Last summer, we gather 50 people to participate in a live action role playing game. During one day, we asked them to play as space engineers involved into a mission that led them to a distant planet. They had to manage resources like food and water, do some scientific stuff and explore a huge story that has been created for the event. This was our first live gameplay test for The Pioneers. At the end of the day, we learnt a lot, especially on what is fun and what is not. Here are just a few examples…
People definitely love to be surprised
Before the event, we did not communicate any information to the players. They had absolutely no idea of what they were going to do. We used a lot of manipulation strategies to be sure that they would know nothing till the beginning of the game. And the result was just amazing. The first minute of the game was probably the best moment, because of the 100% discovery experience offered to the players.
In The Pioneers, we will put a lot of discovery design mechanisms. You will probably have to replay the game before beating it because you will never have all the needed information. Also randomness will play an important role in the gameplay : random playable characters, environments and loots. Just to be sure that each time you replay the game, you can feel the sensation of discovery.
Sci-fi is not a nerd thing
Among the players, more than 50% had never played to a live action RPG and the majority of them were not into sci-fi or gaming at all. This has not been a problem to drive their interest even if the storyline was a bit hard sci-fi oriented. Ok, Everyone had not totally understood the chapter about light speed and relativity issues but it is not important enough to have fun and enjoy the amazing feeling of space conquest if there is a good balance between realistic and fantastic approaches of design.
In The Pioneers, we will try to put things that we know about astrophysics and space engineering. But we will also add simple and fun features that do not require to master any scientific discipline in order to maximize fun over realism. Our moto designing the game could be : try to be realistic except if it drives you to a non-fun decision.
The more the out is hard, the more the in is cool
The whole game took place into a nightclub, redesigned as a space station for the occasion. But players had also access to the surroundings of the place to simulate Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVA). To maximize the contrast between indoor and outdoor gameplay sequences, we made the EVA as difficult as possible : equipment overload, extreme temperature, poor field of view and monster attacks. It resulted that the station looked more valuable for the players that went outside. This is the shelter effect.
In most of survival games, players have to set up a shelter that provides them a safe place to rest in an harsh environment. In The Pioneers, the station will play this role, providing a (almost) comfortable and safe home to the crew. On the other hand, outdoor activities will be stressful for the player because the life parameters of his characters will decrease faster and death hazards will be multiplied.
There are just a few examples of what we find out testing our gameplay in real life. Obviously, you can not transpose everything into a video game. For example, we put a lot of brain games during the event : puzzles, enigmas and stuff that involve a cooperative thinking. Even if it was cool, we will not include any mini game or things like that into The Pionneers. Nevertheless, this experience was a very interesting approach in order to put the basis of the GDD on the table.