Together We Defend, A Cooperative Crowd Game Prototype

I’ve made prototypes for local multiplayer games with 10+ people before – some very successfully, some less so, but always with great pleasure. There is something magical about a crowd of people all playing the same game together. You don’t just need to design good mechanics though – the game should balance well with a few or with a lot of people, which is also hard to test because you always need a crowd. Another problem is input: While yelling with varying volume in Screamy Bird is tremendously fun, it is a bit limited control-wise. Unless your crowd is very small, giving everyone a gamepad is not an option. But these days, most people have a smartphone with a web browser, and luckily, platforms like AirConsole and HappyFunTimes make using these as controllers extremly easy!

My goal was to make a game where people have to cooperate and that scales well with different amounts of players. To ensure cooperation, the game would feature two radically asymmetric roles: the Shooter, which can attack but dies to a single hit, and the Defender, which has no offensive capabilities, but whose shield can absorb any amount of damage. In the center of the games are the Cores which the players have to defend. Enemies come in from all around the screen and try to destroy the players and the Cores, whatever is nearest. The enemies’ projectiles are heat-seeking – they will always hit something, so without the Defenders, the Core and the Shooters will be destroyed rather sooner than later; but without the Shooters, the defenders could not destroy a single enemy.

This was a jam game done in about 12 hours and everyone around me was busy, so I there was no way I could balance it properly. I solved that dilemma by assuming the role of the game master: I would sit at the keyboard and spawn enemies.

Apart from troublesome connection problems, the game worked rather well for a jam game and the crowd loved it. Here is a video of the presentation:

Together We Defend, A Cooperative Crowd Game Prototype

The video was filmed by Iwan Gabovitch and the sound effects are from the fabulous Universal Sound Effects which I can very much recommend.

Connection problems aside, I am very content with how the mechanics worked out and I think there is a lot of potential there. I will probably revisit this prototype some day and make a proper game out of it.

Critical Hit 2015: (un)done

Critical Hit 2015, the incubator for experimental wearable games that I’m currently taking part in, is still going strong. After Fruit Fever, we formed new teams to do our second big prototype. This time we wanted to do a theatrical experience with a non-linear story.

After the brainstorming, we came up with (un)done, a story about love and break-up. Two players face each other, wearing ponchos with strings dangling from them. When they tie a string together, they hear a positive memory from the couple’s relationship, like the first date or kiss, moving in together or getting a pet. When they open a knot instead, a sad memory will play: a fight, a thing they hate about each other or just drifting apart. By players tying und untying different strings (and with the help of a little randomness), the story that unfolds is always different.

Additionally, a woven screen on which generative art is projected separates the players from an audience. The more strings are tied, the more colorful and intricate the projected art becomes; when knots are opened, the projection is slowly erased again. In the end, the projection is blank again and nothing remains but the memory of what once was there.

This project was a lot of fun and very interesting. I never made a theatrical experience before – and additionally, I wanted to learn how to deal with electronics and soldering and expand my knowledge about the Arduino. Thanks to my team and all the helpful other participants and mentors at Critical Hit that was a big success!

And now I proudly present:

FullSizeRender2_400x313

Step in the shoes of a couple as they meet,
fall in love, fight, and fall apart again.

Embody a relationship as you tie and
untie yourself with the other player, in:

(un)done, an intimate non-linear audio game
made at Critical Hit 2015!

(un)done, an intimate non-linear audio game (Critical Hit 2015)

 

Credits:

This project was made possible through the Technoculture, Art and Games Research Center’s Critical Hit: Games Collaboratory and the support of Concordia University and Dawson College and financial contribution of the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie.

Critical Hit 2015: Speedmaking (3 games in 30 minutes)

One of our creative exercises, lead by Jorge Lopes Ramos, was to make 3 games in 10 minutes each with a set of utensils. As if making a game in such a short time was not hard enough, he added another restriction: We could not give direct instructions to the group who would play our game afterwards. Instead, we should come up with a more creative way to instruct them.

With 16 participants making 3 games in groups of 4, we had a lot of different approaches.

Critical Hit 2015: Fruit Fever (Week 2)

Last week we finished the third week of Critical Hit 2015 in Montreal, an incubator for experimental wearable games! We continued our game from the week before about eating foodstuff to balance your health values:

The player is ill – their heart rate, body temperature and digestion are either two high or too low – and so the player tries to get healthy by eating foodstuffs. Each foodstuff raises or lowers one or two of the aforementioned properties. (To keep it replayable, those effects are randomly decided at the start of each round.) It’s a logic puzzle: The player has to find out what each foodstuff does by eating them, then look at the current status on their apron, and in the end figure out which foodstuffs to eat to get healthy.

The core concept didn’t change much except going from multi- to singleplayer – this week was mostly about finishing the hardware (last week we only had a digital prototype to test with) and figuring out how to teach the game to new players.

We came up with two ways:

  1. Starting simple, upping the difficulty: First there is only “temperature slider and 2 foodstuffs”, then there is “temperature + heart and 3 foodstuffs” and finally we get to “temperature + heart + stomach and all 4 foodstuffs”.
  2. Using a screen which displays hints for the effect of all 4 foodstuffs in the beginning (“Kiwi: -1 temperature”, etc.) and then reducing the amount of hints by one every round.

In the end, we couldn’t decide which one we prefer and implemented both: One version self-sufficent with just the apron/fork/Arduino, and one version with an additional screen.

And now, without further ado…

FF

Malnutrition is making you sick.
Luckily, you have found some healthy-looking
food, but you don’t know what it does yet.

Pick up your fork and watch as what you eat changes
your body and figure out the right combination.

Munch your way to health in FruitFever!

Source code available at GitHub.

Made possible by Critical Hit 2015.

Fruit Fever (Critical Hit 2015)

 

Credits:

This project was made possible through the Technoculture, Art and Games Research Center’s Critical Hit: Games Collaboratory and the support of Concordia University and Dawson College and financial contribution of the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie.

KinectMagic – A Kinect Wizard Duel Game Prototype

In my studies at the HTW Berlin, I had a course called “Independent Coursework” where I could choose to work on any project relevant to my studies. I chose to work on a Kinect multiplayer game which should also be interesting to watch. Most important to me was that the game uses what the Kinect does best in my opinion: Spacial movement. I didn’t want any repetitive gestures, just a direct relationship between the players and their avatars. So, together with my fellow student Jana Leinweber I set out and developed, and a few months and a dozen iterations later we had this:

KinectMagic

Create spells! Attack! Defend! Dodge!

Tactical spellcasting meets fast reflexes in this
duel game for two wizards and a Kinect v1.

Download for Windows

KinectMagic – A Kinect Wizard Duel Game Prototype

Super Fruit Punch (Global Game Jam 2014)

With the current Global Game Jam right around the corner and only just about 11 1/2 months late, here is the project that we did for the last Global Game Jam: Super Fruit Punch!

Super Fruit Punch (Global Game Jam 2014)

You can find a download at the game’s GGJ page.

Credits:
– Game Design: Thomas Bedenk, Norbert Haacks
– Programming: Tobias Wehrum, Benjamin Schug, Richard Wepner, Martin Heller
– Art & Animation: Kirill Krysov
– Music & Sound: Lesley Dean

Beer Pong HD for Android

I’m currently in the process of posting all the games and prototypes that I made years ago and never published. This post (and the next one) are special though – because the games were published, just not by me. I made those games for other companies.

The first one is Beer Pong HD for Android. Back in the days when I worked in the Netherlands as part of my studies, I made its first version (further on, other developers expanded it) with Unity for Codeglue.

It seems the original promo video is not available anymore. Here is the best video that I found (made by Androida.it). I suggest you jump to 4:16 for gameplay:

Beer pong HD per Android

What is still available is the video how the AI finds out which ball throws end up inside a cup. I didn’t just want to calculate how to hit the middle of the cup because that might look too artificial, but I still wanted to be able to predict whether a throw hits, even if multiple jumps on the table or cup’s edges are involved. Here is a video of the AI “training” and finding out which throws hit:

This is how the AI in Beer Pong HD works

(And the best part is that it takes some time and is automatic. Time for a cup of coffee – or an office sword fight. I like being a programmer.)

Master’s Thesis: Evaluating the Advantages of Physical and Digital Elements in Hybrid Tabletop Games

Preface

A few weeks ago, I finished my studies at the HTW Berlin in International Media and Computing with the defense following my master’s thesis. I thought that its content might be interesting to others on the internet too, but I understand that not everyone wants to read 100+ pages. For that reason, I am now writing this “too long; didn’t read” summary. It is also a lot more informally written. If you like what you read, you are quite welcome to read the longer version too! Here are the links:

Master’s Thesis

Source Code (open source, MIT license), Screenshots, Photos, Videos etc.

You can also read this summary as a PDF, but you would miss out on the videos.

Retcon: A Multi-Round Game Which Records & Replays Your Moves

Over two years ago, a theme in university was action recording/replaying, and instead of doing a boring text editing app to demonstrate this, I made a game. Introducing:

Each round your previous actions are replayed,
but your and your enemy’s actions will change the
outcomes of previous moves by placing new tokens.

You can play the game in your browser or download the Android APK.

Retcon: A Multi-Round Game Which Records & Replays Your Moves

I think the concept is quite intriguing, but the current execution is flawed. Currently, the tokens of the current starting player start first which leads to fluctuating patterns. Also, no matter how experienced you are in the game, you still cannot beat new players who grasp the concept by a significant score and even you pull of a cool move that should get you in the lead, it often doesn’t really matter much.

What I really like though is being the starting player in a round can both be an advantage and a disadvantage: You will move first and can force the second player to defend a certain position, but in certain situations you might need to defend an important position before the other player moves to attack there – and then the other player obviously will place somewhere else.

Anyway, long story short: I might make another game based on the recording/replaying multi-round concept in the future and I sure hope that one will be a lot more fun. More years of experience have to be good for something, right?

Retcon was made by me, with assets by:

Electric Finger Jousting – A MaKey MaKey Game

At the November Mini Game Jam (for which we had over 100 participants, wow!) I made my first experiments ever with the MaKey MaKey, an Arduino-based kit that measures when a circuit is closed – even through very high resistance like a chain of people holding hands. My game is less about hand-holding though, and more about poking your opponent’s hand with a pen-lance. Enter Electric Finger Jousting!

electric-finger-jousting-title

Take your pen-lance! Get ready, and… fight!
Poke the other player before they poke you!

But beware, don’t touch them before
you hear “fight”, or it’ll be a foul…

Electric Finger Jousting

Electric Finger Jousting Berlin Mini Jam Game

It’s not all fun and sunshine though: The game is a rather repetitive. I hoped to get a fencing kind of game, but it is really hard to balance the distance so it’s neither too easy to hit nor unreachable. Moving while touching the copper wire (which ensures that the right distance is being kept) isn’t easy, so you aren’t very flexible. That leads to very short distance jabs that are nearly impossible to react to and each round was pretty short. Despite that, fun was definitely had while developing and playtesting!

PS: When you do something like this, have water nearby to regularly dip everything into which will make circuit contact for a very short time. Water improves the conductivity so much.

Credits: