Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Prototype 2 - SoundsLike

Second up: SoundsLike. Play it here.

What it's all about:
You get presented with a sound effect, some letters and the length of the answer. It's up to you to determine what that sound effect is.

How it came about:
It is actually an idea my cousin's son had after playing a lot of 4 Pics 1 Word (the influence is pretty obvious). I kind of knew it wouldn't really work, but the idea didn't seem too horrible and I wanted to show my extended family that I could actually make something. So, mission accomplished.

What works:
Not a great deal, but the central mechanic works as it's supposed to, plus there's a few minor improvements compared to 4 pics 1 word (not that it's really saying much). I also a learnt how to do menus and stuff, so that's pretty rad.

What doesn't:
This was designed as a mobile game, so there's some key central concepts that don't really work for that platform. Simple quiz games like this work because they're something you can pick up and play a quick couple of rounds while you're doing something else (like waiting in line, or "working"). People can get away with it because looking and touching a screen doesn't really draw that much attention. Having to listen to a sound effect though, that's a whole different kettle of fish. Plus, if you're out on the bus or whatever, you're either going to have trouble hearing the sound effects or you'll end up being the asshole making all the weird noises. There are games on mobile based around sound that work, but they need to have stronger and consistent gameplay, i.e. have some kind of skill element that makes you want to put aside time to play it, as opposed to a timewaster that you play in short bursts for a break.

That also leads on to the next problem: It's very boring. But even worse than that: It's not very me. If I were to finish it to spec (i.e. make it close to 4 pics 1 word as possible) and even add some extra bells and whistles, it still wouldn't be a game I'd play, or a game I'd try and convince someone else to play. The quiz mechanic might work for some people, but the theme is non-existent and the reason to play is solely to get to the next sound. While that can be enough for some groups of players, I don't think there's enough there to get the ball rolling.

Plus, so much of 4 pics 1 word's success was due to being able to post to Facebook and ask for help. I don't think a sound effect type scenario would work with that. It's just too easy to gloss over an embedded sound effect/video.

What's missing/What can fix it:
This is actually the most complete of all the prototypes I've currently worked on. It has the menu structure in place, plus I've designed the code behind the sound effects/answers to be easily extendable, so adding additional questions is pretty simple. Obviously, it needs all the artwork, but everything here is pretty static so that shouldn't take too long. I've got some options as far as monetization goes as well that should be fairly simple to implement (I think I've started the code for some of that already, but it was a while ago).

However, while the mechanics are there, nothing else is. The entire concept and theme needs to change significantly, as well as possibly the intended platform. After thinking about it a little, I see myself as having two options here:

-I could easily turn this into a simple edutainment type thing for kindergarten aged kids, with animal noises and such... Obviously any kind of monetization aspect would go out the window, but I could lock content until paid for, or do multiple versions for different things (Animal noises, City Noises, etc) and only make one free as a taster. However, without a licensed property to base this on, it's really hard to break into that kind of market. Also, it's likely to impress anyone at AVCON. Unless I do a version with Anime and Videogame character noises. Which I could do. Probably. 
- If I was going to do a quiz type game thing that I myself would play, and it involved sound, what would I do? Naturally, it would have to be something involving me proving I have better indie hipster cred when it comes to music than everyone else. Fitting in with the frame work of the game, obviously it would play a segment of a song, and you'd have to guess the song name and artist. Only picking super obscure songs wont lead to any big downloads, so I'd also have to include a lot of popular music as well. And there would need to be some kind of world wide ranking of course, so I can confirm my greatness. 
The biggest problems here are copyright issues, and unfortunately my designated lawyer is terrible at telling me what I can and can't do. I probably can't use actual soundbites, or lyrics, but I guess I could use "interpretations" provided it was different enough from the actual songs. So what if instead of the soundbite it was some dude or chick that comes up to you and says they love this song, but cant remember the name of it, and then starts to sing the melody back to you? Might be sung well, could be sung intentionally bad. Obviously to keep that AVCON audience in mind, the NPCs would obviously be cartoony/anime like... Maybe they're also inspired by specific genres? Maybe it becomes like Pokemon, and you have to "out hipster" the other trainers before you can take on the genre boss? Maybe?
So for either of those, I'd need to source (or create) sound effects plus do all the art. It's all fairly static, so even if I go overboard this probably has the least amount of work I'd have to do to complete... It's just kind of annoying that it's not very gamey, and I still can't tell if I could make it interesting (or indeed, AVCON-y) or not.

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