SpaceMercs as a game started out during a group discussion and with shared idea of making a collaborative play experience using portable devices both as second screens but also as controllers. The concept for SpaceMercs was also heavy inspired by already existing games such as Spaceteam and Artemis and their ability to draw the gameplay out into the real world through the embodiment of the gameplay. Furthermore, to get a better idea of what works and what does not work in Spaceteam and Artemis, the two games have been thoroughly playtested and the parts of the games that worked and played well in terms of game mechanics and use of affordances of the portable platform have inspired the development of this games game mechanics.
SpaceMercs is a collaborative local multiplayer gameplay experience where four players will play as a team of seasoned space mercernaries (pun intended) who have to survive the dangers of space in real time. The players need to inhabit different roles such as the light gunner, heavy gunner and pilot in their quest to survive the various obstacles that the game throws at them. However, each role is optional and can be switched at any time but this needs negotiation between players in the real world for that to happen. The game is primarily played on portable devices (in our case, tablets) that act both as controllers and seconds screens. Furthermore, a big screen for the pilot role is also necessary in order to provide the best possible overview of what happening around the ship.
Above is a picture of a typical setup of the game SpaceMercs where all the tablets both act controllers and seconds screen. The tablets are connected via wifi to a labtop or a stationary computer that acts as the server. Together, the tablets and the computer are linked into a distributed game interface where each tablet enables the players to interact with the gamestate either as controllers, seconds screens or both – it depends on the chosen role. Each tablet has the ability to support all roles which means that it is possible for each player to switch stations without switching tablet to other players in the real world. The built-in gyroscopes, accelerometers, audio and vibration of the tablets act as the main affordances for player interactions in form of input and output.
Did it work
This game did indeed work great. In some areas more than was expected given the many problems faced during development. Especially in the area of drawing the gameplay out into the real world did SpaceMercs succeed. The hectic gameplay facilitated by the game coupled with the use of the affordances of the tablets did draw the gameplay out into the real world though the embodiment of play which meant that the players use of bodily interactions made the game both fun for those playing as well on people looking at the players. Below are some GIF’s from one of the game festivals where the game was set up. People had a lot of fun.
Want to know more
During the development of SpaceMercs, my job in this group of wonderful people that made SpaceMercs happen was lead game designer focusing on figuring out how to best make use of the context that was created by the situated gameplay in the real world and how to best make use of the portable platforms affordances in order to create the intended gameplay experience. Furthermore, my job was also to design some of the core game mechanics of SpaceMercs as well as some of the models of the enemies in the game. If you want to learn about that process, please click on the link: Game Developmentfinal
It should be noted that this game is still under development and it is still an early prototype. However, it is playable in its current state but as in the case of Kobra Kitez nothing is uploaded until an agreement between the various members in the group are made.