An exquisite corpse (referred to as EC from now on) is originally a free form word game played by 20th century surrealists. In short, it is “a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled”. A popular version of the game that I often played in college consisted in passing a piece of paper around in a circle, on which one would describe in words/images the previous drawing/sentence passed on to them (without any context whatsoever). An instance of the game could take place as such:
Player 1 writes: “The cat jumped off the house”
Player 2 draws: <An attempted sketch of a cat jumping off a house>
Player 3 writes: <An interpretation of the attempted sketch of a cat jumping off a house>
And so on… until the idea behind the original sentence is deformed beyond recognition.
The appeal of the game is mostly derived from the absurdity of the sentences and drawings created. As it stands, there exists no competition between players, but that will be addressed later in the GDD.
So, the overall idea is to create a mobile game in which players can create ECs at any time with their friends. A point system is integrated into the game in order to introduce competition between players and generate more interest in the gameplay. After the game, players are able to save ECs to their gallery in order to share the absurdity online.
The format for EC is one of a mobile party game, played among friends in an online lobby. The purpose of the game is to encourage creativity and absurdity in a moderately competitive context for the sake of fun with peers.
3. Target Audience
Ideally, this game would be played by individuals on their own time and with a group of friends. This targets anyone with a smartphone, five minutes to spare here and there, and a group of people willing to partake in the game. One could think of it as an absurdist’s Words with Friends.
4. Game Flow Summary
The player should progress through the game without much effort. Among a group of people, one person creates a lobby with a unique code, which the others use to join the game. Once it starts, every single player starts an EC narrative. A narrative is simply a set of sentences and drawings, which collectively form the EC. So, with n players, n narratives are created simultaneously.
After every player submits their sentence, it gets randomly assigned to a unique player, who then draws the next piece of the narrative, which in turn gets sent to another unique player, and so on. Once every single player has contributed exactly once to all n narratives, the game ends.
All players are then sent to an interface in which they can traverse all n narratives. This is analogous to the surrealists reading the product of their work. Once all narratives have been observed, players are sent to the matching interface.
In the matching interface, the first and last sentence of each narrative is displayed on screen, in a random order. Each player then has to guess which first and last sentences come from the same narrative. If the game is played correctly, the first and last sentence of each narrative should be somewhat related, but also absurdly different. A fair amount of guesswork will probably be necessary. If a player guesses correctly, they gain points, and if they don’t they gain nothing. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Note: In order to facilitate the game flow, players should be prompted to play via a notification whenever it is their turn to contribute to a narrative.
5. Look and Feel
Since this game isn’t the most intuitive to learn, the look and feel of the game should be simple and clean. It should not overwhelm the player with unnecessary information that would break the game flow. However, an overall theme that supports the gameplay would also be a great benefit.
A temporary idea for the overarching theme would be to fall in line with the game’s historical context. I can easily imagine subtle sketches of surrealist writers in the background providing instructions with a black & white color scheme.
Gameplay for this application is relatively simple and can be divided into four sections:
1) Writing: during this phase, the player needs to either come up with an original sentence to begin the narrative, or write a short sentence describing the drawing from the previous player. As this project progresses, it may be necessary to provide players with an initial sentence in order to jump start the game and avoid unfeasible sentences. Additionally, these stock sentences could be chosen from a category that the player does select (cf. Fibbage). In order for the sentences to remain somewhat obscure and absurd, the player is only given 30 seconds to write their sentence.
2) Drawing: during this phase, the player needs to perform a simple drawing. This drawing should depict the scene described by the previous player’s sentence. In order to ensure that the drawings remain somewhat obscure and absurd, the player is only given 30 seconds to complete the drawing.
3) Matching: during this phase, the player observes the first and last sentence of all narratives created by the group (displayed in a randomized order). The player then needs to match the first and last sentences of each narrative. The player has 30 seconds to complete the matchmaking, and receives a point for each correct match.
4) Outcome: after the matching phase, the player with the most points wins the game.
As mentioned earlier, the interface for this game should be as simple as possible. The somewhat unusual nature of game makes it relatively unintuitive, and therefore, the UI should not overwhelm the player with unnecessary information. The images provided below originate from the very first prototype of this application and are not necessarily representative of the final desired look. However, they should convey the simplistic intention behind the UI design.
The player begins by accessing a main menu with three options:
(a) Create Lobby
(b) Join Lobby
Option (a) creates a new lobby and provides the player with a lobby code that can be used to join the lobby. Option (b) prompts the user for said code in order to join a preexisting lobby. Option (c) is discussed below in section 5.
Once a player joins a lobby, they are prompted to provide a screen name. The names of all players are then displayed on screen until everyone has provided a name. If all players have provided a name, then a timer counts down from 5 to start the game.
All players begin by writing a sentence (or may be provided one for the initial sentence, as described above). That is, all players are brought to a writing interface (cf. Figure 1) in which they can provide their sentence. The top right corner of the screen should also display a 30 second timer. Once the timer is done, whatever the player has entered will be submitted as a sentence to the next player.
Once each player has submitted their initial sentence, they are sent to a drawing interface which displays another player’s sentence (cf. Figure 2). The blank space between the sentence and the submit button responds to touch input and provides the player with a way to create a crude drawing. The top right corner of the screen should also display a 30 second timer. Once the timer is done, whatever the player has drawn will be submitted as a drawing to the next player.
Players cycle back and forth between these two interfaces, each displaying the previous sentence/drawing to draw/describe (cf. Figure 3). This cycle continues until each player has contributed exactly once to each narrative.
Once players have run through, all players are shown the matching interface. This screen should display the first and last sentence of each narrative. First sentences should be on the left, and last sentences on the right. The player is then able to draw a line between the two sentences in order to represent a match.
Note: With n players in a group, there are n narratives coexisting simultaneously. Therefore, the matching screen needs to display 2n sentences on a single mobile screen, which is somewhat impossible. So far, a temporary solution has been to display placeholders (numbers, shapes, etc..) instead of the sentences. Hovering over those placeholders would then display its associated sentence.
6. Results and Gallery
Once players have submitted their matches, results are displayed on screen, as well as links to each narrative. Each link brings the player to a series of scrollable screens where each screen displays either a sentence or a drawing from that particular narrative (in order of course). The player then has the option to save a particular narrative to their gallery (accessible from the main menu). This gallery displays links to all saved narratives in chronological order.
Since the game originates from the minds of surrealist artists, I find that giving the game a surrealist vibe is a neat idea. Small, simple surrealist doodles could be placed in the background to provide an overarching theme to the game. Should the game be given a tutorial, surrealist drawings of imaginary animals could help the player navigate the UI. Again, it is important to remember that these artistic elements should not overwhelm the player, but rather provide an amusing backdrop to the game. Figure 4 is a tentative example of the desired style.
EC would ideally be available on Android and iOS. I am currently developing a second, more comprehensive prototype of the game in Unity, which provides the necessary tools to create builds for both platforms