Work-In-Progress Spotlights
April 6th, 2009 by Scud

Rhunion

A project by YoshiX100000

After the hi-jinks of last Wednesday (I can safely say that HeavenGames in now under our ownership again, but now every single member of staff is short of a kidney) it is back to our normal format Spotlight, meaning no more lies or fiction unlike last week's special (which I hope you all enjoyed, and a big thank you to BeserkerJerker who played along with it). So now we are back in the realms of reality... actually, I DO tell a lie, for this week the previewed project is Rhunion. Brace yourself for an interesting and amusing puzzle scenario that is filled with logics puzzles and other brain-teasers set in the heart of a dark magical jungle that holds many secrets for the player to uncover. But who would make such a thing, do they not know that our community doesn't hold the greatest minds that walked the earth - how on earth will we cope with logic puzzles? It seems YoshiX100000 is the one who over-estimates us feeble-minded sugar-addicted folk, so prepare to have a few sore heads and smashing your keyboards in frustration as we take a look at this perplexing little puzzler.

It seems we've been here before however, a boat shipwrecking on a tropical island that holds many secrets for the play to explore and uncover, seems awfully familiar does it not? And I suppose it is true, with no offense to Yoshi, that this is a quite common theme among the community at the moment and such a move can be written off as being unimaginative and lazy. However, the setting may be the same, but the content and gameplay of the scenario (read; what actually matters) is fresh and inventive. Despite the cliched start (with you being the sole survivor) it only goes up-hill from then on, with your search of civilization and a possible rescue taking you around a wonderfully designed map full of creative obstacles. The emphasis is very much on exploring and discovering, the isolation of the scenario often nods a head towards the Myst franchise (which Yoshi lists as an inspiration to the scenario, which is very much clear). Other influences cites Yoshi, in the realm of Age of Kings, is Hunnic Paladin's Mystery Maze series; however this is very much different in which traditional puzzles and games are more the emphasis instead of battling through a web of different routes (though it does come into play).

I managed to get a few words with Yoshi who was more than willing to comply:

This is an attempt to make, in your own words, 'to create AoK's first-ever full-scale first-person puzzler.' What's the thought process in trying to make such a project?

Yoshi: Obviously, Age of King, like all RPGs, is played from a third-person viewpoint. What I'm trying to accomplish is the removal of as many barriers between the player and the pixelated figure on the screen: the character is represented as the player him (or her) self, and does not have a mind or identity of his own - he/she will not even speak. Anything I can think of to remove those barriers, I will try to implement. Obviously I'm limited, but we'll see what can be done. Ultimately, I want to have a full-size scenario with plot twists, halfway decent mapwork, a few little scraps (for releasing pent-up nervous energy), and a variety of tricky puzzles ranging from logic teasers to an almost-invisible maze.

How do you plan to make the game well balanced? The puzzle genre, in reference to all video games, often swings from really easy to impossibly hard - will you include intergrated difficulty levels?

Yoshi: I haven't fleshed out all of the details yet, but I'm planning to integrate some difficulty dynamics. Part of this will be alterations to the difficulty of the fighting, although there isn't much in the scenario. One thing I want to do is provide hints to players on the easiest difficulty(s), and possibly provide multiple routes to a solution which could be disabled or removed on a harder difficulty. The real trick is figuring out where NOT to have some sort of brainteaser, since obviously blocking every path in the game would be rather frustrating for a player.

So the story is based on you being shipwrecked on a magical island - isn't this slighty cliched? I mean, it's quite a common theme - how will your scenario be different?

Yoshi: First off, the description distinctly says "uncharted." This isn't going to be a magical fantasy world. It will be strange and confusing at times, but I don't want to use magical elements for my purposes. While of course magic is a great deal of fun, it can be a sort of deus ex machina when used by designers to "explain" how or why things work, aside from being a cliche as you said. In my opinion, the "twist" on the shipwrecked theme comes as the island is revealed to be...erm, something that's not an island (no, it's not a giant sunken spaceship, either). Beyond that I can't really divulge any details, as it would spoil a good third of the story, or more. But trust me, it only looks like an island.

In your opinion, is the puzzle genre one that is in decline or one that has just temporarly fallen out of favour? Or on the contrary, is it going as strong as ever?

Yoshi: In my opinion, it is going as strong as ever only in the sense that it has never really been very strong at all. That's not to say that the genre is pathetic - Jatayu's pyramid in Atlantis and Hunnic Paladin's Mystery Mazes are quite good - but to create a good puzzler is difficult for a variety of reasons. Variety and balance are hard to achieve, and the amount of thought required to create a large-scale puzzler without leaving dull spots throughout the game is rather much. A quick search through the blacksmith can probably reveal a variety of badly unbalanced puzzle scenarios that provide a pretty good explanation for why puzzlers aren't popular. In addition, the hard part about basing a full-length scenario on the puzzler premise is keeping the player interested without changing the game into a full-blown RPG or Fixed Force adventure, and losing the puzzle-genre feel.

Despite keeping the story hidden, Yoshi was willing to share some rather beautiful screenshots: