Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Free games: Why not?

I decided to check out an arbitrary "best 10 free games of 2007 on the web" website via one of my gaming news RSS feeds.

I checked out 3 of them so far, with mixed (but mostly interesting -> entertaining) results.

  • Bloxorz. Very polished in terms of actual gameplay visuals and and sound. The game mechanics are accessible and fun.
    • But... There was no interactive learn-as-you-play. Starting a new game meant you had to page through 8-10 screens of boring text.
    • But... The challenge ramp was too steep. I failed to complete the 5th or 6th puzzle. I think part of this is related to the lack of a learn-as-you-play where the player is introduced to concrete principles and then gradually encouraged to develop more abstract reasoning that allows the user to feel smart and challenged while puzzles get more and more difficult.
  • Fold. I loved how the game just dropped me in and let me struggle and figure out the controls (a very console-like experience -- but risky when using a mouse and keyboard because there are so many potential inputs).
    • But... The challenge ramp was way off and I failed to complete the second or third puzzle. This, again, is related to the absence of learn-as-you-play design of the initial experience. The gameplay required some sort of abstract/advanced reasoning far too early on -- I needed more grounding in the basic, concrete gameplay first.
  • Launchball. Very nicely done game shell. I could quickly decide whether to do some tutorial levels or dive right in. The layout was clean and the gameplay was fun. Lots of good mouseover text. I completed the core game (but not the user content).
    • But... The hint system was ineffective. Generally speaking I used hints when I was genuinely stuck and required specific help (e.g., place an item for me in the correct spot, or give me a specific concrete instruction to follow). Instead, hints took the form of general statements of principles I already understood. What would have dramatically improved the hint system was an escalation chain of hints (from general principles to more specific recommendations).
I look forward to playing some of the other 7 games on the page. Kudos to the free game developers!

No comments: