PixelJunk Eden: More So Facebook Than Ninja Roping

March 4th, 2009

Time to come down to earth a little bit and talk about Eden as a bunch of technical mechanics in relation to the feelings it encapsulates. You know, the way I usually swing. If you haven’t played Eden then this article should probably work favourably for you.

Above I have included a gameplay video of Eden, if you haven’t ever seen (much) of Eden then take a quick look, you only need to watch it for a minute to pick up the jist. Even if you have seen some before, just take a quick look for context. Work with me here.

Now, when I originally downloaded video for this game, one of the first things that jumped to mind was the apt ninja rope mechanic from the Worms series. It’s simply so much fun to play around with, like a two dimensional Spiderman. Here’s some more video to jog your memory:

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Eden doesn’t really play the same way as Worms does, so it doesn’t necessarily feel the same way either. Eden‘s world is full of smaller goals which ensure that you can’t get too far ahead of yourself. As the video depicts, your little grimp needs to collect pollen from floating containers in the air, obtaining pollen sends them in the direction of the nearest bud which with enough pollen will grow upwards opening more of the level. With the constraint of grip spots (that is, the player has to make the environment grow before they have surfaces to twee from) and a less sporadic and agile rope to content with, Eden is very much different from Worms’ ninja rope experience. They are similar, and definitely appear more similar than they really are, but in reality the games have very different directions and intents from the swinging mechanics.

I’ve been playing Eden entirely in co-operative with my brother and I think that a better analogy for the way Eden plays is to liken it to social networking; either Twitter or Facebook. The vibe imposed on the player is very relaxing – as the last article pointed out. The mood set by the game doesn’t pressure you for result, if anything it pushes you to freestyle it more. You have two players in an environment, working together to build up the world around them. They can work together or just swing around wherever their senses lead them, looking for the next bud to blossom.

Whatever the players do, their worlds are kept together within the scope of the screen. Leaving the screen results in a direction pointer and a short three second timer warning to player to climb back up before a respawn and mild punishment. The two players therefore have to be in the some vicinity of each other. This is similar to setting up your networks in Facebook. Selecting which institutions you attending and becoming part of that game space.

Whatever they do is universally shaping what is happening around them. Creating bursts of pollen, swaying the grip area – the plants around them, pollinating new buds and growing new plants. In a way this is very much like an offline world, with each person doing their own thing, but subtly connected online through the affects their actions are having on the environment.

This is the same way Twitter or Facebook operates. Unless I chat with someone through the service, my actions aren’t imposing but still affecting the people around me. I upload a photo from some event on the weekend, a friend sees this and comments on this. This then ripples onto the profile of that friend’s friend who can see the album as part of an extended network through the updates feed. Although I’m basically going about my business, doing my own thing effectively, it is the flow off effect that make a network like Facebook or Twitter alive, much like the breathing world of Eden. One cannot exist without the other.

As you can see by the two examples, both Eden and Facebook share similarities in the way in which they operate, seemingly likening the networking experiences to one another.