And then there were two. We spent this week narrowing down what games were left from last week to 2 games. There were definitely benefits to all the games that were left, and challenges. First, we’ll talk about “Perfect Time to Panic.” For those who don’t know, this game is based around the uncertainty one feels inside a dream. In a dream ones perspective can shift abruptly causing disorientation and sometimes fear and confusion. Our group decided it might be interesting to try to emulate this quality in a video game by changing the player’s perspective from 1st person, to top down, to 2d platformer and anything else we could think of. This obviously has the potential to cause some interesting problems when it comes to developing a prototype in a limited amount of time. We would essentially need to create several games in one in order to properly explore the concept in a prototype. Another problem with the game is that a similar mechanic has been used in other games such as ROM Check Fail and others. Since one of the goals of this game is to garner as much attention as possible in competitions such as IGF, innovation was going to be a key decision making factor. Ultimately, we decided to move forward with 2 other games, understanding that, although it was a very good idea that would likely do well if executed correctly, it did not fit our goals we have for the thesis game as well as our other two finalists.
One of the two finalists is a game called “Make a Man Thinketh.” This game carries with it the potential for the greatest reward if done correctly, as well as the biggest failure if not done correctly. The original concept for the game was the player plays as either an angel or a devil trying to influence the world without being able to physically affect the world. The only power they have is the power of persuasion, or the ability to alter the thoughts of people. In the game, they can take the thoughts from one person and use that thought to affect the thoughts of another person. For example, if one person is thinking “I need to go shopping. I should do it now,” the devil could take the “do it now” portion of the thought and place it in the mind of someone contemplating suicide, causing them to follow through on their thoughts. It’s a very interesting concept that has the potential to examine a great deal of social issues if done well.
The other of the two finalists is called “RagWheel.” This game tries to answer the question, how do you give the player in a racing game choice, and still keep the head-to-head nature that makes racing games so great? Sadly, the answer to this question may take some time to explain, so bear with me.
One of the problems with racing games is that there isn’t much choice when it comes to what path you take and understandably so. If you give the players too many choices, the game loses its competitive appeal, its head-to-head nature. RagWheel preserves that nature while still giving the player challenging path choices presented in engaging ways.
To have multiple choices, the paths have to split. Normally this is done with a fork in the road, but RagWheel uses a mechanic called a Flip-Turn to abruptly change direction. A Flip-Turn is performed on an area of the track that flips a portion of the road surface 180° when a vehicle drives across it. The vehicle is then flipped to the underside of the road and continues driving in the opposite direction.
In other racing games the head-to-head nature is lost when the player makes a choice that is different than their competitor. But RagWheel uses a system of Ghosts to solve this problem. If you are on a different path than your opponent, a Ghost on your path will represent his distance to the finish line. So instead of not knowing how you stand in relation to the other racers, you can see a Ghost representing each of them so you can make strategic decisions based on their positions.
One decision you will have the chance to make in this game that isn’t in any other racing games is the choice to “Ghost Draft” one of your competitors. To understand ghost drafting, you need to understand what will be happening with the ghosts as your competitors move through the course making different choices. Since the ghost of your competitor is placed in your path based on his distance to the finish line that position will not remain constant if they make a choice that leads them down a path that is less efficient than the one they were previously on. From your point of view, the ghost will jump backward when they make a choice away from the shortest path and it will jump forward when they make a choice toward the shortest path. If you are able to match the movements of the ghost at the same time that one of these jumps happens, you will jump with them. That is what ghost drafting is, using a competitor’s ghost to jump with a competitor.
Now that we have narrowed the games down to 2, we will create prototypes for each game to see whether or not the idea will translate into fun when it is implemented for real. If either of the games fails to deliver on that engagement, we will cut it and continue forward with the other game. Let the prototyping begin!