Following Footsteps is a unique and oddly charming game created by Ming-Yee Iu for our recent Casual Game Design Competition 6. While the game didn't win any prizes, it set itself apart through its creative take on the "explore" theme and innovative gameplay.
You play the part of an intrepid explorer ‒ or rather, you play the part of a weaselly scavenger following in the footsteps of an intrepid explorer, hoping to get your grubby mitts on the gold he lost over a century ago. Armed with the explorer's diary and a map of the area, you must track his progress across a wilderness of woods, rivers, lakes and swamps in search of the lost treasure. You start in the city of Compton; use the [arrow] keys or click on the on-screen arrows to move. When you think you're near a site where Emerson might have camped, click your character or press [enter] to explore that square. Use the map and the diary to help you pinpoint the location. Once you've found a campsite, the next diary entry will give you clues to the next location. Keep on exploring in this fashion until you've found the missing loot! If you get lost, head to any city and visit the library for a hint.
Analysis: Following Footsteps looks and feels like a prototype for a great game. I don't say this to criticize Ming, quite the opposite, actually, because when you get right down to it, the underlying mechanic is not only rock-solid, it's at least two steps away from any other casual game I've seen. People dig the idea. You can tell by the feedback that they care. At least half of the game's comments on the competition page read something like "Great idea, but here's how it could be better". Games based on mediocre concepts just don't get that kind of feedback.
What makes it so appealing? It speaks to the explorer in us, the part of us that's saddened just a little when the entire world is revealed in a game like Civilization. We like to climb mountains and ford rivers and track through forests, and Following Footsteps lets us do just those things.
Unfortunately, the illusion suffers a bit since terrain has no effect on the way you can move across it. Look everyone, I'm walking on water! Making the terrain interactive with the exploring character would go a long way towards turning this game into a real adventure. Incorporate some of the same challenges you might run into if you were actually out in the wild ‒ storms, fords, boats, bears, carrying supplies, wagons, oxen... OK, I stole those last two from Oregon Trail, but you get the idea.
So, cheers to Ming for creating Following Footsteps with its innovative core gameplay mechanism. We hope to see a more fleshed-out version in the future, hopefully incorporating some of the great ideas suggested by fellow JIGsters.