Tuesday, March 6, 2012

'I am alive' - faux climbing tension?

I was watching the above demo of 'I am alive' (it's in the first four minutes) and here's a thing: Although it was a demo, it has you climbing and using up your stamina bar.

But really all those climbs are set pieces - the designers and playtesters have played through that and know the exact amount of stamina that will be lost.

It's not like in, say, nethack, where a particular area of dungeon is randomised and you know part of the random elements and so can strategize, in such a case the randomisation might very well mean its not survivable. Or it is, but maybe your strategy wont be good enough?

Here, if I'm understanding it, its a fixed, predecided climb with no strategic element (you just push in the right direction). Well, apart from hitting the extra effort button furiously.

Though I guess you have to see the right direction coming in time. Maybe when you play, especially for the first time, it's hard to know those right directions to climb and that's the uncertainty point that gives game?

Or the raw illusion of doing it all then badum, badum your stamina meter is down and OMG quick bash that button and...

Except it isn't a tension moment where things are going wrong. The designer set it to be that way.

Well, it was the tutorial level and also maybe the combats the real dealio, eh?

1 comment:

  1. Currently playing through the game and rather enjoying it, I can tell you there's considerably more to the climbing than a single fixed path traversing which the stamina doesn't really matter--like you say, the video shows a tutorial. Once the player has made it to the mall and is tasked with finding medicine for a child, things start taking off. The tension (which is both abundant and genuine) stems from a combination of there being in a typical situation multiple climbing paths (at times almost like a maze of sorts) and managing one's resources wisely; pitons--items that allow the player to set up a resting point in the middle of a climb--are fairly rare, for instance. While climbing, the player will be faced with a shitload of choices: should they risk being kicked back to the start of the chapter trying to reach that ledge with the first aid kit while low on stamina, pitons and other items? How does the player even get there? Having gotten to the item, should the player use it in full knowledge that someone else may need it much more desperately?
    That last bit excepted, there are environmental puzzles in this game that rival those of the Prince of Persia trilogy--not in terms of aesthetically pleasing acrobatics, but certainly in terms of sheer tension, of which no other game to feature climbing really has any.