Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Iterative Game Design

This week, you completed a game design boot camp. You learned the iterative design process, which has five steps:

1. Mission statement
2. Prototyping
3. Playtesting
4. Evaluation
5. Re-state mission, if necessary, and re-design

These steps are repeated again and again (…and again! … and again!) until the game achieves the designers’ mission(which may change over time).

Why we do iterative design:
-You cannot fully anticipate play in advance – your game may not do what you think it does
-Real players may understand your game differently than you do – your goals and rules may not be clearly defined
-Multiple plays produces different results – different kinds of fun, different errors, different problems, different strategies – that you may want to emphasize or eliminate

Evaluation areas:
-Is the game accomplishing its goals?
-Do players understand what they are supposed to be doing?
-Are players having fun? What kind(s) of fun?
-Do they want to play again?
-Could they play it differently the next time?

After you guys designed two great games-- seriously, I am still psyched about how much fun it was to play them. We crawled around a fountain blindfolded yelling "pebble webble"! We raced up and down a ramp screaming "Back to the castle! Back to the castle!" It was really surprisingly awesome fun.

This week, I want to see each member of a design team complete the iterative process again in the comments. Evalute the last playtest, restate your mission if necessary, and propose redesigns. I am certain both games will be played again-- I am actually quite eager to try them both out in public!


grey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grey said...

The idea of the game my team developed was to create a fun, but frustrating experience. The kind of gameplay that makes you sigh "Arg!" in dismay as you're holding back the giggles. We decided to use the ramp heading down to sculpture as it is a large and somewhat unique structural element of SFAI, but luckily it has properties that can be found in many other public places (just about any long hallway or corridor will do, incline optional). We chose to use the mechanic of flipping playing cards due to the aesthetic qualities it offered and the familiarity of such an action (there is a rather strong affordance offered by a face-down card to turn it over).

These are the rules for Back to the Castle (team members: please correct if needed since I lost my notes):
:: A game for 2 players.
:: The goal of the game is to be the first person to reach the end of the row of cards.
:: All 52 playing cards from a standard deck of playing cards are shuffled, along with the jokers, and laid out in a hall (in our case down the ramp), face down, in a uniformly spaced, single row.
:: A second deck is used as the "home base" deck.
:: To start the game, each player draws a card from the top of the home deck.
:: In the home deck, Aces are high.
:: The player with the highest card goes first, and is the team color of that card (either red or black).
:: The player with the lowest card goes second, and is the opposite color of the other player (either red or black).
:: The first player moves to the first card in the row and flips it over, the second player flips the second card over.
:: If the card flipped over is a number card, the player who flipped it moves that many spaces. Aces count as one (1).
:: If the number card flipped over is of their team color, then it moves that player FORWARD that number of spaces.
:: If the number card is not of their color, they move BACKWARD that many spaces.
:: When moving forward, players only count un-tuned-over cards as spaces.
:: When moving backward, count all cards (face-up or face-down) as spaces.
:: If any player flips over a Jack, they call out: "Change teams!" and both players swap team colors.
:: If any player flips over a Queen, they call out: "Change places!" and players switch positions.
:: If any player flips over a King, they call out: "Back to the Castle!" and both players have to race back to the start of the row. The first one back takes the spot of the player furthest from the start. The loser returns to start and draws a card from the home deck.
:: If any player flips one of the two Jokers, they call out: "Joker!" and the first one to the end of the row wins.
:: When a player reaches the end of the row as a result of number cards, they win.
:: If at any time a player moves back to start as the result of number cards, they draw and follow a card from the home deck.
:: If at any time a player forgets their team color, or their position along the row, or otherwise messes up, they return to the start and draw a card from the home deck.

I felt that during our play testing we were able to simplify the rules enough so that they were (relatively) easy to understand, but frustrating to enact. Players would often forget which color team they were on, where they were supposed to move, etc. After the final playtest with other members of the class, I felt good about the game, but also saw room for improvement.

The term "Back to the Castle!" was added rather late in the development process, and I feel could be used to create an strong atmosphere for the game, complete with back-story.

The two-deck construction seems unnecessarily complicated. The chances of someone who wants to play having one deck is much greater than the chances of them having two, and the benifit of playing with the second deck is only minimal. It was designed for two decks because there were two decks for us to use, but it can be done with one.

Two players are good, more would be better! When we played it among the development group we were sure to take turns and each go at the same time, making it a slightly more organized and structured game play experience. However, I really enjoyed the way others played by just going when the could. This made increased the pace and the confusion considerably, and could only be compounded further by adding more players into the mix. After all, the point is fun frustration!

With the above points in mind, here are some ideas for changes to Back to the Castle:

Multi-player mayhem:
:: For 2-20 Players.
:: Each player is the color of the first card they draw. (So there can be multiple or no players of each color at any time).
:: When a Jack is flipped, that player chooses a player to swap colors with. If the chosen player is of the same color, they both become the opposite color.
:: When a Queen is flipped, that player chooses a player to swap places with.
:: There could also be some interesting variations done with team play, where you work as a team to thwart the other team. That would make "Back to the Castle" more interesting if it was the first two players from a team to return to the castle win for that team, so all the other team has to go back to start. Then you might get team members further from the Castle sabotaging members form the other team from getting back. (I imagine two members from the red team trying to hold back five members from the black team as two red team members leisurely waltz up to the Castle where a lone black team member waits for a second team member to join him.) Also, this way, when you change team colors it isn't only adding confusion, but its changing if you're on the winning or losing team as well. I'll have to think about this more. Any ideas?

Adding Back-story:
You are a member of the Royal family, and are trying desperately to escape the tyranny of you're Father, the King. But you are not alone in your attempts for freedom. Your royal sibling is also making for the Kingdom's boundaries. Since the land needs an heir, only one of you can make it out. As you flee from the confines of the Castle walls you must rely on the serfs in the surrounding country side to help you reach the land beyond your Father's Kingdom. Some of them can secretly lead you closer to the border, but others are loyal to your Father and will only take you further from your goal. Your Mother, who is always playing favorites with her children, can be a great help, or a Royal pain. If one of you stumbles across your Father as you attempt to escape, you'd best head back to the Castle before he gets you. The last one inside the Castle gates gets locked up while the winner sneaks back out towards freedom.

Rule changes to remove the 2nd Deck:
:: Before the deck is laid out in a row, each person chooses a card. High card goes first.
:: If at anytime a player is sent back to start, they move to the first un-flipped card and flip it over.

What happens if we play this on a crowded street or Bart Platform (or Bart Train?!) Out doors might prove difficult because of the wind factor, but I think the occasional passer-by might add to the frustration as you try and race back to the castle only to have to run around a woman with stroller or man with his dog.

I really enjoyed playing "Pebble Webble." The 'Marco-Polo' aspect was really interesting, especially with so many by-standards. Having players say it also was a good addition, since it meant not every "pebble webble" would lead to a pebble. Also, despite having the sound of the fountain to orient myself in the space, I ended up having no idea where I was, being totally paranoid I was about to hit my head on a beam, and being almost exactly in the opposite side of the courtyard than I imagined. It was a very cool experience, and I feel it definitely fit their "anxiety" and "touch" design goals. And those darn pebbles are hard to get! The only downside was my hands were gross afterwards and I got a splinter (I'm not sure how that happened, I think I got it from a twig.)

Doc said...

Pebble Webble:

Pebble Webble is a game that derives its fun from simplicity.


An outdoor playing field must be picked; ideally it has some sort of natural enclosure. The players are blindfolded and asked to spin around. A number of pebbles are scattered randomly throughout the playing field. A small 2 minute hour glass is flipped and players then must crawl around on the ground searching for pebbles, the player who gathers the most pebbles when time is up is the winner of that round. Players must shout “Pebble Webble” when they find a pebble, there by giving the other players an extra boost of anxiety.

Current variations:

Parco Molo Pebble Webble: While players are crawling around bystanders assist the players by shouting “Pebble Webble” when they come across a pebble. This give players the advantage of using sound to help find a pebble.

Omnipresent Parco Molo Pebble Webble: This variation is much like Parco Molo Pebble Webble except the bystanders follow around players shouting “Pebble Webble” wither or not they are near a pebble. Bystanders are free to be as deceptive as they wish.

Of these two, I feel the first is most effective. I think that if this game is to ever be played on a non-assignment basis, the defficuality level has to be decreased a bit. The game is challenging enough without the multiple without the deceptive omnipresent variant.

Possible Future Variations:

Frontier Pebble Webble: This is like a regular Pebble Webble except an angry shaken up Raccoon is placed into the playing field. This element add’s extra tension and anxiety to the game. If a player is bitten by the Raccoon, that player is disqualified. For extra flair, players could wear Davie Crocket style costumes.

Executive Pebble Webble: This is a regular game of Pebble Webble except that is played during rush hour in a Finical District crosswalk. For extra flair, players could all dress in business professional clothing.

Aquatic Pebble Webble: Self-explanatory, except it is played in shallow water and players must wear a snorkel.

Hobo Aquatic Pebble Webble: Similar to regular Aquatic Pebble Webble except it is played in a public fountain, and instead of looking for intentionally placed pebbles, the players must search for found coins.

grey said...

RE: Executive Pebble Webble: ...O ...M ...G! YES!!! I would so play this version (as long as there was a puppetmaster letting us know when the light was about to turn green.)

RE: Frontier Varient: Um... are rabbies shots included? Raccoons are cute and all, but I've heard some of the late-night brawls they get in and they sound vicious!

PS: Were we really playing Omnipresent Parco Molo Pebble Webble last class? I had a sneaky suspicion we were....

Lizardparty said...

Adding to Doc's iteration of synopsis and variations for "Pebble Webble", I believe a couple of game rules can clarified to broaden playability.

1. Game pieces can be marbles, pebbles or any other relatively small, harmless and similar objects.

2. Game timer can be anything (as the hourglass's role as anxiety creator is diminished due to blindfolfing of participants) and time length can be decided by PM and/or players (although five minutes should be max limit for everyone's joint health).

On top of this, some suggested equipment would seem to improve playability such as knee pads and actual blindfolds or modified goggles.

I also thought that the game name/shout could be subject to change if something more apt was found, however I'm a bit fond of it as it is.

I love the Executive and Hobo variations Doc!

lisatized said...

Great job summing up the "Back to the Castle" game and adding the back story, Grey. I agree that the second deck of cards is too cumbersome in a lot of ways, and the game would move even quicker without it. I really like the idea of taking this game to the extreme with more than 2 players and/ or teams. We had so much fun watching each other scramble around and try to remember who and where they were that I can imagine seeing a bunch of folks doing the same thing would foster some good laughs and more running around. The games may be shorter this way, but the fun level would be high, so more rounds would be played.

Pebble Webble was also a great idea for a game, especially because of the multiple uses of sound which was heightened by not letting us see anything! I have to admit that I am not likely to play on the cobble stone surface in a skirt again, but the sound of the fountain for a bit of orientation mixed with the disorientation of people walking around and screaming "pebble webble" while kicking little pieces of glass that 'ting' around beautifully on the brick can't be beat. Crawling around on a carpet or other padded surface would make my knees and palms happier, but it just would kill the sound portion that made this game interesting.

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