One-Timer Experience

Yesterday I pondered heavily my two game ideas (“battle” & “zombie browser game”) and one of the things that I kept thinking during the day was “what experience I really enjoy in games?”

My recent plays in PS3 NHL ’10 gave me one answer: “one-timer

  • There’s often human opponent trying to stop the pass or somehow give challenge to making the pass.
  • There’s a good chance that when executed well, the puck ends in the net – giving point to the team. Also, there’s chance that puck hits the post or goes off the goal. These “it was almost there” make it much more fun since you cannot be 100% certain that one-timer would always work. It’s the classical way to make things addictive by giving lil chance in how the reward is given. It’s so obvious, it’s so fun.
  • There’s 2 human players involved: one making the pass, one shooting. The cooperation between these two guys is the interesting.

    Now, what I really like is the last point. There’s 2 human players. Both players need to cooperate well: one guy needs to go to the right place to wait for the puck to arrive, the other guy obviously needs to find a good place to pass the puck… and actually do the pass (sometimes you see players who simply want to shoot the puck instead of passing).

    When one-timer is performed well, I can enjoy the fruits of excellent cooperation. Those one-timers are something I really enjoy in playing the game (in PS3).

    So – there’s puck, there’s shot – like who cares? What this have to do with zombie browser game stuff?
    Patience grasshopper.

    I read doctor Reiner Knizia saying that when he designs new board games he thinks of “what kind of experience the player wants?”. I recently read The Art of Game Design (Book of Lenses) which mentions the same thing. When I’ve done games stuff in the past, I’ve been thinking of it but I’ve been perhaps more interesting in the mechanisms.

    Now, with my “one-timer experience” in my pocket I pondered my game idea candidates and did some “playing in my head” (while in sauna) and it became obvious that there’s a conflict in my thinking. I would wanna create such game that would help players feel this “one-timer experience”, and if I was to create a battle game, that would not happen.

    In fact, if I look from cooperative perspective, there’s a few game ideas that meet this criteria:

    • (Zombie) browser tactical game where 2 unequal forces compete against each other, with several human players on both sides.
    • Co-op stealth game
    • Traitor game

    If there would be some changes in concepts, some of the other ideas could perhaps also meet the “is aimed to create a one-timer experience” requirement:

    • If the tactical battle game would change from 1 human vs 1 computer to 2 sides where there’s for example 3 human players on each side, it might have a chance. Although somehow I fear that it might degenerate into not so fun “rts” with balancing issues.
    • If my “ice hockey career” game would take place online, it might be actually quite interesting. Not sure exactly how it would be possible to get that “one-timer experience” but I think there might be ways.

    Is “one-timer experience” really the experience I want to provide?
    This is a tough question, and it goes back to answering to this question: to multiplay or not?. I’m somewhat leaning into working on a multiplayer game, but same time I has some considerations regarding the scope of the game. Well, maybe a prototyping reveals something useful for me.

  • Fast Prototyping

    I’ve been brainstorming for some game ideas and right now there’s 5 ideas I’m interested in (co-op stealth, zombie browser “mmo”, tactical battle game, guard mini-games, traitor game) out of which 2 are such that I’m doing a some sort of prototype (zombie browser “mmo” tactical co-op thing, tactical battle game”).

    I was first thinking of simply using BlitzMax for testing, but then I took a step back and thought that “I might as well do pen & paper prototypes first”. With that being said… I’ve now done some planning on what the goals of these games and then doing some prototyping by using a deck of cards.

    It does require a bit of imagination but I’m confident that this will save tons of my time and reveal if the ideas are worth pursuing.

    If deck of cards is not enough, I’ll put a few pocket chips in the table… and take pen & paper too.

    It’s not like prototyping requires a single line of code me thinks.

    Week #1 Game Dev Daddy Insight

    It’s been about a week now after the birth of our first baby girl and I’m dotting down some insight on what kind of impact this has caused to my game development. I’m currently working on brainstorming the idea, so no coding has been going on. This might be interesting for game devs who have their own babies… but also in a general level for people who think that after having a baby one has no time left for anything else.

    Myth #1 broken – there is time!
    After getting our baby girl home I’ve been doing more vacooming, dishwashing and diapery stuff I’ve never done before. There’s tons of stuff that needs to be taken care in order for the world’s most lovable poo factory to function.

    This might suggest that I have no time for anything else.

    That’s sort of true… but sort of also very untrue.

    The fact is that when much of my “own time” has vanished in a thin air, I notice that I do very little useless stuff anymore. No more brainlessly surfing the web. No more brainless TV staring sessions. No more “I’ll check email once – 24th time now – more for today”. In a way, many of the stuff mentioned in the blog post 100 ways to be more productive comes true naturally, since there’s simply no more time to do fool around.

    Myth #2 – sleep pattern can be changed after all!
    I’ve always been a good sleeper and can take naps anywhere, anytime. My lil cute creature of joy and happiness sleeps well but she also needs to be fed night time (and of course change clean diapers and stuff). This means my sleep pattern is totally changed.

    That’s something I’ve simply need to live with. Instead of sleeping one long sleep, I’ll have two medium sleep session and then perhaps nap sometime during the day. This has worked so far pretty well.

    Myth #3 – one can get past all the ugly tasks
    I don’t need to reinvent the wheel (and the horse and the carriots). There’s already tons of stuff that helps baby & mom & dad. There’s all sorts of feeding cushions, carry-the-baby-while-you-walk-thingies among other goodies. There’s tons of new things to learn while growing our baby but luckily many other people have gone through the same issues earlier. We can get past all the seemingly ugly tasks (aka “how the heck I change the diapers?”)

    You see any similarities with this and game development?

    So do I.

    Not so much of a myth #4 but I say this anyway – re-think solo dev
    I’ve always been a lone wolf developer – wanting to do my things my way. When taking care of the baby, it’s a huge aid to have two people on board. 1+1 equals at least 83 in baby stuff.

    As a “game dev daddy” now, I really will give a second thought on finding an artist to work with. I can handle programming side, and the other member of our team could handle the artistic side. There’s a “few” of more things to handle ranging from game design all the way up to the marketing, but my gut feeling is that for production it might make sense in my situation to think of finding an artist to work with.


    Over and out. I’ll see if there’s more game dev lessons from the baby after 2nd week.

    What’s Your Favourite Theme?

    I’m into this sneaky oriental samurai stuff, and I like zombies (as a theme, not as nocturnal creatures who want my brain). I don’t know exactly why. Samurais are just so cool (especially those silent guys who just swing the sword once and see their opponent fall ground… dead). Zombies – well, zombies are cool – everybody knows that.

    What themes have you used in your games, and why you’ve chosen those?

    Also, what favorite themes you guys have? Fantasy? World War II? What kind of themes you really enjoy seeing in games?

    Is there a theme you’d like to see in games, but for some reason it’s rarely done?

    (Disclaimer: I reserve the right to steal your theme idea and put it to my next game if it ticks me.)

    Couple of More Game Ideas

    One of the goals for my next weeks is to come up with several game ideas and then do some sort of prototype out of it (pen & paper proto is fine as well). I haven’t forgotten the earlier ideas, and right now I want to brainstorm and add as many ideas as I can.

    Here’s some more ideas I’ve been pondering:

    Morphing creatures – puzzle game
    I wrote about puzzle games some days ago, and I’ve been thinking of this puzzle game which would be based on creatures that can morph and clone each other.

    For example, if there’s a puzzle where you need to climb to a tree, you could clone your creature, bend down and control the other creature to climb the tree to get the key. The puzzles could have “expert status” which would challenge the player to “finish the level with only N number of clones”. Also, an online high scores could be there so that players could compete to “finish the level with minimal number of clones”.

    The creatures could morph into different objects/forms (ranging from boxes to tree-like creatures to rolling creatures and more) which would be needed to solve the levels.

    In a way, each level would be something that you simply cannot fail to solve (simply make 100 clones and at some point you’ll have enough creatures there to help you out)… but the real pros could try beat best scores.

    “Why” game – philosophical adventure
    10ish years ago I had this website where I put “why?” type of stuff. I wrote about why something happens. I wrote about why “Swedish classes felt like they never ended” or “why the school bus had some sort of weird light system”. I wrote tons of questions pondering everything about anything.

    Now I was thinking of this game with 2 possible themes. First theme would be about creatures. You are born and lead to move boxes from place A to place B (that’s the mission of your life). At some point you might go asking other workers “why?” and eventually get into trouble. The game keeps asking more and more “why things happen” in this creature world (which of course reflects our real world situations). I don’t know how the game would end but perhaps it would awake people to think what they are doing in their lives. Might be interesting to proceed with this.

    Tough choices – philosophical adventure
    This is the second theme for the “why game”, but since the mood would be very dark I present this as an alternative idea.

    Another theme could be real world. There the game would pose some tough black/white questions where your actions determine the fate of other people. The game would be played in split-screen view: left side would be about your situation, and the right side about the consequences. For example, if you vote for “yes, attack Iraq” then a civilian kills would be shown right. If you choose “ban weapons from home” you would be shown a screen showing how burglars enter people’s home (or alternatively, people shooting themselves accidentally at home). It might possibly be too dark and not sure if it would feel like propaganda (one way or another) but it might get people to think about their actions and perhaps show that there’s always several point-of-views for stuff.

    Right now this theme seems too dark for my own mood (I’m so thrilled to have our cute lil baby girl), so I’ll skip this idea. Thought to share it anyway.

    Tactical battle game
    Reiner Knizia has created a cool game called Battle line. The idea is very simple (2 players, each player tries to form strong formations for his side). I feel that this idea could be expanded by adding collectible “deck building” and even thinking of doing an ice hockey game based on this, or perhaps some sort of cooperative (instead of competitive) game out of this.

    I like the idea, and feel that something from this could be used to build something better and fancier.

    Thieves – co-op stealth game
    I mentioned this idea earlier but I’ve been thinking that this could be worth prototyping. In a very simple level there could be 2 players who need to steal a key card from one guard. The guard would kill players if they get caught, but if the players work cooperatively (one player distracting the guard, other hanging in ceiling ready to pick pocket the guard) they could solve the puzzle.

    Zombie survival browser based game
    Even though I like Urban Dead I think it’s missing some stuff. I have this idea about a small-scale zombie game where rounds could be faster (think of week for example): group of humans are fortifying a camp while group of zombies tries to get inside the building. There would be more visuals than what Urban Dead offers and players could gain experience points and purchase skills and stuff (which would be permanent). When player dies, he turns into a zombie (until the next round happens).

    Not sure how fun this sounds but in my mind it does.

    More stuff coming later (feel free to throw comments if you want).

    Best Browser Based Game You’ve Ever Played?

    I haven’t played many browser based games. I only test some Flash games and forget them right away (there are tons of quality products though). I think Urban Dead has been a browser game that I kept playing for some time… until I forgot it too.

    I think I’ve never paid a cent for these games, but I think I’ve clicked some ads some times.

    At some point I played Mafia/Werewolf forum version in various places, but also stopped that.

    What’s the best browser based game you’ve ever played? Have you paid for any of them (like purchased in-game items or whatnot)?

    What Happens If You Fall In Love With Your Project?

    In the tough school of marketing there’s often mentioned how “target market/audience” and the “potential customer” needs to be thought when creating a (game) product. One “mentor” – sort of speak – I had in the past mentioned how he chose his project by first creating some concepts and then picking the one (Shorthike space simulation game) that had the most market potential. It wasn’t the concept he liked most but he thought it would be most profitable (and of course fun to do as well).

    I have been thinking the same way for quite many years now, up until yesterday or so.

    Yesterday I was changing diapers for my sweet girl and there was plenty of poo. Earlier (let’s say… close to decades now) I thought that babies are smelly poo factories that eat and sleep a lot. That statement holds true by the way, but something has changed.

    I’ve got ownership. It’s my baby. Now I just think the poo is cool thing to wipe off. It doesn’t even smell bad (which is strange since up until this day I’m positive that baby poo smells bad).

    By the way, I’m not trying to suggest that my baby is a project, and now way comparing her to a game dev project. I’m comparing the experience I had.

    The experience suggests me that if you fell in love with your game project, a strange thing most likely happens: those hideous ugly tasks (whatever they might be in your project) might not seem so ugly any more. In fact, you might even find out that when you are working on the project you truly have ownership and treat it “like your baby” (as I’ve heard some devs mentioning about their products) you’ll go extra mile to get stuff done.

    If on the other hand the product is “not yours” and it’s “done for the money” you might translate part of that lack of passion to the product. It might be done well, but something personal might be missing. Something that tells that you love your product.

    What’s your experience on this? Have you fell in love with your current or past projects?