P3: A Puzzling Love Story



You are now a little blue ball who has found a beautiful little pink ball that you wish to woo. She will tell you what makes her happy, and you have to make it happen to win her heart. However, to complicate matters, pink balls don’t know the meaning of “straightforward” and almost never really mean what they say. As a lonely blue lovebird, it is your job to take what she says and turn that into what she’s really after. But be careful—If you misinterpret her signals, things will get awkward, like a turtle on its back. Pink balls can only take so much awkwardness—if you’re as awkward as three turtles on their backs, she’ll freak out and run away. Do you have what it takes to show her just how much your shade of blue totally matches her shade of pink?


The game will be divided into three stages:


-Hang Out


In each stage, there will be a sandbox-style environment for the blue ball to explore. The pink ball will tell the blue ball something that makes her happy or something that she wants, and the blue ball must figure out how to interact with the environment to best accomplish what the pink ball really is after. The challenge is a sort of puzzle. As an example, if there were a caged bird nearby and the pink ball were to say “Oh, how I envy that bird—I wish I could fly!”, the player’s first reaction may be to bring her the bird as a pet. However, the pink ball would find this upsetting and say, “You’d keep that beautiful creature in a cage?” The correct action is to let the bird out of the cage.


The mechanics of the avatar are very simple: Move, jump, and interact. The interact mechanic, however, performs a variety of different functions dependent on certain conditions; such as what objects the avatar is near. The game will also have a simple HUD that will display the happiness of the pink ball, as well as the number of awkward turtles the player has accumulated. When a wrong action is performed, a turtle will be added. When a right action is performed, the pink ball’s happiness meter will partially fill; the tentative number of right actions to fill the meter is three.


The fun of this game comes from exploration and problem solving—The idea is for the player to find enjoyment in seeing the ways he or she can interact with the environment and solving the puzzles presented in a clever and funny fashion with the context of imitating human relationships.


Prototype Goals:


For the prototype, I intend to build a simple version of the Meet stage of the game. This will probably be an open terrain (a park?) with the pink ball, along with the other objects that the avatar is to interact with. Ideally, in the finished game, there would be a list of “tasks” for the player to perform that could be selected from (possibly randomly?), but I expect time constraints will only allow for one set; probably three tasks. I intend to have a voice actress for the pink ball. This prototype will help show the comedic fun of the game, as well as help me iron out which kind of challenges will be fun and which will be as frustrating as trying to understand what real girls want. Due to the nature of this game, the fun of the game does not really stem from the possible actions of the avatar, so it doesn’t really seem logical to spend most of my precious little time tweaking and fine tuning his feel in particular, as much as making sure the challenges are feasible but at least somewhat challenging. I also intend to put focus on integrating the environment with the scenario to make it “make sense.”

One Response to “P3: A Puzzling Love Story”

  1. First, a comment on your backstory: I’m not sure who your audience is. By setting it up as a relationship game, you’d think you’re trying to appeal to a broad audience, especially non-traditional gamers. But, but creating a setting where the protagonist is a male who is trying to figure the confusing and (irrational?) behavior of the female, you’re pretty much appealing to a male audience and alienating a bunch of potential female players. So, I’d sort this out. Ask yourself who the target audience is, and think relatively deeply about the intersection of “what kind of game they’d like” and what things (story wise) would appeal to them or offend them.

    Aside from that, the puzzle example you give (the bird thing) is not a puzzle: a puzzle would have clues that would give you as the player some way of figuring out things. What you describe would feel frustrating and random: there is NO WAY a player could guess what the right behavior is there (release the bird), because it’s based entirely on an unintuitive inference drawn from a cultural stereotype. More critically, it doesn’t feel like these puzzles are integrated into the game play. You describe the fun as interacting with the world, finding things and seeing what they do. But, the success metric is entirely divorced from that (I went, I interacted, I worked, I acquired the bird, and now my “score”/”success” is based on one trivial thematic decision). This is exactly what Swink talks about when he says all actions/reactions should be derived from player actions, no seemingly unrelated external reactions. And it’s what we talked about in the design lecture on having win/lose actions only a result of actions the player can perform that they know what they are doing. A random guess that impacts the players success is never a good idea in a game (e.g., open door A or door B, with no information about what’s behind; pick between two choices based on a cultural structure that may or may not make sense to the player).

    If you consider games like the Mario games, where the female “protagonists” with goofy personalities (the little stars in Mario Galaxy, Princess Peach, etc) issue quests, the quests are explicit and fun, independent of whether you think of the metaphors and stereotypes. There are lots of people who find the black-and-white stereotypes in the Mario world a bit annoying, but still like the games, because the stereotypes can be completely ignored and buying into them and having to think through puzzles based on them is not part of the game.

    Now, as for your claim of the fun. Those two things (interaction, puzzle solving) could indeed give fun. BUT, you haven’t given any examples of what fun interaction would be. Ignoring atmosphere, what are they doing that’s fun? What’s in the environment? What are the goals and the actions that they need to learn and master than would give a sense of fun? As for the pleasure of puzzle solving, or the pleasure of “Experiencing the environment” (the comedy, the sounds, etc) the things you actually describe are mostly environmental (voice actress) and not what we want.

    Assuming the game fun was based on puzzle solving, you’d still need to think of some real puzzles. I have been dissuading folks from focusing on puzzle games because you don’t want the success of your game to be based on creating good puzzles: you don’t have time to create/build/test/refine/balance clever puzzles, and that whole activity is tangential to the goal of the class (game architecture and building pleasing in-game interactions).

    Finally, your last sentence should have been a red flag for yourself: the assignment explicitly says your game must be one that satisfies Swink’s definition of a “game feel” kind of game. By definition, if the fun of the game does not come from the avatar interacting with the environment, then it’s not that kind of game. You haven’t really given any specifics of what the “fun” would be (except the cultural stereotype jokes embedded in the metaphors).

    You need to rework this so the game fun is based on the players actions and play!