Friday, August 18, 2006

A Non-Gamer Tries Beta

First off, you should know that I am not your typical gamer. In fact, I’m not a gamer, unless boardgames count. I don’t own gaming consoles, I’ve never had a joystick for my PC, and frankly, I tend to mock those who have such passions. "Step away from the TV," I command children and adults everywhere. Yes, I'm one of those moms.

So, when asked to beta test the new game, I was less than confortable. I mean, I’m no gamer, and had very little idea even what Beta Tester meant. But I played the game. Now I am hopelessly addicted.

What won me over was the game's theme: "Be patriotic. Save the republic. Insist on truth." I like that. These are things worth fighting for! I'm thrilled that instead of using violence as a form of entertainment, you work to bring real justice via the system. Instead of running around, trying to shoot before being shot, living the life of some renegade vigilante, you run around trying to gather evidence & serve subpoenas. But don't you real gamers worry, there is plenty of action. And plenty of danger -- you have to keep your character intact while the bad guys sling mud at you. (Oh, the nerve!)

The game begins with a conversation between you, an Assistant Special Prosecutor, and the Judge:

You: Corruption is rife, your Honor. The Scoundrels must be exposed.
Judge: Take these Subpoenas, uncover the truth. I’ll issue more orders, when you bring more proof.

And with that, you are off...

"The You enter the halls of Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. ready to serve the subpoenas and uncover the truth. Your objective is to save the republic by finding the trustworthy congressmen and vanquishing the corrupt ones. The Senators and members of Congress, be they good or bad, all look the same. The only way to discover their character and deeds is to deliver the subpoenas; when you do, they'll A) either break down and confess (and then be taken away by the police as a Perfidious Scoundrel), or B) profess their loyalty in the form of an Honest Tribute. The Honest Tributes become the score by which you win the game.

You can improve your odds of getting Honest Tributes by making use of the "Trust-o-meter". This bar shows the percentage of Good to Bad politicians, and your actions move the bar. Catch the Lobbyist with the suitcase of money, and the meter goes up 10% to the good; miss the money and the Sycophants get it, and the meter goes 25% to the bad. It helps track your progress as far as what impact you are making in the halls. But as I said, there are those ready to stop you!

As you deliver your subpoenas, you'll run into Sycophants and Toadies. Both are obviously bad, and you'll see them coming, but they each have their ways...

Sycophants can't hurt you directly -- but not only do they collect moneybags and shred evidence (moving that "Trust-o-meter" to more red or bad), they can and do block your movements, making you an easy target for the Toadies. Oh, the dreaded Toadies.

The Toadies are dangerous. They seek you out and sling mud to sully your reputation. When they get enough mud to stick you, the cop will escort you to the restroom where you can wash up. It's a time-out for you -- and I can't tell you how infuriating it is to be fighting for justice and have the bad guys sully your reputation! But more than the cost to your pride, Toadies can mean the end of the game. For when you run out of towels, the game is done and you retire with a very poor press headline, (it's so sad!). The only way to get more towels in the restroom is to do a good job: for every 12 scoundrels you find, you'll get one extra towel stocked in the washroom.


When you run out of subpoenas, you must get more from the judge. However, just as in real life, you need to convince the judge with evidence. For every 1,000 evidence points, you'll earn one new subpoena -- but you must reach the judge to get them. (And he's not around nearly enough, making you defenseless against Sycophants and Toadies!)

You do gather evidence when delivering subpoenas, but you may also find physical evidence (documents and briefcases with money) in rooms, trashbaskets, bookcases etc. in the halls. So it's best to keep checking them, accumulating points, so that you have enough points to nail that judge everytime he passes through the halls!

To re-cap the game, you need to do the following:

Deliver subpoenas to both catch Perfidious Scoundrels and score Honest Tributes
Gather evidence so you don't run out of subpoenas
Avoid Sycophants and Toadies

Remember, keep the Perfidious Scoundrels count high to keep the towels stocked and the game going, and the Honest Tributes score is the way to win the game. You need both.

Have you figured out that there is a lot going on all the time in this game?

And no, I have not won yet. Not even close. Perhaps this is why it's addicting. But I'd like to think it's bigger than just that...

I feel rather like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz up against such things. "Scoundrels, Sycophants and Toadies, Oh, My!" It's all so much bigger than I am... I can't wait to get home to Auntie Em and find out it's all just a dream -- but it's not.

The game literature says it best:

Some like to say this is just a game, and maybe they're right. Some say the real world is just the big game and maybe they're wrong.

Imagine with us a government "Of the People, by the people and for the people" where merit reigns, and greed is disgraced. Where the rule of law applies fairly to all men.

Once you have mastered the little game you may want to move on to the big one. That's up to you. It's a free country. And I do encourage it!

As I said, I am hopelessly addicted. I'll meet you in the forum. There we can gloat over each other's scores, cry over the Toadies, and perhaps make plans for the bigger game.


Blogger SubPowered said...

Ah Deanna, the end of the design process is just the beginning of the marketing process; an art just as challenging adn you are obviously up to the task! This is a great, insightful review of a very complicated game.

Not being a gamer myself the process of developing a game has mystified me. It really does help that I know that I do not "know" anything about this stuff; games that is.

But what I do know after reading this review is that Tom has created something truly noteworthy and truly a fully realized game. But I don't think it can be marketed as a game.

But that being said, it can be presented in the normal gaming circles too.

Deanna, our work has just begun and there will be months of developing the promotion and marketing of this game, of the site. It starts here and with this review you have helped to build a strong springboard!

10:28 PM  

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