Sunday 29 March 2015

Dash & Bash goes live at the National Videogame Arcade

This Saturday marked the grand opening of the National Videogame Arcade, the UK's first dedicated gaming museum, in Nottingham.

It also marked the first example of my work being on show long-term in a museum: Dash & Bash is set up the first floor, on a specially designed gaming wall, and open to all visitors!

Dash & Bash was originally designed for GameCity in October 2014, and I've polished and improved  it for an even better experience in the museum setting. The game is played by up to four players, on four screens and four big green buttons. Each player is given a picture card and tasked with finding which screen it's on, through a series of reactions-based, observation-based and sabotage-based challenges.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Design Lessons from Multiplayer Installations - Part 2

In my last article I talked about some of the design lessons I’ve learned from building Tap Happy Sabotage and Dash & Bash - multiplayer installation games involving arm-grabbing and running around. The article examined how to use pacing and variation of mechanics to create a shared social experience and give players stories to take home with them.

This article will look at the more practical lessons I’ve learnt from these games. By taking games outside their usual contexts and platforms, the challenges of conveying rules and information become much more difficult.

What do these design challenges tell us about the way we understand games as players?

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Design Lessons from Multiplayer Installations - Part 1

2014 was a good year for Tap Happy Sabotage! The game went to Brighton and Birmingham, Bristol and Berlin. I demoed it at Gamescom, talked on-stage about it with one of my design heroes at the JOIN Summit, and played it with massive crowds at EGX. It spent a weekend at Bletchley Park, home to Colossus, the world’s first programmable computer, and got played on an 88-inch display at Microsoft’s HQ in Reading.

Yep, it's certainly been an exciting!

Playtesting Tap Happy Sabotage on a 27-inch screen
In October I turned it into Dash & Bash, a room-filling multiplayer installation. It was praised as one of the highlights of GameCity 9 and, from the end of March, will be a fixture at the National Videogame Arcade. Off the back of that I’m now working on Button Bash, a portable wireless button kit and a suite of buttons to take to exhibitions and events.

Dash & Bash at GameCity 9

I wanted to write up some of the lessons I’ve learnt from my multiplayer installations. I'll be referring to Tap Happy Sabotage as an installation because, despite being downloadable as a Windows Store app, its natural home really is in public spaces.

This first article will talk about creating social situations through play. The second will discuss the challenges of UI design in installation games, about player expectations and the way we process information.

So without further ado, the most important lesson from multiplayer installations:

My job as a designer is not to create elegant systems.
It is to engineer interesting social situations.