Finding gameplay depth outside of typing
Modern games that hybridize typing with another genre can challenge non-typing skills brought by the other genre: exploration in Backspace Bouken, bullet avoidance in Textorcist, dodging enemy attacks by switching lanes in Outshine. For the latter, Hugo Bourbon explains that he creates variations in enemy behavior based on two equally important skills: how you type them and how you avoid them.
In Typing Heart, in addition to the preferred conversation topics we’ve already mentioned, each love interest has a set of favorite words (related to personal things like their pet’s name). Once discovered, they are added to the pool of words to type as mystery words, which means you only see the first letters, the rest being displayed as question marks. This challenges the player’s long term memory and fits the dating theme of the game.
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If gameplay depth comes from having multiple layers of understanding of a system (which players discover as they play), then you can rely on the non-typing aspects of your game to increase depth, even if typing stays on the surface layer.
This is especially true for Touch Type Tale, as Malte Hoffmann explains: “Most of the depth comes from the strategy part. Like in most strategy games there are a lot of things you have to think about—how much do you want to invest in your economy versus military units? when are you going to switch from building up your economy to building up an army? what kind of units do you want? where do you move them? what do you capture first? and so on. That’s the core gameplay loop which creates depth in our game. So not really related to the typing.”
Propagation of elements in Nanotale (2021)
In contrast, Nanotale’s gameplay loop includes the typing, since, in addition to being the way you interact with the game, it recharges your mana. So whether you’re trying to solve a puzzle or following a tactic to beat enemies, the loop comes down to: get mana while typing words, spend it by typing special words to cast a spell, then repeat. The depth comes from the consequences of your interaction with the system; it lies in the potential for chain reactions that players learn to manipulate to their advantage. And these reactions are determined by two things: a system of “elemental” interactions and a cellular automaton. The elements are concepts like fire, water, poison, heat, cold… that add an abstract layer to the interactions. The fire spell doesn’t burn enemies directly, but rather emits fire and heat, and the enemies have a reaction behavior to fire. This allows us to only implement element emitters and receivers, and let the system create emergent behaviors. The cellular automaton completes this by allowing some elements to propagate on surfaces. The ground is populated by a grid of individual cells that can react to their neighbors: a poison cell spreads on neighbor water cells, a fire cell propagates on poison and high grass cells which then become empty cells. This means a spell can heat up grass which burns and propagates fire to an explosive enemy that explodes, emitting fire around itself, killing a water enemy which releases water on the ground, which in turn makes the burnt grass grow back, and so on.
Find depth outside of typing mechanics.
Enrich your game experience by mixing the typing with other genres. Don’t forget about the other, traditional ways to bring depth by focusing too much on the typing alone.
Good systemic agency is found by tightly linking all your game systems together. Make sure to link the typing to other, potentially stronger systems.