Last time we left off with indie developers. Not long ago, these were the guys who were making small games that barely anyone took any notice of. However, these days independent game makers are creating some of the most innovative and exciting products out there. They don’t have the huge teams and big budgets of larger studios, but that doesn’t mean they lack talent. Let’s get back into the different genres of video game though. Due to money constraints, indie developers often make games like platformers.
The platformer, or platforming game, is a classic game genre where you must run and jump over platforms and other obstacles along a 2-dimensional level. The most famous platformer has to be Mario, possibly the most recognisable game character around. Our red-hatted plumber friend has been platforming in one form or another since 1981, and has appeared in well over a hundred games in the past three and a bit decades. It’s pretty hard not to love the little bounding guy, especially as he has such rotten luck with women. His one true love, Princess Peach, is forever being kidnapped, and as such usually plays the role of damsel-in-distress.
There is certainly a gender disparity between leading characters in video games. In a male dominated market, it is always refreshing to see a female character, especially when she is not merely a plot device in order to drive the manly protagonist forward. Lara Croft is one of the most notable female leads, and although she is viewed as being over-sexualised by a large group of critics, she is more than able to hold her own in the dangerous profession of raiding tombs. Croft features in multiple third person games, and although there is shooting involved, they are not quite considered in the third person shooter genre discussed in my previous article. Action-adventure games are prevalent, partly because the term covers broad ideas. It is a vague genre, but it contains elements of action, and elements of adventure, so you get the gist. That’s enough about genres for now though, let’s get into the nitty gritty. What makes a game fun to play? Well, let me introduce you to the wonders of game mechanics.
Game mechanics are the rules and constructs needed to make your game work. These can be as basic as running, jumping, or shooting a gun, but there are exciting ones out there. Take the double jump for instance. This is a unique video game creation which allows a character to jump, and then jump again while in mid-air! Only in a make believe world would this gravity defying feat be possible, so it is really lucky we have video games. That’s not the only type of wacky jumping on offer in games either. If you’ve got a rocket launcher, you could try pointing it at your feet, leaping into the air and then pulling the trigger. Depending on the game you’re playing, you might have just performed a rocket jump, a jump which uses the force of the explosion to propel yourself higher. You might have just blown yourself up though, so it wouldn’t hurt to do some research first.
Thankfully, if we do get into a sticky situation, we have the concept of respawns. If you die, in most games you will magically come back to life at a checkpoint you passed earlier, occasionally with some minor death penalty. In your death throes you may have dug your hands into your pockets and tossed half of your money away, which seems like an odd thing to do, but we are prone to weirdness when the adrenaline kicks in. Or, it is possible that when you respawn, you don’t feel quite right within yourself, so you don’t perform your actions as well for a short time. Almost as if your character has some memory of biting the dust moments before, which brings a profound feeling of sadness to the whole situation.
Some games really want to punish you for dying however, as if dying weren’t enough. Permadeath is a game feature which means that if you die during the course of the game, you have to start the whole thing over. No handy checkpoints to revert to, no buxom ladies to bring you quickly back to life, you just start again. This is a term most commonly associated with Roguelikes, although it does feature in other types of game. The roguelike, or roguelike-like, depending on how pedantic you’re feeling, is a fairly obscure genre that contains elements that hark back to the 1980 game Rogue. Some people simply refer to any game featuring permanent death as a “roguelike”, but this makes other people very angry, strangely. Technically the genre is a turn-based, dungeon crawling game.
These are generally fantasy games where you control a gallant hero, guiding them through a maze-like underground dungeon. Along the way you will find much loot, treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and fight many monsters in order to get it. There are many different kinds of loot found throughout video games. The coloured loot system is a popular way of describing found items these days. The generally accepted progression of rarity is Grey > White > Green > Blue > Purple > Orange, although there are of course variations depending on what you’re playing. So, an item with a ‘blue’ name (the item itself doesn’t necessarily have to be blue) will generally be better than a green one, and so on. Mainly thanks to World of Warcraft, ‘purples’ are referred to as epic, which is a word, much like ‘awesome’, misused in every day language – e.g. “This apple is epic/ awesome!”. Put it on some sort of shrine and sing songs about it then, don’t eat it. In the context of video games however, an epic item will typically be pretty worthy of praise.
The best way to get the best loot is to kill bosses. Next time we’ll talk a bit about that, and see where we go from there in our pursuit of the definition of ‘game’.
Thanks for reading.