Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Office DisOrders


 Once in awhile, something comes along that can't be put into any of the genres we use to classify our games. In fact, Office DisOrders isn't really a game or even an App. I suppose you could call it an Office Simulation, but that would just be silly.

If anything, what we have here is a wonderful piece of slightly interactive fiction. Set mostly in an office and taking place over the course of five working days, Office DisOrders follows the role of Jennifer, a new temp at Incomputech, as she begins her meteoric rise and fall.

Whether or not you enjoy Office DisOrders will most likely depend on how well you enjoy the banter between Jennifer and her co-workers. The conversations are all text based, one of my only complaints. Full voice overs would suit this game very well. Still, I found myself laughing on numerous occasions while reading. The credits list numerous writers involved with the game which really shows in the quality of its prose.

In the picture above we can see that Jennifer hasn't been paying attention to her body and her stress meter on the right is rising. The Incomputech offices are furnished with a fully functioning fridge, microwave, and coffee maker to help Jennifer get through the day. Unfortunately the vending machine is broken. The graphics seem simplistic, even Lego-like. But I love the details, how every employee's only computer skill seems to be solitaire.

OfficeDisOrders is a one button game. But you will be making good use of the left thumbstick as well. I almost cried tears of joy when I discovered there was no need to press A to select a task, all that is needed is a simple push, then release of the thumbstick into the tasks direction on the radial dial. With no button confirmation for selection, some users might have problems, especially if their thumbsticks are a bit twitchy from years of continual use and or abuse. But removing the usually standard button press for confirmation adds something quite unique to the game. Making choices is effortless and quick. This speed of response really drew me into the game's story. There are a few conversations in the game where you are presented with a set of choices on the radial dial.

Simply move the thumbstick in the direction of your choice to advance the story

The game quickly moves from having Jennifer complete the most mundane office tasks such as carry the binder into a much more ludicrous realm and I don't want to spoil anything for you so I won't mention the storyline anymore. I will say that I completed the game in one sitting and it took about an hour and a half.

Ted from Moment Games, the developer behind OfficeDisOrders has worked on a number of mainstream titles over the years, including the Sims and most recently Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for Lucasarts. Ted left Lucasarts due in part to the politics around the office. When asked about his motivation for creating OfficeDisorders, Ted had a few choice words, "I wanted to make a game that meant something to me, to make something that I know about." Ted added he would definitely like to create more games in a similar vein if there is interest and he can work with the right people. I am definitely interested, I wonder if I am the right people?

There's an interesting document on Moment Games website, titled "The Things We Think and Do Not Say", a manifesto if you will. The purpose of which is to set out the core tenets that should define the future of the games industry, at least according to Ted. It might be evident from the conversation screenshot above that all the choices in the radial dial are similar. This would be in line with tenet five of the manifesto, "Create the illusion of choice instead of providing actual choice."  Ted believes that, "Just like a movie director controls what the audience sees, the game designer must control what the player does."

Tenet five of the manifesto is problematic, its purpose is to ensure the player has an optimal experience with the game, but why should it be up to the developer to decide what is optimal for me? The first thing I did upon entering Office Politics was take a power nap, then try and use my coworker's computers, after that I took another nap. I wanted to play a napping game, I wondered how many naps I could take before the boss would catch on to me. After a few naps with no reprisals I decided to go along with Ted's story, it is pretty good.

There is also mention of replayablity in Tenet five, "Replayability should be provided through the desire to relive a meaningful experience instead of through the creation of more options." Easier said than done, although Ted mentions movies with multiple viewings and books with multiple reads, and I also start to wonder why games have a harder time attracting repeat players.

OfficeDisorders seems to follow the tenets of "The Things We Think and Do Not Say". A sort of real world example of its principles put into practice. I enjoyed the experience and look forward to future Moment Games releases.



  1. Damnit I downloaded the demo but didn't play it till it was too late to buy.

    I hope they put it back soon!!

  2. Its back up again as Office Disorders! =D