| studied philosophy and information technology | still studying interdisciplinary media siences | did some work for H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu (german version of CoC) | novelist and screenplay writer | working in humanoid robotics | doing HipHop
When I stumbled over Jim Sterling's Jimquisition on The Escapist this afternoon, I found his current video very interesting:
I agree in every single detail.
I tried to use some of those ideas he mentioned in SONAR, especially presenting something unsettling the player is not familiar with and produce horror with that. The description of the enemies is one example. There I went the lovecraftian way in telling the player "you can't sort that [the creature's anatomy] out in your head". The player should be able to be creative, to make his own thoughts about what he is experiencing. In modern AAA titles everything is shown to you in a polished way. There is simply no room left for your creativity. And without room for you to let the horror affect you, there is no horror at all. Horror has to be something that goes beyond the experience. Something you carry with you for some time.
That's the reason why I never played Amnesia again (yet) after I met the first enemy. I was so horrified I told everyone about it. I took it with me after I left my computer. I thought about it. AAA titles have a hard job to do to deliver that kind of experience.
But I cannot say something, Sterling has not already said.
Good job, Jim!
I was very lucky and proud of SONAR being covered on www.indiegames.com these days. Then I read the comments and recognized two things. The first thing was that there seem to be the first haters out there which is great because I my opinion a game has to polarize and a game which pleases everyone cannot be a good one. Then there are the people who think, SONAR is a ripoff.
Huh, that's a big thing for me as originality really is a thing that is very important to me. Before making SONAR I didn't search for similar ideas or titles on the internet, I just did it and thought it was a cool idea. I still think it is a cool idea. Now I know, I am not the only one who thought this.
There are basically two other games which have striking similarities to my version of SONAR and there may be even more out there. The first one is Nugsys game, also called Sonar. Nugsy already told me about his game, which can be read in the comments of the last news entry. There I replied that it is very interesting that we both had a similar idea (the sonar pulse) and did totally different games with that. And that's the point: His Sonar is a platformer, my SONAR is not. They are two totally different games that have a similar idea on the controls or one gameplay element, but calling my SONAR a ripoff to Sonar would be the same as calling every game in which you can jump a ripoff of the first game that did that. So, is SONAR a ripoff of Sonar? I think it is not.
A very interesting case is the one of BlindGiRl, which was mentioned on the indiegames-comments, too. When I looked at this game, I thought: "What the hell? This is my game!" I was literally shocked. Not only the premise is the same, they implemented the thing with the footsteps, that you control a female character, that you sense your surroundings by sound, you are stuck in a labyrinth. Damn, this could really mean, people could think SONAR is a ripoff of BlindGiRl and I was sad when thinking about this. But is it a ripoff?
Hell, no. I can only tell you that it isn't and that I never heard something about that game before. You can believe me or not. Your choice. SONAR simply was based on the fact, that I was not able to produce good graphics, so I decided to simply not do any graphics at all. And with no graphics, you have to use another medium. Sound was the choice. How do you use sound effectively? In a scenario, where sound is important. The chain of logic goes on, and at the end you necessarily are coming out with something like SONAR or BlindGiRl. Maybe the devs of BlindGiRl did the same thing, who knows (haven't read their blog or something, yet).
Nevertheless there are people out there who say, SONAR is a ripoff and that this is a bad thing. Hmm... is it? It would be and it is concerning the fact that people think this. The indiegame movement is a platform for developers to experiment, to share new ideas and to break with conventions. A ripoff can't do this, because it obeys the conventions while ripping something off. So, there is the problem. On the other hand, a game which rips something off makes a game more stronger in some sense, because as Petri Purho pointed out, when there are ripoffs, there is a genre very soon. I also mentioned to Nugsy that we probably both did a game of a new genre. The Sonar-Genre. BlindGiRl sure belongs to that, too, and maybe is the inventor of it.
And I would say: as long as one can see that some people are building up a new genre at the moment, everything is fine. The oscar for innovation can't be handed to me, though, because BlindGiRl did it first, but that's okay for me. It's sad, because I thought I did something really new, but that's how the world works. There are so many people out there who makes tons of games, it is impossible to track them all. The most important thing is that we as indie developers do something fresh and most of all independent. I still believe SONAR is something fresh and independent. I never played BlindGiRl and I have no Xbox360, because I am to poor to afford that thing, but I am pretty sure that there are several elements and things in SONAR which differ from that title and still make it unique.
What I wish is a communication between us guys who have such similar ideas. We could improve the genre together. You know, like Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace did when they both invented the theory of evolution at the same time. There was no talk about ripping off the other. They wrote letters to each other to talk about, who destroys his life with this contra-religious theory ;) They dealt with that fact in a mature way. Because they understodd the way, the world really goes: Many people work on something. And sometimes a few guys have the same idea. And this should make them allies.