Archive for March, 2016

Game Idea a Day – Week 12

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

I may have been in a bit of a post-GDC slump this week. And I’m running a tad late with this blog post, since it’s technically already Saturday morning. But I did write my idea for Friday before the midnight hour! Here are last week’s idea summaries:

3/18 – Spent a lot of time this last week thinking about first-person puzzle games. At GDC I got to play Manifold Garden in the “Day of the Devs” area, and The Metareal World at the Indie Megabooth, both of which will blow your mind (in different ways). That got me thinking a bunch about other first person puzzle games I’ve loved, and what new ideas I might bring to the table. (I still haven’t played The Witness, or Talos Principle.) So far, I’m not convinced I have anything super substantial to contribute, but the entry on 3/18 was about using different weights in a puzzle game, dragging them around to open corresponding doors or onto floor switches. One thing that would be cool is if the whole environment were squishy, and you used the weights to bend your way though the puzzles.

3/19 – A game set in a convention of some kind. (Science fiction, or comic book, maybe?) Something like one of those Kairosoft games, but simulating hotel room parties and con suite, and registration.

3/20 – Two ideas here, both coming out of a long rambling paragraph about using the glitch aesthetic in a first-person puzzle game: The first idea was essentially thematic or story, just that you are trying to get a computer simulation to glitch out, but one that you are stuck inside of, Tron style. The second idea was that maybe the rooms each have a switch in them (they could be different in each one, or hidden in some way), and each one represents a bit of data, and overall, the rooms make up a byte, or more. Maybe the goal is to make ascii letters and spell out something.

3/21 – Sysyphean Sokobahn: Block pushing game, but in 3D, with hills. So the blocks are constantly rolling back down the hill. The puzzles would primarily involve floor switches for doors, and pushing boulders with different properties onto them. So for instance an early puzzle might involve pushing a rock to some point above a switch, where it begins to roll slowly back down the hill, hitting the switch, at which point you must quickly get through the door it opens.

3/22 – Musing about an idle game that lets you play idle Tetris. Lots of details here, and I’m really tempted to make this one. Love the idea.

3/23 – Whilst having lunch with my friend Lloyd, we discussed my idle Tetris idea, and then collaborated on a different idle game idea, involving hexagons and organic growth patterns inspired by Conway’s game of life (as well as the hexagon tiles on the floor at Runyon’s, where we were eating).

3/24 – A VR physics game inspired by Paul Eckhardt’s beach ball simulation, presented as part of his Unreal for Vive Development at the VR & HCI meeting last week. Essentially just more and more complex “batting a ball in some direction”. First level would be more or less 2D, a stream of balls falling in a single column that have one of two colors, each color corresponding to a direction away from the player. With increasing frequency the player has to hit the ball in the correct direction. Eventually there could be different sized balls all falling at the same time, 4 (or even 8) directions, and possibly even with the targets changing locations as you play.

Game Idea a Day – Week 11

Friday, March 18th, 2016

This week saw my first forgetful day. It was my daughter’s 6th birthday last Sunday, and then later I was on (and waiting for) a plane to get to GDC, (which was even delayed by a couple of hours). So actually I had a bunch of time in the airport and on the plane where I could have spent the time brainstorming, but I just plain forgot. I used the time fairly productively to work on Puzzle Prison, and I did a couple of ideas on both Monday and Tuesday to make up for it.

3/11 – 2-player abstract strategy game that is essentially a Blokus variant. This was an extension of my thinking on 3/9, and so players can play any piece from either their own supply or their opponent’s. Object is to surround more of your opponent’s pieces than they surround yours.

3/12 – A game where you have to feed the monsters lunch. The lunch is humans. (I wrote a bunch of details, but nothing all that interesting came out of it mechanically.)

3/13 – Missed a day. I’m actually surprised it took this long to happen.

3/14 – #1 – A word/sentence writing game where everyone starts with the same sentence. You have to write the sentence 10 times, and change a single (different) word each time. You are competing to be the fastest, so maybe hilarity will ensue? (I don’t really try to think about party game ideas all that often, so this was a challenge.)

3/14 – #2 – An idea for a game you could play with a grid of 3×3, 4×4, or 5×5 trackballs. A sort of match-3 game where you rotate orbs with different colors on them. Match 3 or more in a row, and they are removed like bejeweled.

3/15 – #1 – A tetris style falling block game where you don’t get to choose when (or perhaps even where) the blocks fall, only their rotation. They fall to the beat, so you have to position them in time to the music. Each (short) level is played on a grid shaped like a wave, and that wave corresponds to the music somehow.

3/15 – #2 – Vive game where your hands are fans. You move/aim them with your controllers in relation to your body, and they then give you movement/force vectors. You move through a giant level this way. Maybe you are a robot on a gas giant planet. Maybe you are a robot in a fan making factory, cobbled together with parts just laying around.

3/16 – Another idea inspired by thinking about the game idea on 3/9. This one more inspired by the name of that brainstorm than the gameplay. I didn’t originally mention the name, but I’ll mention it now: Othelloop. This is a mashup of Othello and classic Snake. Essentially you pick an othello piece in your color, and move it around the gameboard like in snake. Each time you do this, one additional piece is added to the snake. (If there are other stones behind the one you choose, they will also be part of the snake.) Whenever you hit something, the stones are “placed” on the board, and normal othello flipping / color changing rules apply. The thing I like the most about this idea is that it could be a real-time game, or it could be turn-based, and played with physical pieces, meeting the criteria for “combinatorial”.

3/17 – Thinking a bit about a chess variant where both sides are controlled by an AI, but you influence the game in some way. (I like this as a concept.) The idea I came up with was to tap/select a piece to “hold” it in place, and make sure the AI doesn’t consider it for play. So you could potentially tap all the pieces but one to ensure that it was the next piece to get played. Not sure yet what the goal would be, but maybe to get the pieces into a specific configuration, or prevent captures in some way. More thinking on this concept is needed.

Game Idea a Day – Week 10

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Game Developer Conference is next week, and as I prepared for that this week, (especially polishing up some rough edges on, and making appointments to show my Puzzle Prison prototype to whoever I can), I also began working on some enhancements to the enemy AI behaviors for the locally made multiplayer platformer game Chimera Genesis.

I have also been watching the AlphaGo games this week, and talking about the implications with whoever will listen.

Without further ado, here were my game ideas from the last 7 days:

3/4 – Another VR puzzle game concept. This one with falling blocks and slow-moving gravity. I imagine it sort of like Klax you are actually standing in and catching the blocks with your hands instead of a machine. You then have to stack the blocks yourself.

3/5 – A street-fighter like fighting game, called instead: Treat Fighter. You pick from characters like donut, candy bar, cupcake, ice cream cone, slice of cake, slice of pie, buttered popcorn, or bag of candy. Each with their own unique special powers, of course.

3/6 – Thinking more about a solar system simulation in VR where you can zoom in and out, and move around the system instantly, at a glance. It would be fun to form additional planets and set them in motion by pushing them with your hand. Could be like some of the circular Osmos levels in a way, but maybe it needs to feel simpler than that since it’ll already be in 3D. Just make a set number of planets and get them spinning around the sun without colliding into one another. Maybe they have to make some number of rotations, or last for some period of time. (Incidentally, later in the week I discovered a game on Steam already that sounds a lot like this. I didn’t see any mention of VR though.)

3/7 – Thinking about playing simultaneous games of Tetris. I came up with a variant on probably my first VR puzzle game idea, where you would simply have a bunch of games of Tetris floating around you and control the one you are gazing at. (Attempting to keep them all from hitting the top, of course.) This new idea is just that you control them all at once. No VR necessary. The goal would be to survive the longest, of course, but maybe all the boards would clear after some increasingly difficult threshold. Pieces are random, of course, so there would be no completely optimal solution. Or maybe you could optionally clear them between levels, giving you a multiplier for each one you didn’t clear.

3/8 – A candy crush clone, but with some extremely personal narrative pasted on. The heart-wrenching narrative would be the incentive to unlock further levels, but the game itself would be very commercialized and monetized. Lots of paywalls, and requests for you to share the experience. This is a money-wrenching tear-jerker. (And the ultimate point of the narrative would be about how gross it all is together.) Bonus points for a political message as well. Note that I would never make this game, but it’s funny to think about.

3/9 – An abstract strategy game played with a go board/stones, where you attempt to surround the opposing color with your color. The twist is/was that you can play either color stone on your turn. I finally did just the smallest amount of playtesting this morning, and the game doesn’t really work mechanically as written. The color choice is a neat idea, but it needs something else.

3/10 – I had a few different ideas yesterday while riding the light rail:
* An adventure/exploration game where you play as a skill toy (I was specifically thinking a Kendama), exploring a world populated with other skill toys.
* An Excalibur VR game, essentially I just think it would be cool to be able to act out various scenes from Arthurian legend in VR: finding the sword in the stone, pulling it out, throwing it in the lake, having the lady in the lake bring it back to you.
* Another VR puzzle game, this one played around a smallish (table sized) 3D block of cubes. Maybe from above the block is simply 3×3. You must touch a square of the same color on either side of the block, ideally in the same row, at which point the entire row is removed from the block.

Game Idea a Day – Week 9

Friday, March 4th, 2016

The big news this week is that I made a gameplay trailer for Puzzle Prison. I hope you like the VR game ideas, because there are a bunch of them this week!

2/26 – An idea for a sort of idle/unfolding game where there are floating stores in the sky. It’s a side-scrolling platformer type game, but you can’t jump, so you have to buy tetromino shaped ground pieces to get to each new store (where you can buy upgrades and additional ground pieces, etc). I’m not sure I’ve seen any idle games with character movement in them, much less the “building” aspect of the tetrominos.

2/27 – Thinking about first-person puzzle games, and scale. I like the idea of pushing really giant things around. The idea was a sort of sokoban style block pushing game, but the blocks are HUGE, and also contain their own push puzzles inside them. So you have to push them around to get to the puzzles inside them. (And presumably find collectables or something inside them.)

2/28 – While watching visualizations at an Animal Collective concert (my first concert in years, thanks Dan for the ticket!), I started thinking about a territory game played on some colorful images. Essentially the first player picks a pixel in the image, and then the second player has to make a 2D polygon using that pixel. Your score is a percent of the volume of the polygon used, based on how close in color the other pixels you chose are. So if you manage to color-match perfectly, your score would be the entire volume. Then you pick a pixel for the other player. (I just had the idea to try and play the game with a vine, or other looping image, instead of a single image. That could be interesting.)

2/29 – Had a simple idea for a cat painting game. (I like the ambiguity here, so I’m leaving it at that.)

I also spent a bunch of time documenting some thoughts I’ve had about level progression in Puzzle Prison.

3/1 – Thinking about a sandbox game that literally takes place in a sandbox. I’m surprised I haven’t seen this before, but essentially a minecraft for kid’s playgrounds. Kid’s playgrounds are already these elaborate fortresses with hanging walkways and tubes to crawl through, elaborate slides, etc. And what kid wouldn’t want to spend a bunch of time designing their own?

3/2 – I recently backed Overload, the new 6-degrees of freedom game by the original makers of Descent. 3/2’s brainstorm started with thinking about what it might be like to strap yourself into one of those full-body gyroscopes, but with a VR mask strapped to your head. And again I was thinking about puzzle games played in VR. I ended up with three separate game ideas:

– A puzzle game on the inside of a sphere, centered on your viewpoint. I actually played a VR game at IndieCade last year called Darknet that felt a bit like what I am imagining here. Essentially just a sphere around you, but instead of (as in the case of Darknet) a simple RTS, this is more like a block-fitting puzzle. (I guess sort of an inside-out Tetrisphere.)

– A farming sim style game, played on the inside of a rotating sphere (or just cylinder-shaped) spaceship built for the purposes of growing plants.

– Final idea, some kind of game where there are points of light inside the sphere, and you have to connect the dots on the edge of the sphere, to make a “Web” through the points of light. This could be super cool even just with a standard Vive setup. No need for the sphere. Just the 3D points of light in a box. How few lines can you use to connect all the dots?

3/3 – Two more VR ideas:

– A Vive game where you have some geometric target. A shape or weird polygon. You are inside a cube to start, and you can attach ropes to the walls of the cube (probably just at certain anchor points), and then pull the rope to deform the cube (then attaching it to something else, another wall, or another rope, or something like that. You can then zoom out and see if you have matched the target shape.

– Second idea: A fantasy aesthetic 3D map where you can grow or shrink at will, perhaps with a trigger button on either controller. When you press this, the world rotates around you, as you shrink or grow.

I originally cut/pasted the following paragraph from my journal, but it doesn’t really count as a summary at that point. Anyway, I liked it, so consider this a bonus description of the previous game idea. (Usually this is the kind of rambling narrative I save you from by summarizing each entry.)

I’m imagining you emerge from a city, see a long (and empty looking) road ahead of you, so you grow to be giant, take two steps to the mountain range that had previously been in the distance. You see what looks to be a mouse hole at the foot of the mountain, so you shrink until you can walk comfortably inside. But then you notice that you are still standing twice as tall as the trees in the nearby forest, so you shrink even further, until the mouse hole is actually a gargantuan cavern. You walk inside in awe of the massive stone working and grandeur. You notice there are dwarves nearby, but they are hiding from you as if in fear, so you shrink even further, until you are their size and they come out of hiding to greet you. Later in the game, you come upon a pool with fairies hovering above it. Your instinct is to catch one in a jar, of course, but instead you shrink to their size, upon which they pick you up and take you to meet their queen. Maybe this is how the game should begin, and maybe you’ve been granted this magical shrinking and growing ability by the fairy queen. (Perhaps in order to battle an evil giant, who lives high in the clouds? Probably your name is Jack.)