Game design and mechanics in games that gamers don’t play: Part Two


Sprung is essentially a dating game. Everything in it plays out as a conversation. Its arguably not really a pure dialogue tree in the way that “We Are Nowhere” (which Sprung inspired me to make) is since it has an inventory system with items that you can try to use at any time but for the most part it really is just a series of conversations. I haven’t checked any reviews but according to Wikipedia it was generally disliked. I’m not really totally disagreeing with or surprised by its negative reception. Dating sim isn’t really a genre that’s thought very highly of by gamers to begin with and well the writing is somewhat humorous I’m not going to try and pretend its some kind of shakespearean masterpiece. Still the writing is bearable, each burst of dialogue is kept short (there are no boringly long cut scene style walls of text to read before you can respond), the presentation is good and the concept is amazing. I really think this is an ideal option with which to convey an interactive story. Its definitely more appealing to me then the route taken by Heavy Rain (played the demo and hated it). The games real downfall though is something that Heavy Rain has supposedly avoided. You can fail and when you do its game over and you need to just restart the scene. knowing that you need to accomplish the scenes goal discourages you from saying what your really thinking or even what you think is the most interesting or amusing and instead forces you to just say what you suspect the other person wants you to say. Is that intentional commentary on dating or even social interactions in general? Probably not. I’m betting they just didn’t want to do the work of having a legitimately branching or adaptive story.

The Urbz: Sims in the City

To be clear the DS version is the only one I’ve played and its the one I’m talking about now. Unlike traditional Sims games you aren’t playing the role of an omnipotent sky bully with the power to remove ladders from pools or block bathroom doors but instead your given direct control over a singular lowly Sim person. You need to keep feeding and entertaining and reliving yourself to remain happy and healthy. Since both states seem to degrade at the same speed the need to sleep makes the need to sit completely redundant and pointless and more importantly all of the states seem to degrade way too fast which makes actually accomplishing anything an unrealistic pleasantry as you spend most of your time struggling to sufficiently eat, urinate, shower, watch TV and sleep in time. But even so I like the idea even if I would prefer it to be toned down. I wish more games had the player your controlling to have states beyond the usual RPG cliches. I’m sure there have been several games to do this but the only other example I can think of is your ability to become overweight in San Andreas. Another cool thing is the ability to make small talk with NPCs. The way it works is that your presented with a list of randomly selected topics, you choose one, they respond (every NPC has one unique pre written response to every topic) and depending on the person or topic they will grow to like or dislike you because of it. It quickly devolves to just memorizing who likes what subjects and then brute forcing it by repeatedly talking to them about those same topics to get them to like you. But its a nice idea.