Sampa Stories is a project developed at Design for Play and Toys class at University of Sao Paulo. It is a card game in which storytelling is the main concept behind its mechanics, and has theme based in São Paulo city.
Main Project Objectives
1. Storytelling based on emotion
An intrinsic element to board games is the real interaction between players. When properly implemented, the concepts of storytelling and emotion elevates the game play to a higher level of interaction and involvement between players. Thus, using these concepts, we generated options to give more emphasis on interaction and involvement of the players with the game and with each other.
2. Audience age between 17 and 25 years, used to board games
Considering the short time to think, concept and develop the game, we decided to focus on our own personal background. It was going to be easier to find play testers with the same age as us.
3. Brazilian element
One of the mandatory objectives of the class. The chosen element was the interesting characteristics of Sao Paulo city.
The decision was based on our group personal background, since we all experienced the city for more than 5 years. We tried to show in a easy and funny way our beloved home sweet home. Since Brazil is a very big country with a lot of different cultures, this game can show to the rest of the country some of characteristics of one the biggest cities of South America.
4. Easy mechanic
Keep it simple, easy and fun, so the players don't struggle while learning about the city and thinking about their stories.
Before starting the prototype, we decided to play some games based on storytelling. We picked seven games that storytelling were the core mechanic or it is related to a very important part of the game play. While playing those games we analysed their mechanics, how their storytelling part works and some interesting points that make those games unique. Some key words were generated to define the games tested:
1. Bang! > strategy / coop / interaction
2. Cards Against Humanity > creativity / interaction / storytelling
3. Once Upon a Time > storytelling / ending / objects / characters / fantasy / long / confuse
4. Nanofictionary > storytelling / fiction / fast / interaction
5. King of Tokyo > fight / luck / strategy / visuals
6. Dixit > creativity / visual / storytelling / interaction
7. Gloom > visual / storytelling / strategy
1. Brainstorm: What makes this city unique?
We first did a research about the main characteristics of the city of Sao Paulo. Using brainstorm methodology, we started to think about our own experiences living in Sao Paulo and remember other stories told by acquaintances. After gathering some data, we showed to some friends in class and more things were add to our pool of Sao Paulo material.
2. Refining Data
We separated those characteristics in five categories:
- Objects: some typical items and food
- Events: various situations, specially those that can only happen in Sao Paulo
- Characters: those odd people we see in the city
- Locals: places we can only go in big cities or that only exist in Sao Paulo
- Outcome/pay-off (Objective): usually what happens after spending a day or trying to get somewhere in Sao Paulo
3. Prototyping and Play testing
Using a different color for each category, we drew some cards and started play testing using as core mechanic the game Once Upon a Time. To make the game more interesting we tried to play adding some different rules such as:
- can't play repeated cards
- can use only a maximum of characters
- deny card (card "No")
- each player having their own timeline
- single timeline
... and other variations throughout the development.
4. Challenges and Results
It is hard to come up with a total new storytelling mechanic since we have such great titles in the market already. Starting with a existent good core mechanic helped a lot the process since our main differential was based on the Brazilian setting. However, we worked hard to add new variations to the core mechanic to fit our expectations and goals. Since our game has its own language, it turned out that the final product is unique even thought it was influenced by simple storytelling games mechanics.
Sampa Stories is a card game for 3-6 players where the goal is to tell a story using cards with key words organized between Event, Place, Object and Character. To win, the player must run out of cards in her hand and the card Objetivo (objective) should be the last card to be played at the table.
To help the player (and disturb the others) the card "Não" (No) can be used anytime as a deny to other player's action, forcing the player to play another card and come up with another part of the story.
The games received good critiques among the students that play tested it. Those who were from Sao Paulo found the subject familiar and identified themselves with the made up stories. Students from outside Sao Paulo also enjoyed the game, encouraging them in getting to know the city by visiting the many places showed in the cards.
The objective of the game is to allow the creation of crazy and unusual stories using very specific traits from the city. Still, the expectation and suspicion that they can really happen in Sao Paulo city is something that the players will only know if they come visit us. :]
Sampa Stories is a project developed at Design for Play and Toys class at University of Sao Paulo.
Cristiane Saito - art and interface
Fernanda Nunes - game design, playtest, interface
Henrique Susumo - game design and playtest
Special Thanks to
Professor Denise Dantas