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best freeware experimental games 2009

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11. Succor

Succor is an experimental project created by Sean Barrett, the developer of Lost in the Static, with the original prototype designed in under three days but then expanded to include a total of twenty-seven levels in the public release version.

The game is rather simplistic in nature, where only the most basic of polygons or lines are used to represent walls, objects, and ships. You can hold the left or right arrow key to turn the ship, press up to move forward, or use the space key to shoot. Players should be able to breeze through the first few stages with ease, but the difficulty will pick up immediately once you're presented with a new gameplay element that changes the way you approach and overcome challenges radically.

"Originally I'd designed Succor so that the 'trick' wasn't spelled out, thinking it would just dawn on you over time, but it turned out when I tested that it's not the sort of thing that dawns on people. My bad. Figuring it out isn't really the point, so I changed the game to make it 'obvious', but it's really just so inherently non-obvious that lots of people still don't figure out what's going on in the final version. So it's probably just better to say it: the enemy on each level just does the same thing you did on the previous level.

Succor was the result of me thinking about games like Cursor*10, Braid and P.B. Winterbottom and others that featured you interacting with 'past selves'. They're mostly about cooperation, so I wanted to explore something more like 'competition'.

P.B. Winterbottom (and, in fact, one level of 1983's Jumpman) already do the 'don't run into your past selves' within the same level, so I thought the idea of changing the context of your actions when you reencounter them, by making them come from a different level, might produce an interesting effect. It allowed me to use the level design to force you into behaviors that would have unexpected consequences. But it also turns the player into a sort of level designer, who has some odd control over the behavior of the next level.

I'd originally intended to have the enemies on each level use player paths from several different prior levels at once, but this would have made it difficult to 'fix' old behaviors and was just needlessly complicated. As it stands what I ended up with walks a line between frustration at past selves and a sort of 'stealth cooperation', since in the end you still have to work with your past selves, just in a different sort of way than something like Cursor*10. Instead of pushing buttons to open doors, you're doing things like 'don't shoot too much' or 'avoid sudden movements'.

Also, because I'm a jerk, I designed several of the levels in a row to rather cruelly force you to keep replaying them once you discovered the next context they'll appear in, and figuring out how to design it that way (so you had to go back more than one level) was a fun puzzle to solve, even if it's obnoxious to play. Sometimes game-design is itself more fun gameplay than the actual game." - Sean

Name: Succor
Developer: Sean Barrett
Platform: Windows
Size: 0.12 MB


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