Results from Game Design Challenge: DSiWare

By GameCareerGuide.com staff [04.28.09]

 The Nintendo DSi hit North American store shelves earlier this month, boasting new hardware functionality and an array of improvements over Nintendo's previously available model of its portable platform, the Nintendo DS Lite.

In addition to offering a larger screen and a brighter display, the Nintendo DSi features two digital cameras -- one on the device's lid, and one facing the player -- music recording and playback functionality with SD card storage support, and the introduction of downloadable games and content via Nintendo's DSi Shop, accessed via a WiFi connection.

So far, Nintendo has shown characteristic restraint in exploiting the hardware's new functionality. The music playback feature has yet to be used in any game, and the DSi Shop's downloadable games library largely consists of bite-sized adaptations of existing DS titles.

The first downloadable game to exploit the player-facing camera to a significant degree -- WarioWare: Snapped! -- has thus far earned a mixed response from critics, many of whom praised its concept but found frustration in its execution.

With the Nintendo DSi boasting massive untapped potential, Game Career Guide challenged its readers to design a game with the device's hardware in mind. Many responses expressed enthusiasm for the DSi's cameras, and several concepts toyed with the idea of integrating real-world scavenger hunts into gameplay. Others contributed game ideas that exploited the DS's multiplayer WiFi capabilities, and a few suggested intriguing ways in which the DSi's audio playback could make for compelling gameplay experiences.

What follows are the best and most original entries we received. Here are our top picks:

Best Entries
Matthew Rollins, Systems Analyst, Ultimate Scavenger Hunt (see page 2)
Ultimate Scavenger Hunt's scope pushed it ahead of similar entries, promising gameplay variety aimed at multiple audiences and demographics. Sponsored challenges and downloadable content expand an already robust gameplay offering.

RiCah Anne Vanessa R. Baltazar, Game Designer, Director's Cut (see page 3)
Director's Cut successfully integrates the DSi's many unique hardware features into one complete product that allows users to cut a film using photos, sound samples, and downloadable scripts. Film sharing features ensure that players will seek to hone their filmmaking abilities in order to show off their work to friends and family members.

Vladimir Villanueva, Artist, Beat Box (see page 4)
The DSi's music playback functionality may be one of the device's lesser-promoted features, but it's central to Beat Box's unique take on the vertically scrolling shooter genre. With simple gameplay and replayability that scales to the size of the user's music library, Beat Box would make an ideal candidate for the DSi Shop. 

Honorable Mentions
Eric Studer, Associate Producer, Rain or Shine (see page 5)
Robert Gauss, Operations Research Analyst, Beasts Within (see page 6)
Stuart Lilford, University of Wolverhampton, Color Catcher (see page 7)
Melissa Manlutac, Indie Game Artist, Lagumixer! (see page 8)
Michael Danquah, Where's My Chameleon? (see page 9)


Matthew Rollins, Systems Analyst, Ultimate Scavenger Hunt

My idea is called Ultimate Scavenger Hunt. This game presents the player with a list of items that the player needs to take a picture of using the DSi's camera. Once all of the items on the list are "shot" the level is complete.

Each level will be progressively "harder" with the lower levels consisting of simple shapes such as a square or circle and higher levels consisting of more specific items such as a specific type of chair or vehicle. As each picture is taken a fun fact about the item will be displayed on the top screen while the next clue will be displayed on the bottom. The initial game will ship with 30 levels of 10 items each.

Where this game really expands is with downloadable "Hunts". Each hunt will consist of 10 levels centered on a theme. For example, a "Manhattan" Hunt might begin with a simple item such as a Taxi but end with a unique item hidden somewhere in the city. The possibilities are endless with themed hunts as they could be applied to every major city, landmark, and tourist attraction. At $2 per download they would become mandatory for every trip you take! Themed hunts could also apply to groups of famous people.

A variation of the themed hunts would be sponsored hunts. These would be sponsored by specific companies and brands and double as in game advertising. For example, what kid likes to go grocery shopping with mom?

Load up Publix's sponsored hunt and a trip to the grocery store has just become a game. The kid is now having fun while mom shops. Sponsored hunts also serve as a separate revenue stream for the developer. In exchange for being featured in a hunt the company or brand agrees to pay an advertising fee for every 100 or 1000 downloads of their sponsored hunt.

An online community will contain leader boards displaying gamers with the most completed hunts, the fastest times, etc. This will foster competition and the hunts themselves will be the achievements. Taking the community to the next level will be Community Hunts.

These timed special event hunts, completed in teams or individually, begin at a predetermined time and become a competition spanning the country or even the world. During these events the bottom screen shows the item and the top screen shows real time data reflecting the standings. This provides a sense of urgency and intensity to the game and takes scavenger hunting to a whole new level.

The appeal of this game will stretch across all demographics and range from the casual gamer to the hardcore gamer. Casual gamers will get a kick out of finding all of the items in a particular theme or city while hardcore gamers will be vying for the top of the leader boards. There will be hunts designed for children, teens, men, women…even retirees! Everyone likes a good scavenger hunt and Ultimate Scavenger Hunt will offer something for everyone!


RiCah Anne Vanessa R. Baltazar, Game Designer, Director's Cut

Game Overview

Take charge of a movie and create an instant hit in Director's Cut, a casual puzzle pak game designed especially for the Nintendo DSi! As an up and coming director, you have been given a chance to create a spectacular film from a genre of your choice. Play through various mini-games to develop scenes for the movie. Use your imagination and receive points that measure your movie's quality. Complete projects and win rewards to open your doors to grander projects!

Gameplay and Functionality

A Written Masterpiece Awaits You

Your objective is to take charge in filming scenes based on a script you chose. Complete scenes by playing the mini-game assigned to it. These mini-games require you to use the DSi features creatively to earn points. The bigger the points you receive, the higher the chances of your film becoming a block buster hit!

Selecting your Stars

Profile slots allow you to take snap shots of real people, create their profiles and assign their roles! Your snapshot icons will be displayed on the dialogue HUD, while the scene displays the characters in their full movie costumes.

Drawing the Scenery

Take a snap shot of your surroundings and add necessary props written on the script. Select from a range of furniture, decorations, etc. Draw or color over the set to improve its mood! Meet the requirements to get the film rolling!

Reading between the lines

Fill in a few blanks on the dialogue by choosing different responses that will deliver a unique outcome. Watch as the plot twist and turn with every choice!

That's a Wrap!

Wrap up the set and watch your work through compelling cutscenes. Reap the fruits of your labor as your final score is tallied! The higher the score, the greater the rewards!


Features

Horror? Comedy? Take your pick!

Choose what type of movie you want to make! Want to capture the hearts of the female audience? A love story is sure to win them over! Want to give the viewer a little fright? Choose a Horror script to spook them out of their socks!

Dubs and Sounds

Add short responses using NDSi's Record feature (i.e. Gasps, huh or hmm) or insert premade sound effects. Add an echo as you enter a cave, or the chirping of birds as the lovers take a stroll in the park!

Gossips and Off-Screen Drama: Building Relationships

Encounter different types of actors with different personalities. Some may not want to share the spot light with others, while some might have an unresolved dispute with another cast member. Choose your cast carefully to avoid walk out disasters that can cripple your success!

Download Scripts from the Website or Create Your Own!

Don't see any script you like? Go to the Nintendo Shop and download new, exciting scripts! Want everything done your way? Download free software the developers have created to make your own script. Use it and/or share with others!


Vladimir Villanueva, Artist, Beat Box

"Beat Box" is a single level, vertical shoot-em-up in which the player controls a small aircraft in destroying "Box," a giant floating stereo which fires sheet music and commands fleets of "keys" to the rhythm of an .aac audio file chosen by the player. The player must defeat "Box" before the audio file ends: failure to do so causes "Box" to escape off screen.

"Box's" size is roughly one-fourth of the top screen, lightly swaying left and right, moving to different part of the top screen from time to time. "Box" has three methods of attack: a barrage of colorful notes, a beam of varying width that resembles the "staff" of sheet music, and long, thin, horizontal "beat" lines that fly down into the touch screen.

Accompanying "Box" are small enemies known as "keys." "Keys" fly in groups, snaking down from the top screen and down to the touch screen before disappearing off screen. Being hit by "Box's" music or colliding into "keys" will cause the player's aircraft to take damage and eventually explode, ending the game.

"Box's" firing pattern along with the amount of "keys" on screen is dependent on the the audio file chosen as background music: fast-paced songs causes "Box" to fire a massive amount of notes as fleets of "keys" swarm all around, while slower songs will cause less commotion to show up on screen.

The player controls"Tempestuous," an aircraft which occupies a small portion of the touch screen. The player moves the aircraft with the stylus: touching "Tempestuous" and dragging the stylus will cause the aircraft to move.

Touching "Tempestuous" and quickly dragging the stylus or touching the screen far away from the aircraft causes ship to burst with acceleration towards the stylus' new location. While accelerating, "Tempestuous" can ram into enemy "keys" and "note" bullets, hurling the obstacles back at "Box."

The player's ability to perform bursts of acceleration is limited by a quickly-regenerating energy meter. Bursts of acceleration can only be performed when the energy meter is full. Therefore, short bursts will use a light amount of energy, while longer bursts that travel across the screen will require a couple more seconds to recoup from.

"Tempestuous" mainly defends itself by firing waves of errant sounds. The L or R button is used to fire the aircraft's selected wave: auto-fire is performed by holding either button down. The directional pad or the letter pad is used to change weapons. Up/x selects a straight-forward wave.

Left/y selects a homing wave that lightly damages multiple targets. Right/a selects a spreading burst of small waves. Down/b selects compacted balls of waves that slowly move forward, bursting either on impact or shortly after being launched. The player wins if "Tempestuous" hits "Box" with enough waves and reflected "notes" and "keys" before the audio file ends.


 Eric Studer, Associate Producer, Rain or Shine

High Concept:

Control the weather of a small town to help or hinder its citizens.

Mechanics:

Hold the DS upside down with the touch screen on top, and use the stylus and microphone to create weather patterns to affect the town below.  Weather types include: rain, snow, wind, sunshine, and any combination of those.

To Create...

Clouds: Draw small concentric circles in a small area until a cloud forms.  It won't produce precipitation until it reaches a certain size.  The type of precipitation is determined by whether the cloud is on the top or bottom half of the screen.  The bottom half of the screen produces rain, the top snow.  Clouds can only be a quarter of the screen wide, meaning that you will have to generate more than one cloud to fulfill some requests.

Wind: Blow into the microphone.  The longer you blow, the stronger the wind becomes.  This clears away clouds, but can also cause wind storms for the citizens.

Sunshine: The sun moves across the very top of the screen.  It moves from right to left, and when it's made the complete trip, it changes to the moon and repeats the process.  When the sun is out, you draw lines from its location to the direction of the desired spot on the bottom screen.

 The Town:

The citizens should be no more than a few pixels tall, and the houses not much larger than that.  There isn't a variety of buildings; just the same building replicated over and over depending on the number of citizens.  On the left of the screen are the crop fields, the center has all of the buildings, and the right side of the screen has a Ferris wheel and beach.  Everything created on the top screen falls to the bottom.  The town is drawn from an isometric viewpoint.

Example Requests:

How to Take a Request:

Requests appear as exclamation points over different parts of the town.  You press any button to accept the request.  A dialog box appears on the bottom screen explaining what the request is.

Winning and Losing:

You can't lose the game you can only dissatisfy your citizens.  They will continue to give you requests in the hope that you will eventually satisfy their needs.  Access to bonuses like the ability to make rainbows or create thunderstorms depends on the (un)happiness of your town.  The population of the town grows and decreases based on their happiness.  The goal is to play with the weather and see how it affects the citizens.  This is more of a toy than an actual game.


Robert Gauss, Operations Research Analyst, Beasts Within

Capture the Beast within anyone!  Snap their picture, and watch them morph into a Beast in front of your eyes!  Take your Beast Cards and fight other Beast Masters savage opponents in a 3-on-3 paws to claws battle.  Expand your encyclopedia and renew your creatures online.  Happy hunting!

The Beast Cards

Once this application is downloaded, you create Beast Cards from your friend's faces.  An algorithmically simple (with a small touch of random) biometric program creates key points based on the photo.  With a "snap" of the outer camera, the Beast Card is matched to the best Beast in an ever-growing catalog of Beasts from DLC boosters.

Beasts have two attacks, one defense, and a special move assigned to each Beast Card.  Certain attributes, like hit points and elemental weakness, are printed on the card.  One type of beast, through the joy of slight random variation, may have different attributes, attacks, defenses, and specials.

The Battles

Each player lines up their three beasts secretly, front to back.  Each turn they may attack or special, while the opponent chooses the best defense, special, or does nothing in response.  After both players have attacked, the cards may be rearranged for the next round.  The first player to have all three Beasts defeated loses.  The Battle application utilizes the stylus to drag cards around and selecting attacks and defenses.

The Online Component

Not only are Beast Boosters (free and premium) downloaded onto SD card catalogs, they have to be unlocked with the right portrait.  All Beasts on your SD card can be healed once a day by connecting to the Beasts Within website.

The Utilities

Export your Beast morph portraits to your social networking sites and blogs via SD card.  Sites that allow animated images can show the entire morph, and those that only take stills can take a snapshot of any stage of the morph.  Sliders for size, quality, stills, and a check box for animation will control the exported image.


Export your Beast Cards to image files on the SD card for printing.  Take your printed cards (preferably on a card stock) and play the game offline.  Cards will be a folded card of the card front and card back as printed.  Rules for other offline games using the cards will be on the Beasts Within website periodically.

Summary

Beasts Within uses the stylus, camera, DSi Ware shop, the special Beasts Within website, system link, and the ability to export images to the SD cart for other uses.  Some research about how the "recharging" of the Beasts online will be necessary.  The offline games will further enhance the experience as you share or trade your cards with your friends.  The target audience is:  Pokemon, RPG, and CCG players, as well as people who want to morph faces into beasts and use those pictures in other applications.


Stuart Lilford, University of Wolverhampton, Color Catcher

Color Catcher is a fun, simple little game where you are required to hunt down and take pictures of the colors that come up on the screen. For example the DSi screen comes up asking you to locate the color: RED, so you look around and see the red lamp in the corner of the room, you take a photo and *SNAP* you get a tick and move on to the next one. Now you must find the color: LIGHT BLUE. There's clear skies outside, maybe you could snap that? 


There are four modes in total-

Practice Mode: This is where you can practice the three types of games that come up in the challenge mode. They are- 

Challenge Mode: You are given a time limit of around three minutes, where you must complete as many of the above challenges as you can. Getting Points for how quickly the challenge is completed and also how close your photo is to the color on the DSi (obviously, you can't always get it 100%, so you have to get it as close as you can). The screen also tells you, what color you have to catch next, so you can be thinking about it when your snapping the current one.

Color Chart: This is a chart of a large amount of colors, showing you which ones you've 'caught' and those that you haven't, giving it a "Gotta Catch 'em All" appeal. You can also save colors as 'Favorites'.

Free Play Mode: Say you've almost 'caught' all of the colors and you only have one shade of green to go and you see a bush that fits it exactly, open free play and save it to your list of colors in your color chart- chart complete! This also comes in handy if you are trying to think of colors to paint the spare bedroom, say you were at a friends house and you think that the color of their wallpaper would look great. Use free play to catch it and add it to your favorite colors to try it later.

When photos are taken it would convert it to a color in the color chart, then ticking it as caught, discarding the actual photo, so there is no unnecessary space wastage. Color Catcher is compact amusing experince, that keeps in with Nintendo's distinctive style, using the DSi's new camera ability and a small enough application to be downloaded via the DSiWare Network and simple enough to be cheap and affordable.


Melissa Manlutac, Indie Game Artist, Lagumixer!

Living in the cloudy realm above the living, the player is the keeper of the world's water supply, or wants to be. Despite being a powerful entity, the only means to bring the water throughout the world is to create rivers and lakes. Working together with the player is the light deity, keeper of the sun, as well as many other gifted friends.

By creating rivers, lakes and manipulating the terrain, the player's job is to provide life giving water throughout the world to all creatures.

Gameplay

Controlling the water flow - Rivers and lakes will be drawn via the stylus. Should the player run into a mountain range, the water flow can be frozen atop a mountain for snow, and, with the help of some stored light, the melted snow allows the water flow to continue through the range. Other obstacles, not always terrain based, will appear throughout the game as a mix of puzzles, strategies and role-playing ensue. Rivers can go up mountains. Really they can.

Allies' (CPU) availability - The CPU have an agenda of their own, so you'll have to take notice when they are available to give their powers. I can haz sunlight plx?

Opposition - Greedy creatures are directing the water away from the others. The player has to compete with their efforts to provide for the less fortunate. At first they'll transfer water with simple methods like using buckets. Over time, they'll start damming up rivers and using pipelines. Use your ally's powers to create natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tornados, to prevent this.

In addition, rival deities will harass the player's allies reducing their time for assistance. Aw, Sam is working overtime again?

Goal - Maintain the balance between all creatures. Maybe even stop an alien or two. Give that cuddly, lovable bunny a drink or help a flower bloom. I like bunnies.

Dual Camera

Both cameras will be treated as light switches instead of actual cameras. The game will read them both as either having light or not having light.

Inside camera lens will be the shut off switch for the water flow coming from the heavens. Covering the lens is essentially the player using his/her hand to cover up the mouth of the water jug.

Outside camera will be how you will store your friends' energy. They're all very busy and can only help you by storing their powers within an energy container. With the light deity, light coming into the lens will fill his container. 

Dual Screen

Top screen - It shows what is occurring in deity world. This includes the water flow opening, and your friends' and oppositions' activities.

Bottom screen - Main interface and world of the living. This is where the player will be orchestrating the flow of water


Michael Danquah, Where's My Chameleon?

‘Where's my chameleon?' is a Hide-and-Seek game that utilizes the camera on the DSi to make your own levels.

Game synopsis:

You, the player, are the proud owner of a cute little chameleon that uses its camouflage techniques hide in plain sight. Your chameleon has a reason for hiding. It's a lazy lizard that likes to snooze and not be disturbed. Surprisingly it will go trough great lengths to find a place to sleep. It's up to you to find your lazy yet tricky lizard friend, where ever he may be hiding.


Game:

As the player you will search each level for your chameleon. To complete a level you must find out where he's hiding. Easier said then done, since it can blend in with its environment. Players will have to have a good eye to find him as he rest while camouflaged.

Gameplay:

On the top screen the player has a view of the whole level. On the bottom screen you navigate though the level using your stylus. To navigate you press the L shoulder button to toggle to the camera, touch the screen with the stylus and drag the camera to where you want to look (see image below). You can zoom in on the level for a closer look with up and down on the directional pad. When you think you found your chameleon, tap on the screen where he is. If where you tap is not where he is then the game counts it as a miss. When you miss to much, its game over for the player.


Features:

This game takes advantage of the DSi's outer camera so players can use them as their own levels. Because of this feature, the game really becomes an unique experience for every DSi owner.

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