Game Design: Hopscotch Explorer
Redefining a Classic
Merging Three Themes
Theme One: Abstract Storytelling
This idea uses more abstract components of the game of hopscotch and transforms them into symbolic tools for a board game. For this game design, the repelled portion of the game (the space that currently holds the rock, the rectangle that the player diverts away from while hopping) is distilled into the sense of “the void”.
For this game, I am interested in the idea of an encroaching void that slowly consumes the playable space of the game. I believe that this will help address some of the limitations of hopscotch and create a more dynamic progression. By creating a void that slowly grows larger as the game progresses, the game pushes the player to pay attention to the game’s layout in a new way. Currently, the dynamic between the player and the game’s layout (the ground) is one of memorization checkered with slight moments of interactions (when the player has to bend down and pick up the rock). This ‘voiding’ dynamic forces the player to become more involved with the game’s layout.
Another component of the game that I feel deserves further attention is the notion of boundaries between rectangular spaces. In the game, there is so much emphasis placed around the boundaries between tiles. If a player accidentally steps on a drawn line of the game, they lose that turn. For this idea, I think it would be interesting to explore the tension of boundaries within the game of hopscotch. My proposed solution is to add an exploratory element to the game found similarly in more narrative games.
Theme Two: Palpable Tension
For this idea, I am interested in creating a more palpable tension between the players. The current rules of the game do allow for a rhythmic, almost meditative gameplay. There are little stakes in the game and so there are no incentives to actively seek success, other than simply winning. \My proposal to add a sense of competition to the game is to add tokens that can either hinder or benefit the player.
My interest in such a system is to involve the player in the game in a new way. I am interested in creating a system from which the player can feel a sense of impending doom or injustice, but then, because of luck or skill, the player can then turn their situation around.
Making this system work requires some changes to the basics of Hopscotch. First is to make the layout of the game more difficult to complete, either by expanding it or creating new layout configurations for the game. The next necessary component is to add a point system, and allow the player to collect several points on their turn. This acts as a quantifiable metric for success that can be leveraged to add tension and reward.
With these two elements, the game then needs a chance-based component to distribute tokens that can either advantage or disadvantage a player.
Theme Three: New Spatial Dynamics
For this game, I am interested in creating a tension between movement and the player. The linear hopscotch layout is transformed into a circular grid that spirals inwards. As board game, the goal would be to make it towards the center of the board and then back to your starting point while you still have steps (or “hops”) left. The player would also accumulate points as they went, but these points add to their total score only if they returned safely to their initial position. As an incentive to travel further downwards into the game, more and more points would be made available as the player descends.
In this game, I am interested in pitting players one against each other in a sort of race to the finish line hopscotch game. I am interested in how to translate the energy given to the game because of its physical action component into a stationary, tabletop game. Can that energy be replicated? Also, with this game my aim is to add a more strategic component to the game. I want to question how a player moves through a layout pre-designed by a game designer. My hope is that with this game, the player would be given the incentive to try and think beyond the confinements of the game and try and find ingenious ways to play with the board
Process: Development and Play Testing
First Playtest Notes:
Number of Players: 2
During the exercise, the playtester has difficulty understanding how to move about the board or how to accumulate points.The game also lacked a clear goal. Also, the game mechanics did not inspire the playtester to move about the board beyond a circular pattern, thus stripping the game of dynamic energy. Furthermore, many of the cards hindered the player or quickly created a
“snowball” effect. Meaning that while one player accumulated many points and quickly, the other player had difficulty catching up and soon was outpaced. As such, the game lacked balance.
During the game testing, other details arose that needed to be addressed. The use of die in the game was awkward and hindered the flow of the game.
A few successful components of the game were identified that I had not previously considered. While moving through the board, the playtester enjoyed how the layout of the levels forced them to have to choose a strategy before they moved. Also, the mechanic of having to draw and then choose which cards would be most advantageous also pushed the player to start thinking of a strategy before taking their turn.
Second Playtest Notes:
Number of players: 2
Name of Players: Camille Baumann-Jaeger and Eric Grossman
Pennies represent the spaces that have gone “dark”, the other coins were used as player tokens.
Previous print out of board was altered by pencil in order to match revised, second draft game board.
The method for turning certain tiles into “dark” tiles added an interesting strategy component to the game. Now, the players began to hinder one another as they progressed through the board. Adding more details and rules to the game also added another layer to the game mechanic, and players began to form preferred strategies in order to win the game. In this specific playtest session, players dueled with two main strategies in order to win. The first strategy was to make make more moves but stay closer to the starting position, thus having a better chance of winning once the player gained fifty points. The second main strategy that was discovered was to head straight towards the center of the board, hoping that the dice rolls would be sufficient to bring the player back to the start position.
I was pleased how abstracting the hopscotch game mechanism of choosing tiles to hop over translated into a board game. Now, the game did not seem as mechanical and the players were playing more with one another instead of with themselves (as was the case in hopscotch). In the session, players had a lot of fun sabotoging each-other’s strategies with dark tiles.
Another more successful change that arose from the revisions was a finer the risk-reward system. Right now, the game has two chance mechanics: the die roll and the cards. In earlier iterations, the player depended more on the cards in order to play more interesting moves. In this version of the games, the players were much more focused on how they could manipulate their board position and points in order to win.
The weakest component of the game remained the cards, which would have to be revisited. The cards still sometimes created a “snowball” effect in that, at certain times, one player had exponentially more points than the other.
Another component of the game that could be revised is the board itself. While there were still some interesting decisions that could be made based on the revised layout, it did not create as many moments where the player had to think about their next move- many turns were still mechanical. One solution could be a more varied board.
While there are still some improvements to be made, the playtest session demonstrated a new dynamic between the players, and between the players and the board, which was much different than the first game iteration.
The game has built in components that create tension. When a player throws a rock, the bounds of the square creates tension with the player as the player might not succeed in throwing the rock into the square. Also, as the game progresses, the game also becomes more difficult because the target of the toss is farther and farther away. Finally, the players race with one another and themselves as the game is completed when someone completes each step.
One problem with the game is that the layout of the game never changes. Very quickly, the game becomes mechanical as the player grows accustomed to the the spacing of each tile and the physical activity. I believe that this is one of the key causes why there is little sense of tension in the game. There are no stakes or incentives to help players shape a specific strategy or approach, and each round is largely an exercise in repetition. There is no strategy nor true sense of competition with the other players.
The problem with hopscotch is that it is one-dimensional, failing to develop in terms of risk or reward as it progresses. The only source of tension stems from whether a player makes a successful shot, and therefore gets to play. Also, the game does not take advantage of its medium. The barrier to play this game is very small, however the game is stifling in the sense that there is no flexibility either in the game layout or how it is played. The game would also benefit from added components that cause the players to think strategically, but also in how they interact with the other players.