Role: Designer, Prototyper Company: Social Chocolate (now SuperBetter Labs) Site: http://www.superbetterlabs.com Released: March 2011 Platform: Flash Concept: There are secrets to discover in this tiny microcosm. Bonds grow and fade, color lances across connections, and nodes wander with the wind. How can you affect it, what does it mean, and what will you leave behind when you find it? This toy was designed to convey science through a purely systemic approach. There's no overt narrative, no setting, no characters. Meaning is gleaned purely through interaction and mechanics, and the wealth of interpretations players leave behind when they complete the experience is enlightening. Design Notes: The Social Chocolate puzzle was designed to teach visitors the science behind our company, elegantly and (of course!) through a game. We found that not only did it drastically increase the time visitors stayed on our site, but that it encouraged constructive, positive commenting at a much higher than average rate (because they had to earn the privilege to comment, and the work was - usually - rewarding). We were surprised by the variety of interpretations that players devised, and what intelligence was attributed to the very simple (but emergent) behavior of the nodes. Another example of the power of minimalism and ambiguity.
Role: Designer / Musician Team: Chelsea Howe, Michael Molinari Website: http://www.to-what-end.com Dev Summary: A browser game created in Flash over 48 hours in Spring 2012 Concept: "To What End" explored player values, evocative ai, and minimal narrative. 5 puzzle pieces each quirky in their own way start the journey together, but the end of the journey is up to the player. With a limited amount of time, players can choose to stick together or sacrifice and move forward. On The Web:
Role: Designer Company: SuperBetter Labs / OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) Released: 30 April 2012 Platform: Facebook Impact: 11 Million (256 x Clicks) Concept: Emotions are contagious. Everything you feel, you spread on average to 6 other people, who spread it to another 6 people, who spread it to another 6 people. Can we use that contagious effect to spread gratitude to every single person in the US? We're going to try! Press Sampling:
Role: Designer / Musician Team: Chelsea Howe, Michael Molinari Website: http://www.the-end-of-us.com Dev Summary: A browser game created in Flash over 48 hours in Spring 2011 Concept: "The End of Us" was designed to evoke friendship, attachment, and affinity without overt narrative. The orange comet's behaviors - introducing itself with a walloping hello, then running away can-you-catch-me style, circling around you for attention or chasing after the stars (what do those do, anyway? Do you just want them because Orange does?) - are intended to endear. It might not arise directly from the actions (Orange spends a non-trivial amount of time bashing into you after all) but emerges from the familiarity of friendship, good and bad, and the hollow that arises after one-to-one attention vanishes, permanently, for whatever reason. As you grow and age and eventually start to fade alongside your friend, you come upon an asteroid belt that chips away at both of you. Your final (only?) choice in the game is who will take the fall, and who will have to suffer a solo existence after. On The Web:
Role: Designer / Producer / Animator Team: Robert Chen, Peter Clain, Yaw Etse, Chelsea Howe, Joyce Lee, Kevin Locke, Caitie McCaffrey, Hao Nguyen, Christopher Ra, Melissa Sung, Gordon Szebenyi, Matthew Whaley. Website: http://symbiosis.manojalpa.net Dev Summary: An incomplete PC game created in XNA in Fall 2007. Concept: Symbiosis is a two person networked game about the relationship between two dissimilar but dependent creatures. The players, one as a human, one as a beast, have no idea who the other is, cannot text, talk, or communicate in any way except through the actions and gestures of their avatars. Each character has its own skill set, but neither can survive long without the aid of the other. The beast requires the human's help to open doors and gates; the human relies on the horns of the beast to ward off attackers, and the speed of the beast to outrun that which can't be defeated by force. Part puzzle, part adventure, and part something entirely new, Symbiosis strives to give players a unique experience unmatched by any single or multiplayer game on the market. Why?: Without the stresses and deadlines of a company, our game design team has the ability to explore innovative and experimental gameplay. The idea of cooperative gaming is familiar, but never forces the players as deeply into their characters as Symbiosis. As naturally as an ordinary human can't understand the growls, neighs, or barks of an animal, and visa vie, the two players are unable to communicate through the spoken or written word, and instead must rely on their actions and a limited set of gestures to convey intentions, commands, or emotions. This restricted communication can lead to emergent pseudo-languages between partners using their gestures and motions, as well as a deeper sense of reliance and co-dependency. Design Notes: Our team strives to expand common perceptions of what a game is and how it ought to be played. Not only through restricted communication and partner-oriented challenges and puzzles, but through the nature of the player's goals as well. Toying with archetypal win conditions and experimenting with artistic styling in-world have set the gaming experience apart from classic RPG, adventure, and puzzle games.
Role: Producer / Designer / Musician Team: Sascha Adler, Nate Burba, Robert Chen, Chelsea Howe, Ben Humberston, Kevin Locke, Melissa Sung, Gordon Szebenyi Site: http://musicmonsters.manojalpa.net Dev Summary: A complete PC game created in XNA over four months in Spring 2007. Concept: Music Monsters examines transliterating between known aesthetic languages (music) and budding ones (interactive mechanics). Based on the idea that MIDI data (information on the frequency, duration, and amplitude of a note) can be applied to many other functions, Music Monsters explores the connection between the musical world of intervals, pitches, key, and scales and the physical world of size, strength, attack power, and ferocity, just to name a few. Play 4 measures of music to a young monster and watch it evolve based on the properties of the sound, then take your monster into over 20 levels based on its unique traits.
Role: Producer / Musician / Designer Team: Richard Hough, Chelsea Howe, Michael Molinari Website: http://playtipoli.com Community: @ Playhaven.com Trailer: @ youtube.com Released: 4 December 2009 Company: Proper Walrus, LLC. Publisher: Divide by Zero Games, Inc. Dev Summary: A complete iPhone game created with Unity3D over six months in 2009 Concept: Mint is sticky, Periwinkle is bouncy. With just one button, you can swap the constantly revolving pair and send them soaring through over sixty unique, physics-based levels. Experience their wordless tale of the trials and tribulations of love, helping them survive the only way they can: Together. Elder Geek interview talks in depth about my personal philosophy on Tipoli and its inclusion of minimal I/O systems, minimal narrative, and other 'enchantment'-based interactivity applications. Reviews: In addition to being Featured by Apple under "New & Noteworthy" 2-8 February 2010 and "What's Hot?" 9-15 February 2010, Tipoli has received many reviews from a variety of publications. Don't forget to check the iTunes store reviews as well!
- App-sized (30 January 2010) - Five stars! "Extremely affordable, unique and elegant, Tipoli is a great example of the hidden gems among indie games. Add to that a fuzzy feeling for a pair of lovers whose story is engaging and poignant makes this game a compelling buy."
- App.itize.us (21 January 2010) - Appitizeus is "a painstakingly curated presentation of the best produced and designed iPhone applications that are available for download via the App Store." They featured Tipoli and said: "A sun and a moon roll and tumble through the stylized landscape. Very moody illustrated love story that reminds me of a picasso oil."
- App Spy (January 2010) - 4: Good "For fans of simple physics games, Tipoli is definitely worth a look at. The game starts off deceptively simple to get players used to the game mechanics but the difficulty soon elevates and things become a lot more complex. So if you’re looking for a simple and enjoyable game to play, then Tipoli is a solid choice."
- Pocket Gamer (10 January 2010) - 6: Above Average "Tipoli is an original concept for a puzzler, though it isn't entirely successful, let down ever-so-slightly by levels that are more a chore than charming"
- Portable Gamer (January 2010) - "Tipoli is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch. At $0.99 it’s a great little game. And if you don’t conquer it right away, trust me. Just give it some time."
- Sioux Falls Video Game News Examiner (28 December 2009) - "I found myself loving the tranquil music, oil-painting art style and the overly cutesy, yet poignant, portrayal of love. There is plenty to love about Tipoli from the complex levels to the friendly price. This game is a bargain on the iTunes App Store for what you get out of it. "
- Nine Over Ten (27 December 2009) - "Sometimes, having an unique gameplay mechanic doesn’t automatically translate into having a great game."
- MacMost (23 December 2009) - "You control two little guys one of whom is stuck to the surface and the other who is continuously bouncing. All you do is touch to switch them. Very very simple, yet also very interesting. Give it a try."
- Slapp-App (19 December 2009) - 5/5! "Tipoli will get you hooked, no doubt about it. This one-button physics platformer will have you going back for more and more. The challenging and diverse level design, vibrant hand drawn visuals, and cute love story all make this game a sure pick."
- Elder-Geek (11 December 2009) - Worth Buying! "What do you get when you cross zen-like simplicity with challenging mechanics? You get a really addictive and entertaining brew that is Tipoli."
- Fall Damage (6 December 2009) - "If you are craving something indubitably addictive and you just happen to have an iPhone at your disposal than there is truly no reason not to go and get yourself a copy of Tipoli."
Role: Designer / Programmer Team: Melissa Fuss, Chelsea Howe, Carson Kjep, Lane Lawley, Sam Roden Website: http://quixote.manojalpa.net Dev Summary: A complete PC game created with Gamemaker over 48 hours in Spring 2010 Concept: Quixote is a non-textual, single button game that takes only five minutes to complete. Based on the Game Jam theme of deception (and additionally 'Rain, Spain, Plain'), the game follows Don Quixote and Sancho Panza through the Spanish countryside and, if you successfully destroy the windmills, Quixote's own skewed reality. As Sancho Panza, you can command Quixote to charge; each successful hit to a windmill blade reinforces Quixote's self deception, and the art of the game slowly morphs over time into the elegant and famous style of Pablo Picasso.
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Role: Producer / Musician / Designer Team: Seth Batty, Melissa Fuss, Benjamin Kalb, Chelsea Howe, Jay O'Leary, Shushan Xu Website: http://playinfluence.com Company: ActionXL Dev Summary: A complete PC game created with XNA over six months from Fall 2009 - Spring 2010 Concept: A single voice can change the world in this abstract, meditative real time strategy experience. Guide a lone id carrying your song through the bleak, sidling alongside neutral ids until they flash to your color and carry your melody in increasing numbers. Gain consensus against all odds, turning silence in symphony.
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