What the Hexen

Games have been on my mind lately – duh – because class has me looking at videogames in terms of achievable goals. Some types of games need lots of art assets, and if you have a bunch of artists, you can do that. Some games need a lot of systemic testing, and if you have programmers you can do that. All these sorts of problems address what you can do, what you can’t do, and they focus your resources where they do the most good.

What surprised me on surveying this I didn’t see many games like Hexen out there, in the indie sphere.

Hexen was a really interesting Doom-engine game. Enemies were reasonably simple to animate, and would be easier now: they were 2d sprites you only rendered in five directions (and flipped for the others). There weren’t a lot of enemies, and there weren’t a lot of weapons, either. With only three characters, who each had four weapons, one of which was assembled from parts, you had minimal animation to do. The weapons didn’t have impact, they were mostly magical devices that you flung at enemies as big sparkles.

What Hexen had a lot of was level. Thanks to its hub system, you had a bunch of self-contained levels, which connected to one another, meaning you could – and should! – do wild changes of aesthetics to make sure the player could recognise where they’d gone and where they’d already been.

The thing is, instead, we get a lot of FPSes that strive to pull off zombies or gritty realism, which means they compare directly to the place millionaires are concentrating their resources. Go bright, go sparkly, go FPS and save yourself having to render things like the player character’s face. If you just want to make levels though, this kind of game seems a good place to start. You don’t have to manage game entities interacting directly (creating a projectile and throwing it then seeing it land is a very different thing to punching a creature).

I may just be overthinking things. Or maybe I just feel nostalgic for Hexen.

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