At Strong National Museum of Play, home of NCHEG, we recently installed an exhibit that allows the public to experience one of my all-time favorite games, Crayon Physics Deluxe. It derives from the original Crayon Physics, which a co-worker got me hooked on a few years ago. The museum is a natural home for the game because of the whimsical nature of the graphics and musical soundtrack, and because (Crayola) crayons were inducted into our National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999. Through a generous donation of equipment by Presentation Source, local audio-visual technology gurus, our guests (which is what we call our museum visitors) can play the game via a large touch screen in our National Toy Hall of Fame exhibit hall.
Our testing and installation of Crayon Physics Deluxe reminded me of the addictiveness and lasting power of what is, on the surface, a relatively simple game. With the basic objective of getting the ball to the star on any given level, players can create any two-dimensional line or shape to move the ball, all subject to the natural laws of physics. The game often requires unique and creative solutions, but for many players, moving the ball to the star is secondary to the fun of experimenting with the physical interplay between created shapes. As the opening screen states: “It’s not just about finding the right solution. It’s about finding the awesomest one.”
After two years of playing this game regularly I still take pleasure in even the most basic levels. This is a testament to good game design and the seductive power of physics-based games.
Games based on physics are a genre in their own right, but definitions of it vary. Many Web sites are devoted to physics-based games that can be played online, but few such sites attempt to explain what makes a game physics-based. Many early games—from Spacewar and Asteroids (thrust and gravitational pull) to Tetris (gravity) to various current titles—use a variety of vehicular and skeletal physics. Silvergames. com describes physics-based games as follows:
Physics-based games are designed to mimic the basic laws of physics. Unlike many popular games that do not specifically follow natural law, most physics-based games are designed around Newton’s Three Laws of Motion:
I. If an object is not moving, it won’t start moving unless something else moves it. If an object is moving, it will continue to move unless something else stops it.
II. The amount of force required to move an object is equal to the mass of the object times the acceleration.
III. If something pushes on an object (an action), the object will push back (a reaction).
I would add that physics-based games not only adhere to these laws of motion, but also use them as the centerpiece of game play, where manipulation of objects within these laws becomes the method by which the game is played.
Physics-based games tend to have roots with independent and international developers well outside the classic markets and distribution channels in which many of the well-known genres have emerged and matured. Crayon Physics Deluxe, developed by Petri Purho, a Finnish independent game developer, won the grand prize at the 2008 Independent Games Festival Awards. A 2006 predecessor, Slovenian university student Boštjan Čadež’s Line Rider, introduced the world to physics-based game play through viral Internet distribution. The most commercially successful and recognizable physics-based game of recent times, however, is World Of Goo, by 2D Boy, an American (yet independent) game studio.
We hope some of you will have the chance to visit and play Crayon Physics here at the home of NCHEG, but for those of you unable to make it here I suggest you download the demo, or enjoy a variety of other physics-based games by a variety of international and independent developers at the following sites. Be sure to let us know which physics-based games you find unique and the most fun. There’s certainly plenty to choose from!
PhysicsGames.net Fun-Motion Silvergames The Game Telegraph