well.) I particularly like this bit:

“Juice” was our wet little term for constant and bountiful user feedback. A juicy game element will bounce and wiggle and squirt and make a little noise when you touch it. A juicy game feels alive and responds to everything you do — tons of cascading action and response for minimal user input. It makes the player feel powerful and in control of the world, and it coaches them through the rules of the game by constantly letting them know on a per-interaction basis how they are doing.

IF doesn’t do wiggles and squirts much, but it has its own kind of juice — fun and unique responses to as many commands as possible. And to judge by the success of Lost Pig and Suveh Nux on JayIsGames, I think this is part of what gives IF its appeal with newbies and people who aren’t hardcore IF fans.

Puzzles of Aesthetics

A few weeks ago, I complained about the casual game Home Sweet Home that it wasn’t a very entertaining game, being asked to decorate a house to client specifications. (I ragged even more on the “construction” part of the game, which manages to be easy and annoying at the same time, and to bear little or no resemblance to the real-life activity that it is supposed to be simulating.) Other people evidently liked the game more than I did.

Since then, though, I’ve been thinking about this question: how do you design a puzzle or goal-oriented interaction in which the player’s job is to make aesthetic judgments?

I’ve seen a number of different gestures towards this kind of puzzle in recent games.

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One Room Game Competition 2007

The One Room Game Competition is a competition for games set in a single location; entries are allowed in English or Italian. This year there were five English entries, though one was written in Quest, so I skipped that. My (somewhat spoilery) reviews of the others follow:

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