Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ruined: Looking Back Part 1

This is the first entry in a series of reflections on our most recent project, Ruined. Think of it as the team looking in the mirror… and then taking a picture, and showing it to everyone on the Internet.

Today, we will focus on a perhaps controversial trait of the platformer… Difficulty.


The world we find in Ruined is one full of peril and mystique, and the protagonist Alec finds himself in a dire situation. Fixing his ship will require a trip scaling the entire area, and successfully taking care of both environmental dangers and malicious beasts. This task does not sound like it could be easily accomplished, and the game itself follows suit with the harshness of the situation.

If you have played Ruined and played it for even a little amount of time, it's safe to say that you probably faced difficulty of some sort. Playing it the whole way through, however, is something only an extremely skilled player can accomplish.

Does this serve as an extreme turnoff to the novice player, or does it re-establish ideas that go back to the early days of the art of video games? It's possible that both of these are true.

This boss is among the hardest points of the game.

First, let's consider Ruined's audience. The game is directed towards indie gamers, of course, and a lot of these players have been challenged with games much more difficult than Ruined. It is also directed towards those who have enjoyed other Metroidvania style games, a genre synonymous with an unforgiving fury of platforming hell.

Let's look at Pac-Man, an immortal entity which remains a recognized force in culture decades after its original release. The game has been played by gamers of all kinds of experience, and cherished by many. It is addicting not because of a simplicity and ease of victory, yet due to the long intervals of time between wins, and the unlikeliness of completing a board. People would continuously pop quarters into the machine because they either succeeded with their last quarter, or more likely, feel they could greatly improve with the next play.

The hermit helps you, but brute strength is not enough to survive.

In conclusion, the difficulty is justified, yet perhaps the game is just a little too hard. Pac-Man constantly rewards players, keeping them focused. Ruined, however, spits out challenge after challenge, rarely rewarding players for their accomplishments, beyond giving them another, harder one. However, completing a difficult task in general gives a person reinforcement, and succeeding in Ruined can create quite the sense of accomplishment for a person. Ruined follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, delivering an extremely difficult adventure for its players.

Thanks for reading the first installment of this series. Remember that this is a reflection from a developer of the game, not an outside reviewer. This is meant to serve as a way to notice mistakes and self-evaluate, is posted on the blog in order to receive further feedback from those who have played the game.

Note: Ethan is a spriter and game designer for Abscure.

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