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Conflicting Brainwaves02:34 AM -- Mon February 14, 2005

I believe there is a switch in the human brain that pumps out endorphins when you are doing things that your brain thinks are accomplishing stuff. This is probably not so much a weird belief as it is neuroscientific fact backed up legions of books and papers, but I haven't read them. Certainly makes sense though.

This switch exists so that accomplishing things makes you happy, and thus you will accomplish things. The nifty thing is, games can trip this trigger quite easily. MMORPGs are very vicious about it - you're constantly grinding forward, improving your character. Everything you do in an MMO is, as far as your brain is concerned, accomplishing something - it's making you more powerful. It's one of the great draws, causing a constant stream of positive reinforcement, aka homegrown drugs (isn't it weird that your glands can create chemicals that affect your mood? Or stomach acid for that matter? Weird). Lots of other game types employ this as well.

The problem is this: on that one level, my brain is "in the game" and I feel the thrill of accomplishments. But on another level, my brain is outside the game, and I feel time slipping by with me wasting my time playing a stupid game. These two messages conflict, and leave me troubled and frustrated. The real trouble being, the chemical rush makes me want to play the game more (it's way easier to accomplish things in a game than in the real world!), but my smarter parts want me to not waste time doing it (and they are backed up by social pressures, such as people wanting me to finish my latest work, and simply wanting to look less lazy in the eyes of other people). So I have a drive to play games, but I have a disgust with game playing. Disgust is a bit strong, but it's the general idea. That makes playing games compulsive, and yet a little unpleasant. An addiction? Pretty much!

In other conflicting news, Sol Hunt is difficult to design. Just as I know MMOs suck people in with their constant improving and seemingly endless goals, I want to capture that with Sol, giving you upgrades on end to seek out. But I also am very intent on creating a fun and crazy multiplayer shooter, along the lines of a 2D Unreal Tournament. This is very conflicting, because it is not so much fun to play UT against someone with double rocket launchers when you have a water pistol. Further, this conflicts with the Dr. Lunatic-style design goal, because a key part of Dr. Lunatic gameplay is that the level designer has great power to craft their challenges because they dictate exactly what power the player has at any point (the player starts with nothing, and the designer doles out hammers and pants as they so choose - some levels even give you nothing). This rather cleverly manages to conflict with BOTH of the other design goals! What does it all mean? Where will it all go? I have no idea at all.

One simple idea is to keep the Dr. Lunatic play completely like Dr. Lunatic, which means the only upgrading would occur in the space shooter part of the game. This would really solve everything, because it would mean that in the multiplayer everyone would be on equal footing as well. The downside? I really want more things for the player to upgrade! Plus I like the idea of encountering a world you can't really handle, and going to improve yourself on other ones, or needing some special item you haven't yet earned, or going back to a world you've finished with some new ability and finding secrets you couldn't reach before.

Luckily, I haven't even managed to implement a chat program yet, so I guess there's no worries! But boy, that lack of progress eats at my laziness brain issue! Pushing ahead I am!

P.S. - Pumpkin Pop for the Mac is coming soon! Not that you care, you have a PC if you're a regular visitor to this site, but hopefully in time, we'll have some MacBuddies (iPals?) to join in our reindeer games. I am trying to get all the games ported.
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