These Walls You Have Built- My First Attempt at an Art Game

Like the title of this post says “These Walls You Have Built” is my first attempt at an art game and I’m not going to make any excuses for it.So there. I’ve made a few people play games like Passage, Marriage, and Stars Over Half Moon Bay and after getting blank looks, I felt kind of disappointed.

I don’t know, maybe it’s because we’ve been so used to playing and enjoying games just for fun that the thought of trying to get a ‘feeling’ out of it like we do with paintings, or music never occur to us at first.

Maybe that’s why art games like these need some sort of explanation just in case the player never gets past that first barrier. This is my explanation for this game, at least how I saw my game while I was making it.(But play the game first maybe you’ll figure it out it’s not that deep)

What this game is about

This game is about limitations. More importantly, its a game about self imposed limitations. If you’ve tried the game a few times you’ll learn that you can’t win it. There is no way to win the game while actually playing the game. Games need to have win conditions right?Well fuck that, the only way to win this game is not to play the game at all. The more you play this game the more you lose.

Read the walls. The walls have insults that hopefully makes you feel bad because you’ve heard people say things like that to you, or you’ve said to yourself.I wanted the game to make you feel bad, and feel stupid because you can’t win it. People and life make you feel stupid sometimes.

The doors is hope. False hope can make you stay in bad situations thinking that there is something more. Things like getting a promotion for example can make you stay in a job that you don’t like for example. People stay in bad relationships because of hope. While there is hope you stay and play the game.

The suicide note. Reading the suicide note tells you how to kill yourself. If the player follows it blindly, the player dies. The suicide note is about people following tried, and tested means. Its about not exploring your options and taking what is in front of you immediately.

Sometimes it’s hard to do things because we already assume that our situation is already final. We’ve already built the ‘walls’ that currently keep us in place because of bad decisions and stupidity.

Maybe all we need is a little shift in perspective.

Coursera Gamification Course Activity-The Structural Elements of A Game That Makes it Successful

Pillars of the Earth

Pillars of the Earth is board game for 2-4 players based on Ken Follet’s book with the same title. For those unfamiliar with the game search google or see my review here:

Structural Elements of Pillars of the Earth:

Simple player choices

In this game players aren’t constrained to the traditional roll and move mechanic that immediately comes to mind when board games are mentioned thanks to games like monopoly and snakes and ladders. In Pillars of the Earth player’s have several choices on the board to which they can allocate resources, in this case their workers. Allocating workers on a certain spot on the board will trigger an action or an effect later on in the game.  An important rule is that there is a limit to how many players can put workers on each spot on the board. All actions are detailed on the board so players know exactly what they are getting into by putting workers on a specific spot. After allocating resources then the game proceeds to executing actions automatically on the board in a very linear way.

It’s a very simple choice but can have strategic depth when coupled with the bidding mechanics and the progression of the game.  

I think simple choices in a gamified system is important since in gamification  we are trying to produce habits in our target audience. Complex choices will probably do the contrary and take up people’s time. I’m not an expert on behavior, but I’m speaking for myself when I say that when I encounter overly long processes on a website for example then it’s an easy choice for me: leave.


            Pillars of the Earth is a worker placement and resource management game. Almost all the resources players have are limited. This creates competition among the players(who gets to a certain resource first for example), and allows for many instances when players can block each other’s strategy(although indirectly). Though player’s have simple choices to make, their choices can actually affect the choices of the other players, which can make for some interesting and fun decisions.  Being multiplayer, players can actually see the results of their actions on other players. This feedback (seeing your friend’s face when you screw him over) I think is one of the reason’s multiplayer games are engaging.


Engaging UI that encapsulates the theme

Pillars of the Earth have one of the most beautiful boards I’ve seen in a board game. It’s almost a painting that I can hang on a wall. The board also tells a story. During the second phase of the game, after allocating resources, players take the journey from the first spot until they get to the church they are building. Take away the art, the characters on the board and it’s just a simple worker placement/resource management game. When I play the game, as I take the journey through the different locations on the board I’m immersed in the story which tells of the building of a grand cathedral and all the perils and obstacles the characters have encountered to make it. 






Gamasutra’s Story Design Challenge

Was a little bit rusty because of all the Quality Analyzing I’ve been doing lately so I decided to send a last minute entry to Gamasutra’s Story Design Challenge. I only got an honorable mention but I guess that’s not too bad for something I made during my one hour break. Here it is:

World of Hellespoint 

The first thing any person see as he steps into the spaceport of Hellespoint is the crimson glow emitted by the world’s atmosphere(in fact this low permeates everything in the world so that almost everything an inhabitant sees will be tinted with a crimson hue). This reddish glow coupled with an almost perpetual drizzle creates what the natives of the world call the ‘tears of blood’. People describe Hellespoint as ‘ a world trapped in time’ and this title is given rightfully so, as a traveller journeying across Hellespoint will find structures dating back across all eras of human civilization. These structures, an uninformed traveller will observe will not be as weathered by time as he expects, and in fact they look quite new.The structures were made by the inhabitants of Hellespoint. Both the living and the dead.

Above Hellespoint is a massive, swirling storm. It is from this storm which comes The Bound. The bound are the souls of people who have passed away. Once in a while the storm will let loose a barrage of souls(in the hundreds), and these souls will be seen falling from the sky in flames. A traveller seeing this event for the first time will find it magnificent and scary as hundreds of fiery souls fall down to the earth screaming.

No one knows why the the storm above Hellespoint sends out this barrage of souls, and when the bound are asked what is in the other side of the storm they can’t remember.

Hellespoint, the Storm, and the Bound War 

A long time ago, Hellespoint was just like any other world colonized by humanity but somewhere along its history something went awry. The natives of the world said that it was an experiment gone wrong or something, but whatever happened it changed the fate of the small planet. The massive storm which appeared above Hellespoint sent hundreds of the bound to the surface of the planet. The bound found themselves hungry, and growing mad with hunger they found that they could feed on the will of the living. Thus started the Bound War. During the bound war, the living found that their weapons did not have any effect on the bound and they found themselves on the losing end of the war. Fortunately, one of the living scientists found a way of ‘binding’ a soul to a living being so that a soul does not need to feed constantly(and thus not grow mad with hunger). Using this process, both the living and the dead lived in symbiosis(the living gaining some special abilities during the process as well). The tide of war was turned as the souls found that binding with a host was better than killing them(they were still thinking like humans after all).

The Unbound 

When a soul falls down to the surface they are immediately beset by a very strong hunger. If a soul cannot find a host in time, it grows mad and forgets that it was once human or dead and feeds on both. The inhabitants of the world call them the Unbound and they pose the greatest danger to all life and unlife in Hellespoint.

The City of Hellespoint 

The city of Hellespoint is the center of the world, It is a massive circular city that extends underground and inhabited by both the living and the bound. At the center of the city(and almost directly below the eye of the storm) is the Panoptica, a rotating orb floating above the city(at the center). It is here from which the rest of the world is kept in order.


The architecture of most of the buildings in Hellespoint is similar to most buildings found in 1950s New York(or during the great depression), but with some cyberpunk technology thrown here and there. There are also gothic styled buildings like cathedrals with spires reaching up to the skies. Generally all types of architecture can be found in the city because of the bound

Other parts of the world: 

The Reich 

To the south of the world is the Reich. A totalitarian state built by Adolph Hitler when he fell to Hellespoint. Adolph found a weak willed host and went to work again. There are rumors that the Reich is experimenting with technology to control the unbound.

Games set in this world 

The games set in this world will have a film-noir feeling to them. A stereotypical story would start with: ‘It is a dark and stormy night..(the soul storm). The hero would be a private detective who finds an unlikely client in a girl who enters his office drenched in the ‘tears of blood’, and the game begins.

Casual Connect Asia 2012

So in a previous post, I mentioned that I’ve laid out several goals or ‘missions’ to help me improve as a game designer or game developer, and one of the harder goals in my list was to attend several game conferences. Last May 22-24  I had the opportunity to just do that(Well a part of the mission at least) by attending Casual Connect Asia 2012 in Suntec City, Singapore.

Off to the lectures! We decided to just walk from Chinatown to Suntec city.

With Margaret Wallace CEO of Playmatics. Can’t wait to play Shadow Government!

During the course of the conference I had the opportunity to meet other game developers from around the world, and to learn about the latest trends in the casual games industry. I was particularly interested in augmented reality and gamification so most of the lectures I attended were related to these topics or in game design.

To make the most of the whole Casual Connect experience I also attended some lectures on game developments as businesses. These lectures were about getting into Asian markets, the use of analytics(found out that I am interested in this), getting more players using various game portals,  knowledge that I won’t be able to use yet this early in my career but I’ll probably use in the near future if ever the plan for the start up pushes through.

So yeah, it was a really great and fun learning experience for me. However, the most important lesson I got during the whole event, I learned not from the lecture rooms but in one of the networking parties hosted by the sponsors. With a Heineken beer in hand, and bored as hell I realized that I knew very little about game development as a business. There I was feeling out of place(well I was out of place) in the midst of the business men and women of the casual games industry, and I had no idea what they were talking about(that’s an exaggeration). An unpleasant experience but a very valuable one at that. So I guess that’s one more thing for me to learn as well.

Anyways, that’s my whole Casual Connect experience. I would like to elaborate more on some of the lectures I’ve attended but I haven’t had the time to fix my notes yet. The Casual Connect slides will be available in a few weeks however so you can check them out right here: Casual Connect Asia .




My conversation with Asi Burak of Games for Change

So I just finished pitching my game to Asi Burak of Games for Change last week. It was such a great experience to talk with and get feedback from one of the forerunners of Serious Games, and I really hope that it is just one of many. I was quite nervous while pitching my game, and I feel that I wasn’t really able to communicate my ideas very well. I guess that one of the realizations I got after the pitch is that I’m not very good with phone conversations( guess I need to work on this as well). Anyways, if you have not seen the rules for my game In the Court of the Spider King you can find the complete rules in my humble games section. Feel free to modify it as well for your own purposes if ever you decide to use it.