On Wednesday, DAM got to spend an hour with a hero of ours: Don Rawitsch. Don is the creator of The Oregon Trail, one of the very first educational games and one which David and I (Mac) spent countless hours playing during school hours. There were so many fascinating elements to The Oregon Trail from it’s economic systems to it’s exceedingly high difficulty level that sustained students interest for so many hours. Death from dysentery and other diseases was always one of the most memorable parts of the game. Hardcore fans still sport “you have died of dysentery” t-shirts in tribute to the classic game. The darkness of deaths throughout the game was balanced with an interesting moral aspect; you had the option to hold a funeral for departed party members, but if you didn’t hold a funeral, then your party would experience a sharp drop in morale.
Don sat down and played both our original Game Jam prototype and our current build while giving us a variety of incredible feedback to aid in our development. We also swapped stories from the genesis of The Oregon Trail and Not Everything is Flammable. We found a lot of shared similarities between the two game’s creation, including a lot of the most successful aspects of the game coming down to chance elements that weren’t necessarily planned. Both of our teams were also pleasantly surprised at the long lines that emerged from our initial prototypes.
This past week we also had hour sessions with Harley Baldwin White-Wiedow (the VP of design at Schell Games) and Ellen Einarsen from Rovio. One of the best parts of studying at the ETC is that at any given moment you can usually find some new extremely intelligent and experienced guests wandering through the facility. Both Harley and Ellen gave very unique and detailed feedback of how we can improve our game and what we should be focusing on.
One of the really big challenges for DAM this semester is how do we simultaneously preserve the elements that were successful in our original prototype while expanding the world and the game’s mechanics. This is part of the reason why we like to run guests and playtesters through both versions of the game to make sure that we are maintaining and enhancing the game, rather than losing important aspects as we transition to the new version of the game. Ellen and Harley both echoed similar sentiments about important components of NEIF like the feedback about how much fuel/flames you have left at any given moment, importance of input controls, and the game’s contemplative puzzle mechanics. We are still fine tuning that element currently, but still nice to see what they felt should be prioritized in the game’s development.
Our goal this sprint has been getting a playable prototype to put in front of playtesters ASAP, so if you have any interest in playtesting for us please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.