I should preface this by saying that these posts on game design are really just my thoughts on the matter.  Colour Game is the first game I’ve worked on, so I don’t pretend to be any great authority on the matter. They do, however, help me sort my ideas properly, and hopefully gives whoever is interested a sort of insight as to how I think.

Anyways, to the matter at hand. The Infinite Loop should  be a concept familiar to anyone who has played a Japanese RPG before. Generally, before starting a grand heroic quest, the player is presented with a conversation that goes something like this:

Do you want to go on a grand heroic quest? YES / NO

No.

Do you want to go on a grand heroic quest? YES/NO

No.

Do you want to go on a grand heroic quest? YES/NO

… Yes?

Good! Let’s go!

This is pretty much infuriating, and to me, a little baffling. Your game is extremely linear. Generally, as a player, I’m okay with this, seeing as I bought your game in the first place. The on-rails nature of the grand heroic quest is something I’m willing to ignore. So, it’s probably not a good idea that you remind me of the limitations of your world, with a conversation that can only go one way.

On the other hand, if you’re intending to instil a definite feeling of lack of choice, an infinite speech loop with only one way to exit is pretty much the best way I can think of to do this, if only because of the familiarity to the player it has. For example, in the JRPG Mother 3, you play for a brief period as a monkey, captured by one of the main antagonists and wearing a shock-collar. Your job is to dance for the residents of the village, in order to trick them into thinking your master is an okay sort of guy. Mr Baddy (I do not recall his name) points in a direction, you press the appropriate direction on the d-pad, do the dance, trick the villagers. However, the game does such a good job of  explaining just how much of a baddy Evilhead is that generally the player will not feel like following his orders. No, instead it is pretty much guaranteed that the player will try something subversive, like pressing a different direction. Baddy presses a button, you get shocked, points again. Sound familiar? Right. For the story to progress, monkey needs to give in, do the right dance, and he needs to feel pretty sore about that. So, a loop is perfect. It’s a great way of forcing direct authorial control when it is needed, without resorting to a cutscene.

Mother 3 or Earthbound 2? Either way, it's a great game.

Mother 3 or Earthbound 2? Either way, it's a great game.

I was going to say here that Colour Game won’t be featuring any such loops, well done or otherwise, but I realise now that isn’t true. It revolves around one, as do all linear games. There is only one way to exit a level within the bounds of the game, which is to win. You can also quit out of course, but that doesn’t progress or regress the game, so can ultimately be discounted. So, it’s pretty much the same deal as before:

Hi there! Go to that exit looking door to progress!

No, I’ll think I’ll just mess about with colours. Okay, I’m bored now! I’d like another neat-o puzzle.

Hi there! Go to that exit looking door to progress!

Oh, okay then!

I’d like to think players of *my* game are happier than when they play others. But you get the idea, it’s pretty much the same thing. I don’t think it’s too big of a problem, though. As I said before, linearity isn’t evil. I just feel you need a little subtelty. It’s a little obvious, but if you don’t want the player to feel constrained by the limitations set, don’t go around yelling at the top of your voice how constrained they are. That, or make a big deal about how constrained you are, and tie it into the story. That, of course, was Bioshock’s big trick. But, the bizarre situation of authorial semi-control that videogames put us into is full of metaphorical potential.

–Daniel

The excellent Mother 3 english fan translation can be found here. Also! Please, tell me what you think of these pieces! Too pretentious? Not pretentious enough?

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