Game Design: Genre Mixing

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This is an article written by PP1MT and is free to share, reblog and use as long as credit is given.
This article quotes references mainly from the Indie game Braid and the Darksiders franchise.
Care has been taken to ensure the references are spoiler-free.
Enjoy!
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So anyway…
Have you played Braid?
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The player controls a protagonist named Tim as he runs and jump through a world caked full of platforming and puzzles. However, according to normal platforming mechanics, most of these puzzles would be unplayable. Braid brings a different mechanic in each of the chapters of gameplay, all of them somewhat relevant to the manipulation of time. The game is divided into 6 different worlds, each to be experienced sequentially throughout sections of Tim’s house.

From the start of the game, it is apparent that Tim’s relationship with the maiden in distress is vague at best and is intended to be somewhat figurative and symbolic. Its a journey through a man’s past through his perspectives. And although the game presents itself as a puzzle, it was actually perfectly fine to skip all the puzzle-solving to collect jigsaw pieces.

Sure, you end up losing a few frames of artwork, but in the end the essence of the narrative flows unobstructed.
Game Design: Mixing Genres
It definitely sounds like the developer simply plastered a story to some game mechanic while making the “game” part optional. Lately, expectations for games have risen exponentially over the years; decent narratives and game mechanics are indispensable. Although Braid still required a rudimentary level of platforming skills and basic problem solving to get through without going for the jigsaw pieces, what it did was to allow its narrative to flow through smoothly even to lesser skilled players.

A lot of games nowadays tend to “lock” their narrative behind a task.
In order to “unlock” the story, you’ve got to complete a task before hand. If you fail to do so, you’d not be allowed to progress. Some of these tasks may be overbearing for some individuals.

And you’d say:
That’s what Difficulty settings are for!
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But hey, who actually feels good when playing on “Easy”? These players know that by choosing “Easy”, they are not receiving the intended gameplay the developers and the writers of the game wanted them to feel.

They felt like their game experience has been cheapened.

Interestingly, for Braid, there is no set difficulty curve nor is there difficulty settings. It is entirely up to the player whether he/she would go through the trouble to collect all the jigsaw pieces, and to collect all the fallen stars. If not, almost all the levels are pretty straightforward; aside from a handful of boss battles every now and then.

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If we were to compare how Braid was designed to a game like Darksiders, the former would be a Cheeseburger and the latter a Pizza. Don’t get me wrong, I’d take both of them anytime, but this isn’t Supersize Me.
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Why Cheeseburger?
Braid’s mechanics are laid down aside each other, and if you hated solving the puzzles, you could simply take the cheese off. Nevertheless, there will always be a little bit of cheese left on the meat patty, however you try to scrape it off. But if you’re lactose-intolerant, you’d wouldn’t be that worried of an impending torrential downpour of bowel matter.

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Why Pizza?
You’re War, one of the four horsemen, and you’re solving puzzles in an post-apocalyptic world. Some people didn’t like the puzzles – going all out with all your fancy moves and suddenly, you’re forced to sit down and think. Unlike Braid, we’re not allowed to skip these puzzles. Failing to solve means failing to progress. You can skip the achievements and pick off any anchovies(or similar toppings), but you can’t scoop out the cheese without doing away with some tomato sauce as well. And once you do; the pizza is ruined.
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Through playing Braid, I didn’t feel exceptionally shitty when I failed to collect all the jigsaw pieces sequentially. I could always take a break and move on to the next room. And once I felt more confident, I’ll come strutting back in with my brain full of juice.

Interestingly, it didn’t break the narrative! Much like the game mechanics within each of the 6 worlds itself, time itself is acting pretty strange even in the meta-game.
Game design: Mixing genres
I’d say that not every game is capable of doing this, and perhaps is currently only found in Braid; which both found a way to deliver a rich narrative without surrendering to simpler mechanics. Mario doesn’t tell us much of a story, and while Limbo does, you can’t progress if you fail to find a way through that spider.

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  • Should we always give the players a choice of whether puzzles should or shouldn’t be in his or her game experience?

It’s a case of: “I want to know the story and slash down my sworn enemies, but I don’t want to solve these stupid puzzles!”

  • Should we give players a choice to skip the puzzles?
  • Or should we design puzzles in a way that doesn’t break immersion and keep them simple?
  • Would pushing carts in a post apocalyptic world to get to places befit one of the four horsemen, albeit weakened?

Sometimes the puzzles are acceptable, sometimes they are not. Not all games can be bundled up between two slices of bread. Sometimes they taste better when mashed together with various ingredients and oven-baked.

But if you’re the lactose-intolerant consumer, it might be best to leave the diary aisle.

P.s: I’d reckon this post should have been longer, but alas, my pizza is here.
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