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  • Inside the 2009 IGF: Dark Room Sex Game

    - staff

  • Completed blacked out imageRobin Di Capua: Not having visuals was also part of the experimental idea of the Game Jam.

    Douglas Wilson: To be clear, the Game Jam did not specify that we should do a game without graphics -- that was our own idea. The idea was that innovation springs from constraint, so we wanted to impose our own limitations to challenge ourselves to come up with an interesting solution. This is why even the menu is not represented visually -- we wanted to take those constraints all the way.

    GCG: What kind of research did you do into the area of sex and video games, or other sexually themed human-computer interactions? Did you find anything interesting?

    Lau Korsgaard:
    I have played my share of erotic video games, but I always get disappointed. One of the more interesting games I tried last year was Rez, the rhythm shooter sold with a vibrator in Japan. Trust me, it is a pretty powerful vibrator.

    Robin Di Capua:
    Erotic games tend to be extremely visual and try to visually copy porn movies. Dark Room goes in another direction using the properties of the medium about interaction and feedback.

    Dajana Dimovska: We also did a research about different "moaning techniques and intensities," which included watching and listening to media with sexual content. This helped us with planning and doing the voice recordings.

    GCG: In terms of mechanics, what existing games influenced this game? Can you explain here also in greater detail how the controllers are used?

    Dajana Dimovska: Rhythm games were our main inspiration.

    Douglas Wilson: Speaking for myself, I'm a little tired of Rock Band and Guitar Hero parties. Though fun, those games can be antisocial if everyone just ends up staring at the screen like zombies. By contrast, a game with no visuals forces the players to look directly at each other. The gameplay isn't tethered to the screen. This also helps increase the embarrassment factor.

    As for the mechanics and controllers, the idea is that you and your partners take turns swinging your Wiimotes. You need to swing with enough acceleration, but that's it. No button presses or special gestures. We wanted to keep the game simple. So basically, the goal is to accelerate towards climax, but you can't do so too quickly or you'll be penalized. There's a kind of perfect acceleration you're trying to match.

    Keep in mind that the game is really intended for four-person play ("orgy mode") in which you race another couple.

    GCG: Technically speaking, what was the most difficult thing to develop?

    Kennett Wong: It was getting the Wiimotes to work for the Mac version.

    Our game is made in Java which means that it can run on multiple platforms. But the plug-in for connecting the Wiimote to the game is more stable for the Windows than for the Mac, which causes us a lot of trouble. We are still working on getting the Mac version to be as stable as the Windows version.

    Douglas Wilson: And even on some Windows boxes, you often need a separate USB Bluetooth adaptor. Basically, like Kennett says, we need to find a more stable Wiimote solution. But I should point out, the keyboard version works just fine.

    What about in terms of gameplay -- what was the most difficult thing to develop or balance?

    Lau Korsgaard: We have struggled with hitting the right difficulty level in terms of reward and punishment in the pacing algorithm. It has been hard to make the game easy enough for first time players to be able to finish the game without ruining the challenge for expert players.

    Douglas Wilson:
    I think some players are so accustomed to standard rhythm games, such as Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution, that they don't initially know what to make of a collaborative rhythm that accelerates and decelerates.

    Dark Room Sex Game Team

    Lars Bojsen-Møller, design and development
    Robin Di Capua, design and development
    Dajana Dimovska, design and development
    Lau Korsgaard, design and development
    Mads Lyngvig, design and development
    Douglas Wilson, design and development
    Kennett Wong, design and development
    Lars Bojsen-Møller, music


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