Game Idea a Day – Week 21

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

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

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

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

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.

Game Idea a Day – Week 16

I got a Vive set up in my living room this week, which you might imagine would lead to a lot of VR ideas, and it did! But possibly because I was also rather busy, most of my entries ended up short and scant on details. I had a couple of ideas that I then later found close close corollaries on Steam. The project also took a backburner several days this week, and occasionally became (sometimes literally) a last minute scramble.

4/15 – This was my longest entry this week, and I flushed out some of the details around an idle game where the key factor that increases over time (rather than some currency) is distance. So the game is (in a way) an endless (auto) runner, but in the beginning you tap for every step. But of course by the end you have purchased planes trains and automobiles to make that distance go by faster and faster.

4/16 – I laid out some (very high-level) ideas for a game that uses 3D models from Google Maps to allow you to virtually travel to a city. Then I got the Vive setup, and (later that week) spent some time in the Realities application. It’s not exactly what I was describing, (I can’t see that it uses Google city data), but it’s pretty darn close.

4/17 – A virtual model train set in VR, where you can mold the hills and add trains and setup towns and tracks wherever you want. But you have to have resources to make tracks and add trains and you get resources by having trains go between cities. I think this could be HUGE.

4/18 – I had a lunch with my friend Lloyd, where he mentioned wanting to stomp around in a VR city and destroying it (a’la 3D rampage). This was straight up cheating, (since it wasn’t my idea), but I outlined some details in my journal. Then later in the week I found this video of Maximum Override in VR. (Which is also available already on Steam.)

4/19 – This started by thinking more about action puzzle games in VR, and led to taking a beat from Tetris Giant, and thinking it would be cool to have a game with giant in-game controls that would be impractical in real life. No game really, just thinking about controls.

4/20 – Three entries for some reason on 4/20. The first was just some thoughts about Puzzle Prison as imagined without VR, (and themed to be Donutron specific). The second was someone else’s idea. The third was a two-player board game based loosely on Battleship, but you can only choose a space (fire at a space) that is within one space of one of your own pieces. So you give them a hint every time you fire. Additionally, you can take a turn to move one of your ships instead of firing with it.

4/21 – Prince died yesterday. It saturated social media, and at some point I saw an article headline that said it was “The end of Prince’s Purple Reign”. As sometimes happens, I couldn’t stop thinking about the phrase (especially the homonym, Purple Reign). Eventually I sketched out a game where you are like Harold from the children’s book “Harold and the Purple Crayon”. In my idea, you draw the world (in VR, sorta like TiltBrush), and the game will recognize if you are drawing the ground line and change your height in the environment, turning jagged lines into steps, and automatically “stepping” up them as you draw. It would also recognize lots of other shapes and allow you to interact with them. Rectangles at appropriate heights would turn into windows, for example.

Where the F’ do Ideas come from?

This whole “Game Idea A Day” project has me fairly often musing on creativity and how to most effectively generate new ideas. This was already a topic that I have some strong opinions about, but I’ve rarely taken the time to articulate (that I remember). I’m actually not going to do that now anyway, but instead I’m just sharing some links that relate to the subject. They’re food for thought on the topic of food for thought. I guess they are idea recursion.

First, an earworm!

Ze Frank is one of those “internet celebrities” you probably cannot accurately describe other than by saying he’s a “personality”. (He makes youtubes, and blogs, I guess?) Anyway, he wrote a song about creativity like 10 years ago, and its hook is where I stole the title for this blog post. It’s (obviously?) not safe for work, but there is also a clean version. It’s worth watching all two minutes, because of the song, IMO.

Isaac Asimov’s new article

What prompted this blog post is that my wife sent me a link to an article about a newly posthumously published article by Isaac Asimov about creativity over at the MIT Technology Review. Asimov suggests that you need both a depth in your field, as well as the ability to put two ideas together that might otherwise not be connected.

Obviously, then, what is needed is not only people with a good background in a particular field, but also people capable of making a connection between item 1 and item 2 which might not ordinarily seem connected.

I think this is definitely true in game development, and a lot of my best ideas (chess/tetris-attack, go/tetris) are combinations of game mechanics or otherwise disparate game ideas. Asimov also suggests that eccentricity is another desirable trait.

Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)

He doesn’t define crackpot, so I couldn’t possibly guess whether I’m one of those, or merely unconventional. (Assuming, of course, that I am creative, which is also highly questionable.) The final important piece, Asimov says is, to be prolific.

For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.

My feeling is that you have to generate those ten-thousand ideas in order to have the few good ones.

Ira Glass

All this reminds me of the Ira Glass piece on creative work, which, just in case you haven’t seen it, I will also embed below. (Note that this bit is part 3 of 4, and the entire thing is definitely worth watching.)

Essentially, my take-away (and this is from memory, so let me know if I’m butchering it), is that you have to do stuff, MAKE stuff, in order to get better at any creative endeavor. And in the beginning, you have opinions, (Glass calls it your “taste”) that doesn’t match up with the level of work that you are creating. Essentially, if you look objectively at your work, you will see that it is bad, and despair. The solution is of course to not judge yourself. Give yourself freedom to create (make) without trying to figure out whether it’s good or not. Writers get this drilled into them early. Write first, edit later. Put it down FAST, so you don’t have time to nitpick every word or sentence.

John Cleese

You can’t get much more creative than Monty Python. There is a nice transcript of one of John Cleese’s lectures on creativity over at He makes an awful lot of good points, but one of them is that a key ingredient for creativity is play.

There is, perhaps, a whole blog post to be written about how this applies to games.

Credit, where due.

Note that the original article my wife linked me to does have some commentary and good pull quotes from the Asimov article, but is not necessarily required reading. (It was also the source for the Ze Frank video/song.)

Game Idea a Day – Week 15

This week was mostly about board game ideas for me. I’ve still been thinking about that two-player abstract from last week pretty much every day, and I’m working on a prototype. I also missed my second day, again as I was traveling.

I was definitely influenced by some of the great Kickstarter projects that are happening right now. Looney Labs has finally launched Pyramid Arcade, the next iteration of their awesome pyramid game system. I’ve been intrigued by the pyramids since I first played Zendo over 10 years ago, and I’ve designed a few games for them over the years, including a few using a custom deck of pyramid themed cards that I conceived.

Also notable is the two (or 3) player abstract strategy game Santorini. Abstract Strategy doesn’t usually fare all that well on Kickstarter, but that project has a lot of things going for it. First thing is that the game has been around for a LONG time, like 30 years, I guess. Secondly, it’s sporting some fabulous new artwork and custom components. It’s already on the “wildly successful” end of the spectrum, I think.

Here are the game ideas from this week:

4/8 – I was at an indoor playground when I started thinking about games you could play in a ball pit. I sketched out a few ideas, but probably the most notable involves laying a blanket or a jacket on top of the balls, and everyone throwing balls onto that surface, with the aim of having the most of their color on the fabric at the end of some specified time period.

4/9 – Missed a day. :(

4/10 – Thinking about the name “RememberBall”, (and maybe also about the ball pit ideas), I sketched out some rules for a memory game you would play with plastic easter eggs.

4/11 – I had the idea somewhere after (or during) the writing of this post to make all the rest of the week’s games Pyramid games. So this one was a 2-player pyramid game with very specific movement rules dictated by the color the piece. It’s sort of a chess variant, I guess, since it takes place on a chess board, and red pieces move like rooks, green pieces move like bishops, and blue pieces jump like knights. The different size pieces dictate how far they can move, and that’s where the blue piece movement gets a little weird. You may stack your pieces to make a piece that moves like both pieces. Win condition right now is just capturing a set number of your opponent’s pieces. (From this description, you may wonder how you can tell your pieces from your opponent’s, and my idea for that was to have some custom bases that indicate which player’s pieces sit on each base.)

4/12 – I’ve done some thinking previously (over a year ago) about a pyramid simulator application. Something 3D, where you could play all the pyramid games in a sandbox, a bit like Tabletop Simulator. This brainstorm expanded on those ideas to make it a VR experience. I imagine being able to shrink myself to the size of an ant and walking around in a surreal landscape made of pyramids. It really would be fun to work on such a thing.

4/13 – Another abstract strategy pyramid game I’m calling Pyramid Piggyback. This actually went through a couple of iterations, and deserves some playtesting. In this one, the gameboard is made of different colored LARGE pyrmaids, and each player has two different colors (not used for the gameboard), but they only use the medium ones. You play your pieces with caps (SMALL pyramids) made of all the different colors. You can move in a direction only if there is a gameboard (LARGE) piece matching the piece’s cap color in that direction. You can spend a turn to add one of your medium pieces to the board, or a cap to any of your pieces, or swap around two large pieces. Capture an opponent’s piece to take their caps as victory points. The pool of caps is shared, and when it’s gone whoever has the most victory points wins.

4/14 – This entry is borderline abandoning the pyramid game constraint, and it was already the second video game in only 4 entries. So I’ve decided to abandon that constraint for future entries. Essentially it’s a lemmings and/or pikmin inspired swarming game… where all the little characters are looney pyramids. The anthropomorphized pyramids run around where you tell them to, stacking when you tell them to, and operating doors and switches based on their sizes and colors. In general, I would love to see some video games with the pyramids in them, I’m not sure if we ever will, given potential legal issues, sadly.

Game Idea a Day – Week 14

Just going to jump into the recaps this week. (Apparently I had area-enclosure on the brain, but I frequently — and erroneously according to BGG — call it area control below.)

4/1 – I wanted to think up a game that had a bluffing mechanic (for April fools day), and ended up with an area control game where everyone can lie about what area they control. I think it needs more thinking to be interesting. (It’s actually a little too simple right now.) But the idea shows promise.

4/2 – I spent some time thinking about Flatland inspired mechanics, specifically how objects in 4-dimensional space would appear to our dimensional senses, and how to make a VR game featuring them. (One of my favorite authors, Rudy Rucker, features this sort of “extrusion” in his novels pretty frequently. One of his earlier works, “The Sex Sphere” is basically all about it, but it features prominently in several others as well.) Two ideas came rapidly to mind:

First concept is to allow you to rotate an object (somehow in all 4 dimensions, the controls might be… interesting). Of course you would only see the intersection with your 3D space, and then somehow you would have to guess the “real” shape. I’m betting this would probably be extremely hard to imagine for most people. Not to mention the problem of: how do you show the ones for them to guess? Also, it might not be that fun. But maybe it would be!

Another idea is to approach it like the inverse of Miegakure, and have a traditional 3rd person platforming game where instead of rotating the world through 4D, you rotate collectible objects (found in the world). You might find a baseball for instance that turns into a ramp to solve a platforming puzzle, or a pebble that rotates into a cathedral needing to be explored.

4/3 – An area control video game where you simply claim points (I could have also called them locations or coordinates) on a gameboard in real time. After each point, there is a cooldown before you can claim another point. The cooldown is directly proportional to the amount of area of the gameboard that you already control. Each point has a sphere around it that is directly influenced (primary influence sphere). If no other influence is exerted, that area will be under your control. Each point also has another sphere (call it a secondary control sphere) that will be influenced if it intersects with another of your point’s secondary control spheres. If a primary influence sphere under your control has territory that is under more influence due to your opponent’s points than your own, that point’s primary AND secondary spheres will shrink proportionally. For instance, an equilateral triangle where the primary spheres of influence overlap all the points of the triangle, made up of two of one color and one of the third, the third would essentially disappear entirely, since the other to points would shrink its influence to zero. That’s it. Basically you want to balance putting points closer together for more stability with getting more territory. Note: this could be 2D or 3D.

4/4 – Once upon a time, I took a T’ai Chi class at the U of MN when I was still a senior in high school through the post-secondary (i.e. free college credits) program. I have super fond memories of that class, and when I eventually graduated and had a real job, I started going regularly to T’ai Chi classes taught by the same instructor. I haven’t been in a while, but I got to thinking about how it would be nice to do it in my living room. I do think working out in room-scale VR will be a thing eventually, so I sketched out some notes for what I think would make for a decent Thai Chi VR application. I definitely think there’s a market there, but the tech might need a while to make it practical. (I just googled, and not only is T’ai Chi included as one of the many activities in “Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012” for the original Kinect, but there is also a T’ai Chi specific program for Xbox One called “Body Wisdom”.)

4/5 – This game idea practically wrote itself, so I expect to see one soon: A VR Cloudbursting Game. Lay on the floor and aim your gaze at the clouds. Maybe as the game progresses it gets more and more overcast and clouds are darker and deeper and the entire “feel” of the game changes from a beautiful sunny day on top of a hill, to a dark and dreary day with pouring rain and lightening and thunder interrupting your concentration. This also changes it from game where you can actually get rid of all the clouds to a game where your only hope is to get rid of all the HUGE thunderclouds before they leave the screen, as it would be impossible to get rid of everything.

4/6 – I came up with a maze traversal game idea for the bit-jam, a game jam with the goal to “make a game in 1-bit colour, on a 1px × 1px display with no audio; the minimum (non-zero) feedback that a game could possibly have”. First of all the theme screamed maze game to me since you can generate a maze where each grid coordinate is only using 1-bit to indicate whether it’s a wall or path space. Only two path spaces on the edge, entrance and exit. The player starts at the entrance. Input is directional, either with a controller or arrow keys (or ASDW). The game states: At rest – solid color A; Movement to another space – flash of color B; Hit a wall – solid color A (maybe a MUCH shorter flash of B, or two short flashes); Find the exit – Flashes A & B (until more input is detected, then it generates another maze?). This might not be super fun, but hey, it meets the qualifications of the game jam!

4/7 – Thinking about being an animal in VR, led to thinking about being eaten alive by a snake in VR, which led to thinking about eating yourself as a snake in VR. (Too bad ouroboros was the GGJ theme already however-many years ago.) This may have been influenced subconsciously by the Verge article about being a bear in VR, which I actually thought was about a game by @punchesbears until I read it.

Game Idea a Day – Week 13

Well, I thought last week’s post was late, but this one is clearly even farther from Friday than that. I’m still going to assume this will keep happening on Fridays, so the recap covers 3/25 to 3/31. I’m actually writing this from Clonmel in Ireland, and I’ve been in London most of the week! (So between jetlag and vacation craziness, I have plenty of excuses for being late.)

3/25 – I spent some time musing about games I am especially suited to design (write what you know), and ended up asking myself: What would a game based on resolving text file conflicts look like? I came up with a mutating grid-based game, where you have a “map” of branches, and must recreate the final “resolution state” from the pieces presented. Sort of a puzzle game, I guess.

3/26 – Circles intersecting circles – A 2D game that might look a little like a circular (or arc-based) version of Qix. Maybe instead of inside an area, you start at a point on a circle, and expand your territory outward. You make circles by holding the button down which shoots a line from your current point in the direction your analog control stick points. When you let go, that begins an arc where your point of origin is the center of the circle. The first line it intersects will fill in the arc you have created, and you begin traveling along the path again.

3/27 – I’ve been thinking about some game ideas for the Donutron for a while now, and figured I’d document some of the ones that I’ve basically rejected as being unoriginal / boring, figuring, if I write them down, I won’t have to keep thinking about them again:
– A donut-tetris (donutris?) – Maybe standard Tetris with some Donut-inspired bonuses, like making a circle around an empty space clearing the board, (or filling-in with jelly), or maybe it really is just swapping the sprites for donuts (donutronimos).
– A donut-platformer, where the protagonist is a rolling donut, (JellyTron?), and rolls over hills and valleys. Maybe this is inspired by Wibble Wobble, and the floor is constantly moving.
– An idle donut game – Maybe you start out mashing buttons to eat donuts, but then eventually you’ve eaten a dozen, and you get the option to invite a friend to come eat with you. And then you mash some more and invite a few more friends, and suddenly you’re eating a dozen every minute or two, and then you get the option to bring donuts for the office, and suddenly it’s a dozen every second, and you get the option to deliver to more offices, and you are consuming septillions of donuts…

3/28 – The barest hazy notion of an idea for an abstract strategy game thinking about the ways that The Duke and Onitama are similar. I decided I have to come up with an original movement mechanic, or it’s pointless. The closest I came in this entry was each piece having a directional arrow, (or more than one?) and the distance / type of movement is calculated from that arrow (with additional variables). One type of piece might spiral around itself a certain number of squares, starting from the square its arrow points to. Another piece might move diagonally in exactly a specific number of spaces (a different number for each diagonal).

In the past, “ideas” like the ones I had for this entry would probably not have been written down, but I have found that game ideas do sometimes percolate for a few days before producing something interesting. (My entry below for 3/30 is basically the result of continuing to think about these ideas.) While I was thinking on this day, I was also thinking about process, and though my entry doesn’t capture any of it, I was conscious of how this “percolation” aspect of game design has been sort of ignored in my “Game Idea a Day” series. I’ve basically tried to think of ideas “whole”, without giving them room to grow very much, (generally because the following day I need to think of fresh new one). There have been some exceptions, but mostly for ideas I already thought were really good on the first day. I guess this one is not really an exception, because even though I didn’t come up with any specifics I thought were really good, I did think that a game based on The Duke and Onitama was a good enough place to start thinking that it continued in the back of my mind for a few days. Part of that was practical, as my friend Tysen has already been programming an AI for Onitama, and I was also thinking about how to capitalize on that work, even if we don’t end up making an app for Onitama specifically.

3/29 – I feel like this might have already been done, but I saw a broken umbrella in the gutter in London, and it evoked this strangely sad feeling and got me thinking about a game that does the same. You play as the umbrella, tethered to one human after another, helping them get to their sheltered destinations. The wind and rain will change and apply physics meant to pull you out to the hands of your current person. All you control is the angle they hold you from, and maybe how far up they are gripping you? Meta gameplay would be is a bit like crazy taxi; the people walk themselves, all you have to do is keep them dry enough until they get to their destinations. When you fail, you end up in the gutter.

3/30 – As mentioned above (3/28) I came up with what I believe to be a pretty good abstract strategy game. I think I want to keep thinking about this one before I make it public. It’s fully realized (I think), but I haven’t done any playtesting yet. Suffice to say that it has variable piece movement done in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. The only piece I’d like to keep thinking about is the end-game condition, as right now it’s basically just stealing that from Chess (and The Duke).

3/31 – I continued thinking about the ideas from 3/28 and 3/30, coming up with another interesting square grid piece movement mechanic. This one involves combining two of your pieces to then move much more powerfully on the following move. Each piece can move a single space (to any of the 4 adjacent spaces) by default. But if you have two pieces on the same square, you can move one of them in any of the following ways: forward one or two spaces, forward two and over one (like a knight), or forward 3 and over one or two spaces. Note that you can only move one of them, so there might be a nice natural balancing thing that happens where if you keep your pieces on the same space long enough, they are much stronger, but also more vulnerable to attack. (Of course, this is probably only true if there are other pieces that move in different ways.) I called this movement mechanic zipper movement. One idea is for each piece to have different specialized movement somehow, but they can only take those specialized moves if they have been “activated” by moving them on top of one of your other pieces first.