New (old) Project: It is as if you were playing chess

Turning my mind back to the world of making the videogames. A while back I announced a new project called It is as if you are playing a videogame. I spent a bit of time thinking about it before I made Independence, Missouri and one of the big struggles was how to think of it as a single, unified game. Bits and pieces of different ideas kept shuffling around as I tried to fix it in place – notably the question of how you generically represent “videogame” in abstract mechanics.

So, as a way to tunnel in, I thought I’d make one of the more specific versions I’ve been thinking about: chess. Thus, It is as if you were playing chess has been born and is underway. It’s much easier, because the overriding idea of “pretend you’re playing a game” is much more straightforwardly expressed with a known game with know inputs and outcomes like this. It lets me get at a few of the key ideas without getting lost in side-tracks.

Those key ideas as I see them right now revolve around the idea of “performing” a game without actually playing it. So you look like you’re playing chess, but actually you’re just performing quite abstract movements and expressions with your device. The game explicitly tells you what movements to make with your hands (using the mouse or on a touch screen) and also instructs you on how you should appear emotionally. In this way, all of “chess” is there as far as an observer might be concerned, but of course you’re not actually playing chess at all.

Making it be chess specifically also helps on the “visualisation” side of the game, which has been a tricky element for the design of the more abstract “videogame”, version. If you’re performing this abstract inputs, you’ll connect them to the idea of a “real” underlying game. If the game is telling you to make gestures with your mouse, clicking and dragging shapes around, you’ll probably associate that to the idea you’re moving pieces in an invisible “real game of chess”. As such, a decent chess player would be able to tell that the game wasn’t really reflective if I made the movements completely arbitrary. With the chess version, I can insert an underlying game of chess that you play through – you don’t decide the moves of course, you just make them when instructed, but they are from a legal game of chess, so you don’t have that kind of dissonance that could be created.

That’s where I’m at with it. Hoping this will be pretty straightforward to develop and release quite soon. I have a bunch of basic interface stuff implemented and mostly need to insert the real chess game and think about the “emotion instructor” part of it all.

Hope you’re well, say hi to the kids for me.

10 August 2016
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