Building the toy first and nobody wants to wait for their turn
How building an enjoyable mechanic first helped us stay sane over the intense weekend
One of the first few lessons we got in the Game Design class was to build a toy first. A toy means a mechanic that is fun to play with, and doesn’t feel repetitive over time.
This year’s theme of the Global Game Jam was Waves, and while brainstorming we came up with the idea of literal brainstorming. How about we make a game that shows what happens when the two sides of our brain are fighting over a decision.
Our idea of conduction was simple, when you hit the target with the projectile, it transfers it’s color to the target. To simulate the wobbling of the targets we used spring systems with the spring attached to a stationary point at the center of the target. So now all we had to do was fire the projectile and momentum conservation would take care of all the subsequent collisions.
Inspiration and why not to wait for it
We took the inspiration of Conway’s Game of Life and thought it would be super neat if each target’s allegiance depended on it’s six surrounding targets. But all the circular references would wreak havoc on the poor computer, we were out of wit.
Then something remarkable happened, a happy accident. When the targets collided amongst themselves they diluted the color and it looked as if the targets that were clustered together resisted the change. The bigger the cluster the more resistance you had to overcome. Voila!! We had our mechanic set up, with zero references among the targets.
In the hindsight if we kept thinking about how to implement the mechanic of resistance, we would have chased our tails and ended up with a performance disaster. Instead building in smaller chunks led to better results.
Nobody wants to wait for their turn
Due to time constraints we kept the scope small, and we decided on turn based versus mode. If there was one thing that we wanted to fix about the game first, it would be to make it real-time over the network.
During the showcase we cringed every time someone suggested that it would be more fun to play against each other in real-time. We knew that was true, we just didn’t have enough time to implement. We learned that versus modes are fun because you can scream and shout, and take each others’ territory. And waiting for your turn seemed to suck the fun out of the game.
Another great take away from the failure of turn based versus mode was that once the second player exceeds the score of the first player, they had no reason to continue. Although the clusters would slowly turn back to their original score and your score might go down, nobody seemed to notice that.
The fact that your score can actually go down would have been amplified by real-time gameplay when the other player takes away your captured targets.