the artistry and psychology of gaming


Tag: The Power of Paint

Tag: The Power of Paint

Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

As Portal Month continues, we move from the product’s independent origins to its eventual expansion, featuring ideas from a new team out of the same place as before.

Tag: The Power of Paint

Tag, you’re it!

Genre: First Person Platformer
Link to Game:
Game Info: Developed by “Tag Team” at DigiPen in just 18 months (including creating the game engine!), and released in 2008

Similar to Narbacular Drop which was previously featured, the game Tag was developed as a student project by a team of seven at DigiPen Institute of Technology. While the game was first conceived as an actual game of tag, where players would squirt each other with paint guns, the concept was soon dropped in favor of expanding on the paint guns themselves. The team allowed for the individual paints to carry their own powerups that would enhance the character’s mobility, which turned the focus of the game towards navigation and platforming.

Tag is somewhat of a cross between de Blob and Mirror’s Edge. The player navigates a 3D greyscale cityscape within the first person perspective, and with the “power of paint”, begins to mark up the world with colors in order to reach the goal (an amorphous paint blob, that I guess is some form of dimensional teleporter…anyway it’s not important). The world isn’t stagnant as well, with trains, elevators, and rotating signs, making the black and white world come to life with a bit more believability. Within each level the player may come across three different paint colors (of which they will receive an unlimited amount within that level) that will aid them in moving from A to B. Spraying green paint on a surface will cause the character to jump off of it, red paint causes the character to speed up, and finally, blue paint causes the character to stick to whatever surface it appears on.

Eat your heart out, Peter Parker

Furthering the gameplay are the ways paint colors can be implemented together. One can, for example spray a runway strip of red paint, and end it with a splotch of green paint to make a long jump across great distance, or can spray down green paint to leap towards a wall spashed with blue paint to stick to it. Green paint can also be applied to any walls in order to start bouncing off of them, allowing for wall jumps to occur at certain places. Each of the game’s levels were well crafted to appeal to the different strengths of the paint cans involved, and the game’s tutorial system (a series of billboards that appear during the earlier levels) does a great job of relaying the character’s moveset possibilities without just outright telling them exactly what to do.

I should also point out that the painting mechanic is handled very well; it doesn’t leave too thin a trail that might make you question your footing, and allows for a great amount of control and accuracy with the mouse. The paint simply goes exactly where you’d expect it to go. Paint also flows quickly, matching the character’s own moving speed to allow for continuous paint streams while walking forward (very useful for walking on walls with blue paint). 

Things get tricky when you start walking on walls.

While the game itself is pretty short (with a few mistakes and time to think, you can still make it through in under half an hour), there are a lot of creative concepts at play and the game is fun to progress through.

So what does all of this have to do with Portal, you may ask? Well, Tag itself went on to win the Student Competition at the 2009 Independent Games Festival, and soonafter, the programming team went to work for the Valve Corporation as developers on Portal 2. You may recognize their work in the series of paint gels found within the game, that each had their own set of properties to add further puzzle elements to the Portal experience. Within Portal 2, you can find orange “propulsion” gel to boost Chell’s speed, blue “repulsion” gel which can bounce Chell off surfaces, and white “conversion” gel, which allows for portals to be placed on other types of surfaces.

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