Saturday, September 11, 2004

Reduced to Drooling Fanboy (and something about linearity)

This actually relates to the current conversation, if only a bit. The spiritual successor to the brilliant "ICO" has been announced. "Wanda and the Colossus" (official site in Japanese) isn't really a sequel to "ICO," but seems to follow the same visual style and fairytale story. Hopefully, we'll see the same deep emotional experience, as well. To say that I'm excited about this is an extreme understatement.

The one problem I had with "ICO," as I alluded to in the previous post, is that the player has very little impact on what happens. You either lose and die or succeed and see the end of the story. There is only one storyline. What you do as a player has no impact on that story. Perhaps this is how they were able to engineer such an emotional experience. Having only one storyline certainly makes it easier to use cinematic narrative techniques, especially in the heavy use of cutscenes. On the other hand, the emotion was also heavily reinforced by the gameplay. Sure, you were solving spacial puzzles (as in "Tomb Raider" or "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time"), but the key component of many of the puzzles was the girl, Yorda, who must come with you but can't access all the places you can. You have ways to move her around, grabbing her hand and pulling her, calling to her, etc. Although Yorda's existence in the game can be seen as purely mechanical (after all you "die" if she is captured by the shadow spirits), the animation and sound design enhance these mechanics to the point where they become expressive tools that convey emotion and hook the player into actually caring.

So... my big question is this: Can you use emotionally expressive gameplay mechanics in a more emergent (or at least multi-linear) story structure? Could "Wanda and the Colossus" have the same emotional impact with a more player directed story?

[UPDATE] Here's some screenshots for the fans.


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