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  • Results from Game Design Challenge: Romance

    - staff

  • Isaak Kraft van Ermel, Noordelijke Hogeschool Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, Hearthunters

    Type: Competitive multiplayer dating game.

    Platforms: Real world + smartphone/any mobile device with internet


    Hearthunters is a multiplayer dating game which takes place in the real world, supported by mobile devices capable of synching data via the internet.

    At its core the game revolves around bringing people together, breaking down barriers through the use of simple gameplay mechanics and turning socializing and romance into a game.

    Prior to the Game

    Prior to the game players are required to download a mobile application to their device and an online profile which will allow them to participate in the game.

    This application will allow players to keep track of their score and the other players while at the same time locating Hearts.

    In the default game Hearts and Hunters are each made up of one gender.

    As said the game takes place in a real world location, for instance a city or a small town.

    Before the game starts all players gather at a central location where each 'Heart' is instructed by the Heartmaster to each go to a seperate public place (museum, restaurant) and wait for the game to start.

    The Game

    In the game there are three roles, two of which are playable: the Hearts and the Hunters.

    The goal for the Hunters is to gather as many 'Heartpoints' they can in a limited amount of time.

    Hunters get Heartpoints by finding Hearts, introducing themselves and do whatever they can within the rules.

    Depending on how the talk goes the Hunter is rewarded by the Heart with points. The 'Heart' submits the score and the Hunters' leader board is immediately updated.

    The Hearts' location can be found on a map which comes with the mobile application, along with the leader board and a rulebook specific to Hunters.

    The Hunters don't start the application until the game starts.

    Hearts wait in public places and give the Hunters points. The scores they give is based on a specific Hearts rulebook.

    Like Hunters, Hearts also have an application which tracks the Hunters. This application however lacks the leaderboard, making sure a Hunter's score isn't a factor during the talk.

    The Heart can give 1-5 Heartpoints per Hunter

    Finally the Heartmaster only acts as a referee, scorekeeper and organizer.

    It's the Heartmaster who starts the game, ends it and makes sure the game is played as it should be by tracking the players and the game's progress from the central location using an application on a personal computer.

    The game can be played by either gender of any sexual orientation.

    The rules can be adjusted to cater to specific ages, orientation or any other characteristic to allow themed games.

    After the Game

    After the game is complete all players return to the central location where there's room for people to get to know eachother even better and make plans for a more formal date.

    Virtual Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded to the winners to display on their online profiles.

    Designer Commentary

    At first I was working on a fairly conventional design, I had little experience with the types of games listed as examples, but enough to know my design would have absolutely nothing to do with any of them.

    Combining the classic Cupid, a 3D environment, interesting scenarios and stealth gameplay, I came up with a design where the player would have to make situations happen in order to bring people together, all while not being seen.

    For instance making a girl slip who would fall in the hands of a young man, an event which would culminate in a relationship later on.

    This was already based on the goal of the design being 'bringing people together'. But while the player's goal would indeed be bringing people together, the actual game wouldn't.

    On top of that the whole game wasn't 'out there'. The context would allow for incredibly interesting scenarios, but the actual gameplay wouldn't allow the player interesting to undertake.

    The effect would be cool, cause... not so much.

    After trying to rethink it, I took a break and watched Jesse Schell's DICE talk, which was ludicrously inspirational.

    In short it made my look on games change completely and I got rid of the tunnel vision that been plaguing me a bit.

    Instead of trying to design a game into romance, I began to design romance into a game.

    I was actually quite surprised how easy it was to combine readily available, existing elements into an interesting design after that.

    All the pieces fit together and it was my shortest design stint ever, only taking a few hours to make (even after leaving my whiteboard eraser at college).

    In those few hours I came up with:

    - A basic set of simple rules
    - A way to track the results for players
    - A way for players to reach the goal of the game
    - A way to make sure rules are followed

    Given the millions of fairly obvious ways a player could fail and the whole word limit thingy, it was safe for me to omit that.

    Even with that though I didn't expect I had to include every single detail that I could come up with, given the word limit.

    So I just put in what I thought was absolutely necessary.

    The result was a simple, elegant gamedesign playable for everyone while at the same time keeping the initial goal intact: bringing people together. With the possible goal of actual, real romance for players to achieve.


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