Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 26: Ergon Logos

The folks at Play This Thing brought Ergon Logos to my attention and I figured I'd give it a try.

It's a text adventure -- but not the kind that you think. You don't actually type in commands in response to text descriptions of your surroundings. It's more of a choose your own adventure in which you trace scrolling text and select which branch you'd like to pursue.

As best I can tell (and without giving away any "spoilers") it seems like the author of the game has something to say about how traditional adventure games are merely linear adventures with only the illusion of choice. Not profound, but it's interesting to experience this through interactive play as opposed to just reading a plain text journal article or blog posting.

In terms of mechanics, here are some quibbles:
  • It was hard to tell at a glance whether an upcoming intersection of words offered a free choice or forced the player in a specific direction. It was also hard to tell whether a choice had been registered. Words were highlighted in RED when they were hovered over, but the selection model was not mouse click but hover until some sort of timing threshold had been reached. It seems like more could have been done with sound and visuals to let players know when choices were available and to confirm choices that had been made.
  • The "game" seemed more like a QTE than an action or adventure game. There was a lot of linear exposition (like watching a cinematic) and only brief moments of interactivity. In some ways, it was really just like a dialog tree that required you to read the text options slowly, word by word, before making a choice. The problem is that when it comes to written text, the drama comes from the meaning of the text and not the speed at which words are revealed. In other words, I wonder whether the game would have been any more or less "fun" had I just been presented with a standard dialog tree where I could read phrases more quickly and choose from options more efficiently.
  • The choices were rather limited. Moreover, there was no real way to anticipate the potential consequences of your choices through moment-to-moment game play. After playing through the experience a few times I caught on to what the author was getting at and could "guess right" when it came to making a choice, but this experience was unlike normal learning by playing in which you figure out a game through the feedback it provides on your moment-to-moment actions.
  • There didn't seem to be any obvious "game over" screen. There was no score, no "you failed" or any kind of victory salutation (like the display of credits). This was actually more severe than just a polish issue: I wasn't sure whether I had broken the game or had exited gracefully. It just seemed to stop providing me with a way to proceed.
All in all, it was an interesting experience and I'll check out more of Paolo Pedercini's work. It seems he's done a bunch of advergames and subvergames (subversive games) worth checking out.

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