July Game Project — Corner Hustle

Every month of 2022, I am trying, as part of both my PhD project and my all-purpose general game development, develop if not a whole game for game development, a project start, such that I can make playtest prototypes. This is a sort of report of the process throughout the month.

This month has been busy. Not in a fun way. Nonetheless, any work on an idea is work on the idea, so let’s talk about that.

The original question was ‘can I use those graffiti tag assets.’ Which was fine to consider, but the assets were entirely bespoke. Like, it wasn’t assets, it was fonts and effects, which means that instead of putting assets to stand in for a game space, I had to reconcept what I’d make the assets into.

The idea that grew out of that was this image of a possible game space that I could make with the medium-scale assets of Gamecrafter. This involved looking at transparency cards and some other pieces, but I found it a real struggle to try and visualise how they were going to work. Let’s put those aside for now.

When I’m looking at games to design, from the top down, I look at them in terms of nouns and verbs. Like, what are the things in the game space, and what are the things you can do with them. Sometimes the nouns can become complicated, and sometimes the verbs can be, and sometimes both can be simple, like, Checkers has basically two nouns (my pieces, your pieces) and two verbs (move normally, and take a piece), and checkers, you know, works. It’s a game.

What makes a simple set of verbs tenable then is a game space – which is what checkers gives you.

I mocked up this as an example of what that graffiti-laying game might look like. What I was seeing it as was a sort of street block, with roads on the outside and alleys in the middle. If you have your graffiti on one of the eight slots, you ‘own’ that territory, or you are ‘supported’ in that territory. And I’m still kinda interested to visualise this as a way to make a modular board where maybe the theme is altered. LIke it doesn’t need to be a graffiti-and-gangs thing, it could be moved to be a bit more cyberpunk and less like I’m going to try and represent things like the drug trade.

Don’t get me wrong I kinda like the idea of making the game include a car meeple to represent ‘cops are watching here’ just so one of the game actions can be flipping the police car.

Anyway, if this is the game map, it can do different things based on different arrangements. See, let’s say that each card represents a ‘block’ and around the outside of the block are storefronts that do things. There are slots like this:

This means the ones on the outside have ‘road access’ – they can be seen by pieces moving around outside, so maybe that car thing is part of this. Things that don’t have road access work differently, or less effectively – which means that the slots on the outside, with multiple road-access options, are really high-value positions that people fight over.

If that’s the case, the inside lanes may be shut off, or maybe they’re just only accessible ‘on foot’ – so they get reduced results.

This is all the work I have on this idea, and one of the things that holds me up is the potential theme.

See, I’ve watched The Wire and I am reminded the way that corners are literally valuable in the drug trade. They’re high visibility, too, though, and that means having people who drive by your corner can increase the chance of getting business, but also can get you a cop. And maybe there’s a bag builder element there, and moving people around the area, with reinforcements and the like can mean the game provides you business over time, with police interrupting but never stopping the business?

And then I asked myself: As cool as I find this idea, should I really be making a game about emulating the Baltimore drug trade?

I, the whitest boy in the world?

Anyway, that’s the stuff I’ve been thinking about for this idea. I might return to it, maybe with a more fantasy theme, or a space station element.

But I do like the idea of flipping a cop car meeple.

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