TNNS

One of the nice things about having a blog is that I sometimes get the opportunity to use it as a platform to support my friends that are doing cool things.  One of those friends is a programmer, and he has been working on a mobile game called TNNS which is now available for purchase!

TNNS is sort of Breakout meets minigolf meets tennis.  You control a paddle that slides up and down one side of the screen, and your goal is to keep the ball in play while collecting stars in and around the obstacles on the other side.  Each level has a goal star in a box that advances you to the next level when hit.  The unique gameplay feature here is that you can control the ball’s trajectory by slicing it and putting a curve on it, making the game very active, unlike the more passive, reactionary Breakout.  The levels are randomized, and progression is measured by stars collected, levels played, and time spent playing.  Check out a gameplay trailer below:

The game is designed by Tim Rogers (ZiGGURAT), and it’s Tim’s understanding and exploration of what he calls “friction” in games that really gives TNNS that extra something special.  When you hit the ball, the paddle gets some visible kickback and the screen appears to rumble a little bit.  When you do things of significance, like hit the star in the box that ends the level, the screen shakes violently.  Most satisfyingly, if you have multiple balls on the playing field, the play action will actually pause for a moment each time you hit one.  This is sticky friction.  These might seem like cosmetic details to some, but they’re actually working to make the game feel more visceral and satisfying.  Friction seems to be a trait unique to games and not found in any other art medium, and I’m excited to see it explored further.

Tim Rogers is an interesting guy with a lot of interesting ideas about games and a killer writing style.  I have a hard time finding a way to properly describe how satisfying and delicious I find his writing.  His passion is apparent, which is important, but his execution is where it’s at.  It’s all perfect analogies and wild anecdotes and casual backtracking and really making you feel what he’s feeling and comprehend what he’s trying to get across.  Elegant?  But raw.  Like I said, I have a hard time describing it.  Just go read this: In Praise of Sticky Friction.

Back to TNNS — it’s a very stylish game.  The art style is clean and sleek, with lots of popping bright colors and flashing rainbow particles.  The color palette changes every level which keeps things visually interesting (and also keeps me on my toes, as it sometimes becomes harder to see the important visual elements of the level, ball included).  The music and sounds are pleasant and appropriate to the genre.

If you lose the ball, it’s instant death.  This is frustrating at first when you’re still getting the hang of the game (okay, it’s frustrating all the time), but it makes me want to actually focus and try to get better while I’m playing.  Being bad at the game has a consequence, and that’s something I need.  Restarting is super quick and fluid, so I never feel like the game is wasting my time (if anything, I’m wasting the game’s time!)  The randomized levels really help to alleviate the feeling of starting back at the bottom rung as well.  And it’s the perfect low commitment, bite-sized, pick up anytime, play it when you have a few minutes sort of game that I think suits mobile devices best.

So that’s TNNS!  I’ve been enjoying it so far and recommend it to those of you looking for a fun game that is thoughtfully made. (Games of all genres can be thoughtfully made!  Be the best game you can be!)   TNNS is available for iOS and Android, and I’ve heard it will be on Amazon soon.

3 comments on TNNS

  • Greg

    Natalie,

    Regarding games seeming like the only art medium in which friction exists:

    I know this isn’t quite the same because one isn’t in control of these things and the experience is a bit different, but I would say that consumers experience a type of sticky friction in reading comics and watching animations as well. In animation it’s a little easier to grasp because parts are moving and one would expect the reactions of objects as a result of friction to have a certain feel to them based on the physics of a particular world (not to mention, the animations in the game are the creators of that friction, though it’s more personal because the gamer is the one who ultimately controls that action).

    In comics, though, some artists convey momentum and friction well and others don’t. Spider-Man kicking a villain in the face is something that i need to feel as a reader, not just see. Someone who I don’t think does this well is Simone Bianchi. Bianchi’s draws some gorgeous portraits, but he action shots are very lifeless to me (for example, http://xaxor.com/images/Simone-Bianchi/Simone-Bianchi9.jpg). Mark Bagley, on the other hand, is the opposite. He’s actually the master of facial expressions, but even they have a “friction” to them. Look here at the first page here http://fuckyeahultimates.tumblr.com/page/5 –the fact that I can “feel” Gwen Stacey’s face move (especially her eyebrow) is why I love reading books with Bagley as the artist. Gwen’s eyebrow gets locked into place, and as someone who has to infer movement from panel to panel, I sense a kind of sticky friction there, too.

    Later!
    – Greg

    • clavicarius (author)

      I thought about this when I wrote that sentence. Not comics specifically, but the idea of friction in other media, specifically the way certain music can make you feel. But I do feel like the key element is the friction being intertwined with your direct action.

      The screen shaking during an explosion in a cut-scene, or the dynamic depictions of movement in a comic may do a good job of conveying the physicality of the action being presented, but I’m not sure I’d call it friction. To me, it’s about closing the feedback loop. You press A, and you get a visual representation of what the A action did, that’s your feedback. If the feedback has friction, your brain says “Ah, I felt that!” With passive media, there may still be ways for your brain to say “Ah, I felt that!” but you’re a little late to the party, and the feeling isn’t a direct reaction to your actions. It’s something you observe rather than something that is experienced as an extension of yourself.

      On the other hand, where does that leave something like Crono’s critical hit? My heart says that’s extremely frictive. I can feeeeel that sword ripping through the enemy, and technically it is a result of my action, but the feedback is extremely delayed from that action.

      Maybe I don’t know jack about friction!

      • Greg

        You know, back when I first played Chrono Trigger I believed that if I timed A juuuust right I’d have a better chance of getting that critical hit… that was frictal for me X) (fricticious?)

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