Recently, I played the crap out of a game called “Yard Sale Hidden Treasures – Sunnyville”. I’ve been meaning to play one of the object-hunting casual games for awhile, just to see what they are all about, and a friend of mine announced to a mailing list I’m on that his studio had just completed this game. So I picked up the title from Big Fish Games and set about giving it a shot. (I secretly hoped that “Sunnyville” was a play on “Sunnyvale” and the game would be filled with lots of geeky old computer equipment.)
What I rapidly discovered is that the reward cycle is incredibly tight in these games. Just like in something like Peggle, and frankly in a lot of casual games, the gameplay experience is divided into very short sequences that give you a ton of positive feedback when you succeed. I rapidly found myself really enjoying the game, as I could dive into a level as a brain break and complete it in five minutes or so, feel some accomplishment, then get on with my day. I also felt like I was learning something – how to spot hidden objects in a scene – and noticed that I was getting better at it. What a peculiar skill to learn. But being able to see things in a different way, see things in life that I wouldn’t notice otherwise – how cool is that?
One of the elements of Sunnyville is that each scene has a number of stars hidden in it. If you find a star, you are able to store it away as currency to spend later to find objects you’re having trouble with. So if I’m totally screwed and can’t find the lava lamp no matter what I do, I can spend a star and the game will show it to me. Stars are very, very useful and you want to be looking for them everywhere.
I mentioned recently that I’ve moved into a new loft in San Francisco – pretty close to where GDC is held each year. The place is still kind of a mess, and there are a few boxes left, and things are piled in random places, especially in my office. One of the random things I started finding around the house while playing Sunnyville was quite unexpected though – stars! Apparently MB had a bag of glittery stars to put in people’s birthday cards, and they escaped from whatever box they were moved in. Not only had they escaped, but they had landed all over the house: the upstairs closet, the kitchen, the downstairs bathroom… and not a zillion of them, just a few. Quite literally, I’d be walking up the stairs to the bedroom and suddenly find one loan red star hiding in the corner on one of the stairs.
It was as if Sunnyville, and the things I had been learning in the game, had suddenly burst from my computer screen and invaded my life. It made that week of playing Sunnyville and cleaning up a lot more fun. Now if only I could have spent those stars to find where I put my keys!