Heaven and Earth

In a reply to an earlier post, corto writes:

I too am a fan of games modeling other types of games inside themselves. The Sokoban levels in nethack are another example – I’m trying to think of others.

I have to mention Heaven and Earth, a game from 1991 featuring abstract puzzles by Scott Kim. There are 12 types of puzzle in the game, several of which are used to model other types of puzzles.

For example, one of the types of puzzle involves assembling a given pattern out of pieces made of line segments on a grid. This is straightforward at first: you look at your pieces, you look at where they might fit in the target shape, you put them together. It’s like tangrams, except that the pieces are made of lines and are allowed to overlap. But after a while, you get a puzzle that’s not like that at all: instead of the target pattern being a composite of the pieces, it’s just the same disconnected pieces, arranged differently. Suddenly the constraints of the space matter. The thing that makes it hard isn’t figuring out which piece goes where, but getting them were they belong. If you allow two pieces to touch, they stick together, which isn’t what you want. And the meager empty space isn’t large enough to contain an entire piece, so you have to shift and shuffle them around. In short, it uses the rules of a pattern-assembly puzzle to create a sliding-block puzzle. Again, this is not the only example in the game.

I notice that Mac and MS-DOS versions of Heaven and Earth have been made available for free download by its creators. The DOS version runs under Windows XP, but had no sound when I tried it. Presumably VDMSound would help there.

2 Comments so far

  1. paul on 25 Feb 2007

    Games containing other game types are nice. Lots of rpgs now contain “minigames”, which usually involve something like Mastermind or a half-baked racing game, written in a different engine. I think you’re talking about a separate game type built into the game engine itself – the sokoban example is more like that.

    I really like games-within-games which can be played as an alternative to the game’s goals. I’ve never played mmorpgs, but people tell me that you can do something like max out your fishing skill carve out a life for yourself as a fisherman or something instead of being an adventurer. The fireman missions in GTA3 sound similar. In Ultima 7, you could become a baker and make pretty good money buying the ingredients for bread in Paws, and baking and selling the bread in Britain. If only the game had let me level up my baking skills, and maybe move on to pies and cakes, I’d probably still be playing it now.

  2. OddWheelz on 7 Mar 2007

    Kickass game! Have the original, in box. It lost sound when I moved it to XP, but who needs noise? When I get around to replacing the keyboard on my laptop (or just yank the HD), and I still have it on my 3rd “storage box” ‘puter. It works there. I was a BBS freak in ’95, and still remember my Turbo XT (Wow! a 20mb HD and the “Gates 64k”. Killer dot matix printer too… hehe). I use Firefox as my browser, Dogpile my search engine, and Thunderbird for my email. Anti-microglut, computer user since ’84 (yeah, before there were hard drives), I remember when there was a choice of OS. I guess when you give it away for free…
    Yup, I still play it. Better than watching people at Comp USA play solitaire, glassy-eyed, wallets in hand… Now that you have it, do you know what to DO with it? Sorry, ISP Tech Support (arrrgh! Dialup!) from ’96-’01 kinda jaded me!
    Stay Vertical.

Leave a reply