Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Initial Experience...

I sat down, briefly, with two XBLA trial version games today: E4 and Exit. Both seemed fun and I'd like to try them some more. I really only left them behind because I was planning on trying to top 10,000 gamer points today -- which required playing a game I had already purchased (Puzzle Quest in this case).

Both games also provided different takes on initial experience. The trial versions of both games funneled me into the core single player campaign. Exit started with a structured interactive tutorial while E4 literally encouraged me to "dive in" (this was the text above the blinking image of the start button) and dumped me in a fairly impenetrable mass of music, sound, and visual chaos.

Exit's initial experience suffered from what typically happens when designers try to come up with a structured interactive tutorial: Experiential/trial and error learners tend to either get bored (they don't want to be told how to do things) or break the tutorial by falling off the rails while experimenting. Learners who are happier to "follow the voice" will sometimes struggle later on because they have focussed more on following prompts than on deeply processing (and developing muscle memory for) core mechanics. The game looks to be a fun puzzler, but I'm unfortunately going to have to struggle through the tutorial in order to get to the fun -- which makes me sad.

E4's initial experience "suffered" from general impenetrability. I use the quotation marks because even though I felt lost and like I should be frustrated and NOT having fun, I was actually having fun even though I kept screwing up and really had no idea of what was going on. I had taken the leap at the "Dive In" prompt and I was treading water, trying not to drown. After a few minutes I started to visually orient myself to the images on screen and the control mechanism. It was at that point that I was able to start trying to figure out how strategy and planning might play a role in this game. Strangely enough, I still have very little idea how the game actually works -- but I got better over time (the feedback was great in terms of visual & audio cues... which makes sense because I think it is a rhythm game) and I want to play more.

Side note: It also looks like I'll need to rethink my categories on the right again. I don't currently have a good place to put demos and trial versions. I don't want them to clutter the space up too much -- but I should acknowledge the ones I've tried.

Recent Trial/Demos:
  • Retail Games
    • Simpsons Game (Renting from Gamefly)
    • Jericho (Renting from Gamefly)
  • XBLA
    • E4 (Still evaluating)
    • Exit (Still evaluating)
    • Mutant Storm Empire (Not likely)
    • Battlestar Galactica (Nope)

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