Oct 152007

Quite a lot of the mail I have gotten recently relates to the quickie design outline I did for Penny Arcade… a few of them were pretty interesting, so I am just reprinting them here.

 Dear Raph, I am a huge fan of the SimCity series (worried about the loss of technical details in the new Socities) and read your words on Penny-arcade.com. PLEASE BUILD THIS. I know, i know, you are busy writing the code to run an actual world like this, but as someone who is both a DIY homeowner and a lover of constuction, the game you propose would be fabulous. Thanks for your time, Fred

I can assure you that I have no intention of rushing off to make this game, anymore than I did when I tossed out the Healing MMO as an idea. Sorry! Besides, the real point is to make Tycho do it, not me. 🙂

Now, this one, I thought was really fascinating:

Hey Raph, this is Jeffrey, one of the two designers who did the Three Ring’s office interior a little while ago. Just read your idea for a construction game and as someone who works in that world professionally I gotta say that it’s really keen.

Sadly, I’ve also got to say that your game idea, if executed well, would vastly outshine the actual tools, systems, and ways in which we in the building industry work. The construction industry is many, many years behind for a wealth of reasons I don’t have room to go into here.

One of the reasons that we were able to do that Three Rings office for half the price of a typical office is because we’re trying to reinvent a lot of how our industry works in general. Trying not to be stupid, and borrowing heavily from other industries that have already solved the same problems.

For example, the design software we use has a source code control system to manage change and multiple people. It’s overall a very primitive CVS like system. Get this tho: this is a totally new and ground-braking concept in our world, to the point that this system we use (Autodesk Revit) is the ONLY CAD system currently that allows more than one person at a time to work on the same thing via some sort of CVS-like part. It’s completely insane. And get this, you can’t use this over a WAN, it has about 20% the functionality of even the most basic CVS, and yet it’s still a huge groundbreaking deal!

I guess what I’m getting at here is that there are so many things you take for granted in the software and game industry that are bleeding-edge-space-age-wizz-bang ideas in my industry, that hell, if you were able to execute your game idea the very same management and design tools you would develop would be more than applicable in the real world, and probably would have a hell of a market for they would be better than anything currently available. Currently construction firms pay way, way too much money for overblown FTP sites, CMS document systems, outdated CAD and 3D systems, and more; all such things that your ideas touch heavily upon. Didn’t know if you knew about this ‘gap’ and just wanted to give you another view of things for your idea.

Take care, and thanks for a bit of inspiration, Jeffrey McGrew www.becausewecan.org

That’s a little mindboggling to me, actually. I had no idea.

And for those who haven’t seen the totally awesome work these guys did on the Three Rings offices, there’s photos here.

Hi. I read your piece on Penny Arcade’s site, and it struck me as a functional idea. As far as moment-to-moment gameplay goes, ATITD is a good example which has attracted people to a similar style. One could even take from their example and include fireworks and such displays; allow the players to throw an opening gala as a social event when they’ve completed a building (also giving them a chance to show off their work). Puzzle Pirates also comes to mind in terms of players working cooperatively in isolated, differing roles to contribute to a project as a whole. The toughest issue behind such a niche game would be making it impressive enough to draw a wo rkable playerbase (though modern construction would likely have a larger niche, especially with adults, than the aforementioned games).

Oddly enough, I never even thought about Puzzle Pirates while putting together the quickie sketch — but of course, as a game built out of minigames, it seems like an obvious parallel. ATITD was a more direct comparison, and one that I think I even mentioned to Tycho when he first proposed the idea, along with stuff like EVE and the early SWG megacorp sort of game economy stuff.

…a fun game out of dry-walling? Try Puzzle Pirates’ wood-working game aboard the ships. You’re given four holes to fill, and a number of Tetris-style pieces to fill them with. The pieces don’t always fit quite right, but you can layer them over the edges of the hole and over each other. The game is played against the clock, and scores judged on wastage of pieces.

Yeah… I have to admit, though, I love this other idea, which was in the comment thread, but to my mind deserves to be pulled out and featured. I had to restrain myself from rushing off and implementing this as a standalone game the instant I read it. Good job, Peter S.

Dear Tycho,

I just finished reading Raph Koster’s guest post (As Seen In Modern Lair). He said he didn’t know how to make drywall fun. I kid you not, inspiration struck me. My dad was in construction. I had a visual right away.

I know how to make a fun drywall minigame.

The game would, at its core, be a speed memory game. The players will be shown a section of the building’s wall when it’s still just a frame. There will be a button for slapping up the section of drywall. They can take as long studying the frame as they want, but once they hit the button the sheet of drywall goes up (hiding the frame) and the mouse (or Wiimote, why not?) starts controlling a nailgun.

The player then needs to nail up the drywall. The best visual I can describe would be kinda like Pac-Man in reverse: nails need to follow where the frame was, spaced evenly at some specific interval (like every 6″ of game-space, perhaps), and be as close to the center of the studs as possible, so think about trying to draw in the dots on a Pac-Man board accurately after someone turns the screen off. Given doors, windows, and other features (plumbing?), some walls will be less complex and some more. If some details of the frame escape the player while they’re nailing, they can use a Stud Finder to give them a quick peek through part of the drywall, but doing so would obviously slow them down (and maybe it costs a little bit extra, or has only so much battery life, etc.). Players are timed, and the timer starts *when they first see the wall frame*.

Players are rated on Accuracy (how evenly spaced and centered were the nails?) and Speed (how quick did you do it?). Mistakes such as missing a stud entirely are costly, and too many will mean having to pull the sheet of drywall down and starting over (at the cost of a fresh sheet, of course). For high enough Accuracy, the wall might get a bonus to stability or be easier to paint or wallpaper. Faster jobs cost less money. Oh, and let’s toss in that players can buy an upgrade for their nail gun that will estimate how many nails it would take to perfectly nail up the drywall, giving them a rough idea while they’re working of how well they’re doing.

With this, players have a variety of ways to attack the (admittedly simple) game and two metrics to compete on. How would a player that does all the vertical studs first, then all the horizontal, then any odd bits fare against someone who starts in the top left corner and works their way to the bottom right (or someone who does the outer perimeter then works their way in)? What’s a good tradeoff between time spent studying the frame and time spent nailing? Who has had to discard the largest number of drywall sheets on the current project? Shall we take extra time (and spend extra money) on all the walls to make sure we get all the accuracy bonuses we can?

Whoa, suddenly there really is a difference between shoddy and quick labor, and high quality that costs a bit more. Plus, a contractor could now honestly say “Well, that section of drywall in the bathroom was a bit trickier to put up than we had thought…”. All that, just with Anti-Pac-Man.

I really hope you read this, if for no other reason than the extremely slim chance I might one day get to say I helped (in some small way!) to develop a game with Raph Koster and Tycho and Gabe from Penny Arcade.

Hope you at least find the above amusing,

Peter S.

Badass. 🙂 Someone go make that.

  8 Responses to “Monday Mailbag: constructive fallout”

  1. Here’s a fun question, Raph. How suitable do you think MetaPlace is for creation of this Construction MMO?

    (clearly this design is far too shallow to actually address this kind of query in any precise terms, but i thought this would be a good “food for thought” question, maybe get some worthwhile discourse out of it.)

  2. […] of his newly announced system Metaplace, plus a guest post on Penny Arcade. In particular, he posted a write-up for a construction MMOG, and wondered if drywalling could be made into a fun game. When a […]

  3. I’ve prototyped this idea: Please find it at http://thomr.eochu.com.

  4. um. wow.

    okay, raph. you and john need to contract the “because we can” guys to do our office. holy-awesome-batman.

    they have a full bar! and a secret door! and… and… just, wow.


  5. Is that Three Rings office in San Francisco? I think I was at a party there over GDC, but it didn’t look like THAT!

  6. […] Also, It’s very awesome that some people ran with Raph’s ideas and there is actually a prototype dry-wall game over at his site.  […]

  7. …I want an office like that…

    Remind me to apply to Three Rings. 😉

  8. […] guest editorial on Penny Arcade featuring a game-design for a construction game. Interestingly, the follow-up discussion the fact that the proposed construction game would actually be better than most of the actual […]

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