Assassin – 10 Years Later

One tradition my High School had was a game played by the seniors called Assassin. I’m sure this is a pretty common thing, but like most traditional games, I suspect it goes by a billion different names and variation, so here’s an what ours looked like.

For each team who wanted to play, they had to pay an entry fee of $20. Teams could have up to four people on them. The game itself was a water gun fight, where if you got hit with water, you were out. At the start of each week, each team was given another team to be their opponents. Your goal was to take out more folks on the opposing side than they took out on your side. There were also a series of rules based around when and where you were allowed to shoot people with your water guns (you couldn’t enter buildings without permission, couldn’t do stuff during school hours, and couldn’t do it on school grounds). In general though, the game should have been pretty simple.

The emphasis here is of course, on the word, “Should.”

In practice, the game tended to turn rapidly into a complete clusterfuck, in part because of the rules, and in part because of how the game was judged. Notable moments over the years included a player purchasing and using a ghillie suit, a car chase (no, really), the use of what I think was converted fire-fighting equipment as water dispersing item, and the head judge acting like a dumbass. I also heard a truck mounted pressure washer was involved one year, but I don’t know how true that was.

Let’s talk about the problems with judging for a moment, though. So, who was the judge? Which absolute fucking idiot decided that it was both a good idea to help run this thing, and to put them themself in a position where they would have to make calls about rules and behavior to a bunch of their peers competing for several hundred dollars?

Oh right. That was me.

To say the game of Assassin I ran went poorly would be an understatement. It would be like saying that there was a fire-related event at Notre Dame, or that people might currently be taking trading cards a bit too seriously.

The phrase “Unmitigated Fucking Disaster” comes to mind.

But it’s been almost 10 years (Jesus Christ it’s been almost 10 years, what the fuck), which strikes me as a good time to revisit this tradition, examine it, and try to figure out what I would do differently if I was to run it again, now that I’m 10 years older. And theoretically wiser. But mostly just older.

So if I could run the game again, what would I do differently?

  1. Take out the entry fee and prize.
    If I could only make one change to the game, this would be it. I’m not going to say that money is the root of all evil or any hippie bullshit like that, but it absolutely corrupts this game in particular. The entry fee means that pretty much however you make your ruling, someone is going to hate you, and it screws good sportsmanship over in a massive way. Talking of sportsmanship, this brings up the second problem…
  2. Remove the elimination aspect of the game.
    The bracket-based elimination is something that I look back on and die a little bit inside, purely from a game design standpoint. It’s one of the worst aspects of the ruleset. If you get eliminated early, you no longer get to play the game, which feels bad, and again, leads to folks wanting to argue hits and knockouts. Removing players is almost always bad design. Instead, it would make more sense to give each team a weekly score based on the number of members of the enemy team that they eliminated. That way the game could run for a series of weeks, and everyone would get to… y’know. Actually play the game. Which brings us to…
  3. Move combat exclusively to the weekend.
    Among all of the clusterfucks and problems in the game, the biggest one was the issue of legal knockouts. Is the parking lot school ground? What about the pavement? If you get shot coming into the school, but it’s before 8:00, does that count? If you’re at a “protected” school event, and you leave to kill somebody, is your kill legitimate? These are all questions that are up for debate based on your interpretation of the rules, and frankly, they’re not worth it.

    Instead, I’d want to move the game to remove all those restrictions, but played exclusively on the weekend, from 6:00 PM Friday, to 6:00 PM Sunday. If nothing else, it would probably make the teachers hate the game a bit less.

So, if all these changes were made, would the game be perfect? Would peace reign supreme? Well, not really. There were a lot of other problems, too, like rampant kingmaking, shooting people in cars, and how the game itself encouraged hiding in your house and waiting for the week to end.

And this brings me to the real problem: how the game was formed. The rules were cruddy because they were a stew of rules invented by a variety of people, including the people running and playing the game, the teachers who hated it, the parents who wanted kids to stop hiding outside their house at 4:00 AM, and the coaches who would have liked it if their student athletes brought water bottles instead Super Soakers to practice. The end result was a system where a variety of people had input, but no one actually had complete power over the rules, and as a result, they kind of sucked.

Especially if your judge is an idiot.

So instead of making minor rules changes, what if we tore the whole thing down? What if we started from scratch, and tried to design an event that would capture the fun tension, but without the actual occasional risk of physical harm, and complete disruption to everyday life? What would that look like?

Well, I have an idea. It’s called Secret Agent. And it’ll be in a post that goes up later next week.

Super Animal Royale

It’s 2D Fortnite for Furries. If you like any of the words in that sentence, you should probably try it, since it’s free.

Sometimes when I write “reviews” for this blog, I feel obligated to play a given amount of a game, or reach a certain threshold before I give my verdict. Then games come along that remind me that I write these articles because it’s fun, and also because when I’m asked “What do you do for fun?” “I write a blog,” is a more adult answer than ,”I think about Pokemon cards.”

The astute reader may note that for a Gametrodon review, it’s taking me a long time give my thoughts on the game, the mechanics, or if I even like it, but surprise! The actual summary was in the excerpt all along.

Super Animal Royale is 2D Fortnite for Furries. It’s free, you can download it here, it’s on Steam, and it’s generally pretty fun. There’s no pay to win bullshit or gacha, though there are a bunch of cosmetic microtransactions.

Is this enough? Can I now go back to wishing that Champion’s Path boosters were less expensive, and wondering why Shiny Charizard V is $400 dollars?

No? I should talk more about the game? Fine.

Part of the reason I don’t have too much to say on the game is that with a few exceptions, there’s nothing here I haven’t seen before. That shouldn’t take away from the game’s quality and polish, but all in all, you have a tiered weapon rarity system, a battle royale where you drop from a giant flying vehicle, a few different game modes, and a battlepass/exp challenge system that might have been copied straight from Fortnite.

Okay, so outside of all of this, the game does one VERY interesting thing that I haven’t actually seen before, and actually makes me think that more games should steal this system: the way it handles healing/health power ups.

In Super Animal Royale, you have a great big health jug. Instead of having bandages or potions, any health juice you pick up just goes into the jug. When you want to heal, you drink from the jug.

And that’s it! No more having to carry around 100 potions. No more having to figure out if you should carry 5 bandages or one Med kit, because the Medkit heals more, but can only be used once, and the bandages can be used on smaller wounds, but are much slower.

Instead, whenever you run over juice, it gets picked up, and added to your health jug.

I think more games should do this. Screw fiddly potion management. Just let me stuff all the healing items I pick up into my great big heal box, and whenever I need healing, I just take a big sip. It’s like Jungle Juice but for liquid bandaids.

Look, I don’t have too much else to say on the game. It’s free. It’s more or less Fortnite. If the screens looked interesting, or if the game looked fun, just go download it and play it.

PS: We streamed the game a bit. And by we, I mean me and another friend who I work on random projects with. You can watch it here if you want to know more about what the game plays like.

PPS: Oh, and the game has bots, which is something everyone who makes battle royales at this point should just do. Keeps the matchmaking time down, and means that even suckers like myself can get kills.

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Because Mario Party isn’t rage inducing enough on it’s own.

If you’ve seen Twitch at all recently, you’ve probably seen Fall Guys. If you haven’t, allow me to summarize it for you: imagine a battle royale game, but instead shooting each other death as teenagers, you’re all happy jelly bean blobs competing in Mario Party style mini-games to be the last person standing.

It’s simple, cute, and amusing, even if it isn’t particularly deep. Some of the mini-games are fun. Some of the mini-games are not as fun (looking at you Perfect Match). Some look like complete bullshit, but actually have some strategy like Tip Tap Toe.

Most the games are at least enjoyable, and the fun primarily comes from watching other players be launched, whacked, and otherwise smacked around, and also by being a winner. There are a few game modes that are legitimately great, like Hex-A-Gone, a multi level Tron style mode, where the last person to fall all the way to the bottom wins. Most of the team mini-games, like Soccer, Egg Collection, and Ball Rolling are also enjoyable.

When I was first writing this post, I actually had a bit where I was going to go into the worse game modes, and tear them apart a bit, but then a funny thing happened: see, with the exception of Perfect Match, most of the game modes are pretty good when the servers aren’t massively lagging. One particularly awful game, Tail Tag, is actually really fun when things like hit detection and stuff actually work.

I think Fall Guys is a ton of fun, and worth playing, but I have a few caveats to that statement. First off, I suspect there is a large section of individuals who just won’t have a good time. If you already hate stuff like Mario Party, or WarioWare, or just battle royale style games in general, you might wanna pass on this one.

Secondly, Fall Guys is a lot more fun with a friend. If you can get even one other person to play with, each game becomes less of a solo deathmatch, and more of a fun mess as you work against and root for each other. I had a lot of fun with the game on my own, but it’s undeniable that the joy of the game is dampened when every other character you beat or get beaten by is anonymous.

Fall Guys is $20 on Steam, and while it does have micros, they’re purely cosmetic, and not for anything you can’t get anyway.

Fall Guys will not cause you to look inward. It will not grant you peace, or force you to confront deep seated fears. But it’s fun. And when you are launched into space, or toppled into the void right as you jump because some rando grabbed you for absolutely no good fucking reason, it will give you something to be angry about other then the unmitigated nightmare that has been 2020.