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NaGaDeMon Update #1: Prognosticators, the Spark

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I mentioned in my last National Game Design Month post that I would be working on a game codenamed “Prognosticators” during the month of November. Here’s what the game is about.

I don’t know if any of you remember last year’s World Cup. No, not the actual soccer matches. What caught my attention was the curious bit about Paul the Octopus, who accurately predicted the outcome of Germany’s matches in the 2010 World Cup as well as the final. Paul, regrettably, died later in the year, before he could predict for 2011 March Madness.

I have since found that the practice of using animals as oracles is not exactly unheard of (or maybe even uncommon). At the time, though, this struck me as odd, and perhaps to keep myself from having to think too much about sports, I began to wonder, What would induce someone to encourage animals to predict the outcome of sporting events?

The seed of Prognosticators was born then. In Prognosticators, each of the players is the manager of a struggling zoo with a shrewd idea for bringing it in the black: find the next Paul the Octopus. Players must manage the few resources the zoo possesses in order to fund their secret “psychic stable” program. Correct predictions generate publicity and revenue (and also attract the attention of sports bookies with mob ties).

I’m working right now with exactly how “full” I want the game to be. I have the idea for several different mechanics working together, but I’m not sure the silly premise will sustain including all of them; I’ll have to sort through this more fully in the weeks ahead. Really, the main focus of the game is on these two things:

  • Scarcity/funds management. I want to hammer home the idea that players are managers of struggling zoos. Resources should be tight and not allow players to do whatever they want. (This, by the way, is one of the things I love about Agricola: there is simply no way to do everything.) This should keep interesting decisions at the forefront of the game. Zookeepers may not be able to feed their animals for lack of funds; they may have to take out high-interest loans. In any case, resources will be tight.
  • Probability control. The outcome of matches that the animals predict will be determined by a die roll. Animals will have a certain capacity to predict as well as certain numbers that trigger their “psychic” abilities. Players will have to manage their stables well to maximize correct predictions.

That’s enough for now. I’ll update you on my progress again next week. Happy designing!

I’ll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. I remember reading about this on your other blog a while ago (I think). I’m interested to hear more about the game, the core focus sounds very promising. The Probability control in particular sounds like an interesting idea to explore.

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