More choices

I just noticed a user review of Desert Bridge in TIGdb, and felt I needed to remark on a couple of points it makes. I hope my posts about reviews don’t feel like I’m constantly being defensive; I’m mainly writing this to illuminate game design choices I made, in the interest of furthering discussion/thought on these matters.

Navigation is awkward at best; it takes a while to get used to the idea that each room is 4 screens, one in each direction, and even then it’s easy to get turned around. There’s no map function, making navigation even more difficult.

I’m not sure what to say about the first point. I realize that the idea of each room having four views is not how most modern games do it (and why should they; they have a different graphical style). But it’s not like this is some weird idea that I dreamed up. In older games – which Desert Bridge is very much modelled after – this was pretty normal. I guess some of these old conventions are being forgotten, which is also normal, but a bit of a problem for an old-school game… not sure where this train of thought leads.

The lack of a map is, indeed, sometimes confusing, and I considered including one at some point. But that just didn’t feel right in terms of the concept. Besides, what’s wrong with making your own map? We’re used, these days, to being spoonfed everything – but I actually think that making maps and jotting down notes is fun – and enormously immersive. Games like Desert Bridge are an intellectual exercise, after all. It’s worth playing them a little differently.

Menus are a bit unreliable, you can only use actions on things that are puzzle-specific, and thus, you can’t take a closer look at any of the myriad possible red herrings and other potential easter egg spots… some people would consider this a good thing, but I still have fond memories of licking a building in the opening screens of Space Quest IV to find Roger Wilco responding with “MMM! Wild berry!”

I’m not sure what “menus are a bit unreliable” means. I hope it doesn’t mean that there are any bits where menus don’t respond – as far as I know, everything you can do in the game will get you a response. I made sure of that.

The simplicity of the interaction with the environment – well, obviously that was a conscious choice. Having multiple interaction icons/verbs/cursors/whatever would add an unnecessary amount of frustration, making the game’s internal logic much harder to understand. I also have very fond memories of some of the odder respones you could get in some games – Quest for Glory comes to mind – but the House at Desert Bridge is weird enough without making the interaction more complex.

Since every single response you can get in the game is specific (and there is a LOT of them), changing interaction in this way would also have meant having to write even more incredible amounts of text, or sacrificing the specificity of the responses. Neither was a reasonable option. Keeping interaction simple and content complex is a choice I am very happy with.

The main part of this game that I was frustrated with, navigation aside, was the download. 40 megs normally isn’t bad for me, but it took a dozen attempts – each time I tried, it crapped out around the 80% mark. Frustration, thy name is “no mirrors available”.

A couple of people reported problems with downloading the game at one point – I think the servers were being updated at one point, which is probably what caused the problem. But I would love more mirrors. Well, having any mirrors at all, actually. If anyone has any good suggestions…