domingo, 7 de agosto de 2016

What we can learn from Atari's Keystone Kapers

I always like to replay some old classic games from the Atari generation. Not only because of the nostalgia, but to find some simple game design solutions to inspire myself to create new ludic stuff.

This week, I was playing the excellent KEYSTONE KAPERS (Activision, 1983) and I'll talk a little bit about some interesting features from this game, in this post.

I played this game a lot when I was a child and it is a masterpiece until today. The narrative is about a cop chasing a thief inside a kind of a shopping mall. Before discussing some highlights from the game, I invite you to watch the gameplay; please, pay special attention to the brilliant multi-floor scenario linked by a lift.

For a game from the beginning of the 1980's KEYSTONE KAPERS is a very advanced ludic experience. Three important game design points to observe in this title are:

1. Multiple interesting dangers with increasing difficulty throughout the levels. The scenario is always the same, as well as the speed of the two characters; so, objects thrown by the villain against the hero move differently. The shopping cart moves in a straight line, the balls kick, the airplane occupies the top of the floor etc. with a progressing level of speed. About this, Brathwaite and Schreiber (2009, p.100) remember us that "video games that have a sequence of levels, simply start off easy and become progressively more difficult as times goes on" and we can see this feature in classic arcade games.

2. Twitch decision-making. KEYSTONE KAPERS starts slow and becomes fast level by level (as we can see in the previous video). In the beginning of the game, it's possible to run only on the floors, use the stairs and catch the thief. However, in the high levels you must use the lift to capture the villain. Brathwaite and Schreiber (2009, p.101,102) teach us that there are five basic twitch mechanics: pure speed, timing, precision, avoidance, and time pressure. In some way, we can identify these five elements in the gaming interface.

3. Minimal and clear art direction integrated with the gameplay. Everybody knows how difficult it was to create games for Atari platform using minimal resources and few bits for programming, sounds and interface. In KEYSTONE KAPERS, we have a very strategic use of every single element. It's possible to clearly identify all the objects, the scenario, the characters and the gaming interface elements (points, lives etc.). All these features cooperate to create a good gameplay; a good art direction establishes logical dynamics for a good gameplay experience.

Once more, we can find inspiration in some treasures from the past. I usually call it "ludic archeology". If you want to read more about this subject, click here.



BRATHWAITE, Brenda & SCHREIBER, Ian. CHALLENGES FOR GAME DESIGNERS: non-digital exercises for video game designers. USA: Cengage, 2009.

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