Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gameplay Powerups

Super Metroid had one of the greatest power ups I've ever known in a 2D platform game: the x-ray scope. Once you acquired it, you were able to scan your immediate area for invisible holes that led to other areas you previously had no idea existed.

This powerup—and lots of other powerups from days gone by—added a gameplay element. You all-of-a-sudden had an ability you didn't have before. Perhaps more importantly, it added a gameplay element well into (~50%?) the game. But to my mind, Super Metroid powerups demonstrated something that other games at the time didn't "get": powerups can extend the life of the game. A powerup can make the player want to re-explore the entire world. Isn't that powerful?

Unfortunately, even Super Metroid didn't fully exploit this property of powerups. The x-ray scope was more a necessity for completing the game than a novelty. Precious few areas had any discoverable chambers that existed only to be explored for exploration's sake. (Not to mention that the Metroid games never really had any concept of "plunder" or loot, like coins or trophies that would make the discoverable areas worth exploring.)

But what happened to gameplay powerups? Today the word "powerup" borders on being obsolete. Instead, most games tend to focus on attaining better versions of existing equipment: a better gun, a better sword, better armor, etc.

The last time I saw a gameplay powerup that seemed to have untapped potential was when I played Super Paper Mario; the magical 3D wand was such a clever bit, but again, it was a necessity, and may not have lended itself well to being introduced late in the game.

I'd like Vyde to place a special emphasis on exploring powerups as a link between the player and the environment. I want Vyde to have powerups that make you want to re-explore and experiment with the world. I'd like to invent powerups that aren't designed to allow you to reach your one-and-only goal (finishing the game), but are instead designed to extrude the world into another dimension of play for play's sake.

After all, as has been hinted at already, a boundless game makes for some serious challenges in keeping the player engaged.

Next, I'm going to wax philosophic on the concept of loot in games.

1 Comments:

Blogger Tim said...

Don't forget the game that mastered the art of collecting loot, Diablo! (Well, and nethack) Most loot was, as you said, upgrading items, but still, it was incredibly addicting, as I know you're aware of, hehe. Then in 2, there were the charms, and jewels, etc. 'sets' of loot are always a driving force, too, and are completely optional. I'm not sure I've ever seen a game that had 'sets' other than weapon/armor combos. Might be kinda cool to be able to build items from pieces of loot somehow...trinkets and such.
-Exarch

7/16/2007 01:13:00 PM  

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