The Most Generic iOS Games That Don’t Exist (Yet!)

The Most Generic iOS Games That Don’t Exist (Yet!)

Some call it originality. I call it being the first loser.

The iOS gaming space is crowded. Metacritic lists 10,934. Doing a word frequency analysis on their titles, we can come up with the ultimate must-hit games. I’m expecting a 20% cut when these become reality, on top of whatever Apple’s charging.

War Game Man — It is only a game, isn’t it? Man?

These are the first three nouns on our list. In order. War (349), Game (332), and Man (308), have almost a thousand hits between them, when you exclude two-letter combinations and common hyphen-ation frag-ments. More importantly, they’re three things hardcore gamers crave: Wars, games and men. So I’m told. Felch out literally anything with a tank, a guy in a helmet, and this title, and sit back until you hear the backup beep of the money truck.

Ace Ball Age: Bat Hero — The fate of Baseballalandia teeters on the edge, in this exciting sports/RPG hybrid!

Next up–still in order, without skipping any words–is a guaranteed money spigot. Ace (246) Ball (212) Age (210) Bat (207) Hero (198). “Oh gee, we don’t have any assets for a baseball title or an RPG,” SAID NO ONE EVER! You’ll launch the project Tuesday and be on the app store by Friday. Buy some Sponsored Content (“This Baseball RPG Will Make You Blot Out the Sun With Jizz–Especially If You’re a Woman!”) and start looking like a hoarder’s house but with money stacks.

Tar/Ash Ant Art — Navigate your half-poisoned ants through a ruined canvas factory–then sell your canvases on the fickle, tasteless modern art speculation market!

Sure, Tar (198) Ash (197) Ant (193) Art (188) is probably 90% pieces of other words, but it’s also in order, and also (while a little dark) the sort of strange-sounding, boring-to-play game that smartphone gamers love to hype. Start the train early, with forum posts, concept art, and “first looks.” Maybe put out an unplayable alpha to presale backers (basically the game with a broken start button), an almost-playable beta (a working start button, no levels, and a “crash app after 80 seconds” timer), and finally–finally–the big release (the alpha, with a better splash screen). Go Free to Play after three months. Charge $10 to stop the app from filling your Notification Center with achievement trophies and dead ants.

Maybe not a sure hit now, but they’ll clamor for a VR remake in 12 years.

You want longer words? How about this:

King Venture Adventure — The game that we reskinned with baseball assets to make Ace Ball Age: Bat Hero.

Two for one! King (187) doesn’t even come up in that many other words, and while Venture (184) technically is included in every instance of Adventure (179), they’re still the next three nouns on our list–and still in order, with no gaps. Adventure ho, Your Majesty! Ho I say!

Don’t want to use any more three-letter words at all? Fine. We can still play:

Star Zombie — Star. Zombie. It was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. We just gave it a name.

You got chocolate in my edible body paint, peanut! Star (177) Zombie (170) finally brings together two things the market isn’t at all sick of: Zombies, zombies, zombies, and games with vague generic sci-fi backdrops. Oh no please. Keep some of your money. I have so much…

Battle World: Super Land — Only one can dominate something, somewhere. Presumably!

They said it couldn’t be done in an iPhone game, but we made a game about war! And we made it with the next few words, in order, with no gaps. In Battle (165) World (152) Super (149) Land (147) you decide how to wage peace across the ill-fitting board, in the only game to include square, hexagonal, pentagonal, and rhomboid tiles in the same otherwise largely undifferentiated levels.

Aw hell, just give me $1MM now and I’ll throw in the next 21 (in-order, four or more letter, without gaps, guaranteed hit titles) for 10% off the top:

Word Puzzle Monster — (146, 139, 133) More puzzles! More monsters! Less attention span! HEYYY-AAAH!

Space Quest: Drag Night — (128, 123, 116, 113) Not all space heroes wear capes, but when they do, they’re velour.

Dragon Cape — (108, 104) Not all dragons wear velour, but…

Edition Edit — (97, 97) It’s 1933. You’re William Allan Neilson and Thomas A. Knott. Can you finish the Webster’s New International Dictionary?

Dead Escape Time: Episode Legend — (95, 94, 90, 88, 88) Not only is this probably edgy in some way, but say “episode” and your DLC levels become full-priced sequels.

Last Rush Defense — (87, 87, 80) Tower defense has never been this towery, or defensive!

Fight Racing: Tiny Story (Mini) — (80, 78, 77, 74, 74) Kart man, do!

Dark Jump — (74, 74) You’ll fall. A lot. The paincore hit of the month of Maying.

Light Race Soccer — (68, 68, 68) All Soccer Players Matter.

Pocket Craft Fish — (67, 63, 62) Maybe crafting has nothing to do with fishing, but maybe shut the hell up.

Rock Rain Tale — (61, 61, 61) “Sit here by the fire, promising indigenous youth, and I’ll tell you the tale of the day the rocks rained down…”

Dash Knight Ventures — (61, 60, 58) Sadly, nostalgia-buying an even worse knockoff of Rocket Knight Adventures probably won’t be the worst life decision your customers will have made.

Little Plan: Lost Robot Adventures — (58, 58, 58, 58, 57) So cute it won’t matter that the game is 90% walking across different backdrops.

Kingdom Port — (56, 56) Build your… port! In the kingdom! Kingdom Port!

Fantasy Magic: Kill Less — (55, 55, 55, 54) Really, you’ve been going a bit mad with power lately. We’re all concerned about you.

Part — (54) Spread things and stick other things into places in this puzzling–and completely non-erotic–puzzle game.

Ever Fall — (54, 54) Messianic sci-fi, surreal action puzzler, or primetime WB drama? Yes!

Block Tower Island — (53, 53, 51) The sequel to Last Rush Defense! Virtually indistinguishable.

Bird Ride: Blast Legends — (51, 51, 51, 50) I’ll give you something to be angry about.

Road Shoot — (50, 50) Finally! Mayhem involving roads.

Sword Pixel Runner: Monsters Down! — (50, 50, 50, 49, 49) Save the things from the other things, in the ultimate pulse-pounding ironic hipster 8-bit whatever.

Make cheques payable to the management.

Tags: , ,

Board Game: Fair Verona (v0.1)

If you have a chess board, you can play chess or checkers. If you have a deck of cards, you can play any number of games. But if you have a Carcassonne set, you can only play Carcassonne. As every modern geek has one, I thought we needed another game to play with it.

You play the aunts and uncles of the polymath Verona in the dangerous and romantic city states of classical Italy. Verona is brilliant, scatter-brained, obsessive, creative, charming, a magnet for trouble–and all of 17 years old. Having promised her dearly-departed parents to look after her, it’s up to you to do the legwork of the latest mystery she’s stumbled upon.

Objective

Four players cooperate to build a board of Carcassonne tiles while trying to locate and return Clue Tokens to the starting tile. Card value based Encounters hinder you and advance the game.

You Will Need

  • A Carcassonne Game (including the standard River expansion)
  • A standard deck of playing cards

Setup

Shuffle the deck of cards, including the two jokers. Find the “all city” Carcassonne tile–the Old Town, where Verona lives–and place it in the center of your play surface. Deal each player an Identity card face up. Each player selects a meeple color, placing one of that color on the starting tile, and one on their Identity card. Deal one additional card–the Clue Card–face-up beside the deck, and put a meeple of the unused color atop it as a Clue Token. Randomize the remainder of the normal Carcassonne tiles and set them aside. Randomize the River tiles, and prepare to start with them.

  • Easy Game: Put out 5 more Clue Tokens, for a total of 6. Deal each player 2 more cards, sight-unseen, to be placed beneath their Identity Card–these are their first two Friend cards. (Explained below.)
  • Medium Game: Put out 6 more Clue Tokens, for a total of 7. Deal each player 1 Friend card.
  • Hard Game: Put out 7 more Clue Tokens, for a total of 8. Deal no starting Friend cards.

The Identity Card

Each card in play represents a unique person. Your Identity card is your player character. The face value represents a person’s role in the social hierarchy, from the cutpurse and con artist (2-3) through the city leaders and geniuses (J, Q, K, A).

Card suits represent specialties:

  • Spades: Alchemy, painting, invention, dance, poetry.
  • Clubs: The sword, the lance, the grapple, the fist.
  • Diamonds: Gold, debt, silver, ships at sea.
  • Hearts: Love, family, desire, comradery.

Play

Play proceeds clockwise from the dealer. Each turn has three phases:

  1. Tile Placement
  2. Encounter Clearing
  3. Movement

Tile Placement

At the beginning of a turn, the player always attempts to place a tile–either a face down tile, or an unplayed (face-up) tile. Tile placement rules are identical to normal Carcassonne (including the need to start with the River tiles) except for one major change: A tile must be placed on a space adjacent to the one your meeple currently occupies, horizontally, vertically, or along a diagonal.

If you place a tile with a shield (pennant), or complete a city, you have made a Friend. Draw a card from the deck and place it beneath your Identity card, sight-unseen. (Note that you don’t make a Friend from drawing a shield tile, only from playing it!)

If a tile can be played, it must be. You may not select a face-up tile that can not be played, but nothing requires you to select a playable tile if face-down tiles remain.

If a tile can not be played, it is placed face-up beside your Identity card, and an Encounter is triggered for the next player: Draw a card from the deck and hand it to the next player.


Encounters

Danger and intrigue are ever present! Clearing Encounters is the second phase of a turn. When dealt an Encounter card, place it above your Identity card. You may not move until all your Encounters have been cleared. If you are on the same tile as a player with an Encounter card, you may help clear one of theirs. You clear an Encounter by bringing to bear a higher total value than the Encounter card itself.

You determine your total strength (value) in an Encounter as follows:

  • Your Identity card’s face value
    • Plus or minus any Distance Bonus
    • Times any Suit Multiplier
  • Plus any other player on the same tile’s face value
    • Plus or minus any Distance Bonus of theirs
    • Times any Suit Multiplier of theirs
  • Plus the face value of a Friend card, if you choose to play one
Distance Bonus

The wealthy and famous are at their strongest in the Old Town, while the lower classes are better out in the hinterlands. To find your Distance Bonus, count your current distance from Verona, either horizontally or vertically (whichever is greater).

  • Face Cards and Aces: Your value drops by 1 per tile away from Verona. For example:
    • A Queen 3 tiles north [and 1 tile east] of Verona is worth 9.
      • Queen minus 3 = J… 10… 9.
    • An Ace [2 tiles south and] 6 tiles east of Verona is worth 8.
      • Ace minus 6 = K… Q… J… 10… 9… 8.
  • Number Cards: Your value grows by 1 per tile away from Verona beyond your face value–in practice, this means your value is the greater of your face value or your distance from Verona. For example:
    • A Two 7 tiles south [and 6 tiles east] of Verona is worth 7.
    • An Eight [3 tiles south and] 9 tiles east of Verona is worth 9.
    • A Five 2 tiles north [and 1 tile west] of Verona is still worth 5.
Suit Multiplier

Your Identity card’s suit is your specialty. In an Encounter against the same suit, your face value (plus or minus any Distance Bonus) is doubled. For example:

  • A 7♦ can not clear an Encounter with a Q♠.
    • 7 (♦) is not greater than Q (♠).
  • A 10♥ can not clear an Encounter with a 10♣.
    • 10 (♥) is not greater than 10 (♣).
  • A 4♠ can clear an encounter with a 7♠.
    • 4♠ times 2 = 8(♠). 8 (♠) is greater than 7 (♠).
Friends

In an Encounter, you may optionally call on a Friend if you have one available. Turn one of your Friend cards over, and add its value to your Encounter. (Your friend gets no Bonuses or Multipliers). Regardless of whether it helps you clear the Encounter or not, the Friend card is then discarded.

Clues

Some Encounters include a Clue Token, which goes to you after the Encounter is cleared, and must then be returned to Verona.

At the start of the game, the first Clue Card was turned over, and a Clue Token (meeple of the unused color) was placed atop it. The Clue Card is what Verona knows about the person who holds the next piece of the puzzle. She’s never quite right.

When an Encounter is triggered with a Clue Card in play, the suit and value of the Encounter card and Clue Card are compared. If either the suit or face match, the Clue Token becomes the prize of the Encounter. Discard the current Clue Card and move the Clue Token onto the Encounter card. When you clear this Encounter, move the Clue Token onto your Identity Card. Your objective is now to return it to Verona.

Clue Tokens may be handed off from one player to another on the same tile at any time. When the Clue Token is returned to Verona’s tile, stack it atop the others, draw a new Clue Card, and place a Clue Token on it. Having received the clue and figured out what it means, Verona dispatches you to find the next piece of the puzzle. You (and Verona) win the game by collecting all of the Clue Tokens in play.

Cleared Encounters

On clearing an Encounter, discard the Encounter card. If you have no more Encounter cards, you may proceed to the Movement phase. If you still have Encounters uncleared, your turn is over.


Movement

In the third and final phase of a turn, the player may move their meeple from tile to tile (horizontally or vertically) by one of the three methods below. The player may elect to start from any terrain feature (road, city or field) on their starting tile.

  • Any Terrain: Up to 2 Tiles
  • Through City: Up to 4 Tiles
  • Along Road: Up to 6 tiles

In city or road movement, terrain barriers may not be crossed. Thus, you may not “jump” from one city to another across a stretch of farmland, even if both city walls lie on the same tile. Rivers, likewise, may only be crossed at a bridge or at a River’s beginning or end tile. (Be sure to place your meeple on the correct bank.)


Jokers

If at any time in play a Joker is drawn, all Clue hunting halts. Cover any Clue Card in play with the Joker. Young Verona has fallen head over heels for some flashy young fool, losing track of everything else, and one of the players must return to talk her out of it. The Clue Card is out of play until a player returns to the starting tile, at which point the Joker is discarded, and normal play resumes.

End Game

The conspirators are trying to box you in. Thus you lose if:

  • Every player is mired in an Encounter they can’t clear
    • or
  • Every player has 2 or more unused tiles.

Verona must put together all the pieces of the mystery–with a little help from her family. Thus you win when:

  • You return the final Clue Token to Verona.

Tags: , , , ,

Not Another Game Idea

Dumped, like the browser-based kart game, so that I may free up some synapses.

The Idea:

The Unusual Bit:

  • The game can be ended at the end of each level
  • Via branching dialogue
  • With a woman one encounters there
  • Triggering a cutscene showing the future
  • The endings are better the earlier one stops playing
    • Because no one will stop playing
    • There is no woman at the end of the last level

The Story:

  • Rosetti’s poem follows a prince’s voyage to meet his unknown beloved
    • He dallies too much with wrong turns and mystical women
    • When he gets to the castle, the princess has died
  • I wrote (but never finished editing) a response
  • This game is based on my version
    • The prince meets a series of mystical women
    • He could have (should have?) stayed with any one of them
    • He doesn’t
    • He journeys on to meet his perfect beloved
    • He finds the castle at the edge of the world
    • Inside, no one opposes him
    • No one’s ever lived there

The Art:

  • Animated vector graphics
  • Multiple foregrounds and backgrounds
  • Not quite a sidescroller
    • Camera usually stationary
    • Re-centers when the character reaches predetermined spots
    • Foreground and background layers adjust
  • Foregrounds and backgrounds less detailed than midground
  • Expressive style
  • 24 frame per second character animation
  • Realistic motion
  • Zoomed in in-engine cutscene

The Gameplay:

  • A mix of platforming and combat
  • Level passwords
  • No HUD, health bars, or data overlays of any kind
  • Character can’t do anything a reasonably fit person can’t do
    • Can only fall so far
    • No twenty foot vertical jumps
    • No changing direction in midair
    • Must leap, grasp and climb to reach higher ledges
  • “Step based” movement
    • No creeping one pixel at a time ever necessary
    • One walking step the minimum distance a movement can take
    • Running, leaping, climbing, swimming, etc. all in increments

Character Mechanics:

  • No lives or continues
  • Health recharges
    • No “medkits”
    • Short recovery period
  • Character movement indicates health
    • Extremely low health makes character weave back and forth
    • Requires micro-correcting
    • With left and right keys
    • To keep character from falling down

Falling Down:

  • Not “death” as such
  • “If you want to teach players not to do something,
  • Tile the player falls on stretches past edges of screen left and right
    • Player must get up (weaving initially) and walk across flat ground
    • Uninteresting expanse takes time to cross
      • Long enough to dissuade
      • Not long enough to ruin game
    • Poem displayed in BG
    • Expanse ends at portion of the game world just as it was
      • Level resumes without break
  • No real death, lives or continues — just the expanse to pass

Levels:

  • The Ravine
    • Mostly platforming
    • Lush green riverside
    • Moon maiden at end
  • The Desert
    • Black rocks
    • Ground crawling with scorpions
    • Character weakens as level goes on
      • Heavy use of weaving mechanic
    • Alchemist at end
  • The Valley
    • Rivers
    • Final long swim
      • Lose your armor, all but knife and gloves
    • The Ariel Sisters at end
  • The Edge of the World
    • (Movement noticeably sprightlier without gear)
    • Mountain slope
    • Crags
    • Endless field of white flowers
      • Clouds
    • Castle, overgrown by enormous tree
      • Phantoms “attack” inside
      • Vanish before they reach you
    • Empty room at top
      • Plaster tubs, drop cloths, uninstalled windows
      • Overgrown with white flowers from window box
      • No one’s ever lived there

    The Women:

    • The Moon Maiden
      • Milkmaid
      • Starry cloak
      • (Midevil milkmaids rarely got smallpox)
      • (Exposure to milder cowpox virus vaccinated them)
      • (Origin of the “clear/white faced milkmaid” literary meme)
      • Best ending
        • In-engine zoomed in cutscene of player with family
        • Carefree young children
        • Spreading the starry cloak on a hilltop at night
        • Watching the stars wheel overhead together

      The Alchemist

      • Older woman, works a forge, strength and wisdom
      • Second best ending
        • Zooms in for cutscene as a couple
        • Lonely in the desert
        • Always working forge
    • The Ariel Sisters
      • Three nymphlike sisters
      • Rescue you from river in the valley
      • Flighty, impossible to pin down
      • Other two give you more attention the more you focus on one
        • One you focus on colder toward you
        • Always out of reach
      • A lot of trouble for a neutral ending
    • The Princess
      • Doesn’t exist
      • Cutscene shows only the unfinished state of the chamber
      • No ending
      • Level just leaves you to wander until you quit the game

    Why It’s a Bad Idea:

    • Engine would have to be built from scratch
    • Lots of art assets
    • Lots of animation
    • Small potential of SVG drawing speed problems
      • SVG a low priority in modern browsers
    • Animation toolchain would have to be built from scratch
      • No SVG drawing program does animation yet
      • If one adds support, it will likely save as SMIL
        • (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language)
        • Despite being a standard, no browser supports SMIL
      • Would have to use JavaScript for animation instead
      • Animation would either have to use substitution
        • (One unique SVG image every frame, 24 frames/second)
      • Or morphing
        • (SVG objects changed by JavaScript every frame)
        • Even more complicated to develop toolchain for
        • Morphing better, would allow some smoothing between actions
        • Would allow some physics as well (cloaks, particle, etc.)
    • No clear business plan beyond banner ads on the homepage
      • Banner ads in-game would kill the mood
      • Would also slow down the browser, in the real world
    • Is it possible to sell access to a browser-based game?
    • Game that subverts common mechanics of genre to ask questions
      • Would be compared to Braid
      • Would lose the comparison

Role Playing Games

You arrive in the town. You check into an inn. It’s on a back street. Out of the way. You’re wanted criminals, so best not to draw attention to yourselves.

You’ve been trying to find Tintmere since the airship crash. She should be in this town. But where?

Porcelain and little Night set off with a shopping list. You and Kell head upstairs.

There’s a window. The room overlooks an equally rickety row of buildings. Fourth floor. Lots of crisscrossing clotheslines and rising steam, people milling about below. In the distance over the rooflines: the Lightning Tower. Your ultimate goal.

Concrete pebbles fall discretely into the drowned, weedy flower pot in front of you. You crane, look up.

A bounty hunter tromps silently across the rusty pipes on the roof. The shadows of two more flit between the eaves.

You lean back in, smile, head gesture to Kell. A row of shurikens materialize in his hand, and he melts into the shadows. Hazard another glance out.

There’s a bamboo-like pole caught between your building and the one across the street. One floor down. It looks tenuous. But you have been working on your balance.

The next room? The walls can’t be too thick.

Nah. More fun to hide in the ratan basket.

Moments later, light feet land on the windowsill. Simultaneously, the door flies off its hinges. Two bounty hunters race into the empty room. They look around, walk to the center of the room. Suddenly a basket and a shadow burst to life, and both bounty hunters are flung out the open window with hardly a cry.

The ceiling caves in. It’s time for the big daddy bounty hunter. You exchange blows, and are both parried and thrown back. Not good. He hasn’t even broken a sweat. You grab Kell, flip him up onto the roof and climb out. The wall explodes. You make a grab for a drain pipe, swing out across sickening open space, and — Kell’s throw line jerks the pipe up toward the roof. You land. Smile. And RUN!

Rooftop chase, as the overpowered bounty hunter hurls force blasts after you, shredding the ancient stone. Chickens squawk. Cisterns topple. An adorable little girl tends a lovely three foot square rooftop garden; you scoop her up as you run by, and apologize, as the bounty hunter smashes her four flowers.

You give the girl to Kell, saying you’d like to try something. You insult the giant. A lot. Kell breaks left, sliding down the side of a building. You break right. It worked! He’s following you.

Crap.

Fight! Fighting doesn’t work. Escape! He catches you in midair. The bounty hunter sneers that the fee still gets paid if all your limbs have been pulled off. This is it.

Shwunk! The bounty hunter shakes you, looks around indeterminately. He reaches back. A magic dagger wrapped in lace protrudes from between his shoulder blades. He topples, turning to wood. The wood bleaches, hollows, cracks, shatters — poof! Nothing but dust.

You pick yourself up, squint into the sun. A lace-adorned figure steps toward you through the haze, waving. Tintmere!

—–

Now imagine that the preceeding had been generated: The overall plot. The long separation from a comrade. The clues that led you to her. The streets. The repetition of the larger goal. The foreshadowed tip-off at the flower box. The personally appropriate strategy options. The easy mini-bosses. The unstoppable mega boss. The setback getting onto the roof. The dramatic save. The comic timing. The race. The moral choice. The losing battle. The last minute save, leading into the storyline completing reunion.

As flashy as today’s RPGs are, they’re still not true Role Playing Games. In them, players are rewarded for figuring out how the game engine works and finding ways to best it, not — as the name would suggest — for immersing themselves in the role of the character.

How does a game engine implement literary devices? How do you reinforce the players’ choice to have more fun with the story, rather than the choice to simply learn better chess positions? Printed paper+pencil+friends role playing games have invented some interesting story game concepts, but digital RPGs still rely largely on grinding in the final analysis.

I’m not suggesting that hard work shouldn’t bring character improvement, but I sanction it only because that too is a literary device. It’s not, however, the only literary device. In the early days of computer games, perhaps it was the only trope that could be realistically implemented. Are we at the end of the beginning of computer games yet?

Those looking for something a little more crunchy may enjoy my RPG Stats Comparison Chart.

RPG Stats Comparison

A comparison of the stats used to define a character across eleven popular videogame and pencil-and-paper roleplaying games. (20k PDF)

Not included on the chart are depletable scores. Each game seems to have a concept of Hit Points, a number representing the character’s moment-to-moment health, with the possible exception of outlier EVE Online and it’s complete lack of physical traits. Most games that invoke magic of one sort or another have a rechargeable score representing the total amount of magic which may be invested in an action at any given time. Wealth is typically also a depletable score.

All games surveyed also deal with situational bonuses. These may be weapons and armor, single-use or depletable items, or learned skills. Even games with simple stat structures like Shining Force II create highly varied play structures using such bonuses.

Being essentially combat-based, none of the games surveyed had more than one social stat, and the majority had none. For those that did, it was always “charisma” — an ability to gain tangible favors from others. Combat-free games like Harvest Moon may deal more fully with a character’s social aspects, but as a component of adventure storytelling it appears tellingly neglected.