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”.

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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 – 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.

Game Journal – Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX)

Designer/Developer: Max Keiser and Michael Burns / HSX

Platform: Web Browser

Original Entry Date: May 6, 2014 – May 7, 2014

Game Location: http://www.hsx.com/

 

Explanation

The Hollywood Stock Exchange is a multiplayer online virtual stock market in which players buy and trade stocks in actors, movies, TV shows, and other entertainment based stocks. Players use virtual money called Hollywood Dollars (H$) to trade their stock with. Players start with 2 million H$ and can buy stocks in whatever they desire. Purchasing a stock occurs when a player chooses either the trade button next to a stock or the buy button within the stock detail screen. Purchasing a stock requires players to select an amount they wish to purchase and the value of the purchased stocks is removed from the player’s cash total. This places the stock in the player’s portfolio for quick and easy monitoring. Selling is the same. The rules for the game are simple: Buy and Sell whatever pleases you. The point of the game is simple too; make as much money as possible.

 

Screenshot

HSX SS1
This screenshot as seen from a multiple monitor point of view shows the basic game screen available to the player. The left side shows the players Portfolio which contains all of the purchase and sale information that the player has performed. It also shows the daily gain and loss of value for any of the purchased stocks. On this screen players can check their trade history, orders, virtual banking history, leaderboards, net worth history, and their personal profile. If a player selects a stock from the list they are sent to a page similar to the one on the right, which is for the top MOVIESTOCK security named ECHO. On this screen the player can see a chart representing the current trading value of the stock for that particular security. Below the graph is a chart that shows the High and Low trading values for week, month, season, and year. It also contains information about the movie like the distributor, director, cast, and even the trailer for the movie if it is yet to be released like in the example above.

Strategy

Strategy in this game is extremely complex. It mirrors the difficulty of the real stock market. But there are still strategies that can be used to affect gain and profit for the player.

  • Buying
    • Buying stock on movies that are hyped is a good way to earn cash. The further out (lower the stock costs) the better. Purchasing stock at a lower cost is almost always a better idea than waiting for it to inflate exponentially just to crash on opening weekend.
  • Selling
    • This takes practice but simply put selling is where you make your profit. If a stock has risen in value since you purchased it selling will gain you your money back plus that additional revenue. That being said, waiting to sell is usually a good idea while stock price is climbing, but can also break you if everyone else sells out beneath you.
  • Short
    • Taking a short is similar to profiting on somebody’s failure. If you believe a movie is overhyped or destined to fail then taking a short out on it is a good idea. You will profit from the crash of the film.
  • Cover
    • Covering, simply put is selling your shorts after they have earned you money.
  • Arman Khodaei has more tips on when to sell and how to earn H$ in the article located here: http://www.ehow.com/how_6196472_play-hsx.html

 

Dynamics

  • Because the game data is populated by the players, anticipating what a stock will do is near to impossible.
  • Scoring is based on the amount earned over the players starting 2 million H$. Therefore, getting on the scoreboard requires players to really understand what they are doing and earn H$. This can be frustrating for beginning players.
  • Because the stock market updates and resets between midnight and 2 AM, there is a lot of time to do research, but not much else. There seems to be a lot of down time in this game.

 

Similar Games

Virtual Stock Exchange (VSG), the Stock Market Game (SMG), the World of Warcraft Auction House. Both VSG and SMG are clones of the stock market. They allow players to dabble in economics without putting real money up while learning, similar to HSX. HSX reminds me of the auction house in World of Warcraft because it is a system of supply and demand run by the players. People can flood the market with an item which drives down the price of it much like flooding a stock will lead to many people selling the stock, thus driving the price of it down eventually. Both games require the player to know when to buy and when to sell in order to affect profit.

 

Design Ideas

It may be interesting to apply a stock market type of situation to an MMO style game along with the standard auction house mechanics. This could really lead to an interesting economy within a virtual world by allowing players greater choice in their method of play and mode of earning income.