To understand the fundamentals of game design is to play a game. That’s just the thing I’ve done. Playing 5 old games. I don’t know if these are the best games to analyze but I think I’ve selected a diverse list of games with different mechanics.
The list of the 5 games:
- Age of Empires: Mythology (2002)
- Ice Wind Dale 2 (2002)
- Iron Clad (1996)
- Mortal Kombat 1 (1993)
- Defender of the Crown (1986)
To begin this analysis, I will work with the oldest game ‘Defender of the Crown’. I will be using a format to analyze the game by Lara Schenck ( http://notlaura.com/a-template-for-analyzing-game-design/ )
Defender of the Crown
I’ve played Defender of the Crown for 2 hours for this analysis on my MacBook via the Good Old Games client. The strategy game was originally released in 1986 and developed by Commodore Amiga. The game set a new graphical standard for gaming on a personal computer at that time. Which is true, even the typography is greatly done.
A hard to control fight over England’s crown. That will bring you in like an interactive movie. While being a single player strategy game. There are not many rules and there’s also little mercy to be found in the game. A highly enjoyable experience in 2018 for a game that was released in 1986.
This is a single player game and doesn’t support any sort of co-op gameplay. There’s isn’t any character customization or anything to make it feel more personal. But you can select a 1 out of 4 characters.
The objective is to conquer and rule over England. To achieve this goal, you will need to capture pieces of land and destroy the enemy castles, towers, and armies. This is also the part where the territorial acquisition comes to play whenever you send forth a campaign army to claim more land.
For the setup, there’s only a need to select a character. During the gameplay, you will have to joust, money, buy a private army, defend your castle, raid the enemy and invade the enemies castle. The outcome is when you’ve secured England under your rule and become the defender of the crown.
The controls of this game are little weird. You’ll need to use the arrow keys to move sideways. Up/Down means block up or block down and enter key is to attack. In jousting this in the same way without the block option. There’s no tutorial, I just tried every key available. If you want to play this game well, you will be spamming your keyboard like a maniac.
Resources & Resource Management
The resources you’ll have is land and money. Each action you take will have an effect on your resources. At the start of a new turn, you will earn a random amount of money according to different pieces of land you control.
In the screenshot above is a snapshot moment of when I was playing the game and losing very badly. I’ve discussed the snapshot with my project group. Which resulted in that game is challenging and quite good for an old game.
There’s not a lot hidden from the player. But the things hidden are crucial. You don’t know how large the enemy army is, how much money they have. But you will know how much land they control at all time.
Turned based with simultaneous play (the NPC’s). There are no time limits, so you can take a break for as long as you like.
The interaction is a direct conflict. There’s no room for discussion in this game. Not even for a trade or a peace treaty.
Theme & Narrative
The game has a little story to it that start playing at the start. You can’t skip it and it takes forever. It has some historical events. But it doesn’t rely on it, the story stays also the same with all the different characters. Robin Hood is mentioned a couple of times. Nothing more than I discovered yet.
The Elements in Motion
The interaction goes very natural. The gameplay is challenging, not effective to make it feel different then the other times you tried it. The game will surely break down if you played it on repeatably. It does not have as much content as we are used to having nowadays. There’s still a bit room for interpretation, I like that. I’ve played more than 8 jousting battles and I didn’t win one of them, the controls and control speed don’t make it any easier. So that’s fun.
It’s a solid game design. The starting goods are enough to buy a knight and extend your army. If there was more, you might attack castles to early on. The NPC do like to target you first if they feel like you’re the weakest. So, don’t expect any mercy.
Graphics & Sound
In my time playing, I didn’t find any bugs. It felt like an interactive movie. The sound is a bit painful to listen to. But it gives me a good vibe. The graphics of this game are amazing. It’s pixelated, sure but it is gorgeous for its time and it represents the game theme really well.
In the end:
There are a lot of obstacles in this game. Which makes it more fun. I overcome some obstacles by just trying repeatedly, for example, the controls. The game isn’t fair but hey, medieval fights in Europe were not fair either. It’s a fun game, I recommend you play it as well since it is cheap and old.