Game designer is not much different from a psycho. How we made the CMAN game

    / start

    Friday night, end of working day. You are in the office. What will you do?

    - Go home to sleep
    - Go to a bar with friends - Go
    on a date
    - Check why the light is on in the meeting

    room My name is Andrey Morevsky, I am an architect in Dodo and the person who chose “Check why the light is on in the meeting room”. Then I did not suspect how this story would end.

    First player get ready

    I unceremoniously went into the meeting room and found out that they were discussing the creation of some kind of game there. Hmm ... it could not but interest. First, what game? We are developing an information system for a network of pizzerias. Secondly, well, which of us did not dream of making a game? I don’t know about you, but personally I dreamed about this all my life. So I boldly burst into the conversation. Here is what I found out. The guys decided to make their own game to attract more people to our booth at the upcoming conference. And not just a game, but a competitive game, since we wanted to organize a competition and give cool prizes at the best score.

    All this was pure dementia and courage. None of us have ever made a game. Zero experience, zero expertise. Instead of ordering development from professionals, we decided to do everything ourselves, in our free time. The reasons are obvious - get a fan from creating the game yourself, and not outsource the pleasure to the side.

    Three months remained before the conference, and so far we had nothing but desire. Word for word, and now I, together with the team, come up with what interesting things can be done in this period. We choose a genre - sort out arcades, platformers, simulators, strategies, but we sweep away everything. More and more often, memories of warm tube quests from the 90s, Space Rangers, eh ... are slipping through ... And if you really realize the dream, then to the fullest. We will not just make a game, but revive the genre of text quests of the old school. We will do an old-school text quest! There are cheers, someone rejoices that we have chosen the simplest genre and that’s why we’ll cut the game quickly and easily, everyone agrees ... Haha! How wrong we were then!

    But we were mistaken that day more than once. It seemed to us that it would be fun to make a game in the form of a telegram bot. All conference participants are sitting in a telegram chat, which means that we provide a low entry threshold. And most importantly - do not bother with the UI, since we are limited by the format of the messenger. Oh ... It would be better for us to go back and not make this mistake ...

    Ok. But what will this quest be about? Of course, we will choose our native element - the adventures of a programmer who went to gemba and became a courier in a pizzeria for one day. After all, all of our developers pass the gamboy test in order to immerse themselves in the business and better understand how the information system is used in production.

    So, the courier will deliver orders to a fictional city and earn money. Money will become his account, and the account will become that very competitive element. But making money is not so easy - delivery time is limited. And even on the way, the courier will stick into the most incredible situations that will “eat up” valuable time and thereby prevent him from earning more. You can get out of situations with your own ingenuity, as well as skillfully using the characteristics of the character - strength, dexterity and charisma. I must say right away that we did not want to do the classic traveling salesman task, since we did not see a fan for our players in this. If the game has a need to find the optimal route, then it’s only as a lightweight addition to the gameplay.

    We drew the first version of the map on the board, figuring out which locations can be found in any city - new buildings, the old center, the business district, the hostel, the elite village ... Typical situations that could occur there smoothly flowed from the locations themselves. In new buildings, lawlessness in the area - Gopniks are trying to squeeze the bag from the courier. In the old town there is a warm lamp story - grandmother calls for tea and treats with pizza. An evil watchman and student jokers are waiting in the hostel with nothing to do. Immediately we made a paper prototype - we cut cards with stories, took dice and played a game just invented. It became clear - there is something in it. They left the office at midnight, full of excitement and excitement. There was a whole weekend ahead to do more.

    Black mirror

    For two days I did not leave home. During this time, I managed to create a working prototype of the game and test the hypotheses put forward by brainstorming. For example, we wanted events to occur randomly and each time add up to a unique new story. We also wanted the characteristics of the courier to directly influence the outcome of events and as the game progressed, the requirements for the characteristics grew, which means the player had to somehow level the character.

    The prototype broke a creative boat about the life of our abilities. The random order of events often led to an obscure story. And the characteristics of the courier, even if there were only three, could not be balanced in any way. A couple of weeks we spent on brainstorming, trying to realize our ideas, but were at a dead end ... There was not enough knowledge and experience to pull the game we invented.

    Taking on the role of a game designer, I began to read articles about game mechanics, balance, scripting, collect other people's ideas, generate my own - and combine all this into the gameplay. Remember the last episode of The Black Mirror. I became the same obsessed guy who was trying to create something really worthwhile. But I just could not find the general logic, storyline, find solid gameplay. People came, gave some advice and left. But whatever I tried, it turned out to be junk. A good game is a synergy of plot, atmosphere, dynamics. This is the path in the dark through errors and insights, in search of the sources of the treasured fan. I embarked on this path, but I have not yet observed the light at the end of the tunnel.

    It all happened at two in the morning. I sat on the balcony, drank coffee, smoked and thought about the quest. For some reason, we convinced ourselves that the fixed order of events in each game is “stupid,” dull, unplayable. But what if it is not? And what can be done so that this is not so? Illumination came suddenly, as if from nowhere. An old film "Groundhog Day" has surfaced in my memory, where the hero lives the same sequence of events for several days in a row. And only his actions affect what exactly each of them will turn out for him. The hero's task was to find the correct sequence of actions in order to win in this fight against the groundhog.

    Groundhog Day has become the central idea of ​​the game. Events must occur in the same order, at the same time, with the same characters. Only the courier can live this day in different ways, depending on his actions. It was a revelation that put everything in its place. All stories in the game must be connected, each correctly completed quest leads the hero further. The player explores the world, and the more experience he has, the more he makes the right decisions.

    It would seem that unrelated stories have developed into several quest lines, the passage of which gives a significant increase to the score. In each story, you can get an item that is useful in the future. To go through such chains, you will have to carefully think through and optimize the route.

    For example, our hero delivers pizza to an elite village and finds out that there is a closed party (where you can probably make good money). Of course, he will not be allowed to attend the event. But if in new buildings he will help the woman who was attacked by the gopniks, then in gratitude he will receive an invitation to a party where "there are not enough real men." However, defeating bullies is not so easy - you have to pass a test for strength and dexterity, and charisma can seriously suffer. But if on the way to new buildings you did not disregard the voting guy and helped solve his problems, you will receive brass knuckles as a gift, which in turn will easily and quickly solve your problems with hooligans. Uhh ... like that. Although not. You need to figure out how to disguise yourself in order to get to the party, because even with an invitation to an ordinary courier, the entrance is closed.

    The player will have to make difficult moral decisions. On the first task, you will find yourself in an ambiguous situation. Children are alone at home and they have no money. What to do? Wait for mom, who is supposedly about to come and lose time, risking not having time to deliver the following orders? Or leave, leaving children without pizza, and yourself without money? Or maybe give pizza, delighting the kids, but again left without money? What would you choose?

    By the way, the issue with the characteristics was also solved simply. The mechanics with a throw of dice against the characteristics of the character were the best suited to the selected gameplay. Yes, it is unloved by many random. But pumping the characteristics, we increase the chance of a successful throw and thereby control this randomness. At the same time, there is always the possibility of an unexpected outcome, which makes the gameplay not so predictable.

    Many editors, many styles, one platform

    It is a well-known fact that in the development of a game 80% of the time is content creation, and only 20% is code writing. We felt this fact deeply on ourselves. In order to have time to write all the scripts I came up with, I threw a cry and found volunteer authors in the company who helped to work out the characters of the game in detail. Together we wrote 56 stories with a bunch of branches and scenarios. Work on one story took at least six hours. A total of 300 pages of text. Just think about it - it's a whole book!

    Each volunteer wrote the story that is closer to him. For example, our manager Sergey from Lyubertsy took up scripts with gopniks. And Scrum-master Dasha wrote stories that take place at the conference. I took on such characters as an unfriendly and tedious downshifter from the village of Gadiukino, an angry shift guard in a hostel and the like. This approach has been extremely successful. The characters turned out to be bright, convex, alive (for example, “the most beautiful IT person Margarita” seems so real that I repeat once again - dear, I don’t know any Margarita, I didn’t write this script).

    What could have gone wrong? I’m sure you already guessed. Since the texts were written by different people, all the stories turned out in a different style and did not fit together. I had to work a little unscheduledly - to sit down and bring all 300 pages of text to a single style.

    In parallel, a telegram bot was being developed. When the programmers brought the first working version, we eagerly uploaded scripts there and ... realized that it was a failure! Our highly artistic texts rich in images, dialogs and descriptions were completely unreadable on the phone screen. I had to scroll through several screens to read one small step of the quest. It quickly got tired. Incredible ... We wrote texts for a month and did not think of checking how they look on the target platform!

    I switched to round-the-clock mode again. Again, I had to rewrite everything ... This time, to halve and adapt the text to the phone screen. Information must necessarily remain in the text for the player - where he is, what is happening and what will happen to him. About this, I also wanted to preserve the verbal charm: humor, epithets, puns, jokes. Perhaps for me it was the most difficult and painful stage of work.

    Users are merciless. Even test

    The first alpha test once again turned the game into a pumpkin. The game had 9 rounds, each could take 3 orders, but the first players could not stand even half the game and fled under various pretexts. And all this two weeks before hour X!

    A couple of days ago, it seemed impossible for me to cut our beautiful scripts in half, but only now I felt the true meaning of the word "impossible." On long sleepless nights, I balanced 9 rounds, scattering stories and objects so that they stacked up in storylines according to certain rules - some chains can be run in parallel, and some can be mutually exclusive. Now I just did not understand how to reduce the game without forming logical holes. I had to spend a couple more nights on the balcony to put the game first at seven, then at five, and then in four rounds. I have vague memories of those times, and I sincerely do not remember how miraculously I did it. As a result, half of the created content was cut out and 30 out of 56 stories remained. But the game only won from throwing out the content. Everything that wasn't cool enough

    Guess what happened after the second alpha test? That's right - I was asked to shorten the game a little more. But by this moment my hand was iron, and my heart was cold, and I quickly got rid of the extra round. Now the game has only three rounds left and it has found its "diamond" look. Already in this form, the game went to beta test, and later to production.

    Telegram - an unfriendly quest environment

    Let me remind you that we chose the telegram bot, because we thought that to make it easier than ever. That was a fatal mistake.

    The key element of our interface were buttons. Using the buttons, the player chose what to do next in a given situation. But due to the specifics of the platform, these buttons constantly strove to disappear. Or because of network lags, the buttons came to the client later than the message to which they belonged. And this means that a person has already seen a new quest step and buttons related to the old step.

    How we fought this is a completely separate and incredible story of crutches and tricks, which our developers will tell in another article. Just annotate it here.

    Instead of captions

    Polishing the game lasted until the last minute. Even the night before the conference, we corrected bugs and changed scripts. And exactly at the day and time of the opening of the conference, we presented our real old-school tube quest. We performed a small miracle. CMAN has been released.

    The conference was attended by 1,100 people, of which 300 went through the game at least once, and dozens spent more than 50 sessions in the game. A lot of people came to our booth, hung out with us at the after party and thanked us for the game.

    All reviews were positive. I liked the game. Therefore, after a couple of months, we decided to release CMAN in the "big" world. And on this occasion, they prepared a new, expanded and improved version of the game. In this version you are waiting for:

    1. PvP fights on swords with real players;
    2. Ultra-mega-hardcore boss on the roof of the business center, which will tear you to shreds or open access to the game +.
    3. New items. A smart card that opens all the doors in the city. Flashing light, guaranteeing the right of VIP-travel on any road. The medallion of fate, the purpose of which is covered in the darkness of mystery.
    4. New adventures in the hostel.
    5. And finally - a unique opportunity to “annoy” other players, forcing them to answer your questions in order to complete the quest.

    You can and should play the game . Now the marathon is taking place, we have prepared prizes for the top ten players with a maximum rating by April 7, 23:59. Each player from 10th to 4th place will receive a HUBSAN H001 NANO Q4 SE mini quadrocopter as a gift.

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