As a 49 year old female player I get a bit offended when I see websites advertising games for girls: there is no such thing!

I started playing computer games in the 1980’s and basically I’ve never stopped. In my experience as a gamer, I have played a bit of everything from Doom to Devil May Cry. However, my favorite games had always been RPGs  such as The Elder Scrolls, Baldur’s Gate, Gothic and so on until I played my first HOPA game in 2012 (a coincidence? ).

Some gamers believe that HOPA games are an evolution of classical adventure games which appeared in the 1990’s. I personally never liked those games which I found terribly boring. I want to explain here why I got hooked on HOPA games and what are the most important features a game should have to be a great HOPA game. That is from my point of view as an experienced gamer.

What does it take for an HOPA game to become a great game?

Storyline:

The storyline is the backbone of the entire game and must be really intriguing to keep the player stuck to the screen. But of course, there wouldn’t be any point in having a great storyline without presenting it properly with appropriate cutscenes.

Cutscenes:

Cutscenes, whether in 2d or 3d, are the joints of the storyline; they help the gamer understand the development of the storyline as well as keeping the suspense high. The best cutscenes are those which contain beautiful art, whether 2d or 3d, skilled voice overs acting and appropriate music and sound. Cheap and bad cutscenes are those where real people are filmed instead of using 2d or 3d characters – they break the magic of the game immersion experience.

Voice Overs:

Some voice over actors are so good they manage to give the game a complete distinct characteristic. They are fundamental for a great game in both cutscenes and during game play.

Music:

Believe it or not I actually quit a few games because the background music was so annoying. Keeping one theme for the entire game is absolutely deleterious for the gamer’s health. Great games have fantastic music made by real musicians and the music change for each chapter of the story and it is appropriate for the game content.

SFX (Special Sound Effects):

Now, some of you might think that this is an obvious aspect of the game but it isn’t necessarily so. In fact, I played a few games which had one music track for the entire game and the SFX were limited to squeaking doors and footsteps. The rain in the background, the wind and other SFX are indispensable to help the player get fully immersed in the scene. Of course, such games are no longer “casual” because there are hours and hours of work behind them but in the end the result is a masterpiece and the players will play it more than once!

Artistic Illustrations:

Some games are made with outstanding artistic illustrations that they may as well be considered masterpieces. The visual experience is  the strongest for the gamer so a great game contains lots of beautiful art even for ho (hidden object) scenes. On the contrary, cheap and boring games contain photos which have been manipulated with some digital software.

Mini Games (Puzzles):

Mini games are fundamental for game immersion; HOPA are first person games so it’s really important that you feel as if you were in charge of the situation. The best mini games are those who make you think and solve problems such as connecting conductors, move objects from one point to another through a maze and so on. The most boring puzzles are those which have been used too many times in games such as reassembling pictures or reordering something which don’t require any particular skills at all.

Hidden Object:

If it were for me I would have eliminated those a long time ago. However, the recent development of ho (hidden object) scenes in more interactive game play  has made them more interesting than usual and at times even enjoyable. The worst and cheapest ho scenes are those which contain a long list of completely unrelated objects (a duck, a wrench, a noose, etc..). In my view though, ho scenes are not necessary for a great game, a standing example is the Nancy Drew series where their game immersion experience is one of the best for its genre.

Next time, I’m going to talk about some of my favorite HOPA games and why I liked them so much, basically a sort of game review. Feel free to contribute if you are a HOPA game lover.

Playability:

Is the GUI user friendly? Can players intuitively understand how to navigate through the game? This part can be very tricky because people get bored easily and want to play straight away without having to understand how to play first. Playability includes maps, almanacs, hints, skipping buttons, game mode (difficulty level), tutorials and the inventory. Make it too fancy and people will be overwhelmed, too simple and it might impact the aesthetics of the game. Keeping to the standard view I think it’s the best choice (hints and skip buttons on the bottom right, inventory in the bottom centre and maps and others on the bottom left). I actually appreciate when the inventory disappears during play time and reappears only if I hover my mouse over it.

That’s all for now, stay tuned and stay playful!

(Picture above: Artifex Mundi, Enigmatist 3, The Shadow of Karkhala)

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