Play/Design Log

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I've been doing a lot of playing lately, of things all over the spectrum and often not in good range of an online writing tool.  Nevertheless, I'd like to capture some or all of those activities.  So!

Played in the last week ...
Played in the last week:

  • Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery: EP - This iPad game has been hotly anticipated for several years now, and I've got to say ... it does live up to the hype.  At least the hype I found.  Ars Technica has a nice review that says most of what I'd have to say about it.  It appeals to me as a "lonely game", a genre that I really enjoy.  I haven't seen that term thrown around much, so it might be worth an entry here sometime, but the gist is that "lonely game"s often start with a lone character in a largely empty but beautiful or eerie world, trying to figure out what's going on.  Exploration, discovery, puzzling are the mechanics; atmosphere and mystery are the aesthetics. S:S&S:EP is all that on a LucasArts-style point-and-click UI on the iPad.

  • Agricola - If you're in any board game circles, or go to PAX, or ever visit BoardGameGeek, you might be sick of hearing about this game.  I'm really enjoying it, so you could soon get sick of hearing about it here.  It's a well-balanced game, which is remarkable considering the 34,000 elements that a regular game keeps moving.  It plays smoothly with two players or with five, if you're willing to give it the recommended 30 min/player (and then some).  My wife and I tied twice this week, a remarkable achievement.

  • Tiny Wings - This iPhone game makes me smile, and I think that's part of the point.  You guide a little round bird, who has the titular Tiny Wings, which don't let him fly very well.  Fortunately, his world is composed of round sine-wave hills, so he can zoom down one slope and ski-jump off the upslope.  There's one button - you touch the screen, and the bird dives so that he can zoom.  Then up the next slope, you let go, and he does his best to fly in a parabolic arc.  Do it just right and you get the most satisfying feeling as you time the jumps and the poor little bird gets to pretend to fly until nightfall.   The design of this game is so elegant, so simple, and the art style perfectly suited to it, that it's hard to think of a cleaner, more perfectly realized game.  I'm pleased as well that the central experience that the game works to create in the player is a combination of focus, hope, and joy.

  • Marple - This is a fairly simple logic puzzle for the iPhone/iPad, with play that feels a lot like sudoku.  Like many such puzzles, it's just a matter of time before you figure it out, and a lot of the play is just a matter of quickly and adroitly processing the clues.  What has gotten me in this one is that each game takes 2-5 minutes, generally, and I enjoy the turning point as I've figured out enough of the puzzle that the rest begins to fall into place.

  • D&D 3.5e - On Friday I ran, for the first time in several years, an adventure in Dungeons and Dragons.  The game isn't new to me, though I was a bit rusty after several years away; but it was new to three of the five players, who'd never played a tabletop RPG at all.  It was wild to start from "So I'm going to describe what's going on, and you will each play a character and tell me what you do."  The group picked it up quickly, and we had fun. I was a little frustrated, as the story was only just getting going when we ran out of time, but we hit all my instructional goals: the group gathering, a social encounter, a social conflict encounter, a tactical combat encounter, and a chance to wander around collecting information.  One thing that hit me was all of the seemingly ancillary experiences that came so quickly and forcefully back when I got behind the DM's screen again.  The nervousness and sense of underpreparation.  The joy of getting into character with a player, doing the same.  Watching players slowly figure out a puzzle I'd put before them.  Seeing throw-away comments come back as role-playing hooks for other players.  It made me really want to run a regular group again.  However, it also surprised me with a fresh look at 3.5e D&D ... my goodness, but that's a lot of setup for characters for new players.  And even for experienced players, so many fiddly numbers, all the time, and so many situations and exemptions and rules.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Scott Price published on March 27, 2011 8:08 PM.

Time in Galcon was the previous entry in this blog.

On Reading Raph Koster's A Theory of Fun is the next entry in this blog.

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