Game Idea #24

This week’s game idea is an experiment on contingencies and reward schedules. I will need to add some diagrams to it, but later, when I’m finished preparing them. Here comes…
Game Idea #24

Spirit of Khan

Spirit of Khan is a contingency experiment for an interaction scheme based on a point-and-click type interface like in the Diablo series. The experiment tries to combine variable ratio and fixed interval schedules for the creation of a reward structure that can maintain the highest possible level of player motivation.

Variable ratios  stimulate continuos high-level activity since the player can never estimate when exactly his action will result in reward. It could happen with any of his moves.  So the player maintains a high level of activity, since it depends solely on his own moves if a reward will be triggered or not.

Fixed interval on the other hand causes the player to increase his activity as the moment of reward approaches. It feels like climbing towards a climax and the closer the player gets to the climax, the more his level of activity.

Most common reward schedules and the levels of player activity they cause

Most common reward schedules and the levels of player activity they cause

The goal in this design will be to achieve a contingency that already opens the game on a high treshold of activity due to variable ratio that is used as the basis. At certain points, the players movement will cause a fixed interval schedule to be triggered which will carry the already high activity level to a climax. This will be a combo of moves that will multiply the reward recieved if all required moves are completed once the fixed interval schedule has been triggered. A reversed version of the same mechanism will cause a negative combo, meaning the later the player stops the enemy to perform the combo, the more damage she will receive.

If combined carefully, higher levels of player activity can be achieved

If combined carefully, higher levels of player activity can be achieved

The story wrapped around this formal design will take place in the settings of medieval Middle-and East Asia. It will make use of the mythology of those regions. The goal of the game is to bring together the Spirit of Khan (a divine power) which has been stolen by the evil Xuan Hu in order to be “injected” into the Terracotta Army to create an unbeatable force. You must enter the Forbidden City and fight the already “injected” Terracotta soldiers, Xuan Hu’s special forces and generals, and eventually Xuan Hu himself, before he can finish his evil work.



Game Idea #23

This week’s idea is based on an tribute to one of my favorite games, X-Com Apocalyse. However the way I envision it, it is placed into the settings of an island with political unrest and power struggle, very similar to Jagged Alliance. Here comes…

Game Idea #23


Guerillas is a RTS game with lots of challenging maps and tactical missions.

You are the leader of a resistance organization located on an island in the Dalmatian Archipelago. It is towards the end of the Second World War and the island is under occupation of Italian and German forces.

The Allied Forces have established contact with you and they want to create a resistance front on the island which would help driving the invaders out and spark similar resistance on neighboring islands, enabling seafare for ships under the flag of the Allies.

As the leader of the movement, it is your task to recruit volunteers for the task, ensure the logistic support of the island population, create saved zones, launch attacks on Axis Forces troops and Convoys, cut their support lines and gradually liberate the island.


Game Idea #22

This week’s game idea was inspired by a debate on torture in games  on Raph Koster’s blog. I want to bring the player to a point where she is left alone with the heavy burden of a moral dilemma.  Here is…

Game Idea #22


Carcass is an adventure game in which you are in the shoes of an Amnesty International volunteer who is sent to New Orleans to research a torture case in which a group of local  policemen are accussed to have mishandled and tortured a group of mostly black civilians. Your goal in the game is to investigate the case and bring those who are responsible in front of law and hopefully behind iron bars. 

There are a variety of puzzles and interconnected events that give you clues about how things happened and who was responsible for the violent acts. In the process, you become subject to hostile action yourself. You receive anonymous letters, you find your hotel room broken in and chased by cars etc. But there is more: some of your eyewitnesses will change their statements, official papers will get lost etc. You will enage into a variety of deeply touching and disturbing conversations with officials, eyewitnesses, local inhabitants, victims and the accussed.

The game ends at the point where there is no doubt that those accused have tortured the victims. All you need is a confession, someone to witness against them. But the spiral of silence can’t be broken…  Only a confession of those responsible will get them behind iron bars.

In the final shot/cutscene your avatar will come close-up to the camera and stares at you while the guilty but untouchables are sitting in the interrogation room in the background. Your avatar then exits the frame and you are left watching the guilty ones.

Game Idea #21

Game Idea #21 is about Diaphainein, a Cloud City. It is one of the visions I maintain about my favorite story in Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities”, the story about the portable city Sophronia. I imagine Diaphaeinein as a nomadic city, a wandering star, a cloud city that moves with the winds and hides  behind clouds to protect itself from the eyes of  too ambitious earthlings.

To connect this idea to another novel of Italo Calvino: I also imagine Diaphainein as the final destination of Cosimo, the hero in Il Barone Rampante.

Anyway, now let the game speak for itself. Here comes:

Game Idea #21:



The next time when you look up to the sky, be patient and look deep into the clouds. After a while your eyes will see in a way they haven’t seen before. Then you will notice a big cloud within the clouds. It has a slightly different shade and shape. Very gently this different cloud will come to the foreground. Then you will suddenly see the white ropes and white baskets attached to it. And the big white magnificient balloons… Ah, there it is! You see it now: Yes, this is Diaphainein. Loft like an ocean of cotton it is. Enjoy this moment in which it reveals its beauty to you; close your eyes, carve this image into your memory. Imagine yourself up there, yes, look down to the slowly travelling fields and rivers below. Feel the wind in your hair, greet the birds on their way to the South. Now open your eyes and look at it again… Ha! It’s gone. There the clouds travel along with the busy winds, carrying away with them the most amazing of secrets. No, don’t even try. Noone will believe you.


In Diaphainein you are the captain and major of a cloud city. Your goal is the steer your city safely through the skies through valleys and over mountains and oceans without exposing it to the ambitious earthlings that are a threat to your peaceful lifestyle. In the process you must collect resources, protect yourself from storms, grow the size of your population and city, build new housing units, public spaces, and most important, maintain your altitude.

The game ends when Diaphainein touches the ground or is shot down by evil earthlings because it was exposed to them.

A Different  Scenario

“It was a wonderful afternoon. I ran through fields, climbed on trees, walked through shallow waters. I played with everything I could find: Sand, mud, stones, roots, grass. Soil; red soil, brown soil, black soil. Earth was so rich.

Finally I laid on the gentle ground of the greenest of clearings and watched the clouds passing by. “How different they look from here I thought”, and fell into a sweet sleep. In my dream I saw Diaphainein floating through the air above me. It filled my heart with bliss and joy to imagine it this way.

When I woke up, the sun was almost sinking. “It’s late!” I heard myself saying. The way these words came out of my mouth -almost automatically- made me even more anxious. I ran the whole way back to the spot where we had anchored. And when I finally arrived there and looked up to the sky, all I saw were clouds. Big white clouds.  My city was gone. Diaphainein had taken off without me.”


This is not a bite

Belgian painter René Magritte is known for his paintings which are questioning the relationship between images, language and reality. One of his most famous paintings in that regard is often known as Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe, or “This is not a pipe”.

The Betrayal of Images - Rene Magritte (1953)

The Betrayal of Images - Rene Magritte (1953)

This painting became the basis for a book which was published in 1973 by french philosopher Michel Foucault. The book carried the title “This is not a pipe”. But this wasn’t the first time that Foucault referred to Magritte. One of Foucault’s most famous books carried the name Les Mots et les Choses  (meaning ‘Words and Things’, but the book is known in the english speaking world as “The Order of Things”). This was also the name of one of Rene Magritte’s former exhibitions in New York.

To depict is not to put something forward, says the header of the final chapter of the book. “A day will come”, says Foucault in the last sentence, “and the endlessly repeating image, together with the name it carries, will lose its identity. Campbell, Campbell, Campbell, Campbell.”

What is it that makes me think so much about play in this?

Bite, bite, bite, bite.

Game Idea #20

Fine! I arrived at game idea #20. Not bad I must say. Six more ideas and half of the task will be accomplished.

This week’s game idea is an adaptation of Italo Calvino’s Il Barone Rampante. Read on.

Game Idea #20


In Trees you are in the role of a 18th century baron who, after a heartbreaking family issue, decides to spend the rest of his life up on trees. The ultimate goal of the game is to create the biggest possible network of trees to ensure that you can continue with your unusual lifestyle.

The game starts in a small village in Italy. After an argument with your father, you climb up a tree and say that you never touch the ground again. Everyone’s laughing at you, but after a few weeks they start to understand that you were serious. You create yourself a habitat on trees and as you discover your new world you meet interesting people such as an outlaw, a bohemian countess, gypsies, hunters etc.

One of your goals is to find new tree-routes that allow you to travel over huge distances. Sometimes you need to find seeds for types of trees that grow fast so that you can bridge gaps between forrests. Each time you connect to a new isles of trees, you also unlock new encounters with new characters. You will aid the Robin Hoods of your time, fall in love with gypsies, and try to win the heart of the countess so that she decides to come up to trees and live with you. 

The game ends if you touch the ground for any reason.