Scone: a social strategy game

Outline for Gameplay Prototype 1

Scone game idea: https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1mr_GxJjWdi7aU5tJ4JFPbqoZwCU5jJqTZZkrr_PGidg

Success

For this prototype, success means testing the core gameplay loop-- the actions that the player will be performing repeatedly while playing the game-- to see if they’re truly fun and engaging. It’s the simplest distillation of the game idea. Polish and styling have no value here and the prototype should be considered disposable.

The alternative-- going into developing engine functionality and so on just assuming the game will be fun-- is no fun.

Requirements

Characters/NPCs with:

Means for the player to uncover information about other characters

Means for the player to attempt to influence how characters decide to vote

Format

Prototypes are quick-and-dirty and disposable. However this design can be made playable the fastest is best. Polish won’t make a bad idea fun.

This will be a text-based or otherwise extremely simple and quick-to-code prototype. Graphics are, of course, cool but entirely unnecessary.

Javascript, Lua, or another scripting language would do it.

Communication will not be literal dialog but meta statements about the function and relation between subjects and objects that are being addressed. Options for constructing responses will be limited to the context of the setting and thus functionally resemble turn-based combat menus.

A different font will be used for communication from members of the different social groups within the scenario. Tone of voice will be indicated with color of text. Nonverbal communication will be represented by emoticon faces. The accuracy of these sub-verbal “readings” will depend on the avatar’s perceptiveness statistics, thus false readings are possible, demanding of the player to intuit congruity and seek to understand what motivates the other characters within this confined scenario.

Setting

Note that Scone’s real setting is independent of the prototype’s. Whatever gives some meaning to the mechanisms.

So, let's say you're on the Cyber Augmentation Council of Fancy-pants Cyborgs.

Candidates for augmentation come before the Council, deciding who gets to be part of the transhuman super race.

You know some things about the candidates and the council members.

Most important is if they're likely to side with you in making war on the My Little Pony Planet or not.

You seek to influence the other members.

A totally-off-the-cuff set might be:

As candidates are approved or rejected, the state of the "world" changes based on whether the candidate REALLY supports the views you thought they did on Little Pony-cide. Your formation of a Pony Pwning Party hinges on being able to master the signs of what everyone really thinks both before and after attempting to persuade them.

Alt  - Roman Senate.

The player’s avatar is new to the Senate and the Emperor has just mandated that the Senate make a decision on whether or not to construct a series of bridges. Any issue of which there are two sides will do to start off with. A quarter of the Senate is in line with a guild of masons, another quarter in line with a guild of sailors. The rest of the Senate is randomly aligned either slightly for or against building the bridges. The player’s task is to shift opinion in the remainder to what they want. In case of success we’ll probably have to change the world in some way. In case of failure world still changes perhaps things will stagnate if the player chooses to go against bridge building or perhaps public opinion will drop, troop movement will be less effective, etc.

What We’re Stealing From

Good artists borrow selectively; great artists steal. And nothing is original.

In some ways, this social strategy game could most easily be related to as playing The Sims without being an invisible sky jerk, but rather being one of the characters trying to have a happy life overcoming the obstacles of life with “other people”.

We all face these challenges, and depending on how easy it’s been for you, they mean a great deal in real life. Our work lives and also family are dominated by the reality that often you don’t like some people, but you’ve just got to find a way to get along or you’ll never get what you want.

This prototype owes a lot to Game Theory, in particular the concept of a Nash Equilibrium and the efforts to escape the sub-optimal outcomes of something like the Prisoners’ Dilemma.

While this won’t be as mathematically complex as other games based on these concepts, it’s meant to be more fun. This isn’t an attempt to solve the problems, but for each player to explore their feelings about these kinds of situations.