4 Good Game Design INNOVATIONS of 2017


Can we just talk about how great of a year
2017 has been for gaming? From sequels to new IP’s, platformers to
open world adventures, it seems like the hits just keep on coming. But what continues to stick out to me most
is the amount of innovation I’ve seen. And yes I know we’re only halfway through
the year, but that’s why I’m so impressed! Don’t ever let me tell you that we’ve
seen it all when it comes to games, because there’s always something new that can catch me by surprise. So today on Good Game Design, let’s talk
about some of those innovations. I wanted to start with Hollow Knight because
I’ve gotten a lot of comments asking my thoughts on this game. If you’re unaware, Hollow Knight is a combat
focused metroidvania with a unique, spooky art style and a pretty challenging difficulty. It does a good job of combining satisfying
battles and exploration with brutal platforming sections almost reminiscent of Super Meat
Boy. I really enjoyed this game, and the Nightmare
Before Christmas-like aesthetic helped cement a lasting impression on my mind. But its most memorable aspect was how it incorporated
a map and health system. At the beginning of the game, you have no
idea how to check where you are in relation to your surroundings, but eventually you come across a mapmaker who can sell you a sketch of the nearby area. However, this only shows the outline of the
various rooms, not your location within them, or any notable landmarks. Instead, you have to buy these upgrades from
the village above ground, so until then, you have to think pretty critically about where
to go and remember where you are. It not only tests your resolve and willpower
to become a better explorer, but also helps you become more familiar with the layout of
this massive world. The health system was also pretty neat. You can normally take 5 hits before dying,
but you can gather…juice? I guess…from your enemies as you kill them
to restore some of your hit points that have been lost. This encourages you to be aggressive and face
your opposition head on to stock up on health juice, but it isn’t a get out of jail free
card either. You have to stand still as your health refills,
so you still need to learn the patterns of boss fights, otherwise you’ll just be a sitting duck. It’s a perfect balance of challenge and
forgiveness in both combat as well as platforming. If you die you go back to the previous save
bench so there’s certainly punishment for death, but there’s a lot of tools at your
disposal to survive as well as long as you’re resilient. If you haven’t had a chance to try out Hollow
Knight yet, it’s a must play. Next up let’s take a look at TumbleSeed. We’ve seen several creative roguelikes so
far this year, like Flinthook’s pirate ship slingfest or Dead Cell’s fast paced action,
but TumbleSeed doesn’t look like any other roguelikes I’ve played. Its minimalist art design drew me in, but
don’t be fooled, it is extremely difficult. Your simple goal as the chosen seed is to
get to the top of the mountain, but the basic gameplay is super unique. You control your seed by tilting the ground
left or right and rolling your way up the level, almost like those old Labryinth games. Pitfalls and enemies are scattered all throughout,
and it definitely takes some getting used to. You can switch between different seeds that
have special attributes, like the basic seed that plants checkpoints, one that grows spears
to protect you from attacks, or one that can restore your health, but all of these cost
crystals, the main currency of the game. You can even collect more crystals by switching
a seed as well, and this swap mentality of figuring out which seed to use based on my
next goal was probably the most satisfying part of the game. Balancing crystals, protection, and health
all the while making sure I have checkpoints so I don’t lose a ton of progress was equally
distressing and exciting. You even gain random powerups along the way,
like a seed that drops mines behind you or one that shoots out at enemies around you. Also, when you fall down a pit, it fills in
and becomes a new patch of soil, so that you don’t make the same mistake twice, which
is a nice touch. Learning the finesses of controlling the ground
might be the most difficult part, but it feels great when you squeeze through a really tight
section and narrowly avoid defeat – whew! Some of my favorite games are roguelite platformers,
but it was really nice to see TumbleSeed try something totally new for the genre and present
its goals in a straightforward, yet unconventional way. I talked briefly about Snake Pass in my Yooka-Laylee
video but it’s certainly worth diving a little deeper into. This game was nowhere on my radar upon release,
but it looked so cute, bright and vivid that I had to give it a whirl. I don’t know if I’ve ever played a game
that controls quite like Snake Pass. To move faster you have to slither left and
right like a real snake, and move up your head to reach ledges above you, but it gets complicated
pretty quickly as you start winding around bamboo chutes and climbing up lofty towers. To ensure you don’t fall off you have to
continuously wrap around objects, and you can tighten your grip by holding the left
trigger to keep your position as you think about your next move. It’s best to take your time and plan out
your actions carefully because it’s really easy to forget which button to press next
and fall down if you move too quickly. But I think where Snake Pass excels is in
its familiarity with collectathons. While it is more of a puzzler, I can’t help
but feel like it draws from the charm and cartoony detail of 3D platformers of years
past. You do collect bubbles, coins and gemstones,
but check it out, he makes faces at you when you press the d-pad buttons. It’s so cute! Not to mention David Wise composed the soundtrack
to really give it that nostalgic feel, almost like it’s directly out of Donkey Kong Country or something. In fact, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed
Snake Pass nearly as much if it wasn’t for these groovin’ tracks behind the gameplay. Finally, let’s talk about NieR: Automata. I’m not familiar with the series, but it
didn’t stop me from getting sucked in and having a blast destroying robots and uncovering
the mystery of YoRHa. The game is beautiful both visually and musically,
but what stood out to me most was its ability to never break immersion for the player. Everything you do in NieR has an in-game explanation
for that action, like saving your game is just your character connecting to the network
to upload their data. Your mission markers, map and other HUD items
are exactly that to 2B and 9S – what you see is what they see, and what you want to
accomplish is what they want to accomplish. In your 2nd playthrough, it retells the same
story but from the perspective of another character with a change of focus from hacking
and slashing to…well, just hacking. These sections are great variety and again
make perfect sense within the game world. But what I loved most about NieR: Automata
was how it incorporated leveling up and equipping abilities. Your character has a certain number of chip
slots that you can attach to various augmentations, like health or damage ups, but the elements
of your HUD are also chips that can be removed to free up more space for upgrades. So you can remove your map, health or any
information on screen if you want and instead pile up on skills and benefits to stand more
of a chance. You can even remove your OS chip, but it just
causes an automatic game over for obvious reasons. But I don’t know if I’ve seen another
game tackle upgrades in such a cool way – giving you the freedom to balance the game however
you’d like while also fitting directly into the story without breaking immersion. NieR is a blast to play and one of the most
unique gaming experiences I’ve ever had. I think it’s important to acknowledge games
that truly innovate because it’s easy to get bogged down by the same repetitive installments
over and over. These games and many others this year have
reminded me that there’s so much more that developers have yet to experiment with and
try out, and just when I think there’s nothing new under the sun, the truth is that the sky’s
the limit and we’ll continue to see impressive feats for years to come. Tell me your favorite video game innovation
so far of 2017, and let’s talk about why games are so cool in the comments below. Thanks for watching another episode of Good
Game Design, I’ll see you guys next time. Stay frosty my friends. Hey there! If you enjoy the Good Game Design series a
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