Sunday, July 25, 2010

Portal: The Board Game

Disclaimer: this game is yet to be properly play-tested, balanced and refined. Initial design might not work as intended in all aspects. Please be patient and wait for the final deliverable. If you want to have a glimpse of the game right now or are willing to participate in the play test, be wary of the possible problems this prototype might have.

I wanted to create this game for a long time, and here it is. Downloadable, playable and absolutely copyright-free. Yes, if someone from Valve has accidentally bumped into this blog, they should know that they don’t have to sue me, since this game is absolutely free for everyone to play and is to be considered a fan-fiction.

I admire Portal very much, and that is why I decided that I want to maintain its feel and some of its core mechanics throughout the board game. Here is a set of rules for you in case you decide to play this game. I haven’t made a user manual yet, since its mechanics are yet to be properly tested and refined.

This game is a combination of tile-based board game and card game mechanics. On the right of the picture you can see the game board. It has a beginning (tile 1), and an ending (tile 42). In between there are simple non-distinctive tiles which are used by players for placing their chips. Each player has one chip and starts from tile 1, which means that their first turn will lead them to tile 2 or further. Some tiles have portals on them—the blue ones and the orange ones. When a player steps on a blue portal, they are teleported to the nearest orange portal forwards. When a players steps on an orange portal, they are teleported to the nearest blue portal backwards. When two players meet on one tile, the player who played last rolls a die, and can move the other player’s chip forwards or backwards the amount of tiles decided by the die roll.

Then there is the left part of the picture. Those are the cards. You have to cut them out and make a deck (of 50 cards). In the beginning of the game the deck is shuffled and the first player to move (decided by an RPS game), deals 5 cards to each player. Each turn consists of 4 stages: draw a card, play a card, roll a die and move the chip.

There are 3 types of cards: board, tile and 2 tiles. Board cards are played to the empty part of the board and usually affect all players in the game. Tile cards are played to one tile and remain at that tile until someone steps on them. Then they affect the player who’s chip has been placed on that tile. 2 tile cards are played to two tiles (placed in between) and affect both of those tiles. Only one card can be placed on each tile in game. When a card is played and its effect is executed, this card goes to the junkyard and is placed face down out of the board. Players must draw a card in the beginning of the turn and then play a card. If there are no more cards in the deck, the junkyard is shuffled and is used instead of a deck.

The first player to get the cake (tile 42), wins.

An alternative moving mechanic.
If for some reason you don’t have a die, there is a way to play this game anyway. All you need is a pen and a piece of paper. At first you have to assign a roller to each player in game. A roller is a person who will help them roll. If the players’ turns are distributed like this: Mike, Paul, Ivan, Kate, then the rollers assigned should look like this:

  1. Mike — Ivan
  2. Paul — Kate
  3. Ivan — Mike
  4. Kate — Paul
This order of rollers is important to be this way to ensure that roller will not be interested in helping or screwing with the players they are supposed to roll for. 

A squared paper is folded, and on one of its sides the roller draws a table of 6 squares. Then they randomly fill this table with numbers from 1 to 6. Each time a new table has to be drawn.
Then they turn the paper over and show where the table is to the player. The player has to choose one square. The important thing here is that the player cannot read the numbers, but can clearly see the table. This can be achieved by pressing harder when drawing a table and lighter when writing down the numbers.

Download the Visio document:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Codename: Mandelbrot

It’s been a while since the last time I wrote something to this blog, so I decided to do something about it—here it is, a new post, alright. This new game idea is something that came to me yesterday when I was trying to make a Twitter background using these Mandelbrot fractals. Adobe Illustrator turned out to have one interesting feature—that is, whenever you paste a raster object into it, it wants you to use only white brush over it. It’s probably possible to change the whole thing and draw rainbow-colored unicorns, but I was too lazy to try and find out about that. So, basically, I decided that this whole fractal is a living creature and the player controls another creature, which is small and stands on the surface of the big one. And that’s when things get fun.

As you can see from my picture, the whole idea of the game is to wake the sleeping monster. Let’s say, our character is lost in the land of the grey, while it is supposed to be with light, and the only way to get her there is to wake up the fucker. So, here it is, a goal—but how do we achieve it, right?

I’ve been asking myself this question for quite some time now, and noticed that everyone, whom I have shown this picture to, thought that those hearts in the top left corner of the screen are lives of the character. But why does she need lives? Can she even die? Obviously, not. The only bad thing that can happen to her is staying on the surface of Mandelbrot (yeah, let’s give it a name). This makes the game a puzzle. And a puzzle always has a solution and some means of achieving it. That is, knowing where the jigsaw piece has to go is not enough—you also need hands to put it in place. So, here is where the real game design begins.

The player has precisely three control keys: right, left and up. By pressing right, they can rotate Mandelbrot clockwise. By pressing left—counterclockwise. When the player rotates Mandelbrot, the character runs at the same place, while the surface changes its position. By pressing up—jump. The height of jumping varies in different parts of Mandelbrot. In fact, gravity changes in different parts of it. The height of jump in each and every part of Mandelbrot is measured by Score in the lower right corner of the screen. This way, the player can see how high they can jump.

So, as I have already mentioned, the hearts are pretty odd, since the character can’t die or be damaged in any way. Why do we need them then? Well, this is exactly the goal of the game. The player has to take a heart (one at a time) and give it to Mandelbrot. Then the creature will start seeing another dream, will change sides, and this will lead to a change of physics by which this little world is operated. The player may take only one heart at a time, and when they do, the remaining hearts change their position. In order to get a heart, the player has to jump precisely to the height at which they hang. In case of jumping higher, they miss the hearts, since the character can grab only at the highest point of the jump. If they jump lower, the character can’t reach the hearts.

Rotate Mandelbrot → choose a position → jump and grab a heart → give the heart to Mandelbrot

When the last heart is given to Mandelbrot, he wakes up, sees the character, puts her in his mouth and simply spits her to the other universe. Happy ending.