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Ships Ahoy!

Posted in: General News | July 29, 2015 | No Comments


In addition to working on my own projects here at TestTubeGames, I also take on a fair amount of contract work from outside.  A game developer has to eat, after all!  I’ve been terribly fortunate in that many (all?) of the outside projects I’ve worked on have been (a) rad, and (b) educational.  So, it’s a pretty good deal.  One of those games you know about already: Bond Breaker.  It grew/is-continuing-to-grow out of a collaboration between researchers at CaSTL and me.

Well, I’m finishing up another project that I thought I’d share: Frigate! (Err, it doesn’t have an official name, but this is the one I’m gonna use.)

The game is for an exhibit at the USS Constitution Museum here in Boston.  If you’re not familiar with the USS Constitution, this ship was the pride-and-joy of the U.S.’s fledgling navy during the War of 1812.  It went by the name “Old Ironsides” because cannonballs would literally bounce off it, like it was made of metal.  Not a bad reputation for a warship to have.

 

1920px-USS_Constitution_Departs

The ship still exists today, and is harbored (or rather dry-docked) in Boston, with the USS Constitution Museum right next door.  The museum is filled with all sorts of artifacts that you’d expect, and teaches you what it’d be like to be a sailor back in that era.  And in addition to all those things, they now have a new game!

 

Frigate!

Photo by Eric Chadwick, the game’s artist

 

Look at that beautiful game!  And look at that beautiful hardware!  Wow!  I can’t take credit for that (the museum made the case, and Eric Chadwick did the awesome art), but I did code up the game you see running on those screens.  This is an engineering activity, where players get to ‘build’ ships to their own design (choosing length, width, and no. of guns), then sail them against each other in a ship-battle.  Who will win?  What ship-designs work best?  Once your ship gets destroyed, you get to redesign it and try again.

Along the way, you’ll learn how your choices affect a ship’s speed, turning radius, firepower, etc.  And, from what I’ve seen, you’ll have a whole lot of fun, too.

Three players can battle it out, each sailing their ships from their own station — and also competing against a dozen or so AI ships.

The game has been incredibly well-received.  We set it up for the first time on one of the busiest days of the year for the museum (July 3rd, no surprise there), and had a crowd of people waiting to play the game, even though it wasn’t even working.  And when we finally got it up and running, people played it *exactly* how we imagined.  Which isn’t supposed to happen with your first real playtest.  Without any prompting from us, players were changing the variables of their ships, trying to make the ‘best’ design.  They were noticing and discussing what effects those choices had.  They were trying again and again and again.  And they were having a lot of fun.  The game had a crowd around it all day.

As you can imagine, it was fun for me, too, to stand next to the beautiful exhibit and listen in on the players. That’s not something I really get to do with web games or mobile games.  When I released Agent Higgs, the game disappeared into the ether, to be played by distant people whose reactions I couldn’t gauge.  Sure, you playtest and get to watch people play *then*.  But you don’t get to see the reactions to the real game.  With Frigate!, I could listen to a constant stream of feedback from hundreds of people.

It was great.

I created the game with Kellian Adams of Green Door Labs, and Eric Chadwick making the art.  We’re still working on changing bits of the design here and there, but so far it has been a very successful launch.  If you find yourself in Boston, I encourage you to stop by the USS Constitution Museum and check out the game!

-Andy



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