Oquonie: designing from scratch
The world of Oquonie -
Oquonie is a game designed by Devine Lu Linvega and with art by Rekka Bell and is one of the most quintessential games of our time. Oquonie is at it’s heart a game about being lost in translation and even the denizens of Oquonie’s twisting and labyrinthian world all speak a strange and pre-modern language which works perfectly to distance you from this strange strange place.
It feels like a monochrome neo-Tokyo Alice in Wonderland. But the actual mechanics of Oquonie reinforce the amazing world that has been created. I could go on and on about this game, but what I would really like to talk about is that Oquonie does have some familiar “videogamey” tropes but for the most part is a game that has been designed from scratch. By that I mean that you can’t say that Oquonie is -insert game name here- but with -insert mechanic here-. Oquonie is not simply an improvement on an existing design, it’s something brand new. Oquonie achieves this with it’s world and it’s mechanics as I have previously mentioned.
The World and Mechanics -
The world feels like it is hiding everything from you. Every object you see feels oddly important even when it maybe isn’t. Every person you talk to could be telling you essential information but you have no way of knowing what they are saying. In Oquonie, knowledge is power and that is evident by the games mechanics. By traversing through the games world you learn all the dead ends and tricky spots where new rooms appear behind you as you walk and it’s through your travels and time in this world that you gain the knowledge to easily traverse it. The feeling of being lost drifts away as you learn every trick the world has to throw at you.
The essential mechanic the game has to offer is that by talking to multiple people with the same symbol above them you become a different animal and doors with that animal on them open. The reinforces the idea that information is key to surviving this world. By interacting and learning who you need to talk to and where you need to go you will eventually overcome Oquonie’s initial feeling of strangeness and obscurity. Although, as I finished the game it had me wondering if I had in fact finished it or if I had simply came to a point where I was more lost than before, but I felt like I understood it’s world and I didn’t feel as afraid to reside in it as I had before.
Oquonie is so unique in it’s vision and the way it tackled it’s subject matter of feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Oquonie doesn’t just tell you that you should feel lost and confused, it actually makes you feel that way and in fact tells you nothing but at the same time it’s impossible not to understand what Oquonie is all about just by playing the first few minutes.
Sure Oquonie deals with standard game practices such as swipe controls and a world comprised of different “levels” but other than those and a few other familiar things the game is completely unique in that it was necessary that the mechanics be designed purely for this experience. Oquonie is one of the most important games to be made in the last couple years and I strongly urge anyone with a Mac or an iOS device to pick it up on the app store or Steam(especially if you’re a game designer).