Back in late April, the No Fun Games gang (Renaud Bédard, Henk Boom and I) took the train down to Toronto to participate in TOJam. Over three days, we hacked together a silly game called Tea Time Quarrel. Since then we’ve had the opportunity to present the game publicly at TOJam Arcade and the Mount Royal Game Society. However, we never got around to officially releasing it… until now!
Though we’re quite proud of this little experimental game, our excitement for releasing it is tempered by the fact that the majority of players will not have the hardware peripherals necessary to play it. Tea Time Quarrel is a multiplayer game designed to be played with four game pads. There simply isn’t enough room on the keyboard to allow four players access to six keys each, and the limited scope of the game jam meant that we did not have time to implement a variable number of players.
Partly in light of this unfortunate restriction, I thought I’d write a little bit about how Tea Time Quarrel is played and what our design goals were in creating it.
The central idea behind Tea Time Quarrel occurred to me when I was reading an article about the fundamentals of game design (which I can no longer find, but may have been Jesper Juul’s “The Game, the Player, the World”). The article asserted that the rules of a game are agreed to by all players beforehand, and are fixed once the game begins. My inner contrarian balked at this statement; why couldn’t the rules of a game be defined dynamically1? Could the strategic creation and election of new rules be a second-order game mechanic?
The goal of Tea Time Quarrel is to be the first player to reach 100 points. Players can perform a modest variety of actions: jump, run around, collect teacups, attack goats2, attack other players, etc. However, none of these actions will inherently bring them any closer to a victory condition. Every twenty seconds one of the players is given the opportunity to propose a new rule. Rules follow a simple four-part syntax:
This may look complicated, but it’s quite simple in practice. For example, the rule “Each Teacup Adds Points” would give a player one point every time she collects a teacup. On the other hand, the rule “Least Jumps Removes Speed” would reduce the walking speed of the player who has jumped the fewest times overall at the end of each round. While the vocabulary seems rather limited, it can still produce 128 valid rule combinations3. Due to scoping and technical restrictions, it should be noted that the effects of rules do not currently trigger other rules.
Of course, proposing a rule is only half the story. A rule is only added to the game if a majority of players vote for it (“Democracy! Just as The Queen intended.”) This prevents players from designing rules that are blatantly in their favour. Instead, players must subtly seek the advantage while convincing other players to accept their new rule.
Whether you assemble enough peripherals to actually play the game or just have a good chuckle at the concept, we hope that you enjoy Tea Time Quarrel!
1 Of course the rules about making rules are fixed and agreed to beforehand, so this is just a layer of abstraction.
2 The “Goat on a Pole” is the TOJam mascot.
3 Rules with conditions of “Each Point” or “Each Health” can never be triggered, so they’re marked as invalid.