Project ‘allo’ is the game I’m co-designing for my final semester at the Entertainment Technology Center of Carnegie Mellon University (in the spring of 2015). I am working as part of two student teams with Electonic Arts’ Office of the Chief Creative Officer under the direction of Richard Hilleman and Tom Corbett. Together with team Thunder Egg in Redwood, California, we are creating a connected game experience. Our challenge for this project is to create a game-within-a-game in which players must balance multiple gameplay mechanics simultaneously. We will be targeting players who don’t fall in the category of “core gamers” through simple mechanics that allow for an easy-to-learn and fun experience.
Our challenge has been distributed across two teams, my 8-person group in Pittsburgh and our 6-person group of classmates at EA’s campus in Redwood, California. We have been charged with creating the experience of a game-within-a-game. Using an un-announced platform, we will create a game that tasks players with balancing multiple game mechanics that affect and control each other.
The very first thing we needed to do was to figure out what it means to be ‘a game-within-a-game’. I’ve struggled to come to a workable definition. So far, to me it means an experience where players interact with characters or a world that inherently possess some level of autonomy. In other words, the player produces stimulus (which could be in any number of different forms) that affects the state and actions of the characters and/or game world. However; myriad other interpretations exist. For example, in Settlers of Catan™ players must mine resources in order to achieve the win objective; however, to do so most effectively they have to work with and inhibit each other in managing their resources. So the experience is a board game with an economical game inside of it. At the end of the day I suspect there is no actual definitive answer, which is presumably the point of assigning it as our design challenge. My design team will do its best to come up with something that fulfills this challenge.
In order to create a game-within-a-game, we have been focusing on mechanics that involve cooperative multi-player interactions, i.e., players have to work together in order to perform the tasks that the game demands of them. Some ideas include players controlling parts of a the same in-game avatar, working together to construct and deploy items, and working together to defeat in-game opponents. Others involve teams of players working together to defeat each other.