An Interesting Concept — Audio Games and Interactive Novels

Posted: February 20, 2011 in Apple and Gaming, Personal Thougths

I recently came across two interesting concepts while searching for apps on my iPad. Games that fall into a new category of gaming that mixes with other forms of media. In a sense gaming, music and books coming together to tell a visual story. I am specifically referring to games that combine story books or interactive novels with visual representations called game books — as well as games that combine visual gameplay with voice-based audio interaction.

One example of an audio-type game is Papa Sangre. The game plays without any visual graphics of any sorts and has you engage in a mystery of sorts dealing with the Mexican Day of the Dead tradition. Here is the app description from the official website:

Papa Sangre is a video game with no video. It’s a first-person thriller, done entirely in audio by an award-winning team of game designers, musicians, sound designers and developers. We’ve created an entire world using the first ever real-time 3D audio engine implemented on a handheld device. Which was BLOODY HARD.

It is interesting how certain developers are using all of the features of the iPad or iPhone like voice recognition with the microphone. This is an example of thinking outside the box. This concept reminds me of another game released a few months back by Square-Enix called Voice Fantasy. The game featured a light-hearted RPG storyline that was played with voice commands. The characters would be generated based on voice as well. I found it an interesting, albeit a bit shallow, concept that Square-Enix could run with in future titles if done right.

Another interesting concept I’ve ran into lately on the App Store gaming scene are interactive novel-games or books that have graphics, visual representations, and even quests with non-linear gameplay elements thrown in. Think of these apps as a mix between a book and an RPG-adventure game.

A recent example of such an app to get recognition and that is hailed as pretty much the cream of the crop (by TouchArcade at least) is the recent Fabled Lands HD, that is exclusive to the iPad on the App Store and features RPG elements in a book format.

According to Ellisthion from Dice of Doom, the app is ” a completely open game that has been compared to an MMO in book form, with no linear storyline and the ability to roam around the world as you see fit.”

With all these gread ideas being put together to add immersion to games, I think there is a lot to go in gaming before innovation ceases and the medium fails to advance. We are just scratching the surface here with ideas like voice recognition and sensory imagery being integrated into gameplay decisions. We will have greater roles in games rather than just watching a storyline unfold. Same thing holds true for digital novels and eBooks. As society moves away from print we will need something to compensate for the lack of that paper feeling reading is associated with and all the benefits a real book offers over a digital copy. Interaction is one way to keep our attention.

I think the future of gaming is headed in the virtual reality direction but the first step being sensory in origin — not necessarily with helmets or big visual devices putting our eyes in a different dimension. There is more than visual cues to an experience. The App Store, in particular, just continues to amaze me though with apps constantly pushing the boundaries.

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