November 12, 1988

Still not enough.

What’s the point in running, running to get to the exit, if all it gets you is more of the same?

The princess waiting at the end is a reward only in the story. We need rewards in the game – like beating a guard in Karateka. What makes a game fun? Tension/release, tension/release. Prince of Persia has neither.  It’s like going on a 25-mile hike. Every now and then, you get to step over a log or cross a stream. Big deal.

Running, jumping, and climbing, no matter how beautifully animated, hold your attention for maybe the first three screens. Then you start to wonder: when is something going to happen? Like: a guard to fight. An airplane to shoot down. Something.

There need to be sub-goals. Places where you can say: “Whew! Did it! That was a tough one!…What’s next?”

Like:

- clearing a screen in Asteroids or Pac-Man

- beating a guard in Karateka

- solving a level in Lode Runner

Right now, solving a level in Prince of Persia has none of the feeling of accomplishment of any of these. It’s more like “Oh… so that’s the end. Oh.”

What elements do All of the Above share?

1. You can tell at any moment, by glancing at the screen, how close you are to finishing, how much is left.

2. There are setbacks and successes on the road to ultimate success. You get a smaller version of the “Whew! Did it!” when, say, you clear a difficult area (Pac-Man), or drive a guard back with a series of blows (Karateka), or retrieve a hard-to-get sack (Lode Runner). Conversely, you get the “Oh, shit…” reaction when you accidentally split up a bunch of bigger asteroids into more smaller, faster ones; or when you finish a pattern and see that you’ve missed one dot; etc. Some setbacks are fatal, some are just irritating. But when they happen, you feel they’re your own fault.

3. You can hold off on the next task, waiting for the right moment, before saying “OK… Now” and going for it… plunging into a period of higher tension, higher chance of either a setback or success.

Persia has none of these features at present.

If the sub-goal is “solving the level,” you need a consistent visual indicator of how close you are. You don’t just stumble onto the exit and say “Oh—guess I’m done.” Or stumble onto a sack of gold and say “Oh—here’s another one.” That’s why collect-the-dots games like Lode Runner and Pac-Man always show the entire screen at once. That’s key.

But POP doesn’t show the entire screen at once. That’s a problem.

Posted on Nov 12, 1988 in Old Journals | 0 comments

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