My newest ARIS game, Golden Goose could not be simpler. Give it a try right now if you’ve got ARIS.
You launch it. If you get a Golden Goose, she lays you a Golden Egg. If not, better luck next time. There’s a global leaderboard so you can see how many eggs any other players have and try to become the one with the most. A few players have been reminded of Ian Bogost’s Cow Clicker.
This game has a big difference from Cow Clicker though. Only one Golden Goose can spawn anywhere within a 10,000 second period. So for everyone playing Golden Goose, the supply of Golden Eggs is very tightly constrained.
So why make such a simple game? Golden Goose is a game that tests a few things:
- Long-term spawning behavior in ARIS games
- Franchising the leaderboard concept begun in Rupee Collector
- The dynamics of global, competitive play
- Micro-attention gameplay
I also was at the annual AERA meeting in San Francisco and wanted to make good on my recent trend of making games at conferences. I made a second game too, and will write about it shortly.
Long-term Spawning in ARIS
I began this game after a conversation with Phil on the arisgames list about how spawning really works in ARIS based questions from play tests of Los Duendes (a game inspired by Truchas by Earl Shank and Anthony Thompson, play it too). It was clear that it was possible to make games where spawning intervals spanned really large timeframes. But how would this work in practice?
Here’s the spawning settings for my Golden Goose:
The important parts are that I’m spawning 1 goose total (not per player) every 10,000 seconds, and that that goose will disappear once viewed. I began with 6 hours between spawns, but that felt too long.
BTW – The goose is a plaque that hands out an item (Golden Egg). Never use items directly.
Franchising the Leaderboard
For Golden Goose, I got ahold of Toussaint’s work, poked around in the files for the relevant calls, and was able to get it working, hosted in my dropbox public folder. Total hack, but it works!
This is still a couple of steps away from making it easy for others to follow this lead, but it is a significant step and really only took me about an hour to get up and looking nice. The work is in making it easily parseable for others so they don’t have to repeat my troubleshooting process. I think this also points the way toward more involved multiplayer ARIS games. If we can display other players’ stats to you as a player, we’re only a few steps away from being able to have that information directly affect the game world itself.
Dynamics of Global Competitive Play
What would happen if you made an ARIS game the whole world could play together? We’ve talked about this a lot, usually along the lines of diffuse data gathering activities, or worldwide scavenger hunts. The problem is that the ideas that come up in this vein are usually pretty grandiose. They tend to only succeed when a lot of players do a lot of work. I wanted to engage with this idea, to get it off the ground with something simpler. Competitive play, comparison of a single variable, along with the super-simple activity of simply logging in to play felt like enough to attract the idle curiosity of players far and wide.
Before launching the game, I shared the game with a few friends and students to test it out. If you read the screenshot of the leaderboard above, you’ll know that something interesting happened. One player decided he wanted to win big time. Gabe both played often enough to be able to usually ice out anyone else from being able to get eggs and found exploits in the timing of ARIS’s delete when viewed function to quickly get to 500 eggs. This is the default max of item in ARIS, something I hadn’t changed because I thought “This game is hard, 500 is a long way off”. The max eggs didn’t stop him from long though. He just made another account and started playing from there.
So, before even launching, I feel like I learned a lot about how my ideal rules for the game actually might work out in practice. There are a lot of possible fixes. I think the one that appeals most to me is to have the game function more like “The World vs. Gabe” by finding a way to sum across all the other player accounts when rendering the leaderboard.
The comparison with Cow Clicker is made because in some sense, the aim of Golden Goose is to get a large number of people logging into the same ARIS game of their own volition, and beyond that aim there isn’t a whole lot. The idea is part satire and part predatory business strategy. And though I don’t have any microtransactions in Golden Goose, I am curious if it will be successful in this respect. I wonder too if seeing Gabe’s scores will have the effect of turning people on or off, if it will seem too daunting or whether it will kindle their competitive instincts. Already, I’ve got a bit of evidence of both. Here’s a text I received from Breanne Litts after a frustrated week of trying to get eggs.