Saturday, August 31, 2013

One Page Game Design Document Pt 2

Last week, when I was posting on the subject of gamification and beer I noticed that one of my first ever posts on this blog had been viewed a few times that week. The post in question was on the subject of the joys of creating a one page game design document. Without actually checking the post I wondered whether I'd actually attached the one page game design in question, or whether I was still keeping it under wraps at that point.

Then on Monday, Kah Chan from Victoria University of Wellington shed some light on these curious viewing stats by asking if he could have a copy of the GDD in question. It turned out that I didn't publish the one page game design document. 

So here it is...
This is an overview design for Warp Gun, which turned into Alien Avian Attack, which you can get for your handsome Android device...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gamifying the Core of your Product

Last week I wrote about the fact that you don't really need to use game elements in gamification at all, you can instead focus on interaction.

For smaller scale operations the interaction part isn't so much of a challenge - smaller companies are often closer to their customers. But if you want to do more, and your budget is tight (which it always is) you much make sure that any gamification couples well with their own ambitions. 

Down the road from where I live there is a brewery, called the Garage Project, which is a fine and good thing.

It was established a couple of years ago by Pete Gillespie and Jos Ruffell, with help from Pete’s brother, Ian Gillespie.

They began with not much of anything really, and despite the fact that setting up brewery is surely always a good idea, it’s still not a product that sells itself!

When the Garage Project opened a couple of years ago they needed a way to get some attention. Both Jos and Ian have worked in the video games business, which means that they must have known straight away that the plan they cooked up to get some attention had a good chance of success.

Humans have a very strong collecting instinct. Many of us like to accumulate stuff. Digital media has been a godsend for me because it means I can hoard music and games without having physical media clogging up my life.

Coupled with this is our need to categorise, so we get folk with collections of teapots or erasers or things with cats on. Further tied to this is a sense of adventure, because you have to hunt these suckers down, even if you're an ambient searcher, not going out of your way to find things, there’s still a part of your brain, always looking, wherever you go.

There’s only one problem with these things in real life – it’s rarely possible to complete the collection. Many collections have no end, although some do, and these can often be the most expensive - a complete set of Star Wars figures, first editions of the works of Beatrix Potter, every Ferrari.

Games allow you to collect, and collect ‘em all. In fact you gotta. It might take you a while, but it can be done. (Don’t talk to me about completely open ended experiences like World Of Warcraft, I’m not listening, la la la la la la!)

And this beautiful model of collecting completion is what the Garage Project took and brought to beer. In the first 24 weeks of their existence they launched a new beer each week. Over 24 weeks they released 24 beers and called it 24/24 .

They started with a 50 litre brew kit, because that’s all they could afford, so large scale production wasn't possible anyway. But they turned this to their advantage.

Few managed to sample all 24 beers, but that didn't stop folk trying, and it garnered the right kind of publicity. It also acted as a way to get feedback on each beer, via special beer mats, and help them decide what to make more of in the future. So customers weren't just getting feathers in their caps they felt like key players in the future of the brewery.

Importantly the game wasn't a distraction from the core business of the brewery, instead it had value to them. The Garage Project continues to create a wide variety of beers, making drinking in Wellington more exciting, I like to call it adventure drinking.

And no, I didn’t get to try all 24 beers, but tracking down re-brews and beers I haven’t had now makes my drinking a noble pursuit!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Print Us!

Over on Kickstarter me and a splendid bunch of revolutionaries are trying to change the world of gaming with Pop, Lock 'n' Rooooll, a combination of cards and dice, which you can print and play for FREE. And it's open source to boot.

Below are some of our self advertising little Rumble Bots. Go on,, click on one to see it full size, then print and make it now!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How Much Game Is There In Gamification?

Gamification can be a distracting term. Game itself is a very loose term, some will define it as something that requires challenge and a specific win/lose state, others will apply it to pretty much any activity that doesn’t really produce something. I’ve explained whole virtual worlds, like Second Life, to folk and asked them if they’d regard that as a game. The results of my small poll can be typified with the statement, “well it sounds like a game to me”. I’ve heard jigsaw puzzles described as a game. They’re puzzles, not games!

Christmas trees and light shows - read on...

Anecdotally I’ve found that women have a broader definition of what a game is than men, but there’s nothing at all scientific about my study, and far too many of the men I know make games for a living.

My old economics teacher (he wasn’t old at all, but missing out “old” made the phrase seem wrong, what can I say, I choose beauty over truth ever once in a while) once posed the question about an expensive footballer, “is he worth it?” Naturally, there was some debate in the class before he asserted, “Somebody thought he was worth it, so he is worth it.” Economists have a tendency to oversimplifying systems, but it’s hard to argue with the pure logic of this approach to price.

I’m a pragmatist at heart so I’ve chosen to apply this logic to defining games – if someone thinks it’s a game, then it is. I can debate with someone why they’re wrong, but where’s the point in that, it’s a waste of time because they won’t change their mind. And besides, why on earth would anyone want to restrict the bounds of their occupation?

When viewing the word game through the lense of gamification you’re instantly in a world of vague to the power of vague. One way to approach the problem is to think of gamification as a self-reinforcing and (hopefully) self-propagating way for consumers to interact with your brand. Interact being the operative word.

The simplest, most obvious way of doing this is to create a game that features your brand heavily, and taps into a core aspect of its reality. PikPok and Oreo did this very effectively with their OREO: Twist,Lick, Dunk game for iPhone. It’s a simple game but it breaks down into a fast moving version of what a lot of folk do with their Oreos – twist them apart, lick the cream and dunk them in milk. An interaction from real life is mimicked in the game.

I’m really, really, really, hoping someone makes a Rich Tea biscuit game. For those not in the know, the Rich Tea biscuit is popular in the British Isles and is known for dunking in tea. Yet the dunk must be perfectly timed to get some soaking of tea into biscuit but not too much. For to linger just one millisecond too long is to see the biscuit cascade into an over-soaked state and gasp with horror as the tea stricken section shears off into the depths of the cup. Then a spoon is engaged for a spot of biscuit fishing. Surely there’s a game in there.

But not all brands or events lend themselves so well to a game though, in which case you can focus on the interaction instead. Give people the opportunity to interact with your brand in any positive way you can.

Telecom, New Zealand’s former state telco, puts up the coolest Christmas trees I’ve ever seen. Each is a cone of strings of lights that flow from the star at the top to the circular base. A total of 375,000 lights, and they can all be programmed and controlled, allowing for extraordinary flowing multicolour patterns. This alone would make these trees excellent attractions in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch, the cities that are lucky enough to have their presence, but they’re also interactive.

Firstly, the trees have telephone booths attached to them. Children can go in the booths and call Santa, whereupon their communication visibly travels up a length of fairy lights to the star at the top of the tree. It’s not a game, but it’s certainly interactive and nicely reminds people that this is a Telecom tree, and Telecom is all about things involving telephones. The ask of asking also helps remind adults that there’s also a collection campaign going on, where members of the public are encouraged to donate presents that can be passed on to underprivileged kids.

Secondly, all those light displays on the trees are designed by people. These trees are up for a long time, yet they display hours and hours of different patterns. The reason they can do this is because not all of the patterns are designed by someone working for Telecom. Instead, the public can go to the website and design their own light shows for the trees. Light shows have little to do with Telecommunications, apart from going online to design them, but that’s enough, because the whole interaction is so staggeringly neat and the trees look so good.

Is there a game anywhere in the whole process? Not that I can see. You’d have a hard time even saying gamification, there are no points or badges. But there is interaction, and that is the critical element if you ask me. And, like I say, gamification can be a broad term.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pop, Lock 'n Rooooll - Trading Cards meet Dice in Open Source land!

Last week me and a plucky team if revolutionaries launched a new project on Kickstarter, which we think is pretty neat for three reasons:

  • Firstly, it’s a cross between a trading card game and a dice game, where the cards attach to the faces of the dice.
  • Secondly, it’s open source, so everyone who plays it is encouraged to change the design of everything as much as they like.
  • Thirdly, we’re giving it away for free!

It’s called Pop, Lock ‘n’ Rooooll. You should go back it on Kickstarter now, go on, please.

We set it going last Wednesday (NZ time) and so far we are doing reasonably well, we've got 14% of our 5k total. We also got ourselves some start backers:

Jane McGonigal made a pledge and tweeted about us, which isn't something she does lightly.

Peter Adkison also threw us a few shekels (his words) and as the man who spotted the potential of Magic: The Gathering I find that particularly encouraging. I should also note he has his own Kickstarter campaign running, which you should check out after you give us some money.

Of all the projects I've worked on over 18 years of game making this is the one I’m most excited about. We might be talking about a print and play game, which you have to get the scissors and glue out for (it doesn’t take long to make) but this kind of thing is the future – mass production of unique items is where it’s at kids!

Freedom, NOT freemium!