The most recent game design challenge had you try something more experimental. Using the concept of time, the goal was to create an experimental game concept using the theme of "replay," which was one of the themes in the 2008 Experimental Gameplay Workshop.
There were a number of good entries that came up with new, interesting mechanics that did something different with time manipulation. It should be noted that all of these mechanics may have been done before by someone, somewhere, but since we don't know all the games that have ever been made we chose winners that used ideas that were new and unique to us at least.
There were many different styles of games that emerged. A number of entries revolved around rewinding time and paradoxes that could be created. The concept is standard at this point, but there are still some unique or different twists that can be tried. There were other entries that used the concept of recording time and character within time, an idea that's been used in games such as Cursor*10 and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom.
It's important to realize there are ways to think about time that don't involve just rewind. Time doesn't have to be contiguous (just ask Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen or Billy Pilgrim from Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five). Time can involve repeating actions and adding something new -- remember the classic game Simon? Time can involve predicting the future or changing it. Time can create multiverses ad infinitum, creating divergent worlds different from ours.
There are many ways to examine the concept, and since the human mind doesn't fully grasp the concept of time, nor do we necessarily fully understand how it relates to the rest of the universe, there are endless possibilities for creativity (and weird Terminator-style paradoxes) when talking about time. Don't limit yourself to just one. This challenge is about breaking out of the conventional mindset.
On to the best entries of the week.
E. McNeill, Dartmouth College, Seer (see page 2)
E. McNeill's game concept is successful because it has a limited scope and thus isolates the experimental portion of the gameplay from other fun factors to test whether and how it really works. When experimenting with a new concept, it's extremely helpful (not to mention wise and efficient) to build an advanced prototype rather than a fully featured and multi-leveled game. McNeill's text is also extremely well written and highly convincing. (Nailed it!)
Neo Wei Song and Lim Han Kwang Mike, team members of The Trojan Vegetable and students of Singapore Polytechnic, School of Design, Time Spent (see page 3)
Time Spent is a time management game. There is a clock, and the minutes on that clock are treaty as a commodity. The game sees time as a resource that is either used efficiently or wasted. Players can cash in time to complete objectives. The concept was like none other we saw in the submissions, and the students were 100 percent correct in identifying the problems and limitations, which is just as important as explaining why the concept is novel.
Ivan D. Garde, Freelancer Character Animator (and studying game design independently), Cut/Insert/A day in the life (see page 4)
Ivan D. Garde's idea is to give the player god-like control, not over what happens, but over the order in which it happens. Although his game concept sounds rather narrative-centric, he suggests at the end of his submission that the same concept could be applied to fighting games, in which the character carries our a series of moves to defeat an opponent, and then the player rearranges those moves to create a new outcome.
Mark Hong, Flashpoint Academy, Chicago, Mission: Rewind (see page 5)
Mission: Rewind is a new take on a concept that has been tinkered with before: playing a game in reverse. Although we thought Mark Hong's idea had a lot of merit, we think he missed some major limitations and problems (for example, that missing one shot would result in the player losing a life, rather than simply losing points or health, and that "being accepted by the game community" was a pat answer). We did like his explanation that this experiment could be used in parts of games, like certain levels, boss fights, or mini games -- a strength of this honorable mention.
Enrique Saúl González, University of Tokyo, Carpe Chronos (see page 6)
Enrique Saúl González's idea is similar to what was put forth in Time Spent (see above); but here, the player has to balance the speeding up of events against a health bar. This was a solid entry with fairly realistic expectations and a good understanding of the limitations and challenges.
Kevin Dressel, Cameron Kikoen, Yubo Jia, Dan Hess, and Yuzi Nakamura, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, QuantumS (see page 7)
Every so often, we set up a challenge, and someone comes back to us and says, "Actually, we're already doing that." And so it was with this team of student developers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Although the game QuantumS shares a few time experimentation concepts we've seen before, we applaud their ability to execute the idea rather than just think about it and write about it.