Zeroing in on Fun

One goal of this project is to bring that nail-biting suspense so many video games provide to the table-top board game. The best board games have this imho. 

To pull this off, I created an “AI” town that competes against the players. I quote “AI” because, I’m not an artificial intelligence expert and the competing town, Herndon (sorry Herndon) is essentially run with a significant number of if/then statements.

Chrome will only let me zoom out to 25%, so I animated a gif to show the table keeping track of it all:

awesome town ai data

The result is, I’m able to chart out player visitors vs AI visitors easily game after game after game. With little tweaks to the game’s “economy”, I can make it more exciting. 

graphs of player visitors vs ai visitors in four different games

1st Play-Test with People Completely Unfamiliar with the Game

This was a big moment for me. Four people with zero knowledge of my game played it for the first time! They were 100% helpful and fun – what they found was 99% frustrating! At no fault of theirs, they found a missing feature that brought our test to a premature end.

5 young adults sit around a table with a monopoly board and laptop playing awesome townThis eats at me because I knew I wanted to add this feature, I just never got around to it. Since Awesome Town’s hybrid component is web-based, all of the game’s information is stored within the player’s session. If you leave the page, you lost all the game data. They got a couple rounds into their first game and accidentally hit the back button…maybe the touch screen, maybe a hidden Chromebook gesture?…either way, going back = game over.

I was able to quickly catch them up though and they were able to do a couple more rounds. It seemed like they were about to get it when it HAPPENED AGAIN!

a close up of the board game monopoly with a laptop in the center playing awesome townI couldn’t bring myself to ask them to try a 3rd time and I didn’t know how to fix that quickly. Turns out it’s a super simple “window.onbeforeunload = function() {return true;};” function…Ahhh, had it known, I would have fixed this already.

Regardless, big thank you to Rachel, Allie, Will and Riley. The few rounds you did complete gave me lots to work on.

a check list of tasks to complete in the awesome town development

Making Every Play-Through Different

Virtual Tourists

Make Every Game Different

Discovery is a fun part of any game. That’s why I wanted the virtual population of tourists to change every time you played Awesome Town. One game, there might be a lot more Budget tourists. Another game might be mostly Luxury-minded visitors. Finding out who your customers are is part of the fun. So, here’s how Awesome Town randomizes one of the pillars of the game.

Why I Made Awesome Town

The Legacy of Monopoly

Growing up, I would beg my two older brothers to play Monopoly. That enthusiasm to play died prematurely.

You see, anytime they’d land on one of my big-money properties, they’d quit unless I gave them a sweetheart deal that usually included some of my properties. I basically paid them to lose to them. 

Those memories resurfaced after playing some co-operative board games.

I began to wonder, “Why couldn’t you change the rules of Monopoly and make it cooperative?

Continue reading “Why I Made Awesome Town”

Project Concerns

At first, I was worried that adding a screen to a board game would negatively impact board games “One more screen people are glued to”.

I think technology (screens or AR) blending with board games is inevitable, but I also think it could be amazing if done right.

Best practices for blending digital with analog game elements:

  • Adds value not addiction.
  • Provides enjoyable experiences without sacrificing well-being.
  • Creates fun elements unachievable any other way.

This Project Represents Potential

I see potential for

  • Combat games like Risk could have fog of war, heroes, cover, flanking, moral, fatigue.
  • Economic games, like Awesome Town, could be mass multiplayer in a persistent world. 
  • All kinds of games could have vast “replay-ability” with randomized scenarios like alien invasion, zombie apocalypse, natural disasters, influencers, etc.
  • Another HUGE potential is how game developers could make games as platforms for user-generated content. So, maybe Isaac Childres publishes Gloomhaven with it’s 95 scenarios and fans create another 300 scenarios.
  • Lastly, I see AR infused board games as a way to draw video gamers into a more social game setting. My friends and I played a ton of Star Craft, Command and Conquer, etc. we always sat alone in front of our computers. Can you imagine how fun it would be to play a realtime strategy game with AR in your living room together with your friends?