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A Fistful of Context

We’ve been playtesting Octodad for a while now, and as we’ve been building our first level towards a more-or-less complete state, I’ve noticed something. Gray boxes just aren’t much fun!

I’ve been under the impression for a long time that mechanics are the end-all and be-all of game development, and that any Octodad experience should be just as fun blocked out as it is with art. But that’s simply not true. Something crucial is missing. It’s not feedback or juice, we have plenty of both built into the game. There’s a difference between picking up a block and picking up a trout.

The difference is context! Context is all of the information surrounding an object or a situation. What it looks like, what it sounds like, where it is, what’s around it, and why. I’ve found that small amounts of information make a world of difference in play experience, sometimes moreso than the mechanics themselves! Why? Well, simply put, mechanics are needed to make the game work, but context is needed to make the players work.

Here’s a quick example of what I mean. Observe a blockout box. It is an object in Octodad that has some very specific mechanics. Can you tell what you do with this box?

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