PAX East 2010: Think Your Game Idea Is Any Good? Think Again!

PAX East 2010: Think Your Game Idea Is Any Good? Think Again!

From Left to Right: Jeff Kalles [Penny Arcade], Scott Kurtz [PvP], Tim Train [Big Huge Games]
From Left to Right: Jeff Kalles [Penny Arcade], Scott Kurtz [PvP], Tim Train [Big Huge Games]

Games with funny puns (oxymoron warning!) in the title, games rife with perverse sexual content and a few genius gameplay ideas peppered the Pitch Your Game Idea panel at PAX East 2010.

The format for this panel came about when Jeff Kalles started hanging out with Krahulik and Holkins of Penny Arcade. Kalles' job at Nintendo was to hear game pitches and decide which were the best ones to move forward with development, and the PA crew thought it was funny to spend hours pitching him their own ludicrous concepts. Krahulik pitched Amish Butter Churning, while the more management-oriented Robert Khoo, of course, pitched a business RPG, and Porkfry thought Backyard Rock Fight would be a great game. It was so much fun that Kalles ran the process as a panel at the first PAX in 2004 where attendees offered their ideas and got either viciously shot down or had their creativity rewarded with a prize or two. He's been doing it at every PAX since, and Kalles said it's his favorite event at each show.

For PAX East 2010, the panel consisted of Kalles, Scott Kurtz from PvP, and Tim Train, president of Big Huge Games. Kalles apologized in advance for any possible meanness saying, "If this is like American Idol, then we're all Simon."

There were a slew of ideas that were just silly like Transformers Volleyball (rejected for licensing problems) and a game about a group of badass female commandos which the panel dubbed Cooch Force Five. Some had a great initial pitch but the gameplay didn't hold up after questions from the panel. The best of these was a game based on ex-governor of New York Elliot Spitzer and it would only contain escort missions. Ba dum crash.

If the above examples are any indication, games with sexual innuendos were the norm. There was Celebrity Sex Tape Hero which "mated the modern rhythm game with the original rhythm game." In response, Kalles said, "That niche has been filled. Repeatedly."

Another game idea was called Just the Tip: See How It Feels which got an immediate yes, and seemed to have an interesting Heavy Rain-like concept which investigated the male experience of temptation and frustration, but was actually just a vehicle for massive puns. You'd go to a restaurant on a date, and the meal is free but you have to pay the tip. At a basketball game for another date, you'd only get to watch the opening tip. "On the way home, they get mugged and he's got a sword on him, but it turns out he can only get the tip into the mugger," said the gamer. "There's also flashback scene, some of his relatives were on the Titanic. You're playing the iceberg, in this case, and just the tip of the iceberg gets into the Titanic." The crowd laughed uproariously, including me. But it didn't win.

The top three games were decided by the panel. Third place went to a Moonwalker homage featuring Lady Gaga. Kurtz thought this idea would be commercially viable, and might even be fun. "I can think of a billion things for it, I can see her power up being Costume Change!," he said. "The sad thing is that this game would really sell."

"Virtually regardless of what the gameplay mechanics were," said Train. "I could see the first level in a women's prison."

Second place went to Don't Fall Out, an iPhone or DS game which had the very simple mechanic of keeping the protagonist from falling out of various objects like cars, trains or planes. You would touch the screen on structures to hold on to them and have to move to others when those structures start to break. "I love how the concept is so distilled, right down to its core essence," said Kalles. "What's my game about? You try not to fall out."

The winner was a potentially really dangerous game called iDrag, which is combination iPhone app and real life drag race. You put the iPhone on your dash when you are driving somewhere and it will ping you if someone driving near you also has iDrag running. Then the race starts to, say, the third traffic light from this one. "I'm driving to work and I turn on iDrag," Kurtz summed it up. "So then when I'm driving next to someone who also has iDrag on, they connect, and it's like 'You have a challenger!' But instead of two guys in nice cars, it's a guy in a Chevy and another in a Sebring."

"There's addons you can get," the gamer pitching it said. "After a while, it knows your way to work so you can link up with different people over time. You can take the seatbelt off and you get extra points." He went on: "You can actually turn on the phone and talk to people, perhaps the person you're racing against, and get 'star power' for talking while driving."

"It's like FarmVille but with car accidents."

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"It's like FarmVille but with car accidents."

*insert March Madness induced rage post here*

On a serious point, I can't see iDrag lasting too long on the App Store once the complaints over the crashes start rolling in. Don't Fall Out sounds like a good idea, however.

Make the Lady Gaga game a Facebook-game and you got a winner

I'd tell you my game idea, but I am way too paranoid with thieving bastards out there!

that, and I'm not exactly sure how I would morph the combat on a controller

Delusibeta:

"It's like FarmVille but with car accidents."

*insert March Madness induced rage post here*

On a serious point, I can't see iDrag lasting too long on the App Store once the complaints over the crashes start rolling in. Don't Fall Out sounds like a good idea, however.

I actually thought about farmers using it on their farm tractors, or two old ladies using it on their zimmer frames and trolleys on the way to the local grocery. :P

BTW nice avatar, old memories from Sam and Max, the most obnoxiuously satirical, demential, sadistic humoristic game ever, and I loved it, lol.

I think you could get some lively discussion if they did something similar here on the boards. I'd love to pitch my game ideas, even if they did get torn to shreds. It would be the reasons it was trashed that I'd be interested in.

I like the iDrag game concept :P

It seems really irresponsible to me that a panel of professional game developers could in any way encourage an app like iDrag. Entertainment for entertainments sake is great and all, but it seems blatantly unethical to promote a game that encourages people to put their lives in danger just to score points.

I'm more terrified of iDrag becoming a reality than GTA could ever have scared me.

thefunk686:
I'm more terrified of iDrag becoming a reality than GTA could ever have scared me.

There's nothing to worry about, Apple would never allow a game like this since the word "Drag" could also be in reference to a cigarette or a male in females clothing. Everything else is perfectly legal though. Add something about having to run over babies and I'm sure it would get past the approval process instantly.

Vitor Goncalves:
BTW nice avatar, old memories from Sam and Max, the most obnoxiuously satirical, demential, sadistic humoristic game ever, and I loved it, lol.

I missed Hit The Road, but I got Season 1 & 2 and love it. Yay for new series starting next month!

Calderon0311:

thefunk686:
I'm more terrified of iDrag becoming a reality than GTA could ever have scared me.

There's nothing to worry about, Apple would never allow a game like this since the word "Drag" could also be in reference to a cigarette or a male in females clothing. Everything else is perfectly legal though. Add something about having to run over babies and I'm sure it would get past the approval process instantly.

well, somebody on other forum said MMO developers should explore more side games for their MMOs. I guess if u replace babies by gnomes 90% of WoW players would buy it (the ten percent exception would be the ones who have one as main character).

thefunk686:
It seems really irresponsible to me that a panel of professional game developers could in any way encourage an app like iDrag. Entertainment for entertainments sake is great and all, but it seems blatantly unethical to promote a game that encourages people to put their lives in danger just to score points.

I'm more terrified of iDrag becoming a reality than GTA could ever have scared me.

*Smacks funk over the head with an iPad*

This is from the PAX expo. You know, the one run by Penny Arcade? Have you ever read the comic?

Do you really think they're "encouraging" a game like this to be made? One which won't, since it requires you to do something that's blatantly illegal? This has about as much chance of happening as Farmville shipping out real cocaine, or a game that records how many people you actually punch in the balls.

It's a joke. One they appreciate. Take a chill pill.

JeppeH:
Make the Lady Gaga game a Facebook-game and you got a winner

The amount of people who would play it would be redicioulous...Topple Farmville!!

Vitor Goncalves:

Delusibeta:

"It's like FarmVille but with car accidents."

*insert March Madness induced rage post here*

On a serious point, I can't see iDrag lasting too long on the App Store once the complaints over the crashes start rolling in. Don't Fall Out sounds like a good idea, however.

I actually thought about farmers using it on their farm tractors, or two old ladies using it on their zimmer frames and trolleys on the way to the local grocery. :P

BTW nice avatar, old memories from Sam and Max, the most obnoxiuously satirical, demential, sadistic humoristic game ever, and I loved it, lol.

It was also a comic beforehand. And a television cartoon.

Track down Sam & Max: Surfin' the Highway if you can. As good as the games are, this is better. (It includes Fizzball instructions.)

thefunk686:
It seems really irresponsible to me that a panel of professional game developers could in any way encourage an app like iDrag. Entertainment for entertainments sake is great and all, but it seems blatantly unethical to promote a game that encourages people to put their lives in danger just to score points.

I'm more terrified of iDrag becoming a reality than GTA could ever have scared me.

You're just scared I'll top your high-score.

...Without meaning to stickle overmuch here, I believe the man's name is Scott "Kurtz". Also, the article has him tagged as "Tom Kurz", which is honestly a closer misspelling of the half-crazed actor than the lovable webcomic artist.

Transformers Volleyball? Please! You might as well make a game based on the Star Wars Holiday Special!

I really thought the game that was going to win was Floor Is Lava 2.0... it looks like an interesting platformer...

Mine would probably be rejected again for licensing issues, but Greg, totally take this one to one of these PAX panels sometime; im dying for something like this.

Spore, but totally warhammer 40k instead of cute little organisms.

Cruise the warp, purge the heretics, and plunder ancient necron artifacts in a 4x style sandbox game that runs on a disjointed timescale. Everything occurs on the player's demand, Action when the player wants it, decorating when the player wants it, collecting items, objects, and people, and most importantly, meaningful exploration when the player wants to.

I always envisioned the warp as a purple place, so lots of time in a ship cruising warp currents looking for ways to get to some stellar object or location would be killer.

I can't believe iDrag won when there is no way it would be remotely accepted by Apple to become an App. It seems like a funny idea but in a world with laws and police it would never get past the approval stage.

ThrobbingEgo:

Track down Sam & Max: Surfin' the Highway if you can. As good as the games are, this is better. (It includes Fizzball instructions.)

I will! thank you for the tip. Didnt know the cartoons :)

Man, iDrag is an excellent peek at our inevitable cyberpunk future.

Poomanchu745:
I can't believe iDrag won when there is no way it would be remotely accepted by Apple to become an App. It seems like a funny idea but in a world with laws and police it would never get past the approval stage.

I'm guessing this wasn't a serious panel?

Hmmm, well my opinion is that the whole purpose of the panel is to find reasons something would be overturned more than anything as a joke.

That said, there have been plenty of more serious articles and such over the years about why your unlikely to get any idea for a game accepted. In many respects, it's much like comic fans who have "this awesome idea for a comic book", or how every busboy in Hollywood has some script he "knows" would be a massive blockbuster.

In the end it comes down to being able to put up money nowadays unless you have a ton of connections already at which point your not worrying about breaking into the industry. Hence why most of my own game ideas (which everyone has) are "if I ever win a massive lottery jackpot" or whatever. Chances are with modern game budgets I'd still have to line up at least one or two co-producers though, but having a bunch of money of my own to lay out would probably help me make the needed connections.

I have a ton of ideas, and honestly can see the problem with most of them. Truthfully though my favorite idea is to make a sandbox horror game in the over the top style of 1980s movies where players could create their own maniac (supernatural or not) and engage in a reign of terror in a variety of ways (and I actually thought up a storyline campaign for it). I even thought it would be interesting to try and set up something similar to real world police systems to plot how law enforcement responds/investigates based on things like the old "VICAPS" system and the like. Of course since I'd want to include torture, rape, and the most gruesome violence ever coded, I'd be aiming to intentionally release with an AO label.

Basically I'm a huge horror fan, and sort of figured that if your going to run around cutting up hookers with knives and such in a Grand Theft Auto game (or whatever) why not just flat out play a rampaging killer in the Jason Vorhees mode? With some of the games of this sort that have introduced stealth and such it also occured to me that you could also see ways of doing this in a more subtle way as well. The big thing hold developers back seems to be fear of an AO rating, and I kind of figured if I was a producer I might actually take a shot at it.

Of course out of my ideas (which I have mentioned before) that's probably the least likely one to ever see fruition.

Wish I could have been there. Got a couple of ideas I would like to share...

So, other than being a friend of the creators of Penny Arcade... How exactly is Scott Kurtz qualified to judge video game pitches? At least Gabe and Tycho actually have a couple of games based on their IP under their belt; Kurtz just has a webcomic with a tenuous link to video games that seems to get shinier and less funny with each passing week.

Greg Tito:
The best of these was a game based on ex-governor of New York Elliot Spitzer and it would only contain escort missions. Ba dum crash.

Hah, I know the guys who pitched that.

 

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