Tuesday 14 August 2012

meaning through repetition

Having odd feelings after releasing Vesper.5. A bunch of people are intrigued by the concept, and have started playing it, which is great. I really look forward to when they find certain things. But I worry a little: I don't want to disappoint anyone. The game is very slight - intentionally so, it's a pure expression of a single idea - and I'm just a bit uncomfortable with the idea that someone might expect more from it than is there...

...which is paradoxical, because the very concept is about making more out of it than is really there. Imbuing it with meaning that isn't intrinsically present. Turning a mundane action into something transcendent through repetition, ritual. Mystery.

It's a very simple exploration game, quickly made. Without the one-move-per-day limit there wouldn't be very much to it; the concept is everything. With an ordinary game I don't worry about disappointing anyone; there's only a small commitment required to get a rough idea of what's in there. But this one demands such an investment. I don't know if this is really a problem. Ultimately I think what you get out of it will depend mostly on what you put in, what meaning you create for it yourself. But it makes me uncomfortable. Which is interesting!

The game demands patience, commitment, making choices with unknown consequences. There's a kind of symmetry between player and designer; these same concepts reflect back on me. Making the game I couldn't know what it would be like to play it as intended, moving into the unknown one step each day; I had to commit to a design only imagining what this might be like. And now I still have to wait patiently for others to play through to find out, experiencing it vicariously. But from seeing initial reactions I have more of a glimpse than before, and there are some things I'm tempted to change. Questioning the reasons behind my decisions.

For now I'm resisting the urge to fiddle. I don't know for certain whether the changes I could make would be improvements. But even if they were, there's a cost to making an update; it diminishes the reality of a game. When working on something it's in a state of constant flux, anything is subject to change. But once it's released and played it becomes a solid thing, a world. Allowing that world to become mutable fundamentally alters its nature, makes it less real. Changing it in response to player actions alters the meaning of those actions.

I've committed to my move, released the game in an inevitably imperfect state, and any mistakes I've made we will have to live with.

edit: Minutes after posting that, in response to Pippin Barr's lovely post, I updated the game - for a minor improvement in presentation (hiding the flashing ESC after the first day), not to change anything in the world.


  1. i really like the feeling it gives.. i can see myself loading it up whenever i think of it and making my move. hadn't even thought about what to expect. so far i've moved downwards three times. i think you captured the idea of "ritual" beautifully.

  2. I'm playing too. It would be neat if it phoned home after a move, I'd love to see some collated data on play patterns and action choices six months from now.

    Fantastic idea though!

  3. Only nine days to go until I get to the screen to the right! (Thanks to my upward diversion at the beginning to check out those "holes" at the top.)

  4. The only change I would suggest is a way to fast-forward to the current day. While sometimes I like to sit and see my whole progress unfold, some days I just can't wait to see what's next!