It never ceases to amaze me how different my games turn out compared to my initial ideas so I thought it might be fun to chronicle that evolution this time around.
Part I: The Idea
Zombies + Lack of Coding Confidence + Greek Mythology + Questionable Artwork + a Young Child = Cyclopean Deathpiggies
Nobody has ever asked me where I get my ideas but I trust that someday I’ll be a rich and famous game developer who is asked that All the Time and so I figure I’d best start practicing my answers now. Some years back I played a game called Zombie Dice. In short, it involves rolling dice in an attempt to eat brains and not get blasted by shotguns. The dice have different colors, with the shotguns being a more likely outcome on red ones, less so on green ones, etc.
I wanted to try creating a similar “press your luck” type of game that requires players to routinely decide whether or not they are willing to risk their gains for a chance at greater reward. The first change I decided to make to the Zombie Dice concept was to add a game mechanic by which the Bad Outcome could occasionally be countered. The second was to add a selection mechanism by which the player had a level of control over the amount of risk being taken. The third was to portray the game through cards instead of dice… largely because I didn’t think I could do dice justice from a coding standpoint. Cards, on the other hand, would be easy.
Then came the theme. I’m a firm believer in the idea that the right theme can elevate the game’s fun-factor considerably. Given that I’d been playing Minotaurus quite a bit at that time I had Greek mythology on my mind and decided to try something along those lines. Teams of Greek warriors could be charging through a labyrinth, trying to collect gems and avoiding the minotaur within. A few minutes later I had my first card icons: a gem, a sword (for fighting off the minotaur), and the minotaur itself.
The initial version of the game in hyperPad was simply five cards that you could flip over and which were randomly assigned a status of gem, sword, or minotaur. You had to reset the game to play the next hand and all scoring/rules/what-have-you were handled by the humans involved. It was sufficient; my initial playtester (age 5) insisted on playing it for a good 20 minutes. The only real catch was that said playtester also wanted to know why there was a pig on the cards. I pointed out it was a minotaur. She pointed out it didn’t look much like one. (She, too, had been playing Minotaurus.) A pig it was then, but it needed to be a pig with gravitas; a pig to worth fearing. Hence “Deathpig,” which – when chanted repeatedly by a 5-year-old – quickly turned into “Deathpiggy.”
And yet it felt like it was still missing something. One adjective later we had “Cyclopean Deathpiggies.” I didn’t have a good reason for tacking on “Cyclopean;” it just sounded fun. In retrospect I think I was subconsciously still trying to slip Greek mythology in there somewhere. Then came the hard question: “Jungle of? Island of? Land of?” The last option seemed to roll off the tongue best when being said with a proper Pulp Adventurer sort of voice so there it was: Land of the Cyclopean Deathpiggies!
The next step was to flesh out the game a bit…
 I wouldn’t say that I play games because I want to be better at making games; I just like to play lots of different games. Still, it is a great way to get ideas, to see what works, to learn what doesn’t, and to discover interesting and different ways to approach various concepts.