Game Journal – Massive Chalice

Designer/Developer: Double Fine Productions

Platforms: Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One

Release Date: June 1, 2015

Game Location: www.massivechalice.com

 

Explanation

Massive Chalice is a tactical combat strategy game that requires the player to not only manage their units on the battlefield, but throughout their lives.  There are no individual heroes in Massive Chalice.  The player’s characters WILL age and die throughout the gameplay experience.  Unlike most other games that take place in a small amount of time (say, a week, month, year or decade) Massive Chalice takes place over centuries.  Characters routinely die after about 50 years of age and the player is constantly tasked with training new heroes, seasoning them in combat, and passing on their bloodlines in order to raise the starting level of new attuned heroes.  Players have to deal with aspects like:

  • Genetic characteristics to pass down to future generations (trust me, you don’t want to be passing down the genetics of a character who has a maximum movement of 3)
  • The handling of the wills of dead heroes (passing on heirloom weapons).
  • Long term strategies that involve the defense of the country (protecting territory and getting success bonuses).
  • Individual decisions about heroes and citizens that arise during gameplay (sometimes it turns out very good, other times it turns out very bad).
  • Hero death (they die constantly, and permanently).

The gameplay is both methodical and fast paced at the same time.  Players have all the time in the world to make their decisions on the battlefield.  Even so, all it takes is a single wrong decision to ruin your day.  Players can be one shot by certain enemies.  The AI is smart enough to focus fire on specific targets, and they attempt to flank and pinch the heroes during combat.  Decision making is paramount in Massive Chalice.  Players have to research items, weapons, training all while handling combat, managing the country, managing dying and newly born heroes, and keeping their team as diverse as possible.  It is entirely possible to neglect the production of new attuned heroes for a few decades only to discover that you only have a handful of heroes to choose from, all your good heroes have died, and now you have to choose from level 1 children to fight your battle.  All bad.

Screenshot

Throughout gameplay the player’s territories will be attacked by the Cadence.  The three monoliths with glowing red squares beneath them show where the current cadence attacks are taking place.  As you can see in this image, there are currently three attacks taking place.  The player is only able to defend ONE of the three territories.  Each territory has three “lives” once it has been attacked three times without being defended the player loses that territory.  When the player successfully defends a territory, the amount of corruption it has is increased.  So if the cadence attacked a territory twice that the player chose not to defend it would only have one tick of corruption left.  If the third time the player chooses to defend that territory then the territory would gain a life back putting it back to two “lives”.  The game describes the “lives” as corruption.  Which makes sense.

World Screen

Below is an example of the research screen.  As you can see things are performed in years, not days or hours.  Typically this means that your current hero won’t be able to benefit from the research you recently started, they will either be old and decrepit or just plain dead by the time you complete three or four research options (dependent on what you research).

Research

Randomly as the game progresses certain scenarios will occur.  As you can see in this example the player has to make three tough decisions.  Each one will have a specific outcome that will affect the progress of the game in a positive or negative manner.  If the player chooses the first option they could miss out on an opportunity to learn more about the cadence.  If they choose the second option they lose an attuned hero.  The “Vanguard” box in the upper right tells the player that they will lose someone that they currently use to defend the cadence with.  The third option could result in the citizens of the territory becoming displeased or worse.  Hero’s attributes can be changed with decisions the player makes resulting in good or bad behavior in the battlefield.  In this example the hero Baltazar Weald will be gone for 10 years.  He will come back as an old man of 45, which in this game is close to the grave.  But he may also gain a new character attribute.  In another similar situation I encountered while playing I sent a character away for 10 years, only to be shipped back his weapon in a box and a message saying simply “I’m sorry”.  I lost a great hero that day…

Event

Here a hunter is shooting an arrow at a Cadence Advanced Seed. The range is just outside what an advanced seed can move in a single turn.  This would be an optimal position to be in if there weren’t two seeds below the hunter that flanked in from the right.

combat3

Players maneuver their characters based on a simple grid.  Below shows the area this hunter can move while still being allowed to perform a second action.  The player can choose to move outside of the orange area at the cost of an action. This is useful for rapid advance or retreat but typically is less useful than taking both a movement and attack action in each turn.

combat

 

Strategy

The heroes consist of three main types: Hunters, Caberjacks, and Alchemists.  Hunters are effective against single targets and at range, but they are weak defensively.  Caberjacks have high defense but they are a melee unit.  Alchemists are somewhat of a combination of the two.  They have a limited amount of ranged attacks that mainly consist of throwing bombs that deal AOE damage.  After they have depleted their ranged ammunition, they become high damage melee attackers.  Unfortunately, they are built like hunters, so they don’t hold up well to receiving damage.

Players of strategy games will immediately see the simple yet effective strategy of placing the caberjacks at the forefront of the battle in defensive positions while using the hunters and alchemists to deal the vast majority of the damage.

Dynamics

Hunters

Due to the two action turn system, hunters can be extremely effective if they utilize a retreat and attack method of fighting, also known as “kiting”.  The player can retreat to the furthest orange area in their hero’s movement radius and then shoot an arrow at the enemy.  This strategy can be compounded by the use of a special type of hunter called an enforcer.  Enforcers can utilize knock-back attack which further increases the distance between the hunter and enemy at the end of each turn.

Caberjacks

Caberjacks are really useful for blocking bottlenecks on the map.  If players use caberjacks to fill small holes on the map the enemies will be forced to take turns trying to kill your strongest unit.  Which allows your hunters and alchemists to wreak havoc on the enemy forces.  Players should combine alchemist with caberjacks so that they can breed blastcappers.  Blastcappers are caberjacks who can deal AOE damage to enemies.  It is devastatingly effective when combined with the bottlenecking strategy mentioned earlier.  Enemies will line up just to get smashed into minuscule particles by the power of the blast cap.

Alchemists

Alchemists are mostly a utility unit.  They are best kept near the center of your formation so that they can provide AOE support as needed.  Players should avoid using the ranged attacks of the alchemist on single units since they are limited and AOE.  Because of the ability of the alchemist to dispatch multiple units per attack, it is a wise investment to research the upgraded throwing claw early on.  This will allow the alchemist to throw further.  When paired with a hunter who has the advanced technique of listening to the enemy the alchemist becomes a murder machine.  All other characters are limited by line of sight for their attacks but not the alchemist.  Players can position hunters against a rock face or similar obstructing object to listen for the cadence soldiers on the other side.  The sound markers can then be used to aid the alchemist in throwing a bomb over the obstruction, decimating all of the enemies on the other side without ever needing to be in line of sight.

Additional Notes

The manipulation of time has long been a novel theme for games but to my knowledge it has never been applied in such a massive fashion.  Fast forwarding through years is so interesting and it raises questions about how important characters are in games now.

Similar Games

Heroes of Might and Magic

Final Fantasy Tactics

Fallout Tactics

Jeanne D’Arc

Design Ideas

The idea of having time progress in such a macro fashion gives me ideas for all sorts of games. I could foresee a game in which players manipulate time on the micro scale instead of the macro scale.  Where this game progresses in years I could create a game where the player is manipulating milliseconds.  The concept of the game could be something atomic in nature.  Maybe handling  and manipulating atoms in an attempt to create different elements or reactions.  Another idea could be having situations where the player is faced with situations that require split second decisions but the player is limited by the speed of the current avatars thought process.  The game could progress in slow motion allowing the player to make decisions each time the avatars thought cycle completes.  Afterward the player could be shown the entire scene played out in real time using the decisions they made while in micro time.  Situations could be things like car crashes, robberies, fights, deactivating bombs, manipulating delicate objects or even controlling packets through a computer system critical for defending a cyber attack.  Anything is really possible.

Game Journal – Fallout Shelter

Title: Fallout Shelter

Designer/Developer: Bethesda

Platforms: iOS, Android

Platform Tested: Android

Release Date: August 13, 2015 – Android

Game Location: Your Local App Market

 

Explanation

Fallout Shelter is a widely popular mobile game in which the player takes on the role of a vault administrator from the popular Fallout series.  Gameplay mainly consists of players building and maintaining their vault.  Gathering resources, fighting fires, defending the vault from enemies, and exploring the wasteland are all parts of the experience.  If you are looking for a mobile version of the popular console games, you have come to the wrong place.  This game is mobile, thru and thru, and rightfully so.

 

The gameplay is not meant to be something the player actively engages, or so it seems.  Periodic check backs are more than enough to keep the game flowing.  As a matter of fact, if the player decides to sit and stare at the screen they will be introduced to the fine art of waiting.  Unless you are attempting to achieve a Zen like state, it’s probably best to collect your resources and pocked your device for another 10 minutes.  If you do decide to zone out on the screen however, Fallout Shelter does not force the player to sit idle for hours, or DAYS at a time.  The longest the player will be waiting to do something is minutes at most.  Many players and reviewers alike, have criticized the game for being slow, boring, and monotonous.  To them I say, QQ moar, it is a mobile game.  I don’t disagree that the game definitely has some pacing issues, but from a design point of view it hits the mobile game mark perfectly.  The controls are simple, the pace is not hectic and allows for periodic play sessions throughout the day, the gameplay is forgiving, and it has a well thought-out monetary system.  On top of that, it is MOBILE, and it’s FREE.  I find it hard to complain about something that was handed to me for absolutely nothing, but that might just be me.

 

Screenshot

This first image shows the game as the player will typically see it.  The layout of the players vault is shown and the selected room is denoted by the green brackets in the corners (as seen on the far right lower room).  Screenshot_2015-08-16-07-58-27The top of the screen shows the player information about their vault.  From left to right, the amount of Dwellers (people) they have in the vault, the dweller happiness, electricity, food, water, caps, and level up selection icon.  The bottom of the screen holds most of the player interaction options.  Again from left to right, the clipboard shows stats about the currently selected room, the camera allows the player to take a screenshot, the room name, SPECIAL indicator, room production rate, next production time, rush button, and the main option button.

Other screens allow the player to select individual dwellers to see their stats and their current actions. This particular dweller is out exploring the wasteland for gear and caps. The player can also opt to see all of the dwellers they have in a sort of roster list.  It displays the dwellers name, level, SPECIAL, happiness, current work status, and what their job is.

Screenshot_2015-08-16-07-58-30 Screenshot_2015-08-16-07-56-46

 

Strategy

The strategies in this game are very simple and yet somewhat unintuitive at the same time. Here are a few examples of strategies that will aid you while you are playing.

  • Complete challenges often.
    • Challenges give caps, but they can also provide the user with a lunch pail. The lunch pail can have many strong and rare items in it which can greatly benefit the player. Completing challenges eliminates them from the challenge board and allows new challenges to be drawn up. The more you complete, the higher your chances are of getting a challenge that rewards a lunch pail.
  • Stack characters in rooms during hazards.
    • When a fire breaks out or radroaches start invading your compound don’t just let the dwellers who are in the room handle it. Max out the number of dwellers in that area to help eliminate the problem as quickly as possible. You can also cycle out low health Dwellers with others to prevent unnecessary death and resurrection cost.
  • Don’t rush if the risk is over 40%.
    • It seems as if the percent calculations for rushing production are not completely fair. If possible avoid every using rush when the percent is over 40%. It is almost guaranteed to fail. That being said, a really good time to rush is right after a standard production cycle. The risk percent drops and the player can usually get a two for one bonus on production.
  • Assign dwellers to their best suited task.
    • Use the SPECIAL meters to gauge the players best task. If they have more strength than any other stat, then they should be manning the power generators. Each room has a letter identifier that shows what it requires to function. Pick the best characters for each room and you will be producing more resources faster. This can greatly ease the difficult of managing the systems of the game.
  • Build out not down
    • Before you proceed to dig your way down, you should focus on building as far horizontally as you possibly can. If you place similar rooms next to each other, they will merge into larger versions of themselves, increasing the amount of workers allowed in the room and increasing the productivity of the facility. If you caps permit, you should try merging level one facilities when placing them. Just make sure that you have the room maxed out before you expand. NOTE: In order for rooms to merge they must also be the same level. You cannot merge a level 1 kitchen with a level 2 kitchen, if they are adjacent and you make them both level 2, they will merge.
  • EXPLORE
    • You should always have at least one person out exploring the wasteland. This is a very effective way of getting gear and caps. Just be aware, the Dweller who is exploring takes half the time they spent exploring to return. If they were out for an hour, they will take 30 minutes to return. Once they start facing enemies they can’t kill, it is typically a good idea to turn around. Otherwise you will be paying to revive them, which is never fun.

 

Dynamics

Due to the nature of the game there are not a lot of dynamics that occur during gameplay.  One dynamic that is usable though is during a raid.  When a raid occurs the raiders will walk through the vault rooms sequentially.  They stop in any room that is occupied.  One simple tactic to ease the danger of a raider attack is to leave one person in each top level room, including the front door.  The raiders will stop in every room spending time there to loot and pillage.  If you move your attacking force into each room as the raiders switch rooms you can effectively force them to walk through each room twice, doubling the amount of damage you deal, which prevents them from reaching further down into the depths of your vault.

 

Additional Notes

This game serves its purpose as a reminder of the soon to be epic-ness of Fallout 4.

 

Similar Games

  • Tiny Tower
  • Tiny Tower: Vegas

 

Design Ideas

The gameplay itself does not inspire much in regards to design ideas but the menu system they utilized in the game does.  I have thought of a small game where the player just sends units out to retrieve items like the exploration in Fallout Shelter.  But with no real reasoning behind sending a person out the idea kind of flops.  The 2D and 3D art mix that they used in this game is inspiring though. Additionally, the menu system they created is absolutely astounding.  It gives me ideas for other similar types of menu systems.  I believe that iconic loading screens and menus help provide a sense of immersion to the player.  Using common assets like character faces, in game items, and other such things as button elements in a menu is a great way to subtlety introduce a character to an important aspect of the game without blatantly telling them “LOOK AT THIS”.

Game Journal – Triple Town

Designer/Developer: SpryFox

Platform: Web Browser

Release Date: October 2011

Game Location: http://www.gamefools.com/onlinegames/play/tripletown.html

 

Explanation

In this game, players combine groups of three shrubs to create more complex structures. Players attempt to build towns and villages using the combination of threes to upgrade structures. Additionally players have a point goal they need to reach in each stage before they can move on. Players are provided with different objects to drop on the screen that alter the way the game is played. For example players can be given a bear that moves around randomly on the screen blocking the player from dropping shrubs or upgrading certain objects. There are items like crystals that allow the player to receive a free combination bonus and there are also robot items that allow a player to clear a used spot on the game board. Between stages the player is able to purchase items and decorations from the store. These can be used to upgrade the player’s home (like Farmville).

 

Screenshot

The game has a lot going on within its play screen. Starting in the top left corner we see two buttons. The first is the players Capital City, next to it is the options button. Top center is the player’s current score and in the top right is the progress bar showing the percentage completed for the current level. It also shows the total amount of points needed to upgrade to the next town type. Below that is the player’s money followed by their inventory. Players can purchase items from the Item Store that will appear in the inventory slots. In the bottom left corner notice the combination formula. Depending on the spot that the player is currently highlighting and the type of tile they are holding a combination will be displayed. This is used as a player aid so that they don’t have to remember all of the combinations in the game. On to the main part of the screen; here in the left most 2/3 of the screen we see that the game consists of a 6×6 grid that has many different types of tiles on it. The tile being selected by the player is shown with the black border and darkened background.

Triple Town Screenshot

Strategy

  • Players should attempt to combine more than three things at a time to decrease clutter and optimize play space.
  • Using a crystal in the center of a cluster of similar items can save a lot of space and give the player a decent score boost.
  • Destroying pesky tiles with the robot can help the player get out of a tight spot.
  • Fencing bears into a small path can be a useful way of eliminating them without leaving gravestones behind (requires 3 or more bears).

Dynamics

  • Because players are forced to match three items to create one superior item the puzzle space gets reduced quickly, which steadily increases the level difficulty as the player progresses.
  • Each level requires a higher score than the last; this means more moves are required which further increases the difficulty.

Additional Notes

This game makes me think of how Farmville should have been. In other words, it should have been an actual game that one can play rather than a farming simulation, which, let’s face it, is hard pressed to be called a game, since all you really do is sit around and wait for crops to ripen or spam your friends to give you gifts (That may be too harsh a representation).

 

Similar Games

Bejeweled

Hexic

PuzzleQuest

FarmVille

 

Design Ideas

This game makes me think about what other types of game combinations would be fun together? A Racing MMO – FPS Farming – who knows? It also makes me wonder what types of gameplay can be taken and turned casual or puzzle based. What about a sort of chess/FPS/puzzle hybrid where the player has to match units against enemy units that have countering abilities. Like a sniper can kill a soldier, a soldier can kill a rocketeer, and a rocketeer can kill a sniper. Paper – Rock – Scissors style but tactical, and puzzle based. It would be a puzzle because the battlefield would be set up in such a way that the player would have to clear the field with a limited number of personnel.   Hey, it could be fun.

 

 

 

Game Journal – Train Lord

Designer: Jozef Chutka

Platform: Web Browser, Android

Date: May 7, 2014

Game Location: http://trainlord.com/

Explanation

In Train Lord the player purchases and operates trains based on real world railways as populated by MapQuest. Players purchase stations, rails, and trains and dispatch them to make money. Players can make rail sets after they have purchased train stations. A rail set allows the player to connect stations with track owned by them. After creating the sets the player can build train sets used to earn money by dispatching them on the owned rail sets. This is how players gain profit. The goal of the game is to be the richest Train Lord possible. Dispatching a train is actually calculated in real time and the player must wait for the train to arrive at its destination before they earn any money.
Screenshot

Train Lord utilizes a very simplistic UI. In the upper left corner are selector icons that represent from left to right: track, track set, stations, train sets, and dispatch accordingly. Selecting an icon causes the map on the right to highlight that selection. In this image the track option is selected and all train tracks are highlighted in black on the map. Below the selection buttons are the list of track pieces including their length and their price. The upper left hand corner of the map shows the player name and their current balance. Bottom left corner has a small chat window and the upper right corner has shortcuts and visualization options for the map which can assist in navigation.

Train Lord Screenshot

 

Strategy

A good strategy employed by many of the players in the game is to buy up prime track in the center of most major cities. This forces other players to pay the track owner for use of the track. Getting a head start at the beginning of a play season is critical to success in this game. When the ownership of the tracks resets it is very smart to purchase those tracks that are utilized the most as quick as possible. Players can also purchase small lengths of track to constantly send their trains on short runs in order to maintain a steady income. This can help offset the longer tracks a player may own that require more time to complete a successful run. Additionally building your tracks in large triangles or circles can aid immensely in avoiding collisions on your track. By always sending trains in a single direction the chances of a collision drop to almost zero, saving the player time and money.

 

Dynamics

  • Because the player is limited to real tracks it can be difficult to find a station that has not already been purchased.
  • Playing early in a game season is important so that you can have the opportunity to purchase stations and tracks strategically.
  • Purchasing track prevents other players from owning that track; it can be useful to purchase small segments of track in populated areas to increase your use profits.
  • Since all players are allowed to run trains in any direction, avoiding collisions can be an issue.

Similar Games: Railroad Tycoon Series – This should be obvious but both games are very similar in concept and play. The only true differences are that in the Tycoon series you get to choose where to place track and the game is single-player.

 

Design Ideas

Utilizing something like tracks in a game is an interesting concept. If the game were based on trails (hiking, biking, climbing) there could be a game in which the player must actually go out and physically play against the system. It could involve traveling a certain distance over a certain time on a certain path or it could even provide virtual scenarios while traveling down the path. Expanding a bit further, using a D&D style game that auto narrates as a player progresses down a set path could be a very interesting use of real life data/events applied to a game.

Game Journal – Corrypt

Designer: Michael Brough

Platform: Web Browser

Date: May 8, 2014

Game Location: http://mightyvision.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/corrypt.html

 

Explanation

Corrypt is a Sokoban (warehouse keeper) style puzzle game in which the players must retrieve mushrooms and solve box puzzles in order to progress. Initially players must simply solve movement puzzles that involve pushing or pulling boxes with the goal of reaching mushrooms. Throughout the game NPCs warn you about magic and ask for your help. After successfully saving one of the NPCs children you are introduced to a magician. He begins casting spells that affect the world around you. The spells the magician casts either remove or add tiles on the screen. Your character is also able to use magic at a price. As the game progresses the magic begins overrunning the world and eventually leads to what I would describe as a calamity. The game ends when the player has collected all 7 score gems as the magic finally overruns the world, causing more changes than the player can keep up with and it fades into nothingness.

 

 

Screenshot

Corrypt Screenshot

The purple headed figure in the center of the screen is the player character. Notice the mushroom near the top of the screen, these are collected and used for various reasons like purchasing magic (mostly) and helping other characters in the game (somewhat). The orange box next to the character are the puzzle elements that often block your path, in this image the box needs to be placed on the small blue circle adjacent of it. This will cause the blue blocks in the upper right to “disappear” or open would be a better term. This image is of an older build of the game. In the current build there is a counter on the right side of the screen (in the grey area) that shows the amount of mushrooms you have collected, your magic, and your point tiles if you have any. The bottom right shows the map of the area you are in and the two icons at the top right represent the backspace (undo) and escape (menu) options available to the character.

 

Strategy

  • Trial and Error
    • While this may not be a valid strategy in the typical sense it is in Corrypt. Players can undo changes they made by hitting Backspace (Delete on Mac). This resets the room they are currently in to its default position.   Allowing players to reset the screen provides them with a clean slate to begin from, thus allowing new movement combination to be used with the hope of successfully completing the puzzle.
  • Build Up
    • Players are provided more and more complex puzzles throughout the game. By adapting the lessons learned from previous puzzles players should be able to determine the correct solution to the current problem.
  • Use Magic
    • If a player is truly stuck they can resort to using magic to make a cheap hole in the area they desire. This can aid players by allowing them to circumvent areas they are struggling with.
  • Watch a Walkthrough

 

Dynamics

  • Because magic costs three mushrooms to purchase if a player uses it unwisely they can find themselves unable to proceed. Using magic can also be a double edged sword. While it may make a specific puzzle simpler, it can also unexpectedly increase the difficulty of another puzzle.
  • Because the “magic effect” can occur anytime you enter a room that is new, contains a new item, or has a magician in it the game can become extremely frustrating in a short amount of time.
  • The character pushes and pulls boxes adjacent to it. This can cause problems when a player only wants to walk away from the boxes and increases the complexity of what looks to be a simple puzzle.
  • Collecting score gems destabilizes the world as evident in the screen and in the music. This provides the player with the sensation that they may have just done something they shouldn’t have.

 

Additional Notes

For me the way the world ends after using magic had significance to it. It made if feel like the designer was trying to convey the concept of life itself. If we continually alter everything around us eventually there will be nothing left. I also liked the idea of having a game world become more or less explore able depending on user based decisions as well as scripted events. This is an interesting concept that I applied in my final project game in Programming Fundamentals, the player was able to destroy certain walls so that they could progress, but radiation would leak out sometimes blocking a path requiring the player to walk through it to go back, this would lower your health. Players had to think about their next move carefully in order to make it to the exit successfully.

 

Similar Games

Yellow Out – Move vehicles in a parking area to provide a way for the yellow car to drive out.

Sokoban – The original warehouse keeper. Push boxes onto the designated positions in order to progress. Playable at: http://sokoban.info/

 

Design Ideas

I have actually used the idea of this style of game to produce some similar box pushing games myself. Though they are nothing in comparison to the polish and complexity of the games presented here I was proud of it. Relating it to other games though may prove to be an interesting concept. Imagine a board game, maybe a dungeon crawler in which you have to find a key to exit the dungeon. The key could be behind a box puzzle and the player would need to solve the box puzzle while fighting monsters (and survive) in order to exit the dungeon.

Game Journal – Elite: Dangerous

Title: Elite: Dangerous

Developer: Frontier Developments

Original Release Date: December 16, 2014

Location: https://www.elitedangerous.com/

Mechanics and Explanation

Elite: Dangerous is a space adventure exploration game where the player is free to explore scale replica of the Milky Way galaxy consisting of 400 billion unique star systems. The game doesn’t have much of a story to speak of but that is fine because it quite frankly doesn’t need one. Players have 100% freedom in the game and may fight, trade, or explore to their heart’s content. What little story there is mainly consists of space station requests taking the player to new star systems resulting in them learning about the current system and the previous system through the messages they receive from NPCs they encounter while on their travels. Player pilot a ship through space seeking combat, exploring star systems, completing missions for space stations, and trading for profit. The player is also free to engage in military operations and pirating if they so desire. The ships are controlled using a somewhat complicated set of key and mouse inputs thought the player is provided with the option to use a flight stick if they desire. The cockpit of the ship presents the player with myriad information. Type6_CockpitMoving from left to right, top to bottom, the player is first presented with their communication panel (closed in this picture) and then their information panel (again closed in this image. They are then presented with their target data next to a target image (the small blue planet). Next to the target data is a small circle with a white dot in it. That is an orientation gauge that helps the player align with their target in 3D space. In the center of the screen is the radar. It displays all contacts in 3D space within sensor range. On the left side of the radar is the player ship’s heat gauge. To the right of the radar is the throttle and speed indicator. To the right of that is the players shield and hull display. The blue rings are the players shield and the orange bar below it is their hull integrity. The three vertical orange bars to the right of the player ship status display is the ship power settings. The power settings consist of System, Engine, and Weapons in that order. Finally to the far right is the player’s fuel gauge and their cargo, landing gear, and mag lock indicators. All of this is just the basic interface the player uses on an ongoing basis. Additional panels are found on the far left and far right of the main screen which contain much greater detail and functionality for the player. A major part of the game is managing and mastering the dozens of systems involved with controlling the player ship. 447493610A secondary goal of the game is mastering the flight controls of the ships in the game. Each ship handles differently from the next. The game also allows players to choose from two methods of flight. Assisted flight aids the player in controlling the ship by forcing it to handle similar to an airplane. Unassisted flight allows the player to fly their ship with 6 axis – 360 degree freedom. While unassisted the player ship will retain all momentum applied to it just as a true spacecraft would. Unassisted flight allows the pilot with some freedom that assisted mode does not such as rotating 180 degrees while maintaining forward momentum. Control of the player ship is a core mechanic of the game. In Elite: Dangerous if a player’s ship is destroyed it is gone forever. Players must use the credits they earned while playing to either re-purchase a similar ship or settle for the starting ship which is available for free but is not great at any specific task. Players are also given the option of taking out a loan with the game to purchase a ship similar to their destroyed ship. The player will have a fee deducted from their earnings automatically every time they are LEGALLY paid. Another very interesting mechanic of the game is the bounty system. Player who engage in hostile actions against other players earn wanted status. Wanted status makes system authorities hostile to the player until they have either paid off their debt or they have been destroyed. The interesting thing is that players can see the wanted board while they are in a space station and they are informed of the player’s current bounty and their last known location in space. This leads to some intense player vs player combat situations.

Player Decisions

Elite-Dangerous-Loadout-Eagle-02Elite: Dangerous is almost completely decision based. The amount of decisions available to the player are almost endless. The player sets their own goals in the game. They determine if they want to participate in the universe in a legal and respectable manner or in an illegal hostile manner. After making that decision players need to determine what they need to do to reach those goals. Typically this starts out with making money to purchase a different ship and then outfitting that ship with the proper equipment for the task. elite_dangerous_05062015_8After a player has determined what they want to do in the game they typically search for a sector in the galaxy that allows them to engage in their preferred method of play with impunity. Determining a solar system or solar systems to operate out of is a major decision. Most of the sectors are controlled by a major governmental faction that polices its sectors vigilantly. Players who engage in unauthorized combat in protected sectors run the risk of being intercepted by the authorities in the area. Because of this, players who decide to engage in pirating typically hang out in sectors that are out of the jurisdiction of the major powers.

 

Elite_Dangerous32_2015_04_22_23_03_44_39Players are responsible for starting their ships, managing power, managing weapon systems, landing, docking, equipping, upgrading, painting and flying their ships, choosing a faction, associating with a government, engaging with an interstellar allegiance, increasing or decreasing their influence, managing their state affiliation and handling relationships with all of the major and minor entities within the game. Players also have to choose a ship that is appropriate for their intentions. Some ships are better for combat while others are good for transporting large amounts of goods. One more decision to be made by players thatUnique is of merit is the type of influence they wish to have on the galaxy. If players decide to spend their time exploring the galaxy they will be rewarded with credits from the Universal Cartographers for their exploration data. If the player is the first one to ever visit a solar system, explore it, and return the data to a space station that accepts cartographic data then they are also provided with a unique reward. Their name becomes permanently associated with the systems they discovered.

Pacing, Flow, and Interest Curves

Because the game’s pace is largely determined by the player’s actions it is tough to decipher and translate it into a quantifiable value. Therefore I used my own experiences with the game to determine the values for the chart below. Due to the nature of the game the chart only reflects my experience and will likely be invalid for almost any other player. Some players will see peaks in their interest for things like trading or exploring but I prefer combat situations.

Interest is initially provoked by the startup of the game. The player is introduced to the cockpit and its many controls via a short tutorial during which time the player runs systems checks on their ship, powers it up, and launches from the docking bay for the very first time. Player interest quickly drops as they begin learning the complicated and varied controls for their ship. The steep learning curve associated with the controls is not quite enough to force a player to quit but it can be very frustrating. Interest slowly increases as the player becomes comfortable with the basic controls and begins flying for the first time. As the player begins exploring and engages their frame shit drive for the first time their interest begins to quickly rise. newdockThe player is being bombarded by some amazing visuals, the vastness of the universe, and some very delicious music during their first exploratory flight. After learning the basic flight and exploration controls the player is introduced to combat. Interest in the game peaks for a player like me here since combat is the pinnacle of fun. After the player has successfully dispatched their first foe they have a greater understanding of the controls of their ship and their own abilities. The player is then faced with the task of docking their ship, on their own. The final task is difficult enough to keep the player’s interest high enough that they are willing to embark again on another adventure through the Milky Way.

The learning curve of the game starts out fairly steep. It then levels out for a while and again rises when the player experiences combat for the first time. The difficulty increases yet again as the player learns to dock, which in itself can be daunting the first time a player attempts it since the player can and will die if they do not dock properly.

Since the game in its current state does not have a true storyline it is difficult to determine the pace of the game. The pace in the chart above is equivalent to my perceived pace of the game during a typical play session.

EDCharts

 

The flow of the game follows a very well defined flow channel. The ship controls initially increase difficulty followed by another slight increase in difficulty when the player begins flying the ship. When traveling to the next location the player activates their frame shift drive. The game takes over for a short period of time allowing the player to relax. Before boredom sets in the player reaches their destination and begins manually flying again increasing difficulty and allowing the player to practice the skills they have mastered. The player will always travel to a new area when seeking combat resulting in a period of relaxation before they are incited by combat.

Game Journal – Depression Quest

Designers: Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, Isaac Schankler

Platform: Web Browser, Steam

Release Date: Feb 14, 2013

Game Location: http://www.depressionquest.com/dqfinal.html

 

Explanation

Depression Quest is a click through adventure in which the player lives as a person suffering from depression. The game is almost completely text based with a couple images and sound effects smattered throughout to provide a sense of being. Players navigate the game through predefined answers usually to questions given by other characters in the story. As the player makes decisions the options available to the player can increase or decrease but there are usually one or more options that are completely out of the question. The blocked options are the ones that the player would likely want to choose but the character literally cannot bring their self to that solution no matter how bad they want to. As the player progresses a text box on the bottom of the page explains the level of depression your avatar is experiencing. The goal of the game is not just to make it to the end, but to keep your avatar alive. As you play and coping options begin to become increasingly sparse and the player is forced to make decisions they may not want to. Eventually the player may end up running out of options, which does not seem to end well for the player’s avatar.

 

Screenshot

Depression Quest Screenshot

Notice the three grey bars at the bottom of the screen. These represent your avatar’s level of depression, whether a therapist is being seen or not, and if medication is being taken. The messages in the three boxes explain exactly how depressed the character is feeling and what they are struggling with. It also shows how well sessions with a therapist are going and how the avatar feels towards the drugs that are being used to treat them, if any. The pictures in the top center of the page change depending on what situation the player is in. The keyboard as seen here is representative of the character being in front of his computer. The game also includes music and sound effects that are associated with the picture being shown. The left side of the screen always has a link to restart the game in case you get stuck or cannot continue on. When options are available to the player they appear as the blue text seen near the bottom of the screen. The red text has been struck-through and is not available for selection. Players make decisions by clicking on the desired response in blue. Additionally throughout the text players may see nouns that are blue. These allow the player to gain additional information about the items without affecting the progression of the game. Clicking on any blue text acts as a link and takes the player to the appropriate part of the story.

 

 

Strategy

  • Determine the path of positive interaction
    • The player needs to determine what the best course of action for the avatar is at any given moment. This is usually the option that places the avatar in a situation where they need to interact with others. Simply put, avoid all answers that involve allowing the player to be alone with his self or to interact with his mother (mostly) as she is an antagonist in the game.
  • Seek help
    • Choosing the options that lead to seeing a therapist and utilizing medication as soon as possible drastically increases the chances of the player successfully completing the game.
  • Stick with your girl
    • The girlfriend is a rock of positive emotions that the player can latch onto to keep their head above water. Almost any positive option regarding the girlfriend will result in a better outcome for he player.
  • Treat it like real life
    • Players can successfully navigate the game by treating it like it is truly happening to them and making logical decisions. That being said it can be treated like a real life depression problem and will benefit from ideas and practices like the ones provided by Hannah Myers in the article “How to Battle Depression Naturally” located here: http://www.livestrong.com/article/35091-battle-depression-naturally/

 

Dynamics

  • Because options available to the player depend on the avatars mental health the game may end up making decision for you.
  • Because it is a web game, players can use the back button to “redo” their decisions.

Additional Notes

This game really hit home for me. It reminded me of some recent life changing events that occurred within my family and really opened my eyes to the signs that were there but were misread by my family members and myself. I think games like this are extremely important for others to experience so that they can have a sense of what it feels like to be extremely depressed. Knowing the signs and what help can be done can literally save lives.

 

Similar Games

Passage – A game where the player walks through their life and ages as it progresses. There is not true point to the game only the inevitability of death. Passage can be found here: http://www.kongregate.com/games/raitendo/passage-in-10-seconds

 

Design Ideas

It gives me the idea for a similar game depicting what it is like to live with rage, PTSD, or any form of psychological trauma that results in a person acting out in unexpected ways. Knowing the trials and tribulations that a person who is mentally ill goes through could go far regarding understanding of and the appropriate treatment for said problem.