Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Project Prototype: Avatar Game

1. Name/desiger: Avatar Drawing Game by Jessica
2. Platform/category: The genre of this game is almost like either a party game, ice breaker, or even a board game
3. Core mechanic: The Core Mechanic of the game is drawing and looking
4. Adjectives describing the play experience: Funny, confusing, sneaky, tricky, and revealing
5. Structural elements: The time limits involved in the structure of Jessicas game worked to keep pressure on players and make sure the game didn't become hectic. People who draw at differen't levels have to coordinate themselves to the time limits. The same goes for levels of analytical thinkers. But, the times also allow for enough durations for strategy and gameplay. The rules are very clear and the win scenario, although it really needs a payoff is clear.
6. Best developed element: The game is fun. I know that Jessica intends the game to be played by people who don't know each other but I think it works best how it is playtested. The use of strategy to subvert preconceptions players might have of those on trial. It was fun because everyone regardless of their levels of skill to draw were able to incorporate an obstacle for players.
7. Rules: I give the rules a 9 out of 10 only because they weren't presented formally enough.
8. Strategy: The strategy players make can effect the whole mood of the game. The game is all about strategy. I think that the beauty is all the opportunity there is for emergent strategy. For example nothing in the rules says players can form a collective strategy when drawing. How players attempt their drawings could also jeapordize the strategy another player had developed independently.
9. There are still ways to propel the game even with how succesfull it already is. I think that there could be a backstory to why players should identify all of these people. Maybe these avatars are camoflauge for hacker identities or political spies and the CIA or FBI is out to catch them all. The detective to capture them all gets promoted. Basically a pay-off would help the game.

Prototype Reflection: working titles...Tableaux or The Cafe

I learned a great deal from the playtesting of my project. It was a bit disappointing to see the loss of interest in some players from frustration at the design. But, I know that this only helps me to know where the fixes could be made. Just like every project there is a dramatic change from idea to conception to execution and it is those who can be sensitive to these changes and not merely hold onto the idea or fantasy that will succeed in realizing the projects true form. I realize now that the setting of the game although it worked also added to the confusion. I am not so sure how much players need to observe each other in order to acheive the more successful expressions of the game. I don't want to take this element out altogether. Rather I want to add more structure to it as opposed to the emergent chaos it played out in testing. I am thinking that by having players the ability to work together in more isolated environments and then work together in the cafe will help.

It seemed as though investment in completing the game must be more evident. Some players out of their nature kept trying to complete the game but others in their frustration seemed to work against that. I developed the game so that if one person fucks up it will throw off the whole game. It showed. But, also the instructions had to be carefully understood in order for them not to fuck up so delivery of rules is also antoher flaw.

And finally time became to evident in gamelay. Players who completed their tasks earlier than others had too much time to kill, this brought them out of the game. Players who didn't complete task on time sometimes threw off the game for other players. This must be corrected.

Thanks everyone for giving it your best and look forward to a wholly improved game next time around. Thanks also for those who have given me ideas for improvement they have helped (especially Roger, thanks dood).

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Project Prototype: Divided Attention

1. Name/desiger: Divided Attention by Roger
2. Platform/category: The genre of this game is either ice-breaker, analytical puzzle, or choose your own adventure.
3. Core mechanic: The Core Mechanic of the game is looking.
4. Adjectives describing the play experience: Dramatic, Isolating, Disconcerting, Stressful, Dividing
5. Structural elements: The best part of Rogers game was how digestible the structure of the game was. Most notibly was its effectiveness in delivery. By introducting the rules of the game in a precise, coloquial, and concise manner how to play was very clear. But, more importantly, Rogers editing of the rules in a way to make the Game seem less calculated and structured that it really is was key to play. The game reveals its structure slowly and carefully as to not expose its limits or possibilities. Seriously, one of the best structured games we have seen yet in that it is so focused on this element.
6. Best developed element: As I have already praised its structure, the most effective element of Rogers gane was its mystique and originality. Everything about the game, its cinematic intensity, its subversion of the normally static un-interactive medium of powerpoint, and most of all its completness. The game feels complete whether it is or not just form it unifying elements of color, action, medium, and interaction. Not to mention the more it revealed itself the more evident how much work went into developing the game showed.
7. Rules: I give the rules a 10 out of 10 in delivery, consicion, and execution.
8. Strategy: The strategy for the game seems to be emergent. It also seems to come from the second playing of the game. The structure of the game allows for it but players must first understand the game before disecting its possibilities. Strategy is a concern I have for the game in what could be its one major downfall, repeatability. How playable is this game after its intial experince. Just like a good film you should be able to watch it more than one and in so learn something new all the time.

9. Emergent play: The rigidity of the course of the game seems to not leave much room for strategic emergence for Rogers game. But, the more I think about its intended setting and the way in which the game can become recieved the more I think about how the game supports emergent play not necessary to indside the game. And actually the static nature of the game actually makes it easier for players to quicky get used to its functions and be able to spend time working around it or within it. My best image of the game in this way is audiences vocal participation.

10. Further development: My one concern for the final version is multiple playings, or repeatability. Can the game funtion more that once without giving away its predetermined discourse or should there be mutliple rotating versions to keep information in flux. Is there further rewards for continued/repeat players? If the game is played by the same group more than once should those teams they end up in the end of the first game stay in that color for the start of the next. Although the game is pretty much in its stages of completion now it is a matter of fine tuning, nothng drastic.

Roger this game tottally rocks and I think can become much more than a class project.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Project Prototypes: Frisco Wars

I Thoroughly enjoyed Grey’s game of Frisco Wars. I enjoyed it on many levels most of them stemming from the role-play, setting, and back story of the game. I am not normally one to enjoy a “risk” type of game and especially not one for role-playing board games but the fact that it was set in San Francisco made all of those elements come alive for me. The use of the bus-lines showed me that Grey was paying attention to the affordances of the setting he was using to play his game.

The core mechanic of the game seems to be picking up cards, putting down cards, and placing pieces. There isn’t much need for verbal communication in the game except for the declaration of war on a place and the deployment of war. Observing the board and its pieces as well as strategizing your next move as well as other players are key. Also memory is involved.
When playing the game the suspense of what cards will come into play becomes heated as well as the suspense of what areas will be hit next. There is also the elements of revenge and defense.

The structure for the game is pretty much developed. I think that it is all a matter of fine-tuning from here. There is a clearly defined goal of gaining the territory of San Fran, and eliminating rival gangs. There are checks and balances on players movement through the bus systems and not being able to use certain cards more than once in a round. There are resources for management and there are goals for gaining and maintaining your resources. Definitely this is the best developed element of the game is its structured resource system and attack cards. The only concern I have is the stress the game put on this system.
I think that when writing out a system of rules on paper a lot of the kinks will work out for the game. I know that when players have a clear introduction before playing the game and have solid rules to go on the semantics of the game will become less important than strategy and involvement. I would say on a scale of 1-10 the rules were a 6 for understandable only because there wasn’t any formal presentation. The use of the bus system in real life is complicated so naturally it will be one of the more complicated elements to Frisco Wars. I think maybe a map of the board and the bus-system for reference would help players. Or anything that helps them get familiar with the routes. Movement on the board needs to become less hectic and I’m sure that will come with a larger board and different pieces. Also clear markers for placing game pieces will help eliminate confusion.

We observed strategy from the game from the fluke that one player got more gun cards then others. But, this exposed a flaw in the game in how coveted the gun card becomes and how it must be balanced out somehow. Even if the gun cards are equally distributed, it will still become the primary card for each war round. The whole game is about strategy, how and who do you hit next and come out on top especially with the information you have gathered about players so far.

I think that the restrictive nature of the rules of the game keep emergent play from happening. But, emergent play isn’t necessary for the game to be successful. Getting players more into their roles and attached to their territories is key. This is the best aspect of the game which keeps players interested and will make for a successful final version. I know I will want a version of the game to play with friends from this element alone. There is a lot that comes with a player to the game before it has started when you live in San Francisco. Maybe that is where emergent play will arise, in the preferences and experiences players have as San Franciscans, for example: players who live in certain places want to hold those territories or players who want all of the parts of the city that attach themselves to a role they are playing etc…
Since the point system is pretty much developed you have the opportunity to get creative with the story. That is where I know the game will shine.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Project update...

I have had somewhat of a breakthrough on my project. It seems to have changed dramatically
but the core ethics are there. No party, that will have to be explored another day. Instead scale down the dramatics to a differen't setting. This time the game focuses less on party elements to make for interraction and after talking to Jane about it I am now more interested in what I can make people do on their own vices. I now have a game that starts off as an ice breaker but quickly develops into a much more complicated game. A lot of use of hidden information and opportunity for emergent play. I want there to be differen't elements to the game that keep it always interesting, treachery, and revenge, memory, and misinformation, endurance, and smarts. I want there to be balancing factors and most of all creative non-competetive elements too.

Information Systems

Squares, what I consider a "busy" game, involves a non-complex, but extreemly efficient system of information. Played on a piece of paper and drawn in with a pen similar to tic-tac-toe or handman, a set of dots are drawn. The size or weight of the information on the game depends on how large the playing field (how many dots are dawn) and the length of the game can also be shortened or lengthened by choice of quantity of dots. After deciding on the game grid players begin taking turns creating lines in between dots. Lines can only be created vertical or horizontaly in order to produce complete squares, no diagonals. Players after completing a square with a line (you are only allowed to produce one line a turn) put an inital in the box to denotate their ownership of that box and are to move again until they do not produce a complete square. The information system in Squares is more than perfect. Not only is all the information in the game available to all players at all times but like the games named earlier possible next moves and opportunities in game are also available. After playing squares enough you can easily see where the game is headed, either in your favor or not. Not only will you be able to easily judge the point score in the game by visually estimating using the opposing initials but you can also pretty much tell after a while whether luck is in your favor to win. After a while, the information system tells you whether your next turn and the number of turns it will take to get a certain string of squares coincide. This system of information really kills the lasting power of the game, the only perk of its obviousness is the ability to recognize mistakes and faults of your opponent immediately. The games unlimited time constraints has a lot to do with margin for error but that still dosen't change that the only way to win the game if the pattern of turnover you have been given isn't a winning one is through a players misjudgement or nearsidedness.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Meaningful Play

For your game critique this week, please evaluate a game you play by asking the question: Does meaningful play happen? To what degree is it meaningful, compared to other games? Which game design elements make it meaningful (or not)?

Handball has meaningful play. As a kid the king of the playground was usually whoever could kick some serious ass at handball. Within a game, the stakes at hand make the game meaningful. You could either win the match and go on playing or have to wait in line forever again until you got your turn again. All of your indivuidual actions within the game or on the sidelines makes you involved to the point of building a reputation. Pink elephants for example are an element of the game that makes playing more meaningful. This gives the option to the player in the front of the line to be able to run across the court and distract players already in a game. This is an option to the person in the front of the line and taking it has its consequences. If you get hit by the ball while doing a pink elephant than you are not next to play anymore, you have to go to the end of the line. Also, by practicing this sort of sabotage for the players in their game you can become an enemie with a player or gain a reputation as disctracting.

Also, the ability to excel in the game regardless of your skill at hitting the ball makes the game more meaningful. For example, if you are a bad player when it comes to beating a player with too much power at hitting a ball, you can beat them with brains. There is usually a star player and you will end up watching him beat all these people throughout the game. The fact that you wait in line and watch all the matches before your next can serve as research for play. By learning a players classic moves you can beat him from observation and reaction. Hence you are always in play in the game and all your involvement has meaningful outcome.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Core Mechanic

Well obviously the core mechanic to my game was originally the act of drinking. I want people to be rewarded for how much drinking they can do. But, Also I know that it is excluding to people who don't drink heavily and so there are other options like dancing, there are rewards for dancing. I in particular know people who could dance all night at a party and could "win" just through that. I also wanted conversation to be a core mechanic, talking to people is another element of the game that can earn you a greater outcome. So I want Talking, Dancing, Drinking to be the main verbs.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Magic Circle

The Ouija board is all about game "color" and atmosphere. If it wasn't for the magic circle then a game like Quija board wouldn't work. Knowing that there is a separate attitude and rules for behavior when sitting down to play Quija is essential to its success as a game. For Quija gamers adopting a lusory attitude allows for the board to be successful. The time, space, and environment of Quija could be anywhere but usually people about to play the game accept the popular and most effective environments like an attic, or a dimly lit room, or anywhere that is neutral enough to call attention to the boards answers and the players involved. The game is very simple and therefore accessable to all players. The board is very clearly labeled and has very clear clues in it to directing players how to use the magnified glass piece (an object in the circle). Entering and exiting of the game circle is also very clear in that your hands are always on the piece when a game is going on and they are off when a game has been distrupted or ended. Communication and collective reaction to the board is most of what the game is based on. Everyone is working together to ask questions and get answers from the board.

Another element of the circle is the setting of the Quiji board. Everyone understands the degree of imagination or faith involved in the game is high. You must either play along or believe in the powers of the board. The board from its name down to its look tries to evoke a mystery and power and gamers must bring that power to life. But once you are in the game circle there is really only one question...

whooooo is in the rooooom with us now?

Interactivity of a Game

I love tetris. I used to play Tetris all the time on my computer, the version that came with one of my pcs years ago, i used to play it on the gameboy a friend of mine sold me in elementary school, i used to play it on ols-skool nintendo too. I remember watching some movie or documentary about the russian guy who invented it and how he was some big-shot math guy or something. When I was 6 or 7 I bought a pc version of tetris that had all of these cheesy photographs of Russian landscape/cityscapes as the backgrounds to the game. I remember getting sucked into this warped perspective of Russia and what it was like through how much I played that game and how much those pictures got imbedded in my brain. Oh and that god-dammned music!

Under Chris Crawford's cyclical process of interactivity Tetris works in the following way:

The gamer...

Listens... by paing attention the new pieces being introduced into play (and the up and coming ones)

Thinks... by processing where to put the piece play while also dealing with the pressures and time constraints the game has given

Speaks... by placing the peices accordingly

The Tetris Mainframe...

Listens... by watching where the player has put its peice

Thinks... by determining the hieight of the stack of peices and whether or not the last move has deemed a row/s erasable

Speaks... by erasing rows of blocks and/or speeding up falling movement of game pieces

Overall the game is not highly interactive only because we are usually under the assumption that the Tetris Mainfranme is under some sort of rule of radomizaiton. If the mainframe responds with a differen't piece according to a players last move, then the game becomes much more interactive as there is some real responses being made by both players. But, when it comes to a game that is played against a computer there is only so much interactivity, according to Crawfords model, that can occur.

Project Post #2

Earlier I was rethinking the location of my game. I was testing the game to the chart of scale and duration that was on the board in class when I realized that by raising the the scale of players of the game, I would need to move the location. I started to become comfortable with the changes forced on my game by it becoming a massively mulitiplayer warehouse party instead of a moderatley sized house party. Although I can't necessarily afford to booze up a huge crowd of people just the thought of thinking bigger started to get my brain working again. I came up with a new location that would allow for a significant change to the atmosphere of the party, create a larger scale of playersto the game, and make for a longer duration. I decided, even though it would require some more planning and coordination, I want the party to happen at my friends warehouse/home in the financial district. I realized that by moving it there I wouldn't have to worry about how long the party goes or how big it gets. I also realized that it would make room for a very essential party element, DJ's and a dancefloor!!!! (I will go into how I am going to work them into the game later)

I also thought about a players required investment in my game. I thought about what someone has to invest into a party when they go to one. A party goer always has a certain amount of personal investment in going to a group gathering. He/She always has a certain amount of personal investment in either the people he/she is going to meet and the impression that he/she is going to make on them. The unpredictability of who is going to be at a party and what is going to be going on there means you have to invest a certain amount of personal saftey and comfort into your evening (and I know I keep mentioning the eveining as if all parties happen during the night but I am aware of all of the awsome parties I have been to in the daytime they just are a lot less common). A party can affect you for a long time. You could meet someone at a party that will be with you for the rest of your life. You could go home with someone who turned out to be your murderer, that would definitley be a form of an infinite persistent party. Or, you could go to a party, it could totally blow, and you could end up leaving in a couple of minutes. Frankly you could have the intentions of going to a party and trying to find it all night and then never getting there. I digress. I was trying to think about how I could add some persistence to my game. I was thinking that the game could end up online. The scores and names of those with them could end up online. I was also thinking maybe taking a picture of everyone who entered the party and posting that online with their scores/outcome so that other players could, if they didn't catch their name during the game, could put the face to the name online. I was thinking of how a payoff to high enough scorers of the game could get name and phone numbers to anyone from the party (now that would involve some personal investment and impact). Maybe the game could continue online by allowing players to comment to each other by having the game site be a livejournal or blog. This could be a way for people to make contact with people from the game and keep whatever relationship they made at the party going, possibly letting the game have a bigger impact on their lives then just a hangover.

Surrealist Game Critique

I think the Surrealists really hit the meaty part of the discussion of games. For me it is always interesting when you place a more serious light on any subject. The Surrealists found this special quality of games and exploited it to the point where it becomes of philosophic importance. So, when playing a surrealist game whether you understand the theory behind it or not you can feel how differen't it is from your "average" game. When playing Exquistite Corpse you immediately feel the abstract energy of the game in its lack of competition and lack of substantial goals or pay-offs. The game is about sharing. In the drawing version of Exquisite Corpse, regardless of the nature of your fellow players abilities to draw, the game is always successfull. The only argument or difficulty of the game is in the decifering of the end product, the interpretation of the resulting drawing. I really enjoy this games ability to bring a group of people together. In playing the game, people whose brains and personalities normally work on very differen't wavelengths, are seemingly forced to come together and do come together. Its always interesting how a drawing will come together with the same themes and style. Even through the people who are playing the game are differ in many ways it is common for there to be a collective unconsiousness at work when it comes to the final drawing. It is that kind of outcome from a game of Exquisite Corpse, one that reminds us of the errie forces of coincidence, that screams of the Surrealists.