The theme for the jam was You Are The Monster. The game I made is Well I'm Not A Monster, a 4-player local-multiplayer game of secrets and lies inspired by board games such as The Resistance: Avalon and One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Pretend not to be trying to kill your friends. You can play a HTML5 build of the game in your browser for free on the itch.io page. The rest of this post will make a lot more sense if you just 'play' the game briefly yourself by cycling through the beginning text and taking a full turn to see the moves play out (just press D, L, right arrow and numpad 6).
At the beginning of a round each player is secretly told whether they're playing as their Human or their Monster. The goal of Human players is to get to the Exits, while the goal of Monster players is to kill all the Human players. There could be 1, 2 or 3 Monsters in each round, but the Monsters don't know who else is a Monster (if anyone) and the Humans don't know who else is a Human (if anyone). The only guarantee is that there's at least one of each. How much do you trust your friends?
A game consists of 3 rounds and the Monster role(s) are randomly assigned each round. At the end of each round is a score breakdown; the player with the most points after 3 rounds wins. A round ends when all the Human players' Humans are dead or as soon as any player's Human touches an Exit. The points system is designed to reward Humans for escaping, reward Monsters for killing Humans, reward teamwork between Humans and between Monsters and to discourage Monsters from simply revealing themselves or going on a killing spree.
As a Human:
- +500 points for escaping through an Exit
- +100 points if any Human player escaped
- +200 points for surviving
- +200 points for each Human you kill that was controlled by a Monster player
- -200 points for each Human you kill that was controlled by a Human player
- +250 points for escaping through an Exit
- +100 points if any Monster player escaped
- +200 points for your Human surviving
- +300 points for each Human you kill that was controlled by a Human player
- -300 points for each Human you kill that was controlled by a Monster player
Well I'm Not A Monster was a very interesting game to design because I specifically wanted most of the actual fun to happen off-screen. All of the crazy tactics and mind games happen in the conversations between the players; the bluffs, double-crossings and uneasy alliances. The game is designed to enable and focus this conversation in a number of ways:
- The game supports up to 4 Xbox 360 controllers, which is by far the best way to play. Being able to easily hide your inputs greatly improves the strategic possibilities.
- If any Human touches any Monster, the Human dies. That means Human players can use their Monster offensively, or that you can accidentally kill your own Human.
- Monsters can't die or escape through Exits, so even if you lose your Human you can still greatly impact the game.
- You have to submit a move every turn but Humans won't move through walls or other Humans and Monsters won't move through walls, other Monsters or Exits. By moving one of your characters in a direction they can't move, you can change the positional relationship between your Human and your Monster (i.e. bring them closer together or move them further apart).
- When you haven't submitted a move for this turn your status will be Planning, Scheming, Plotting or Conspiring. When you submit a move your status becomes READY. If you submit the same move again you return to your planning state (this can be used to extend the conversation since moves don't play out until all 4 players are READY simultaneously), but if you submit a different move your status doesn't change. Change your mind at the last minute? Want to make a big show of submitting one move, then change it when no-one's looking? You can do that.
- Moves play out one at a time in an order which is randomized each turn (and clearly communicated to the players by the text along the bottom; moves play out left-to-right). Failing to take into account the move order can make turns play out in unexpected ways (remember that Humans block Humans and Monsters block Monsters). Getting lucky with the move order can turn an unsalvageable situation into a lucky escape; getting unlucky can seal your doom.
- There's a subtle built-in encouragement of mistakes. Humans always move in the direction you input while Monsters always move in the opposite direction. If you're focusing on controlling your Monster you need to input the opposite direction to the one you want to move in. Banking a secret move with an analogue stick can also lead to submitting the wrong move if you aren't paying attention to how you're moving the stick (e.g. if you're watching everyone else to make sure they don't see you secretly changing your move). These mistakes are small and don't happen very often, but they almost always seem to happen at the worst/best possible times and cause a great commotion. These are often the talking points when reminiscing about a game.
- A round ends as soon as any Human touches an Exit, including those belonging to Monster players. If all hope is lost as a Monster but your Human is the closest to an exit, you can escape and deny the Human players the points.
- You have no way to prove that you are a Human or a Monster. The pretense is that everyone is a Human, but if you want to claim that you're a Monster in the hope that other Monsters will leave you alone, you can. But now the Humans will seek to kill you using their own Monsters. How many Monsters and how many Humans do you think there are? Can you fool them long enough?
I wasn't being quite as crazy as it seemed though. Because I had designed a game where most of the fun was actually in the conversation between the players and the game itself just facilitates that conversation, there weren't a huge number of mechanics that I needed to implement. I needed to be able to:
- Store inputs from 4 players (ideally using 4 Xbox 360 controllers)
- Enact those inputs one at a time, in sequence, as grid-based movements
- Randomize various things such as who the monsters were, the move order and the initial positions
- Track scores and the various events that modify scores
- Display and cycle text (ideally with color-coding to eliminate confusion)
Day 2 was spent working out how to randomize the monsters and initial positions, how to do Xbox 360 controller input, playtesting with friends (one of whom gave the excellent suggestion to randomize the move order each turn), finishing the scoring system, adding the rounds and games distinction, and doing a lot of work with the Unity UI (especially using Rich Text to italicize and color-code specific words). I finished tweaking with about 10 minutes left on the clock.
Then came submission hour. As per the Ludum Dare rules you have one 1 extra hour after the 48/72 hours to package up and submit your game. I spent that hour learning how to publish a Unity Web Player build, creating a very basic page on the excellent itch.io and embedding my game in it, and creating a bare-bones Ludum Dare entry page with screenshots. This I finished with about 5 minutes left. Easy.
The following day I created the full itch.io game page with details of how to play and updated my Ludum Dare entry page so that it all made sense. The Ludum Dare rules state that you're allowed to fix critical bugs and do ports to other platforms after the deadline. The day after the jam I fixed a bug that meant kills weren't garnering points, then a couple of days after that I updated to Unity 5 so that I could do a HTML5 version of the game because modern browsers are dropping support for plugins such as the old Unity Web Player.
Ratings and feedback
- Innovation – The unexpected. Things in a unique combination, or something so different it’s notable.
- Fun – How much you enjoyed playing a game. Did you look up at the clock, and found it was 5 hours later?
- Theme – How well an entry suits the theme. Do they perhaps do something creative or unexpected with the theme?
- Graphics – How good the game looks, or how effective the visual style is. Nice artwork, excellent generated or geometric graphics, charming programmer art, etc.
- Audio – How good the game sounds, or how effective the sound design is. A catchy soundtrack, suitable sound effects given the look, voice overs, etc.
- Humor – How amusing a game is. Humorous dialog, funny sounds, or is it so bad it’s good?
- Mood – Storytelling, emotion, and the vibe you get while playing.
- Overall – Your overall opinion of the game, in every aspect important to you.
I rated 70 games and ended up with a silver coolness rating of 84% (not really sure what that means). I received 46 ratings but got a lot more views than that, however multiplayer games are notoriously hard to get ratings for in Ludum Dare since most people play and rate on their own.
I got 17 comments (not including ones from me or the first joke comment from a friend of mine about the quality of my sound). 3 of these were people saying they couldn't play the game (before I did the HTML5 version) and 5 were people saying they didn't have anyone to play with. Out of all of them, 12 of the comments said it was a cool/good/interesting concept and they were all generally positive and encouraging. There's a nice community around Ludum Dare.
Now for the actual ratings (out of 5.0) and my rankings (out of the 1199 compo entries):
- Innovation: 3.67, 108th place
- Theme: 3.55, 358th place
- Overall: 3.14, 453rd place
- Fun: 3.07, 436th place
- Mood: 2.85, 563rd place
- Humor: 2.63, 500th place
- Graphics: 2.44, 776th place
Once again you can play the game in your browser for free right here.