Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lumos! A Wizard Battle Game

(As part of the Hackforge Summer Games Challenge, I'm trying to design a game with the theme of light and darkness by August 31st. This day two of the two week challenge).

In my neighbourhood of my childhood, there was a strange abundance of kids the same age of myself. From as long as I can remember right until grade six, we all played epic games of a variation of 'hide and go seek' called Buzz Off on the combined front and backyards of my house and of Matthew, my neighbour. Playing games of tag and hide and go seek and their variations make up some of my happiest memories as a kid. They contained moments of pure joy. No wonder I long to one day take part in the Come Out And Play Festival.

So, I've been meaning to create a "street game" for some time now. And since this is the two weeks to put vague dreams into action, this morning, I set aside some time put down something in words.

By mixing up some of the elements of games that already exist, I think I've got something to start with.

I have had for some time now, an interest in making some sort of Harry Potter wizard battle-like game. I think a group full of people, running around, pointing wands, and screaming spells and counter-spells at each other seems like delicious fun.  That's the *experience* I want folks to have.  But how to pull the mechanics together?

My breakthrough came when I was working through possibilities of games with the theme of light and darkness.  My line of thinking was very simple :: light --> flashlight --> flashlight tag! Yes! - running around in the dark *and* yelling spells and counter-spells at each other would make for an even more dangerously fun and spooky game.

Now how to work out the mechanics of the game?

Well, the biggest problem I would see with a spell-casting game is the issue of 'Han shot first'. We don't want players arguing who yelled their spell before the other, and so we need to have to rely on something else other than speed to decide the winner of a battle.

Here, I take my inspiration from the game Cruel 2 B Kind, designed by Jane McGonigal and Ian Bogost.  It's a game of 'benevolent assassination'.  Its rules are:

At the beginning of the game, you are assigned three secret weapons. To onlookers, they will seem like random acts of kindness. But to other players, the seemingly benevolent gestures are deadly maneuvers that will bring them to their knees. 
Some players will be slain by a serenade. Others will be killed by a compliment. You and your partner might be taken down by an innocent group cheer. 
You will be given no information about your targets. No names, no photos, nothing but the guarantee that they will remain within the outdoor game boundaries during the designated playing time. Anyone you encounter could be your target. The only way to find out is to attack them with your secret weapon. 
Watch out: The hunter is also the hunted. Other players have been assigned the same secret weapons, and they're coming to get you. Anything out of the ordinary you do to assassinate YOUR targets may reveal your own secret identity to the other players who want you dead. 
As targets are successfully assassinated, the dead players join forces with their killers to continue stalking the surviving players. The teams grow bigger and bigger until two final mobs of benevolent assassins descend upon each other for a spectacular, climactic kill. 
Will innocents be caught in the cross-fire? Oh, yes. But when your secret weapon is a random act of kindness, it’s only cruel to be kind to other players...

Cruel 2 B Kind makes use of RSP - the Rock Scissors Paper mechanic.

One of the great things about  the 'Rock-Scissors-Paper mechanic is that it's something that everyone already knows. And its used in places where you may not expect it. For example, the video-game Halo uses three layered RSP systems in its game (which is spoofed in this simple Scratch animation).

Using this dynamic, one player can beat another if they clearly got in the attack first. If the attacks are at the same time, then the rock scissors dynamic comes into play. So for my game, I might have three spells, all of which can defeat one other spell and be defeated with another:

  • Lumos : can be beaten by Nox ; beats Stupefy
  • Nox : can be beaten by Stupify ; beats Lumos
  • Stupefy : can be beaten by Lumos ; beats Nox

In Cruel 2 B Kind, if both players tie, they need to separate and cannot attack again for 30 seconds. In my house, my kids have a habit of counting too fast, so would make a rule that players need to count like this: ONE Salvio Hexa TWO Salvio Hexa THREE Salvio Hexa...

Personally, I'm tempted to make things a little bit more complicated and bring in a Rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock dynamic.  Whether this admitted complication works or not probably will become clear with actual playtesting. 

Anyone interested?  Homenum Revelio!

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