Protesting through games, taking the fun away from shooters and “The (*) Open World” mini-postmortem
Well, this blog post will have 2 parts. The first part is basically me talking about this micro-game and what the idea behind it was.
First a totally useless piece of information: In “The (*) Open World” the * stands for a crossed out
“The (*) Open World” is a really small protest game I made for a "personal game jam" this weekend. This game was born as a reaction to an article I read the other day, about a guy and his 3d-printable gun. With this game I basically try to explore a few questions: "What would happen if everyone in town owned a home-made gun?” “Would you be OK if people around you, your friends, your family (and even kids) carried ready-to-fire guns all the time?” “Would you feel safe, or would you fear you won’t survive the day?"
This is not the first time I am exploring violence in games. After all, Enola IS a game about violence. However, that game explores violence in a broader sense, while “The (*) Open World” explores the violence and gun control topic specifically.
Same questions can mean different things to different people, and people carrying guns all the time is not something that would make me feel safe considering the place I live in. That’s pretty much the reason why I made “The (*) Open World.” The title was inspired by Cody Wilson’s whole idea of “open-ness” and the crossed-out words are meant to represent a “reality distortion field” where you’re trying to make people forget about the subject and see “the bigger picture.” Even the first message you get in the game pretty much sums up the entire thing.
So basically “The (*) Open World” is a protest game, and it’s my way to let you know I would not feel safe if everyone on the street had a gun on his hands (just standing next to a security guard wielding a shotgun totally freaks me out), and that I don’t like the idea I can be shot at any minute.
Since it’s a protest game, it’s not actually fun, because chances are you will never win. Even if it plays like a top-down shooter, there’s no incentive on killing people (you get no scores, level ups, weapons), and if you kill someone there’s a chance someone shots you back and kills you. While this could go against any game design rule where, regardless of the difficulty, players must be able to win, the reason why I made the game this way is to show you won’t be any kind of “hero” with your wiki gun: you will just be some other dude who can potentially kill someone, or be killed by someone else.
The game was made using the free Game Maker Studio, and it’s actually my first “real” game made in that engine. Anyway, let’s move to part 2:
What went right:
1. I can’t say I had a “very cool concept” but at least I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to make: I wanted to make a game that’s totally unfair, where survival is based on pure luck, not skills.
2. Keeping it simple: The main idea was to keep it simple. No complex AI, weapon systems, or anything. I only needed a simple chance system that would decide if players would die or not.
3. Exploring a different technology: I’ve been using UDK for over 2 years, and this was a very good opportunity to learn a little bit about another game engine, specially because I plan to make different types of games, and UDK might be overkill in some cases. GameMaker was a very good choice because it’s easy to learn and there are very good resources on the internet.
4. A somewhat disturbing scenario: Maybe it’s just me, but seeing all those little dudes with guns is somewhat unnerving, and will (hopefully) make you wonder what it would be like to have a conversation while that person has a gun on his hand.
What went wrong:
1. Not being familiar enough with the engine: Time to face the truth, half of the time I didn’t know what the blazes I was doing because it was the first time I was seriously using GameMaker. While there are a lot of resources out there, the reason for this game being a “jam game” was because I wanted to finish it in a few hours, not days or weeks. For that reason, sometimes I would just find workarounds that were just “good enough.” This includes the simple stuff like actually making NPCs shoot you, or sending you back to the city in a place that actually makes sense (for example, if you leave the Library you should spawn IN FRONT OF THE LIBRARY but I didn’t know how to do that, so my character would always spawn in the default position).
2. Scrapped ideas: Not all of my ideas made it to the final game. Coming from a UDK background, I had planned a couple of scripted sequences because “they are easy to do in Unreal Kismet so they shouldn’t be so difficult to make in GameMaker.” I was wrong. I mean, I’m sure you can setup scripted sequences in GameMaker, but I just don’t know how to do it yet.
3. I needed MOAR time: Don’t get me wrong, I had planned this to be a 72 hour personal game jam, but I found myself in the same position that never lets me join game jams: I’m away half of the time during weekends, so I actually ended up working no more than 36 hours on this game (besides a friend got married on Saturday, and during the party I learned a great deal about eye recording speed. BTW it was “life runs at like 124fps”).
4. GameMaker free is somewhat limited: I wanted a couple more rooms, and a few more objects, but the free version of GameMaker limits the amount of rooms to 5, and objects to 15. In some cases I think I could’ve used less objects to do the same, but since I was not familiar enough with GameMaker, I didn’t know how to do certain things.
Overall this has been a pretty good learning experience. I managed to quickly make a game that is NOT fun to play, but delivers a message (or at least I hope so). Also, making small games like this one can be a very good way to learn new game engines (I’m looking at you, Unity) because you can master the ins and outs of game engines and never make an actual game.
You can download and not-enjoy “The (*) Open World” here.