The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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2:59pm on Friday, 6th September, 2013:
I've spent the last week working on a pen-and-paper game for my CE217 students (when I wasn't marking exam scripts or listening to MSc presentations). I first designed it as an assignment several years ago, but since then I've been using it in my classes. I actually have two, which I alternate so students resitting the year get a different one next time round. As they were designed for assignments, though, they're hard to run quickly in the classes. What I've been doing, then, is streamlining one so it will work in a class. I'm hoping it'll be playable in 2 hours, but not optimistic; I expect it'll be a rush.
The game is about being a producer in a videogame start-up. You choose your lead designer, programmer and artist from a shortlist, then they tell you how many minions they want. Working to a budget, you allocate them the people they asked for as well as you can, then production proceeds. Events occur, some which are general (affecting all players) and some of which are specific (affecting only those players with particular leads). For example, a general event could be that there's a Hot Coffee-like scandal and you have to decide how to ensure there are no such unfortunate Easter eggs in your game. A specific event could be that your lead designer (if you chose the famous old-timer) has been given an award and you have to decide whether to fly off for a week to accept it as crunch time approaches.
Players get to do some contingency planning, if they think something problematic may happen. For example, if your lead designer and lead artist are married, you might record the risk that they could split up. If, in a later event, they do split up, you can choose to ignore the consequences (alert to the signs, you arranged counselling for them or something).
Some of the decisions you make have no consequences. The rest will affect slippage or sales or both. There are no right decisions, although some are just plain bad. That said, sometimes a bad decision has a good outcome or vice versa.
I've just finished playtesting it with myself and, following a few adjustments, it seems to work. Although it's supposed to be about teaching students about production in a fun, spreadhseet-free way, actually I'll use it more as a way to get them to think about aspects of game design, in particular what you can get away with if you have a context to protect you, and the relationship of plot to story. I don't care if the students themselves see it that way, so long as that's what they pick up...
Oh, here are cards for four of the six designers shortlisted, so you can see an example of the materials. In the past I used photos of stangers off the Internet, but if they'd found out then I'd be in trouble. I'm using some pictures I paid an artist off guru.com to do for me instead.
Disappointingly, the salaries I have for these people are the same as they were when I first designed the assignment back in 2006...
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