Game Journal – A Force More Powerful

Designer: Ivan Morovic

Platform: PC

Date: May 8, 2014

 

Explanation

A Force More Powerful is a simulation about nonviolent conflict. The player attempts to solve 10 different real world scenarios by using nonviolent tactics in an attempt to sway the government or political parties of the local government into affecting positive change. The goal of the game is to win civil liberties for the people, things like earning human rights, removing corrupt regimes/dictators, and earning rights for minorities and women. Almost the entire game takes place within a notebook in which the player makes strategies with which to affect change. Each scenario has specific goals that the player must achieve to complete the scenario successfully. The strategies that a player uses can either work successfully, rallying people to your cause or they can backfire which can have adverse effects on the mission.

 

Screenshot

AFMP SS1

The notebook in the picture is where a player selects the tactic they wish to use. Notice that the options available to the player range from attacking to communicating. The right side of the page shows a detailed description of the action that has been selected. The tactics available depend on the tactician selected which is shown at the bottom of the screen. In this example the tactician is Nadia and one of her tactics is to organize a concert to increase awareness of the issue at hand. Notice that the tactic may cost money and time.

AFMP SS2This affects the conflict and the actions taken significantly as players cannot take action if they have to little of either. The second image shows a small cut scene of the action that was selected. This shows the people rallying at the concert but also shows that the support is relatively low as the amount of people is fairly sparse. Cut scenes are important in this game as they progress the situation by providing the player with a sense of achievement for all of their planning. But they can also go wrong. Some cut scenes will show the organizers being attacked or worse going wild and starting riots of their own volition. Here the concert is small, but peaceful.

 

Strategy

  • Timing is Everything
    • Using the right tactic at the right time is important in this game. If the population is already on alert using the wrong tactic can result in riots or military presence. Staging a concert for example while emotions are running high is likely to result in a violent conflict, which the player it attempting to avoid if at all possible.
  • Choosing the right activist
    • Players have a range of organizers (activists) to choose from. But not all activists are created equal. Some are overly passive and rely on Kum-Ba-Ya tactics resulting in no significant progress. Others are overly aggressive attempting to attack the delivery of supplies to the government in attempt to slow their progression. Choosing the activist that utilizes right amount of force without being violent is critical.

Dynamics

  • Players are restricted to the strategies of their selected activists. This can turn a peaceful organization into a full on riot.
  • Tactics are limited by the cash a resistance organization has, making every decision a critical one.

Additional Notes

I really appreciate the way that this game takes a Sim-City/Sims approach to broach the topic of oppression and non-violent conflict. The concept is well laid out and the message it sends is very clear. Players can learn how to be active and aggressive with their actions without becoming violent. Seeing the results your decisions produce has a strong lasting impact on the player and reiterates the struggle that real people go through in similar situations around the globe.

 

Similar Games

People Power – This game forces the player into position as the leader of a popular movement. Players use nonviolent strategies as they battle the police, armies, bureaucracy, and the media. It is an evolution of A Force More Powerful and was created using feedback from the prior game.

 

Design Ideas

This game raises interesting ideas about developing more games based on real world conflict and adverse situations ideas would be games involving the survival of the holocaust for instance, living through the battle of Normandy, living with prejudice, or just surviving with nothing. Though some games like this exist, I believe making an example of the past so that players can learn for the future is an important concept and should be utilized more often. I don’t believe that obscuring the past and draping it with a cover is conducive to the evolution of people. With the increased attention games are receiving in today’s society it may one day become the medium of choice to teach difficult to grasp concepts to those who would otherwise never be exposed to them.

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Game Journal – StarCraft 2

Designer/Developer: Blizzard Entertainment

Platform: PC

Date: May 29, 2014 (Diary published on June 8, 2015)

 

Explanation

StarCraft II is a real-time strategy game in which players compete against each other for control over resources and attempt to eliminate the enemy player’s forces. In the game players must create and manage armies by gathering minerals and building supply depots. A player’s army maxes out at 200 supply and each unit takes a different amount of supply to place on the battlefield. In addition each unit has a build time that must be completed, with enough supply available, before the unit will be available for use. Players start the game with workers that simply gather resources and construct buildings. Once a specific type of building is completed players can begin developing their military force. For example: If a player builds a barracks then after it is complete they will have the ability to train marines from the barracks. This applies to every unit in the game. Each unit has a corresponding building that must be completed before they can be built. Players can expand their force by gathering additional resources from nearby nodes but the nodes on each map are limited. Players face the difficult decision of expanding and increasing their forces or attacking in hopes of winning. The tradeoff comes when you realize that the longer you wait the stronger the enemy is becoming as well. Players must also make game changing decisions in regards as to which units to create. Each unit in the game has a counter unit and if a player does not see it coming they will be out of the match before it has even begun. Additionally certain units have special abilities that the player must manage, making the overall gameplay very emergent and unpredictable. The outcome of a game can be made by a single decision or by a simple error at any point in the battle.

 

Screenshot

SC Screenshot

StarCraft II has a fairly simplistic interface for a game that is so complex. The majority of the screen is the play area. In the upper right corner of the screen you can see the mineral count (blue crystals) followed by the gas count (green barrel) and finally the supply (pylon). In the extreme top right corner is the social panel where players can check on friend status and communicate with others outside of the game. In the bottom right corner we see the status panel. The panel shows the options available to the player in regard to the currently selected group, unit, or building. Above and to the right of the action panel going from right to left is the menu button, used for changing settings, the friend list, and the help button. Directly to the left of the action panel is a character image that represents the currently selected unit or building. The large panel in the bottom center of the screen is the selection panel. This panel shows all units, buildings, or groups that are currently being directly controlled by the player. It also displays the unit’s health and status information. Notice the three small boxes attached to the top left corner of the selection panel. These are groups created by the user that can be toggled through for quick access. In the bottom left corner is the mini-map of the current stage. Green units on the mini-map are friendly units while red ones are enemy units. Around the map starting in the top left and moving clockwise are the quick action keys, the play clock, ping (concentric circles), terrain (mountain button), and diplomacy button (handshake symbol). These allow the player to alter the mini-map for things like color-blindness and friendly/unfriendly unit coloring.

 

Strategy

There are far too many strategies to name them all and they are constantly evolving because of the emergent quality of the game. Therefore I will mention the most commonly known and simplest strategies.

  • Rushing
    • Rushing involves the player building a small amount of units in a very short amount of time. The player then attacks their opponent in hopes of getting an early kill. This is a huge tradeoff because if the enemy player defends the attack they will have a better economy usually resulting in a loss for the rusher.
  • Turtling
    • This is the opposite of rushing. A turtling opponent barricades themselves into their own base. If the enemy can’t successfully break the opponent’s barricade they will lose units to their defenses eventually leading to a loss for the attacking player. This too can be a tradeoff strategy. If an opponent barricades themselves in too early they run the risk of letting the opponent expand throughout the map, gaining resources that will eventually allow them to win.
  • Harassing
    • This strategy involves using small amounts of units to make tactical strikes at the enemy’s infrastructure. An example would be to use flying units to kill off all of the enemy’s workers resulting in a stale economy and eventual loss for the player. This type of strategy requires a lot of focus on the harasser’s part and can leave them blind to a counterattack.

 

Dynamics

  • Because each map has a limited amount of resources players are forced to fight at some point in the game, it is inevitable.
  • Because the strategies in the game are only limited by the imagination of your opponent, gameplay is constantly evolving and counter strategies are constantly being created to defeat the current “meta-play”.

Additional Notes

I used to play this game competitively; I probably should pick it up again. I forgot how much fun and how challenging it can be.

 

Similar Games

Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne

Clash of Clans

Evolution RTS

League of Legends

Chess

 

Design Ideas

This game spawns many different game ideas. Taking the emergent aspect of the gameplay and applying it to other genres would be a boon to whoever can develop something like that. For example, I would love to see an espionage game where players go head to head trying to steal information from each other. The players could take turns in a best of 3 type of situation. I don’t know if a top-down RTS style game or a full 3D game would be better for this, but it would definitely be interesting to see.

Game Journal – Gunpoint

Designer/Developer: Suspicious Developments

Platform: PC

Date: May 23, 2014

 

Explanation

In Gunpoint player take the role of a private investigator who has been hired to find a murderer. Players must infiltrate buildings in an attempt to retrieve secret documents, video tapes, email correspondence, and much more. As the game progresses the player is able to purchase tools to aid them in their endeavor. The player is able to perform acrobatics in the form of jumping, clinging to walls and ceilings, and tackling. Players can, and must, also rewire the electronics in certain buildings in order to proceed. This can be done in multiple ways. Players can wire light switches to devices like elevators, doors, security cameras, and even enemies weapons. As the player progresses they begin facing increasingly complex security systems. Eventually the player cannot simply hotwire anything they feel like and must bypass additional security systems to gain access to subsequent systems. The player faces the challenge of using the guards in buildings as pawns and they must also figure out how to gain access to closed circuit systems. In addition to the main objective in every mission there are also sub objectives that increase or decrease your reputation with your clients. Some clients will want you to avoid violence completely during a mission while others will want no witnesses left alive. Since Gunpoint is an espionage game the player is able to complete missions without ever being detected if they desire.

 

Screenshot

Explain the screenshots and all of the relevant information on them.

Gunpoint gameplay

Figure 1. Tackling a security guard out of a 3rd story window is pretty typical.

Gunpoint gameplay 2

Figure 2. Crosslink allows players to rewire the level.

 

Strategy

  • Utilizing the crosslink can have some amusing and irritating consequences. Try linking multiple things together to create automated systems that do the work for you.
  • Players can turn off lights to draw a security guard’s attention. This is very useful for ambushing them and knocking them out.
  • Buff guards can’t be pounced on or killed with doors, try locking them in a room and removing their access to the hand scanner on the door, otherwise, they can be killed with a shorted out light switch.
  • Sound detectors and movement detectors can be used to link systems of different colors together, not directly, but it is possible.

 

Dynamics

  • Since players do not have an ability to attract guards other than being seen (which usually results in death) sometimes taking out a certain guard can completely break the level.

Notes

The game could benefit from some sort of attraction ability, like knocking on a wall. Sometimes it seems that the levels are designed in such a way that if the player takes out certain guards the level is unable to be completed, this can be frustrating since there is no way to restart a level unless the player dies. If all guards are dead/disabled and the player cannot progress without one alive, they have to abandon the level (which can only be done twice). Providing the player with an option in the menu to restart a level would be beneficial. I found the jumping charge-up mechanic to be clunky at first but once it was fully upgraded I found it to be significantly more useful. Maybe players should just have fully charged jumps all the time and make the distance relative to the suit upgrade only.

 

Similar Games

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

Metal Gear Solid

Dishonored

 

Design Ideas