September 30, 2005

Odd Game Design Story

(Warning: The following post contains descriptions of biological functions. If you believe that anything that is emitted from your body is pure, concentrated evil, then you might want to skip this post.)

I own a lot of games. By a lot, I don’t mean 100 or 200 games. By a lot, I mean over 1,900 games across multiple platforms going all the way back to the Atari 2600. (Storage is a bit of a problem, as you can imagine, but that’s a story for another day.)

My collection has been growing fairly significantly recently, with “We ♥ Katamari,” “Final Fantasy Chronicles,” “Still Life,” “Fable: The Lost Chapters,” and others joining the ranks recently. (What’s scary is that I still have my “Final Fantasy II” Super Nintendo cartridge, bought “FFC” so I could have it for the PS2, and I’ll probably buy it again when it comes out for the GBA this December…)

Anyway, my point is that I own a lot of games. Like most people, I keep gravitating back to a few core titles. What’s really interesting is that the titles I go back to seem to be grouped by their nation of origin.

I play games from America when I feel the urge to decimate my opponents, or feel like a total badass. Games like “Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings” give me that visceral feeling of domination. Games like “Halo” give me that heroic basis that make my experience expand by allowing me to envision life as the savior to Humanity.

I play games from Europe when I want quirky humor, a deeper viewpoint or a skewed viewpoint of life in the United States. “Worms” and “Fable” have a nice, subtle humor to them. “Incubation,” while it possesses an amazing storyline and kickass gameplay, draws me back with the small touches that delve deeper into the characters that I’m assisting. The “Grand Theft Auto” series is the epitome of a skewed viewpoint of how America truly is. “GTA” is to America what Hugh Grant movies are to the U.K. There’s enough of a similarity that you can tell where it’s supposed to be because of the blanket stereotypes, but the natives can tell the difference.

I play Japanese games when I want to do one simple thing better than anything else. “We ♥ Katamari” and “Katamari Damacy” are perfect examples of a simple concept honed to perfection: collect items. “ICO” is a perfect example of the “protect” gameplay mechanic. The “Silent Hill” series is a perfect example of how to instill dread in a player. The “Mario” series is the perfect example of the “run & jump platformer” school, while “Metroid” and “Castlevania” are definition of “exploratory platformer.”

When I play Japanese games, I don’t feel as heroic as I do with games from America, but I do feel more human because I feel like I’m doing something a human would do. The Japanese way of designing games seems to be finding one thing that you enjoy doing, find the fun in it, and design a game around that fun. For example, “Dance Dance Revolution” is designed around the fun associated with dancing. “Metal Gear Solid” is designed around the fun associated with sneaking around.

So I thought I’d give it a try and see if I could design a game the Japanese way. I said to myself that the next time I found myself playing a game in the real world without there really being a game there, I’d design a game around what I was doing at the time.

Flash to two weeks ago when I went out to dinner with my wife. I had to use the restroom, and while I was using the restroom, I noticed a fly on the back of the toilet. So I did what any male would do…I aimed at it, hit it, and felt superior for a moment…and then I realized that not only was the fly painted on the back of the toilet, but I had made a game for myself. So I’m designing a game based off the concept that it’s fun to urinate on things.

It’s actually pretty funny. The psychology of male urination is pretty well known. The restaurant I was in painted the fly on the back of the toilet to encourage people to pee on it. During the winter, men will often go out with their sons and write their names in the snow. Urinal cake holders are made in the shape of targets, or have small targets on them. Some men actually throw cigarette butts or pennies into the urinals so they’ll have a target to aim for.

So, we have our core mechanic: aim and “shoot.” A training level could be a snow bank. Have the player “write their name” to try to accustom themselves to the control. Resource management is already a part of the game. After all, we only have finite size bladders.

Challenges could be as simple as “hit the stationary target,” progress to “hit multiple moving targets,” progress to “don’t cross the streams in the stadium trench toilet,” progress to “put out the fire completely,” and others.

You can add additional challenges to the above by modifying the players abilities based on extenuating circumstances. “You are drunk: your trajectory will wander.” “You are dehydrated: ‘ammunition’ cut in half.” “You are supersaturated: Double ‘ammunition’ but two second max ‘no fire’ time.”

Is it disgusting? Yes. It is quirky? Yes. Is it fun? Not sure yet. I’ve got a base design, but I need to implement it at least at a skeletal level in order to see if it’s fun…which is exactly what I’m going to do. If you don’t like it, well, piss off.


Derick Bailey said...

now the real question is, what genre of game would this be? FPS is the most likely scenario... but i would venture to say that some of the more elaborate scenarios would actually make a graet RTS game. Just imagine a "put out the fire" level where you are in command of an army of drunkards in a bar that catches on fire... select your groups to go tank up on booz while the other groups are putting out the blaze. but don't let them get too drunk or they'll pass out and burn with the bar. :) and yes, i hearby grant you exclusive rights to use that idea if you're so inclined.


you also made me stop and think about the game selections that i make. and i would generally agree with your outlook. if i want to blow the shit out of something and feel superior, it's america games... the most recent example would be Burnout: Legends for me PSP. lost the crash & bash car race/chase action. but i always gravitate more to the japanese games. i can't wait for katamari to be released on the PSP. i'm an avid collector of metal gear games, and all the best role playing games are japanese.

Drogo said...

Somehow, your subject matter doesn't surprise me. Man, I REALLY miss your sense of humor around the office...