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Archive for the ‘Brainstorm’ Category

I love following game designers, critics and academics on twitter. Not only are they some of the more entertaining tweeters , but they often spark ideas in my mind with some of the comments they post there. Take Ian Schreiber for example who posted this on his twitter account sometime ago:

Game idea: player starts off with a bunch of uber-powerful artifacts, must quest to destroy them, reversing the typical RPG power curve.

This sounds like a great idea to me as a creative way to follow the basic difficulty curve of a game but also make players experience loss and make them think twice about taking the “heroic, right way” out of a situation. This also got me thinking about how you could take familar game mechanics and reverse them to create some interesting, new experiences. The idea that I’ve been rolling around in my head is a game I am dubbing sirteT (Tetris backwards) which take the familiar Tetris mechanics of guiding blocks as they fall and instead has you selecting which blocks to remove from a stack.

When I explain it to people it sounds confusing, but drawing it out makes the light bulb go off so I’ll have to go more in depth later since that is not the focus of this post.

Instead, I would like to list off my top 5 designers I follow on Twitter so you can follow them too!

Leigh Alexander (@leighalexander) – one of my favorite video game journalists. She talks a lot about music and booze but she also mentions when she writes articles for sites like Gamasutra, Kotaku and the like which are always interesting.

Brenda Brathwaite (@bbrathwaite) – I got to see her speak at GDC 2010 and have been following her ever since. Her 20+ year industry background combined with an interesting insight create a powerful presence. She also likes to talk about shoes.

Ian Schreiber (@IanSchreiber) – worked with Brathwaite to write a book, “Challenges For Game Designers” (which I highly recommend). he is currently wrapping an online class he taught this summer on game balancing that you can follow on a blog here.

Tim Schafer (@TimOfLegend) – who doesn’t want 140 characters of fun and hillarity? Obviously you, if you don’t follow this guy. Also, if you don’t know who he is educate yourself.

Adam “Atomic” Saltsman (@ADAMATOMIC) – Adam Atomic is well known in the design business for his work with Flash and for developing the Flixel library. Canabalt is what most people will probably know him from, but he’s been in a lot more stuff you might recognize if you stop to look.

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I’m happy to announce that after being released a month, the iPad game my company 5 Minute Games produced has sold 200+ copies world wide! This is a small number compared to some of the big boys, but for us its a small victory and a (hopeful) indicator of more to come. This news comes just a week after I discovered that a website was illegally distributing Famished Farm Animal Frenzy (itunes link) for free. My company contacted the site (which had distributed the game 70+ times) and they kindly took the game down.

The illegal copying of electronic games has been a problem long before the Internet got started, but the ability for people to exchange information at such a rapid and easy rate has only exacerbated the situation. Please note, I did not say steal or pirate because I think the act of “pirating” electronic products has been portrayed in a negative light by the software and entertainment industries to try and prevent society from engaging in these acts. This is could really be another post all its own, so I’ll be short and say that I personally believe while illegally copying games is bad companies are going about it wrong by creating elaborate DRM systems or trying to find ways to fight against those who want to copy their software instead of using them to their advantage.

Case in point, the site that facilitated the illegal copying of Famished Farm Animal Frenzy had a running counter which indicated that our game had been downloaded roughly one third of our sales. Had our sales been ten times what they are 70+ downloads would have been a drop in the bucket and we might have turned a blind eye, like most big companies do, or possibly not even found the site hidden amongst the glowing reviews of how awesome our game is (really, you should play it). The reality is, however, illegal downloading of games hurts small indie companies like us the most. Copying a game like Famished Farm Animal Frenzy, unlike stealing, does not deprive everyone else from every obtaining their own copy of the game, but it does prevent me and my company from seeing some money from the lose of a potential sale.

Now in all fairness, not everyone who copies games has the intent of screwing developers out of money. In fact, Cliff Harris received a lot of attention, including mine, when he posted on his blog about a certain incident where he asked those who were copying his game why they were doing so. The answers surprised him and much of the game development community. You can read the post for yourself, but the gist of it is that many gamers HATED Digital Right Management (DRM) or were becoming disillusioned with the quality of games coming out at the time (and many still are).

Another reason people pirate games is because they are easier to obtain that way. The iPhone and iPad in particular are having this problem because there are plenty of people who own them in countries who either don’t have their own apps store (a complaint I will save for yet another post) or they want access to the apps available to the American market which they can’t otherwise get. China was a big sink hole for developers for nearly a year before the okay was given to allow sales of iPhones in China back in 2009 because anyone in China who had an iPhone was using it illegally to begin with.

It’s fairly safe to say that we can’t stop people from illegally downloading our games. No matter how much we try locking the system down, someone will find a way around it and put all the effort to waste (jail breaking iPhones being a case in point). In my mind, the logical thing to do is to figure out a way to make those who “pirate” your game into a benefit rather than a problem.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while and I honestly have no idea how to do it. the video game industry is so focused on creating and selling a product that it will take a major shift in philosophy to make pirates work in the developer’s favor. Some of the companies that are moving towards making their games into more of a service might be shedding some light on a solution, but I find that most of their games are not as entertaining as the traditional games. More to the point, not everyone has the resources or the ability to create them.

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Six Impossible Things

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I’ve always wondered what kinds of ideas would come out of believing in impossible things for half an hour a day. What kinds of games would we see (or have seen) from doing just that?

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I’ve having to deal with a lot of things at the moment so I don’t really have a whole lot of time to write. Instead of skipping a post, however, I’ve decided to share a pitch document I created for a game that might come into existence at some point. The game idea is called 1-800 Zombies and it is about hiring out zombies as temp workers to make oodles of money.

You can download the pdf here. I’ll talk more about the project when I get the time.

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Today, I got to test out the game I created over the weekend called Fuse in both its two player and four player forms. The feedback I got was great and while it made some pretty significant changes to the game I thought up, I think they were for the better and it has made Fuse awesome to play.

Here is a brief breakdown of the rules I started with for Fuse:

Setup

  1. Players are given 5 tiles (1 detonator, 1 bomb and 3 banks) that they line up in any order they choose. The bomb and the detonator have to have their fuses pointing inwards towards the center of the board. Player do this without showing other players.
  2. Players reveal their choices and connect the corner pieces to create a board that is 7×7 tiles. This leaves a 5×5 playing field.
  3. Players each draw 3 tiles from a pile making sure not to show them to the other players.

Objective

Player’s are trying to blow up their opponent’s bomb by creating a path using fuse tiles from a detonator to an opponent’s bomb. This means that a player can blow themselves up either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Rules

  1. Players take turns placing or rotating tiles starting with the player who has been burned or lit something and rotating clockwise.
  2. Tiles can only be placed on the end of their fuse. Once a tile is placed the player draws a new tile to ensure they have 3 tiles.
  3. Players can only rotate tiles the are a part of their fuse line. Tiles can be rotated as desired.
  4. After a player’s turn all detonators are pressed. If a detonator is connected to a bomb it blows up.

Before going into the prototype session there were a number of questions I wanted to get answers to. First, I wanted to know how tile rotation would affect the game, and if I would need to implement a rule that would prevent players from creating a stalemate where they alternate rotating forever. I was also curious how a four player game would go, because I did not test out the game four player by myself.

Two Players

The two player sessions went relatively smoothly with the given rule set. I did decide that I wanted to enforce a one round tile lock on any tile that had been rotated to prevent the problem I foresaw. I also liked how it forced players to look at alternate routes and also acted as a blocking strategy.

Four Players

Four players was far more interesting than two players (and is in my opinion the way I would prefer Fuse to be played). I started out the session playing by the two player rule set and quickly realized that something needed to be changed. First off, one of the player’s got eliminated within three rounds because of the placement of his bomb relative to another player’s detonator. This meant that for the rest of the game he had to simply watch which wasn’t much fun for him. The tension was also much higher, but it didn’t feel like right.

For the second session we modified the rules to be a point based system where first person to score 15 points wins. This time whenever a player connected to a bomb they would receive a point for each tiles used to complete the fuse. Each tile that was used to complete the path is also removed and reshuffled back into the pile. The player whose bomb exploded would then pull their five tiles out and randomly reshuffle them and then place them back on the board when their turn came. The player’s tiles remained hidden to prevent the others from having an advantage while they are out of the game.

I liked this system primarily because it kept players in the game rather than eliminating them from play. This aspect removed the tension and made Fuse into a more social game rather than an all out competitive one. As an added bonus, removing the tiles often created interesting holes in the board that players could utilize in a number of different ways.

One final change that was made was removing the placement choice during the initial setup phase and reducing the number of tiles being placed. The number of tiles was switched from five tiles (1 detonator, 1 bomb, 3 blanks) to the three center tiles (1 detonator, 1 bomb, 1 blank). This was done to prevent a number of problems that occurred when tiles were placed in the corners of the board such as being able to get to another player’s bomb too quickly and an issue where a player could not take their turn because another player would rotate the tile in front of their fuse locking the tile with the fuse trailing off into a wall.

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My head is still kind of wonky from the sharpie fumes so I’ll try and make this a quick one.

Over the weekend I was reading Challenges For Game Designers by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber (a great book by the way) and I got to thinking about a game I played recently called Entanglement. The object of Entanglement is to try to make the longest continuous line you possible can without running into the wall or the starting point in the center.

From these two sources sparked the game I am going to be paper prototyping tomorrow I call Fuse. The object of Fuse is to create a path from your detonator to your opponents bomb by placing and rotating tiles before they can do the same.

After building the prototype tonight and testing it out I’m interested to see what other think of it. Tomorrow I will be posting about the prototype session along with my initial thought about the game and on Thursday I plan on posting a mini post mortem along with revised rules to let you play your very own game of Fuse (unless things go drastically wrong)!

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I have a problem. I love Team Fortress 2 (TF2). It’s a fantastic game that’s well balanced and full of interesting things to do (like back stabbing people as a spy!). But I hate playing with douche bags.

You know who I’m talking about. The trash talking, vulgar, dude-bro, drink, whiny, mike-breathing, a-holes you can’t seem to avoid when playing anything vaguely first-person-shooter like online. I know that there are plenty of non douche bags playing TF2 because there are often 10+ people I don’t mind playing with, but it only takes one to muddy the waters and create a bad experience for everyone. Even with dedicated servers (which are being phased out) you still run into problems. If the trend continues even those who rely on dedicated servers to filter out the people they don’t want to play with will need a solution.

The solution I propose we use combines the Bartle Test and a tagging system to create a gamer personality which could be used universally across platforms to help players filter out people they do not enjoy playing games with.

The Gamer Personality System would work something like this:

When you first buy a game (or possibly even a game system) you will be prompted to take a short test asking you a number of questions about your gaming preferences. The test will help determine what kind of a gamer the player is based on Bartle’s Test. Some of this information could also potentially be derived from saved data present on the console or from achievement systems already in place.

As the gamer plays through game sessions they will receive assessments from other players on their play style. This is to prevent players from abusing the initial test and to keep the test dynamic so that it keeps up with a player’s changing habits. This system could be implemented in between games while servers are loading to give players something to do and encourage participation. It would ask players about a randomly chosen individual and inquire about their play style through a series of short questions. It would also ask the player to tag the other player with an adjective that cannot be determined by the Bartle Test, such as ‘talkative’ or ‘nerdy’ or ‘vulgar’. To further encourage participation, incentives could be offered such as game credit, achievements, etc.

The Gamer Personality System could then be implemented in a number of ways to help a player filter their play experience. A player could use the system to determine they don’t like playing with a certain type of player and avoid them. Games could be setup to not appear available to certain gamer personalities. Outside of a first-person-shooter, the system could be used to gauge how a player might fit into a guild or could be used by companies to see what kinds of players their games (or changes) are attracting.

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