Game Design: Elements III

By 15/05/2017Game Design

I couldn’t test drive even the most rudimentary form of game prototype this weekend.

I realized last time that I had nothing. Or, more likely, I had something. Just not clearly defined.

I played some Oink Games games this weekend. “Insider“, “Deep Sea Adventure“, “Startups“. They were all amazing and all just slightly larger than two stacked packs of playing cards. The first one had cards, a plastic hourglass and 7 role tokens. The second one had a small cardboard submarine with an oxygen counter printed on it, six coloured meeples, a small wooden token to keep track of oxygen levels and a bunch of shape-coded tokens representing treasure. The last one had six company tokens, a bunch of two-sided coins (1 and 3), a stack of company cards and a few extra chits for an alternate playing mode that we didn’t really use.

I repeat, they were all incredible. They were so, so, so much fun. We played each one multiple times over, loving every single playthrough.

Congrats to everyone involved in getting those games in my hands!

I’m willing to go out on a limb here and say that these incredible games didn’t fit in these boxes during development.

I need to put footprint in the back. I need to put aesthetics, story, technology away. I need to focus on creating a fun game.

“You can watch someone and copy moves, but you can’t copy inspiration.”

I could try for the rest of my life to copy Bruce Lee, but I’d never be able to get his moves just right. He had his own thing going on, as we all, so there’s no point in striving for a perfect copy.

It’s funny. I’m reading my notes and, amongst many ideas for games, there’s one about “scuba diving”. I just played a game about scuba diving and treasure hunting and, let me tell you, the designer nailed the feeling for it. Yeah, you got other variables, but everyone who’s gone scuba diving knows that oxygen is what matters. You gotta keep an eye on your oxygen levels. Everything else comes second because, if you run out of oxygen, you got seconds to live. Everything you do under water, every decision you make, is mediated by your oxygen supply. In that respect, “Deep Sea Adventure” is pure genius. Get it.

What’s the quintessential experience of building a fire? I’ve built a fair few. I should be able to pin this down!

It’s the trance of the dancing flames.

It’s the warmth.

It’s the embers in the heart of it.

It’s getting lost in its wonder.

When travelling across Turkey a couple of years ago, my mom and I were staying at a pretty snazzy hotel. It had everything you could possibly wish for and more, but given its modern design, what it did not have was a fireplace. Of course, a fireplace is a pretty specific thing to want, so most people are not troubled by it. But if you’ve been out on a cold, rainy day, want to take your wet socks off and dry off? Trust me, a fireplace is exactly the kind of thing you want. This hotel, however, didn’t have one on account of its aforementioned modern design.

What it did have, though, was a fairly cozy reading room across the reception area of the lobby.

In it, a large selection of books was available. It had comfy armchairs, tables and warm lighting. It also had, however and for some bizarre reason, a large TV right where a fireplace should be.

A large, crisp 1080p TV, a video of a crackling fireplace playing merrily on its screen.

Instinctively I approached it. The damn room didn’t have anything resembling heating, and I was still needing the comfort and coddling that warmth promised. I approached the screen.

And, of course, nothing. My monkey brain stood there for a second, confused. Then I burst out laughing. A few minutes later, the screen switched to another kind of fireplace, then to another, then another. My mother and I found this hilarious. This was so not what we needed.

The hotel, the reading room and the TV have all gone down in our personal history as the place where we found “The Fireplace Channel, Home to the Best Fireplaces From Around the World!”.

When we want to bring attention to something that we find particularly ridiculous, useless or inane, we always bring up The Fireplace Channel.

There’s little that I can remember that proved to be a greater disappointment than huddling around a digital fireplace and feeling no warmth.

And for that I have ridiculed the hotel, that reading room, that TV and the whole concept of a fireplace TV channel for years now!

Can you convey the feeling of warmth without actually lighting something on fire? Can you convey what firelight does for us without building a fire?

Because fire, without warmth or light, will not feel like fire. A game about fire that does not get those feelings across is, if not completely pointless, not on theme.

“He who derails, rerails.”

#13 Infinite Inspiration

#14 Problem Statement

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