The Trail

POSTED: November 28, 2017

Yesterday evening I read an article in Rolling Stone about Peter Molyneux, the designer of Fable, Populous, and Black & White. He talked a lot about the way in which games design has changed, and about his own vows to talk less about upcoming games for fear of raising expectations to levels that prove impossible to meet.

I had not realised that

He was the seventh person inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, after designers like Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, Civilization creator Sid Meier, Id Software founder John Carmack, and SimCity creator Will Wright.

More relevantly for me, he talked briefly about the mobile game that 22Cans released in autumn 2016. Called The Trail, I admit that I had never heard of it. I immediately downloaded it and played it happily for the next hour and a half.

It starts as a wandering game, in which your character walks along a path, guided by a coupe of helpers. Gradually you learn to collect items, and as you get given recipes, you can put these items together to make shoes and an axe and a catapult. You stop at campfires every kilometre or so and these act as meeting points, as places where the game autosaves, and as places where you can trade things that you have found or made.

Later, the game seems to promise that it will turn into a lifecycle game like Animal Crossing, in which you will finally reach the town at the end of the trail where you will buy or make a house, find a partner, and settle down (whatever that will turn out to mean).

I have now reached a tricky point. I have arrived at the first river but without enough funds to cross. I have also chosen a mission that seems difficult and I suspect that I may not have gathered the right equipment to carry it out. One of my helpers lent me the money I needed to get the ferry, but I suspect that this may prove to have consequences in the long term. I also chose a random package from the trader with the balloon, when I now think I would have done better to have chosen the bigger bag, thsu enabling me to collect more objects and thus make more things to sell.

I do not know whether I should start the whole game again, knowing now what I did not know then, in order to arrive at the ferry better equipped, or whether I should plough on in the hope that I will have the opportunity to make up for early mistakes later on.

Given that the game has the standard mobile mechanism of optional purchases that enable you to progress faster, I suspect that, if I continue to enjoy the game, I might end up literally paying for my early mistakes.

I think I shall start again before I have progressed so far that the thought of doing so becomes a reason to throw the game away.