It should come as no surprise to hear that great things often spring from the simplest of ideas. This is also true in game design, and especially true in casual game design. After all, casual games, by definition, should provide simple, easy to pick-up and play experiences.
Gimme Friction Baby, by Wouter Visser of The Netherlands, is also based on a very simple idea, even though it may at first seem more complicated than it really is. Perhaps this is due to how the game starts you off without even a clue as to what to do. But the omission of instructions was deliberate: Wouter believes that including instructions on such an abstract concept could potentially be more confusing than just letting the player figure it out for herself. In case you need a little push to get over the initial inertia, however, here are a few simple rules to keep in mind...
Clicking the mouse fires the swinging turret and blasts a white orb up into play. Notice that when the orb comes to rest it will expand until it touches a boundary edge or another orb. Each and every orb you shoot behaves in this way.
The objective is to score points but to do that you must never, ever let an orb bounce back down and cross the dotted line. Ever.
2) Click the mouse again, but this time try to aim your shot while keeping in mind the warning just given.
Notice that when the orb in motion comes in contact with a stationary orb, it reduces the counter on the stationary orb by 1. Once an orb's counter reaches 0 it explodes and is removed from play, and you receive 1 point for doing so. This is the only way to earn points.
And that's all there is to it. But like any classic casual game, the rules may be simple but mastering the game is not. Every game begins the same, there is no random luck to blame. It's all you, baby.
Analysis: I admit that I was confused at first about what to do, but only until I realized what triggered the 'game over' condition. I kept firing orbs up into play expecting to destroy the ones already there. But when they bounced back down thus ending the game immediately, I began to wise up.
There is a certain paradigm shift that must occur when playing this game for the first time before the light goes on and the player 'gets it'. I believe this is due to a sort of cognitive bias we have as gamers: when firing a turret we expect things to explode... and to go fast.
However, this game is anything but fast. The gameplay forces the player to slow down, think first, and to plan each shot carefully. Each game therefore becomes a careful placement of orbs rather than a quick-fire session to arrive at the end result. The slower pace gives way to excitement as an orb inches ever so close to that fearsome dotted line, and strategy emerges as the key ingredient to an award winning recipe. Those who don't experience the paradigm shift may never appreciate the subtlety and the genius of this very simple gameplay design.
GFB is an easy and accessible game, but it can be difficult and frustrating, too. Earning points is a rare pleasure and you may soon be experiencing a nagging, addictive compulsion to play, to best that score that seems so ridiculously low. It has all the trappings of a classic casual game: something to pick-up and play for only minutes at a time, and to replay again and again. As mentioned in the comments the day it was first posted, "the way it plays is so subtle and different from game to game, the replay value is way higher than it has any right to be." -Psychotronic.
Congratulations, Wouter, on a truly excellent, original, and now award winning casual game design. This is a game that I will be playing for a very long time to come.
dancemonkey - This is a nice take-off on the bubble-shooter genre of games, with a great twist. Part of the fun of this game was just discovering how to play, and its simplicity in gameplay and presentation kept me playing for a long, long time. I actually like that you can't aim the turret, since I think otherwise it would have been far too simple. Points in Gimme Friction Baby are hard-won and very much appreciated, a welcome return to simpler times where scoring in a game was the beginning and the end of your reason for playing. Wouter deserves tremendous credit for creating a simple, elegant, and fascinating game that somehow manages to rope you in for days at a time.
zxo - It might be easy to write off after only one game, but the UI makes it sooooo easy to replay that you can't help but click again to give it just one more shot; before you know it, you've spent another hour shooting those little orbs around the game space! I think the aspect that really sets GFB apart is the orb expansion—a few pixels difference when you shoot can mean a final circle that is hundreds of pixels larger. It's what makes each replay different from the last, and ensures that the player doesn't get bored. Other games (not necessarily in this competition) might have as much replay value, but none offer so much with so little—almost always they are heavy in the randomness element. Here, you start with a blank slate and each game is completely defined by the user—in theory, you could make each replay exactly the same, something that cannot be said for other addictive games with high replay value (e.g. Nanaca Crash). Could GFB be improved by adding power-ups and obstacles? At first I thought so, but lately I've been leaning towards no. The strategy comes as much from where the orb ends up as from the path that it takes, and adding collectible power-ups would upset that balance and would only detract from the purity of gameplay.