Dim Bulb Games, the studio behind Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, released a much smaller game earlier this year than this text-heavy American story-gathering odyssey. Museum of Mechanics: Lockpicking is instead, as the name suggests, about collecting mechanics.
The presentation is pretty simple. Each of the three wings is housed in a dimly lit museum and contains several examples of how games have depicted lockpicking over the years. There’s the familiar Fallout and Skyrim-style approach of running a pickaxe around the keyhole, looking for the point of maximum tension. But the game has a much wider range of takes.
King’s Heir: Rise to the Throne presents you with five plates, each with one or more bars that extend outward. To pick the lock you need to find the bars that just go under other bars. If it crosses another bar at any point, it cannot be withdrawn. There is Anachronox, which is a gun-like device with two parallel prongs projecting to the right into a three-bar mechanism. The bars can only be avoided by guessing the correct number from one to ten. A meter on the side moves up or down to show how close or far you are to the solution. Then there’s my personal favorite, Testament of Sherlock Holmes, which asks you to bend a segmented piece of metal so its shape fits the interior chambers of the lock.
Given enough time, I might have gotten into these games at some point. But it seems unlikely I’d ever play them all, and even if I did, it’s unlikely I’d get far enough to see each game’s approach to lockpicking. Museum of Mechanics: Lockpicking is notable for this reason. It in no way feels like something created for commercial purpose. It costs $9.99 on Steam, but this news item on developer Johnnemann Nordhagen’s Steam page offers a much better explanation of why it exists.
“As a game designer, you’re often doing research on how other games are doing things — it’s a great way to get ideas, see what works and what doesn’t, and build an understanding of the area you’re solving problems in,” writes Nordhagen . “Usually this research involves buying lots of games and playing until you get to the part you want to see if you can remember the games that have it!”
Nordhagen explains that Museum of Mechanics: Lockpicking was his solution: a helpful resource for developers and curious gamers who want to know how the medium they love has evolved over the years, with the relevant information helpfully isolated. The video game industry is remarkably bad at preserving its history. Although Nintendo has already worked to get the virtual console working on the Wii and Wii U, Nintendo has decided against allowing players to buy classic games a la carte with the Switch. If you want direct access to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on console instead, you’ll need to pay for an annual subscription (and it’ll need to be the premium subscription if you want access to N64 games as well). With current calculus, companies see it as more rewarding to keep their game unavailable due to the possibility of making more money later than making it available now for the certainty of money.
Nintendo and Sony are only interested in selling their old games to you if they can sell them as part of a subscription. Xbox is significantly better in this regard, and PC, with endless emulation and a variety of storefronts, is best. But with Museum of Mechanics: Lockpicking, an indie developer has dedicated their time and resources to creating something purely for teaching. No matter where you play, it’s worth celebrating.
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