The Experimental Gameplay Project Fails

Try saying this to someone you love

Oh, I am so very clever and funny. Worry not, the reborn EGP, playground of folks behind indie AAAs such as World of Goo and Crayon Physics, remains very much alive and well. It has, however, just announced the theme of its latest monthly rapid development competition – Failure. Oooh, iiiiiinteresting. Clearly, there are no games made for this compo as yet, but thought I’d see if I could encourage any enterprising RPS readers to pull something together while the deadline is still far-off. And if not, let’s all have a good old chin-scratch below about what kind of games could be made involving this concept. Me, I’d like to see one about a giant robot with no hands or guns that transforms into something entirely useless.


  1. Serondal says:

    How about a business simulation game where the goal is to drive your business into the ground as fast as possible by making poor business choices all the while stealing as much money as you can and shoving it int off shore accounts. Then you have to disappear at just the right time (The apex of money and risk) Or else you get arrested and spend the rest of your life in a fantastic prison in LA

  2. Freudian Trip says:

    And we could call it Atari: The Game! [/satire]

  3. Serondal says:

    You could play a robot on a space ship that is activated due to hull failure and your job is to go around sealing hull breachs as fast as you can to save as many humans inside the ship as possible (allowing them to get to escape pods) but sooner or later the amount of damage incoming from other ships firing on it will destroy the space ship so you always end in failure, it would just be a high score game to see who can save the most people ^_^

    It’s to bad I have no idea how to program a game.

  4. Ansob. says:

    How about pledging to join the competition and then failing to deliver anything?

  5. Metalfish says:

    Maybe you could use this to wrestle with the issue that puts many off games: people who are good at them have an easier time than those suck. If you’re rubbish you’re going to have to spend longer grinding or spend more of your credits on health potions than uber-weapons.

    How about a game where the central character is rather weak and not all that potent, but when he gets killed he temporarily turns into an unstoppable vampire/werewolf/motherbitch that has a much easier time of it.

    The challenge then becomes challenging the player to find the right time to “fail” to best overcome obstacles, whilst “failing” at an inappropriate moment may be a hindrance.

  6. Gothnak says:

    How about a one level Trials HD style game where you have to try and die in every single possible way. I’m sure i’ve found a couple of hundred ways on some of the extreme levels. Achievements unlocked for death on every single different crate.

  7. monkeyface says:

    I don’t like how the gaming of today encourages our children to fail.

  8. Ryan says:

    Frankly the best game about failure in my mind is probably Spelunky. Even though your striving for success, failure is one wrong click away.

  9. Aldaris says:

    Well, this is interesting. Me and a few friends of mine are still holding a meaningless competition of who’s egg worm generated creature is fastest, (Current all-round record is 29.58 m/s) so I’m looking forward to what gems this month will spit out

  10. Vinraith says:

    The Atari 7800 game “Impossible Mission” comes to mind, especially since a programming error resulted in the title being literally true.

  11. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    There are games in which failure is the best part. Mostly racing games. Trials 2 was brilliant in failure.

  12. LeFishy says:

    I took Ansob’s idea last month. This month I’m going for parachute failure probably.

  13. Oak says:

    A flight simulator in which takeoff is continually delayed by a succession of problems (fuel shortage, engine trouble) that end with the player beset by overwhelming acrophobia, forced to give the controls over to his NPC co-pilot.

  14. A-Scale says:

    Unfortunately everyone here will only suggest conditions for a bad success rather than failure.

  15. Pags says:

    I say we get really meta and everyone attempts to make something but no-one comes up with anything that works and no games end up getting submitted whatsoever.

  16. Baris says:

    Oh god, I hope some soon-to-be contestants are reading this comments thread.

  17. Saul says:

    Left4Dead is about failure for me. I love that you can actually have an awesome time dying. I’d think any entry to this competition that fails to do address this idea would fail to be a good game about failure. Ha.

  18. Ginger Yellow says:

    There are quite a few games where the goal is to fail as slowly as possible. Tetris. Harvest. Survival mode in L4D. Horde mode in Gears of War 2.

  19. jalf says:

    So does it count if you make a game that fails to follow the theme of failure?

  20. Harry says:

    What about a game in which your only objective is to die? It could be based upon a suicidal person/Japanese businessman, a would be martyr or even a suicide bomber.

    You need to get through the level/levels without dying to fail at the game, but succeeding in the ojective to fail. Meta.

    Nevertheless, an idea.

  21. PHeMoX says:

    An Edge game with Tim as the main character and a bunch of impossible to beat enemies? ;)

  22. Dave says:

    Could base around a cursing character, with spiky blond hair and a knack for bubble gum. He’s supposed to shoot aliens, and save women, but never manages to get out of people’s minds and into working order.

    We could call this game Duke Nukem Forever… nah.. that would be stupid.

  23. DMJ says:

    How about a “building and architecture” game about structural failure?

    The game presents you with a structure, and you have to work out the best place to apply a small force that brings the entire edifice crashing down.

  24. Serph says:

    There’s already a flash game where you have to kill yourself as an office drone who gave up on life. There’s also that other parody game where your player character gets killed and it shows the aftermath. So…how about:

    *An RPG where the main character(s) are doomed?
    *A game that glitches up halfway through?
    *A game about sabotaging other things? (spy, etc?)

  25. Xercies says:

    How about a game where you play as Winston from 1984 failing to get love and out of the nightmare of orwells future…and at the end there could be a boot in his face forever on the screen.

  26. eyemessiah says:

    Imo the gaming industry has already explored “FAILURE” to a sufficient extent.

  27. TeeJay says:

    A game where you have to design a product that ‘accidentally’ kills and maims as many customers as possible?

  28. Nighthood says:

    How about a game where you are skydiving and your chute fails, so you have to try to find heat spots to slow your descent, then land in the softest possible place, but no matter what you will die.

  29. Railick says:

    for some reason after reading all these comments I’m thinking . Why not combine some of them and make a game where you have to sky dive onto a middle eastern town and suicide bomb in midair just before you reach the ground to do as much damage as possible ? O.o (in other words your parachute is full of wtfbbq instead of a parachute)

  30. solipsistnation says:

    For a suicide bomber, dying is not failure. Dying is success– failure would be killing too few people.

    I guess the challenge here is how to take failure (that is, not succeeding at goals) and make it fun. Do you want to go for Failure as Partial Success (or Pyrrhic Victory) like the save-as-many-passengers-as-you-can game? I like @Nighthood’s “die in the least unpleasant way possible.”
    I think something else that makes this difficult is that in the end, most arcade-type games DO end in failure; you have 3 lives and either you get extra guys and keep going or you don’t and you don’t but either way you’re most likely to lose that last life before too long anyway.
    @Serph’s RPG-with-doomed-protagonist is an interesting start too… How do you make that fun, though, and not just frustrating? For that matter, how do you make failure as a concept not frustrating? Dwarf Fortress does say “Losing is fun…”

  31. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Hmm. Solipsistnation, that gives me a thought. What about a game where a character has to deal with such a personal failure. A failure to uphold standards, follow ideals, duty.. some such. Perhaps starting out with the portrayal of the failure.

    Or what about a game where the character is on a mission and the most silly and unlikely (and unreasonable) things happen to set him/her back? Could be interesting.

  32. Ginger Yellow says:

    How about a Big Lebowski game? The bums will always lose!

  33. Ginger Yellow says:

    To elaborate, it would be an adventure game where every bit of detective work would be fruitless, but the solution would fall into your lap anyway. And then they cut off your johnson.

  34. Sonic Goo says:

    Any tragedy will do.

  35. Serph says:

    @Solipsistnation: I have yet to see an RPG that ends in failure, which is probably because they’re so involving that people would be pissed off that their efforts didn’t do anything. However, a certain Square game *coughlivealivecough* used the concept very well.

  36. golden_worm says:

    Hows about an inverse RPG. You play the role of the GM deciding which creatures/traps/whatever to place in the path of the computer controlled hero. As the hero progresses he levels up gets better items etc. You could kill him at any time with a mob of high level enemies but the aim of the game is to get him to as high a level as possible while FAILING to kill him.

  37. Serph says:

    @Hmm-Hmm: That reminds me of what I’ve heard about Flower, Sun and Rain.

  38. anonymousity says:

    torment style quests death to pass through puzzles sort of thing.

  39. GigaClon says:

    Or a Tower Defense where your score is the damage you have dealt to creeps reaching your castle. “Trying to Succeed and Failing”

  40. solipsistnation says:

    @Hmm-Hmm: Games that start with a basically flawed character and let the player work through that character’s redemption (or descent into true darkness) aren’t really new, unfortunately. It’s such a great place from which to build a character that it’s been thoroughly mined already…

    I do like the bones of the idea as an examination of failure… I could envision a game where the character has a number of options, all of which are ultimately futile but which lead to different levels of failure…

    I think overall that we (and in particular, _I_) are failing to think outside the box enough to make a game about failure work. Games where the player’s efforts are ultimately futile would have to be very carefully written in order to avoid becoming simply frustrating. (The best and most obvious example of a game that starts with a deeply flawed character and lets the player choose exactly how that character fails is Planescape: Torment. The Nameless One has already failed a whole lot of ways a whole lot of times– the game itself is that character either failing or not failing as the player chooses. Either way, that success or failure is built on millennia of the character failing.)

    I’m not sure I have the perspective to take Failure as a concept and extrapolate it into a game anyone would want to play. I think this is a personal failing. (Oh the irony.)

  41. Captain Haplo says:

    The best way to fill this category:

    Make a game, the best game you can, a fantastic, glory-running love of a game that makes total game-haters fall in love with it just by concept.

    Then add Windows Live and DRM by the bucketload to it and sell it for 60-120 dollars.

  42. A-Scale says:

    As I stated before and solipsistnation fleshed out, this is a really difficult concept to wrestle with.

    In an episode of Spaced Simon Pegg is seen repeatedly drowning Lara Croft in Tomb Raider as a means to express his unhappiness. Generally, drowning is a losing condition in that game, yet for him it was simply a part of the game, or perhaps it could even be called the objective (winning condition). If one of these games says “try to drown yourself 10 times!” and you succeed, have you really “failed”, considering that you are successfully completing what is normally a losing action? To me, failure is simply the inability or unwilingness to complete a given objective. If you have your toothbrush smacked out of your hand as you raise it to your mouth you have failed to brush your teeth. Thereby, if the developer suggests, prompts, or otherwise hopes for you to do something (like drowning or dying), that is not really failure, but rather the successful completion of killing your avatar. The only way to fail in these games would be to do the opposite of the stated (and/or implied) goal. It would not be enough to have the dev say “try to NOT drown yourself” followed by you drowning. The nature of this content would belie the coders true intentions.

    In any case I’m excited to see how this pans out, though I doubt that many entries will fit the bill.

  43. solipsistnation says:

    @A-Scale: The thing that makes me think of is The Path, where if you actually do what it says and just stay on the path and go to Grandma’s house, you may win, sorta, but you miss the point. Only by straying from the path– failing to adhere to the one rule you’re given– do you succeed at the game. And that success is delivered in the form of a terrible end for the girl character you’re playing. Success is failure; failure success.

    …or, I guess, “The only winning move is not to play.”

  44. Golden_Worm says:

    @A-Scale Failure is the theme not the success condition. Failure = success = failure just loops around and around so instead how about situations where failure of some kind is integral to success?
    e.g. boxer throwing a boxing match (in a specified round while keeping the ref/public fooled?

    Running a casino where managing the failure rate of the punters is a delicate balancing act?

    or a game where you play a virus in a tron-like computer, you have too destroy the ingame engine without making it crash.

    “Marriage failure” where you play a divorce lawyer and you have to win your client the lions share.

    (reading this back most of these could be combined into a “las vegas” themed megagame, {set in a computer})

    just a few thoughts that have been running through my head.

  45. HJR says:

    Yes, but what about a game where you succeed? Now that would be something.

    I was thinking about a game about family life focusing just on the household. I guess like the sims except a little different and much more railroaded/linear. I could be more vague.

  46. Kommissar Nicko says:

    I’m late.

    Weren’t those Stair Dismount and Truck Dismount games all about failing as spectacularly as possible? They were strangely addictive.