Flood Control

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Intelligent Game Design

I said I'd talk about some games. So, let's.

Elsewhere, I had a bit of a rant about indy games. (Basically, it went: complaning about the lack of innovation in gaming is like going to the multiplex to see an arthouse film.) One of the examples I bought up was Introversion's Darwinia, which is sort of like an RTS Lemmings with a TRON sort of feel to it. I'd played the first real rought demo, and remembered that they had a new one that they thought was better.

It's an excellent demo, serving as a tutorial with a self-contained plot set after the game. The Darwinian's rocket is sabotaged, and you have to take it back by first learning combat, then making new Darwinians, then using them, and finally you get this lovely set piece where your Darwinian army attacks the saboteurs on the rocket island. Very satisfying.

But that's not what grabbed me. The Darwinians are a virtual species, and their world is a computer that you see as a series of flat-shaded archipelagos. The game tells you that they built the rockets themselves, and just before you start the final part of the level, the big war, the game zooms out and shows you the world map while 'speculating' on why the Darwinians built the rocket. You see a planet and a series of interconnected stars beyond it, and you're told that the Darwinians made the stars appear because they knew that their server wasn't all there was. The stars represent all the other computers out there, and the rocket might be how the Darwinians plan to explore that virtual cosmos.

They never go so far as to say it out loud, but that's part of the genius of this little plot twist: the rocket is the demo, sending the Darwinians out of their little world and seeing other 'stars'. It's very impressive storytelling.

Anyway, here's the link to the Darwinia download page. While it's a reasonably simple game, it's fun to play and tries new things.


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