Last post I talked about how the book “Clean Code, A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship” makes the case that the art of programming is the art of Language Design.
What’s been interesting is that the more I turn it over in my head, the more that concept is at the heart of most endeavors by humankind:
It’s poignant–as you may or may not know, my day job is a Software Engineer. And what I’ve found is that by emphasizing that concept–building a language–I’ve actually not only strengthened the codebase I’ve been working on, by it happened that right away, future changes to the same code were actually made more easy because of how I wrote the code.
It’s also been a major topic of my art–as we build up a body of work, we actually build up a visual language through repetition.
But even more recently, it’s also how Game Design works. As a designer, ultimately, your job can be viewed as teaching the player how to speak the language you create, and then enabling them to craft sentences out of that language. A good demonstration of this is in the following video:
It highlights how the important thing to do in a game is to teach people the basic building blocks, then slowly teach them how to stack those blocks. You learn how to jump and move around in Metroid, then you learn how to move and shoot, then you learn how Jump, move, shoot, roll, and use powerups–all in a myriad of situations. Many games allow you to use Powerups, and interesting combinations can make surprising results–like Block Breaker 3, a classic brick-breaking ball-and-paddle game. If you coordinate the “multi ball” powerup and the “force field” powerup, you can concentrate the destructive force of multiple balls into a controlled area, to great effect.
In this view, problems are questions, and it’s up to the player to create a valid answer to those questions with the language provided. Even encounters in games are just questions, and the point is not to make the player give a single, narrow answer, but to ask an open-ended question that allows the player to build a response in one of multiple possible ways.
The latest version of Legend of Luth is available for download here.
All images, writing, characters, artwork and related indicia are (c) Earl Isbell
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