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One Show Only - A Narrative Detective Card Game

A topic by Tristan Dahl created Jan 15, 2016 Views: 1,871 Replies: 11
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One Show Only is a detective game where the player solves a case by interrogating suspects. The interrogation takes place by playing a card game against the witnesses, where cards represent questions and your skill in playing those cards determines the answers you get.

It's set in a circus, as a trapeze artist died under 'mysterious circumstances' during the final act. So the player can walk around the circus to talk to the various suspects.

I'm relatively far into development, one can play from start to finish. But there is a huge amount of polish and balancing work to be done. The game is still very short at the moment, there are also no differences gameplay-wise when playing against the various suspects etc...

I'll post an update about the card game next and explain the mechanics in more detail as well as the design issues I currently have with it.

I'm looking forward to your feedback! - Tristan

The card game is used in the game to interrogate witnesses, cards represent questions and the aim is to move your cards higher up on the grid to unlock get more information.

-It takes place on a 3x3 grid.
-Each turn the player can place either a new card, or move an already placed card one row higher.
-The arrows at the top of the cards represent their movement options, so if the left arrow is vertical, that card can move straight up when on the left column. If the center arrow is diagonal, the card can move diagonally upwards when in the center column.
-Each card has a unique combination of movement directions.
-Placing a card on top of an enemy's card removes it from play and vice versa.
Bringing a card to the top row can unlock new cards.

So hopefully that makes sense... As far as progression is concerned the player starts off with cards with a lot of movement options, as they're easier to use. While the enemies at the beginning of the game have cards that can only ever move in one direction per column. Later on enemies get stronger cards, with multiple movement directions per column, making them less predictable.

There are still some design issues however, the card game is both too easy, as well as too short! It takes a few turns to for the enemy to have placed enough cards to be a threat and by then the player has enough time to bring at least one card to the top row without any opposition. And while one could program smarter AI to combat this (currently the enemies move are completely random), it'd be difficult to find the correct difficulty with that approach.

So my plan is to have certain cards, that can only be placed after enough other cards have reached the top row. This would prolong the length of the card game by forcing the player to place cards they wouldn't otherwise place and gives the enemy a chance to place some cards of their own.

Okay, that's that! If anyone has any feedback regarding the card game, as far as graphics or design are concerned, I'd be very interested in hearing it. Thanks for reading!

The ability to walk around the circus grounds in my game had begun to feel a bit unnecessary. It was boring, not touch friendly, and made it a chore to talk to a person on the other sides of the circus grounds. So I took it out!

One can now swipe left or right to go to an npc and click on them to start the card game. And this makes the game much better. yay! The downside of this is that it makes the already short game even shorter. But I'll add more questions to unlock to make up for that.

I also made a (terrible and ugly) website for the game if anyone's interested in taking a look.

There's a wonderful game development in Berlin every two months called Talk and Play. I showed my game there last week and my to-do list on Trello shot up from 20 something items to nearly sixty.

The take aways were:
+People like the art style.
+People like the music

-People had trouble understanding the mechanics
-As the game gives you no feedback on cards that reach the top, but do not unlock other cards; There was little sense of accomplishment if you did not happen to use the right card against the right person.

I've made some changes in order to help people understand the mechanics. A simple change was to add a hand sprite behind the cards in the player's hand and to move those cards closer together than the cards on the grid. This makes it clear that the game does not take place on a 3x4 grid, but on a 3x3 grid, the extra row on the bottom is to show you what cards you can place on the grid.

Additionally, arrows on the card light up depending on what column they are placed on. This helps make the connection between the arrows on cards and the directions they can move in.

The gif below should highlight these changes:

The other issue (no sense of accomplishment when you bring a -wrong- card to the top, is a little harder to address.
I want to add a counter to the top of the card game that gets +1 for every card you bring to the top. In order to place to harder cards, this number needs to be increased.
Then I want to reduce the amount of cards that don't unlock further cards at the beginning of the game. This way there's less chance of a player having no sense of progression in the first few interrogations.

I jazzed up the website for the game and sent off a little press announcement, which got me two features so far. The main benefit of this (apart from feeling encouraged), is that a handful of strangers signed up to get an email on release.

Okay, thanks for making it this far!


(1 edit)

I've been working on the graphics recently (excuse the gif compression) and adding some more content. I now have all the dialogue I need for the game and its no longer quite as short.
So there's just some bugfixing and usability stuff left to do!

The two aspects of the game that still need a lot of work at the moment are the interface and the fact that the card game and the dialogue system don't complement each other as far as the gameplay is concerned.

The UI contains a lot of visual noise at the moment, so by removing ui elements until they are required, the player can more easily see what they should interact with. An example of this are the text bubbles on the left hand side. They are now only displayed after you have asked your first question and they begin to fill with dialogue.

To further simplify the UI I have changed the text displayed on the players cards. Whereas they used to display the first three words of that question, I.e "where were you…" they now simply say "Question 1" or 2,3 etc. The important thing is that one can still differentiate them. But the text no longer grabs your attention when the most important part of the cards UI are the arrows showing their movement options.

The game can be played and beaten without reading any of the dialogue on the left hand side of the screen at the moment and I want to circumvent this by giving the player hints as to who has the answer to that question. So by successfully bringing a card to the top row against the ringmaster, he might then say, "I don't know, but you should ask the magician". This information will then also be stored on the card itself. The text on it now says:
" Question 2
-Ask the magician ".

This will reward players who take the time to read the dialogue and make the process of deciding which person to interrogate next less random.

And this is a page from the intro comic at the beginning of the game

Okay, I'm nearly done with the game, there are just some bugs to fix and optimizations to do and since I had to capture some footage in order to hand my game in for IndieCade I ended up making a little trailer.

I plan on releasing the game on first and then mobile a month or two later. I've always been interested in seeing how games sell on so I'll share my numbers here then.

Thanks for reading!

And the game is now available on!

yay! It'd be great if you'd give it a try. Right now I'm getting less downloads than expected. Zero to be exact :'( But maybe that'll change and I'll post here again in a week or two, since some of you might be interested in knowing how many downloads a dev with no name can get on itch.

The game has now been available on for 6 days and has sold 9 copies. Which is a lot less than I would've hoped. I have also gotten zero press and non of the 30 or so youtubers I've written have responded. So If anyone has any tips on what I should've done differently in the press release I'd be super grateful

Also! Here's the release trailer

I'm not yet a popular game developer or a member of the gaming press, but I'll respond so you're not typing into the void.

Was a press release necessary for a title like this? It might be good to assume that nobody's gonna read more than a line. Instead of a cover letter I would want to be taken right to a nice, brief webpage where i can watch the trailer and grab the game at the same time.

Also, the trailer makes the game seem bland. The music may work for the thinky sections of the game, but it's plodding for a trailer. In the beginning the trailer holds on a still frame of the woman in the yellow jumpsuit for four whole seconds. That's WAY too much time to have nothing happening (this sort of thing feels like an issue throughout, imo). Also, the trailer makes it seem like there are no sound effects in the game. The card concept is cool, and some nice card flipping and playing sound effects would have been pleasing audio.

The concept of interrogating witnesses through a card game is neat though! Something that i think would have added a lot is different visual reactions from the witnesses depending on your questions (Have you played Phoenix Wright?).

Cheers and best of luck selling your game!

Yay, my first reply :)

Well, the press release was quite concise and pointed the reader to the website and presskit. I think if one were to just link to a website it would seem a bit lazy.

Good feedback regarding the trailer. I think its difficult to make a turn based game seem exciting and I probably should have used a faster pace. I kept it slow to make sure everyone would be able read the text and understand eveything.

And good point regarding the facial expressions. That's something I had planned early on, but lost track of the idea somewhere during development

aaaand the game is now out on Android and iOS! yaaay

Hopefully I'll get a few more downloads than the 11 I've had on so far. I did send out my press releases in advance this time (2 weeks) and touch arcade already wrote a short article announcing the release date. So I'm crossing fingers.

I'll post here again with some download numbers in a month or so, because I think a comparison between (few users, but better visibility) and the mobile storefronts (billions of users, no visibility) could be interesting. But then it'll be time to start a new thread for some new game (finally)!

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