What makes the perfect video game? It’s a difficult question because there’s no single right answer. Everyone has their own favourite genre, gameplay mechanic, art-style and narrative direction – so what makes a title amazing to one player is going to turn another off.
mckliz from McKenna Talks About Games gave her nominees the chance to ponder this while sharing a Sunshine Blogger Award earlier this month, after asking what a release designed by them would be like. I have a feeling that elements from Celeste or The Legend of Zelda releases might feature in her own response to her question! This post is dedicated to this blogger and covers the elements that would make up my own perfect game and, if it’s ever made, you can be sure I’ll be following her tips for the perfect night-in while playing it.
I don’t think there’s any doubt which genre my video game is going to fall under. Everyone who regularly visits Later Levels will know I’m all about adventures so this release is definitely going to be a point-and-click! They encompass everything I love most about gaming: great characters, an amazing storyline which goes through plenty of twists, and gameplay where you have to use your brain in order to progress. Now let’s dig into those elements a bit further to find out what the player is getting themselves into…
Although some people prefer to play as a character who’s totally different to themselves, I like strong female protagonists who aren’t afraid to speak their mind. Think Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn, Zoë from the Dreamfall games and Commander Shepard from Mass Effect. ‘Strong’ doesn’t necessarily mean perfect though; each have their flaws and weaknesses, and their vulnerabilities are shown during their storylines. Give me someone who’s relatable and worthy of looking up to regardless of their background.
My favourite stories are usually those grounded in reality but where something is a little ‘off’. They start with an inciting incident in the real-world, either during the present day or near future, and it soon becomes apparent its cause is something very unusual: a parallel universe, time-travel or rogue artificial intelligence (AI) for example. There would be lots of secrets to uncover so you’d be left guessing all the way through, but there would be no pesky plot-holes left open by the time the end-credits rolled.
I have have to stay true to my roots: the gameplay for my release would take the form of a traditional point-and-click. I’d do away with verbs but stick to dialogue trees, inventory combinations and plenty of puzzles; and each would be carefully implemented to be a narrative channel rather than an artificial game-lengthener. There would be no character-switching so the player could get to know one protagonist fully, and after enough content to keep you going for a month you wouldn’t want to leave their world when the end credits rolled.
This is perhaps the toughest element to decide on because there are a few visual styles which appeal to me. You can’t beat a bit of photo-realism to help bring you into a title’s world but there’s something about 2D pixelated art which makes me want to jump into an adventure. However, for this release I think I’m going to go for something like that used in Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller. There’s something about that comic-book style that I think would really suit the type of storyline and protagonist I’m going for.
A lot of adventures made in the classic style forgo voice-acting and instead use display text. But I think it adds something special if done well, so let’s get in someone like Sarah Grayson – who did a superb job of voicing Samantha Greenbriar in Gone Home. The soundtrack therefore needs to be something subtle enough to not drown out her work, but with the ability to effectively highlight the current feeling through the game. Is it also possible to add in an 80s-inspired track somewhere, like on a radio in the background?
This is a one-and-done kind of video game. Many players are keen on non-linear storylines and meaningful decisions, but these mechanics can result in perfect ending pressure and are rather anxiety-inducing when you’re a perfectionist! Knowing your decisions won’t have any unintended negative effects because you’re ultimately going to arrive at the same end point as everyone else can be liberating. All you need to do is sit back, drive the game forward at your own pace and enjoy the plot as the developer intended to tell it.
One of the things I struggle with most when it comes to blogging is finding a good title for posts I’ve written. It’s therefore understandable that coming up with a name for my game is just as difficult, so I turned to my friends for their suggestions. The one I like best comes courtesy of Phil and is Call of Data. It nicely alludes to a career change I went through this summer, and seems would be fitting for a storyline where dangerous technology and AI were involved somewhere.
A huge thank you to mckliz for very kindly nominating Later Levels for the Sunshine Blogger Award – and to any developer reading this post who’d like to make the game above for me! Now, what would your own perfect video game be like?
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.