Greg's Design Blog

A collection of posts by game designer Gregory Carslaw, including mirrors of all of his blogs maintained for particular projects. A complete index of posts can be found here:
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A mini project

United Kingdom
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Original Post

My situation has changed a little bit, I'm temporarily only working for an hour a day or so while I wait for 404 to get made. Once that's done I can go back to full time to see Wizard Academy through to completion, but in the meantime I find myself with a lot of time on my hands. Last weekend a friend at the fetish market gave me a suggestion for a mini-project that a colleague has subsequently described as "Dangerous, misguided and fun". I may be forced to give it a shot.

My love for live action games is well known, I love Slingshot's street games and was really sad that 2.8 hours didn't do so well in my home city last time around. I spend more time thinking about Empire than is healthy (which I gather is slightly below average for Empire players). I backed Witness Protection on Kickstarter and have been trying to organise games more weekends than not recently.

So when someone says to me "There's a big park not far from here, you should orchestrate a Hunger Games style deathmatch." my only objection is that I preferred Battle Royale. There are a whole bunch of challenges to this that I can't stop thinking about while I'm just trying to walk places, get to sleep or otherwise get on with life. It's probably good excercise as a game designer to think about them.

In a nutshell the goal is to get a bunch of people to go to a forest, run them through some training, give them a chance to practice, show off their skill and make secret alliances with each other. Release them into the wilderness to simulate killing each other and eventually crown a victor at the end of the day. Along the way everyone should have fun.

Let's start right now! To the train station! Next stop: Murdertown.

Oh, wait, I was meant to be thinking about how the game could be designed so that it wouldn't suck. Some time to stop and think would be a good idea, what might go wrong and stop this being fun and how could the game be designed to avoid it? Let's start with the worst case scenario's and work our way down the list:

Someone could be injured or killed

This seems pretty important to avoid. There are a whole bunch of ways it could happen:

A legal in game kill results in an illegal out of game kill (or injury)
Players start doing real fighting to deliver their fake kills (e.g. dragging someone to the floor by their hair so that they don't miss with their last nerf dart)
A member of the public thinks they're witnessing a real attack and decides to help.
Someone runs off a real cliff in an attempt to evade a fake knife.
Someone decides that climbing or swimming will offer a tactical advantage and isn't as good at those activities as they believed.

Someone gets arrested, sued or otherwise in trouble with the law

Most of the cases above will probably involve this, but in addition there's a need to clearly signal what level of risk players accept and how that influences design. There's also a need to avoid "Players get spotted and someone calls the police." More boring but still necessary issues involve getting permission from the people who own the land, making sure that the finances involved in getting equipment together and taking cash to pay for that don't cause any bother.

Most of these don't affect game design, but there could be some odd interactions. For instance if the decision was made to allow nerf weaponry then what happens to the spent darts? Some will be retrieved, but getting them all back requires a more comprehensive approach. Having a plan of action that involves the area being clean and free of litter at the end of the day is going to make it easier to secure permission to do this in the first place, so that might influence legal weapons and usage.

Stuff might get lost or broken

Some of the things we might use are expensive. Nerf weapons can be, typical LARP weapons and armour certainly are. Costumes could be too.

I'd also be tempted to have people running around with cameras, that'd be pretty sweet, especially if we could work out a way to send what they're seeing to some centralised "cool place for eliminated players to watch from" - but that'd get really expensive really quickly.

People don't like having their expensive things broken and the format of the game means that there's no way that everyone could be permitted to bring their own equipment and use it. There's also the possibility that things will be deployed by being hidden in the environment, how does that happen? How is it retrieved if not found in game? What happens if a player moves it and it's never seen again?

People Might be Bored

The above points are all more important, but feel like perquisites to being able to organise a game at all. This is the one that I find crops up most often and dominates my thinking.

What happens if a player is eliminated early on?
What happens if the players can't find each other?
What happens if the dominant strategy is conflict avoidance or something else dull?

Also what about the people running the game? If refs are required how many do you have and what has to happen to make that a worthwhile experience?

Next Week On...

Answers to some of these questions are starting to coalesce. I'm getting to the point that I might start poking people and see if I can find a score of people who wouldn't mind putting, say ~£20 each, into a kitty to get enough stuff to start playtesting and pushing towards making this game a reality. Next week I'll write about how I've approached some of these challenges and see if anything interesting has dropped out, either for this game or in general game design practice.

Until then have fun and try not to kill anyone
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