This week (well last week now, but I didn’t have time to type it up!) we were tasked with coming up with a concept for a creative app. The theme or constraint was:
“As long as we have each other, we will never run out of problems”
I am here to make games, so as to further my prospects as a game developer and try to land that Hollywood lifestyle where you’re at a wedding and someone says “Hey, what do you do?” and I get to say “I make games for a living…”. So, a game it is. Conflict is one of the most basic of ‘problems’ that humans have and its because we ‘have each other’. Now, I just need to get to a wedding.
After stabbing, swiping and pinching on that paper I remembered that you have to use a pen. So, I got going. I started out sensible enough, thinking about time and task management. I am a GTD’er and I like routine and systems so I thought maybe I should do something in this area. Then the thought of playing as a 1930’s mobster popped into my head. What would he be doing? Collecting of course. Then led to ‘who is he collecting from?’ and the first thing the came to mind was a barber shop. But I think that the barbers in my imaginary town are tough, I don’t know why but they just are. They would fight back and so I started thinking about how that might happen. I came up with quite a lot really, mostly pretty silly, but I smiled a lot while I was working through it all!
So the story goes that Don L’Oreal is a successful criminal boss. He’s a leader of the L’Oreal crime family and respected (sort of) in the communities where he operates, at least by the people that enjoy romanticising the brutal nature of such organisations. Although there are many problems that face a criminal boss, the one that really gets to L’Oreal is the partial baldness he has. His Wife, Alopecia, reminds him that there are more important things to worry about but he just can’t shake the feeling that he would be a more successful boss with a full mane of hair. Because of this perceived deficiency, he wears a hat and insists that all the mobsters that work for him also wear hats. Well, as time goes on and the mobsters popularity grows in certain parts of the city, the trend for wearing hats catches on.
The Barbers and the Hats
Barbers don’t like hats. Not one bit. They know that the hat covers up the beautiful work that they do but worse than that, the barbers know that the average man will go more than six weeks without a haircut if he knows that he can hide the floppy mess under a hat! When the mobster induced trend of hat donning really starts to bite, they know that they have to do something. They create a plan. Well, they start out with a messy plan and then the shave a little off the sides and … You get the idea.
With the help of Guy’s uncle, Tony, they approach a very well groomed Doctor Dread . L . Lock, who agrees that something drastic is needed. Dr Lock has been trying to perfect a way to transplant an entire buttocks worth of skin to the head in order to cure baldness (providing that the patient has the necessary physical properties on the buttock to start with). They arrange to present the solution to Don L’Oreal so that they might assassinate (get it?) him while the procedure is ongoing. The short version is that they succeed and the Don is dead. But looking pretty good…
Don L’Oriel is now just a handsome framed head-shot in black and white, looking off into the distance. Pouting a touch.
Mobsters are ruthless. They are violent, short-tempered and often cruel. What they are not is stupid. They know immediately the Don has been murdered and they want revenge on Guy, Tony and Dr. Lock. The barbers, knowing that there is now a war coming, arrange the support of the other fibre slicing agents of the city and form The Band of Barbers to combat the ‘growing’ threat. Sorry, I’m in full swing now.
Don’t Games have Players?
Yes, yes they do. It’s about time to talk about some actual gameplay. I must be honest and talk first about what I learned during this exercise. As we did not have very long to perform this task and well, the clue is in the title of task (rapid) I think that I could have used the time a little better to clarify the actions that the player would take a little more. That’s not to say that I dont have some of that, I just know that it’s not as well developed as I would have liked. On the plus side, I like the idea that I have and can see lots of opportunity to grow it (cough). I will share the fact that I found the task quite hard and procrastinated for a day or two. Maybe it was just that others would be looking at the work at a point when it would not be formed enough to be impressive, maybe its that someone told me recently that I’m not ‘creative’. Maybe I just got a bit nervous. Anyway, after a chat with myself in my “Sort Yourself Out Mirror”, I got to work but had burned that time already so I accept that I could have a more fleshed out mechanical section had I got started a little quicker.
I am not really one for mobile gaming I must admit. I like bigger, more complicated games that involve multiple game systems and are pretty to look at and have a hue of realism to them. I think that I would like to explore mobile games a little but I think that I will be more at home making something for PC or console if I’m honest. But, that said, something about this idea seems to say ‘mobile’ to me. Maybe its the silliness of the narrative set up or the fact that the first game mode I thought of was adversarial, I’m not sure.
I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse.
The main strength in this light-hearted set up is that it makes a lot of sense to have the two teams, Mobsters and Barbers, from which the player can choose. I have a few ideas on what would make each team unique too. The Mobsters would be overt in their actions. I thought about the order of actions being something like
1: Player goes to the family home to talk to one of the bosses and receives that contract (hit, intimidation, kidnapping, and so on).
2: Player gets to the location and/or hunts down the mark.
3: Player performs the task.
4: Player returns to the family home and collects reward, money, experience, bonuses and so on. Return to step one.
That’s a pretty solid gameplay loop. But of course, the devil is in the detail and have already, in my short experience as a developer, dealt with a few incomplete GDD’s and am very aware that this would need a lot more focus. But on the other hand, this does already start the conversation about what sort of game this would be. I was thinking open world or at least open sandbox. I like that the player could choose a variety of approaches (heavy-handed vs .22 pistol ‘hit’) There could be interesting hunting mechanics where you get to learn the marks routine so as to chose an approach. There could be a lot here.
Progression could involve upgrading the basics such as weapons and clothing but also more acute hunting skills with prompts or tools onscreen or in-ear that would help you find the right mark. Basic progression and character levelling could be represented as promotions through the family until you were the head, having taken over from the late Don L’Oreal.
Then there is, of course, the Mobster naming machine pictured above that would be easy to code and turn into a mini-game or just a good way to personalise the character for the player.
Just a little off the top sir?
This one I found much more difficult. I thought that the Barbers would have to be covert, sneaky and employ guerrilla tactics if they were to be successful. I see mobsters lured to the chair (a haircut may become a precious treat in the mobsters’ world after all) and dispatched using the cut throat razor or a soaking towel wrapped around the face and held from behind. Dark, I know, for a silly theme such as this. But, I think I like that sort of thing. I like the contrast between the light set up and the potentially brutal gameplay. It would allow a very expressive game for the creator at least. Saints Row has just sprung to mind…
The problem of the basic Barber gameplay loop prompted its own mind map.
I thought that obvious way to do it was to be inspired by (copy) Hitman and use a similar sort of disguise system that would allow the Barber to sneak into a club or restaurant and observe the mark from close up. The player would then have to wait for the Mobster to be sat down and alone so that he could create an impromptu barber chair set up and take out the target there and then. At that point, the player would have to escape and … yes, Hitman.
Then I thought about luring a Mobster to a special Dexter style kill room covered in sheet plastic, although you would have to research what materials were available in the 1930’s first. A quick Google has told me that yes, we could use plastic. In the center of the room is the barber chair and maybe the game is to get information out or the ‘customer’ that could be used to set up the next target before the poor fella expires, or a rescue is attempted. The mechanics that need to be designed would need to answer questions like ‘what are you manipulating to lure him’ and ‘how do you get caught trying to make that happen’. There are many other questions of course.
Along the same sort of lines would be the mobile barber shop where a Mobster would arrange to meet you for a precious haircut (that he would have to say his lady did for him). The player would have to get to the location without being detected by other Mobsters and then you could perform the hit while the guy in the chair. There could be an upgrade and progression system for your mobile kit that would allow the player more choice in how the kill happens and what to do with the body afterwards.
Well, that’s about as far as I got. I would like your feedback and I must say that as silly as the idea is, its mine, don’t copy it, I have put it here for marking and it is not public property. ‘Tis mine.
If you got this far, your dog needs to be let out for a wee.