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  • Results from Game Design Challenge: One Button

    - staff
  •  In a recent Game Design Challenge, you were tasked with designing a one-button FPS game. There was a lively discussion on the forum about what exactly constituted a one-button game, and why they are significant to game players with limited mobility.

    The challenge came from Brandon Sheffield, senior editor of Game Developer magazine, who, in conjunction with Jill Duffy (editor of this site), decided which submissions were the strongest.

    After reading dozens of submissions, it became clear that the challenge was really about inventing a simple game mechanic. Several readers evaded simplicity and toyed with the idea of using button presses like Morse code. Others developed a complex system of single, double, and triple button presses, as well as hold-and-release schemes, to create multiple functions for the one button. The problem with many of these ideas, aside from having to memorize an elaborate system, is that they create lag time between player input and on-screen reaction.

    If the game mechanic part was the challenge, the creative part of the assignment fell to how people would interpret "first-person shooter."

    Apparently "FPS" just screams for zombies. Rhythm games were also popular starting points. But the big winner was rail shooters, which received resounding consensus as a foundation for a one-button FPS game.

    Best Entries
    Evgueni Dozov, ENJMIN, The Graduate School of Games and Interactive Media, France, Inertia & Recoil (see page 2)
    In Evgueni Dozov's multiplayer game, players have one action, shooting, which has two effects: firing the weapon and moving the player backward. Each time a player shoots, she experiences an exaggerated recoil that's so strong, it propels her backward.

    Evgueni adds a slight bit of chance, too, in that it is difficult to control how much spin a player experiences during the recoil (players have some control over spin, but not much accuracy). The goal of the game is to kill other players, who are also shooting and scooting around, while trying to master this slightly randomized movement scheme.

    I hope Evgueni mocks up a prototype of this game. It's so simple and seems like it would be a real joy to play -- but we'll only know for sure if it's built and tested!

    Connor Hogan, Death Crane
    (see page 3)
    Connor Hogan takes second place in this week's challenge for Death Crane on a Death Train. Imagine a train flying down a roller-coaster like track with a giant crane that is forever circling above an array of objects just waiting to be picked up and hurled at enemies. Hold the object too long, and the momentum will yank the train right off the track.

    To critique the actual submission just a bit, Connor could have easily cut the first five sentences (see page 3) and gotten straight to the point. When you're tying to sell an idea (or get someone to read your resume or cover letter for that matter) those first few sentences matter the most. Make them count! Get to the point.

    Jimmy Chang, civil engineering at Northwestern University, Death Puppet (see page 4)
    Jimmy Chang's game is a wonderful take on cooperative play. Up to nine players can play, and each person controls an isolated motion of a gun-toting puppet. Players have to coordinate their movements as best they can to move through the world. When too few players are available, AI is used in their place.

    The questionable aspect of this game is its repeatability and how new players will be introduced to the game. As a player becomes more adept at the game, she'll want to play with other equally experienced players and may feel frustrated partnering up with newcomers. If Chang wanted to write a full design document of Death Puppet, he might need to find a way to use the game's design to balance differently skilled players, for example, by configuring a test round that would ensure the most skilled player be the one who controls the gunfire, not a motion.

    Honorable Mentions
    Mark Sivak, graduate student at Northeastern University, Point and Shoot Nature Photography (see page 5)
    We liked the idea of a nature safari game (though similar games already exist) and thought it would work well as a one-button game. Brandon Sheffield (one of the judges for this Game Design Challenge) pointed out that choosing paths versus shooting could get confusing.

    Eelke Folmer, One-Switch Games, (see page 6)
    We got busted by Eelke Folmer.

    Says Brandon Sheffield: "Eelke Folmer should maybe be disqualified since his game is what made me think of this challenge in the first place! Ha! Not his fault really. This one is pretty good because it's already made and it works."


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