Game Idea A Week: Jane Austen Matchmaking
Week Two (13/10/2009)
The Idea for this week is inspired by the Game career guide design challenge to use literary inspirations for a game. I've always liked the Jane Austen books and this game is inspired by "Emma" where the main character tries to match the perfect couples together.
In this game, the player attends social functions and meets characters. Then the player must try and work out which characters would make the best match together. Towards the end of the game they can try and find a character that would match them.
PC. Or perhaps a Nintendo DS - although a DS may not be able to fit as much information on the screen in about each possible match, so the game would need to be simplified.
Why it needs to be made:
Many people enjoy helping (or is that meddling?) other people's lives, particularly other people's love life. Everyone seems to think they know who the perfect couple would be. This game gives people the opportunity to indulge this fantasy without hurting the feelings of friends and family.
Each round takes place at a particular venue (e.g. at a ball, at someone's house, walking in town etc...) which changes the number of people there are and the number of times the player can try and make matches. At the start of each round the player is introduced to a set number of characters (or re-introduced if a particular character has already been met). The number of characters must be kept to a manageable amount so that the player can keep track of people. The player can ask characters questions about their social standing, income, hobbies etc...
The player is then able to select matches for the different characters. At this time the player is given a screen that summarises the information that the player has collected about each character already (including information about previous matches). The player must select a number of man/woman matches that they think might make a successful couple.
After the player has made match selections they get feedback on how successful the matches were. If a player matches two people together for 3 rounds and the success of each round is high then the couple will marry and then be taken out of the pool of characters to match up.
As the game progresses the player can move to a new town (e.g. visiting a cousin) so that they can get entirely new characters to match and get different scenery. The player doesn't always get direct feedback that a character is a scoundrel, they might only get looks or subtle hints from other characters when they talk to people. In this way, you can get Mr Darcy-like surprises when the player finds out that a character that was previously not very nice and hard to match is suddenly very desirable.
Once the character has made a certain number of good marriages, they get the option of finding someone for themselves. To do this they will have to answer some questions about themselves. That way the virtual characters will be able to decide whether they "suit" the player or not. The game finishes when the player gets "happily married".
Why it will be a compelling game:
There is never one clear solution/match for the characters. Some of the men may be suitable for a number of different women (and vice versa). However, once a marriage has been made it can't be broken up, so those two characters are out of the pool. Being able to see the direct effects of matchmaking gives instant feedback and a sense that the player can make better matches next time. That is, the player will always feel like they might have been able to get a better score and they can recognise how to get the better score.
The key in this game will be coming up with a suitable way to store the information the player gathers on the characters and the matches they've already tried. When a match doesn't work the player must be given a concrete explanation of why it didn't work so that they can make better matches next time.
If a player misses a great match between a couple, then the couple may elope. Before this happens the player should get clues that Mr So-and-So likes Miss Someone so that they can stop it. If characters elope the player misses out on the potential points for getting a good match.