A ‘Madlibs’ Game Design Doc: Part 1

A quick note. The following work is considered public domain information. Use it however you want. If you’d like to tell me about it afterwards, I promise you it will make me a happy man — but if you don’t I won’t lose any sleep.

On twitter the other day, I decided on a whim that I wanted to create and fill out a madlib and then design a game based on the answers I got.


To do this, I first made up the madlib, then I asked my twitter friends to help me fill it out.

Here are the results:

The title:  “Adjective Noun: The Verb”

The Elevator Pitch: “The game is _arcadeGame_ and _arcadeGame_ meets _modernConsoleGame”_

And most bizarre of all was the result for the longer-form pitch:

Oh, and apparently “The Stone” is a locket that acts as a metaphor for Truth.

What have I gotten myself into?!

Time to calm down, take a few breaths, and see what we have to work with:

  • Our hero is a lion named Agamemnon
  • Our main threats will be a ‘Nemesis,’ ‘agressors,’ and ‘the apocalpse
  • The hero needs to “rise” above his threats somehow.
  • The game is a cross between Donkey Kong and Kung Fu Master, with a bit of Portal 2 thrown in.
  • We need to incorporate “yellow zebra” and connect it somehow to something called “the boxing.”
  • We want to evoke a feeling of a stampede in a place called “The Public Domain.” This seems like a good metaphor to start the game with: Why is the Public Domain being stampeeded over? And how can we liken it to lions and zebras?
  • The hero is trying to “shelter The Stone” — the stone being a locket that symbolizes truth. I think I’m also going to make it his Pride Rock — the name of his home where the lionesses and children live.

I always like to start with enemies (threats) first.

Nemesis: A dark shadowy version of the hero. Moves around the screen partially based on the hero’s stick and button input (TBD) and partially based on the environment. If the Shadow touches the hero, the hero takes damage and the Shadow disappears for X seconds, where X = 1 * (MaxHeroHP-HeroHP). The amount of damage depends on how far the player has progressed.

Agressors: There are three types of agressors: Black, White, and Red (colors chosen to avoid inconveniencing color blind players — could also have included blue or green, but not both).

The agressors are non-characters — they appear as special effects (particles, sparks, fire, etc). If they touch the player the player takes damage and the agressor disappears. Agressors movement strategy is based on their color:

Black – Black aggressors move between two points. When they reach a point they wait for Y seconds and then return to the previous point. Y = 1+(Level Number * 0.2)

White – White agressors stand still unless the player comes within Z units of them, where Z is a number that starts out small and expands as the player progresses through the level of the game. For example, on level 5 the radius Z may be 5 units, but on level 1 it may have started at 0.5 units.

Red – Red Agressors actively attempt to follow and hurt the player. When they spawn, they move directly towards the spot the player is standing. If they get close to the player, they flash red quickly three times, then explode. The duration of this flashing should be long enough for the player to escape the explosion, and can get tighter as the player progresses.

The Apocalypse: There are a lot of good ways to do an apocalypse, but real men use Zombies and we’re going to use Zebra Zombies (Zembries?). And not just any Zembries, but Yellow Ones!

The Zembries will act as a creeping plague that slowly moves behind the player, cutting of means of retreat and forcing the player to move through the level.

If the Zembrie horde touches the player, the player loses (20 health + 10*level) HP and the Zombrie horde falls back and stops moving for X seconds, where X = the number of damage the horde dealt divided by 10.

That’s all for now. I’ll get to the player and the player’s abilities (and powerups/rewards) in Part 2.

Part 3 will explore the environment and how the level designs would work.

In Part 4, we’ll talk about fiction, atmosphere, metaphor, etc…

In Part 5 we’ll discuss difficulty tuning.

And finally in Part 6, we’ll finish off the “GDD” with anything I forgot up till then.

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