Sunday, January 11, 2009
I Only Play Kind Code
(h/t Teachnologist, via Kotaku)
Nintendo has patented something they call "kind code." With the ascent of the Nintendo Wii, there's been a lot of ink spilled on how games are too complicated for the average consumer. The reason for the Wii's popularity, so the reasoning goes, is that it simplifies games to the point were anyone can enjoy them. People who've played games since childhood have an innate facility with video game mechanics that makes it easy for them to meet a game's challenges: gauge the jumping distance between point A and point B, for example, or combine button presses to perform special moves. As the video game playing consumer base increases, the skilled consumer base becomes outnumbered by newer players. And yet most games are designed with these skilled players in mind. Most games assume that the player comes to the table with a certain base set of skills, and for those who lack them, the games can be quite frustrating to play.
Kind code is Nintendo's attempt to make games easier to play for the masses, to bridge this skill gap. It would work as a sort of developer's commentary, where the player watches a developer play through a section, uncover secrets, and explain the physics rules of a particular gameplay stretch. Instead of guessing whether it is possible to jump from point A to point B, the developer simply tells you.
This isn't a new idea. Tutorial modes are fairly common, and Valve is known for its excellent developer commentaries in games such as Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, and Left 4 Dead. But it's a new way for developers to introduce new players into standby gameplay genres without necessarily dumbing down the entire game in the process, which is something that recent Wii development has been frequently accused of doing.