Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

1 September, 2007

Weekend Design Challenge: Exploration games
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 5:51 AM

I’m posting something to entertain you since updates might be sparse next week: Nifflas’ Games.

There’s three games there, and all of them have a heavy focus on exploration. The newest is Knytt Stores, but they’re all good. If you want to do some design thinking, consider how these games emphasize exploration instead of sustained conflict with opponents.

Careful, though, if you’re a serious Explorer type, these games are like pure crack. Especially “Knytt Stories”, since you can download additional content and more levels for the game! It’s kept me occupied for the past week.

Some other things to consider:

Describe the games in literary terms. For example, the games tend to focus on the conflict of protagonist vs. environment instead of against other specific opponents.

Compare these games to other focused games like Shadow of the Colossus. Does these games effectively boil the explorations aspects down to the pure form? Is it too pure? Or, perhaps, not pure enough?

Could you do something similar for online games? Or, does it rely too much on content to be feasible?

For bonus points, create a level in Knytt Stores and post a link here. :)

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  1. …and I was going to have such a productive morning!

    I loved playing [i]Knytt[/i] a while back, and I had forgotten [i]Stories[/i] was on the works. Thanks for the heads-up.

    I’ve played the first story so far, and I’m scared to boot the second one. Frankly, I preferred Knytt — I found Stories to have too much of a focus on enemies and its Metroid-like path/item structure. What I liked most about Knytt was traversing its world and exploring all the different themes and music… I love the little critters and characters that are spread across the map, even if they don’t affect the game at all. And the music is phenomenally minimalistic.

    I find your comparing it with [i]Shadow of the Colossus[/i] very accurate — while playing SotC (which I hold as one of the Great Games) I’d very often explore different paths, even knowing that I wouldn’t find my target there, just so I could stop Agro near the top of a cliff, watch the sea and listen to the wind. Man, that game is freakin’ beautiful. A friend of mine occasionaly pops it in just to hear to the opening song while he’s doing something else. He’s buying the art book, incidentally.

    Back to [i]Knytt Stories[/i] (which I affectionately call [i]Knytt with Lasers[/i]). Nifflas is doing a great job. The level editor is a wonderful addition, and I can’t wait to see what else is going to pop up. I hope more exploration-focused things come along, and maybe some xenology, as in Myst — never mind the puzzles, I mean the whole “what does this do? What is that thing? Is this useful? Ooooh, look, more text! Ah, look at them, they were young… Who is that woman?” feeling. Good exploration games, I think, should not as much be of the “protagonist vs. the environment” variety as much as they should be about learning. Curiosity. Climbing all the way to the top just to see what’s on the other side. Kinda like a free-form Freeway.

    Part of the fun in WoW for me was exploring the different environments. Playing as a low-level newbie Gnomish Warlock, I had to go visit a quest-giver in the Barrens. It was my first trip to the western lands. A mid-level friend guided me there through the long way, with no little peril to ourselves. It was lots of fun. After that I took many trips by myself to different places, just so I could see the sights. Guild members in their 60s and 70s offered to come with me as guides and bodyguards. They meant well, but I always refused. For me, the challenge was getting to these places where I shouldn’t be and try to explore the most I could, taking by the beautiful sights, even while keeping an eye open for any Horde activity. That was very cool.

    I guess user-created content could help an online game achieve this. Think LambdaMOO. But it’s the same as always with user-created content — you just can’t rely on it. I mean, there’s lots of good stuff to come from there, but it lacks warranties.


    Comment by Shade — 1 September, 2007 @ 9:59 AM

  2. Knytt

    [...] has a post up about Knytt Stories (PC), the sucessor of the wonderful Knytt (PC). The latter is an exploration [...]

    Pingback by On Gaming — 1 September, 2007 @ 10:24 PM

  3. The Ultima Series more than any other really cleared the path for CRPGs to have a place in my heart, despite my table-top RPG background and all the game-snobbery that came along with it: and even with its non-stop kill, loot, and level game-play that any modern MMO gamer would call “The Treadmill”… Ultima games always struck me as “exploration” games.

    The level-up requirements were just obstacles to ensure that every flower along the path had been smelled.

    I think these days it just wouldn’t do at all to have such an obvious metaphor for world exploration as those had: exploration of the world.

    ‘Seems the worlds tend to be fairly small, leveling more “the point of the game” and quick, meaningless at max

    Speaking of which, once levels no longer gate content, additional content is either instantly available or gated by other mechanisms: Those are much hated, since the whole game has taught a contrary natural law.

    But back to the point, exploration winds-up being served way, way up at a meta-level with the fansites, forums and blogs; and way, way down with the devils, in the sub-atomic cosmos where game mechanic interactions produce mysterious details that can only ever be seen or measured, but never both.

    Here is my exploration game:

    Requires java script, cookies, and a Yahoo! sign-on (Note: I will never know what your Yahoo! sign-on even is, let alone any of your user-info.

    Tested in FireFox, not so much in anything else.

    And sorry, I didn’t have time to optimize it. Probably you should skip it if not on broadband.

    Comment by Jeff Freeman — 4 September, 2007 @ 2:07 AM

  4. A tiny idea I had for extra exploration aspects to online games was to randomise the locations of certain items for players, e.g. magical tablets that upgrade their armor or something. Sort of an overlay of sorts that only they would see.

    Pro: Explorers have to explore to find them. No looking up the spot on google.
    Con: Achievers would complain they had to find them to make their characters better

    Comment by Jpoku — 5 September, 2007 @ 11:49 AM

  5. and Jeff : your game is just silly ;op

    “You explored the hell out of that place. Awesome!”

    Comment by Jpoku — 5 September, 2007 @ 1:00 PM

  6. Design Challenge: Exploration

    [...] Brian mentions, an exploration type of game, are about the protagonist vs. the environment (PvE), I would [...]

    Pingback by — 22 September, 2007 @ 1:53 PM

  7. links for 2007-10-04

    [...] Psychochild’s Blog » Weekend Design Challenge: Exploration games There’s three games there, and all of them have a heavy focus on exploration. The newest is Knytt Stores, but they’re all good. If you want to do some design thinking, consider how these games emphasize exploration instead of sustained conflict with oppon (tags: 2007 mes9 dia4 at_tecp exploration_games exploração blog_post knytt) [...]

    Pingback by rascunho — 4 October, 2007 @ 1:24 PM

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