Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Video Game Basics: BurgerTime

"I want to make a burger! Better stack it up like Jenga!"

This next edition of Video Game Basics will be digging into a genre of gaming that many fans are well accustomed to playing. I discussed the core basics of video games by using Frogger as an example. It is true with any game that you have to have a well defined goal and objective to shoot for. No matter what kind of game it is and no matter how many bits the game contains, you always have to be consistent with the theme of the game and the gameplay mechanics must support that theme.

What kind of example can BurgerTime be used for? Well, let's look at what kind of game the classic arcade hit is. BurgerTime is a puzzle game where the player must figure out how to successfully cross platforms and drop burger ingredients down to the very bottom in order to complete the burger stack. Peter Pepper, the heroic chef who is the main protagonist, must walk across ingredients in order to free them from their designated platforms and if he completes his crossing, the ingredients will fall down by a level.

While he's doing this, Peter Pepper must avoid the antagonists, three types of enemies. Mr. Hot Dog, Mr, Pickle and Mr. Egg. Perhaps that alone sounds cheesy (forgive me for the pun) but their inclusion only adds to the food friendly environment. Enemies can be avoided, stunned or crushed with a falling ingredient. The level doesn't end until all burger stacks have been completed. To buy himself some time, Peter Pepper can stun his enemies by shaking pepper shots at them. Peter will give himself a few seconds of time to wander freely without harm until Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Pickle and Mr. Egg get back up.

What is so significant about BurgerTime when it comes to video game basics? This game put a solid emphasis on positioning. The makers of BurgerTime did a fine job in making the player feel that he or she had to be aware of the surroundings. There was a consequence for taking the wrong step in a level. If you got trapped by either the hot dog, the pickle or the egg, you were done just like that. Peter Pepper and his three foes all served as moving game pieces on a board and I believe that would be a fair analogy to make. The player had to make sure that he or she wouldn't get trapped between two of the three enemies and the player also had to know just which ingredients he or she had to reach to progress in the level.

BurrgerTime was really no different than the original Donkey Kong arcade game if you think about it. Although Mario... er... Jumpman had to just get to the top of the level to clear it, he had to be on the move frequently. Peter Pepper also had to be on the move frequently in BurgerTime with the difference being that he had no specific spot to go in order to finish a level. What do we have when we get our main protagonist constantly on the move? We establish a pace for the game. Since we establish a pace for the player to supposedly abide by in this game, we are setting a tone for the basic guidelines of the game, which will make it easier for us to define just what the rules of the game are.

When we look at BurgerTime we probably don't think about just what basics the game established through its simplistic design. We probably don't think much about Peter Pepper walking across long lettuce and have it collapse down onto the lower levels. A little bit goes a long way, however, and it only takes simplistic designing to get the point across. The player has to be mindful of his or her positioning, the player has to keep moving because of the enemies constantly chasing Peter and establish a pace, and the method of attack in the game's levels becomes set for the player, setting a tone.

BurgerTime was something that related to a lot of people because the theme was easily recognizable. It was about making a burger and I'm sure that many gamers out there generally like having burgers at fast food restaurants. BurgerTime is a puzzle game because there are various pieces in play to complete the picture. If only a few parts of the picture are there, then we don't have a complete picture. You don't progress in BurgerTime if you only have half a burger complete. It's the same as to say you need to form a complete line in Tetris to score points in that puzzle game. It's the same principle.

For those of you who are puzzle game enthusiasts and you want to make a puzzle game of your own, please consider that the objectives must be in order and that you must keep the player on its feet to act and decide. Puzzle games are built with the intention of having a set tone and an established pace after some time, and it will speed up as the player advances from level to level. When designing a new puzzle game, make sure that the puzzle that you envision will be complete. Make sure that you will have some sort of trigger device to complete the puzzle and make sure that you don't make it virtually impossible for the player to complete a puzzle. There should always be a door cracked open for the player to try and complete the puzzle, even if the levels get super fast and hard.

Most of all, developers of puzzle games should reward players for properly positioning themselves to succeed. Proper positioning is paying attention to detail. Players that pay attention to detail deserve to be rewarded for acting at the right time to complete a puzzle. It takes time and strategy to place pieces in the areas you want and the hardest puzzles of the bunch will be the most rewarding if players do everything and then some to figure those puzzles out.

The positioning of characters in a game can sometimes be overlooked in development but it is something that leads development teams to figuring out the pace and the tone of their puzzle games. These are just some more examples of video game basics.

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