Forgive this a small, digression as I briefly summarize. I confess, that when I first considered the Blogging Assignment at the begining of 670, I thought this was going to be easy, in fact I was certain this last posting was going to be cake. Frankly it’s turned out to be the most frustrating of the processes. For some reason, I found myself considering a bunch of okay ideas, but none so great. The irony is, that I’m sure I’d had the perfect idea for this last blog post come to me the moment I first read about it, free of pre-conceived notions. Yet, three months, and X times Y times Z amount of gaming, motivational, fun theory later – my perspective may have become a bit skewed and complicated. I’ve noticed this phenomenon as I’ve continued to tweak my own work in both group projects as well. The rewrites, re-edits, and reconfigurations I’ve faced-off with in my own corners of our project, have had me struggling with balancing logic against fun, against design – sometimes taking two steps back to gain momentum forward again. I liken it to strategizing while in the middle of a game of chess – but more, I think like writing fiction, in particular a script. I’ve done that a few times in my life and have learned that the art of developing, breaking and outlining stories is crucial, in part due to the linear nature of plot. Be cautious of where you step, whence you find yourself 10 blocks and 40 pages in the wrong direction needing to back track out of an unforeseen issue. To me game design has similar potential pitfalls – save the linear constraints, (which is a huge bonus). The iterative process frees many of the obstructions to creative flexibility, still I’ve found the struggle is there. It’s sort of like an artistic struggle, challenging, frustrating and sometimes, hopefully rewarding.
Okay, what does that have to do with this last post? Probably not as much as
I’d originally thought. But the good news is my original inspiration for this story returned to me out of the blue. And I think it’s as germane as I first considered it, at the beginning of this course. So I’m writing about a game that I’ve now twice become addicted and broken free of, called Line Rider.
If you recall with any fondness, the children’s story Harold and the Purple Crayon, you may appreciate the ingenuity of Line Rider. A simple, but ingenious idea, Line Rider is a Flash-based online game that allows you to draw a continuous path for a sled or motorcycle rider (depending on the version you’re playing) who travels along the path and picks up speed relying on a combination of gravity, momentum, energy, (possibly friction) and potentially other complex principles of Physics that may, or may not, be involved in the underlying design, depending upon which Bloggers you believe. Frankly, “game” may not even be the right term for Line Rider, it is like a puzzle or an exercise in observation and application. The rules may not always make logical sense, but you will soon pick up on the nuances.
My most recent obsession with Line Rider came at the expense of the productivity of several of my colleagues at an Investment Bank I used to work in. (Ironically, it was the first of the big ones to fail, no doubt in part due do the distractions of Line Rider). As the game spread from cubicle to office to cubicle, throughout the floor, a dozen or so analysts, associates, VPs and even Directors joined the cult, squealing and contoring as they watched their latest creations attempt to out cool one another’s course design, while building and improving upon previous attempts. Because the free version of the game does not allow you to save games the guy at the desk adjacent to my office actually left his computer on all night and weekends with the game site screen up so as not to lose his ongoing game.
Line Rider does not come with an eraser per se, but does allow you to draw over mistakes you’ll inevitably make. What at first seems to be an innocuous bump in your line, once tested may turnout to be a lethal launching pad. Early on you simply cannot anticipate the momentum your rider may have approaching any given section. What adds to the enjoyment are the happy mistakes you’ll make along the way, something that was clearly a mistake, may cause your rider to take off in some way you’d not anticipated, allowing you to build more bridges, slopes, bumps, jumps, to take him or her in any number of directions in this infinite space in which the game exists. Needless to say, there are some amazing compositions of Line Rider online. Amazing. uh…mazing.
I have never been a great student of the hard science or mathematics, so I cannot attest to what, if any, formulas or principles of design might play a role in the quality of the design of the game. It certainly is not necessary to think in such terms to enjoy process. If you’re never played it, I encourage you to try. But wait until the holidays. You’ll want the extra time to recover.