Archive for May, 2016

Game Idea a Day – Week 21

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

This last week was all VR ideas. I spent a lot of free time in the Vive, and thinking about VR in general. Wednesday night was the monthly VR & HCI meetup, and the standout for me from Matt & Tommy’s excellent presentation was probably just finding out that there are three different open source projects for vive utilities. (None of which were the one I linked to last week.) Matt went through what each one provides, and even had Tommy play around in the demo scene from each. The three projects were Newton VR, Steam VR Unity Toolkit, and ViveGrip.

Anyway, here were the ideas:

5/20 – Thinking about mining-sim games, and in particular the 2D ones where you have to dig downward continuously, finding resources in the passageways you’ve excavated. Imagine a mechanic like that in VR. You hold a mining tool that lets you point it at the ground and excavate, collecting the rock, and then you’d have to teleport into the hole you’ve created, looking at all the walls for gems and coins and things to collect. Maybe your excavation tool has lots of settings, one that lets you blast away whole walls, and also one that lets you carve tiny crevices around interesting looking bits of the surface. You could unearth fossils, and evidence of alien civilizations.

5/21 – A game where every time you teleport, you are transported to a randomly generated world very like the one you are in, but subtly different. Probably this is a procedurally generated world in some way, and all but one or two (different) parameters are persistent from one generation to the next. Maybe you are a scientist and there is a story about why this happens, or you are an explorer searching for a world with some specific properties.

5/22 – A VR space battle game, like a mix of real-time strategy, turn-based strategy, Xortex (the lab space shooter), and a little bit of Subterfuge. You assign a unit to go to a specific place by simply grabbing it and moving it to the new place. (The play field should be the size of your VR space.) The unit would then start moving toward where you let go of it, (which still shows as a translucent version of itself), and you could of course grab either again at any time, to re-position. I thought through a bunch more about this, and have some neat ideas for how building / spawning could work too.

5/23 – A “Put your head in things” game. Putting your head in random models in VR is kinda fun, and I think it would be cool if there was a game completely written around the premise. Essentially, everything takes place in a room, and if you put your head outside the walls of the room, you see outer space, (or something weirder), so you know you aren’t supposed to be out there. Inside the room, there are different boxes. Each box has another room inside it, and putting your head in there for a sufficient period of time (a few seconds) would transport you there. Basically, at any given time, whenever you put your head through a model, you should see something else. If you put your head back through the outer wall of any room, you would see the original room around it, and if you wait, again, you’ll be teleported back to that. You should be able to dig deeper into each experience at least 3 or 4 levels.

5/24 – Marble-rolling sandbox game in VR. You know those block sets with grooves cut into them for rolling marbles? Imagine having infinite blocks! And maybe also those wires you can position. And maybe you have to hit checkpoints with a limited number of marbles or pieces or something.

5/25 – More thinking about room-scale puzzle prison. Also imagined a similar but totally different game, but with the same sort of “block walls” where you grab the blocks and put them into empty spaces. Nothing falls, but every time you place one, another one is generated in your hand. So maybe you always have two to choose between, since you have two hands. I also spent some time thinking about cord tangling, and how it’s going to be a pain in Puzzle Prison. I should maybe keep track of how many times the player has rotated in either direction and incentivize rotation back to zero in some way, possibly with power ups or possibly with a simple visual inductor.

5/26 – A sort-of VR DDR, where there are colors on the floor. The color your headset is over is the selected color (it should be indicated at all times in some obvious way) and the only color you can currently “break”. Random colored indicators are constantly moving toward you (maybe a bit like AudioShield) but you have to be on the right color to match them. Maybe they are also different shapes, and you also have to match the shape by rotating or swiping your controller in some way.

Game Idea a Day – Week 20

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Here were my ideas this week. You know the drill.

5/13 – A story/environment set in a near-future dystopia, when all buildings in a large downtown area are bridged together and there are different strata of people who live at different heights in the superstructure. Lots of dazzlingly high views and really massive architectural structures. Maybe part of the game is just finding your way around. Maybe it’s an open world and you have to find your way between buildings for missions and figure out where things are.

5/14 – A game where you have this grid, maybe 20×20, and every second or so, a pulse of light begins at one end of the grid, travels down one row, and ends at the far column. Then another pulse travels down the next row, etc, until all the rows have been traversed. Then the pulse begins at the top of a column on one side of the board, and pulses continue down the board until that is done. So the game is to place things in the way of the beams: splitters (that divert the beams to either direction — left & right from the perspective of the pulse), and coins (that will be collected when the pulse travels over them), and other collectables that might take more than one pulse to collect. Some of the objects you place would only work once, and just become blocked spaces (not blocking the light, just not useful anymore), and others would be used to clear those spaces. Anyway, you just keep piling things onto the grid until you can’t anymore.

5/15 – The only innovative idea here is that you could have something suspended between the player’s hands (this is a room-scale/Vive idea), and the closer together they have them, the fewer points. If they are holding their hands wide, more points, but a bigger target to avoid all the things that are in the playing field. Another idea: bring a Helix like experience to the Vive. You would essentially have to circle things in VR, and avoid running into those same things. It could be really fun/cool.

5/16 – I wrote a ton in this entry about Portal Stories: VR, which I consumed in a single night. It made me think a lot about sokoban-style games in VR, which led me to think about porting various PuzzleScript games to VR, specifically my friend Ian’s game, Frog Bike. Basically, you can’t port directly, so it would just be re-using/re-creating various puzzle mechanics in 3D.

5/17 – Thinking about games for the donutron, I think it would be cool to do a puzzle game with tank controls. (Where you use both sticks to control both tire treads independently.) You also shoot, as tanks do, but there are no enemies, so you are shooting at switches to open doors and things like that. This entry included a bunch of ideas for levels, and trailed off when I started searching for Tank-tread controllers on the Unity asset store.

5/18 – I found an open source Unity plugin for implementing teleporting in the Vive, and that led to a brainstorm about a 2D puzzle game in VR played on the floor, where you actually just teleport to select the individual grid squares. What do you think about the name Teleporzzle?

5/19 – Thinking about time manipulation in a puzzle game, specifically where you might know the state of the puzzle at some point in the future (maybe even the end), but have to re-create the steps leading up to that point. You could jump around in time, and figure out clues for other time periods based on what you know at each point.

Game Idea a Day – Week 19

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Three of my game ideas this week were thinking about games with two Vive headsets in the same space.

5/6 – Inspired by looking at the glass lenses inside the Vive headset, I spent some time thinking about a game where you are able to manipulate a chunk of glass and see how it changes the light passing through it. A game of lenses and lens creation. It would be neat to make this semi-educational, teaching about lenses for corrective vision, lenses for telescopes, etc. I imagine that manipulating a lens and seeing the effect it has in real-time would be super cool.

5/7 – An entry about a ball pit in VR. This was maybe subtly influenced by the ball pit ideas from 4/8. The idea would be that you walk around in the ball pit, and there are hundreds, thousands, of simulated balls that collide with a cylinder roughly defined by the position of your headset and your controllers. You can of course use your controllers to pick up individual balls and throw them around. Games could feature sorting balls by color, throwing at targets, juggling, and generally just doing all the kinds of things that you can do with balls.

5/8 – I spent some time thinking about multiplayer VR games where you have multiple people (and headsets) in the same physical space. You would have “personal bubble” boundaries that show up in VR, the same way the room boundaries show up in the Vive currently. I started imagining games you play without seeing the other players at all, where you just have to find them by walking around randomly and discovering their bubble.

5/9 – This was my favorite idea from the last week. It’s loosely based on one of my favorite Tetris variants, a weird little game called Sequoia where Tetris blocks fall toward the center of a big open area. Each piece comes from a different direction, either top, right, bottom, or left, in sequence. Having a block “miss” the pile of blocks in the center of the screen will end the game. (Note that there was briefly, a “Sequoia Touch” for iOS, and that’s how I discovered it originally. There is an OSX version that is still downloadable — as of this writing — from the developer’s website.) In Sequoia, the goal is to make squares of 4×4 blocks, that then disappear from the screen. In this idea, rather than pieces coming from different directions, they always come from the top, but the “block” of bricks in the center of the screen rotates, so it’s functionally like Sequoia in that way. Instead of making 4×4 blocks, you would be making “lines” of filled in blocks, more like traditional Tetris, but the lines would break according to a floating square around the central area that would undulate, changing over time. I have imagined how this would work in great detail, and I really want to make it now.

5/10 – I had a couple of ideas on Tuesday. I spent more time than I care to admit thinking about how a word processor in VR could work. And then I outlined some details for an open world game with random object avoidance areas strewn around it.

5/11 – I outlined three possible game ideas for 2 players with Vive headsets in the same space. The most basic idea was a two-player version of the space-ship flying game in The Lab (Xortex), where you both stand across from each other and shoot lasers at each other’s ships. (Maybe both players have two ships, and you have to pay attention to where both are at any given time.) The second idea was something like 3D pong or badminton. I brainstormed ways to beef it up, so you are hitting nuclear bombs back and forth or something like that. Finally, the last game was one where you are exploring a sort of puzzle room together. Probably the trick with these games would be to keep the players away from each other through game mechanics.

5/12 – Another huge potential well of ideas is board games in VR. I have thought about this before, although I’m not sure when. I could easily imagine wizard’s chess in a Vive, but I could also imagine some interesting custom games that not only couldn’t exist in physical space, but couldn’t exist outside of VR. One example was a multiplayer game played inside a cube, where each of the walls of the cube is a gameboard. You have hundreds of pieces, and every turn, you and your opponent simultaneously choose which wall (could also be the floor) where you want to play. If you choose the same, you both have to choose again, but cannot choose the one you both picked previously. Then you both get to move some number of pieces on the wall you chose, potentially decimating your opponent on that surface.

Game Idea a Day – Week 18

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

My game ideas for the week of 4/29 through 5/5:

4/29 – New Eigenstate game mode, this time with a setup phase before the actual gameplay. I also thought about bringing the pieces back onto the gameboard: musing on “piece in hand” versus “homerow”, in addition to laying out the problem with captures where your opponent gets to then keep some of the pegs for adding the next turn. (Essentially it can lead to a snowball effect.) Also thought about king pieces a bit.

4/30 – A game where you are a leprechaun and you ride cats as your steed. Maybe the premise is that it’s been hard to be a leprechaun since about 1900 or so. Especially with all the new technology, hard to know when to avoid cameras and when you need to stay invisible. You have to collect gold for your pot.

5/1 – A couple of entries on Monday, the first about a game with light-up pieces. This is sort of an aside, but I thought a lot last year at some point about how to package a single LED into a game piece that could also transmit its position through the gameboard to a central controller (as well as be controlled). This would allow you to do cool things like show you all the possible moves when you pick up a piece, or let you play various games against an AI by indicating which piece it wanted to move, and where. Anyway, this particular entry was not about that system, but instead about a thing where each piece looks the same until you hold it under a black light or in some other lighting. The light could be shaped like a dragon’s mouth, and you have to put the stones in the dragon’s breath to tell what you’ve got. It was not really an entire game but more just musing about that single mechanic.

The second entry was more thinking about giving Puzzle Prison some idle game mechanics. Don’t actually think I’ll do this, but I do want to make an idle game at some point soon.

5/2 – Started thinking about using the grid-based piece-movement mechanics that I stole from The Duke and Onitama for Eigenstate — on different grid shapes. I could imagine triangles, or hexes, easy, but what about an irregular grid with different shaped squares? (Like a grid with alternating octogons and squares, for example.) It would necessitate two-sided pieces like The Duke, because whenever a move took you to a space of the other shape, you’d need to re-orient the center (starting) point on the “piece-grid”.

5/3 – Another 2-entry day. The first was inspired by this amazing piece of artwork my kindergartener made, that is basically a drawing of a ladybug with a photograph of her head pasted onto it. I wanted to animate it right away, and maybe make it crawl around on its own. I could definitely imagine a simple platform game for kids with that style of art.

The second entry was about when we will have our first city-scale VR game. We have chair-scale, and room-scale, and I’m imagining being able to walk around the entire city in VR. At that point the line between VR and AR definitely gets blurry, becomes you have issues with avoiding obstacles and stuff like that of course, but if you are not actually viewing reality, it’s still VR, and that’s what I was imagining. Like, when does the tech get so good that it can keep you in the virtual world, but still allow complete freedom of movement.

Later (maybe even that same day), I co-opted the term “City Scale” for a different idea, not really a game, but as a name for a place you can go to work in VR.

5/4 – Thinking about swords in VR, and how in the Ninja Trainer demo, it is annoying that only the front of the blade is “sharp”. You could “fix” this issue by having light sabers, of course, and the more I thought about light sabers in VR, the more I liked the idea. I can easily imagine really enjoying a game like AudioShield, but with sabers instead of shields, and as things fly at you, you have to slice them apart.

5/5 – Very short entry on wanting to manipulate squishy brains in a game. The first idea was a match-3 style game, where you have to drag the brains around, leaving slimy brain-goo trails on the screen.

Game Idea a Day – Week 17

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

IMG_2051This week I managed to spend some time playtesting the board game idea I’d come up with (and been rather cagy about) from 3/28 and 3/30. (Pictured here is Patrick Leder playing it at GlitchCon, the twin cities only actual game development conference.) The weekend before, I spent a rather significant chunk of time in my friend Lloyd’s garage, creating what you see in the photo. There are 6 pieces per player, each with 25 holes in them the right size for cribbage pegs. I won’t post all the rules right now (maybe sometime soon), but essentially each peg represents a potential move that piece can make. This week I spent at least one day’s brainstorm thinking of names for the game, and finally came up with one that I think will stick: Eigenstate.

This week’s ideas:

4/22 – Came up with a game idea to be played with pipe cleaners. At first it was hard to come up with something not inspired by pickup sticks, but what I really wanted was a game where you would have to bend the pipe cleaners in strategic ways. I’m not sure what I ended up with got to a place where it would be fun, but I like the idea of pipe cleaners as game components, and might try to brainstorm another one sometime.

4/23 – Another “what if you were X in VR?” idea. This time butterflies. I like the idea of having to flap your wings to get around, and butterflies have such a specific fluttering motion, what if the world were slowed down so that you could flap leisurely, and everything was at butterfly scale? Could be a really beautiful game about gathering nectar from flowers.

4/24 – I started with the premise of an idle game in VR. I like this idea quite a bit. I think you need some core game mechanic that isn’t just watching numbers and buying upgrades though. Something fun to do, but maybe only for a few minutes at a time. Then the game continues collecting whatever your various resource(s) while you are away, and when you return, you have a bunch of purchasing to do before returning to that mechanic with your improved stats. I actually think VR game session lengths may end up more like mobile than like hardcore/core game experiences, at least for the short term, partly because of the headache issues, but partly because when it’s room scale, you get tired out.

IMG_2025 24/25 – So after making the prototype I mentioned above, I didn’t actually have a chance to play it with anyone right away. It sat on my counter for a while setup as shown in this picture. I spent more time thinking about it and as a result, had this thought: what if it’s actually more of a game system rather than a single game? Right away I came up with two new game ideas. The first is one where each piece starts with a specific number of pegs, say one in each direction, and when it moves that way the peg is removed. In this way, the piece can only move each direction once per game. There are captures, and the player who runs out of moves first loses the game. The second game is a sort of physical version of Galcon. Each player starts with a single piece full of 25 pegs in their color. There are empty (“neutral”) pieces scattered elsewhere around the edge of the board. You can move next to a piece and attack it. After removing an equal number of pegs from each (until one is empty), the player with pegs remaining can choose how many to transfer to the newly empty piece. At the start of your turn, you add a peg to every piece you have pegs in on the board.

4/26 – Two more Eigenstate game ideas, and the brainstorm that found the name. One of the games was a variant on the original game, (which I playtested already, and found lacking), and the other is a connection game, where each player again has a color of pegs to call their own. The game pieces are just segments of the gameboard that may be re-arranged instead of (or perhaps in addition to) adding a peg anywhere on the board. First to connect two sides of the board is the victor.

4/27 – I had a very vivid dream-like vision of a game played in room scale VR immediately after waking up. The game makes cubes out of the walls of the space you have available in room setup, and you never move out of those walls. The cubes are either connected or not connected to one another, and the disconnected ones form large shapes that are then “ejected” from the walls and fall onto the floor, or just float in the space around the player. The game is therefore just to put the pieces back into the walls. The game just had a really specific look to it, and the way the cubes congealed into solid wall or pieces was just really beautiful. I fear the gameplay is easily reproducible, (but questionably fun), while the visual effects are likely possible, but definitely out of my league without spending days trying to reproduce them.

4/28 – A racing game in VR, but using the locomotion mechanics from The Lab or Budget Cuts. To make it especially interesting, the landscape being raced across must be uneven and jagged, so there are obvious (or not so obvious) advantages to one route over another. Maybe there are also visual obstacles so you will have to move around in your space in order to have the best line of sight to the next teleport spot. I was picturing a rocky terrain originally, but now I’m thinking you could also do it in a maze where there are only small gaps, obviously too small to fit through, but no problem for someone with a teleporter.