[Semi-Sane] Asylum - POST MORTEM

edited in Projects
EDIT: So the challenge is over, and I've added a post-mortem to my little project, at the end. I'd just like to thank all who listened at the monthly meet, and hope the videos become accessible soon so we can talk about it, as I'm going to probably not repeat everything said there.

Link to Asylum post mortem


So, here are a couple of thoughts I've thrown about for the Semi Sane monthly challenge:

What is sanity? It's a social measure, really. You're sane because the world deems you to be so. If we were all nuts then we'd all be sane, you know?

So that's the instantiating idea, with that to set the scene:

The setting is an asylum. Everyone (players) are inmates, brought in for whatever reason. Your goal, is to get out. How do you get out? By getting a good evaluation. How do you get a good evaluation? By not seeming to be crazy. There is both a peer-review system as well as an external doctor's panel that sees what you're doing.

Your actions will cause others to behave in certain ways, and others will do things which instigate behaviour in you. Whether you're being evaluated when you do things and react to things add or subtract to your evaluation.

So there's a risk-reward in screwing with other people and getting yourself to the top.

Thinking about this made me think of a card game, where a wide range of actions can be represented by cards and broken down into statistical influences. It seems the easiest way to represent the concept.

But I wonder if a social gaming paradigm can apply here - like Werewolf, where social interaction nets results, and there's negotiation and social dynamics involved.

Things that make you go hmmmm :)


  • In terms of the social game. It makes me think of something like Prom Week the entire game is about social interaction.

    I find the game design of the card game more interesting, and elegant to creating a game with. Since your focus will me more on making interesting gameplay.

    When I was ready your description initially I was thinking of Catch 22 which I was think would make a great central mechanic to such a game.
    a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule
    Considering the novel catch 22 was about trying to to escape something due to sanity/insanity comparison I believed it would be a great take to approach it the problem as a game.
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    Catch 22 is that I loved and hated Catch 22.

    Cool idea thought @tuism, lots that you can do with it!
  • Had a look at Prom Week, it's like Sims but a lot more focussed on the social interaction aspects. I can see why it got technical award at... IGF or IndieCade? Either way :)

    My vision of asylum is something social as in multiplayered, so it leverages off of the chaos of real people trying to one-up one another, experimenting and trying to show that that dude is insaner than I am - and to show that I'm cool/sane.

    Card games, again, seem the easiest and most correct to do this, but it also seems like a cop-out... boiling a variety of actions down to predictable stats and how to alter stats, commit them to cards, shuffle and hand out.

    I almost want to do the same kind of thing but in another space that's more explorative, where people wander through the halls of the asylum, and interaction/doing things that would have outcomes depending on situations... Like if you do a handstand in your room when the doc is watching you you're gonna raise your insanity, but if you do it in the courtyard you'll decrease it. If you show another prisoner something and he tells on you, if you manage to hide it from the doc the doc'll think he's going nuts. Etc.

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    Card games can be much more than just paper with stats on them. :)

    I've been playing Infiltration with friends at Luma. The players are hackers they are trying to steal data from some giant corporation. The building is laid out sequentially by drawing cards from this deck at random. Each card represents a room, and as you move from room to room, you race the other hackers to try to get as much data as possible... before the cops arrive. Whoever escapes the building with the most data wins. Every turn you can move to the next room, move back a room, play an item card (like a special ability, usually once-off), or interact with the room you're in.

    I just thought of that as an example where, even though the entire game is made up of cards, you're using them in a more unique way. :)

    Your other game sounds interesting, but also pretty complicated, and seems harder to iterate. Could totally try for it, but it seems riskier if you want to finish something.
  • Oh yeah I played Infiltration, it was cool :) I didn't mean that they're just paper with stats on them - Infiltration was actually how I kinda saw what Asylum could be, but what I was protesting against was that reducing actions/interactions to a card with stats on it instead of a more social, mysterious interaction. Like what would happen if I take my clothes off? In front of a male inmate? In the shower room? At the infirmary? I could outline all of it on a card but that takes away the "surprise" and "exploration" factor. I could hide them under a set of conditions but the rules would be long and convoluted.

    And yeah. Would be hard to iterate :P And have to come down to hard-coding. I guess then it'd be if I could come up with an easy enough back engine to code in all the variable conditions...

    As usual I'm going overambitious to start :P
  • It sounds like a great idea. I love the concept and I love cardgames!

    The Catch 22 association was there for me as well. Prom Week, however, was a very different kettle of fish: it was a massive UC Santa Cruz postgraduate project supervised by Matteas and Wardrip-Fruin that tried to push the bounds of social simulation. I think your idea of multiplayer social interaction would be more interesting than social simulation for this.

    Non-digital games are great for getting the multiplayer going quickly and easily. You can really push social interaction through games when people are sitting around a table, and the interaction is physical. The chaos of people playing against each other is amplified by the physical proximity, and I don't think it is a cop-out at all. All it does is make information that would have had to be codified anyway visible, which alters the dynamics, but in really interesting ways.

    Card games are just notoriously hard to balance :P
  • Just had a big brain fart relating to this game mechanic:

    In the game, maybe in a turn, players do "something" (to be defined). And those things all contribute towards a "normalcy" - if everyone is doing the same thing, the odd one out is weird. Extremes of weird = insane.

    But there'll be a risk/reward factor of what you do making other people seem more insane.

    So you're both trying to do things that make other people seem insane, and doing the same things as other people to keep in line to not seem insane.

    Add that to environmental variations (as I said, same things done in different contexts yield different results).

    ASYLUM :)
    Thanked by 1mikegeyser
  • So you're both trying to do things that make other people seem insane, and doing the same things as other people to keep in line to not seem insane.
    Nice! Hard to pull off, but nice!
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    In the game, maybe in a turn, players do "something" (to be defined). And those things all contribute towards a "normalcy" - if everyone is doing the same thing, the odd one out is weird. Extremes of weird = insane.
    That's sounds so cool! :D
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    Moving to actually create prototype cards, will want people to test prototype with soon-ish :)

    Not gonna explain it in too much detail, but the outline is this:

    Players are a inmates in an asylum, fresh off the bus, and they want to get out of the asylum by getting a positive evaluation.

    There are two sets of cards, rooms, and ideas (and maybe objects which are similar to ideas). Room cards build up the asylum, idea cards are what you can "do".

    The goal is to be evaluated as a "mentally balanced person", with the criterias in Social, physical, dietary, mental, cleanliness and artistic (maybe more).

    You are evaluated positively when you do the right thing in the right situation, or do the same thing as another (be 'demed normal') in the right situation.

    Inmates start at the entrance hall (represented by a card) and a few cards which are "ideas in their head".

    Generally, if you have just one last idea in your head, you have to action it (cos you're nuts!) before you can dream up new ideas.

    Then they move off and build the asylum as they explore it. Actions are done simultaneously (same-time reveal kinda like Infiltration) and if same actions are performed by more people than one that criteria becomes evaluated positively.

    Things can also be done to make other people behave weird, giving them a negative evaluation.

    Gonna need a lot of fleshing out and balancing :)


    So, what do you think? All comments welcome! :D

    Also have some stuff I'd like some collective input on, if you'd like:

    1) What criterias are there for mental health? The ones I thought of are:
    Social, physical, dietary, mental, cleanliness and artistic.

    2) Do you know of anything that might sounds similar to the above outline (besides Infiltration)?
  • It's been a pretty cool monthly challenge for me!

    Attached is the pdf of the results of my challenge, in lieu of the video of the talk that was done at the meetup. To summarise a summary:

    - I decided to explore the "normalcy mechanic" (also described above)
    - built a prototype of a boardgame
    - playtested it
    - realised that the game leaned far heavier into exploration than "normalcy" as was intended
    - lesson learned and I have ideas now of how to explore the core mechanic better and in a more focussed way.

    So, for the purposes of exploring normalcy, my current thoughts are:

    - I'm gonna drop the board and exploration aspect
    - Get people to play with a simultaneous situations and cards, instead of having individual situations brought about by exploring off to different ends of the board
    - The current idea is an advertising business card game ("Ad Men" lol) where everyone has to deal with the same client at the same time, using their cards to advance the project and their own agenda.

    That's it in a nutshell. I urge you to go through my pdf as it's the next best thing to the video of the talk I did at the meet :)
    Thanked by 1Nandrew
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