Monday, February 28, 2011

Minimum viable Jones

One of my favorite games is Jones in the Fast Lane. It's a life simulation about work, education and money. There's a variety of interesting decisions you can make in the game, such as is it better in the long run to eat at McDonald's every day, or should I buy a fridge and shop at the supermarket instead? There are 13 places in the game that players can visit, each with important functions. Or how important are they really?

I took another look at the game, this time with this design question in mind: how much could you take away from the game, while still allowing for some gameplay to happen?

Jones in the Fast Lane

Playing it again while trying to avoid doing anything except bare necessities, the minimal gameplay experience is:

- Wake up at house.
- Go to employment office to get a job at hamburger place.
- Go to hamburger place. Click on "work" until run out of time. Eat.
- Sometimes go to employment office to check if I qualify for the next better job yet.
- Repeat until boredom.

So out of 13 places, only 3 are actually necessary for at least 5-10 minutes of gameplay.

This gameplay can then be extended by adding requirements like having certain type of clothing before being allowed to work at the next job level, which then introduces the clothes shop into the game. In this way elements could be gradually added to extend the time before player gets bored.

I believe adding things gradually is the path for sustaining motivation while building a game. Doing all of those 13 buildings at once would be demotivating, and I imagine also more difficult to balance.