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Robo-Real: Board Game to PC Game

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Download Game: http://www.morganrauscher.com/RoboReal.exe

In the beginning there was a plan: to develop one of “GAMES magazine’s Top 100 board games for 1995” 8, Robo Rally, into a computer game.  With this goal, several problems were revealed.  Not only was there a need to justify programming an analog game into a digital format, but for the most part developing an equally entertaining game for only one player. As most board games make evident, “it takes two” 1 to tango.  In order to produce a single player digital version of an analog multi-player game, it became necessary to investigate other digital adaptations of analog games.  The emulation of board games into the digital world opens up new and exciting possibilities in the way of human interaction with games. Real-Time Robo-Rally© was thus designed to emulate and modify the board game Robo Rally so that it could be played by one person on a computer. 

Real Time Robo Rally (RTRR) was designed as an adaptation of the original board game. As with every adaptation, RTRR faced practical logistic questions.

“Generally, you expect a classic board game adaptation to fall into one of two categories. Either it’s so completely untrue to the original that you wonder why they named it after the game in the first place, or it’s such a painstaking duplication that you might as well just break out the actual board game.” 2

In order to escape these common results of board game adaptation, it was necessary to define the goals of RTRR.  The objective of the original Robo Rally is to trigger the interaction of at least two players. The goal of the game is to reach a destination on a square matrix game board.  There are obstacles such as lasers, holes, walls, and conveyer belts that provide an element of chance and risk.  If the cards are played right, given the obstacles are overcome, one player will reach the destination first and win the game.  The objective of the board game is, to instigate interactivity with other players who are all competing to arrive at the same goal.  In the case of RTRR the objective is similar, in that the player is trying to get to a predefined location on a matrix, but the interaction is with a computer.  The original board game objectives change because victory is gained as a result of a personal aspiration and there is only one competitor.    

To develop a single player game, other digitally adopted single player games were examined.  Most single player games developed in flash, such as Galactic Tennis 3, are based on hand eye coordination. The Microsoft Windows game Solitaire 4 was studied as it is a turn based strategic single player game.  Solitaire uses both an element of chance, playing cards, and a single goal achieved by one player.  Each move must be calculated based on the last move and the games’ narrative is constructed ‘on the fly’.  Similarly, the narrative in RTRR is developed in a linear fashion and each move depends on the last move. “There is a lot of strategy in it, although it might not be obvious until you reach level 3.” 5 The most entertaining factor then becomes the element of chance.  The player does not know what card to expect and therefore is not able to predetermine the next move.  The challenge is to use the limited selection of cards to move a player to a final destination.  As such, solitaire was a model for the adaptation of Robo Rally into RTRR.

After considering the element of adaptation from the original game, the real question becomes; ‘why make the game digital?’ “This involves such questions as how the original work is changed to allow for interactivity and the completion of an objective . . .” 6 The answer is in the extensive window of opportunity to add new and relevant media elements.  RTRR uses sound, animation, and music that is not available in the analog version.  All of these components allow for a stage set that adds to interactive enjoyment of the game.  The sounds used give the player a sense of space.  The animations suggest a virtual course of action. The music sets a relaxed setting and an ambient atmosphere.  All of these elements make relevant the addition of new media types in the adaptation of the original game.  In the original game, each move is signified by an analog action of moving the game piece according to the card selected.  In RTRR, an animation represents the movement of a playing piece.  Therefore, the user is immersed in the character of the game piece.  The audio cues and sounds that react to the player’s clicks give a robotic-like feel to the character further developing a connection with the user and the playing piece.

 “You could do everything . . . you had your sound which you could modify and the graphics corresponded well with the user and the game . . . so the environment was totally connected and the player was connected to the environment.” 7

This connection between the player and the game also makes it easy to develop other interactive elements. 

An important interactive element RTRR has, that is obviously not available in the analog version, is the ability of the player to modify the environment.  The game offers a pop-up menu that lists several ambient atmospheric music samples.  The player can also turn the background audio off.  This may seem like a small feature to the digital version but the implications are enormous.  The user now has the power to select different mood settings and thus further interact with the game.  It is through this interaction and the immersion of the player into the gaming interface that allows for a more enjoyable gaming experience. 

The adaptation of Robo Rally into Real Time Robo Rally©, as with the adaptation of any board game into a video game, involved many questions.  Why make the game digital; why change elements of the original game, and what does the new game offer in addition to the old game’s structure?  Analyzing other adaptations, understanding digital media and interaction provides some of the answers.  The adaptation of board games into computer games provides the user with new and more involving experiences that challenge the gamer even further. 

Works and Sources Sighted:

1.  http://www.orisinal.ws/games/two.htm

2.  Crowe, Greg. “Risk II.” http://www.gameindustry.com: Noble Order Press Enterprises Inc. 2000.

3.  http://www.t45ol.com/play_flash_us.php?ID=793

4.  Microsoft Windows. “Solitaire” (video game).

5.  Eskandar, Remon. Usability Tester. March, 2003.

6.  Wolf, Mark J. P. Genre and the Video Game. Texas: University of Texas Press, 2000.

7.  Rauscher, Sarah. Usability Tester. March, 2003.

8.  http://www.wizards.com/roborally/