by John C. Ardussi, President, Game Mechanics LLC
Game Mechanics, the new development house which I’ve created, is about to make its debut in PlayStation Home. I’d like to introduce you to it, let you know that I’m listening, and offer some backstory to provide context.
My final work for Sony was last Spring, as Game Director and Lead Programmer on the pirate game Cutthroats: Battle for Black Powder Cove. Once I got an opportunity to move on under the Game Mechanics banner, the world became a different place. The budgets are predictably now a lot smaller, but there is a much more lean approval process. Since Sony has more money than we do, Game Mechanics is focused on a releasing a sequence of items, spaces and games, rather than simultaneous development on all fronts. The end result will be the same, however.
If you are going to create items for Home, you have to first figure out what has not been done before. There are thousands of items already in Home, so we were not likely going to find some big hole of items that had somehow been missed. Besides, I and the rest of our group at Sony had been suggesting items that Sony could make by combing the forum suggestions and looking around the Internet. Sony, along with other developers, has done a pretty good job of covering everything that one might want in terms of utility. So the thing that stuck out where we could make a difference was style.
In the Beginning
Game Mechanics was formed by myself and Mike Gehri, an artist I have been working with for over six years — but have never met in person. We have tons of mutual respect for each other’s work. The company is really an outgrowth from a game I did for a company I set up back in 1999; the game was Demolition Derby & Figure 8 Race. It’s still around, but it does not work on most systems any more. It’s old, but it was fun: cars crashing and racing and crashing (did I mention crashing?). They dented up such that by the end, they oftentimes resembled a ball of tinfoil.
I loved making a game with cars and racing. The crashing just made it even more fun for me, since I was not one of those great car drivers that landed on the leaderboards. But through it all, our focus remained on cars.
When we went to make furniture, doing furniture that was sports- and racing-based seemed a natural. That is where we felt that Home has done less than in some other aesthetic styles.
We had a niche.
While a lot of our items are sports based, there were other items we just wanted for ourselves. They did not fit a theme. They were all over the map. I wanted to create tables where people could sit together and talk while facing each other at a reasonable distance. I have been watching all the machinima the public has been making, and as a filmmaker myself I’ve seen some situations that need furniture which allowed for more intimate seating. So our designs took that into account.
By the way, not all of this furniture is in our first release. We will continue to make more — and have some already in the pipeline, heading your way.
Then we had to look at what we could add in particular. My big skill that got me into the games industry was programming. So another thing I wanted to do was create items that were fun to interact with. I wanted us to be the Sharper Image of Home. If it is cool, we are doing it regardless of whether it fits into some branding line or not. To hell with marketing and branding — we just want to have fun! And while that might be suicide for a company in the real world making products to put in stores, we feel that if others in Home can make all sorts of things that are not thematically connected and no one cares, neither do we.
A virtual item maker can be the Acme of Home. We’ll make both rocket-powered roller skates and safes if they are fun.
Where’s the Beef?
Which brings me to the items we are releasing. With all these films being made, there needed to be a director’s chair. We could have created a canvas chair and just burned “DIRECTOR” right into the texture, but that is less fun.
But what if people could personalize them with whatever text they wanted? Okay, do that.
So we did.
I am looking forward to seeing some of the games people create with them. They are a lot of fun. Because they are an active item, they take up four furniture slots. If you want just a simple version without the text, that only takes up one furniture slot; we made them available also.
We did run into one issue: the chairs can save the text in apartments, but not in clubs. What that means is that once everyone leaves the club, the chairs reset their text. But in apartment, you can leave and come back and the text will save. This is a limit of the tools we have, not a choice we made. If we ever have a better solution for clubs, we will look into making that change.
Next, I have always wanted a desk I can sit at, not have to sit so far back that they could build a road between my chair and the desk. So we made that. We made it look really cool with an actual racing car driver’s seat and a styling matching desk. To work it had to be an Active Item, so it takes up four furniture slots. But at least now you can sit at a desk instead of the desk being in another time zone.
And clocks. I love clocks. I wanted a normal-sized clock made out of a steering wheel, and a huge clock that I can read across the room, made out of a tire. Both only use three furniture slots.
Then come our four tables: Table with Stools, Tall Table with Stools, Backyard Bar with Stools and a Picnic Table. What is fun is that they seat four, yet only take up three furniture slots. They are simple, yet fun. You can have that backyard party and have people all sit at a table you placed in the space. They are also broken out as separate furniture items, so you can buy the stools or any other part and they take up one slot.
I forgot to mention that the canvas chairs come in eight colors, plus normal and tall versions. So we created an affordable bundle for each type. One of the things we will try to do is always be fair, price-wise.
Questions For You All
Please leave your answers in the comments below.
- I like the idea of having furniture that is configurable. My fear is that some people will set up their club, leave, come back to find everything reset, and blow a fuse. Is there something we can do to make sure people know about this so they do not discover it for the first time on their own?
- We have at least one more item in the pipeline that saves its configuration in an apartment, not in a club. Should we make more?
- How do you feel about apartments that come with furniture built in?
- If you had a game for your apartment or clubhouse, how many players would you like to be able to play at once?
- What are the things you want to do in Home, but get stopped by something missing?
We believe that great ideas are great ideas no matter where they come from. Our job is to take ideas and make them as good as possible, looking at all the tools available to us.
I read the forums daily. Even when I was at Sony, many people read the forums. Daily. I do not know how many times I have read people saying, “No one at Sony is ever going to read this.” I and others were at Sony, reading it.
I still read the forums religiously. The problem we have is a limited budget, so we cannot make everything. You would be surprised how many items on our “to do” list are straight from the suggestions thread. You all are our best asset.
As innovators in our new venture, our job is to invent the future. We are hoping you all will be a part of the new team. Your support is key to making it all move forward, creating better experiences.