BigSkyCola #1: Birth of a Design Log

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Friends, flora, and fauna, welcome to my mind. As this is the first edition of BigSkyCola I’ll keep the bigger pictures out of play, but the idea is to post my various design ideas as they come in a big-sky–style format. By definition, big (blue/clear/empty)-sky thinking is a practice wherein thinking is not grounded in, or in touch with, the realities of the present, meaning that if literally anything is possible, then what will you come up with? It’s basically a friendlier term for brainstorming, because you can’t have a storm if there are no clouds. Shut up about “wind storms”; it’s just a metaphor.

For instance: Infinite Tetris was a concept I came up with a few months before I started writing for GameCola, where clearing lines is impossible because the matrix doesn’t exist. There’s a plain, open field, and Tetriminos (the various blocks in Tetris) drop endlessly from the sky, but there are no walls, so you can move infinitely in any direction and stack however you please.

For frame of reference, the standard Tetris playing field is 10 cells wide by 20 cells tall, where each cell is 1/4 of a Tetrimino, which equates to 200 cells, or 50 Tetriminos. Infinite Tetris, however, has no limit in any direction wide or tall, meaning the only walls you can experience are the ones you build for yourself.

BlueSkyCola 1

I see Infinite Tetris as many things, first and foremost as a thought experiment on minimalistic clear-sky thinking, which I have addressed above. So a game of Tetris without any kind of border stops being a game, per se, as it eliminates any semblance of an objective.

It’s like if you were to play Minecraft in survival mode with no monsters—not so much that you remove the fun from the game, you just create a different kind of objective. I’m no longer trying to kill the Ender Dragon; I’m just building a house out of whatever I happen to find. Turning a mountain into a fortress for no other reason than to destroy it completely, because what is life but an exercise of futility? Taking away the threat of failure and the prize for success transforms the game into more of a virtual mandala, existing only because it exists.

Secondly, I see Infinite Tetris as a teaching tool for people looking to practice various maneuvers that high-level Tetris players can pull off in their sleep. Having trouble learning how to pull off a T-spin? Set it up over and over in an environment where you can’t fail. Want to learn how to build a >? Take away the ceiling so you can attempt to zigzag infinitely upward. Want to learn how pieces interact when they rotate? Build yourself an obstacle course, then turn off the locking mechanism so you can move that L-block across 3000 cells without stopping.

Being able to tweak the rules freely could even inspire an entirely new game! DOTA started out as a WarCraft III user-made map. What would come out of letting players redefine other predetermined ideas? What if Mega Man couldn’t harm any enemies, but they could harm each other? I wonder what kind of game that would be. What if every time your hero was killed in Final Fantasy, you started playing as the creature that killed them, until they were ultimately defeated by something bigger? That would certainly be a rare experience (hint at a future entry perhaps?).

I’ve lost my train of thought for now, though. Thanks for reading; I hope to share more thoughts soon. This has been BigSkyCola or something; the title’s a work in progress. This has been WorkInProgressCola! See you on the next level!

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Developer in training who aspires to take over the Mega Man franchise. Willing to accept any fan-made designs, because the fans built Wily's robots, he just stole them and called them his own. Come see me in Burst Man's stage some time, I'm the one near the spikes.

4 Comments

  1. “What if Mega Man couldn’t harm any enemies, but they could harm each other?”

    I’m super not into Mega Man, but that brings to mind some interesting ideas–a Mega Man where you’re not trying to fight enemies (indeed, they aren’t YOUR enemies at all), but trying to get around them while they’re battling each other, and you’re trying to reach some ultimate end-goal.

    …Actually now I think I’m picturing a game where you play as a battlefield medic, maybe? Having to dodge bullets from both sides that aren’t necessarily aimed at you, but adjacent to you. Talk about a game with no combat, but still appropriately bombastic to appeal to execs. That sounds like it’s probably a game already.

    1. That’s an interesting take on the concept, Paul. Two warring factions and you’re stuck in the middle, trying to not die.
      What if you had to choose which civilians to save and your choices affected the rest of the game? Do you have to scrounge for all your medical supplies or are there certain things you can’t run out of? Colour me intrigued.

  2. This reads like a zen approach to sandbox modes. Cool ideas!
    I really like the point about DOTA’s development. A prime example of this ideas merit!

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