Monday, September 9, 2013

Baby Boss Fight: My First Attempt at Game Design

A few years ago, I read a book called Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. The book is about using games to make the world a better place. After a severe concussion, the author designed a game to help herself get better, and encourages the use of games or game-like constructions to accomplish real-life tasks (think of something like Fitocracy or ChoreWars if you are familiar with those).

A few days ago, when lamenting my lack of preparation for the forthcoming Baby Scunter, Hunter commented that "we should at least put as much effort into this as into preparing for a boss fight." It gave me an idea: to make a game out of the final preparations for and birth of our little one. Right now I have the main skeleton of an idea. I'll try to explain it in a way that's easy to understand, whether or not you play games (although if you don't, you may not be interested, I don't really know).

First, just for the ubern00bs, I'll explain what a "boss" is. In a one-player type game (Mario, Zelda), the boss is the final enemy you fight, or the final enemy of a dungeon. He will have a lot more health than regular enemies, special abilities, and sometimes multiple "phases," where your strategy for fighting must change as the fight progresses. In the example of Mario, with which I'm assuming most people are familiar, Bowser is the boss. In a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG, or more commonly just MMO), bosses are fought with a group of 5-25 people (I'm basing this primarily on WoW, which I haven't played for a few years but I'm assuming the basics haven't changed) and can be fought over and over again to get special items, aka "loot." In addition to being a hard fight, there is the added challenge of coordinating the large number of people needed to succeed (I've done this, and really and truly think I should be able to put it on a resume. That sounds like a joke but I'm dead serious). A boss in a pencil-and-paper roleplaying-game (e.g. Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons) is similar to a boss in an MMO, but requires fewer people.

So now that you know what I mean by "boss," let me explain the stages of preparation for my "boss fight," also known as "going into labor."

1. Gearing Up
When you are playing an MMO or a tabletop RPG (or some single-player games, just depending), you can't just run straight into the boss with just any old armor on. You have to spend time, sometimes a LOT of time, finding gear that will help you survive. Right now, Hunter and I have some gear for the baby, but are still missing a few things. To that end, we have set up an Baby Wishlist, which can be found at the following address:

Now, several people have specifically asked us what they could get us or what we needed. If you aren't one of those people, please don't feel obligated to get us anything. If you do take a look at the list, here are a few things to keep in mind. On almost all of the clothes, I chose the size equivalent to "3-6 months" in the US. Feel free to pick a smaller or larger size. I also only added unisex-looking clothing since we don't yet know the sex of the baby. I will add more gendered looking clothing after he/she is born. Also, given how clueless I am about babies, there are probably really obvious things I need that aren't on the list. So don't feel tied down to those items; they are just suggestions. The list is from because shipping things from the US to here gets quite expensive and can be very slow.

Ok so now that I've talked about gearing up, the next step.

2. Learning the Fight
When Hunter and I used to play World of Warcraft(WoW) on a daily basis, we fought a LOT of bosses. Before going into the fights, it was essential to learn strategies for fighting the boss and what special abilities the boss possessed. For example, many bosses would have a room in which certain places were dangerous to stand. If you stand in one of those areas, you die, and are useless for the rest of the fight. Our preparation for these fights consisted of reading strategies and watching videos of the boss fights.

There's no way I'm going to watch a video of a person in labor, but I am going to read a bit more about it. Most of the time when I read things I just get freaked out and stop, citing the excuse that well it's different for everyone so there's no point in reading about it. However I think I should be better prepared for the general idea of how this is going to go down (well ok I have the GENERAL idea but a more specific general idea would be good).

3. Preparing a Bag
In a game like WoW or D&D, going into a fight without any potions or other items to help you out is just stupid. While I obviously won't be able to chug a healing potion during labor, I do need to pack a bag of things to bring with me (yes, it's three weeks out and I haven't packed a bag. You can tell how real this is to me). In addition to clothes (I have heard black/yoga pants mentioned as good standbys) I plan to bring:

Makeup, since I'm assuming there will be pictures, lots of pictures
Snacks/drinks (for after, not during--the usual hospital stay here is 3 days)
A few card games
Hygiene items
Nook and phone +chargers

If there's anything I'm missing, PLEASE tell me. I am obviously a pregnancy n00b and need lots of help.

4. Knowing Your Role
In boss fights with multiple people fighting one boss, there are a few different roles each player can fulfill. I will be taking the role of "tank." This is the player who takes most of the damage from the boss, so I think it makes sense to consider myself the tank. I don't generally play this role in real games, but I know the basic idea. I have assigned Hunter the role of "healer." That word should be self-explanatory: the healer makes sure the other players don't die, or that if they get hurt they get healed. So what I'm envisioning is having him there to talk to me, comfort me, help me out, that kind of thing.

Another role common in role-playing games (RPGs) is "damage-per-second," aka DPS. These are the people who are actually doing damage to the boss. I'm not sure that role fits in really well with the paradigm I have going, so we may just be a tank and a healer.

5. Knowing Your Rotation
In a game like WoW, you generally have a few abilities or spells that you cycle through as you fight. This is known as a "rotation;" many players just cycle through the same few buttons over and over as this is the most effective way to succeed. In D&D (and I'm really only referring to 3.5 or Pathfinder), the spells and abilities are much more limited, and you would choose which one to use based on the situation. I think here the D&D method makes a bit more sense. I am trying to think of some "powers" or even "power-ups" I can try to use. I'm mainly envisioning things like relaxation techniques, visualization, things like that. I'm going to have an epidural, but they told me that they don't like to give you a whole lot because they want you to feel it so you can push, so I don't really have any idea how much pain I will feel. Obviously one of my spells/abilities will be Push, but I haven't really decided on the others yet. Some strategies I have heard involve listening to music (this article I read suggested Yanni or Enya, which, no, but I'm sure I can think of something I actually like) or focusing on a piece of baby clothing. I will also probably bring one of my stuffed bears with me. I need to think of spells/abilities for Hunter, too. This is the part of the fight I have least developed in my mind.

6. Dividing up the Loot
I'm pretty sure this boss is going to drop a legendary. Or one of these:
Alright, so if you read this far and have any suggestions/comments about my game, let me know!

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