The gameplay that wasn’t there AKA should gameplay make sense?
If you take a look at the few reviews in Enola (the good ones, that are actually worth reading, not the stupid one that reads DIS FEMINIST SHIT GAEM SUX, DE GRAFIX SUX” that’s currently the most voted one), many mention something I had already thought of: the gameplay needs improvement.
The biggest question on my mind all the time was if the “adventure/hidden object” mechanic was the best, if it would have been better to use a different set of mechanics, or even no mechanics at all and make the game purely an exploration game (what some call a walking simulator). In the past, I’ve shared my thoughts on Dear Esther and why I didn’t like the game. Simply put, for an exploration game it required too little exploration and too much “hold W key.” I considered making Enola an exploration game but I knew I wouldn’t be able to make some compelling exploration. Besides, Enola has a big problem: the story is massive, so it would have been difficult to deliver it solely on exploration and hope people would find all the information to understand the story (don’t pay attention and you won’t understand many things).
At the end, my idea was to link gameplay to one of the characters, and turn many puzzles into “death traps” because one of the characters “is good at building things” and uses those things to kill you. The idea sounded good on paper, but after finishing the game I’m still not sure if that was the best choice.
But then remembered a game called “Catherine” and that made me wonder if the gameplay part of a story-driven game should be related to the story in some way or not.I haven’t played Catherine (I plan to, as soon as I can) but while the story is about a guy cheating on his girlfriend, the gameplay is about solving cube-based-pyramid-puzzles, and there’s no explicit or physical relationship between the two. Note that speaking about “gameplay as a metaphor” is completely unrelated to this because I’m not talking about gameplay “meaning” something (Silent Hill) but gameplay directly presenting the story (insert generic shooter here).
After all, there’s no logical reason why you have to limit your gameplay to the kind of story you’re delivering, or limit your story because the gameplay doesn’t allow for something more complex.
Even if most expect games being about punching, shooting, hacking or slashing, there’s no logical reason to make a game with a story that only gives the protagonist a reason to punch, shoot, hack or slash.
Right now I know what story I’d like to tell next, and now I need to figure out what kind of gameplay to use, even if it “has nothing to do” with the story. This is not about “what else can games be?” but about “storytelling.”
Or I could simply make a game about one of them soldiers “saving the world.”