Octoparty

Octoparty

It all started with the primary design goal–a game controller in one hand and a drink in the other–this guiding vision would shape the entire project to come:

Primary design goal accomplished

Primary design goal accomplished.

You see, there was a big party a few months out and I needed to get a game installation together. I’m one of the founding members of the Boston Indie Game Collective and this year we were going to throw a monster shindig for our holiday party. We partnered with Aeronaut Brewing Company in Somerville, MA and Boston Bit Fest. Together we would would organize The Pop-Up Arcade and Indie Game Night.

I spent most of the next two months creating a custom controller interface and a suite of party games that support from 1 to 8 players using eight individual one-button controllers.  This project became known as Octoparty.

The event was a huge success! Over 400 people ended up attending our Indie Game Night and my game received no shortage of love from the crowd. With individual games lasting 3 minutes, Octoparty was played almost non-stop by various eight player groups for over seven hours!

The crowd enjoying a game of Octoparty.

The crowd enjoying a game of Octoparty.

It was a super-thrilling feeling to see so many folks enjoying an experience I helped to shape and create. It was also a wonderful stress test of the reliability of the controllers–there was only one time a button got stuck on for a bit, other than that the game and hardware ran perfectly! I was so relieved.

Octoparty is ready for its big debut!

Octoparty is ready for its big debut!

The setup for Octoparty is straightforward. The main enclosure itself connects to the computer that is running the game over USB. The eight individual controllers are connected to the enclosure with standard 1/8″ mono audio cables. I’ve been using ten foot cables to allow the players to spread out comfortably but that length can be easily changed.

Controllers are connected to the enclosure by standard 1/8" mono audio cables.

Controllers are connected to the enclosure by standard 1/8″ mono audio cables.

The individual one-button controllers are constructed of durable 3/4″ PVC pipe with end caps. I used arcade quality buttons for further dependability.

Close-up of controller construction.

Close-up of controller construction.

The controller enclosure is powered by an Arduino UNO and the game was created in Unity3d and uses the Uniduino plugin to communicate with the Arduino.

Here is the Arduino and breadboard inside the controller enclosure.

Here is the Arduino and breadboard inside the controller enclosure.

I’m a big advocate for local multiplayer games. I think there is a uniquely special energy created when you can get a group of people to enjoy a game experience together. This unique experience is a large inspiration and motivation for why I make games in the first place.

I love helping to enable fun.

I love being able to help enable fun and joy. It’s a lucky thing.

So what are the games like in Octoparty?

The games support both team and free for all style play. They also support variable numbers of players–anywhere from 1 to 8.

An overarching game design principle for each mode in Octoparty is simplicity. I keep that in mind as I make decisions about which features and mechanics to implement. I make sure to playtest the games a lot with a large variety of players!

A team game mode of Octoparty running on a projector.

A team game mode of Octoparty running on a projector.

It is important to me that any instructions for each game will take two or fewer sentences to explain to new players. I want each game to be fun to play and interact with–even if you are losing, it should still be as fun as possible while you are losing!

Currently a lot of the modes involve physics-based game mechanics but that won’t always be the case as I expand the suite of games that are included. I have a lot of new game modes planned and Octoparty will be in continual development in 2015.

I am really excited about this project! I’ll be taking Octoparty to IndieCade East 2015 in February and I’m looking forward to showing it to players at the Museum of the Moving Image in NYC.

For now I’ll leave this post with another video of people enjoying Octoparty at the Boston Indies holiday party last week.

Games