Look Ma, No Graphics! No Limits!

One of the more striking things about writing this interactive fiction piece (Kicker) is an obvious one: no graphics. In one way it’s been a bit sad, because I really do like sitting down with an application like Pixen and trying out different configurations of pixels (or even drawing something in Manga Studio). There’s a pleasant “crafting” feel to working with graphical elements for a video game – palettes, animations, spritesheets. But no, Kicker has no pictures and, as such, you can show the player anything at all.

It hasn’t usually occurred to me when doing games with graphics just how limited I’ve been in terms of what I can depict during play. Unsurprisingly, I suppose, I’ve tended to unconscious focus on game elements that I can represent through my particular set of drawing abilities. So my mind wouldn’t even really think of something “a person folding a piece of paper into a circular dart” or “a cat wearing a football helmet sitting on its owner’s shoulder” (and yes these are things from Kicker), because I just couldn’t draw that. (Or perhaps I could but it would take forever and wouldn’t be worth it unless it was somehow the central feature of the game.)

So yeah, I find myself with all this extra representational power. Anything I can write down in English can be in the game, can be seen by the player, or can be done by the player, or can happen to the player. No need to labour for several days on a kickoff animation, for example, you just write “you kick the ball” (or something more elaborate perhaps!). It’s quite a thrilling thing.

But of course there’s the flip side of just not knowing when to stop or when enough is enough. Just how much detail should you have in a world that can have effectively infinite detail? How surreal should you be in a world where the stadium could turn into a lizard, then a balloon, then sing Ave Maria, then return to “normal”?

If anything goes… what goes?

10 August 2012
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