Parameters

"It's nothing but clicking on things and making numbers go up."

It's a biting criticism, a shot commonly fired at some of the most popular games out there. A more charitable parsing of the statement and its implications might reveal a kernel of truth about its target — perhaps the game's narrative or thematic trappings were so uninteresting that the player was left to engage with a palette of fairly bland mechanics — but, all too often, it's a careless reduction thrown at a game that is earning more attention than we feel that it should. And, all the while, numbers go up in these games, in all games, as experience levels, kill counts, and rankings accumulate on leaderboards everywhere.

Nevertheless, there are a number of games that pivot upon this reductive position to provide satirical commentary about the medium and specific types of games, such as RPGs, that emerge from it. Invariably, many of them call out to the allure of progression mechanics with their title: Progress Quest, Progress Wars, etc.

A surface-level reading of Parameters, a Flash game created by Yoshio Ishii, might lead you to believe that it easily fits into this group. Luckily, the game's quirky and somewhat obtuse mechanics offer something different and, perhaps, more fulfilling upon further inspection.

You may recognize Ishii, the primary developer for NEKOGAMES, as the creator of other Flash micro-games such as Cursor*10 and the Hoshi Saga series. In many of his works, Ishii incorporates the full interactive scope of the mouse, requiring gestural input combinations or treating the mouse cursor itself as an avatar in the world. Much like a WarioWare micro-game, he also tends to conceal his mechanics from the player, requiring the player to think on their toes and discover those mechanics to solve a puzzle or proceed.

Both of these tendencies are at the forefront of Parameters' longer-form play sessions; after of a terse introductory prompt in Japanese — which can be switched to English by clicking a button in the bottom right — the player is dumped into a screen full of boxes with numbers and left to figure out the mechanics, all of which are driven by copious amounts of mouse-clicking and numerical foot-shuffling.

So, as a nod to the game's mysterious nature, I shall leave the description of the game at that and simply wish you good luck ... and happy clicking.

Some further questions for discussion:

  • Were you able to complete the game? If so, what was your fastest time?
  • Did the mystery surrounding the mechanics enhance the experience or put you off from the game right away?
  • Do the dynamics that emerge from the game's mechanics offer any commentary on progression-based elements of other games?
  • For those that have completed the game and continue to chase faster times: how do you feel the game has evolved over your play-throughs?

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/params-wtf.PNG)
[size=9]That's right, it's nothing but an ... uh ... arcane arrangement of boxes and symbols, whose meanings are barely explained at all?[/size]

[size=24]Play this game for free (Flash)![/size]
(Don't forget to click the "English" button in the lower right of the first screen!)

Comments

This should not be as engaging as it is.

I have beaten this game! It was kinda hard to do.

Evil, evil man. I think I just lost ten minutes clicking on rectangles.

Yeah I'm down to the last boss... but grinding for money is... tedious. Not sure I want to spend however long it might take to finish this.

Someone spoiler me. How do you get the ? chest squares to open? I got one of the 5 to open but I'm not sure how the hell I did it...

Stele wrote:

Yeah I'm down to the last boss... but grinding for money is... tedious. Not sure I want to spend however long it might take to finish this. :D

I ground out about $200 then went crazy at the casino, ended up going about 20k up and it was plain sailing from there.

Dear god, I can't believe I'm offering strategy tips on a game about clicking on rectangles

Oh I didn't quit. I went back and beat it. And then there was another boss. And then another!

Think it's totally complete now. But I still didn't get one of the treasure chest boxes. The one in the top right corner.

Stele wrote:

Oh I didn't quit. I went back and beat it. And then there was another boss. And then another!

Think it's totally complete now. But I still didn't get one of the treasure chest boxes. The one in the top right corner. :?

Spoiler:

You have to fill up the blue bar at the top of the screen (the one that slowly fills as you pick up money/exp) to unlock the top-right box.

Yes, I just wasted about 40 minutes completing this thing.

46:20:25

Much longer.... much too long.

Did the mystery surrounding the mechanics enhance the experience or put you off from the game right away?

I enjoyed figuring it out. The grinding for money is what got monotonous. Sounds a bit like WoW.

Stele wrote:

Oh I didn't quit. I went back and beat it. And then there was another boss. And then another!

Think it's totally complete now. But I still didn't get one of the treasure chest boxes. The one in the top right corner. :?

Only one I couldn't open was the right-middle one.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Stele wrote:

Oh I didn't quit. I went back and beat it. And then there was another boss. And then another!

Think it's totally complete now. But I still didn't get one of the treasure chest boxes. The one in the top right corner. :?

Only one I couldn't open was the right-middle one.

Spoiler:

I got that by getting the final letter in NEKOGAMES (which was the S). However, I'm not sure how I got it. It was before beating the 9999 boss as I was grinding for money.

The letters seem to randomly pop as you click on quest boxes, either before or after completion. If you have to farm enough money you'll eventually get them all.

Got everything but the top left treasure chest, about 52:00 total.
Bizarrely compelling (but not visceral).

61:43:68

I should have been sleeping instead.

yay done at 59:53:63! and opened up every rectangle.

Had to restart since I had to step away the first time and shut down the computer. 2nd time I started up, concentrated on putting all my level ups into RCV. and it really seemed to help after the first bit. Made gold farming go a lot faster too.

Huh? I went total opposite on my 2nd run, with barely any RCV. I spent a lot of money maxing out the cheapest armor and weapon options to 9 because that's actually better than buying level ups for 200, or whatever. I did spend a little money on extra health points though. Made those long fights more sustainable.

Stele wrote:

Huh? I went total opposite on my 2nd run, with barely any RCV. I spent a lot of money maxing out the cheapest armor and weapon options to 9 because that's actually better than buying level ups for 200, or whatever. I did spend a little money on extra health points though. Made those long fights more sustainable.

Didn't mean to say I bought any level ups. I just spent money on the attack and armor instead of the given points for leveling since RCV isn't something you can buy with money.

You can buy the action stat though. I did spend the money there, seemed more useful to just have extra action points for clicking the quest/money boxes.

22:33:95

20:50:52

Spoiler:

I used the same basic strategy as the video: Ignore RCV, only level attack, spend money only on shields. I also had to have enough money for a health recovery on the final boss. However, the guy in the video did it in 1/10th the time, so ... well ....

An embarrassing 70:16:62 here. About 20 minutes in I finally noticed a red 46 above the plus signs for RCV ATK and DEF. That made the game go *much* more smoothly. Only unlocked one of the treasure chest rooms, though.

Got to admit, not requiring a persistent connection to the servers or requiring a 72-hour waiting period really helped sell me on the game.

Aristophan wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:
Stele wrote:

Oh I didn't quit. I went back and beat it. And then there was another boss. And then another!

Think it's totally complete now. But I still didn't get one of the treasure chest boxes. The one in the top right corner. :?

Only one I couldn't open was the right-middle one.

Spoiler:

I got that by getting the final letter in NEKOGAMES (which was the S). However, I'm not sure how I got it. It was before beating the 9999 boss as I was grinding for money.

Hm, that doesn't seem right.