Rat Story, the Blog Part 2

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Have You checked out our pre-alpha gameplay footage,

In the first blog, I tried to introduce you a bit to myself and a bit on how I started down the road of creating an indie game company. I hope in this way we can get to know each other a bit better and you can understand me for who I am.

Now on with the story…

Indie games allow me to do something I otherwise could not. It allows me the privilege of designing on my own agenda. One of the big turn offs I often suffered while playing games was in the tremendous amount of violence and hatred which is the mainstay of many an AAA game. As witnessed in the game mechanics we will call, “Combat,” which mostly involve shooting, exploding and general mass murder and mayhem as well as its reinforcement by the narrative, which are often Us vs. Them militarism.

This ‘genocide escapism,’ is often a detriment to the gameplay. Now, I do not support the ridiculous idea about how violent gameplay leads to violent children or that there is anything necessarily wrong with violence in art. However, that does not mean that I think violence as core gameplay is necessary or even desirable. In fact, the violence is often detrimental to the game play.

Violence is often used because it provides for so many of our needs as game designers. For example, Combat mechanic can be used to create moments of tension or as an obstacle to overcome. It helps to maintain the focus of the player on the level design and direct the player forward.  It is also considered a gameplay element/mechanic that is, many games revolve around Combat mechanic and offer little else.3025241279_3d3bd491e8_o

For example, playing Fallout 3, one of my favorite games, the fun part was in exploring this almost alien post-apocalyptic world. Walking through the hulk of a destroyed civilization, finding lost technologies buried in the ruble, traversing dangerous areas, discovering lost treasures. In Fallout, every drawer was a potential treasure chest, every door, a lost vault. The world was exhilarating, both hauntingly familiar and refreshingly estranged.

As much as exploration shines, combat became increasingly a chore. Combat in Fallout 3 was simple enough. Get a weapon, shoot at bad guy and reload/heal. Enemy takes damage in the form of hit points and once his hit points reaches zero, he dies. As the player progressed and thus became more powerful, to maintain challenge, the enemies gained more hit points. How often, I found myself exploring the, ‘Capital Wasteland,’ only to get interrupted by an albino rad scorpion which required hundreds of rounds of automatic fire to kill. As a player I was being tasked to just waste five or so minutes and tons of ammo in a pointless combat.

Another example, the Assassin’s Creed series by Ubisoft, if ever there was a game in which exploration mechanics were better implemented, I for one have never known it. What incredible historical worlds were created, what exciting ways to climb buildings and towers, to jump from great heights, to basically explore the fantasy world with such superhuman power. And yet, the worlds were basically empty. Sure there were hidden objects to collect so as to give you a reason to look around but there was nothing else really. Again, the Combat mac3combat2echanics were not as interesting. You had a basic block and a few combo attacks all of which come with a variety of exploitive and violent animations.

Unlike the traversal and exploration mechanics, the combat, though cinematic in its visual appeal, was simplistic and not very rewarding. So in this wonderful series, one would expect an exploration game with only a few combats. In fact, rather than concentrate on exploration, we get a game with constant combat against random enemies with exploration used only as a traversal to the next combat.


This obsession with the combat mechanic is confusing to me. I do understand the need to challenge the player but I do not understand the need to bore him. When analyzing the Combat mechanics I had questions that I could not answer. Why should you have inconsequential combat in your game? At the very least, there should always be a consequence. Also, why feature combat if you’re not building a combat game.

I decided that in my game, Combat mechanic is something to be avoided while exploration is something to be emphasized. I love exploring in games, finding unique areas, Easter eggs and collectables. Unique map areas that make me feel smart for discovering, as if I had found something special. Those are the moments I game for. I don’t like to engage in ad-nauseam combat vs random encounters design to, ‘provide gameplay.’ That’s not a good enough reason to stop me from enjoying my exploration and discovery.

However, exploration alone is not enough either. There needs to be something to do while I explore. There needs to be obstacles to overcome, dangers to avoid and an overall goal to accomplish. I need to make the player feel like they somehow made a difference in the virtual playground I create for them.

And that of course is the art of game design, how to make playing the game interesting. I am not going to go into how we are trying to provide this in our game here, as I prefer it if you experience this yourself by playing our game when it is done. Instead, I will say that discovering new ways of getting people to enjoy gameplay without combat has been the principle goal of my design team’s effort by implementing a basic traversal experience and puzzle solving matched with a high level goal, (to be explained in later updates) to keep the player interested in playing the game. That is all I am ready to say about that.