CS247G Project 2
Monster Movie Mayhem
By Kayla Kelly, Rachel Naidich, Melissa Ran
Inspired by the likes of Tamagotchi and Fireboy and Water Girl, Monster Movie Mayhem aims to take the core components that make Tamagotchis so comforting (cute cuddly monsters, low-stress mini games, and nurturing the evolution of the monster) and Fireboy and Water Girl so captivating (the fun multiplayer aspects of collaboratively completing a game) and interweave them together in order to introduce a new variety of fun and play to users all-around.
Any game can be multiplayer. Any game can have cute and cuddly characters. Any game can be multiplayer and provide a sense of fun. What sets Monster Movie Mayhem apart from the others is the added layer of a narrative storyline. You aren’t passing levels for the sake of continuing gameplay; each level contributes to the overall goal of getting the monsters in to see their rated R movie.
On each level, players strive to complete the next phase of the monsters’ plan. Our current implementation only offers a slice, but the overall storyline of the game can be felt throughout. Each player takes on the role of a different monster, working together to make it to the next level. Step 1 to seeing the movie: getting money to buy the tickets. Step 2: pickpocketing someone to pay for popcorn and drinks. Finally, step 3: using a trenchcoat as disguise to make it past the usher without human detection. With the premise of the game and variability of players, Monster Movie Mayhem makes for a game that is bound to conjure pure, laugh out loud moments!
Why a Vertical Slice?
Because our game concept was multilayered and heavily intertwined with the complex narrative, we decided a vertical slide would be the best implementation given the time constraints. Our slice focuses on the final phase of the monsters’ plan: getting past the usher without being detected. The slice gives a detailed overview of the game and how the rest of the implementation would be carried out. In the level, players start in a path of grass, as they move through the course, they are met with a crowd of humans standing between them and the path they must continue following. The point at which they start assumes they have completed the other tasks that would have been needed to make it to this point (i.e. robbing the bank and pickpocketing someone). As the recording of our final playtest will show, attempting to create the other two levels would not have lent well to the 30-minute limit on gameplay for this class and any further simplification would have decreased the amount of fun offered from the game.
Formal Elements and Values
Monster Movie Mayhem’s top pillars were comfort, escapism, and social connection. When coming up with an idea for a game, our team decided to focus on creating something that created a feeling of nostalgia and comfort when playing. Additionally, we also wanted to add in an element of surprise that would keep players engaged once they got over the initial cuddly charm; what better way than to have cute creatures doing bad things? In playing the game, each player takes on the perspective of a cute and cuddly monster and aims to complete a seemingly innocent task. While players are told they will need to procure money to buy tickets for the movie, it is not immediately revealed that this equates to robbing a bank. But, as history has shown, crime is so much better when you have a partner. With that notion in mind, we wanted to also incorporate an element of social connection to the game. Having the game be multiplayer enabled us to achieve more goals than one. While we definitely wanted connections to be forged through our game, we still wanted the game to be fun. Collaboratively completing the game also provided an opportunity for enhanced challenge. Ultimately, between the challenge of the game and the social connection offered, our hope is that the game forces players to be immersed so deeply that it provides a sense of escapism from life’s turmoil.
Game Architecture & Onboarding
When thinking about how to onboard new players, we considered creating a tutorial that would teach players how the game worked and how to use the controls. However, while we were play testing, we realized that many people were able to figure out how the game worked on their own without having it explained to them. In class, we learned about the importance of explaining the game well enough to new players without boring experienced players. Based on our play testing experience, we decided that it would be sufficient to just create simple graphics of which controls to use. This seemed like it would quickly explain how to play to new players without bothering experienced players compared to something like forcing players to watch through a tutorial.
Testing & Iteration History
We ended up playtesting our game four times. At the outset, we knew we wanted to evoke a feeling of solace and to have players’ initial reaction be something to the effect of “Aww how cute”. In the initial phases, we knew we would be heading in the right direction should we have that reaction from players and if they expressed that they were having fun.
For our first playtest, we tested our game with three different pairs of people in order to get a more comprehensive perspective of what aspects we should keep as well as considerations to take into account when furthering our implementation for the next iteration of tests. In this first round, each group consisted of undergraduate students with varying degrees of gaming experience. With the first group, we provided minimal context in order to gauge how intuitive it would be for first-time players to catch on. This strategy pointed out the need for having different mediums of communication throughout the game. For example, from the first run players could not figure out why they were continuously respawning and it took a couple of tries before they came to the conclusion that it must be because they are in a hotspot zone. Adding in the narrative, one realizes that it was because the monsters were passing by the humans without their disguise on. In order to rectify this, we added both signs that say ‘Humans only’ as well a red warning light framing the interface whenever the monsters enter the zone uncovered. In the same vein of importance of communication, a common thread through all playtests was that players did not really know when they had successfully completed the level and had to be prompted by us. Thus, using suggestions from testers, we added confetti to the plane that marks the end of the level. Overall, testers proffered the suggestion that more narrative elements embedded inside the game would aid in them figuring out what to do faster, rather than having us explain to them the concept of the game. Another of our points of concern was that the game seemed too easy at times. In regard to the game being too easy, testers reported that it did not feel that hard to stay disguised with their partner, the player controlling the feet of the trench coat is able to carry the other player without them moving, and that it is too easy to keep coordination with the other player. Moreover, testers reported that by making the game harder, it would increase their engagement with the game overall. More specifically, testers proffered the suggestion that more narrative elements embedded inside the game would aid in them figuring out what to do faster, rather than having us explain to them the concept of the game. While we thought all were good points, some decisions were made to keep things as they were while others offered great starting points of where to go next.
Playtest Video Link:
Final Playtest Feedback
Kayla: As a notetaker, I was able to be privy to a lot of different kinds of playtesters and learn a lot about what truly makes a good tester. The demographics of testers in each round was highly variable and this provided a chance for me to be exposed to multiple perspectives of people who are not married to the concept, play our game. Watching the gameplay, I was able to notice the small nuances that were picked up on by new players. This led to me learning to be more objective when it comes to providing feedback internally and to my other teammates. More specifically, I noticed how important it is to have different levels of gamers play. A more experienced player was able to provide more specific feedback regarding the mechanics of the game and a more accurate picture of the difficulty level. On the other hand, a more novice player mainly focused on how much fun they were having, allowing us to gauge how well we were meeting our aesthetic goals and values in the game. Overall, although I was not actually playing another team’s game, I was able to really appreciate the process of entering a space for the first time and giving it enough attention and respect to truly get to the small nuances embedded in every component of a game.
As a moderator, I really enjoyed collecting feedback from a variety of different people who playtested our game during the final playtest. For me, it was most interesting to see the wide variety of different ways that playtest pairs interacted with one another while playing our game. In one playtest, there were two friends that managed to get through the game fairly quickly together because they were already close and were able to communicate with each other well. By the end of the game, they were laughing and high-fiving each other to celebrate beating the level. In a different playtest, two strangers were playing together and discovered a unique way to get past one of the challenges by separating apart because they were exploring more independently without communicating as much with each other. In all of the playtests, regardless of whether the players knew each other beforehand or not, the players had to strategize together and seemed closer with their partner by the end of the game.
I also play tested Dall-E collector. After having tried the different iterations of the game, it was super cool to see the progression of the game over time. In initial playtests, the game only involved the mechanic of combining different resources to create new ones. It was interesting and unique, but there wasn’t much context as to why this was important. By the end, there was a whole narrative with goals/challenges that made the resource combination mechanic really fun to play with.
I playtested another team’s game during the final playtest, and went back to help playtest our game. It was interesting to see how an initial explanation of the game mechanics could change the whole experience of the game. Initially, I explained the “stealth” mechanic before the players started playing, and as a result they stayed undercover when they did not need to. However when we simply let the players observe the rules of the game for themselves, the play experience was much better, leading to the choice to not have any text explanation of stealth in the game. As for observing playtesters, I really enjoyed the playtest in which two friends finished the level laughing. It was clear to see they shared the same level of gaming experience – the casual level we targeted – and enjoyed communicating with each other. It was also interesting to observe male players giving different kinds of feedback than others. More than anyone else, they seemed to be concerned that our game had a “Detection area” instead of an enemy sight range as is common in stealth games. I did not know whether I should act on this feedback or not, but in the end I chose to keep detection areas for simplicity’s sake. It was slightly disappointing to see hardcore gamers leave their less hardcore partners in the dust. I made a small blacing change so that Player 1 could not easily carry Player 2, and needed to strategically slow down for the other player. I didn’t make any change based on this observation but I noticed the more assertive player usually went for the arrow keys, making them Player 1. Maybe this is something to think about in the future.