! Spoiler Alert !
(If you haven't played Legacy of Wisdom, the following article might potentially give away some aspects of the metaphors involved in the game. Please use the link above to go to the Legacy of Wisdom main page.)
Legacy of Wisdom was designed with 3 Design Goals:-
- a Zero Button Game
- a Metaphorical Game
- experimenting with the concept of "Player Death" in games.
For the latter 2 goals, ideas in which these goals could be expressed and achieved were being nursed in my head a few months before the announcement of the Experimental Gameplay Project's August "Zero-Button" theme.
Once I got wind of the "Zero-Button" theme, it didn't take too long for me to realise that the theme was a good fit for me to create a game that would explore all 3 ideas. In fact, in hindsight, I would say that due to the nature of the theme, it immediately stripped away all other forms of interaction aside from Mouse Movement (for my game), and allowed me to focus on realising the other 2 concepts.
For the Metaphorical Game Design Goal, it is something that I have been very interested in for quite a while now, if my previous work, Avalon Legend is any indication. Initially piqued by Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab's Akrasia (in which the team was developing the game in the room behind my team's, back in the summer of 2008), and seeing the powerful execution of metaphor in games like Jonathan Blow's Braid, and thatgamecompany's Flower; I think that there is still alot of room for exploration on the use and portrayal of Metaphors in games, or Metaphorical Games in general.
Thus, picking up the reins of where I left off in Avalon Legend, I decided to take another stab at infusing Metaphors into Legacy of Wisdom, this time dealing with the themes of "Leaving a Legacy" and "Attaining Wisdom". But this time around, I was careful to avoid the mistakes I made in Avalon Legend, particularly on the transparency of the metaphor.
The primary complaint about Avalon Legend's metaphor was that it was a bit too obtuse, and most people didn't get it, even though there was a multi-layered metaphor about "Loneliness" there, crossed with references from Arthurian legend, that I had very complexly put together in the deeper recesses of my creative mind, but a lot of this went by the players totally unnoticed.
Thus, this time around, I was very aware of at least letting the metaphors rear their heads, and leave the players to figure the rest of it for themselves, and how it is reflected in gameplay. Based on initial playtest results, I think most of the testers have gotten it so far, albeit some with a bit of explanation.
Finally, for the concept of "Player Death", I wanted to experiment with the concept in which the death is not necessarily the end in a video game, or an absolute penalty for that matter. Perhaps a little inspired from the Rogue-like genre and more recently, Demon's Souls; I decided to experiment with taking "Player Death" the opposite direction, to some extent making death a stepping stone, power-up or even a reward to some extent, that would benefit a player on his / her next playthrough.
Quite interestingly, the metaphorical theme was able to complement this concept quite well, when it came to the theme of "Legacy", and with enough famous quotes about Knowledge, Wisdom, Legacy and Future generations to justify this.
Initial playtests have shown that players were able to figure using "death" as a potential "mechanic", and have definitely shown some interesting player strategies revolving around "Player Death". The bigger question behind it all now lies very much in whether the balance can be sustained over prolonged play, and whether there is a be-all-end-all strategy to get the high scores.