Accennavo in coda a questo post riguardo al mio astio nei confronti di un certo Copenhagen Game Collective. Questi signori sono una compagnia indie che sviluppa party games abbastanza particolari, come BUTTON (accennato in quest'altro post, nonché descritto di seguito), acclamati dalla critica in ogni dove e giustamente esposti in vetrina dall'università, in quanto una delle prime generazioni di talenti sfornate qui. Bene, anche loro hanno partecipato al jam, con la differenza che hanno lavorato tra loro, senza mischiarsi nei vari gruppi - fosse solo questo. Quello che non mi è piaciuto affatto è che il loro gioco non ha nulla a che vedere con la consegna: EXTINCTION, se ricordate. Hanno vinto con un gioco WII in cui l'obiettivo è far evolvere la propria scimmia prima degli altri. Aggiungeteci che il meccanismo è simile a giochi già sviluppati da questi signori (come Tryl), cioè imitare col WiiMote i movimenti di altri giocatori, oltre al fatto che grafica 3d e animazioni sembravano fin troppo pulite (direi miracolose) per essere state tirate in piedi da zero in 48 ore. Giungerete alla mia stessa, personalissima quanto spiacevole conclusione.
Detta così sembra il rimbrotto di un bimbo maldisposto, infatti dopo una settimana me n'ero già dimenticato. Ma guarda un po', nell'ultima esercitazione per Marketing and Game Journalism abbiamo avuto occasione di intervistare proprio uno di questi soggetti, Lau. Ero tentato dal postare direttamente l'audio, ma mi limiterò a prendermi la soddisfazione di scriverlo. Alla mia domanda "come ci si sente a vincere un jam con il team in cui lavori di solito proponendo un gioco che non ha nulla a che fare col tema?" ha semplicemente risposto, non senza un po' di imbarazzo, "questi jam non dovrebbero avere un tema, è limitante" e "mi dispiace di non aver potuto lavorare con altri, dall'anno prossimo lo farò".
Hehe. Bé, ho appena finito di scrivere l'articolo a riguardo, che posto di seguito (non tradotto, poca voglia di sbattermi).
Naturalmente nulla di tutto ciò dovrebbe trasparire dall'articolo, dato che dovrei cercare di emulare un giornalista professionista. Spero di esserci riuscito :)
The broken videogame: when designers challenge conventions
Lau Korsgaard from the Copenhagen Game Collective explains the quest behind one of the most unconventional party games ever: B.U.T.T.O.N.
Objectively establish one winner. That's one of the first feature you'd expect to find in a multiplayer party videogame, right? Wrong. At least in the case of B.U.T.T.O.N. which stands for Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally Ok Now - BUTTON from now on, for the sake of punctuation.
BUTTON is a very special game by the Copenhagen Game Collective, a Danish indie company - or game design collective, as they like to be called. BUTTON got the wildcard award at IndieCade 2010 and made it to the finals for the 2011 Nuovo Award at the Independent Games Festival.
The borderlands between digital and non-digital
The reason behind the buzz relies entirely in the intentionally broken design of the game. Two to eight players (each one needs a controller) stand in front of the screen, following the instructions in order to win. You can find yourself posing like a ninja, or doing 20 push-ups, or racing to the controller in slow-motion. But of course, there's no way for the computer to check you are really executing the commands. Enforcing the rules amongst players is your task as a player as well, exactly like a non-digital game as Monopoly or Poker. Honestly, my first reaction was some genuine head scratching: why do you need a controller and a screen, then? Lau Korsgaard, one of the game designers behind this idea, agreed to answer this and other questions in order to clarify the concept behind BUTTON.
“I think that if this wasn't a digital game, but just some sort of board game, it wouldn't have that same kind of magic.” he says. “Thing is, people go into this game with their special frame of mind. They think “let's play a digital game!” and suddenly this digital game tells you to do really really weird stuff that you would never do in another digital game. I like this contrast between player expectations and then what they get out of it.”
Explorer's life is a tough one
The Copenhagen Game Collective isn't new to this kind of gameplay experiments. Tryl is the name of another of their projects. Two players stand in front of each other, waving a Wii mote as if it were a magic wand. On the screen, two characters battle out of spells and counter-spells triggered by particular moves. Both in Tryl and in BUTTON there's this mission of using the capabilities of the machine, but at the same time switching the focus from the game to the players. Lau himself acknowledges this is a really hard path to take.
Lau: “It's hard to navigate, this mission we have. Tryl really highlights this conflict. We had the ambition of making this game where you only look at each other, but we still use the computer to monitor the rules and have a more complex system that a normal board game would allow. We never really succeeded in achieving that balance. It might be impossible, to make a game where you don't look at a screen but nonetheless try to communicate a complicate game state.”
“But I still think there's some kind of benefits by using computers” he continues. “For instance with BUTTON, we have this silly music, crazy animations and stupid characters, and all those pieces adds up creating this feeling of... this is not a really“serious” game, this is a game you should play for fun. All those audio-visual elements helps communicating the intent of the game.”
A short, sweet and acclaimed experience
BUTTON is an small indie game and the Game Collective likes it that way. “I think BUTTON is best as a really short, sweet experience” states Lau when asked how he could spend an hypothetical infinite budget on the developing of the game. “Maybe I would use my millions of dollars to make a hundred short sweet experiences, different kinds of BUTTON games. We have given up on the quest of making deep complex strategic games with social elements. I think we have to accept that party games have to be pick-up and play, and simple in scope.”
The game is still relatively unknown to the big public, while it has been repeatedly praised by the critic. “We haven't sold that much yet.” admits Lau with a laugh. “But we only released the game on Xbox Live Indie Games. We are releasing the game on Steam in a week, so let's see, but that also might not be the ideal platform. But at least critically it has been received really well, we have been showcasing the game a lot at festivals, got to the Independent Games Festival... it actually surprised us! We only made this game as a short project one year ago and then just caught catching more and more attention, so we kept improving it!”
If you want to learn more, brutallyunfairtactics.com is the website you want to check out. Just be sure to have plenty of friends who don't mind playing a “different” party game. And a large living room. And finally, if the game doesn't sound crazy enough to you, maybe you want to try out the optional Naughty/Adult mode. Now that I've learned of its existence, I surely do!