Platformer with a twist
Hypothesis: To create a puzzle platformer with verticality.
Process and Reflection
Since it was a short 2 hour development time, the time to come up with different ideas was very limited. Being inspired by monument valley, I decided to use an orthographic camera for my game. I wanted to make this a game that revolved around interesting level design and very simple mechanics. I ended up building an orthographic camera, putting a player block on it and adding some controls to it. The rest of the game seemed to follow what I originally had. Since I was going for a vertical design, I made lots of tall buildings and it ended up looking like a city. I needed different ways to climb up the level since I did not want to add jumping to my game. To address that I made sloping blocks and moving platforms. I was very happy with what I ended up with after a mere 2 hours of work. I had a fairly polished game in terms of working mechanics and it looked presentable.
My game was liked and well received. The level design was interesting and the moving platforms added a sense of grandeur to the game. The mechanics are simple to understand for the player. Additionally building the levels was not very hard and would work very well for a short game play experience. I am very happy with what I ended up with.
Controls: WASD to move.
Hypothesis: To create a game that helps older people (age 50) use a stripped down, simpler version of Twitter as a means of communication.
Process and Reflection
This game was built for a social connection game jam.
The hardest part about this was coming up with an idea for how to solve the problem statement. I thought of many simple cooperative games but given we were talking about an age group unfamiliar with technology made things very difficult.
When I was browsing the internet for ideas on how to make a game that would encourage older people to be more social on the internet I came across a text adventure game that would use tweets as a combat mechanic. You could use predetermined tweets that, I think, would randomly generate every turn to “hurt” your enemies. I thought this would be a good idea to expand into a multiplayer game that would encourage communication and cooperation between players.
I was, however, not sold on the idea of using combat in a game like this to encourage old people to communicate. After much thought I decided to make a kind of game that still used the same mechanic of using predetermined tweets to communicate but without the combat. I decided that my final game would integrate with twitter. I had set-up a few tweets that would have generic messages like “have a nice day!” Using these messages the player can communicate with other people in twitter. There would be an offline training mode to train the player to correctly read and respond to messages on social media before slowly introducing them to the real deal. This would encourage and teach players to use social media like twitter to interact with more people.
While the goal of my game was clear and so was how to play it, there was a more fundamental issue with my game. Initially I thought my idea was cool but after much feedback I realized there wasn’t any real problem I was solving. A lack of research into why exactly older people didn’t use twitter would have resulted in a better game. I would consider my approach a failure as far as the goal of the experiment is concerned. The lesson learned was, do more research into what the problems are before trying to solve something. Very important!
Controls: Mouse only
Green with envy
Hypothesis - An abstract game depicting the concept of Envy.
Process and Reflection
I recently played this game called the Magic Circle. In this game, you are playing inside a videogame as a tester and you can modify the game from the inside to fix all the problems that the game has. You could do this by moving around attributes between NPC’s. I thought it would be a great idea to do the same with people so that you can interact with other people. To explore the idea of Envy I wanted to create a system where you could take things from other people and add them to your own inventory and use them later. However, the more you took from other people it would make them unhappy. However, I couldn’t find a suitable way of making these stories believable and relevant along with having a meaningful story for the player to experience.
On to a more dumbed down version of the same idea. I decided that instead of making it a narrative game I will just make it more abstract. Representing the other people in the world with blocks and the player controlled character with a slightly smaller block, I made a simple game. It had a fighting mechanic that allowed you to destroy the other people with one button press. I felt it needed more feedback on what was happening. Using the green color that is generally associated with envy, I made it so that as you destroyed more people, you would turn more green. The “win condition” for the game was to not do anything since the start of the game, thereby signifying that you are content with what you have. Eventually your character becomes golden colored, the color of joy. .
The idea that I was going for was that being your own person is more rewarding than taking away from others what is theirs. I think I presented it poorly by having a narrative over the game. Since I was going for an idea that was abstract, having the narrative sort of destroyed its purpose. I also think my game didn’t sufficiently bring across the idea of envy that I was going for. All in all I think a not very successful experiment with my game on envy. Had there been more meaningful interaction between the player and me I think the idea would have come across better.
Controls: A and D to move. Space to interact.
Fear the rain
Hypothesis: To create for the player a similar emotional experience as being in the rain.
Process and Reflection
This topic was a little too wide for me to pin down any concrete ideas for a starting point. So I just decided to start building something. I started with building an animation for a raindrop falling on a black screen. That seemed a little incomplete, so I added a sound for the drop. Even now, this didn’t quite convey the feeling of being in a dark damp place hiding from the rain. I decided to look up water soundtracks and see what feelings they evoked in me. The most promising sounds were flowing rivers and the sound of rain, both very serene and calming. I went with the sound of rain. I looked up a sound track and added it to my game. At this point the game felt very relaxing. As the player you could listen to a very soft rainfall while interacting with the screen to create little drops of your own. The whole experience had a calming effect.
However, the game seemed to still have no point; no beginning or end goal to make it feel like a game. This bothered me. So I decided to make a story revolving around this single raindrop generating mechanic. As I was writing the story I wondered what it would feel like if all I could hear was this raindrop and not hear anything else. A few things popped into my imagination. Either a higher being was trying to tell me something or I was going crazy. This realization then became my new hypothesis. I now wanted to create a game where the player could affect the actions of the character using this single mechanic. Based on the frequency and patterns of the drops made by the player, the character in game would assume different things.
I wasn’t sure of this idea and whether it was enough to make the player get that this is what is happening with his clicks. So I had a few people playtest my game. I realized that while it was impossible to predict what pattern of raindrops the player would input, there were certain general predictions that could be made. With a slightly more forced set of input patterns, this experience would be very convincing. Another thing my playtesting proved was that when people realized that what they were doing was affecting the character's mindset, it had a powerful effect on them.
Controls: Mouse click to play.
Dots all over
Hypothesis - Can a person who has no artistic experience make a pointillism style painting by doing a completely unrelated activity.
Process and Reflection
The above hypothesis was not my original hypothesis. My original idea was to explore the idea that a player taking actions in his local space does not realize the impact he has on the bigger picture. This is based on the style of pointillism paintings which involve putting dots on a canvas that when looked at as a whole, present a beautiful picture.
I abandoned that idea because I could not come up with an experiment to test this idea in a week. I tried abstracting it into something that was doable. This is what I ended up making. I developed a system that let’s me randomly paint a series of points on a 5x5 grid of pixels on a canvas. This was the basis of my random drawings for a player to draw. I experimented with a free roam system on a canvas where you could draw anything you wanted. But for people who didn’t have any artistic skill, this seemed a poor way to allow them to draw. I then made is so that it was platformer. Based on the path taken to traverse the level, it would leave behind a trail of colored points that would generate a drawing. I also allowed for different color changes and pickups to change the trail of color left behind. This seemed like a good way to test my original hypothesis, in a manner that was far simpler.
I ran into some issues with making a level that would provide enough structure for the player to make a coherent painting and yet provide enough freedom such that the player can make it their own. To solve this issue I then decided to make it a maze that the player can navigate through. The maze level solved the above problems. My game now was close to what I ended up with in this build. You navigate the maze, leaving behind a trail of color. At the end, you are presented with a painting that is based on what route you end up taking through the maze. Thus formed my new hypothesis, a result of starting out with my old one. Is it possible to allow for the creation of art through something completely unrelated, like solving a maze.
This version of my game seemed like a good experiment to test my hypothesis. Here’s where it succeeded. The idea of playing a game and having your experience captured through the decisions made, in an artistic manner, definitely had some appeal. Looking at your route captured in an abstract pointillist style painting was quite fun. On a side yet related note, most times as is the case with abstract art, people ended up making a story of their own based on identified patterns in the abstract point on the canvas.
However, on the flip side, my execution didn’t quite let me explore the scope and limits of such a system. In my opinion, due to the short development cycle, I didn’t manage to create a level that was both challenging in itself as a maze and provided a guided art creation experience at the same time. However, I do believe it is possible to do so and if done right can be extremely satisfying.
Alternatively, we can take existing maze games or games like PacMan to see what paths their levels leave behind as we play through those games. These levels can tell their own story.
Exploring new territory in games with small, simple prototypes made in a few hours.