Audio Frogger – Rachel Moeller

Audio Frogger is an audio only take on the original Frogger game. Using 3D sound, panning, and volume control, the game attempts to generate a cohesive scene. As in the original Frogger, the player must cross a busy highway to reach home, a pond. As the pond is the goal, the play field spans an eight lane roadway, and does not extend into the pond. The lanes of traffic have varying numbers of cars traveling at varying speeds. The player must utilize the soundscape’s context to place themselves within the road and judge when to proceed by strategically waiting for cars to pass their location. A successful cross will push the player through space to the next lane of cars, avoiding the cars currently ahead of them. As the player progresses, more and more cars begin to pass, increasing the difficulty of each cross by increasing the surrounding noise chaos. The game is meant to be played over headphones and while wearing a 3D blindfold. The blindfold allows a player to open their eyes while still being left in darkness and thus intensifies and focuses the aural experience that constitutes the game.


In it’s current form, Audio Frogger loses people.

The soundscape was never quite cohesive. Players were not able to place themselves in the environment, as they couldn’t tell whether they were in front of or behind the passing cars. In reality, players start in a safe zone from where they can listen to passing cars. Whenever they feel it’s safe, they can cross this lane of traffic. If they were hit by a car, a death sound plays. Otherwise they’ve successfully completed the hop and are left in a new safe zone from where they can hear only the lane of cars ahead of them. It was suggested that I give players a visual diagram of this process on the menu screen, something I think I will definitely integrate. Using the extra 3D sound library in Unity would also greatly help, though I wasn’t aware of it until critique.


There was also an issue of knowing when one has been hit by a car. A bone breaking sound plays, when the frog is hit, and then the player is brought back to the waiting screen. To avoid forcing people to listen to the exposition/tutorial at every death I disabled the tutorial after the first play through, though this seemed to confuse people upon their death. The game progresses as follows:

A menu screen, which waits for a player to to press space to enter the game->a tutorial->the highway. If the player dies, a death sound plays. If a player wins, a win sound plays->regardless of whatever outcome, the player is then brought back to the menu screen-> upon pressing space again, the highway.


The movement of the frog was also not picked up on. People were frustrated when the frog didn’t “respond” to their key presses. I implemented the jumps to take about a half second to complete, and gave the jumps a half second sound clip to indicate the beginning and ending of each pass. If space was pressed during this jump period, nothing extra would happen. To fix this, I could add a short, small, negative sound when the player presses space within a jump period, so they at least know they can’t jump while executing another jump. My original iteration just had the frog teleport to the next lane of cars, which broke the sound flow and wasn’t realistic.


I did smooth over the rough volume transition of cars as they cycle over the lane. My first iteration destroyed the cars once they reached the end and then reinstantiated them at the beginning of lane. I tried teleporting the car back to start, increasing the physical distance of the “ends” of the lanes, and eventually settled on a system that teleports the cars and fades their volume in or out relative to their distance to or from the player. This taught me about coroutines, though the final version did not use them, something I’d never tackled before.


Overall, I learned more through this project than how successful it was. Sound and 3D work were completely new to me, and loosing visual input was both a challenge for me as a visual artist and a game designer. The work will be salvaged and improved through the feedback given in critique, but I don’t plan on making any more aural-only absurdities.


Rachel – Olli Harjola

Olli Harjola of Facepalm games. Creators of The Swapper (2013)

I admire Olli because of his wide range of talents. He created The Swapper mostly by himself (while a student at the University of Helsinki), with only one other permanent team member (only credited with level design) and two freelance workers. He had full creative control, and with backing from the Indie Fund, created a stellar game that met with great success. Initially released for Mac and PC, the game is now slated for release on all major consoles and has won numerous awards for its main mechanic use and aesthetic. He’s also quite vocal about the divisions between indie and AAA development. Though I think a few of his points are lost in translation, this is a talk he gave in 2012 at Assembly about how big companies use tech to spackle over design flaws. In it he emphasizes complementary art and design choices, as well as the need for intimate player interactions rather than massive, often slow, multiplayer interaction crap-shoots.

A repetitive interview discussing the game’s release date and Olli’s work on the unique visual qualities of The Swapper.

Michelle, Maryyann, and Rachel- Candy Land

Candy Land: The Game of Sweet Revenge

Candy Land: The Game of Sweet Revenge encourages players to act out against the confines of traditional board game etiquette. Players eat, lick, and bite each other’s candy game pieces while trying to shuttle five of their own to the safe zone at the end of the rainbow path. Winning means a feast of all the candy on the board you can steal, but revenge plays can drop the leading player into last place. Players take turns choosing the most advantageous color combinations from a hand of color cards to move their candies to the end. If they land on another candy, moving either backwards or forwards, they can steal that candy for themselves. Candies are only safe once bitten into/licked, or once they have reached the end. By moving along the board, players activate mini-games like candy-hide-and-seek, in which players steal a neighbor’s candy and hide it on their person. Each turn players get to guess where their candy ended up, and only after finding it does that candy go back into play. These subgames, in combination with stealing and revenge mechanic, bring strategy and complexity to a once frivolous, quiet game.

Rachel Moeller, Michelle Ma, Maryyann Landlord

Experimental Game Design

 Making Board Games Better: Candy Land

 Candy Land is a game that teaches children the etiquette of board games. The system uses a universally child-appealing subject matter, candy, as flattening flavor and has enough color to hold a toddler’s attention long enough to have them be still and quiet for a 15 minute game. The aim of Candy Land: The Game of Sweet Revenge is to thwart the indoctrination of the original game. The revision reaches a player’s inner selfish, antagonistic bully and reinforces socially unaccepted behavior with the same candy that made the original game so innocent.

The theme of greed was instituted with the choice to play with actual candies and the steal mechanic. Physical candy adds a depth of motivation to the game and a painful edge with which to wound other players. Candy makes the game serious, turning it into a battle of tangible resources, not just points or positions. This meant the pain and satisfaction of revenge also had to be present in gameplay. Stealing, originally done by playing one of the many steal cards in the deck of colored square cards, gave players that satisfaction. The cards were scrapped in favor of landing on the same space another player occupies. This adds gestural depth to the game, and actually taking away another’s candy forces the stealing player to act out their greed, loosening their control over their inhibitions, until by the end of the game, play has devolved into a messy, polar experience.

A side effect of stealing was that a single player could be ganged up on and quickly run out of candies or be left powerless. To prevent this from happening, “blue shell” cards were added to the color square deck. These “Revenge is Sweet” cards had the potential to wildly swing the game from one losing state to another. Still, players would occasionally end up losing their candies or would give up if they couldn’t draw a comeback card. To combat this, a risk-reward subgame system was implemented in the Child’s Play cards. Each initiated a game a small game related to traditional children’s games. like hide and seek, to be played in the midst of the central game. This would help a down-on-his-luck player make a triumphant comeback or sacrifice himself for another player. These subgames ended up introducing a lot of downtime each round, but this was unavoidable in strategizing the game. Egging another player to move faster ended up enhancing the childish, peer-pressure like experience and was a retained element.

Most playtesters found the subgame structure to be entertaining, even if it slowed the round. The game did not appeal to all personalities and did not equalize every type of player to a “child” state. For example, the Hide-and-Seek subgame, in which players hide their neighbor’s candy somewhere on their person and take turns guessing where that candy went, had a general consensus of being “gross.” While most players preserved their dignity by expressing this opinion verbally, the first locations guessed were almost always the most vulgar ( i.e. Is it in your butt? Is it in your bra?) This pseudo-disgust also carried over into the discovery of the candy, which was almost never consumed once a player knew where it had been. Eating that candy became a mark of commitment to the game, and a show of how willing a player was to win by intimidating the others. The humor of the visual flavor (in the illustrations, layout, icons, and descriptions on cards) was noted by most of the playtesters as positive and a definite perversion of the original, kitschy designs of the original game.

Overall, the game was received positively, with players mostly having issues with the physical layout of the board, something that was addressed in its final version.




Rachel – Best Game Fest

Firstly, I played Turtle Wushu. The game is a carbon copy of Johann Sebastian Joust, but with turtles. Because of its repetition, I lost interest in the game quickly. When I pulled my hand out of the center to start the game, the turtle always moved to my disadvantage. Over enthusiasm kills.

Then I played Unwanted Entities, in which teams represent development committees that have to group their own colored buildings in neighborhoods and cast out uncolored sticks (the unwanted entities.) The metaphor is pretty heavy handed: the poor/homeless/racial minorities drive down property value, so get rid of them. Using colored sticks to represent “affluent” majorities was a good choice, but it could have been pushed from primary colors to those of “race.” The group of neighborhoods spread out enough that running from neighborhood to neighborhood was a strenuous activity. Players really worked hard to push out those poor people. This would add to the shock of realizing you’re playing as a bigot, if that information wasn’t given to you at the beginning.

Then I played Mont Trottoir, in which teams “climb a mountain” by reaching landmarks and thwarting the other team’s progression. Of the games I played, I found this one to be the most fun. The presence of a godlike referee was distracting; the opposite team did a good enough job of checking your moves. The card system was also distracting. While the different special abilities added a vengeance dynamic, holding the cards and trying to remember them got in the way of grasping for landmarks and communicating with the team. Other than that, I found this game to be the quickest to understand and sink into.

Rachel-Subversive Play

7.72 Turns Memorial

With this work I wanted to examine the escapist nature of play in the game Minesweeper. Atmospherically, Minesweeper obviously has nothing to offer in the way of distracting a player from work. In the context of office work, where the game is usually played, the game is not far removed from work itself; it’s on the work computer, pops up in a window that has the same visual border as all the other windows filled with work, and it’s generally colorless and muted. The designation of “game” is the only line of separation.

Exploring the notion of self-aware work/death avoidance, I played the game attempting to spell out FREE, HELP, HERE, LOOK, and SOS in the minefield. I ignored where I thought a mine might be and focused on getting the message out as efficiently as possible. I took advantage of the clusters in the field to form letters and built the words around the numbered blocks. With each play-through I kept track of the number of turns before I died, and over that course of the work’s execution, it took on average 7.72 turns to die and be resigned to the fate of death/returning to work.

I played the game 50+ times, about 10 times per word give or take a few run-throughs. While the actual attempts to spell out the words had varying degrees of success, the process of sitting and playing Minesweeper for hours made me very aware of the work-like nature of what I was doing. Restarting became agony, the repetition painful. On each play through I became more and more aware that I was going to die before finishing the word. Actively forgetting where I instinctively thought mines where turned into relief when I did explode. The process became less about seeking help and more about accepting that I was going to die. This allowed me to confront the inevitable death (and return to work) in a repetitive, ritualistic manner that comforted me as I tread over the minefield. In the end, the work became an odd spiritual release and less of an experience in escapism.

Old-fashioned Minesweeper

Contextually, minesweeper is an office game. It’s played to escape from working, but because of its instant ending, inevitably returns the player to his or her work very quickly. Considering the game’s “narrative”, this fast exit is paralleled with a violent character death. For the duration of the game, the character must step through a mine field marking the positions of mines without colliding with one. Touching a mine brings a very abrupt end, both visually changing the game board and, in some versions, causing an explosion sound.

7.72 Turns Memorial explores the futile escapist nature of Minesweeper. The object of each play session was to spell out a self-aware message requesting rescue from work (or, narratively, the death sentence of the mine field.) Each play attempt ignored the instinct to “stay-alive” by using the branching number structure to locate bombs. The goal was to get the message out as efficiently as possible, taking visual advantage of clusters on the board to create letters. The number of turns, up to and including the final step, between mission start and death were tallied for each play through. Five messages were spelled out ten times: FREE, HELP, HERE, LOOK, and SOS. The average turn count for FREE was 77, HELP was 75, HERE was 78, LOOK was 97, and SOS was 59. Thus on average, play attempts took 7.72 turns to end and resign the player to the grisly fate of work.

The work examines the effectiveness of play as an escapist device and as part of the human condition. Minesweeper itself has no immersive qualities in sound, graphics, atmosphere, game play, or content and is a poor comparison to the enormous, open world, customizable games that dominate current markets. Escapism is a core element in these games. Minesweeper functions as an escape only because of its accessibility. The setup around the game actually does a good job of removing the player from the play scene in its abrupt change from a state of active play to essentially a view of the player’s own obituary. Restarting the game is quick and easy, but the experience of playing consistently (over 50 continuous games) is akin to falling asleep and being roughly awakened just before drifting off over and over again. Executing this artwork became a painful experience in which, ironically, each attempt at play became a very evident work activity. Somber precision replaced fun, and the player took on the attitudes expected of the “narrative” character in a complete reversal of intention. The act of playing transformed Minesweeper into work.

The misery of the repetitive execution of this work provides insights on the function of play in the face of human inevitabilities. In all iterations of Minesweeper played for this work, the player died. There was no way to avoid losing the game, since the nature of the work was to ignore the impulse to place a flag and avoid known locations of bombs. The player invites his own death as he seeks help to liberate himself from his fate. In life, one cannot be liberated from death. Thus, on a simple level, the process of executing the artwork becomes a ritual of accepting and embracing one’s fate of death. In this instance, play is both a mechanism of comfort and a reminder of the inevitable. Following this, the piece parallels working with death, a serious accusation. If returning to work/dying is the end result, then playing is the act of living.

7.72 Turns Memorial explores the dualism of play and work as a matter of life and death. The piece’s execution is an exercise in confronting the abrupt conclusions of human life and the role of play in the definition of life.