Project Maiden, The Game In Reverse

By Ben Barrett on July 31st, 2013 at 3:00 pm.

The scene: a dark alley, overcast skies hiding a waning moon as you meet me in a shady dealing, our cloaks buffeting one another in the wind. In a quiet voice and husky tone you demand: “Describe a game that is the opposite of the norm.”

I look at you strangely, then speak, “Why? It has already been done. Project Maiden.” Your surprise is audible as I continue, “A female protagonist, themes of loss signified by powers lessening as the game continues, a singleplayer focus and that’s just the start…”

What my flowery prose fails to mention is how exciting this all looks (well, and developer Kevin Cole is the most adorable). Yes, it’s a 2D indie puzzle platformer, but beyond the basics I’m intrigued by a set of mechanics that outreach the norm. Rather than a simple double jump, heroine Imogen begins with the ability to morph the very ground into a platform. Instead of paralysis, enemies can be turned to stone and statues to life with the same Transmute power.

Most interesting of all is this idea of reverse progression. Not mentioned in the video is the specifics of how this will work with a Mega Man style level selection process, meaning each will need to be passable with a bare minimum of powers. As an alternative to “choose your own path”, this “choose your own loss” is brilliant and the implications for storyline and themes are wonderful. Perhaps best of all, it will be entirely free once it’s released. There’s less than 24 hours of funding to go, so get in there now.

 

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42 Comments »

  1. Shadowcat says:

    I’m not sure how a classic metal soundtrack is going to work with that gameplay description, but I’m sure it’ll work out.

  2. Ultra Superior says:

    A game about heroine gradually losing her powers. Way to empower women. I bet if there was a male protagonist he would be gaining powers with each level up.

    • mondomau says:

      There should be a word for when someone deliberately attempts to derail a thread by introducing irrational accusations of sexism. Like Godwin for any mention of Hitler.

    • Nobyl says:

      This comment made all the better by the fact that your alias is “Ultra Superior”

      • vedder says:

        The real question is whether Ultra Superior is a man or a woman!

    • Phasma Felis says:

      You’re not fooling anyone, you know.

    • Focksbot says:

      Or: a game where the female protagonist was doing just fine and had godlike players until the player came along and screwed it all up?

    • Josh W says:

      In fact, he’d probably start with all the powerups as his inherent right, loose them in great injustice, and spend the rest of the game regaining them and regaining his rightful position of power.

  3. Chalky says:

    A shooter where you see the world through the eyes of a series of faceless baddies getting mown down by an AI protagonist.

    More seriously though, this is an interesting idea. Games are meant to get harder as you progress, usually by enemies getting stronger – but why not have it by your character getting weaker?

    I assume the fact that the protagonist is a female is just incidental rather than a case of “oh, get this, there’s a woman in it! ahaha that’ll really blow their minds”.

    • JackShandy says:

      I’ve always thought games should take more inspiration from Die Hard. McClane can barely walk at the end of that movie.

      • fitzroy_doll says:

        Spec Ops: The Line?

        • The Random One says:

          Nope, you are always Dude With Two Weapons in The Line.

        • JackShandy says:

          Spec ops does it thematically, but not mechanically. Which is probably the right decision for an action game, in general. Having to slowly stagger everywhere if you injured your feet would be boring.

          Having the controls slowly degenerate into something like one of messhofs games could work.

          • lofaszjoska says:

            Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth would disagree.

    • Ben Barrett says:

      Re: female protagonist, I don’t think it’s done in an aggressive HAHA, THEY’LL NEVER SEE THE WOMAN COMING but it’s a decision that’s been made in the knowledge that it’s very much against the norm. And that’s cool, and fits the game.

    • Baines says:

      People have tried it before.

      One issue is that you risk the game becoming less interesting to play as the player loses abilities and options.

      • Rivalus says:

        I have to agree with you. The obstacle should become easier because some of the abilities loss. It seems the game will become less and less interesting overtime.

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      JamesTheNumberless says:

      Am I the only one to be reminded of Dungeon Master when I look at the character portraits on the kickstarter page?… Ok, I’ll admit that I’m permanently thinking of Dungeon Master but that’s beside the point.

  4. warthog2k says:

    Horribly dismayed at the lack of Bruce Dickinson in this item…

  5. Epsz says:

    The problem with losing powers as the game advances, is that more powers in general means more complexity. And losing complexity instead of gaining it as the game advances can easily make the game boring. You finally master a skill and then you can’t use it anymore. At the end you are left without a lot of options. That doesn’t sound like something I’d like to play.

    • Chalky says:

      I don’t think that’s the case – there’s a difference between “more powers” and “more powerful”.

      For example, if your character starts off with one ultra powerful one shot AoE skill that kills everything in sight along side a bunch of weaker spells, obviously you’ll only use that powerful skill and nothing else.

      Then, if you lose that skill, you have to rely on a couple of weaker skills to get by. Then when you lose them, you have to rely on a larger selection of even weaker skills….

      It certainly seems like something that could work, and it could be quiet interesting if there are clever ways to use combinations of skills to compensate for your lack of power.

      • s1gny_m says:

        It’s true that having more powers increases the number of things you can do. But this can actually make things much simpler, even if we’re not talking about a AoE superweapon. If we’re looking at a puzzle-platformer, having more tools at your disposal basically makes it easier to get around the level. Instead of developing a difficult workaround, you can just blast through that breakable wall (e.g.).

        What this suggests to me is that rather than losing a skill you’ve spent time to master, you’ll lose a skill that you never needed to master in the first place (because it was too easy), forcing you to actually start to master the decreasing number of tools available. Done well, it sounds fascinating.

      • JackShandy says:

        Apparently you choose which skills you’re going to lose, which means that you could just keep using that theoretical one-shot weapon the entire game.

        I think it’s more likely that all the skills will be useful in very different situations – platforming VS combat, for example. Done that way, you have to choose which bits of the game get harder.

    • X_kot says:

      It’s an unorthodox gaming mechanic, for sure, but the same level of decision making is involved. What abilities am I willing to forgo to continue the game? Can I adapt my playstyle to overcome the increasing level of difficulty?

      From a narrative perspective,there are plenty of stories that involve a slow self-sacrifice in order to achieve something. The gaining-power-over-time philosophy is just as true to life as the losing-power-over-time, though personal preferences may lean toward one or another.

    • Josh W says:

      Conversely, having more powers can often trivialise the game, leading to the obsurd anti-difficulty curve effect (although this generally focuses on flat bonuses rather than differentiated powers). You’re dead right about the danger of it removing verbs that you need to use, but if each of the mechanics are subtle and flexible enough, it could have a wonderful effect of paring things down and forcing you to be more inventive with what you have.

  6. Tasloi says:

    I like the general idea. Could be quite interesting if done right.

  7. nimzy says:

    “Yes, it’s [another] 2D indie puzzle platformer,” is all you had to say.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      And? Indie 2D puzzle platformers are awesome. What’s the problem?

      I seriously don’t get you people. It’s like “Ugh, ANOTHER blowjob? God, I am SO OVER those.”

  8. MellowKrogoth says:

    Insert generic sexist comments cleverly disguised as feminism below.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Now, that’s hardly a fair characterization. They’re actually quite clumsily disguised.

  9. mondomau says:

    Didn’t Ben Croshaw mention this in either zero or extra punctuation when moaning about skill trees? Sounds interesting either way.

    • QueenKelly1929 says:

      First thing I thought of. It was in Extra Punctuation. He meant it for RPGs though, I think.

    • Bhazor says:

      Similar to Two Worlds 2 actually.
      That started you competent in all skills and then the skills you don’t use go down as the ones you use improve. Starting as a jack of all trades and ending up with a finely honed specialist, certainly an interesting idea of paying for improvements by taking the points from unwanted skills. The obvious problem is that you can end up losing variety. Instead of gaining new abilities you end up stuck doing the same thing again and again.

      The Extra Punctuation article
      http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/extra-punctuation/8661-What-if-We-Leveled-Backwards

  10. Dances to Podcasts says:

    I’ve been thinking of reversing this mechanism for a while, since it’s such a big cliche. There are several ways you can tie that in to a story, like via wounds not healing, aging, disease, or a few more interesting ways I’ll keep to myself. Losing powers seems a bit handwavey, but we’ll see how it works.

  11. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Also, I guess there’s good reasons, but such a shame the art gets worse the closer to the actual game it gets. :(

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    HighlordKiwi says:

    A friend of mine wrote a 7 day rogue-like where you start off powerful and get weaker as you progress. It’s remarkably well done (if you can get past the standard rogue-like graphics/controls).
    http://www.randomstuff.org.uk/~geoffrey/roguelikes/aquesttoofar.html

    A platformer with the same concept sounds like it could be interesting too.

    • TonyB says:

      I should really get around to trying that, it’s been on my to-play list for a couple of years. In much the same way as Maiden it’s just always sounded like an interesting concept, but I am quite shallow and have therefore failed to get past the standard Rogue graphics thusfar.

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    draglikepull says:

    I’ve got a prototype sitting on my computer of a game I was once working on that had the same conceit (you start out powerful and then level down rather than levelling up). Maybe I should have finished it.

  14. bill says:

    There has been a lot of theoretical talk over the years about a game where you level down instead of level up – and it always sounded intriguing.

    It’s nice to see that someone is finally making one.

  15. Ahtaps says:

    “A female protagonist, themes of loss signified by powers lessening as the game continues, a singleplayer focus and that’s just the start…”

    Now that we’ve described Sword and Sworcery, let’s move on to Soul Sacrifice…

    Tongue in cheek aside, the concept sounds neat and it’d be good to have more games that use the whole sacrifice mechanic a bit more.