After a meticulous and extensive selection process (read: I read everything I could get on my screen on the matter), I come to you with the first indie PC game of the column: Resonance. Rather than get bogged down in a discussion of what it means to be an ‘indie’ game, or the differences between PC games and console games, I’m going to start with a very quick but comprehensive disclaimer about my views on the subject.
Quite simply, a game is a game. I don’t really care much if it was developed by a team of hundreds or one guy, or whether I’m playing with a controller or a keyboard. I’m not too fussed about how it looks (though eye candy is nice), and I tend to have more games than I have time in which to play them.
This means that whatever can be said for the ‘value’ of a cheap game, I really just want the most memorable experiences and the most enjoyment I can get for my time. While I know some of you will disagree (and I respect that), that’s just where I stand as a gamer. In other words, ‘indie game’ is not an excuse to be anything less than a good game (similarly being a AAA-game with a great lineage isn’t a free pass), and it’s a challenge I think plenty of titles are ready to accept.
The Play’s the Thing
Glad that’s out of the way. Resonance is a heavily story-driven game from last year in which the player controls four different characters in an attempt to navigate the twists, turns and challenges of the plot. The gameplay looks like it leans heavily on ‘pick up this, interact with that, how do I proceed now’ style, staples of the Adventure genre, probably with a simple point-and-click interface.
Which brings me around to the first thing I hope I like about Resonance: the gameplay. How does pointing-and-clicking in Resonance compare to, for example, navigating the choices in 999 (something I’ve talked about in the past) or the sequel Zero’s Escape? Or how does it compare to the combination of pointing-and-clicking, player control and fast reactions in, say, The Walking Dead, or Heavy Rain?
All these games are acclaimed for their narrative, and it’s fantastic that the player can explore the choices and possibilities of these stories through actions. In the end, though, I’m curious about what each game can add or do differently with gameplay beyond just having the same sort of stuff with a different (though probably brilliant) story.
999 impressed me with the way I felt I was guided to pay attention to the characters and story, which in turn affected my gameplay. The Walking Dead (though I’ve not seen it to the end yet) and Heavy Rain highlight a back and forth between simple choices and some combination of quick-thinking, control and pure reflexes in order to ‘earn’ the right to push the narrative in the direction you want. I’m looking forward to seeing how much of this Resonance takes on, and what surprises it might have in store.
What I Want, When I Want It
In one of my first posts here at Turn Based Living, I talked about the pacing of a game (in that case, Xenoblade Chronicles). The more games I play with this in mind, the more important I’ve come to realise it is, all the more so in a game which is likely to be longer than a sitting or two and is asking me to get immersed. The most universal lesson I’ve drawn from recent games in this vein is the idea of convenient gameplay.
I strongly believe games should have challenges to overcome. All the same, controlling a game shouldn’t be challenging, and getting to the enjoyment of the game shouldn’t be challenging. My most frustrating game experiences stem from these issues, and conversely my most enjoyed games consistently get the controls and overall convenience right.
Control systems and interfaces are always evolving. For example, I like the option to have little nodes on interact-able objects in The Walking Dead; if you’re going to arbitrarily limit what I can do in the world, then telling me what I can do goes a long way to buying my good will. And if the game is somehow not interesting when I’m given this kind of information, there are probably other issues with the gameplay.
It may sound simple, but things like repeated dialogue skipping, fast travel and easy saving (in the likes of 999, Zero’s Escape, Xenoblade, and even Fire Emblem: Awakening, just to name a few) add a lot to the experience of exploring a narrative and a setting. They, in turn, enable me to spend more time interacting with the actual game. Here’s hoping the developers of Resonance (even if it predates many of these games) had similar ideas in mind during its creation.
Engaging the Audience
What I’m asking for from Resonance is simply put: innovative gameplay and convenient control of the experience. At the same time, these things are so difficult (speaking both from the legions of games that don’t quite get it right and my own recent struggles in game design). It wouldn’t be a stretch to say I hope for these elements in all games, but I’m reminded of them as I head into a game that highlights narrative all the more so. Let me know what you think – am I being too straightforward? What games do you think really added innovation to ‘Adventure’ games? How have control systems or implementation of ‘convenience’ impressed or disappointed you personally?
As a side note, it seems somehow appropriate to me that I recently sat down to watch Sony’s big reveal of the PS4 and couldn’t help but laugh at the repeated words ‘simple’ and ‘convenient’. Much of it struck me as the couple minute announcement of system and controller, and then an hour or more of repeating words that ultimately just need to be proven in practice. At the same time, I won’t fault them for the focus – just as games can strive to be an extension of the player in a virtual setting, systems can strive to be easy to control and convenient as an interface between a gamer (and the developer!) and everything related to, but outside, the game.