Alphaland

Alphaland is a game where you are helping your friend test his new game. The new game is a platformer which the author says you can just “walk across the tiny test level and collect the power-up”. It quickly becomes apparent that there’s more going on here. Part of this game is discovering the mystery of what’s happening, so go ahead and jump to the “play now” link if you’re interested at all. It’s a quick game to play and fairly easy.

[size=20]Play Now[/size]

(for spoiler discussion, click "read more")

You manage to glitch through the boundaries of the game world into what looks like corrupted memory. As you explore the new land you begin to see messages from someone written on the walls of the level. Messages such as “Who am I?”, “Hello,” and “I am Awake.” You find two powerups, one which destroys certain types of blocks and one of which is a duck that lets you jump really high. The platforming gameplay is pretty standard here, but that’s not really the focus.

The levels also contain puzzles written in the same cryptic way as the messages, which logic gates that have to be passed by satisfying conditions. What conditions? It doesn’t say, it just says “0 > 12” and you have to make the number go up to 13, for example. What would normally be fairly mundane becomes fun through lack of an explanation.

The cryptic messages written on the level eventually give way to a full on monologue from the game as you progress through the various levels. This last part of the game is the most fascinating to me, because the game is communicating directly with you. The level also manages to control your attention by making obstacles easier when it wants the story to move ahead more rapidly. It’s a fairly clever metaphor for storytelling in gaming, the story literally is the game.

Talking Points: Have you ever felt like a game was having a discussion with you? Was it more a monologue or a conversation? Have you ever had a game intentionally just drop you into something without explaining it?

Comments

I absolutely loved this game. Obviously the glitch in it isn't real, but it captured the emotion of finding a really cool glitch or easter egg in a game really well. This sense that there's more world than you are supposed to see, and it has all these odd rules that apply to it that you can just rack your brain to figure out and feel like you're discovering something you weren't meant to.

Oh also, there is a finished version where they helped Jonas out in debugging it.

Oh also, there is a finished version where they helped Jonas out in debugging it.

This is why you shouldn't fix bugs! :p

Gave up after 5 minutes or so of wandering and jumping directionless through twisty passageways.

There was stuff to like about this but I'm sort of frustrated with this minimalism/hyper-retro/profound-vagueness format to so many of these games lean on. There's nothing wrong with that artistic setup inherently, but...surely there's other stuff we can do.

Additionally: That backwards voice recording of the girl that plays over the soundtrack is creepy as f*ck.

BadKeyMachine wrote:

There was stuff to like about this but I'm sort of frustrated with this minimalism/hyper-retro/profound-vagueness format to so many of these games lean on. There's nothing wrong with that artistic setup inherently, but...surely there's other stuff we can do.

Additionally: That backwards voice recording of the girl that plays over the soundtrack is creepy as f*ck.

Yeah, this. For this to work for me, it should have at least made you play through more than one screen of the "game" before you went off the rails. Instead it just seemed like it hit you over the head with it from the very beginning and then expected you to find it really meaningful or whatever.

BadKeyMachine wrote:

There was stuff to like about this but I'm sort of frustrated with this minimalism/hyper-retro/profound-vagueness format to so many of these games lean on. There's nothing wrong with that artistic setup inherently, but...surely there's other stuff we can do.

Haha, yea. Reminded me very specifically of Time Fcuk in this case, right down to the "vague disturbing voice underneath the music" thing.

Yeah, this game is basically a minimalist version of something that has been done many times before. I had to roll my eyes when I saw the existentialist writing on the wall which has sort of become a cliche in these types of games. It's a well done game but it doesn't do anything profoundly new or clever.

Latrine wrote:

Yeah, this game is basically a minimalist version of something that has been done many times before. I had to roll my eyes when I saw the existentialist writing on the wall which has sort of become a cliche in these types of games. It's a well done game but it doesn't do anything profoundly new or clever.

Pretty much this.

Am I the only one who missed the "creepy voice" because I was playing music at the same time I played?

To me, this was a monologue instead of a conversation. The player's only option is to satisfy the logic gates to progress. There doesn't seem to actually be any choices to be made. Did I miss something (like the creepy voice)? I think it would have been more interesting if you had to make binary choices throughout that affected the outcome.

I am still trying to remember the name, but I heard a blog podcast after this year's GDC with discussion of what was at least said to be a half-finished, old, ca. 1990, unlicensed NES rom. As you progress, the levels become less and less finished, and you get the impression at first that the designer is just phoning it in, and then that he's thoroughly losing it after a bad breakup.

I'm going to continue hunting.

wordsmythe wrote:

I am still trying to remember the name, but I heard a blog podcast after this year's GDC with discussion of what was at least said to be a half-finished, old, ca. 1990, unlicensed NES rom. As you progress, the levels become less and less finished, and you get the impression at first that the designer is just phoning it in, and then that he's thoroughly losing it after a bad breakup.

I'm going to continue hunting.

Not the one you're thinking of, but you need to play Redder.

gtnissanfan wrote:

I think it would have been more interesting if you had to make binary choices throughout that affected the outcome.

Hmm, I think maybe, maybe not. Branching storylines aren't always better or more interesting than linear ones.

Switchbreak wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

I am still trying to remember the name, but I heard a blog podcast after this year's GDC with discussion of what was at least said to be a half-finished, old, ca. 1990, unlicensed NES rom. As you progress, the levels become less and less finished, and you get the impression at first that the designer is just phoning it in, and then that he's thoroughly losing it after a bad breakup.

I'm going to continue hunting.

Not the one you're thinking of, but you need to play Redder.

Neat, thanks!

An interesting and thoughtful little diversion, as it has been said very much in the vain of other small games that have come before. I'm okay with more deconstructionist meandering quasi-existential art house games if they're of about this length. I appreciate that it gets to its "point" in a short time frame, and if that's the case I don't really mind being hit over the head with it.

That said, I was getting a vibe from it early on that suggested an AI of some sort had sneaked into the game your friend had made, but having played all the way through, I don't think that's the case really.

Will check out this Redder business now...

EDIT: "Neat platformer", but bouldn't figure out why Redder was mentioned in this thread at first...

Spoiler:

Oh my god it started happening so subtly that I thought it was me at first OH MY GOD...

This is brilliant.

I didn't enjoy it, tbh. Turned it off before finishing. I have better things to do than stumbling around in a game not knowing what the point of it all is. When I'm in a game, I want to be entertained, dammit.

My time is better spent working on my swim stroke.

Neat, short little game. Not great, but short enough that I didn't care. Finished.

Switchbreak wrote:

...you need to play Redder.

Now that was interesting. I want to have a FB conversation about this game instead.