From the President of Game Mechanics

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

“Demolition Derby & Figure 8 Race” released in 2001

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?

The Future

What we are doing now is building. Starting with a task we can handle and build to the next level. As long as things are going well, you keep moving forward.

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.

November 6th, 2012 by | 6 comments
John C. Ardussi (deuce_for2) is a developer for PS Home and other platforms. He recently started a new company, Game Mechanics who is now making items and games. Be sure and tell him what you think of what he is doing. He truly listens and adjusts based on input from the community.

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6 Responses to “From the President of Game Mechanics”

  1. Let me first say that these items you plan on releasing this Wednesday look great and the features that they have are also different (In a good way). Now to your questions…

    1.)There is always making certain that kind of information is in the description of the item/s before a user purchases them. I can see MANY people on the NA PlayStation Home forums do take the time to read the description of the item to see what it can do. And of course there is telling a group of people (such as HSM, playstationhometoday, and other notable people/groups) so they can inform their readers and followers.

    2.)For myself, I dont visit my clubhouse that often so I cannot really comment on a fair basis.

    3.)I do like apartments with built in furniture, although truth be told it really depends on the look and or design of the furniture thats being built into the space. Overall, I like built in furniture because you dont see It too often.

    4.)It depends on the game. Like most arcade cabinets are single player, but other games like pool would be better with 2+ people. Personally I would like to see PingPong, but I can imagine making that would be difficult due to the limits of PlayStation Home.

    5.)At the moment, there isnt anything I can think of to answer that. Maybe a public space or personal space based of a pool theme park or maybe some vehicle locomotions mounts. Like a mini car in which your avatar would shrink down to get in it (much like those clowns in older cartoon shows) and you can drive around. There are endless possibilites but none of which I can really say “I would want so and so in PlayStation Home” at the moment.

    Thank you for reaching out to the community and asking what they would like. I hope the best for Game Mechanics and I will be looking forward to see more content from you!!! :D

  2. Burbie52 says:

    When it comes to making more items that reset in clubs I say go for it. Once people know this is an issue, not a bug, they won’t care, and the chairs work easily anyway. Any person sitting in it can change the name on it, so what if it has to be done each time in a club, that is easy enough.
    Apartments with built in furniture are okay as long as it isn’t over done. If the apartment is large it is actually a blessing as long as the furniture isn’t placed in such a way as to interfere with decorating. I think it is best not to include things like built in beds, people generally like to place larger pieces by themselves.
    When it comes to personal spaces one of the things that is missing in Home, especially with the new bath stuff from Lockwood, is the way rooms are built in the space itself. There are simply no bathrooms and having to construct them can be a real pain.
    Another commodity that is sorely lacking in Home is walls to make rooms in already created spaces. If someone could make a series of walls in a variety of heights, in pale or pastel colors, and a few with working doorways you could walk through they would sell like crazy. It would allow us to make bathrooms in the spaces we have among other things.
    I love the new stuff John, hope you are successful.

  3. Bobsfed says:

    I like the look of the new furniture items being released by Game Mechanics. I actually prefer tables that come with chairs as part of the whole item. It takes less furniture slots that way. As for question number 1, I’d say just give users a warning in the description first. And if they fail to read it, that’s their problem and not yours. I have a club house but I don’t use it enough to really have and opinion just like Kaptain said already. I do like some apartments that already have the furniture in it already. But on the other hand sometimes I want to decorate it all myself, and the built in furniture just gets in the way. As for things I’d like to see in Home, well I’m a big fan of rpg’s, so I’d like to see some more rpg type public space’s. Merica was ok, but I didn’t like the tight space’s in it. I prefer rpg’s that are more huge and open world like. I’d also like to see more interactive vehicles in space’s like the Ghostbuster’s firehouse. I’d also like to see some sort of car racing game as a public or personal space. But nice to see a new developer on Home and good luck to you guys.

  4. Misternaughty says:

    First off i agree w burbie we need walls or predecorated kitchens and bathrooms. Personal spaces are too big and not enuff slots to fit remotely half of what i’d like to put in them so make furniture less slots or add more slots to personal spaces. Built in furniture is nice but the option to move it to preset parts of a room would be cool. Also this is digital stuff, lower the prices lol. For the games in spaces anywhere from 1 player to 6 or more for the clubs would be nice depending on the game. GL in the future,look forward to seeing wht u put out.

  5. SealWyf_ says:

    So many ideas, so little time… :)

    We are already used to configurable items that return to a default setting when we leave, even in a private space. (The LOOT Fog Machine is one example.) So I think the idea of an item that remembers its setting in a personal space but loses it in a clubhouse is not a huge issue, as long as people know what to expect. Could the customization dialog detect it was being run in a clubhouse setting, and change its text accordingly? Perhaps just having this information in the item description in the store would be sufficient. “You have been warned!”

    I like some built-in furniture. Despite our new furniture options, I think that kitchens and bathrooms work best if they are built-in when we arrive. However, living rooms and bedrooms should be left to the owner. One possible exception is when the built-in furniture is active — tables you can sit at, beds you can lie on, and so forth. Having these items baked in saves us furniture slots, and opens up some interesting custom behaviors that may not yet be available as stand-alone items.

    I think more games we can play together in private spaces and clubhouses are a great idea, in numbers from one to eight or more. We especially need games where we can see and talk to each other while playing, so the game becomes part of the social interaction. I’m imagining something like Alice In Wonderland Croquet, with live flamingo mallets and hedgehog croquet balls, which uncurl and wander around creating havoc. A “Wonderland Garden” personal space or club skin would appeal to many of us. The closest we have is Gnome Curling, which is actually a pretty good game, although you can’t see the other players while you are playing.

    One “missing item” I keep running into is a way to display images or extensive text (more than the few words you can display in a bulletin board note) in a clubhouse. Even if such an item reset when the owner left the club, having a portable easel that could display an image or a paragraph of text would make art shows in clubhouses a real possibility, and would help with organizational meetings. (PowerPoint in Home, forsooth!)

    We could use something like that in personal spaces as well, especially if the item saved its status. Most spaces have picture frame spots, but some don’t. And there is no way to display text except to make a graphic of it and put it in a frame. This was the first thing I thought when I saw the personalized canvas chairs — “Hey! Text displays!” Could it happen?

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