In late September, my team (now known as the Radiant Ronin) challenged Initial Concepts. In order to pass through the stage, we had to meet a series of requirements in order to proceed with our chosen concept. The main goal was to prove the value of the three game concepts we’d come up with and prove their gameplay with a simple prototype for each of them. At the conclusion of our presentation, we were to tell the class and our professors which game concept we decided to move forward with and why.
We created a prototype for each of our three game concepts in order to investigate their feasibility: Be Witch!, Kanji Samurai, and Demonic Deception. Be Witch! was my personal favorite of the three. It was a simulation game where players take on the role of a young witch out to prove her worth to the nearby town by mixing potions and completing requests. Players explore the forest and unlock additional sections of it by drinking potions and utilizing their effects. For example, a player would have to create a walk on water potion in order to access an island that contains additional ingredients. The basic gameplay loop would be players mixing potions, discovering new ingredients, exploring the forest, and assisting the villagers in a series of quests. Eventually, players would discover the heart of the forest and the secrets that lay within. This was my favorite game because of the cute theme and my fondness for simulation and exploration games such as The Sims and Skyrim, respectively.
Our next concept was Demonic Deception, which was the game we had the most difficulty with. We liked the overall concept: the player is a con artist who must lure demons to a medieval village in order to be paid to dispose of them. It was supposed to have a quirky vibe and feature a dark sense of humor. Our theme was clear, but we were having trouble determining our core mechanics. We played with a lot of ideas. The game evolved from a tower defense game to a strategy/puzzle game. The basic gameplay loop is as follows: Players see an overview map of the village they are to sabotage. Each house in the village has slots available for the player to place lures–different artifacts that would attract different demons. For example, the player should place the perfume at the house with two male roommates because it would attract a succubus who are most useful against male victims. Once the player places all their artifacts in the available houses, the player ends the phase and demons begin flooding the village. Depending on where the lures were placed during the planning phase, demons are attracted to different houses. Each demon is most effective against a particular family structure/house and would be able to destroy it more quickly. If the demons fail to destroy the town within a specified time limit, the player loses and has to restart the stage.
Although we finished the prototype and had finally locked down our gameplay, none of us were excited about the idea anymore. Play testers told us the game didn’t offer much challenge and had stale gameplay. We couldn’t help but agree. We’d met many times to try and flesh out the mechanics of the game and come up with an interesting concept, but we knew Demonic Deception was our weakest game concept.
Kanji Samurai, the casual mobile game where you learn Kanji in order to fight, is the game concept we decided to go forward with. Kanji Samurai is a casual semi-educational mobile game appealing to anyone interested in learning the Japanese language and culture. Players take on the role of an uneducated wannabe samurai warrior and battle opponents by tracing Kanji on their mobile screen in order to perform attacks. Although it was not my favorite game concept, it was the rest of my team’s favorite and it was far more in scope than Be Witch!, which was quickly accumulating too many mechanics and art assets. Kanji Samurai is a unique concept–although there are games teaching the Japanese language on the app store, they are all mainly educational and not very fun. In our game, we want to help players learn but also have an enjoyable experience. My designer is very passionate about Japanese culture and actually knows how to write, read, and speak Japanese. Our artist is excited about experimenting with Japanese art styles, and she’s taking inspiration from the popular ps2 game, Okami, as well. Our programmer is also excited about this game, despite how technically challenging it will be. At first we weren’t even certain Kanji Samurai was technically feasible, but we reached out to a Champlain Alumni who we were told made a game with a similar drawing mechanic. We got in touch with him and he explained to our programmer Eric how to implement a grid that players would connect in order to draw out the Kanji. Recognizing what the player writes is still a little wonky right now but we’ll keep tweaking it until it feels intuitive and accurate.
The reception of the class and our professor to our choosing Kanji Samurai was positive. They too agreed that Be Witch! had a lot of mechanics and was very art heavy. Our professor said it was evident that we’d tried hard to make Demonic Deception work and it was fine that we’d hit a dead end with it. That was the point of prototyping, he said, to see if your core gameplay is feasible and will offer players a meaningful experience. Seeing the prototype in it’s current state with four Kanji already implemented and several meaningful quality assurance session I am confident we can make Kanji Samurai a success.