One of the many complaints I have with video game journalism is there is no follow-through. A game is announced, followed by rumors, speculation, then a hands-on preview and finally, the long-awaited review. Maybe, just maybe, there will be an interview with the developers or some type of feature written after the game has been released, but rarely does anyone delve deeply into the inner workings of the actual game.
However, there are a few who do and one of them is Jeremy Parish, sole survivor of the many layoffs and closings at 1Up. Jeremy, like many of us, keeps his own blog, Telebunny (http://telebunny.net/toastyblog/) formerly known as Gamespite. In addition to a hefty archive of great game writings, there is a section that I want to shine our spotlight on today: Anatomy of a Game. Anatomy of a game is a careful look at game mechanics and how they relate to the player as given by the designer. I will let Jeremy explain himself:
The premise of this series is to focus on how these games communicate to the player the rules of play through game design rather than overt instruction. If the list seems predominantly Nintendo-heavy, that’s because Nintendo used to be really good at it. If it seems predominantly retro in focus, that’s because hardly anyone bothers to design games this way anymore, leaning instead on mundane tutorials rather than effective stage construction and carefully considered game flow.
The series so far has focused so far on the first three Castlevania games and the first two Zelda games, all for the NES. Detailed sections focusing on everything from the Zelda Overworld to the individual dungeon reveal fun little tidbits, such as how the developers told you where to proceed in the first dungeon in Zelda. The answer is simple: a locked door on the north end of the screen, thus teaching the player that UP=FORWARD. If you want to get further in the game, you have to go up. From there, the game teaches you to clear every room before moving forward by limiting the number of keys you can acquire.
That’s just a small taste of what you will find in these fascinating articles. If you have any interest in the intracicies of video game design, then I highly suggest you read them. It’s the kind of writing you don’t find on many of the mainstream sites anymore, with the possible exception of Polygon. So take a look and let me know if you want to see more fun stuff like this. Or if this is terrible and I should just shut up. Go!