Saturday, March 28, 2009

My game idea for Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom


Main Street, U.S.A.Image via Wikipedia

Since the students in the critical analysis class ha to make a board or card game, I decided to try my hand at it too. My effort will be an example of the process students might go thru to create their own game and if I have to look for a new job, it will be good to have some games in my own portfolio.

Disney - Master (Explored)Image by Express Monorail via Flickr

I read Cory Doctorow's sci-fi novel Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom. He writes the very popular BoingBoing blog I just got back from a trip to Disney World over Spring Break 2009, and it was fun to read about all the places at the Magic Kingdom that I had just visited. I've been going to DisneyWorld since I was in high school, so I could seriously identify with the main character's (Julius) desire to live in DisneyWorld. The group he works with protects and maintains the Haunted Mansion ride, which is one of my favorites. . There's a lot of discussion of protecting the past and maintaining the traditions of the Disney legacy. Many parts of Disney currently don't seem to have that same respect for legacy now (a whole new rant, not for this blog)

Here's my process. I wrote down all the main characters, listed plot elements, and then started doodling around with ideas. I made notes, sketched boards, drew arrows, thought about cards and dice and spinners and markers, and different game play mechanics. And I came up with a number of ideas. I tell my studnets the first idea is usually not the best so I want to generate a bunch to show them that it is possible and that the ideas really do get better. Now that I have some ideas, I'm going to go do a little research on Cory and on the Haunted Mansion to see if there are any bits of history that I want to work into the game.

  • 3 main characters Julius, Lil, and Dan - they're in romantic relattionships, they're friends, and they're co-workers so there are lots of situations to put them in in the game
  • other characters - Lil's parents (who've been deadheading for a hundred years or so),
  • Debra (knew Lil's parents, creates new exhibits at disneyworld, Lil's rival for power in the park)
  • Tim a programmer who works with Debra
  • Kim and the other newbies brought in to work on the Haunted Mansion by Julius
plot elements
  • deadheading, choosing to die, end of death
  • clones, brain backups, backup reloaded into clone if you die, long life
  • maintain rides, enhance rides at WDW
  • work at WDW - cast members, design merchandise, deisgn/enhance rides, be member of the ad hocracy
  • whuffie - reputation points as the currency, high whuffie gets you access to teh scarce stuff, low whuffie can't get the elevator to stop for you, whuffie related to how other people think about you, with more whuffie you can control more territory or make changes to rides
  • there's the Bitchun Society that encourages people to do the brain dump and use the clones to live forever - not sure if the society itself has any character-capability
game ideas - goals, relationships, random thoughts
  • could deadhead to skip a turn but what would be the effect on the player (lose whuffie, lose something, not get paid if someone owes him rent)
  • what makes whuffie go up adn down - gotta have whuffie as sort of the game currency since it's a big part of the book
  • one possible game goal - to become a cast member, to move up from cast member to belong to the ad hoc, to leading the ad hoc - does it take certain amount of whuffie to move up, whuffie in combo with something else like skills or followers
  • another possible goal - make exhibits better - more thru put, more audience appreciation, more revenue from mechandise sales - allof these would also increase whuffie
  • another goal - collect whuffie, collect followers, collect internet fans, collect ride maintenance skills, collect territory
  • in eurogame style whuffie could be around the outside of the board or could be pile of chips
roles you could play as
  • ad hoc leader - only they can play the exhibit change card and only 1 per turn (so have to rotate who goes first maybe?)
  • play as basic cast member who wants to get into an ad hoc, work shifts each round to earn whuffie
  • play as griefer/hacker who can cause all your whuffie to go back into the pile (maybe costs the griefer some whuffie too) and maybe they gain a skill card or maybe they get to take one of yours
  • play as Kim and the internet fans - add whuffie to the ad hoc
things that could go wrong
  • you get killed while testing new ride
  • you get killed by an assassin
  • your brain electronics fail and you have to go offline
  • your girl friend dumps you for your best friend
  • your best friend shows up whuffie-less and has decided to kill himself (and not be cloned)

game idea 1
  • could be 2 kinds of cards - skill and action cards, chips for whuffie
  • take so much whuffie and specific skills to attempt ride upgrade
  • roll dice to see how successful the upgrade is = how much whuffie and rank change - so that's random but cards are strategic
  • could ahve a board where if the upgrade is successful you claim territory
  • need ways to take someone's territory - more whuffie and lower chance of success with the dice
  • board could look like Magic Kingdom - maybe have to have a ride claimed in each land to win or maybe rides worth different amounts of points - first need certain point level to win so player has to decide whether to go for the big point rides or several smaller rides
  • need markers to show ownership
  • deck of action cards - could give whuffie, could give ya permission to attempt an upgrade - what other actions, take a skill card from someone else, might have a rule that says you can only have 5 skill cards at a time (5 is arbitrary number) and you have to throw away any extras
  • maybe whuffie is a pile of chips that everyone can see
  • skill cards are secret - maybe a set that you have to collect, maybe a set for different kinds of exhibits - so there might be 3 or 4 cards that you need ot collect for the take over of a small ride (paiting, merchandise creation, crowd control...)
  • have to have the set of skill cards and enough whuffie and a permission action card to do the project upgrade
  • might have them draw 5 skill cards to start and throw back 2
  • not sure who you're playing as - julius, new cast member, the adhoc?
  • get a certain amount of whuffie each round
  • claim territory you're going to work to own - see who gets done first
  • maybe have to bid whuffie and someone (?banker?) gives skills/territory to highest bidder

Just prior to Halloween, the Haunted Mansion c...Image via Wikipedia

idea 2 - could do something with the Haunted Mansion redo angle - maybe the game takes place inside the mansion, board is the ride (except everyone on it in parallel, not serially), parts/scenes of the ride = levels, need to do something different at each stage of the game, move marker along board path

idea 3 - could build a new ride - like Carcassone - pieces are ride elements - can put in specific order - get whuffie for successfully joining 2 pieces, take work to claim the territory for your ad hoc, can only have some number of spare pieces in your hand for future moves, need some other way to get whuffie, need way to take territory from others, game over when allt he pieces placed

some links and ideas about Haunted Mansion - need graphics, story elements, conflict
there really are fan shrines to the ride - is one of them
Here's a video walk thru of the ride - in the story world you'd use something like that to reduce the ride time and increase thru put
the Haunted Mansion wiki page - wikipedia

the carts the customers ride in are called doom buggies. there's a haunted mansion at all the parks. On the plans before park opened but it wasn't one of the original rides at disneyland. original designs based on antebellum mansions. they have graveyards - including a pet cemetary.
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iGoogle game related themes

Google, Inc.Image via Wikipedia

If you have an iGoogle page these are worth checking out - google has created a series of themes for the iGoogle page using intellectual property from videogames - with the game publishers' permission. So you can have Mario and Megaman and characters from Zelda, The Sims and Guitar Hero, and evfen Wii Sports on your iGoogle page.

I hope they add them to the themes for gmail. I use it a lot more than I use my iGoogle page.

Here's the link to the page with all the new themes -

I'm going with the game of the day - every day graphics from a different game till I see what I like. Probably I'll spend time going - wtf - what game is that from - ha ha ha.

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More games

Transparent version of :Image:Nintendo DS Lite...Image via Wikipedia

Ok - there are some sucky games out there - we all know it. This weekend I'm playing Mystery PI: Portrait of a Thief on the DS. I am not sure what the mystery is and I've been playing (successfully) for 3 hours. You have to find specific objects in a photo filled with objects. There are several locations to gather evidence and at each location you have to find a specific number of objects. When you find all the objects in the given part of town you get to play a mini-game (concentration, rearrange the puzzle pieces are the 2 types I"ve seen so far). And you get a screen of text that seems to be talking abou thte mystery but there's no info there to help you on the next level or that adds to the story line or even to your understanding of yourself as the private investigator.

A screenshot of the Image via Wikipedia

I like puzzle games. Don't get me wrong. And repetition doesn't always bother me. I like Cooking Mama with its repetition of a set of cooking skills; I'm anxious to get the new recipes even tho I know there's no new skills to learn (ok - and is it just me but or is Mam really passive aggressive - look at the literal fire in her eyes when she tells you she'll fix your mistakes. She sounds all friendly, but her eyes show her real feelings!). But this game is bad There's no apparent logic to what objects ya have to find - they're not related to each other and since there's no bigger story clearly layed out, the objects don't seemt o be related ot the story either. There's something in the text about art so ya think maybe some art has been stolen. But you're not looking for art - you're looking for paperclips and red peppers and butterflies and birds and masks and .... . And I don't know if it's my older DS or the graphics quality in the game but the pictures are hard to see. I'm not even sure if there is a bigger purpose to the game. So it falls down in terms of story, in character development, and in variety of game play. I keep playing going - is that all there is?

I think this game will become part of an assignment next year for the game design students - fix the game. They will be developing the sequel maybe or porting it to a new platform. I am sure there is no shortage of bad games we could pick up - i will look for low meta critic scores and recommendations from the more senior students. And if you have any suggestions - please leave them in the comments section. It will just be the design - i don't think we'll be doing any of the programming tho I think we could in flash but I want them to focus on the design elements, the rules, and giving the game a purpose. So stay tuned in the fall for an update on how that assignment goes over

PopCap GamesImage via Wikipedia

As an aside - this game is from Pop Cap games which has a great portal on the web and has done very cool things to monetize their games. They're a company I want to study more in our junior class on the business - they've stayed independent (I think), they have tried a variety of things to get revenue from the games. I need to find out about their relationship with developers.

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