Thursday, November 26, 2009

Spirit Tracks: A Different Challenge

Here are some quotes from an interview:

"One of our lead planners for the game is a programmer, so he has a different, more scientific or mathematical approach, so to say, to creating puzzles," he wrote to Kotaku. Aonuma is the producer on Spirit Tracks.

"Development team members, including [senior Nintendo developer] Mr. [Takashi] Tezuka and myself, actually got stuck in several places. So the dungeons and puzzles pose a different type of challenge than what we have utilized in previous games, and will certainly require longtime Zelda fans to approach each challenge differently. "

Getting more specific, he noted: "I believe that the latter half of the Tower of Spirits dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks — [which] players will revisit throughout the game — has puzzles which require a different type of approach from those of previous games."

If you've read my The Difficulty of Zelda article, you probably remember, that this was one of my suggestions. Making new kinds of puzzles, that are different and even tend to go against the usual thinking of a Zelda fan. We will see, if Nintendo was actually successful with this. I'm taking the challenge.

One of my other suggestions was to keep the game as non-linear as possible and don't let the story take control over the player. It's boring, if you always have to go from A to B. You should always the freedom to explore the world freely, play dungeons in different order, hit dead ends by yourself and so on. Twilight Princess completely took away the freedom from the player just to tell its not-so-good story. Sean Malstrom described this very well in one of his recent blog posts:

The “non-linearity” of early Zelda games had nothing to do with it being ‘disguised’. It had everything to do with the lack of text, the lack of dialogue, and the lack of cinematics and story. In the earlier Zeldas, you could go into dungeons into different order. Sure, you had to get a special item sometimes, but you could do it. With the earlier Zeldas, the overworld allowed different experiences to be had each time you played the game. While Link to the Past clearly shows how the vicegrip of “story” and “cinematics” were increasing, once in the Dark World Link is fully free to go wherever he pleases and however he pleases. He has to get some items first, sure.

Modern Zeldas ram a story down your throat. You don’t have much part at all in defining this story. No. Your role is to do nothing more than to move to a certain location or to kill a certain monster to trigger the next cinematic while gives you the next goal. The game becomes predictable. There are no surprises because you, the player, have no control over the story of the game. The more detailed the story becomes, the less control the player has.

And the stories suck anyway. Video game developers are crappy story tellers.

Right now it doesn't look like Spirit Tracks will be non-linear and not too much story guided, even the tracks on the land have to be unlocked, which is a bad joke. However, Phantom Hourglass on the other hand let you play the last three dungeons in any order, when you got the third and fourth sea chart from the Ocean King Temple in one run. Maybe the Tower of Spirits in Spirit Tracks will offer a similar approach and you can get the last two maps at once, if you're good. But overall Spirit Tracks doesn't seem to offer an open overworld, it's very important to go back to the open overworld design, that we had in the first Zelda game and Ocarina of Time. On the one hand it adds a massive feeling of freedom and exploration to the game, which is important for an Adventure game, and on the other hand it makes the game automatically more challenging, if the player has to figure out for himself, where to go next.

Sean Malstrom's Article News

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