Friday, January 27, 2006

The GREAT Brainstorming

Topic as above... THE GREAT ONE is currently brainstorming about some ideas for the first assignment, hmm.. board game, card game or dice game, i would guess the most one that the one that gives the most freedom would be board game, since it allow the use of the most kinds of materials... well... nothing solid thought out yet.. but so far these are some ideas that have crossed my mind... wonder if its a wise move to let out my trade secrets here for all to see.. oh well... guess the innovators will always come out with new ideas even if they have their original ones stolen...

Concept #1: Street Racing Board Game

Premise: Simple snakes-and-ladders get to the end point goal makes it easy for all to play.

Well, was kinda inspired by the system that we used to play the mock up of the FPS in class on mon, so was thinking to myself, what if we made something like that, but instead of attempting to capture the feel of a multiplayer shooter on a board, why not we try to do it with a racing game. So movement will probably be in the 3 card move thing, to simulate the 3 actions taken in succession from the perspective of a driver.

Bells and Whistles:
Drawing inspiration from Need for Speed and Gran Tursimo, some of the bonus to include would be to allow players to choose different cars, with different stats, maybe some can travel more spaces at a time, or some can turn more directions at a time or something like that. And to cater to that, the board (a city track probably to capture the street racing feel), can actually feature alternate routes, such as more turns or more straights to take advantage of the different car stats. Event cars can be drawned at the end of each turn or at certain spaces to keep the game interesting, with events like road slicks, or rain, or oncoming traffic.. and of cos, what is a racing game without NITRO.

Balance would definitely be the toughest issue here, how to make sure every car has an equal chance to get to the finish line, how to design the board to cater to the design of the different car types.. my brain is bleeding thinking of this...

Concept #2: Modified D&D

Premise: Work together and/or cooperatively to enter a dungeon and slay a monster...typical

Obviously kinda inspired from D&D, but actually more from this simplified version of it called dungeon that i played with some friends in primary school. One that didn;t require you to build characters or anything like that.. just pick a character and straight into action. For now, the idea is to have different classes try to race against each other in a dungeon to get to a treasure.. in the original game, combat was sorta done with cards and dice, and i thought it was quite a quick way to settle it, without all the tedious calculations, so would probably follow that format.

Bells and Whistles:
Again, variety is key here, different pathways in the dungeon could give access only to certain characters, like a thief can open locked doors all that kinda shit... cool magic cards, lots of monsters to plague the dungeon.. some places/monsters that require players to work together.. others that force them to compete... basically taking the D&D stuff and making it accessible to be played in one sitting...

Definitely, definitely all the different cards required to make.

Concept #3: Fighting Card Game

Premise: Basically a card game to simulate the versus action of a good old streetfighter match

See Magic the Gathering or Pokemon Card Game or something like that. Nothing exceptionally ground breaking, but gives a lot of freedom in how to go about setting the rules and can be played without a board. Really Really sketchy at the moment.

Bells and Whistles:
Lots of cool moves.....Hadouken!!!
Different strategies to cater to different players

5 star difficulty to come up with a balanced system under deadline conditions

Concept #4: Metal Gear Solid Board Game

Premise: Espoinage board game with patrolling guards, players try to sneak past them and infiltrate a base.

Inspired by Metal Gear Ac!d on the PSP, when i saw how they took an action game like MGS and turn it into a card game.. then it struck me that maybe it could be done into a board game as well.. probably with lots of patrolling guards to keep the suspense, and lots of alternate routes to the target...

Bells and Whistles:
Different weapons maybe.. how one player being spotted can draw attention away from the guards and benefit another player... stuff like that...

Simulating AI... who is gonna control the guards? and in what fair manner to allow them to move? the turn it takes for the guards to move...

Yup.. that;s all for now.. lots of the ideas still very sketchy.. guess have to discuss with the gang and see which one they like the most... and if they like any at all for the matter.. another thurs nite.. another entry...


"Welcome folks... to....... CALVINBALL!!!... the weirdest, most chaotic ball game ever designed in history. For all you lay people out there, Calvinball is a game with...... no rules, except one, that is that no two games in Calvinball will ever, and i mean EVER be played in the same way (actually even this rule can be nullified), and the goal of the game is....well.... there is no goal...... "
[Abrupt Silence]

Before we start the game though, since we have quite a bit of free time for idle chatter before the game actually starts, let us talk about "game" Calvinball. Of course, the most impt question to ask, would be whether a "game" with practically no rules would actually be even considered a "game" in the first place. I would think that that would significantly depend on your definition of a "game."

Even though I have clearly stated the definition of a game in my last post, last week i learnt a more elaborate one from a wise, old sage. To quote (with a strong scent of curry flavour):

"A game is a voluntary interactive activity, in which one or more players follow rules that constrain their behavior, enacting an artificial conflict that ends in a quantifiable outcome"
- Alex Mitchell

Even though, the GREAT ONE's definition was quite spot on IMO, but for formality's sake, I will be using this given definition to dissect the game of Calvinball. Well, to me Calvinball seems like a really, really weird game that expands on some aspects of the definition of games given above but yet totally excludes some other aspects.

The two most obvious aspects to point out to show that Calvinball is a flawed game would be to pick on the two words, "rules" and "quantifiable outcome".......that's three, but WTH. If a circle would be used to define the frame of a game, which is the environment, in all aspects that the game is to be played within, and the rules are the boundaries of this circle, determining the play space, big or small, then the rules in Calvinball would be rather useless. I mean, not that there are no rules stated mind you, just that after reading the rules, you will find that the rules don't make much sense at all, and actually can be amended constantly, and by anyone.

In this sense, it becomes like a shape shifting circle, with the space changing shapes ever so consistently, into an oval, or square, or triangle, at anyone and everyones' whims and fancies. In short, the rules are just utterly chaotic and provide no sense of order at all. And they fail to make the second part of that segment in the definition come true. The use of the rules is so that it "constrain [the players'] behavior," and in this case, even though there are rules, they fail to constrain anyone's behaviour in anyway, since anyone can outrule anyone else's rule at almost anytime. So with this alone, it is already enough to undercut Calvinball as not a game.

However, THE GREAT ONE never rests at one, so he will take it one step further and break it down by the words, "quantifiable outcome." By common understanding, a quantifiable outcome is one in which there is a clear distinction between at least two outcomes, be it win, lose or draw, there must be numbers involved to differentiate wins and losses. However, in 1.8, it mentions a score system, but a nonsensical one. The rule of that is that the score system should not make any logical sense at all. So, technically, there is no way to differentiate the winners from the losers. With no outcome and no goal, would it still be a game? Like in my previous example of a soccer game without a goal, Calvinball would just seem like a bunch of mad people running around and just shouting weird things about rules and some type of singing involved (at least that's what the rules said.) So again, no rules, no game..... no goal, no game..... no rules and goal, NO GAME... Calvinball is not a game by logical standards.

However, I would like to point out some interesting (IMO at least, doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks) about this peculiar little game. One thing i feel about the game and the rules of the game, is that it takes the strecthes some aspects of the definition of games and take it to the extreme, it is as if the creators were taking the whole concept of "game" and spit right in the face of it, but at the same time, makes us all the more aware of what a game truly is and the elements necessary to make a game meaningful. I mean, I am sure there were a lot of times that we died fighting a boss or we got fouled in a sport and out of frustration thought to ourselves, ""Why did this !#$%^& constrain have to exist in the first place?"

In this sense, Calvinball actually highlights to us the importance of such restrictions. Another thing about it is that Calvinball takes interaction to a whole new level, its like a "what if" question taken to the extreme, and the creators thought to themselves, "what if we took the interaction in a game to a whole new level and allowed the player to not only interact with the given environment, but also alter the environment at the same time." I am sure to many of us, we would love to have this rule at some point of time in some of the games we played, and this disregard for the given environment only shows how it will actually destroy the entire frame if everyone had their own way.

Representational about the world, in a way I guess. Its like what if there was no order in this world, and everyone got what they wanted, i would guess that from a game of Calvinball, you would actually be able to see a glimpse of this scenario, and how humans being humans, would always use situations to their advantage if given the chance to. I mean I am all for freedom and all, but i guess just like a game, freedom should only be exercised within some sort of order, for perharps, just like Calvinball, absolute freedom will only bring about absolute chaos. Gues that the deeper lesson in this is that we cannot expect to play "Calvinball" all our lives and act like brats and hope to get everything that we want whenever we want... wondering if I have digressed too far... oh well.

Even though my general conclusion in regards to Calvinball is that it cannot be considered a game, but there are ways that it can actually be made one and provide "meaningful play." Since almost every rule in the game can be altered at any time, but imagine if players chose a set of rules before the game started, and all willingly decide not to exercise to change the rules of the play despite given the right to do so. And consider if they use a rule 1.1 to disregard rule 1.8, in the end, it would still follow all the rules of the game, but yet, be able to fit into the definition of a game. What I am saying is that, given human nature, Calvinball would end up not being a game, but rather a fight for wants and instantaneous desires. However, under the right circumstances, it can be made meaningful.

Another thought is to work the way around meaningful play. Like what if we bring down meaningful play to an individual level. And in the game of chaos, an individual actually sets a goal for himself, like to set himself to hit another player with the ball, or something like that, and the rule is not to let the ball out of his hands. In this sense, he/she can actually be setting a frame of a game for himself/herself, and play can actually be meaningful if you break it down to this level, similar to the example given to the Sims being NOT a game, in a general sense, but players often set their own goals.

So i guess, the conclusion of it is that, even with a clear definition of "game", it is still not easy to full break an activity down and compare its components to the elements that make up a game, cos ultimately, the definition can stand true or false if viewed from different levels. Enjoy the game ladies and gents....


Friday, January 20, 2006

Everybody's Favourite Show: POP QUIZ....

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to a round of.........POP QUIZ.... today we have THE GREAT JER himself here with us today to answer two perplexing questions...


Question 1: "What is a Game?"

According to trusty old "Oxford", a game is.... "a form of play or sport with rules." Yep, that's all folks, that all it says... damn linguists.. so typical of them to simplify. And take it from a seasoned gamer likes yours truly, a game to me is so much, SSSOOOO MUCH more than that, after all, it is my number one passion in life, videogames specifically (with the Game of Love coming in a not-so-close second), games have to be more than a ""form of play or sport with rules" to hook yours truly, and many other people in the way that they [games] do.

Firstly, I agree with the rules part, all games must have rules, they have to be boxed by some form of constraints and limits, to be called a game. I mean, imagine, someone telling you, "Let's play a game, and the game is you can do anything you want." Who would wanna play such a dumb game? I think they have a word for this, its called Life. I mean all games, from sports, to videogames have rules, be they not using your hands to move a ball around (soccer), or you must not get hit by one of those damn goomba (super mario), every game in the world has a rules.

Another element that a game must have is an objective, a goal, a state to acheive, something like that. A goal to seperate a win from a loss, some sort of incentive to play, if you might. As my pastor always says, imagine a game of soccer if there was no goal, and we just had 22 players dribbling a ball around the field aimlessly, do you think it would ever be the same? This rule runs through all games, from rescuing the princess, to beating the high score, to knocking your opponent out, they are all objectives in one form or another.

Finally, the last essential element of a game is interaction. In this sense, in a game, the player can only be called a player if he/she actually interacts with something, or someone. Be it from interacting with a ball in a soccer/basketball/volleyball game, to interacting with a dice in a game of snakes and ladders, or interacting with a virtual character on screen through a joypad, a game most of the time has someone doing something, to affect something, to bring the person one step closer or further from winning. Sometimes, this interaction is on a multi-level basis, but i will save the elaboration of that part for later.

Even though a game is made up of these three elements, quoting from the principles of Gestalt psychology, "The whole is more than the sum of its parts", just like a game is more than just these three elements alone, these 3 elements combine together to form a cohesive EXPERIENCE, and essentially, that is what a game is. It is something that we, as people choose to indulge in for that brief moment of time, to detract our minds from reality for a moment, to follow the rules set to acheive a given goal state. Maybe games are essential for our frail human minds to unwind from the tasks at hand and detract us from reality and at the same time, relaxes us and keeps us sane, but that is just some food for thought and i digress.

So, in summary, to THE GREAT ONE, i would say that a game is 'an interactive activity bounded by a set of rules that a person/people participate in, to attempt to acheive a set goal state, creating an experience.' Hah.. take that old "Oxford."

Thank you for the lengthy answer THE GREAT JER. We will now go for a well deserved commercial break and come back with round two of........POP QUIZ........stay tuned...


Question 2: "What makes a game a "Good" game?"

As many would claim to be true-blooded gamers, many would pale in comparsion to THE GREAT JER's gaming resume, with 18 years of gaming goodness under his belt, THE GREAT ONE could go on and on and on and on and on about what makes a game "good", or the creme de la creme (damn, don't know how to use the damn French symbols here, oh well...).

Essentially, the spine of "good" games at its core is..... GAMEPLAY. But of cos, that is one hard word to define and pinpoint, even i have trouble with trying to define that, like when people say, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a great game despite the fugly graphics, cos of the superb gameplay, what does it mean? Honestly, I have no idea how to define it, but i just know that that game IMO is THAT DAMN GOOD, but i digress...

I would think that the closest way to define it is the experience that you obtain from playing the game. If after playing a game, the experience of playing the game still lingers in your head, i would guess that game has been successful in being a "good" game. However, to define "good"in itself a pain in the ass, cos its meaning can vary from different points of view.

For example, slots might be a "good" game in the eyes of the business types as it is readily accessible to anyone since it is so damn mindless and can attract a large audience of suckers, but IMO, i think that it is boring as hell. But then again, that's just me, I'm sorry Grandmas. So, in this sense, I will try to define a "good" game by my rules, and based on my hardcore-gamer's-ass opinion.

From the top ladies and gentlemen, a "good" game to me is one that has rules, but do not completely restrict. The rules cannot be placed in such a way that there is only one track to victory. Instead, a set of rules must be envisioned as a box, boundaries to create a space in which to play. And in this space, there must be allowance for creativity to acheive the goal. Many people, including myself would prefer games with open ended gameplay, which puts you in control, to allow your creative mind to expand and find your own way to reach the goal state.

That is one of the reasons why Grand Theft Auto is so acclaimed, because of the sheer scope of allowing the player to do anything to acheive the given goal (should I park a fire engine to block the way or should I just gun the damn guy down?). Of course, more conventionally, for the lay people, there is soccer, which allows 101 ways to get the dumb ball from one end of the field to the other, a much simpler analogy of the above thought.

In terms of goals, for a game to be "good", the goal has to be achievable and yet challenging enough to be satisfying when actually achieved. In this aspect, it is harder to make a game that is universally good, since the aptitude of different players vary from player to player. Take Ninja Gaiden for example, wusses weep at the difficulty of the ass-kicking they take from the computer A.I., whereas hardcore gamers were escalated at the masochisitc difficulty. I guess for a game to be "good," you have to consider the market that it is designed for.

In terms of interaction, a "good" game is probably considered such if it provides multiple levels of interaction, but yet accessible enough to be understood. For example in an MMORPG like 'Phantasy Star Online' or 'Final Fantasy XI', you are not only interacting with your virtual character alone, but also with the rest of the players as a team to take down that one tough SOB. Or even in pop culture phenomenon Street Fighter II, where the interaction is multi-level but competitive instead of the previous cooperative examples, players interact with the on-screen fighters through the joystick to pit their skills against one another.

Finally, there is the experience, a "good" game is one that immerses the player in an experience, and it is not just a game and nothing more. It is one that invokes some sort of thought or emotion from a person playing the game, be it the experience of adreneline in a soccer or basketball game, the engaging narrative of the latest Final Fantasy (FFX being my all-time fav FF) accompanied by the stunning visuals and superb soundtrack, the test of your cerebral abilities in a sprawling Zelda dungeon, or the competitive edge in a Halo 2 deathmatch, all these are not just interactions, they are full-fledged experiences they hook players in, and keeps players coming back for more and more.


Thank you THE GREAT JER. That was the longest episode of Pop Quiz ever thanks to your rambling. That's all we have for you tonite ladies and gents.. Till next time... BYE BYE

Late Bloomer: First Post

Well, guess its about time i got into this whole blog thingie, been thinking of having one for quite a while now... but then again... nah... guess i'll be too lazy to update on a regular basis anyway. But i guess fate comes full circle, and now, my thoughts have caught up with me and here i am.. one way or another (though more by compulsion for marks more than any other reason)...for the first time ever...


[Thunderous applause]

Yes yes, i heard the cues to stop with the narcissism, but well.... in a more subtle tone, I am finally here. And yes yes early birds, I am a damn late bloomer and new to this whole blog thingie (and to think I am a computing student... sheesh....), but hopefully this will be the first step towards an intriguing journey into this whole blog sh*t.. oops.. am i even allowed to swear here?