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Title: Game Design Contest
Post by: Ben Lehman on January 17, 2010, 04:07:10 PM
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." -- MLK

I'm holding a game design contest.

The contest is: Write me a game about love.
The constraint is: Express your unique creative vision.
The deadline is: next Sunday night, where-ever that is in your timezome.

If you would like additional constraints ask me and I will give them to you. Tell me what kind of constraints you want (mechanical, creative, social, genre, etc.)

I will give detailed feedback on all of the designs and may, if I'm feeling vindictive, declare a winner.

(edit: I decided to promote this.) If you would like to post it to your favorite forums and mailing lists, that's fine with me.

Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: noahtrammell on January 24, 2010, 05:59:04 PM
 A game for 2+ players
 OK, so this is a game about creating stories like those found in Romantic Comedies.  In this game, there are two: the Star and the World.
 The Star is the protagonist of the story.  He's trying to gain the affections of...
 The Love Interest, an NPC.
 The World is trying to prevent the Star and the Love Interest from getting together.  There can be several World players, each one controlling a different "character."
 If you've ever seen a romantic comedy, I really don't think these roles need further explanation.

 So, one player needs to be assigned the role of the Star.  Everyone needs to decide who his character is.  Is he a weatherman, a la "Groundhog Day," a nerd at the local Buy More a la "Chuck?"
 Next, decide who the Love Interest is.  Is she a person working with the weatherman at the local news, a super-spy?
 Next, decide why these two characters can't get together.  "Because the weatherman's a cynical jerk and she's nice and sweet" and "Because a nerd like Chuck could never bag a goddess like the super-spy" are all good options.
 Next, decide on the Event that somehow gives the Star a shot at getting the Love Interest.  "The weatherman keeps on experiencing the same day over and over, letting him appreciate the richness of human and experience," and "The nerd becomes a valuable CIA asset" are all good options.  Note that this event does not need to be mundane.  If you're tastes lie that way, then by all means make it supernatural, like in "Night at the Museum."
 Finally, the World needs to come up with a few ideas for how he'll keep the Star and the Love Interest apart.  "The weatherman's own habit for cynicism" and "Evil enemy agents, exes, and the super-spy's law of staying away from human contact" are all good examples.  If there are more than one World Players, assign them each needs to take ownership of one of these.  If there are a lot of World players (three or more), let one of them control the Love Interest.

 You know how a romantic comedy works.  There's three basic Acts.
 Act 1: Introduce all the characters and plot elements introduced above, including any recurring characters the World controls, as well as the starting situation.  Be sure to set up an interesting scenario, because this Act will sow the seeds for how the story plays out.  Once that's done, move on to...
 Act 2: Play out the situation.  Let the characters you've introduced riff off of each other, in particular the Star and the Love Interest.  Let their relationship be the "stopwatch" of the game.  As they grow closer and closer, let them also be growing closer and closer to resolving any plotlines and complication the World has thrown in, like stopping the terrorists from setting off a bomb. Their relationships should determine which Act you're in.
 Act 3: Let this be the showdown between the Star and the World.  Once the Star and the Love Interest are together, the game's over.  This Act should culminate in the Big Kiss.  Cut to...
 The Prologue, in which you wrap up any plotlines you left hanging, etc.

 So, the game is played in scenes.  The "point" of these scenes should be determined by what Act you're in.  During the first Act, there won't be much action.  A lot of it will be introductions and setup.  During the second Act, it'll be a lot of action and drama.  During the third Act, it'll be action and drama times ten.  So, take turns setting a Scene.  State which characters are in it.  You must not necessarily include your own character. If you introduce any characters who are not the Star or the Love Interest, let the World players take turns picking them to play.  If there are any leftover, the Star can take control of them, even if he's not in the scene.  Once you've picked which characters are in the scene, describe the location, surroundings, and what the characters are doing.  Feel free to make this description point to a specific conflict you want to see come up.
 Next, roleplay it out.  You're civilized people, I don't need to include any rules for free narration.
 If a conflict comes up, likelihood is it'll be between the Star and the World, but it could be between two World players, or even between someone and the Love Interest.  First off, the players should figure out the Stakes for the Conflict, with each side picking an "If I Win" condition.
 The resolution system is Fifteen Questions, which is like Twenty Questions, but with five questions less.  The person who has the Word is the Opposition.  If it is the World versus somebody, he's the Opposition..  If it is the Love Interest versus somebody besides the World, she's the Opposition.  If it is a World player versus another World player, the Opposition is the character with the most obvious advantage.  The Star always guesses.  If the Star is trying to get closer to the Love Interest, the Conflict is between him and the World.
 To start a Conflict, the character who is opposing the Opposition should describe an action he takes to reach his goal.  "I punch him in the face" and "I edge closer to her on the couch" are all good options.  So, start playing.  The Opposition should keep track of how many times he answers "Yes" or "No."  After five questions, stop.  If there are more "Yes" answers than "No" answers, then the person opposing the Opposition was successful in his action and got closer to his goal.  Mark this down and start another round.  After three rounds, compare how many successes were scored.  If two or more were scored, then the person opposing the Opposition achieves his goal and narrates the outcome.  Otherwise, the Opposition succeeds and narrates the outcome.  There are no orthogonal conflicts.

 If you feel like the games not moving fast enough, add in this rule: Every time the Star loses a conflict or the game enters a new Act, the Star players receives a token which he can spend to automatically win any round of a Conflict.
 Once the game has entered the Third Act, you should be really close to resolving the game.  After everything's been tied up, the villain's been defeated, the Star and Love Interest have kissed in the rain outside the airport, the game's over.  If you must, you can have a final prologue where you group-narrate a "final montage" of what happened to all the characters directly after the events of the stories.  Then, cue the credits.  The game's over.

 This game was written in under an hour.  It is a wishy-washy free-narration game strongly influenced by the "roleplaying poems" of the Norwegian tradition. 
 Thanks to Archipelago II for the idea of "ownership."  Thanks to a 1-paragraph James Bond roleplaying game whose title I can't remember but that involved a World role and had some kind of word-guessing conflict resolution.  And, of course, thanks to all the people who keep on coming up with formulaic feel-good romance movies that still have something to them.

Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Ben Lehman on January 24, 2010, 08:42:41 PM
Thank you, Noah!

Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Simon C on January 25, 2010, 05:48:58 PM
Hi Ben, I posted this in a comment to your blog, but I haven't recieved confirmation you got it.

It's a bit weird, and not really done at all.  The endgame, especially, was written in a mad rush to get it done, and doesn't really support the rest of the game at all.



Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Ben Lehman on January 25, 2010, 06:26:02 PM
Hi, Simon. Yeah, I got it.

Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Simon C on January 25, 2010, 06:31:14 PM

Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Ben Lehman on January 25, 2010, 09:57:29 PM
I got four entries. I'm doing the commentary and reviews on my livejournal.
Here is a summary of all the entries (
Here is a review of the first game: a very loose interpretation of the wikipedia article on greek words for love (

I will post here as I write each commentary.

Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Ben Lehman on January 25, 2010, 11:10:12 PM
Here's a review of the second game: Romantic Comedy (

Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: noahtrammell on January 27, 2010, 05:57:54 PM
 Thanks for the review, Ben!  It was great to get a read-through by someone who actually has experience in game design.  Not only that, but for some reason criticism can be inspiring.  I'll keep working.

Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Ben Lehman on January 30, 2010, 05:09:15 PM
Here is a review of the third game: A Breath of the Heart: Giving and Taking (

Noah, I'm glad to know it was useful. Please keep me up-to-date on your design work, either for this game or something else.


Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Ben Lehman on January 30, 2010, 07:33:11 PM
I've written an essay based on some shared issues I've seen in the game designs thus far. the prep mountain ( Maybe of interest to anyone following along.

Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Simon C on January 30, 2010, 11:28:30 PM
I prettied up the document a bit and put it online here:

It's a pretty big file, and the text is pretty rough.

Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Ben Lehman on January 31, 2010, 04:29:41 PM
Sorry your game is taking longer, Simon. It's very fiddly and I'm trying to make sure I understand the math behind all the subsystems before I write about it.


Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Simon C on January 31, 2010, 05:42:21 PM
Not a problem, Ben.

If you understand the math, that'll make one of us.  I just eyeballed most of it.  I mean, I know what effect it should have generally, but there's hardly any precision in the design. 

Quests, especially, are probably way wrong.  I'm also totally unsure how many Heart tokens will be kicking around during the game.

Title: Re: Game Design Contest
Post by: Simon C on March 14, 2010, 05:13:25 PM
Hey Ben,

How are you doing with that review? I'm still interested in your feedback.