Flirtation, enemies, and revenge–sound like themes from your favorite Shakespearean drama? Sure, but they’re also major players in the plot of social games!
Meet Josh Lee, game developer of Floor Is Lava and creator of Low Rollr, Sifteo’s new (semi-)massive mulitplayer* game. See what he has to say about bluffing, flirting, and the psychology of competition in Low Rollr and many other games with related mechanics.
What games inspired you while making Low Rollr? What about them sparked your interest?
I was initially inspired by dice games like Yahtzee and Farkle. I particularly like the game Pass the Pigs and the way it builds its rules around the pig-shaped dice.
Mostly, though, I was inspired by the thought of people chucking their cubes in a blatantly unsafe manner. I was really excited about that. Eventually, though, I calmed down and made a game that you could play just by shaking, with less risk of permanent damage to your cubes.
What did you learn about group and social dynamics while making (and playing!) Low Rollr? Have you noticed any trends in how people negotiate their relationships to luck and other players?
When I was designing Low Rollr, I had a very game-designery idea of how it would be played: players would keep track of low rolls, see who’s been getting hit with actions, try to guess what their opponents’ scores were, and use their Low Rollr actions to go after whoever they thought had the high score. All very tidy, logical, and strategic.
In reality, people target their actions based on revenge, not logic. You tag me with a Lose Points action, I tag you back with a Halve Score. Never mind that we’re both driving down each others’ scores while everyone else’s scores keep going up. For some reason, people don’t play Low Rollr to win — they play to take their enemies down with them. I had no idea this game would end up as an example of man’s inhumanity to man, but there you go.
Also, if a group of players includes a couple, the couple will always go after each other. I have no idea why–in-game flirting, maybe?
Kaleidoscopic triangles, oh my! Tell us about the art style for the game.
Low Rollr’s visual style came out of an experiment in trying to make cube-friendly graphics with as few elements as possible. Most of the game’s graphics — the animated text, the background textures, etc. — are made out of little right triangles (or two right triangles stuck together to make a square).
While messing around with different ways of animating things, I discovered that with a little bit of bad math, you could create some pretty psychedelic patterns, which led to the demo that graces the main menu in the game.
Do you have any tips on best bluffing practices or keeping a straight face when you have the high score? What works best?
The most effective strategy is to be very quiet and not draw any attention to yourself. Let the other players antagonize each other and fall into a vicious cycle of Steal actions while you quietly rack up points.
But what fun is it to play a game like this silently? The actual most awesome strategy is to actively sow seeds of doubt and paranoia in your opponents’ minds. Insinuate that a player *may* be rolling a lot of 7s. Suggest that another player doesn’t *seem* to have been the Low Rollr in a while, and must have a lot of points by now. Just don’t be too obvious, or you’ll draw attention to yourself. A few simple nudges is all it takes to turn the table into a pile of halved scores, with you at the top of the heap.
Are there any Easter eggs in your game? What is it and how can we find it?
There is, actually! In the main menu screen, hold the crazy pattern cube upside down and press its screen. I won’t say what it is–you’ll have to find out for yourself!
*Play Low Rollr with up to 12 players!