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November minijam (Hey idiot)

Unfortunately I won't/wouldn't be at the november minijam. So I decided to make a game under the same basic conditions except with fewer people and more animals.

How did I get from theme to game?

Well actually there was no theme. But I have lots of ideas and little time, so I started designing right away. The result was ambitious, it started with the sentiment of having your feelings ridiculed, something that people often do, especially kids in school. The morning before I started I also saw this:

And I wondered what possible responses people could have. Fear of its strength or its fashion sense?

Initially I intended to illustrate group or herd behavior. How people adapt their opinions, likes and dislikes to the masses and lose some of their individuality in the process. I thought it was a really sad idea to get home from school, play your favorite videogame and then say you didn't like it so others wouldn't bully you so much.
So the idea was to go through a couple of days of school, look at the decisions the player made and extrapolate an ending for that (a look into the future of the player character). The endings didn't make it because I ran out of time. For it to be convincing it also had to become dependent on a lot of things like what was being marketed, what was popular, what characters really liked and disliked but also things they didn't admit to liking, disliking etc.
I got to the point where each character has a different stance on different things. Popularity or marketing effects of things are not taken into account. The player starts out neutral to all things but starts to like things more when he or she does them after school. One big thing I was sad not to be able to get in was exactly that question of wether you would admit to liking what you did or actually being able to give up on one of your passions altogether. I think it would have made the game a lot more impactful. (Also, at the moment there's no way for the player to start disliking things :)

Also initially I wanted to go very dark and have it be possible to go to a shop, steal a gun and go on a shooting spree or commit suicide for instance. But there simply wasn't enough time for all that and the more I developed it, the more it felt forced to design the game to go in that direction. So I cut that pretty early on.
The game definitely isn't kind though. There are almost always a couple of bully's coming at you. But you can evade them or you can get stronger by doing sports for instance, and then you can beat them up instead.

A disadvantage of this pushing mechanism is that I sort of gave up on the insults, mocking and ridicule. Which are generally more impactful.
Initially I designed stats like in a pen and paper rpg consisting of health, physical strength, mental strength, charisma, physical stamina, mental stamina and selfworth/insecurity.
Basically the insults and the mental strength & stamina would have been a mirror to the physical implementation. Just without tactile gameplay. And I was quick to implement something visual, physical, and so.. I left it out.
If I had thought up a gameplay mechanic to illustrate the tie between the mental implementation to the denial of passions I probably would have focused on that. But as I'm writing this I'm still thinking in gameplay that implements insult avoidance patterns, which would basically be the same as the physical implementation... so it's difficult I think.


What actually is there then? Well, there's a bunch of people who all have their own stances on things. Depending on that they will be friendly, neutral, or hostile to you. Actually only 3 out of 5 options got implemented I think, the friendly part, where people would stand with you and protect you or scare off hostile people was once again too much work.
I thought it was important to be able to notice and navigate through these "personalities" and see people behave differently depending on your choices (your likes in this case). That made it in, though I think I noticed a bug where people are more aggressive than they should be.
You can get surrounded by people and be beaten up before you even make it to school. You can also invite people who aren't bullying you (but I just realized the nett bonding/anti-bonding effect of inviting them is zero, it works just as well if you don't invite them :)
After school there are a number of activities you can choose from. Unfortunately, the only one that has an effect besides your stance is sports which gives you a strength boost. The idea originally was for certain activities to alter mental states like increasing selfworth, decreasing insecurity when cooking a recipe for instance. Also visually picking between a painting and a car, or between pieces of music would have been cooler. But it's easy to see how this would be expanded and how marketing and popularity trends fit in with this.
The people and their stances are randomly generated each time you load the game. They don't change once you're playing. The only one that changes is the player. It's a little less interactive than I would have liked but it does allow you to more easily recognize what people like or dislike.



Lessons learned?

* Feedback and results are addictive, I tend to focus on them more once I get a result. It took me about an hour to do the design, about three hours for the basic physical implementation with people bumping into eachother on a map. The other four hours were spent on adding stances, dealing with a nasty sprite problem and implementing the text screens and text feedback.
* It's surprisingly easy to focus on visual elements, usually representing physical actions like violence for instance. Just seeing shapes bump into eachother causes associations. This is illustrated very effectively with the Heider-Simmel demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZBKer6PMtM The article is easily findable online but I think the video speaks for itself if you keep in mind you are only watching a couple of shapes with movement.
* Flixel destroys all sprites when you switch states. I defined a Person as an extension of a sprite with the result of nobody you invited actually existing anymore as soon as school time passed. It cost me about an hour tops to realize why that happened and restructure my code. That was one hour completely lost.
* Too much design? Or too little? It's hard to say in this case. Reading the above part it seems like it was overdesigned for an 8 hour creation process. But I was very quick to drop things and I never figured out a truly alternative way to visualize the mental process. In that respect 1 hour for a design seems way to little. It's probably a question of breadth vs depth. Design for depth not for breadth.



Free stuff!
The game is open source, once again a Haxe/OpenFl/Haxeflixel Flashdevelop project that you can get right here. The flash version can be played online here.
Category: Experiments | Views: 562 | Added by: Garfunkel
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