Game Design, Game Reviews

A ‘Ray’ of light in the point ‘n’ click darkness

ray_iconPoint ‘n’ click adventure games ruled the world in the nineties. The Day of the Tentacle, The Monkey Island series, Broken Sword, not to mention the one and only Grim Fandango – those games were truly digital works of art.

As with any other story, written or filmed, you needed a good plot, quality dialogues, solid actors and a TON of work on the scenery, and point ‘n’ click adventures had all that.Available on Google Play

However, it wasn’t long before games picked up the pace – they became faster, more intense. First-person shooter games, strategy games, and RPGs required faster reflexes, precise aiming, quick thinking and whatnot. Witty humour and slow pace were (almost) abandoned, left to the likes of Machinarium and Tiny Thief.

Stepping into mobile

Not that those games aren’t good – they’re great – it’s just that point ‘n’ click adventure games have been pushed to the side, and unjustly so.  On top of that, today’s FPS and RPG games have transformed: many of them have the compelling storyline, the evolving characters, the crazy plot and the twist at the end – all of that plus the action and the suspense.

So what happened to the point ‘n’ click genre? It has found comfort in the soothing arms of the mobile game industry, where we stumbled upon Ray – a point ‘n’ click (or should I rather say point ‘n’ tap) game from T42 Games. The game was created with Unity, and a demo version can be downloaded for free at the Google Play Store.

ray1It features Ray, a guy in his late twenties (or early thirties, he’s not entirely sure) who one day wakes up not knowing who he is, where he is, or how he got there, wherever ‘there’ is. Through a series of puzzles and item combining, the player’s goal is to find out who he is and why these strange things are happening to him.

We got a chance to talk to Tim from T42 Games about the game and ask him why he decided to go for an ‘old’ type of game.

He was driven by the desire to create a unique game, and going for a unique genre helped him achieve that goal.

He also says that point ‘n’ click games are best at rewarding people for progress: “What often makes games feel ‘sticky’ and rewarding is frequent feedback and positive reinforcement that the player is progressing and doing a good job. Thinking on how you might apply this tactic to the narrative, I settled upon a scenario where the character you play starts with no memories at all, not even their own name. As you progress through the game, you learn little bits and pieces of information about the character and the world around them that builds up the picture,” he says.

The aim is to drip feed information, giving a sense of progression and a yearning to find more answers.

Retro all the way

From that point on, it was logic leading the way. If you want to make a unique point ‘n’ click game and stay true to the genre – you can’t go for state-of-the-art tech. Point ‘n’ click games ruled the nineties, and this game must look as if you went back through time. That’s why Tim opted for 2D, low-bit bird-view graphics.

You can think of it as the first GTA’s long-lost brother.

But that’s not the only reason. The game must also awaken the player’s imagination, and if you give the player everything on a plate – the game loses its appeal.

“A lot of games in the past relied upon the player using their imagination to fill in the gaps and sometimes this can help to produce a more engaging experience”, says Tim.

“In ‘Ray’, I wanted the player to use a bit of their own imagination – potentially filling in the gaps in a way they find personally believable and appealing. I’ve already had a couple of people comment about visual elements they saw but were never actually shown in the game, so I feel like I’ve accomplished that to a certain extent.”

ray2Together with his friend Adam Bond, Tim invested hundreds of his free-time hours in the creation of the game, and if it weren’t for Unity and Soomla, the number would be even higher, he says.

“I’d always had it in the back of my mind regarding monetization of the game, but it was not something I really thought much about until the game was practically complete. Soomla had tutorial videos and at a glance an active set of forums. Tick! There is perhaps no way to avoid making this seem like a shameless plug – but I was genuinely very glad at the support I received – posting my noobish questions I got polite and helpful answers very quickly as I made my way through the integration.”

Tim used Soomla for in-game purchases – after you’ve played through the demo, you’re prompted with the option of buying the rest of the game for $1.24.

He isn’t considering a sequel to the game, as he says he’ll use the experience he’s gained in creating this game for something completely different.

“I’m now moving onto my next game, which I plan to be as different to the first as possible.

“Making ‘Ray’ I learned a lot technical-skill-wise, but unfortunately my technical understanding of using C# and Unity on a first attempt ended up limiting the design a little. With the second game I hope this will be less of an issue.”

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