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.

Game Idea a Day – Week 12

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

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

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

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.)

Game Idea a Day – Week 8

Here are this week’s game idea journal entries:

2/19 – Another IF (Interactive Fiction) game idea, this one inspired by Jamie Brew’s excellent predictive text shenanigans on twitter. Essentially, I think it would be fun to do some generative IF, and see how it plays.

2/20 – Spent a bit of time thinking about a visually upgraded Minecraft, and that led me to imagine an ice castle building game. Minecraft for winter wonderlands. More light options and blocks that glow and melt and reflect. Find frozen wooly mammoths and fossilized neanderthals. A different block type for each of the eskimo’s 100 words for snow.

2/21 – An amazon/eBay selling/shipping/rating simulator. Essentially this is like an idle game, maybe? But it you basically start out with an apartment full of stuff, and can sell it on amazon or eBay. You can also buy stuff on Amazon or eBay or craigslist (where it will be the cheapest). As you progress farther into the game, you have opportunities to buy more expensive things and sell them for more profit until you are essentially a millionaire buying private jets on Craigslist and selling them on eBay.

2/22 – Tuesday this week I had a couple of entries, (and was oddly productive to boot, so I was on a roll, productivity-wise). One of them was a rant about elements of action puzzle games, and about how puzzle is the operative word. I ranted about the failure of some games in the genre to provide a decent puzzle, and the blurry line between action puzzle and straight-up action. Someday, maybe I’ll turn the rant into a full-blown blog post.

The other entry was about a couple of random match-3 musings. Mechanics, I guess, but more re-framing the “board” of match-3 puzzles. This was specifically about “swapping” puzzles, like bejeweled, but the ideas could probably apply to any grid-based puzzle game. Essentially thinking about two different ways to make the game boards themselves infinite. (Ways I haven’t seen before.) One of them involves moving to 3D, the other is more about recursion.

It’s worth noting that I spent pretty much all week working on the Unity prototype I mentioned last week. I’ve got a crashing bug that I need to track down, but otherwise the game is at a place where I’m super happy showing it off. (It doesn’t crash in the Unity IDE, just when I publish it to my iPhone.) Anyway, this idea, as well as the rest of the entries from this week reflect how “in the headspace” of puzzle games in VR I’ve been.

I posted an informal poll on the MSP GameDev Slack, and the name that was the clear winner was “Puzzle Prison”. Also in the running were Drop Cage, and VR Drop. Another one that I’m not seriously considering is Collapse-in-a-box.

2/23 – This variant on Puzzle Prison was essentially to make each of the blocks two-sided. Tapping would rotate to the other color, and no longer break blocks, so a group would only disappear once you have three in a row, or something along those lines.

2/24 – A brainstorm around what a VR puzzle game in the vive would look like. (Where you can move around in the space.) I had a couple of different ideas, both of which involve dividing up the volume of space into cubes, and putting “guide lines” into the space. The first idea was to turn your hand into a hammer, and allow you to push around blocks in the space until you have a decent sized group, and then “break” them by hitting them swiftly with the hammer. The second idea was to fill the space up arm (controller) height by default, and then allow you to swap them, making matches of the same color to “dig down” into the cubes. Maybe you have to dig your way to the floor, or maybe the cubes keep rising, and if they get to head height you lose.

In both ideas, an open question is whether you would be able to see through the cubes, or whether they would occlude the cubes behind them.

2/25 – Another brainstorm about Puzzle Prison, both about level progression, as well as three new possible cube types (not powerups, but new game types, like the entry from 1/23). The idea was that as you “beat” a level, you are introduced to additional cube types, and eventually you play them in the same game. I’m not sure if I will add this to the game, or if it even needs it. I’ve got to have it more playable and get some more feedback, first, I think.

Game Idea a Day – Week 7

puzzle_prison_earlyThis week I have spent fairly productively prototyping a simple Action Puzzle game playable in VR with Google Cardboard. This idea actually came from my Idea A Day project entry on 1/20. Here is an early screenshot I posted in the MSP GameDev Slack.

I just checked, and my entire game ideas journal (in google drive) is 49 pages of pretty densely packed text. The first few entries don’t have dates on ’em, but the first one that does have a date is from 2010-04-14. Since high school, I’ve always had a paper journal I keep on me almost always (in my backpack). I fill one up much less frequently than I used to, now that most everything is digital. Anyway, it’s worth noting that a full 20 pages of my journal are entries since starting this project. Here are summaries from this week:

2/11 – Deckbuilding meets autorunner. Essentially I was thinking more about the idea from 1/29 and also about generative dungeons and had the idea to combine them. So you would have a deck of dungeon crawling “areas”, and a character that does the crawling. The character would move forward one dungeon segment every turn, no matter what you play, so if there is an enemy there, but you haven’t played the right equipment for him, that might be the end of your run.

2/12 – Thinking about goals in puzzle games, came up with a Tetris variant where you have pre-filled spaces on the board and you have to surround them. In retrospect, this is kind of like a “garbage clear” mode, but where the goal is to surround all the garbage instead of clearing it.

2/13 – Another action puzzle game idea, this one like bubble bobble, but you can only shoot upward into one lane at a time. Either turn-based, where you shoot and move on to the next lane immediately, or on a timer, where you can shoot into one lane at a time, but move to the next lane after a set amount of time.

2/14 – I’ve found there are definitely days where I think of a phrase or a game title, and then that becomes the brainstorm. I start exploring what it would look like. Sometimes, it’s just dumb, like this day’s phrase: “Hungry, hungry tetrominos”. I sort of sketched out a bunch of mechanics. About the only interesting thing that came from it was the idea of doing a square grid puzzle game, but rotated 45 degrees. That has potential.

2/15 – Obviously a lot of my ideas come from mashing up existing games and mechanics. For 2/15, I basically just started by listing out match-3 mechanics, trying to find a combination that hadn’t been done in some way before. (That I know about.) I ended up with a (quite short) list of powerups in match-3 games, (so actually two lists now that I think about it, but one was in bullet points, the other in a rambling paragraph), but not really anything original or useful.

2/16 – I hesitate to link this here, since I may not keep this up forever, but here’s that prototype I mentioned in last week’s post, one I’m calling Line Combine. To play it, you basically just click the arrows and that shoots a line into the game board. It’s definitely too easy (and random), as I have played it to about 200 or so points, with no sign of needing to stop. I’ll probably update that link if I work on it again. One thing that would be fairly easy would be to introduce more colors at some point, which would of course make it harder.

Anyway on 2/16 I had two entries: One was about ShipDeck mechanical changes needed to remove ammo and fuel cubes. (Don’t think I’ve mentioned ShipDeck on here before, but it’s a ship building deckbuilder that I’ve been working on for over two years now.) The second was how to use some of line combine’s mechanics in an isometric two-player platformer/battler game.

2/17 – A text adventure (with text parsing, like Zork) where you move around in (and explore) a world that is basically just colors and shapes. You have to figure out what’s going on (there is an abstract strategy game being played), then figure out what the rules of the game are (it shouldn’t be one that is already known), and then figure out how to play against an AI to “win” the game.

2/18 – I am so excited about this idea that I’m dying to begin prototyping. But I’m committing to getting the VR prototype playable before I start another one. Essentially, it’s an astronaut themed six degrees of freedom game, but played on a grid. So the grid spaces are subdivisions of a cube, and you can rotate the cube at any time to change the plane on which you are moving. I imagine the gameplay to be a mashup of Sokoban and Threes!, and I have quite a few specifics, but I think I want to keep them under wraps for now.

Game Idea a Day – Week 6

Much of this week I felt pretty uninspired, and most of my ideas felt bland and pretty lame while I was brainstorming. (I forced myself to push through, but that won’t stop me from being apologetic about it.) Anyway, on 2/7 I spent at least ten or twenty minutes thinking about games to enhance or encourage creativity before realizing I was basically just re-creating improv games. Talking about improv games is probably worth a whole post, and I’m sure resources exist that describe and catalog them in detail, but the ones I played — while participating in Comedy Sportz in high school — were all “designed” very specifically to teach/reward creativity. I definitely believe that creativity can be enhanced with practice, hence this project.

2/5 – At some point I bought a giant tub of 1,000 square 1mm cubes in 10 different colors. They are great for paper prototyping. I spent some time on 2/5 playing with the cubes with my 5-year old daughter (mostly counting them). After she lost interest, I sketched out a quick game where you draw a number of them from a bag and play them onto a gameboard. In retrospect, it occurs to me this idea has a lot in common with my Action Go as board game idea from 1/1 and 1/2, but without tetrominos, and adding a couple of interesting mechanics. I will have to do some thinking about these together with an eye toward possibly integrating those new mechanics with the original idea.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 11.27.20 PM2/6 – I finally got my prototype of the game I started on 2/3 working. The project’s preliminary name is LineCombine. I was happy with how quickly this came together, but I’m still not as competent in Unity as I am in Xcode. You can see a screenshot of the game at this point. Anyway, as happy as I was to have it playable, I realized quickly that it was way too easy. And not really all that fun as a result. My brainstorm for the day was about ways to improve this. Now it’s the age-old question of how much more effort should I put into a prototype that is not yet(?) all that fun.

2/7 – An idea for a go variant played with only blocks of stone groups that already have two eyes.

2/8 – Card Battler game where each card is an upgradeable tank, and deploys to a battle zone each round.

Also: A musical puzzle game where each whole note is a “class” of unit, and there is some kind of paper-rock-scissors thing happening, like how water beats fire, and earth beats water, etc, only all 7 notes on a circle defeat one another, the next higher note defeating the one below it (so a C beats a B, etc.). Maybe this basically just turns into a musical identification game.

2/9 – A physical board game idea with big chunky components that need to be placed on pegs. You take turns placing pegs or game pieces. Many of the pieces need two pegs (in various different positions relative to one another), and I guess the big twist is that the board consists of a right angle, so pegs can be placed horizontally or vertically. This one will probably be hard to balance/tune without a physical prototype.

Second idea on the 9th was a platforming game where you play as the spikes. Maybe the player jumps automagically, and you have to move to catch him/it on its way down, or maybe you are a jumping spike, trying to impale moving people running out of your way.

2/10 – Spent some time thinking about a board game recommendation engine, specifically implemented in VR.

I also came up with some ideas for 3D visualizations in VR. Not really games, any of them. I’m hoping the upcoming VR revolution will include a “demoscene“. I think we saw some of that when the DK1 first came out, but I didn’t have one at that time, (yes, I’m kicking myself for not backing the kickstarter), so I was only aware of it peripherally. Once the hardware is commercially available, I’m hoping that kind of thing is available for download.

Game Idea a Day – Week 5

Hard to believe we’re already 5 weeks into the year. For ease of finding these later, I added a category called Every Day to the blog and went back and re-categorized the old posts, so you can find them all in one place.

Last weekend was the Global Game Jam, and I’m surprised I haven’t written about the experience yet, but here’s the game I made with some friends over the weekend: Life is Hard.

1/29 – two ideas:
The idea was to come up with a “pool” building game (like a “deckbuilder” or “bag builder”) where the thing you are building would not normally be possible in a physical game. (Making it a digital-only affair.) The first thing that came to mind was to have the board be the thing you are building. I imagine it where you play a gameboard (or more than one) from your “hand”, then move your pawn on them to collect resources or victory points or something. Got into a few specifics, but it’s not probably an idea ready to think about building just yet. (Incidentally, I did propose something like this to my GGJ team, and it wasn’t as popular as the minigame idea that August came up with.)

The second entry on 1/29 was while I was writing up the previous week’s entries, and specifically the entry from 1/22. I did some more thinking about the opposite of Carcassonne, and how it could work to have tiles with goals or objectives on them (maybe in player colors), and also little wooden “walls” that you then place on the tile you play.

1/30 – Didn’t spend much time on this (since I was busy jamming), but I wrote up the only real idea I’d had for the GGJ theme of “Ritual”. Basically a game about the ritual of drug use, possibly a treatise on addiction.

1/31 – A combination of match-3 and “programming game” genres. Essentially you have a grid of gems (or whatever), and “program” some movement, then choose which tiles will make that movement. The more matches (sets of 3 or more) you can make with the same program, the higher your score for those matches.

2/1 – Another day with two entries this week, but both were pretty minimal entries (and likely influenced by my playing Realm Grinder in the background while I was working). Both also ended in “etc…”.

First was A collapse! variant with idle elements. Essentially you can upgrade the grid to make it grow, upgrade the number of colors, etc..

Second was another idle game idea where you start off as a barista just selling coffee, and end up owning everything on the planet earth, launching into space, populating other planets in the solar system, fighting intergalactic space aliens, etc..

2/2 – I had the idea to make a board game played on a computer keyboard. The game I ended up flushing out a bit was an abstract strategy game.

2/3 – Sometime last week I spent about an hour playing the new iOS game Open Bar!, which I would highly recommend. This Wednesday brainstorm I was thinking about its similarities (and differences) to Strata, a game made by my friends over at Graveck.

– lines must take up the whole width or height of the grid
– irregular grid shapes
– puzzles must be worked out backwards
– order is important
– both games have a fabulous aesthetic on top of a very simple puzzle
– lines are put on the grid all at once, versus one square at a time
– simplicity of strata is only one row or column
– Open Bar is more about sliding hole puzzle, and/or placing one tile at a time

Then I came up with my own game idea that uses some similar mechanics. I then spent the rest of the day (and yesterday) prototyping it. I’ll post more about it if/when it gets farther along.

2/4 – I woke up from a dream where giant dice were chasing me. It was clear they were rolling, and when they touched me, the number facing me was how much damage I was taking. First dream that I can recall where I was actually inside a video game. The aesthetic was pretty similar to the cover of the Escape board game.

Game Idea a Day – Week 4

1/22 – I tried imagining a tile-laying game that is the opposite of Carcassonne, where the tiles contain both the people and the castle parts. I decided it should have a “barrel of monkeys” theme, and the castle walls are the walls of the barrels. Nothing more than a concept so far. I do think there is potential here, but like a lot of these “just ideas” I’d need to spend some time developing before I can even know whether it’s worth pursuing.

1/23 – A board game with “startup” theme. This brainstorm started out as working on the (SIX D SIX) dice game from 1/16 & 1/17, and when I thought of the theme, it all morphed and changed. The actions are super specific to the theme now, and I’m really happy where this is going. I haven’t built a prototype yet, but I think it’s to that point. I definitely want to playtest it soon. (I also ran this by, and got some ideas from my friend Nate.)

1/24 – Very short brainstorm while thinking about games based on dramatic films. I’m sure I’m not the first to think about these, but came up with the following (academy award winning mashups): Forest Gump endless runner, Lego Birdman, Need for Speed: Ben Hur, & GTA: West Side Story.

1/25 – Spent time this day adding to the design from 1/23. Then later I was thinking about (yet another) puzzle mode for Action Go, which I decided to start prototyping. At this point, I’m tempted to turn it into a stand-alone app and push it to the top of the pile of game ideas. I am working on a prototype already.

1/26 – Did a little googling, and couldn’t find a game where you actually play as Cthulhu. I imagine this as a god game, but one where you have specific mission objectives to drive individuals mad (by sending your horrific minions after them, of course). It would be really cool to tell the history of why or how you got to planet earth, maybe as flashbacks, and really get to the motivations behind the Erdrich horror. I love imagining that you have just been in the alien equivalent of cryo sleep until the planet is “ripe enough” for consumption.

1/26 – Separate bonus journal entry about “reactive architecture” game. Specifically a VR game where you are inside some kind of living building. This may have also been influenced by my reading/consuming (in less than 24 hours!) the absolutely fantastic science fiction novel Planetfall, by Emma Newman. If you read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

1/27 – Random ideas related to a “modular” abstract strategy game. This is not so terribly different from an idea I’ve been throwing around for at least a couple years, related to an app that would let you play various abstract strategy games on a bunch of different board types/sizes. Only this idea was for a physical game and/or set of rules. Probably influenced by my picking up (and playing my first game of) the modular board game 504, by designer Friedemann Friese.

1/28 – Mini game design for a game called Harpie Hangover. The name came first, and says it all. You essentially play as the Harpie, flying around and buying “potions” from townspeople and other goblins and fairy folk.