Saturday, October 20, 2012

Stupor becomes Stupify

Here's my slightly wordy in-game description of one of Chalo Chalo's power-ups:

On pressing an action button the nearest competitor is targeted. On release their ability to change speed or direction is temporarily removed.
Single use. Hold button to target nearest player, release to activate.

This power-up began life when Richard entered the idea into our mighty power-up-ideas-spreadsheet under the name "Steer Stealer (Tomasz please think of a decent name for this one)".

I did my best, and renamed it Stupor. Since it causes another player to fall into a 'stupor'. It turns out it could be better still.

A seemingly relevant detour: My naming strategy for power-ups has been to choose terms that are short, somehow descriptive of their function, and obscure. In that order of priority. Certainly among my favourite names at the moment is Richard's Remi: the player travels faster in proportion to haw far away he/she is from the other players. The name is a reference to the lonely protagonist from the 1878 novel Sans Famille (Alleen op de wereld in Dutch). In second place for me is Safa, an as-yet unimplemented power-up that, upon activation, causes the goal to slowly move towards the empowered player. Safa is a reference to the mountain that Mohammed commanded to come to him. According to the legend, the mountain didn't come to Mohammed in the end. In Chalo Chalo the goal will be more obliging.

Anyway, Stupor. It turns out it's not ideal. We noticed that everyone ends up calling it Stupify. It makes sense: Stupify is what you do, from the perspective of the user of the power-up, you stupify another player. You don't enter a stupor yourself. And this feels a much more natural way of referring to it.

This is one of the many cases that the iterative approach we've been taking to developing the game has been valuable. These days most of the development decisions happen after playtesting. Recently that's been at the Local Multiplayer Game Picnic events, and at the Indigo 2012 game event.

I think of renaming this power-up as analogous to paving a path that people have already trodden through the grass. I don't think there's any shame in admitting that spontaneous order is smarter than I am. In fact, whether appropriate or not, I feel almost proud of that!

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