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Less is More: "Crayon Physics Deluxe" Gets Big Kudos at Game Developers Conference


By Danny Davids(13,494) Danny Davids

Posted Thursday, March 20, 2008
View All Blog Posts submitted by Danny Davids


There are phrases in our vernacular that remind us things don't have to be big and glitzy and expensive to be pleasureable.  "Bigger is not always better."  Want proof?  Computer laptops.  "Simple pleasures are the best."  How do I know?  Because every Christmas parents lament how after spending hundreds of dollars on a kid's Christmas present, he has more fun playing in the box it came in.  The same principles apply in the computer gaming world.  While many are aiming for more expansive worlds and more realistic gaming action, there's a growing segment that is simplifying--and finding a market.

Each year the Game Developers Conference is attended by vendors who want to showcase their latest releases.  February's event featured "Gears of War II", a sci-fi title that is nearly indistinguisable from a movie.  The realism in the graphics is amazing, and the vendor made sure everyone could see it, with a huge video screen displaying the game's graphics and play interface.  Several years of time and millions of dollars were invested in the game, and the end result proved it.

However, the buzz wasn't about "Gears of War II", but "Crayon Physics Deluxe".  It's a puzzle-type game that  looks like something an elementary-school child would design--crude graphics drawn in crayon-like swipes and no intricate realistic backgrounds or mind-blowing audio soundtrack.  What did this game have that the others didn't?  Ease of use, minimal time constraints, and--wonder of wonders--a lot of fun to play.

"Crayon Physics Deluxe" has a simple concept:  There's a circle on the screen that you need to guide to a star on the screen.  You do so by drawing shapes on the screen, either with a mouse or a stylus, and nudging the circle to where the star is.  In this world, gravity works.  Draw a circle in the middle of the screen and when you let go, it falls to the bottom of the screen.  Draw an upside-down pyramid and when you release it, it falls over.  Draw a triangle with a line on it and you have a see-saw.  Draw a small box on the lower end and a much bigger box in the air above the higher end.  Let the big box go and watch it fall, launching the smaller box into the air.  You can make the process as simple or as complex as you like, because there is no one right way to move that circle over to touch the star.  (If you still can't figure out what makes this game so hot, view the programmer's YouTube video demo and see if that helps.)

The game's designer, Petri Purho, is a 24-year-old student at Helsinki Polytechnic.  He designed the game based on rules used by the Experimental Gameplay Project, a group which espouses "...discovering new forms of gameplay. Each game must be made in less than 7 days by 1 person, and show off something we've never seen before."  Purho's initial concept was created in five days, and the resulting game posted on his Web site.  When he saw how popular the game was, Purho added an editor so that people could create their own layouts and obstacles.  Eventually he decided to expand on it, making it a commercial venture.  He plans to price the final product in the $20 range.

So why is this game (and others like it) so wildly popular?  Because the premise is so simple, the learning curve for the game is nearly non-existent.  It's not necessary to refer to a manual or a cheat sheet every time you want to do something.  It's also not time consuming.  You can play for five minutes and be done, or continue on if you want (unlike some more realistic games that take that long just to get to the main menu).  It's the perfect short-term distraction while you're waiting for your 500-page document to print on the shared printer, or while you're on hold during a phone conversation.  Because requirements for audio and video aren't cutting edge, the program runs on a lot more machines than some of the high-end video games (no major upgrades or new computer purchases required).  It's cheap and easily accessible (many games of this type can be purchased and downloaded from the Internet).  And finally, it's just plain fun.

The independent game developers are going back to basics and delivering unique, entertaining, easy-to-play games that don't cost a fortune (either on the part of the developer or the consumer).  I think it's a trend we're going to see more of in the future.  As for me, I'm anxious for the release of "Crayon Physics Deluxe" because I just want it.  I'm no artist, but I'm dying to build myself a few Rube Golderg-type machines to make that circle move!




This Blog Post has been read 332 times.
Posted to ProBlogs.com on Thursday, March 20, 2008
View other posts by Danny Davids

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