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Dog Pile

This is currently a public draft post in progress…

With the upcoming Game Design Conference in SF (http://gamedesigncon.com/) I decided it was time to finally develop a business card game for my card, one suited to conferences (quick play, utilizes business, cards, simple rules, etc).

So without further ado, here’s the current draft rules (need more playtesting) of “Dog Pile”:

Number of players: 2

Playtime: 5 minutes.

Goal: Score the most points by being “Top Dog” on piles.

Setup

Each player chooses 8 cards from their wallet to use. Whoever suggested the game goes first.

Play

Take turns playing a card onto 1 of 3 piles based on the kind of card: Business, Membership/ID, or Financial (bank/discount/gift cards).

Play a card face down instead to score the cards below it (2 card min.). Add to your score and return the cards to your wallets.

Game ends when both players run out of cards. Unscored cards are worth 0.

Inspiration

Its worth noting that a fair part of this design was inspired by BRAWL, a fantastic card game by Cheapass games (Free to print and play http://www.cheapass.com/freegames/brawl and available on iOS).

Design Constraints

Since the goal of designing this game was to spread a game along with my business card it was important that it not require additional components beyond what people receiving my business card might reasonably have on them at the time. While I considered designs that might require dice or coin flipping, I can’t count on those components being available on the fly.

Originally I intended to make something where my card itself may have a variety of attributes to make it so those receiving my business card would play against each other and seek out others with my card. I realized this limited the play audience to only those with my business card and didn’t really lend itself well to viral distribution. My solution was to instead present rules on my card so that my card was not a required component of the game, although it still can be used! This allows players without my business card to learn the game and spread it without requiring my card. The risk of course is that the game may not be properly attributed to me or lead to any interest in me personally, but if the game is fun and spreads I can certainly live with that risk!

Feedback appreciated!

14 games I made for the 529 in 1 Klik and Play Pirate Kart Part 2: Klik Harder (for Glorious Trainwrecks)
Click on the photo to go to the listing of the 14 individual games or go to http://www.glorioustrainwrecks.com/wiki/The_529_in_1_Klik_and_Play_Pirate_Kart_Part_II%3A_Klik_Harder to get the awesome full Pirate Kart!
Brief Play Description:
This is just a bunch of crappy little games made in typical b-game glorious trainwrecks fashion, some made in 2 hours, some in 5 minutes. Some were really bad jokes, others concepty ideas but it was a fun little jam none-the-less.
Game Design Notes:
A lot of these games were just designed in a jokey fashion, mostly around the idea of games as “art” or concepty ideas. Some of them turned out to be kind of fun but many of them are kind of one of joke experiences. The Aesops Fables games were an interesting experiment in translating the lessons of 3 fables into silly minigames of sorts, none of them particular effective but they do potentially deliver the message which isn’t bad considering the “development time” of these games.
Production Notes:
Klik n Play is pretty terrible but there’s something to be said for using “klip art” in game development when it comes to speed of development vs just making everything as boxes and circles.

14 games I made for the 529 in 1 Klik and Play Pirate Kart Part 2: Klik Harder (for Glorious Trainwrecks)

Click on the photo to go to the listing of the 14 individual games or go to http://www.glorioustrainwrecks.com/wiki/The_529_in_1_Klik_and_Play_Pirate_Kart_Part_II%3A_Klik_Harder to get the awesome full Pirate Kart!

Brief Play Description:

This is just a bunch of crappy little games made in typical b-game glorious trainwrecks fashion, some made in 2 hours, some in 5 minutes. Some were really bad jokes, others concepty ideas but it was a fun little jam none-the-less.

Game Design Notes:

A lot of these games were just designed in a jokey fashion, mostly around the idea of games as “art” or concepty ideas. Some of them turned out to be kind of fun but many of them are kind of one of joke experiences. The Aesops Fables games were an interesting experiment in translating the lessons of 3 fables into silly minigames of sorts, none of them particular effective but they do potentially deliver the message which isn’t bad considering the “development time” of these games.

Production Notes:

Klik n Play is pretty terrible but there’s something to be said for using “klip art” in game development when it comes to speed of development vs just making everything as boxes and circles.

Monster Party.
Click the photo to download it.
Made in 48 hours for the Gameful Game Jam #1 by myself, Geoffrey and Kenny Lewis (both of Gameful.org).
Brief Play Description: 
This prototype is designed to eventually be ported to iPad for children to play in bed to help them not be scared of the dark. It is intended to show kids that the monsters lurking in the dark need not be scary but rather just want to play games and have fun with them!
Game design notes:
It really hit home with this one that the design changes quite drastically once the actual coding starts. We hemmed and hawed a lot during the design brainstorming and it was only once I started prototyping some of the mechanic ideas that ideas started solidifying into a game we could realistically make in 48 hours.
Realized that trying to design for a demographic you aren’t a part of (little kids) is definitely more challenging that designing a game just for yourself. Also having to design to the limitations of a platform (touch events) definitely had a big impact on the simplicity of the design.
We had hoped to make the game feel more like a storybook but most of the polish had to be cut in favor of making sure all the gameplay worked as intended!
It was actually pretty fun designing for a “mini-game” style since it allowed us to experiment with many different game mechanics within a single game.
Production notes:

Having a dedicated artist (Geoffrey) made such a difference in the end product looking and feeling much more polished and fun. It was also great having a specific art style (paper cutouts) that lent an engaging coherency to the visual elements.

Monster Party.

Click the photo to download it.

Made in 48 hours for the Gameful Game Jam #1 by myself, Geoffrey and Kenny Lewis (both of Gameful.org).

Brief Play Description: 

This prototype is designed to eventually be ported to iPad for children to play in bed to help them not be scared of the dark. It is intended to show kids that the monsters lurking in the dark need not be scary but rather just want to play games and have fun with them!

Game design notes:

It really hit home with this one that the design changes quite drastically once the actual coding starts. We hemmed and hawed a lot during the design brainstorming and it was only once I started prototyping some of the mechanic ideas that ideas started solidifying into a game we could realistically make in 48 hours.

Realized that trying to design for a demographic you aren’t a part of (little kids) is definitely more challenging that designing a game just for yourself. Also having to design to the limitations of a platform (touch events) definitely had a big impact on the simplicity of the design.

We had hoped to make the game feel more like a storybook but most of the polish had to be cut in favor of making sure all the gameplay worked as intended!

It was actually pretty fun designing for a “mini-game” style since it allowed us to experiment with many different game mechanics within a single game.

Production notes:

Having a dedicated artist (Geoffrey) made such a difference in the end product looking and feeling much more polished and fun. It was also great having a specific art style (paper cutouts) that lent an engaging coherency to the visual elements.

Rebound.

Click the photo to download it (image isn’t from the game, I had no game image available so EVE art will do!)

Made in 4 hours for the Sac Game Jam #1 by myself with design collaboration from the other jammers.

Brief Play Description: 

Fight waves of pirates and pirate captains by using their weapons against them.

Game design notes:

This was intended to be a fun twist on schmup “bullet hell”. Rather than having you fire bullets yourself, you instead have a small wedge shaped shield you can rotate around your ship with the mouse. The idea being you are too low on power for a full shield or weapons, so instead you alter the “frequency” of the enemies bullets and bounce them back at them.

Most schmup’s end up being heavily about fancy dodging so it seemed fun to make the dodging itself part of the attack, making you want the enemy to shoot at you! Building on the core concept I decided to add shield draining and recharging (via batteries dropped by pirates you kill), asteroids which can be used as a weapon via the tractor beam, and pirate captains which fire bullets that you can’t reflect (they go right through your shield!) requiring you to reflect the bullets from the littler pirates to defeat the captains.

Since I only had 4 hours which was nowhere near enough time to tweak all the variables of play to find the funnest play styles, I instead added a configuration/debug screen that allows the players to reconfigure all the important numbers and tweak the gameplay in a variety of ways. This was a much to help playtesters give feedback as it was a way for me to add variety pretty easily to a play session.

Since that 4 hours included the design phase as well as me playing the game wayyy too much, I’d realistically say the game was made in more like 2 hours. Not shabby!

Production notes:

As usual, no art. When I start a prototype I generally just use circles, boxes and triangles to represent the objects with just enough differences so I can tell what is what. In this case I didn’t have enough time to replace those with placeholder art so shapes it is!

The only reason this was successful within such a short time window is that rather than wait for a full design to be fleshed out, I started building the prototype as soon as we had a core mechanic to test. All of the rest of the design was developed through iterative testing rather than long winded design document style. It worked great as I was able to make design decisions by trying tweaks and keeping what was fun.

Rebound.

Click the photo to download it (image isn’t from the game, I had no game image available so EVE art will do!)

Made in 4 hours for the Sac Game Jam #1 by myself with design collaboration from the other jammers.

Brief Play Description:

Fight waves of pirates and pirate captains by using their weapons against them.

Game design notes:

This was intended to be a fun twist on schmup “bullet hell”. Rather than having you fire bullets yourself, you instead have a small wedge shaped shield you can rotate around your ship with the mouse. The idea being you are too low on power for a full shield or weapons, so instead you alter the “frequency” of the enemies bullets and bounce them back at them.

Most schmup’s end up being heavily about fancy dodging so it seemed fun to make the dodging itself part of the attack, making you want the enemy to shoot at you! Building on the core concept I decided to add shield draining and recharging (via batteries dropped by pirates you kill), asteroids which can be used as a weapon via the tractor beam, and pirate captains which fire bullets that you can’t reflect (they go right through your shield!) requiring you to reflect the bullets from the littler pirates to defeat the captains.

Since I only had 4 hours which was nowhere near enough time to tweak all the variables of play to find the funnest play styles, I instead added a configuration/debug screen that allows the players to reconfigure all the important numbers and tweak the gameplay in a variety of ways. This was a much to help playtesters give feedback as it was a way for me to add variety pretty easily to a play session.

Since that 4 hours included the design phase as well as me playing the game wayyy too much, I’d realistically say the game was made in more like 2 hours. Not shabby!

Production notes:

As usual, no art. When I start a prototype I generally just use circles, boxes and triangles to represent the objects with just enough differences so I can tell what is what. In this case I didn’t have enough time to replace those with placeholder art so shapes it is!

The only reason this was successful within such a short time window is that rather than wait for a full design to be fleshed out, I started building the prototype as soon as we had a core mechanic to test. All of the rest of the design was developed through iterative testing rather than long winded design document style. It worked great as I was able to make design decisions by trying tweaks and keeping what was fun.

Hemo Gobblin’.

Click the photo to download it.

Made in 48 hours for the Michelle Obama Health Games Challenge by myself and a team of jammers: Angelo Hizon, Drew Maier, Fern Heintz, Ira Fay, Kial Croom, Seth Robles

Brief Play Description: 
Eat a good healthy diet in one minute by platforming and paying attention to how calories affect your size!

Game design notes:

The concept was to promote paying attention to how calories work. Eating the food items provides the same calories as the real food item would. Jumping around burns off a certain amount of calories, forcing you to eat. Your size is based on your current calorie amount (from what you’ve eaten and what you’ve burned) and being “obsese” will limit your access to certain areas of the level.

Our original design concepts were definitely over ambitious and had to be pretty heavily scaled back to release on time but at least the above made it in!

Production notes:

The team consisted of 3 programmers (including myself), 3 artists and a team lead. We had wanted to make the game in flash and decided on using Flashpunk which unfortunately no one knew really well. Seeing as I wasn’t inclined to dive head first into flash while still trying to work on the design I worked on a prototype of the game in Construct (my weapon of choice!) while the other 2 programmers work in Flashpunk. By the beginning of day 2 it became apparent that while the prototype was a working and decently fun game, the Flashpunk version was stuck at a very primitive stage. We decided to drop the Flashpunk version and just throw everything into the prototype to much success. Unfortunately Construct doesn’t really support multiple programmers so it was on me to do all the actual building and the other 2 programmers helping in every way possible to make sure we succeeded. Having 3 artists was awesome and really made the game much more impressive by sheer art quality.

Hemo Gobblin’.

Click the photo to download it.

Made in 48 hours for the Michelle Obama Health Games Challenge by myself and a team of jammers: Angelo Hizon, Drew Maier, Fern Heintz, Ira Fay, Kial Croom, Seth Robles

Brief Play Description:
Eat a good healthy diet in one minute by platforming and paying attention to how calories affect your size!

Game design notes:

The concept was to promote paying attention to how calories work. Eating the food items provides the same calories as the real food item would. Jumping around burns off a certain amount of calories, forcing you to eat. Your size is based on your current calorie amount (from what you’ve eaten and what you’ve burned) and being “obsese” will limit your access to certain areas of the level.

Our original design concepts were definitely over ambitious and had to be pretty heavily scaled back to release on time but at least the above made it in!

Production notes:

The team consisted of 3 programmers (including myself), 3 artists and a team lead. We had wanted to make the game in flash and decided on using Flashpunk which unfortunately no one knew really well. Seeing as I wasn’t inclined to dive head first into flash while still trying to work on the design I worked on a prototype of the game in Construct (my weapon of choice!) while the other 2 programmers work in Flashpunk. By the beginning of day 2 it became apparent that while the prototype was a working and decently fun game, the Flashpunk version was stuck at a very primitive stage. We decided to drop the Flashpunk version and just throw everything into the prototype to much success. Unfortunately Construct doesn’t really support multiple programmers so it was on me to do all the actual building and the other 2 programmers helping in every way possible to make sure we succeeded. Having 3 artists was awesome and really made the game much more impressive by sheer art quality.

Sausage Inspector.

Click the photo to download it.

Made in 7 days for the Feb, 2010 Experimental Gameplay Project by myself (with a little art help from Robert Riter).

Brief Play Description: 

Remove rotten sausages from the assembly line and throw them into the incinerator to earn your paycheck.

Game design notes:

This game was designed around the idea of user scaled difficulty. I want to experiment with the idea of a game that could be played very casually or very hardcore without needing to have different modes or other segregation tricks.

This was accomplished by a timer and a risk/reward method along with two important user choices: Level and belt speed. You only have a small amount of time each time you start a level, this effects how much money you can make within that level (and how fast you can unlock further levels and content). You only get paid per non-rotten sausage processed so you have to play a careful balance between level complexity (higher levels = more belts and more chances for failure) and belt speed to maximize your risk/reward so as to make money, not lose it. The user controls the belt speed at all times with the mouse wheel, providing a way to adjust the difficulty of the game in real-time and decide how much pressure to put on themselves.

When playtesting the game I definitely found myself bouncing between casual play (it has an almost zen-like quality when played at low speed on the easier levels) and frantic hardcore play (how many sausages can I handle?). 

Since the idea of difficulty was based around trade-offs I also added some power-ups and a limited ability to eat rotten sausages as ways to cope with the high speed craziness.

This is also the first game I’ve made with such an explicit tutorial system, which I designed around some cheesy but fun character dialog to give it some flavor.

Production notes:

As usual, no art skills and a no one else available to join in, I went with whatever images I could find off google and a little Paint.NET modifying. It definitely got the job done! A friend eventually decided to help with some art work for the belts and sausages but I don’t believe that made it into my official EGP entry sadly.

Sausage Inspector.

Click the photo to download it.

Made in 7 days for the Feb, 2010 Experimental Gameplay Project by myself (with a little art help from Robert Riter).

Brief Play Description:

Remove rotten sausages from the assembly line and throw them into the incinerator to earn your paycheck.

Game design notes:

This game was designed around the idea of user scaled difficulty. I want to experiment with the idea of a game that could be played very casually or very hardcore without needing to have different modes or other segregation tricks.

This was accomplished by a timer and a risk/reward method along with two important user choices: Level and belt speed. You only have a small amount of time each time you start a level, this effects how much money you can make within that level (and how fast you can unlock further levels and content). You only get paid per non-rotten sausage processed so you have to play a careful balance between level complexity (higher levels = more belts and more chances for failure) and belt speed to maximize your risk/reward so as to make money, not lose it. The user controls the belt speed at all times with the mouse wheel, providing a way to adjust the difficulty of the game in real-time and decide how much pressure to put on themselves.

When playtesting the game I definitely found myself bouncing between casual play (it has an almost zen-like quality when played at low speed on the easier levels) and frantic hardcore play (how many sausages can I handle?).

Since the idea of difficulty was based around trade-offs I also added some power-ups and a limited ability to eat rotten sausages as ways to cope with the high speed craziness.

This is also the first game I’ve made with such an explicit tutorial system, which I designed around some cheesy but fun character dialog to give it some flavor.

Production notes:

As usual, no art skills and a no one else available to join in, I went with whatever images I could find off google and a little Paint.NET modifying. It definitely got the job done! A friend eventually decided to help with some art work for the belts and sausages but I don’t believe that made it into my official EGP entry sadly.

Mercy Kill.

Click the photo to download it.

Made in 48 hours for the 2010 Global Game Jam by myself and Brandon Irwin.

Brief Play Description: 
2 players (2 keyboards suggested) fight off invaders to stay alive while trying to gain karma to get gods favor by doing things for others. Cooperative but only 1 player can win.

Game design notes:

The game was inspired by the idea of cooperative griefing and especially from something said as a riff on that idea “god dammit, how dare you heal me!”. Thus the idea of competing against the other player to be the most helpful was born.

The basic concept is that you are a monk trying to look good to your deity. You increase your Karma by doing things like dropping health (which is dropped by spilling your own blood for them to heal with), allowing invaders to hurt you, rescuing lost peasants, and rescuing your downed companion. It has the facade of a cooperative action game in that you are defending your monastery against invasion but only one of you gets to go to heaven! Yes I know I’m mixing a bunch of religions together, I’m cool with that.

The biggest challenge was the constant tweaking of numbers to keep the game balanced so that one optimal strategy (early examples included just running straight at the invaders and letting them hit you or purposely getting your pal downed so you could rescue him) didn’t dominate the game.

The game was pretty successful at conveying a fun sense of cooperation and sabotage for self-interest which was exactly the idea!

Production notes:

Neither of us have any art skills so the landscape and monastery are grabbed from Google Earth with some layering tricks applied for shadowing and such. The images and animations of the players and the invaders was done by taking pictures of myself and brandon wearing hoodies (I happened to have both a blue and red version of the same Burton sweatshirt) and wearing just a shirt (for the invaders). 

Since the top down animations can only convey so much of the action we also opted for fun to record video of us doing the actions like sacrificing blood and then play those videos in the lower corners of the screen for additional hilarity.

Mercy Kill.

Click the photo to download it.

Made in 48 hours for the 2010 Global Game Jam by myself and Brandon Irwin.

Brief Play Description:
2 players (2 keyboards suggested) fight off invaders to stay alive while trying to gain karma to get gods favor by doing things for others. Cooperative but only 1 player can win.

Game design notes:

The game was inspired by the idea of cooperative griefing and especially from something said as a riff on that idea “god dammit, how dare you heal me!”. Thus the idea of competing against the other player to be the most helpful was born.

The basic concept is that you are a monk trying to look good to your deity. You increase your Karma by doing things like dropping health (which is dropped by spilling your own blood for them to heal with), allowing invaders to hurt you, rescuing lost peasants, and rescuing your downed companion. It has the facade of a cooperative action game in that you are defending your monastery against invasion but only one of you gets to go to heaven! Yes I know I’m mixing a bunch of religions together, I’m cool with that.

The biggest challenge was the constant tweaking of numbers to keep the game balanced so that one optimal strategy (early examples included just running straight at the invaders and letting them hit you or purposely getting your pal downed so you could rescue him) didn’t dominate the game.

The game was pretty successful at conveying a fun sense of cooperation and sabotage for self-interest which was exactly the idea!

Production notes:

Neither of us have any art skills so the landscape and monastery are grabbed from Google Earth with some layering tricks applied for shadowing and such. The images and animations of the players and the invaders was done by taking pictures of myself and brandon wearing hoodies (I happened to have both a blue and red version of the same Burton sweatshirt) and wearing just a shirt (for the invaders).

Since the top down animations can only convey so much of the action we also opted for fun to record video of us doing the actions like sacrificing blood and then play those videos in the lower corners of the screen for additional hilarity.