Welcome to the second monthly playtest report. Due to the levels of concentration we’ve been putting into Shards, and its kickstarter, we didn’t do much playtesting of our own games. Instead at the monthly Playtest Northwest meet I was playtesting an in-development computer game.
The game, created by Luke Perkins, is as yet untitled. So, for the purposes of simplicity I’ll call it LupeLang.
In LupeLang you play a scientist who has just been cryogenically frozen until the 35th century – at which time she is aware there is some sort of time anomaly, having received a message sent back through time. Unfortunately the message was written in a language unknown in the present day, and thus her assignment is to learn the future language and then send a translated message through the anomaly; and return through it herself if possible.
You awaken in a museum that has been laid out with exhibits of images from the 20th century and earlier, each of which is marked with a description in the future language – a form of pictographic representation. For instance: △ might mean “mountain”, and thereby also “stone” and “huge”, while ∪ means “artificial container” including buildings as well as pots.
As the game progresses you learn more about the language and solve puzzles involving locked doors that can only be opened by placing the correct symbols beneath a picture.
There were various issues with the control set up which I won’t go into here because I’m not massively interested in that side of video game design, but we also spent a lot of time discussing the worldbuilding aspects of the game.
In essence with a game with such a strange setup (you’re in a museum where every door is locked by code-locks with the password being pictured directly above them) you have two options:
- Ignore it. Just plain never explain why the museum is set up like that, let people just suspend their disbelief and not care. This is the easy option, you won’t get praised for the plotting, but people can simply enjoy the gameplay.
- Explain it. Why on Earth is the place using code-locks like that? Why has the language become pictograms? What sort of place is this museum of 20th century images? This is hard – the premise of the game is one that seems innately ludicrous.
Fortunately that sort of worldbuilding is exactly what we do at Artemis Games, so I was well set up to help with it. Ultimately we discussed it, and came up with a potentially quite compelling explanation; but one that Luke wants to keep as a slow-release mystery for the first stages of LupeLang. Still, all told while we weren’t playtesting anything of our own it was definitely a productive event.