The player wakes up feeling bored, there's lots of amazing stuff on other indie games blogs, but this was the first feed on the home page. A stereotypical cheese snack with MSG lays half consumed in a crinkly plastic bag on the desk, comfortable close to the mouse. Big Gulp containers line the window sills. A sardonic quest for something interesting yet not challenging grips the gut, but there are no more Doritos. The player instead proceeds to satisfy a dopamine drip fixation with bars that fill up slowly, experiences "adventure".
Sophie Holden has produced a very polished and minimalistically executed 48 hour competition entry, an RPG done in cliche and wrapped with 3D pixel sprites against Times New Roman. The game must be compared to 30 Second Hero and this really baroque French game, which I think Rinku has coming down the pike, so we'll link that later. Basically the idea is to strip down the RPG genre in a way similar to what Videogame Game did for platformers, lace it with deconstructionist placeholder narrative, and let 'er rip. You just walk back and forth between dots that renew your health and save your game, losing HP and gaining EXP automatically. You are literally on the line, allowing eleven-year-olds the world over to concur that this game is totally linear. In the end, you will be strong enough to defeat the real bad guy, or will you?
I think this is the ultimate argument for putting RPGs to bed. The current crop of blockbuster RPGs in the tradition of Bioshock and Mass Effect are kind of like industrial chicken concentration camps, they sure put out a lot of meat, but they smell like shit and are disease hotbeds with slim profit margins. Did you know that playing too many contemporary RPGs can give you avian flu in the membrane? When your entire experience is a facade laced over a simple "+=" operation notching an exponential curve, you can do it in 48hrs. By exploring more interesting mathematical dynamics we can express more of the nuanced and seemingly paradoxical things that human beings experience when making decisions. Current RPGs offer few non-trivial decisions, a game made in 48hrs can give the same cognitive tug of games made in 48 months. Why not try making a game about non-commutative matrix transformations, to reflect how people can shift in their relationships with individuals and wider social groups. Lots of folks out there have taken vector geometry and non-linear algebra, why not try it? This game is not so much a satire as an endearing eulogy to a genre that made many young people over the years fat and more socially awkward, though sometimes more literary.