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Jul 13

Flash is probably the best medium for resourcing-based games around at the minute

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She says, as though she knows anything about it. But allowing me an amateur’s enthusiasm: I kind of love Flash games, as a …well, not as a concept, as a collective of things, a catalogue of tiny universes. Each game, however basic or cynical, needs some skeletal concept of its internal mechanics- they might be illogical or unsatisfying or outright exploitative but there has to be that little spark of world-building to it. And Flash is so simple, as a platform, so devoid of eg: high-end 3D rendering expectations that world building can be driven entirely by whimsy.

Whimsy works really well with resourcing games- what works even better is when someone’s actually thought it through, though and the easily adaptable medium just gives them the comfort to add lots of layers of curiousness, a really complete and sometimes very elegantly complex world. Regardless of how much sense Flash games make, though, there they all are as part of the myriad catalogue of the format; a multiverse of many variants on frequently similar themes, using the same basic tools to create millions of variant mechanics. This is enormously pleasing to me.

This was actually supposed to be a post about Marvel’s What If? series, since there’s a new one out and I added it to my pull list when their website erroneously suggested it was written by Kieron Gillen. And then didn’t take it off my pull list because I am an enormous ho for Marvel’s gloriously enthusiastic, totally matter-of-fact (whilst baffling and sometimes distressing in a pleasingly realistic way) embracing of the Many Worlds theory.

Then I went on Twitter because I am a responsible writer and only check social media 937294 times before starting the first sentence. And because I follow the fantastic Kew GIS for details about the most awesomely extreme botanical missions on the planet, they happened to pique my interest with this. Seems on topic-

kewgistweet

Which is why I haven’t written anything about Marvel’s What If? series and have spent two and a half hours playing Rizk.

I love resourcing games- I’ve sunk more of my life than I care to discover that XBox Live has recorded playing Viva Pinata, a game where you gently, tenderly and strategically create a thriving garden, attracting awesomely coloured animals to it and maintaining the balance of the ecosystem against external challenges, then pick up your ruddy big spade and beat the everloving shit out of out something. I’m scared to buy into Animal Crossing in case my life disappears.

But Flash games are pretty much harmless, I mean, I’m not going to mug myself into playing Farmville (the meanest and most cynically monetised flash game for its mean and cynically monetised Facebook environment) and most of them are very short. Ha.

Rizk is beautiful- all gloamy and full of wraith-like roots and waving fronds, your plant an at-first dimly glowing bulb in the primordial twilight. It’s smart, though. And hard. I accidentally failed the second level by not immediately springing into action and poor strategy can totally jeopardise your survival.

rizk

The basic principle is that you’re protecting the Plant, using little helicopter defense and acquisition bots. Your plant is at risk from external factors and the resourcing is slow-trickle, often, unless you can break through quickly. Your helicopters die, needing repairs and accidentally sending your collector-bots into a danger zone can be hopelessly costly, effectively ending the game.

The idea is that it shows the fragility of an ecosystem, the edges of survival on which a lot of species live, the extent to which survival has to be the goal of these delicate, extraordinary life forms. There’s something enchantingly heroic about watching a sputtering Beep helicopter, the weakest protector-drone, using the last of its defenses to protect the Plant through to its final stage growth, as you frantically hope that the Breather can suck those last few glowing purple nodules to push it all over.

Not to mention, the most valuable resources are the most finite. And as soon as you hit a resource, you awaken a threat- this is no grind, it’s a constant, tactical juggle and one that it’s all too easy to fuck up-

rizk2

I forgot, in this level (3) that the dripping resources, a rich source, run out quickly leaving you with the gaseous dregs to eke out energy from. And then I accidentally allowed all my collectors to get killed until there was just this one Beep sitting there, sadly watching hope drain away, with not-nearly-enough in the bank to have a chance of a rescue. I could have sold all my defenders at that point, to buy a collector but that would almost certainly court total doom for my Plant.

The balance doesn’t take a genius’ intellect to manage- I did, clearly, get past several levels, after all but it is smart. And if you’re the sort who gets it all perfectly right first time then you can post the results to Facebook and rub all the rest of our noses in it- and even then, it’ll be for a good, Actual Science Awareness Raising cause so if you’re in some sort of Friday doldrums, you could do much worse than lose yourself in this for an afternoon.

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