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Fluke Ball


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Rating: 3.8/5 (59 votes)
| Comments (28) | Views (19)

PsychotronicFluke BallIf your soul-crushing day job is making you lose your will to live—or at least your willingness to let your co-workers live—why not blow off a little steam by staging a few rounds of friendly competitive Fluke Ball? Why not? Huh? Huh? C'mon, what's stopping you? Huh? What? You say you don't know how to play Fluke Ball? That's no excuse, crazy muffin head, all you need is a few simple ingredients.

  1. An empty break room.
  2. Your co-workers.
  3. A microwave-based reverse-flux magnetic anomaly.
  4. Office supplies.

If you can't get a hold of one or more of the above (office supplies are expensive!), then may I suggest this free online computer simulation of the sport, courtesy of Andrew Paradise and Georg Pederson? It's fun, it's accurate, and it won't bring an end to civilization as we know it.*

The goal of Fluke Ball is to throw objects into the mysterious waves of force surrounding the office microwave, and knock out your opponent's objects when necessary. It's essentially shuffleboard, but sideways and with gravity. After you've each thrown five objects, the ones remaining in the anomaly will be scored based on how close they are to the center, and whoever scores higher wins a point. Best two out of three points wins the match.

First, select what type of game you'd like to play. "Tournament" is the one-player challenge mode, where you may unlock secret modes and characters. "Versus" gets you into a quick game with a number of options, including two-player matches. Choose your character from a starting line-up of corporate pawns who will immediately remind you of your own cubicle-mates, in spirit if not in morphology.

Once you're in the game, throwing stuff is a three-step process. Click on one of the pieces of office equipment sitting nearby on the table. Then position your throwing arc. This part can be confusing, because you're moving a giant weird shape around. Basically, wherever you click now is the point at which your character is directly aiming, and the shape describes the path the object will take through the air. Finally, fine-tune the object's flight path by moving the mouse up and down, and click again.

It sounds complicated, and it is at first, but it feels instinctive after some experimentation. The various characters have different approaches to the game, so experiment to find which one feels natural. Louie, for example, tries to recapture his childhood hoop dreams with an overhead jump shot, while the caffeine-distracted Fermina uses more of a lackadaisical pitch. The objects all have their own mass, which is part of the strategy. If you're trying to knock out a whole clump of your opponent's score-pieces, something heavy like a stapler is handy, but attempts at the bulls-eye might require the finesse of a rubber earth ball.

Analysis: Fluke Ball already gets 10,000 Psychotronic Points for sheer uniqueness, but the care and detail that Andrew Paradise has implemented sends the game into some kind of upper stratosphere of miracle quirk. Though they remain unseen, the break room has ceiling, walls, and floor, which you can take advantage of with the bouncier objects. The microwave anomaly operates a little bit like a floating blob of goo, but with strange magnetic properties. High-speed collisions, especially between metal objects, will sometimes provoke violent reactions and electrical discharges. Most characters have both a soft lob and a more powerful fastball in their throwing arsenals. It all contributes to a sense of depth and re-playability, which is further bolstered by a healthy dose of unlockable characters and game modes.

Enthralling as it can be, Fluke Ball does lack a certain presentational spark in spots. Sound effects are minimal, and music is non-existent. Georg Pederson's wonderful character portraits and animation could use voice effects as accompaniment, even if they were just grunts and sighs of disappointment. And some sort of tutorial would help players climb the steep learning curve. This quietly awesome game deserves to be an ostentatiously awesome game.

But at least it looks great, all decked out in expressive lines and sly humor. And once you break through a layer of initial confusion, you'll have an whole miniature world of strange physics to explore.

If you can't relate to the office environment, perhaps you'll appreciate the implications of the game's concept. Here these bored, unchallenged employees are finally facing a phenomenon unlike anything they've ever encountered, and they turn it into a pointless competition in a futile attempt to establish a microcosmic pecking order. The essence of human nature in a flash game. That's art, baby.

Play Fluke Ball


* Warning: Fluke Ball may bring an end to civilization as we know it.

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28 Comments

This is one of those games you start playing and next thing you know it's three o'clock in the morning.

There's a learning curve on the weight of things and how they'll act in the force field - maybe a display to pop up when you hover over an item to know how far it'll carry in the goo (what the heck IS that anyway?!?) would help.

Add a mellow music track and this game will have half the population in a trance. Then again that's typical cube-farm countenance isn't it?

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I second the "what the heck is that??" motion and would like to amend it with a "what the heck am I doing?" clause.

I like surreal games.

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What a truly bizarre take on the ball physics theme..... I thought the game's style and humor was neat, and the game's similarities to curling really brought out some sort of hidden canadian fury I didn't know I had. This one's definitely not run of the mill.

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@ Ike, hah, hidden canadian fury...that's one of the better things I've seen on the internet.

As far as ball physics are concerned, I thought the game lacked them completely, but your illusion to curling changed my perception. I kind of see how this game could be construed in a 'ball physics' way.

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Chrysanthemum October 10, 2007 12:23 AM

I thought this game was really cute and amusing, but it could've used a bit more "help" text. What are the advantages/disadvantages (if any) to choosing one person to throw over another? What's the meaning of the little blue arc that appears? (I figured that one out eventually, but it was really confusing for a bit.) Could we be told how things are scored in advance? I spent my first round not knowing if I won if I was the one closest to the center or if there was another mode of scoring, which made strategizing difficult.

It would've also been nice to have a story behind the thing in the microwave, just to enhance my gaming experience.

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I don't know what all the confusion is for. There is clearly a space-time anomaly centered on the microwave in the break room, and the soul-dead office workers have reacted to it the same way they would in the real world - by chucking stuff into it competitively, in order to establish yet another temporary pecking order and to distract themselves from the constant haunting sound of their childhood dreams slipping further and further away. It's a slice of life.

Seriously, this game is my new best friend. I'd say "Give me more games like this," but the presence of two such games in the same universe would produce a logical chain reaction that would destroy both games and possibly life as we know it, so I'm not going to say that after all.

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Psychotronic - or at least send the moon hurtling into the sun creating a new space-time continuum where only office supplies and really bad coffee existed

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AaronzDad - That is indeed a likely outcome. And one that should concern us deeply. You should hide the truth from little Aaron.

By the way, you're right - trance music goes well with this game. And did you know the break room has a back wall and a ceiling????? (!) I once threw a baseball in such a way that it rebounded and snuck into the center ring from behind! How is it possible to put such realism into a mere computer game? I am literally crying on the floor right now from the wonder of it.

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This is a game that I got totally sucked into. It definitely has an awesome style (I especially love that each person seems to throw things in their own way, the basketball style is awesome, and the bored girl just sort of ho-hums them towards the microwave nonchalantly. (Ho-humming is now an action, take note!) I also like the non-immediately obvious ball-physics in the game, something that made osmosis one of my favorites too.

But I think it needs an addendum - everytime you throw something, you need to shout some exclamatory sentence, such as "Eat Mondays, microwave!" or "This milk is Soooouuuurrrrrrrr!" Definitely makes a versus game more fun.

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This one definately prompted some of the more humerous comments. They could have called this one Crack Ball... it's dangerously addictive! AaronzDad nailed it with his 3 o'clock comment. Here I sit waaaaaay past my intended bedtime.

Ball physics, schmall physics... I've got some issues with the scoring on the multi-ring target level but overall, it is unique, fun to play, and I like it!

Thanks for the offering Andrew & Georg. Thumbs up for a fun game.

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I really love the characters. :-)

Also I don't really agree with people wanting more info on the objects. I like the way that just looking at the type of object will tell you most of what you need to know about its behaviour. (Coffee mugs FTW!)

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It looks like there will be two more characters later?

I discovered that a tennis ball will rebound off the floor ... was up against Kitty who throws underhand, and at first I thought she flubbed, but no, there the ball came back up between my stapler and milk. Evil. I guess the computer AI knows what it's doing.

There's ball physics... i'll spoiler it in case people want to figure out strategy by themselves.

You can knock the opponent's objects out of the center of the rings, everything bounces like pool balls. You can knock your own objects closer to the center. If you're not careful you can knock your own objects out of the field entirely. Be careful of your object placements coming back to bite you in the butt. I haven't figured it out yet, but I think the AI also uses strategy... one time I had three items in the center, and the other guy knocked them all out. Suspicious :|

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It looks like there will be two more characters later?

One of whom is really easy to unlock...

Play a tournament and win your first three matches in a row.

Haven't unlocked the secret character to the right yet, though.

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curse you Kitty! *shakes fist*

I could swear that evil woman is knocking my things off the board ON PURPOSE, in revenge for me knocking her stuff off :| She's aiming straight at them :| Knocked my mug out of the center with her stapler on the last turn and took the points :|

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Great game for office breaks!

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I've unlocked 2 secret characters, but is there a third hiding in the copy room on the right?

Also, beating the secret characters allows for new scoring modes - Closest Three and Majority. The scoring in majority seems to be bugged though, Every time I have played I ended up with more balls than my opponent, yet it tells me I have won, lost, and tied, seemingly randomly!

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My favourite so far, alongside Tall stump and Factory balls!

I've finished the lot. The last character is really something else! Suffice to say that I now have mystic powers, and can knock out pretty much anything my opponents put in the power-field-anomaly thingie.

But yeah, a back story would be nice, as would some additional game mods and characters!

This one is a keeper! :D

Best of luck!!!!

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Thanks everyone for the comments! I really appreciate the feedback.

@Chrysanthemum - The inclusion/exclusion of instruction is something Georg and I talked about when designing the interface. We hoped to make the throw interface intuitive enough to be accessible without instruction, partly in consideration of the international audience, partly in the idealistic pursuit of "Good Design". Your frustration tells me that more can be done to improve this.

As for other text, I see your point. I know that people either read help text or don't. Providing it for people who do is a good idea.

@coldfrog - Re: verbal comments, That's a great idea for developing these characters more, which they totally deserve. I'm sure everyone is happy that I didn't do that given my resources for this submission; without voice actors, it would amount to me croaking falsetto comments into a cheap microphone. :)

@zeke - I had to make some assumptions for scoring, that might be what you're seeing. I'll spoiler wrap the details in case people don't want to know.

The underlying collision circle or rectangle shape is how it determines where the object lands. Objects with extended parts like the milk carton and the calendar might show the sprite as lying in the circle even though the underlying rectangle doesn't.

@zxo - I'll look into that, I know how much scoring issues can ruin a game experience. I'm sure Jay will take a fix, even if the contest is over... everyone benefits.

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cute, i liked it. i played until the end and beat it no problem. only game i cared to keep playing so far

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What a great game! I totally beat the computer every time, and the physics aspect is nearly perfect--coffee cups drop, but a good aim with the desk calendar can clear the path to the center ring. Perfect.

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whats up george! Love the game. totally addicted...lol. way to go. My thumbs dont even get tired...

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Hey all, Jay just posted an update of the game with some of the results of your comments, most important of which is a fix to the scoring. Thanks again for the feedback!

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Bit of a problem with the aiming. I clicked directly on an offending object (in this case, an iPod), and set the arrow to shoot straight at it without arcing. However, when I threw it, my iPod went just underneath it and flew out of the room! More precise aiming, please.

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I enjoy this game! I like to play as Kitty.
I can see how this would be dangerous, I might play all day and forget to go to class.
I like it better without background music. Sometimes game music is just TOO cheesy.

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Aegeus> The real world does that too. It's called "gravity". ;-)

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hollah!

i just finished the game with louie, took less time than i expected but i've still ended up staying up til 3. i just didn't start until half two. heh

there's a third character in the copy room called:

jojo, some kind of ninja archivist. which i love.

louie's technique really suited me so bravo! still have yet to play as anyone other than him, though. haha.

x.

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The Big Unknown February 27, 2008 3:56 AM

Very enjoyable game. I like its foundation of absurd.

The physics seems to have some glitches. Several times an object would be deaccelerated in the field until it had very low momentum, yet when it barely scraped another object they both suddenly flew wildly away.

A feature I would like to see added is some label to differentiate your objects from those of the opponent, since it occasionally occurred that I had lost track of which object in the field belonged to whom (the color differentiation is nice, but I'm thinking of some kind of floating label when the pointer is placed above an object). There should also be an option to abort a game midst a round.

Anyhow, I finished the game (tournament, anyhow) with Louie - didn't take long. I'm now going to do at least one round with each character to see how the throwing mechanism differs.

Thanks Andrew!

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The big game of jam them all in to the small space slows my computer to a crawl... which is a shame... but apart from this the game is stupidly addictive and really intricate once you have worked out the properties of the throwing objects... good waste of my morning...

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