Saturday, 10 May 2014

Workplace: Game Chef 2014 Concept Design

After taking last year out from the annual game design contest, I've thrown my hat back in the ring this year, for now anyway: the designing is the fun part, I'm not sure how I feel about people actually reading what I've written, letting alone judging whether I should win... unless I do win, of course, in which case it was all wonderful.

This year's theme of There Is No Book is intended to encourage thinking away from core rule books and towards other forms of presentation: I've seen audio, video, cards and even a scroll mentioned so far! Fantastic!

The ingredients are absorb, wild, glitter and sickle: I started jotting down some free associations I made with these terms and here's what I wrote:
Absorb: superpower, The Blob, soak up, pay attention (teaching)
Wild: natural, magic, untamed, animal, 'Girls Gone...'
Glitter: fairy dust, disco, drag, sparkle, shine, gold.
Sickle: farm tool, soviet symbol, anaemia.

I then looked back at what I'd written down, looking for the interpretations that most appealed to me and any connections that might suggest a setting for a game:
Absorbing: compelling, interesting; learning, listening.
Wild: nature, the wilderness, untamed.
Glitter: surface value, distraction.

Now for a bit of a black box in the design process: I can't analyse what happened next in my mind, because I'm not even sure myself, but despite doodling a frowny-face next to the word Sickle on the second list, to show that it wasn't firing my imagination, it suddenly catalysed with the other things I'd written down and I found myself thinking of Animal Farm. What may have helped make the connection was my current favourite PC game, Full Bore, which is a pig-based mining-platformer...

I posted about this and my other, more favoured idea on the Game Chef community on G+, but somehow in the process of trying to describe what I had in mind to other people, some aspects of what might be a playable Animal Farm-style game congealed in my subconscious and by later that evening, I was writing down a page of notes about systems and mechanics that would support the theme of the contest and fit around the ingredients I'd settled on, which were primarily wild and sickle by this time.

There was lots of thinking in terms of board games and card games: I wanted to capture everything you needed to play on a number of largish playcards, which themselves would be an active component of the game, not just a reference sheet. As I worked on it, I also realised I needed some kind of token currency to make things flow more easily and to regulate the pace of the game, which also tied in quite nicely with the glitter ingredient again, in a more sub-textual way. The first concept design I've come up with consists of two playcards, more to see what the game would look like and to model any potential difficulties with the 'moving things around on the table' mechanics. The working title is, appropriately, Workplace and I'd appreciate anyone who has time to provide constructive feedback on the layout of the cards and the comprehensibility of the rules.