new challenger

I make games. I also play them. I talk about both activities here.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mistaken Identity

A friend of mine suggested that I start writing articles about the way I think games should be. I have no earthly idea how games should be, other than exactly what they are. This doesn’t mean I think that the games industry is perfect; rather I simply don’t think I’m in any position to proclaim anything definitive regarding issues I’ve only dabbled in professionally for a few years. So there’s no way I’m writing anything even closely resembling a manifesto. Well, I mean other than the one I’ve already written.

Instead, I’ll just write about this idea I had.

This idea came to me while misinterpreting something I saw in a screenshot, which in and of itself is kind of cool. If you think about it, my brain connected dots that only existed in my own head – it was a flaw of the brain’s ability to process images that brought about my new idea. No, I don’t know which screenshot it was, because I don’t mark events like that as an occasion. But I do remember the game – it’s called Contact, and it’s for the Nintendo DS. On certain days, Contact looks like the type of game I would never play – and what a rare type of game that is! On other days, I can imagine myself regretfully plunking down my hard-earned dollar on a game I know I should avoid (I will more than likely buy Contact). The Japanese RPG is probably my least favorite console genre. Please don’t take this statement as a challenge to either come up with a genre I should like less or to come up with a Japanese RPG that will change my mind about the genre. I liked Final Fantasy 6, so there.

Anyway, here’s what I thought I saw in Contact: I thought I saw two characters, one on each screen. They were in the exact corresponding spot on each screen, meaning that if the two screens were superimposed on top of each other, only one character would appear, because he would overlap the other. The environments on each screen had the same basic geometry, more or less, but the environment locations themselves were completely different. The top screen reflected something reasonably familiar, a science laboratory or hospital, something cold and clinical with bright fluorescent lights. The bottom screen’s environment was completely different – some sort of dark, organic, alien swamp. The two locations both had corresponding entrances and exits, as well as generally comparable navigational land masses.

I refocused my eyes on the screenshots, however, and this vision was gone.

I’m sure you’re all at least somewhat aware of Rubik’s Cube. In short, you have these six colored sides of a cube, comprised of nine mini faces on each side. The goal of the Cube is to get all 6 sides of the cube completely uniform in color. Rubik’s Cube is a puzzle because the relative position of certain mini faces with regard to one another is fixed. In other words, you cannot move faces singularly, and the orientation of one face can have a direct (constant) impact on the orientation of another; to move one face to where you want it to be, you’re going to have to bring some others along for the ride. Ideally, where the first face ends up is beneficial to the rest. Sometimes, the road to that beneficial position goes through what appears to be less-than-ideal orientations. But in the end these temporarily inconvenient positions ultimately lead towards the greater good, and the solving of the Cube.

This, in effect, is what I thought I saw in the Contact screenshot. I honestly thought there was a gameplay mechanic there in which you controlled two characters with one input – in this case the game’s d-pad and face buttons (let’s face it, the DS’s best games don’t even need the stylus). Guiding these characters through two similar but different worlds, I imagined one character on the bottom screen needing to cross a large gap, and there being a tree log close by that he could use to accomplish this. On the top screen, the other character would not have the corresponding large gap requiring a log, but the path he would have to take, pulled along by the other play’s need to get to the log, would be beset by some other challenge – say a series of undulating platforms. The player would have to negotiate the platforms on the top screen, acquire the log on the bottom screen, make it back over the gaps on the top screen again, and place the log across the large gap on the bottom screen, allowing both characters to progress to the next area. I thought this would be a pretty fun game to play. It would take some work to create enough interesting character abilities to keep each challenge fresh, and I really think you could create an intriguing enough storyline/premise to tie the whole thing together.

I’ll probably never get the chance to make a DS game, but if I did, I think I’d try to make this one. If you guys think this idea is cool, or even the worst idea you’ve ever heard, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.


  • At 5:37 PM, Blogger whiskeypail said…

    theres an old nes (or possibly even arcade) game where you control two characters on separate sides of the screen. performing one action on the d-pad controls the character on the left side and the character on the right mirrors it.
    the player must eventually lead both characters to a goal located somewhere in the level, while avoiding enemies/traps/other shit.
    if they could actually interact the idea has a lot of potential, though i think it may have been done in more games than just that one.
    i like the idea of parallel worlds though, kind of like legacy of kain or the snes zelda (which you need to play, motherfucker!).

  • At 8:46 AM, Blogger Sjors said…

    If I remember correctly, I saw a game that played something like that in a preview somewhere. I think it was in IGN, but it was for the GBA, not DS. I'm going to try and find it.

  • At 8:53 AM, Blogger Sjors said…

    Hello again. This is what I had seen in IGN. Its a preview for a game called Chronos Twin, that looks to me just like the kind of game you were talking about.

    But I havent heard anything else about this game, so I am guessing it never came out, and never will. Real shame, altough it would have been a million time better suited to the DS, you know, with the 2 screens and all.

  • At 6:06 PM, Blogger omar kendall said…

    Holy cow! Thanks for the link, I wonder what happened to this game...


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