Sunday, October 24, 2004

iloveinfo.com

ilovebees.com is an Alternate Reality Game based around the Halo Universe and timed with the release of Halo 2. After seeing the ilovebees.com web address flash on-screen at the end of a Halo 2 theatrical trailer, people (now players of the game) visit the site to find what appears to be a buisness' site that has been hacked.

The entire game is based around players uncovering and deciphering imperfect information hidden in the site. There is almost no information made easily available to the players, beyond giving them (rather subvertly) the location of the game (the site url -- infact the game doesn't have a real name, other than "the ilovebees game"). Even the objective of the game and how to play it is not given to players. This makes for a very unique experiance, but also a very frustrating one.

In most video games players can guess at what the revealed story will be in atleast general terms. It is mostly likely that you (the hero) will defeat the evil enemy and/or save other good people. With an ARG like ilovebees players have no idea what there play will reveal. The only way to advance in ilovebees is to try and find information hidden in scrambled .jpg files, hidden text, and cryptic messages. Player have no idea as to their progress in the game as they are playing it, because the site changes periodically, with changing dates and information. The end is never clearly in site. It seems clear though, that no one person can "beat" ilovebees on his/her own.

An intersting element of ilovebees is that the designers made it so that emergent play is required for players to succeed. There is nothing to guide players through the game or let them know if they are on the right track, and therefor they must find a way to put the peices they find together. The players need to network and share their findings to succeed. So a good deal of the actual gameplay happens on message boards created by other players. People go to ilovebees to collect data, and bring what they've found and interprated to a message board and together with other players develop or squash ideas. So instead of players playing against each other, they are working together to crack the game.

As the ilovebees game progressed the site will change and offer new clues. One version had a grid of numbers that I speculated had some mathimatical meaning, and I tried shortly to find patters, but couldn't figure it out. I visited a message board and some people realized it was GPS coordinats, (I was way off) and were able to translate them into locations that the posted, and people who lived in those areas went to the places at specific times to recieve phone calls from Halo characters. They then recorded there conversations and posted them back on the message board for all other players to hear. It just shows how nessesary the player-created system is to the success of the game.

The problem with making the goal, outcome, and reward so ambiguous was that the game designers (who ever they may be...) didn't realize what the players/fans would expect. Instead of waiting to see what would happen, the players began to speculate and rumors began to fly. Because the release date of Nov. 9th seemed so far off, and people were getting extremely excited about Halo 2, a great deal of people thought that the countdown to Aug. 24th was a countdown to an early release of Halo 2. When this turned out not to be true, im sure many people were let down.

Also, with such an ambiguous "finish line" the effort required to continue play is enormous. While the incentive is also great because the game is so unlike any other, if you don't get totally involved/obsessed, it is easy to fall away from the game. And since the game changes in real time, you can't walk away for a week and expect to come back and pickup where you left off or understand what is going on. In short: it is definatly not a casual game. While playing I found it very easy to get lost in all the different theories and scattered information. At first I felt great sense of acomplishment when I discovered hidden text on the various pages, but after a while I got lost in the story and eventually stopped playing.

However, I'm sure that we will all soon be learning much more about the ilovebees game...

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Exsquisite-Corpse-Game



Meditative Visitor Mr. Roboto
Roger
1) Each Player takes 3 white stones and 3 black stones.
2) Players hide any number of black and/or white stones in their right hand.
Leo
3) Whoever has the most white stones is the Robot.
4) Nobody wants the white stones except the Robot.
Lauren
5) If someone picks up a white stone by accident, everyone must put thier collected stones back.
6) If the robot collects all the white stones before everyone else, the robot wins, and vice-versa.

The game has some elements that could be used to make a playable game, but right now it doesn't make sense. The first problem is that rule 1 and 3 somewhat controdict each other. There also aren't any instructions on how players pick up stones after they first decide who the robot is.

Here is an idea for an alteration, that somewhat resemble witch hunt:

1) 3 black stones and 3 white stones per player are placed in a bag (4 players = 12 white and 12 black stones).
2) Each player takes 6 stones from the bag without looking.
3) Player look at thier stones without showing others. Any player with 3 or less white stones is a robot*.
4) Players stand facing inward and each round players chose one stone to put into their fist and place their arm in the middle so no one can see the stone.
5) Players then go around in order, and can ask any number of other players who still have their stone what color it is (the answers can be lies or truths). Players can then chose one person and take their stone**.
6) The robots try to collect all the white stones, while the other players try to collect only black stones and keep the white stones from the robots.

*I'm not sure what the specifics for rule 3 should be, and it would have to be worked out as it was played. (More white than black stones. Any even number of white stones...?)
**Another idea would be that players trade stones, making selection more important. ("do i chose to put a white stone in even though im a robot whoever trades thinks im not a robot?")

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Play testing, anyone?

I wanted to make a game that didn't have any fancy rules or gimics, and was just a simple two player game with very basic game play but that relyed totally on stratigy. Kind of like Fivestones, if anyone has that on their phone.

This is what I came up with, but as the few people who have played it can agree: its missing something. I don't want to make it to complicated, but if anyone would like to test it and finds any changes like changing the map or movment, maybe adding teleport locations, let me know.

HERE IT IS:
Idea-- You and your opponant are space miners trying to collect the most ore from the two planets in your system. However, you're stationed in one of the most unpredictable asteriod fields in the quadrant, and are faced with sparatic asteriod collisions. Survive the asteriods, defend your base, and collect the most ore to win.

The Map


Gameplay-- You each begin on your base (3 or 6), and can move one space at a time. If you are on a planet (1 or 8), you mine 1 ore into your hold. You can stay on a planet as long as you like and continue mining 1 ore per turn, but you must sucessfully return to your base to deposit it for it to count. First player to have 5 ore wins. The trick is that at the end of every players turn an 8-sided die is rolled, the resulting number representing where a rouge asteriod lands. If you are struck by the asteriod, you lose all cargo in your hold and are knocked into the center "safe zone." (Also, you cannot move to a space occupied by the asteriod.) Another trick is that if you sucessfully make it to your opponats base, you can collect one ore directly from thier stash (either into your ship's hold or directly into your base...I can't decide which). Also, if "rammed" by an opponant (he enters a space you are on) you are knocked into the center "safe zone" (but do or do not lose your cargo? I'm leaning toward not).

Suggestions thus far
-- Make the map 4x4 or 5x5.
-- Including barriers between certain spaces, while allowing people to move diagonaly.
-- Including teleports.
-- Hexaginal spaces (instead of square).
-- Include 3 or more players, perhaps teams.

Basically I think the idea is too simple for a final game project, but is something that I'd like to finish as an exersize anyway. Let me know what you find, or if you'd like to play test it with me.

Thanks!

Monday, October 11, 2004

:: Final Game Post #3 ::

The Not Anti Un-Destructive Game: Since all of my ideas for final games involve rather regular Core Mechanics, I will go back to something brought up earlier in the semester that would be --perhaps-- a little more interesting to talk about.

On one of the first days of class we talked briefly about how the majority of games were based on destructive principles (killing, wrecking stuff, etc.) and that there should be more constructive games. It's an interesting idea because for the most part games are considered a waste of your time and playing them is never associated with doing something productive. So, what if the Core Mechanic of a game was being constructive? Uh, I'm not sure. But I hope it come up with something good soon so I can go to bed.

Let's see, um.... okay, well I've always liked Junkyard Wars and other shows where people are given an objective, some materials and a time limit. It's fun to see people who know alot more about stuff than you do build something that works out of a bunch of stuff that does absolutly nothing.

So this game will be between a handfull of teams with 2-4 somewhat constructive/creative players on each team. The teams will be given a vauge build objective that can be interprated in different ways (like "make a vehicle" or "make something that works") and each team will recieve an equal amount of monopoly money (or any fake $). Each team will have a brief period to discuss there build ideas, so for this inital part of the game, the Core Mechanic will actually be contimplating and discussing.

There will be one "store" which is a collection of parts and supplys each with price tags on them. After teams discuss their ideas each group will take turns buying items from the "store" (it'll be more like a draft than a survival-of-the-fitest one-day sale at Macy's). If one team has an item that another team really really wanted, they could buy/sell amoung each other (scalping is welcome). So for this phase of the game the Core Mechanic is bartering ...I guess.

So now the teams will take what they've bought and within a set time period will have to construct whatever the build objective is. This would be where the Core Mechanic was construction. And since it is a "game" and not an "activity," at the end of the time limit they will present their build to the judge or panel of judges who will score there build on the following terms:

Achieved Build Objective :: 0-10
Materials Used in a Creative Manner :: 0-5
Created an Aestheticly Interesting Object :: 0-5
Use of the color Pink :: 0-5

The team with the highest score wins and --if this show were to be televised-- the reward would have to be the destruction of their opponants creations. Ya gotta give the people what they want to see.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Game of World DominationTM

Risk is an entertaining board game for many reasons. It combines elements of stratagy, luck, and a healthy does of psycoligy ("What are you attacking me for? Look, you have to kill him, or you're done! Don't come after me...I'll just kill you.") Risk also has alot of back-and-forth ...it could seem someone is all but done for only to turn in his cards for 50 men and romp straight through his opponants. It is equally true of someone who seems to have the game in the bag, but his power only draws the attention of his enemies who all converge and run him over.

PRESENTED NARRATIVES:
Back Story-- Depending on how you choose to look at it, Risk has either no back story at all, or one of the largest of any game I know. At first look I thought there was no back story at all... the game designers only present you with a map of the world and say "go conquer it". No reason why, no real time frame given (depending on the version being played the peices are often reminicent of the 19th Centuary) ...but overall there is no real plot line that you are continuing. Or is there? Thats when I thought that the back story is assuming a communal knowledge of world history. Because of the use of the map and the games tag line: The Game of World Domination, the backstory (one could chose to argue) is all of modern time. The way the game is designed sets-up (although never says explicitly) you are one of the worlds great generals trying to take of the globe. You are playing the part of a great conquerer comming somewhere after the Mongolian Invasion and before Bush.
Revealed Story-- There isn't any revealed story in Risk. What you see is what you get. Even in the computerized versions there are no plot twists or narration to the game play.

EMERGENT NARRATIVES:
Performed Story-- From the very begining players take on roles as conquering generals. "I am so going to take Australia from you!" "Ha! But you can never take Africa... it's mine!" And the role playing only gets better as the game goes on. Players may not even intend on playing the roles, but the game forces you into it (the Core Mechanic of Risk is moving little army men on a map...real world generals move little army men on a map -- its hard to escape your role). The only exception I can think of is my mom and little sister. They are not world dominating generals, nor do they wish to be. I was foolish enough once to insist we all play a game, and because they really don't have any agressive tendances, or much of an interest in playing a game where you take over the world, they never really stepped inside the Magic Circle and accepted there roles as blood-thirsty crusaiders. Needless to say: it wasn't any fun at all. Infact, I think we stopped after only a few rounds.
Story of Play-- Any game of Risk will have many back-and-forths that make for alot of fun. Someone may start with Europe and part of Africa, but in their conquest to America someone from Asia comes and steals it away. But even more fun than that are the alliances and treacheries of a game. I can recall one game I played with two friends in high school. Because it was an odd number of players we decided no alliances should be made...but after a few rounds I began to notice a trend in the other to players game play, and when I caught them passing a peice of paper a hearty chase insued with some unintentional physical injuries being exchanged. It was a good game.

RISK 2210:
There many versions of risk and they often have a more developed back story since the premace is either not as self-explanitory or is perhaps based on a movie like the (rather lame) Lord of The Rings Risk. This is the blurb about Risk 2210 on the Hasbro site:
In the year 2210, the world is at war.
As the leader of a warring faction, you control the destiny of your people. On the Earth, in the great underwater domed cities beneath the oceans, in orbit, and even on the Moon, you must marshal your forces, send forth your troops, and hire the right commanders to crush your enemies. Build alliances if you dare, but be wary of whom you trust. Energy is the currency of the 23rd century; spend yours wisely and you just might conquer the world--and beyond.

I've never played this version, but it sounds fun. There are additional "territories" in the oceans and the moon is a seperate "continent". So basically they came up with a little back story to explain the map changes.
Has anyone played this version?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Interactive Killer Robots

The game of robots-built-to-kill-other-robots (such as those seen on Robot Wars and BattleBots) is one that people seem to find either totally awesome, or completley lame.

The basic idea is that a team of people build a robot that will enter an arena and try to kill another robot. Depending on what version the team is playing, the arena will be different. Battlebots is played in a plexi-glass box that has a group of un-seen arena controllers who deploy/activate several traps, such as buzz saws in the floor and/or a giant sledge hammar in the corner. Robot Wars initally had a obsticle corse theme, but quickly turned to a death-match forum, with two "house bots" (controlled by un-seen people), who get to kill any 'bot that strays into their "patrol zone." Either way it is played, the game is all about interaction.

The most fundimental (and fun-to-watch) interaction is that which occurs between the two human/robot teams fighting in the death-match arena.

Using CRAWFORD's model for interaction: Each team first "listens" to the other team by observing the enemy robot ("He's got a big spike and is headed right for my 'bot..."). They then think about there responce ("...I gotta get outta the way!") and speak via their robots movment and attacks.

Using MEADOW's outline for interaction: Players first observe the arena as well as the other teams robot ("Its got a big spinny thing on the side"). They then explore the abilities/limitations of the surroundings or the enemy 'bot ("I bet it isn't even that strong...oh crap it is!"). Then they modify their actions ("I'm gonna stay the hell away for that spinny thing!"). And eventually there is a reciprocal change ("Well, if he is afraid of my spinner, maybe I can chase him into the buzz saws...").

I can imagine there is also an interaction between the build teams and the arena itself. As people build new a better 'bots for the obstacles and enemies, the arena is changed to make it safer, more difficult, or more destructive.

Now I don't think that there is an interaction between the human and his robot, since the robot is just an extension of the person (since it only does what he says), and doesn't really "speak" back to the controller. But I'm not totally sure about it...so let me know if you think different.