November 26, 2008

Design Notes

I just posted the "completed" versions of Worrywart and Stressor, and I thought it might be fun to give a look at the brainstorming that produced them. Below are the notes I took as I thought them out. Normally, my notes aren't nearly so coherent, but for whatever reason I was grammaring as best I could when I wrote these.

I should note that these notes lead to incomplete designs. I took these notes while waiting for a delayed flight, and after I thought for a while and came up with the designs that I eventually submitted, I stopped revising the notes and started writing up the actual submission. So if these notes seem to lead somewhere other than where I went, that's expected.



- Not dependent on what others do, so this should either be solitaire (i.e. with a finite ending) or a race
- The less sleep you get one night, the more you should get the next (round-to-round beneficial negative feedback loop)
- Insomnia: The longer it takes to go to sleep the harder it is to go to sleep (turn-to-turn harmful positive feedback loop)

Represent "subjects of thought" as cards. You need to replace the bad thoughts (worries) with good thoughts, but the mind tends to wander.

So maybe give cards their value, make certain suits good and certain suits bad. Each turn you trade in a card for a random one. If the total bad-good is lower than a certain threshold (which changes based on last night's sleep), you go to sleep.

Where's the choice? As is, you always trade in your worst card. Obvious Optimal strategy ftl.

How to use the Insomnia aspect of this? It would seem to suggest that the easiest time to go to sleep is the very start, but that's no fun.


Is there a way to design this more dangerously? Yes. Now find it.

Is there a way we can work with cards as a series of rectangular planes? 4 groups of 13 or 13 groups of 4?

Would need to relate Insomnia to pattern-building or find some spacial aspect. That might be difficult.


Possibly work with a series of acceptable thoughts that can be ruined by a bad one? Try it:

Red cards are good thoughts, black cards are bad ones. Need to pick up a certain number of consecutive cards that are acceptable. For a black card to be acceptable, you must get rid of a red card of equal or greater value to nullify it (distract yourself).

Maybe you start out with black cards to represent the insomnia, and you pick up random cards as the hours roll by. Gives a good chance to never sleep.

The goal is to play a certain number of rounds without ever having to play a black card.

Again, there's no choice here. Goddamnit.


Think systems.

We've got a harmful feedback loop already in the form of insomnia. That's the villain.
Now add a beneficial feedback loop to act as the hero's weapon. And then a themed justification.
It would be nice to just include "tiredness" as the opposing force of insomnia, but that really defeats the point.
What about a positive beneficial feedback loop? The shorter the time til sleep, the more likely you are to sleep? That's just inverse effect of insomnia.

Accelerating chaos is a good way of defeating a harmful positive feedback loop. See DotA.
So take more cards each turn? Give lower chances at success, but more opportunities and/or they count for more benefit.

Maybe allow player to pair good cards with bad ones of the same number (new perspective), allowing them to be played as good.
Increases the importance of random cards.


F**k convention. Let's make it a social storytelling game.

4 players take turns being the protagonist. He's trying to go to sleep, and they narrate his stream of consciousness in turns.
The protagonist is trying to reach a happy plausible conclusion to each line of thought.

The antagonists start the game by taking one turn each to establish a "worry", and give some initial detail to the essence of that worry. Each worry is permanently associated with a certain suit, with the remaining suit being designated the "happy suit" (I suggest hearts).

After the initial worries are set out, the deck is shuffled and cards are flipped from the top one at a time. If the suit of the card corresponds to that of a worry, then the least-recently-speaking antagonist takes a turn addressing that worry. If the suit of the card is the happy suit, then the protagonist takes a turn trying to resolve as many of these worries as is possible.

Each turn consists of adding a thought to the protagonist's stream of consciousness. Each thought may reference one new detail of the protagonist's life. All details immediately become canon. If a player violates the game's canon, the other players should point this out and give a chance for revision.

The protagonist wins when he has brought all worries to some happy conclusion, almost certainly because the right cards came up in the right order. But competition isn't the point here.

Sample playthrough excerpt:

Clubs: Gosh, I don't think I can pay the rent this week. I've only got $404 in the bank!
Diamonds: And without a home or a job I certainly won't be able to impress the girls. Sarah hasn't even looked at me all day!
Spades: And then my only comfort will be the heroin that I've just gotten addicted to!

Club: I shouldn't have bet all my remaining money on McCain winning. The loan sharks will probably be after me soon.

Heart: The heroin probably isn't that much of an issue. It's a fun problem to have, so far,
and there's always the methadone clinic that just opened up down the street in case things get bad.

Club: Then again, the clinic isn't free, and I don't have the $50,000 it takes to get admitted.

Diamond: If only I had a girlfriend to comfort me. I haven't had a chance ever since my friends told all the girls in town that I'm impotent.

Heart: I know! I'll solve my money troubles and my romance issues at once by becoming a male prostitute! This plan is flawless.

Spade: Of course, prostitutes don't have a good record with getting off heroin.

Club: And I need a lot of money up front to pay off those bad McCain bets.

Diamond: And business will be slow until I prove that dastardly rumor wrong.

Heart: At least I have $404 to spend on heroin in the meantime. That should last me for a month thanks to the new discounts.

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