The Game So Far…

Around one and a half weeks ago the first beta of Graduates and Gorillas: the game (the Flash version) was launched, following an incredibly stressful two and a half months of coding, with nothing but sketchy Internet tutorials as a guide (and no tutorials on how to make board games!) . You might think I’m overstating things, but prior to working on the Flash version I had no experience whatsoever with ActionScript 3, and the last time I’d coded anything in Flash was back in 2006.

The aim of making the game in Flash was to show people how to play, because – let’s be honest – people on the Internet (and not just CUUSOO members) seem to have a hard time conceptualising things, compared to staring at pretty pictures. Having a working version of the game would give people the opportunity to experience what it would be like, as well as for me to refine and tweak the game rules. Since the first released version (0.9) there have been at least two rule changes to even things, as the GORILLAs (by my own admission) were severely overpowered.

The was also intended as an original way to promote the Graduates and Gorillas: the game LEGO CUUSOO project, since I don’t have any access to celebrities or popular non-LEGO web sites. Between the game being posted on Newgrounds early Sunday morning, and the awesome feature given by Brick Fanatics, the project has gained around eight more supporters, taking the total up to 30 at present. It’s a drop in the ocean, but given that certain other groups have kept things very quiet about the project (as with other people’s projects), I appreciate and value all the support I can get.

Developing the game has been a particularly stressful endeavour, not least because I’ve been working entirely on my own. I had a particular headache trying to find suitable music and sound effects (and by the way, there’s a huge gap in the market for a searchable, categorised database of sounds and music), and then there were graphics and AI. There are times – even now – when I’m tetchy about the project, because of all the time and energy invested, and the ignorance from some people pointed my way. Even the above render, done with the help of LDD2POVRay, had me stressed – simply because LEGO Digital Designer doesn’t support microfigure decorations, and I have no clue how to apply them manually.

But by far the biggest difficulty I’ve had is with the concept of the game itself, and in particular the translation from a physical board game to a Flash game.

Most of us have heard about LEGO’s cemented policy on child-friendly products (despite Lord of the Rings). One thing that didn’t become apparent until I was ready to post the game on Newgrounds is that they are used to more “mature” content (i.e. violence and sex), so I wasn’t too sure how the game and project would go down.

One thing that’s become apparent is that not many people understand that Graduates and Gorillas: the game is a strategy game: to be able to win as either side some strategy is required. There are times when the die rolls aren’t fair, and it’s up to the player(s) to decide how many GRADUATEs to play with, as well as whether to take out GORILLAs or leave them on the board so there are no spawning captures. But some people just want to complain that they can’t win, and that it’s obviously the game’s fault.  😐 Despite the fact I’ve made a video (when the game was version 0.9.2) showing it is possible to win.
Not many people seem to realise, either, that the game is meant to be a board game: that in its LEGO form a human player would be controlling the GORILLAs. Some people wouldn’t get it unless I made a version of the game where the player controlled the GORILLAs against computer-controlled GRADUATEs instead… but even then I’d probably get complaints that the GRADUATEs are “too hard”.

The lesson to be taken from this particular project is that creating an original game is way harder than it sounds: there are all kinds of things to consider, from the type of board game to how long it takes to play the game, to the age groups and skill levels of the players. In the case of this game, a significant challenge was balancing both Bristowe and the GRADUATEs, but not too far in one side’s favour: I want people who play the final version of the game to want to play as Bristowe (and the GORILLAs).

We’re at version 0.9.6 at the moment, and I’m not sure how long I’ll be working on the game. Give it a try and let me know what you think.