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Game Of The Week is a blog series where one of the MetaMakers team makes a game using No Second Chance, and then talks through their design. This week Mike is making an election-inspired game called Gerrymandering. If you’re interested in helping us by testing No Second Chance, and you have an iOS device, you can sign up for our beta here.

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One of the fun things about making and sharing little games with people you know is getting to know each others’ style and having people tell you what they think yours is. There’s two things that make a Mike game, according to the other MetaMakers: having lots of static pieces, and trying to give it a real-world theme. Sure enough, my game this week features both of those things! It’s inspired by the recent US elections and a little indie game called Gerrymandering: Red Vs. Blue, which you can find on itch.io here.

Gerrymandering is an election trick where you redraw the boundaries of a town or a county so that the voters group together in a way that benefits you. We don’t have voting in No Second Chance, but I did like the idea of removing bad districts (big red circles that would be dangerous) to secure the vote in a few important good districts (smaller blue circles that would let the player score). I started off with a random starting game Swen had sent me earlier in the day, and began setting up the red states first, by making them spawn all over the screen, stay very still, and destroy anything they touch.

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To get the gerrymandering feel in, I also edited the red circles so they disappear when you tap them, so you can selectively delete red circles to make part of the screen safer to capture blue circles in. I planned to have the blue ones appear in random parts of the map, and then you’d carefully guide your target around the screen, removing dangerous red circles as you went. It didn’t really feel right though – it felt a bit like a previous game I’d designed, and it felt a bit too easy to delete anything I wanted (even with so many red circles on-screen).

To mix things up a bit, I decided to try making the blue circles move around more – so instead of spawning them randomly on the screen and not moving, I changed a few parameters and made them start at the edge of the screen and move towards the target. Now you can’t wait around – you have to clear a path for the blue circle quickly, or it’ll smash into a red circle and explode (which is a political metaphor for… something, probably). This suddenly made the game much more fun, and I was almost happy to call it finished! But occasionally a blue circle would spawn on top of a red circle near the edge and get instantly destroyed. So I decided to make just one more small tweak, and change the way red circles spawn so they appear in a ring around the target instead of all over the map.

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Before I chose this option I imagined it would come out as a thin ring of asteroids away from the target, but I forgot that this setting actually leaves a slim, perfect ring of circles on the edge of the target. It wasn’t what I expected at all, but as the game ran in demo mode I realised that this was a totally different and really cool game! When you destroy a red circle there’s a gap of about a second before a new red circle spawns in its place. This means that if you destroy the circles at the right time, you make just enough space for a blue circle to squeeze through to safety.

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You can still move the target around, but it’s actually a bad idea in this game: more red circles appear all around the target, and it’s even harder to save the blue circles in time. So your best strategy is to keep the target in place, and patiently wait for your moment to pop the red border circles. The whole thing took me about 20 minutes to make on my walk into town, and I was really happy to discover a new kind of game flavour I hadn’t seen before. If you want to check out our games, or try designing your own, No Second Chance has an open early beta right now, and you can sign up for it here. See you next week!

Game A Week – Gerrymandering