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  • Results from the Game Design Challenge: Balance Board

    [01.29.09]
    - Manveer Heir and GameCareerGuide.com staff
  • Title BoxA recent design challenge asked you to take the Wii Balance Board, a peripheral that isn't necessarily suited for controlling most games, and design a game for it.

    The variety of entries we got was surprising. We were expecting a number of games that were similar to some of the mini-games in Wii Fit, but we also saw action games, strategy games, and other genres as submissions. Sadly, no one submitted a Guitar Hero-style music game using the Balance Board (which admittedly would have been a terrible idea, but it would have been awfully funny).

    The point of this exercise wasn't merely to take an existing game idea and shoehorn a new control scheme onto it (though there are some submissions, including our top rated one, that did this well in spite of this). Rather, the key was to come up with an idea for a kind of gameplay that would substantially change when used on the new control scheme, adding something new to the core game mechanic.

    Another point of consideration is this: You can only sell the game to people who own the unique peripheral, or people who are willing to buy it specifically to play your game. One of the inherent challenges is that you must determine what kinds of experiences will be seen as valuable by those players. The game must so interesting to play specifically on the peripheral that playing the same game adapted for a traditional controller would be seen as less fun (an example might be a sword fighting game played with an Xbox 360 controller versus being played with Wiimotes).

    Creating a game that would take advantage of a peculiar and unique control input is really what mattered and what we were drawn to most when reading your wonderful entries.

    Best Entries
    Marc Vousden, Mechanical Engineering student at Brunel University, Garrison
    (see page 2)
    Marc Vousden's entry thought about the Wii Balance Board in a way that no other entry did. He imagined it as a board game platform, on which the player positions his or her playing pieces (read his full submissions for the details of both play and input - they're reasonably well thought-out). A game of this order would require loads of play testing and design experimentation before anyone could figure out how to make it really fun, but Vousden goes a long way by explaining the kinds of things we could experiment with, like the amount of time a player has to make a move, how the Balance Board detects movement and positioning, and how game piece positions translate into on-screen representation.

    Max Michaud-Shields, aspiring game designer, Starboard
    (see page 3)
    Some of you may recall on this site an article that explained what an elevator pitch is and how to write one ("What a Pitch!" June 24, 2008). Probably the single best thing about Max Michaud-Shield's entry is that he gave an elevator pitch in the very first sentence: "astronauts with snowboards." Had he not boiled down his idea to three catchy words, we might have overlooked it, seeing as there is no end in sight to both snowboarding games and outer space games. His pitch may have sold the idea more than the idea itself, but that's okay!

    Everett V Hubbard, Westwood College Online, 1,001 Arabian Flights
    (see page 4)
    Kids, age 3 to 12 can play Everett V Hubbard's game in which the Wii Balance Board becomes a magic carpet and the player becomes Disney's Aladdin. The submission itself is a little light on substance and lacked crucial details (Hubbard is also three-fourths of the way through his submission before he notes that the Balance Board acts as a magic carpet). Still, the concept is solid, and for young children, a sit-and-wiggle game just right.

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