A Cool Student-Design Race Game: Snow Dog

Summer days can be terribly hot where I live in Los Angeles, so how about a race in the snow to cool off? This typically torrid July, I’m teaching a class in Game Mechanics at The Los Angeles Film School. To facilitate my students’ understanding of and experimentation with game mechanics, I have them create analog games instead of digital ones, as analog games are quicker to make and balance. Each class day, I give them the choice of two player goals to build a game design upon.

Last week, as follow up to a lecture about Progression Mechanics, I tasked my students with creating a game based on player goals of either Gaining Competence in a skill, or Racing against the other players.  Games with a Gain Competence goals must also have New or Improved Abilities, Tools, and Controllers as game elements; those based on Race must have Power-Ups and Chargers.  The students teams almost always choose Race, which tells me that I need to find a more attractive alternative.

Anyway, one of our best students, Jennifer Chamorro, was absent the day I had student teams work in class on this assignment, and so I asked her to do it alone as homework.  Well, what she brought into class impressed me more than what any of the teams of other students had done, and so for this week’s blog post, with Jenn’s permission, I wanted to share her game design with you.

 

Snow Dogs

 

Play Time: 15-25 minutes
Players: 2- 4
Ages: 8+

Set-Up:  Place the game board in the center for all players to have access to the race track. Each player chooses their snow dog (pawn) color and place all snow dogs on the START space. Players must also gather their same colored special ability cap and place it near them, facing upside-down. Have each player roll the dice for play order, taking turns in the clockwise direction from the player who won the roll. Begin the race after the order of play has be determined.

Objective: It is a race to be crowned the best snow dog of north! Be the first player to race your snow dog around the cold snowy board and reach the “WINNER” finish line on top of “Mount Chilly”. Players all begin the race on the “START” space, going in the clockwise direction as pointed out by the larger arrows around the game board. Movement of the snow dog pawns are directed by two six-sided dice.

Rules:

  1. Players must move in the clockwise direction and cannot move backwards except if they land on the Backtrack space.
  2. A snow dog can jump over any other snow dogs during its move. However, two snow dogs cannot occupy the same square; a snow dog that lands on a square occupied by another player’s snow dog “bumps” that snow dog back to START or the MEDIC A snow dog can either be bumped to START or MEDIC depending on which location is the closest from behind them and NOT in front of them.
  3. If a player lands on the START space, then the player can rest without being bumped by any snow dogs. This space is also used for bumped players to land on.
  4. If a player lands on the MEDIC space, then the player can rest without being bumped by any snow dogs. This space is also used for bumped players to land on and for players to charge “” their Special Ability Cap.
  5. If a player lands on the Speed space, then the player can rest without being bumped by any snow dogs and adds an extra space to their dice roll on their next turn.
  6. If a player lands on the REST space, then the player can rest without being bumped by any snow dogs. This space is also used for players to charge “” their Special Ability Cap.
  7. If a player lands on the dot of a Speed Arrow space “ “, then the player can ride the arrow onto the next space where the tip of the arrow ends. If there are any other players on top of the Speed Arrow, then the player who rides the Speed Arrow can plow through any player who is on the spaces of the Speed Arrow, bumping them back to a START or MEDIC
  8. If a player lands on the Icy Floor space “”, then the player will lose a turn for slipping and losing control.
  9. If a player lands on the Backtrack space “”, then the player must roll one red six-sided die to see how many spaces they must go backwards. If this player lands on the same space as another snow dog, then the player who rolled the Backtrack die will be bumped back to the START or the MEDIC Any player who backtracks for any reason, will be the player who gets bumped.
  10. If a player lands on the Speed Die space “”, then the player can roll one blue six-sided die and move an extra set of spaces for speed.
  11. If a player lands on a Speed Space (numbered space) “”, then the player can move the amount of spaces that was given by the space.
  12. If a player lands on a Pawprint space “” “”, then the player has found another route and must place their snow dog on the next Pawprint like its color, using this as a shortcut or a backtrack.
  13. If a player lands on a Switch space “”, then the player must switch places with any player on the map.
  14. If a player lands on a Jump Arrow space “”, then the player must move up to the next and final tier of the map or must drop back down to the first tier. If players pass these arrows, then they must continue to race around the track until they land on a Jump Arrow.
  15. When a player reaches the WINNER space, then the player has reached the finish line and has won the race (game).

Special Ability Cap

A player can use this cap ONLY when it is charged by either landing on a MEDIC or REST space. When the cap is charged, the player MUST flip their cap over to signify that their Special Ability Cap is charged. When the cap is charged, the player can ONLY use it once until it can get charged again. The cap must be flipped back over when the Special Ability Cap has been used. To use the Special Ability Cap, the player MUST announce that they will use their Special Ability Cap at the beginning of their turn and tell the other players the ability of their choice before rolling the dice. The player using their Special Ability Cap, has the option to choose between three different abilities that they can choose from. The player can use ONLY ONE ability from the following options:

  • Gain Speed: Add one blue die to the player’s dice roll and have a total of three dice. This helps the player’s snow dog, run faster.
  • Decrease Speed: Add one red die to the player’s dice roll, having a total of three dice. The red die will subtract from the player’s white dice, helping the player decrease their speed.
  • Attack: Announce which player will be attacked, then roll a red die to see how many spaces that player must move back. Afterwards, roll the two-white dice to move forward.

A Turn:

  1. Use the Special Ability Cap (if charged)
  2. Roll the two-white dice to identify how many spaces will the player’s snow dog move
  3. Move snow dog numbered of spaces rolled
  4. Perform any action given by the action spaces on the board

 

Everyone had great fun playing this game in class, and if you decide to recreate her board and played it too, we’d like to know what your play experience was like.

Until next week, stay cool.

 

 

 

 

Virtual Reality Is In Play At The Los Angeles Film School Game Fair

Each month the Los Angeles Film School’s Game Production program holds a Game Fair to showcase the games our students are developing in their classes. Throughout the month of June I taught Game Design Project 1, which is an upper-division course where students work together in teams to design and create a prototype of a game that they will complete in Game Design Project 2. Both of the student teams in my class had decided to work on virtual reality projects, and I was so impressed with what they accomplished in just four weeks that I just had to also showcase them in my blog post for this week.

Confined

Confined is a survival-horror game for players who are interested in the development of VR. Resource management and good shooting skills are vital to your survival. Since you are going to experience the game from your own perspective it will really add to the immersion and threat of the game, and unlike Resident Evil 7 that had a VR function, Confined will be designed for VR rather than have it as a side feature. Now I ask you is being trapped underground really the worst thing to happen or is not knowing if you are alone down there worse?

For their Game Fair prototype, I gave the team a goal of implementing their flashlight mechanic for navigating through a dark, spooky lab and at least one puzzle to solve.  The puzzle they created took the form of a room littered with books, and the player had to find the one book that was out of the ordinary.  That book turned out to be the only book that remained on a bookshelf that could only be found by searching though the room with a flashlight before its batteries ran out.  When the player picked up the book with their virtual hand, a secret door would open, allowing the player to escape.

The players at Game Fair reported that this environment perfectly captured the right mood for a scary, horror game.  This mood was enhanced by the darkness and limited view through the virtual reality headset.  However, the avatar movement needed some work, because the player avatar would teleport short distances instead of walk and often would teleport right though the bookcase they were trying to reach.  But all in all, they were very excited about this game and saw its potential.

Development team:

  • Eric Castillo (Project Manager, Lead Designer, Programmer)
  • Will Mackey (Game Designer, Level Designer)
  • Vlad Altshuler (Co-Programmer, Lead Audio, Game Designer)
  • Jared Delatorre (Lead Level Designer, Marketer)
  • Jesus Soto (Lead Programmer, Level Designer, Mascot)
  • Anthony Reese (Lead Artist)

Eyes Wide Open

Eyes Now Open is a action packed level based first person VR shooter with a focus on tactical high intensity combat. Fight with anything you can get your hands on as you run and gun attempting to escape three levels of a secret super-soldier facility called Blackgrove. You play as Finley, the only patient to survive the Treatment, altering your genetic make up allowing you to posses super human abilities called Meta-Upgrades. Use these abilities to alter time, electricity, plasma and electromagnetic energy to destroy the ones who took not only your mind but the one you cared for the most, your wife.

I gave this team the goal of implementing one of the Meta-Upgrades and a situation where that special ability would be useful.  The team created a level in which the player started by choosing a gun from among an arsenal of weapons and then travel across the level to reach the exit.  As the player went into the main hallway, a horde of enemies would spawn into the far end and rush toward the player.  There were too many to kill with any of the weapons, unless the player activated the Alter Time Meta-Upgrade, which slowed down the enemies sufficiently to shoot them all.

Everyone who played this at Game Fair found the controls easy to use and the action to be exciting. However, not understanding this was only a prototype to test the mechanics, they did complain about the enemies being unfinished models.  They all enjoyed the immersion brought by the virtual reality headset, although several reported a slight feeling of motion sickness.  When I played the game, I too found it both to be a thrilling experience but felt a bit queasy when turning.  This is something the team will look into solving for the second month of the game’s development.

Development team:

  •  Jack Sabato (Project Manager / Lead Modeler / Assistant Texture Artist / Lead Writer)
  • Hassan Wansa (Assistant Project Manager / Lead Programmer / Lead GUI)
  • Brandon Deniz (Creative Director / Lead Level Designer / Assistant Modeler / Lead Texture Artist )
  • Desmon Jernigan  (Video Editor / Lead Story / Lead Dialog / Assistant Programmer / Lead Lighting Supervisor)
  • Jeremy Garrett (Business Manager / Lead Sound / Assistant Modeler / Assistant Artist)

 

 

At our next Game Fair, which is about five weeks away, I’ll take a second look at these games to see how they progressed.