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Awkward: Making a tabletop-style party game for console

Development Director at Snap Finger Click, Martijn van der Meulen, discusses their latest release Awkward. This adult party title was made for multiplayer and optimised for broadcasting using the team's years of experience in making social games.

Awkward is a brand new party game from Snap Finger Click. The aim of the game is to answer divisive, uncomfortable and sometimes controversial questions while another player tries to guess what you think. The questions start out gently, asking if you prefer hot dogs or hamburgers, or if you spend your weekends staying in or going out. But as you progress, the questions get increasingly more difficult:

"Would you have a night of passion with your best friend for $1m?"
"What outrages you the most, sexism or ageism?"
"Do you think you're the smartest of all your friends?"

 

Snap Finger Click is mostly made up of former developers of the now defunct Relentless Software who made the BAFTA-award winning Buzz! quiz series. Prior to Awkward, we released two party games: Act it Out!, and It’s Quiz Time. Making games that people can play together is our passion, but with Awkward, we also wanted to try something new, something not done on console before, and something that appeals to a big audience.

Act it Out! and It’s Quiz Time are both E-rated games, suitable for all ages. It was hard work securing those ratings as the smallest reference can push the rating up. Most party games tend to be T-rated and we noticed a problem with this: a game suitable for teenagers excludes families with younger kids, but also can be a turn-off to older adult groups looking for something more risqué. This can make it hard to find an audience as it floats between two age groups. And finding an audience is already a challenge for an indie studio! So having already made games for the family-friendly market, we spotted another gap at the other end of the spectrum: party games made for adults. While there are many successful adult tabletop party games such as Cards Against Humanity and Secret Hitler, no such games existed on console. Our goal with Awkward was to make an M-rated title, standing out against other party games as being for a solely grown-up audience.

In all our years making party games, there are a few things we’ve learned along the way. Two of the biggest constraints you have to consider are the number of controllers and the number of players required. With console, the only guarantee is that there’s one controller. Relying on players having multiple controllers narrows the potential audience you can reach. Similarly, the more players you require to start a game, the less chance there’ll be enough people in the household to play. Every party game we’ve ever worked on has always shown the 2-player game to be the most popular way to play, even if it was designed to work with more players in its main mode. From the beginning, we decided that Awkward had to be playable with just one controller and it had to work well as a 2-player game. To achieve this, we designed the core gameplay starting from a group of two players, and built outwards from there. We found posing a question to two people at a time with a simple button press input worked well, and we were easily able to add extra players by dividing players up into teams of two. Since the game is designed to cause debate, we found even large groups are happy to wait their turn as they can join the conversation with each question asked. 

Something that sets party games apart from other genres is the need to be evergreen - the game must be replayable in short bursts to keep players coming back time and again. It was vital to make Awkward enjoyable in bite-sized chunks with an addictive quality. Each game of Awkward is fairly short at around 10-15 minutes, depending on how long players spend debating between questions. We played around with this quite a bit, but ultimately decided this was a great length for a game since it’s easy to get into, but gives the players a ‘just one more go’ mentality. When were testing it, we found ourselves playing for hours because we just wanted one more game. Had we made the games last longer, it could be off-putting to play again. Awkward comes with 5,000 handwritten questions which is far more than most players will be able to get through. Even if they did, the wonderful thing about Awkward is that it changes with every play according to the group playing it. If you play enough to see the same question, it may be posed to someone else this time, prompting a different experience and a different debate. As well as learning more about your friends and family, Awkward lets you compare yourself to the rest of the world with every question revealing how other players have answered. It’s really fascinating to see how your views measure up worldwide and often produces some surprising results.

A staple of all Snap Finger Click games is the Live Show feature. We think it’s important to cater for broadcasters, and party games lend themselves particularly well to interactive streaming features. Our focus is specifically on supporting Twitch, YouTube and Mixer. We introduced Live Show with our first title - Act it Out! - where the host acts out secret phrases on camera while the viewers type their guess into the chat. The game is able to read the text and detects when someone has typed the right answer. We also included Live Show in It’s Quiz Time, letting the viewers take on the host with a series of multiple choice questions, again detecting viewers’ answers from the text in the chat. The Live Show mode in Awkward is our best yet, perfectly suited to the social nature of broadcasting. The host answers the questions while the viewers try to guess what the host has said. The game maintains a leaderboard of the best-performing players, highlighting the viewers that know the host the best. It’s a great way for a broadcaster to get to know their followers better and we believe it’s a truly awesome and innovative features that makes Awkward stand apart from its rivals in the party genre.

It’s been just over two weeks since Awkward released, and seeing people having fun with the game has been a real joy. Every play of Awkward is delightfully unique, and we love to hear the personal stories behind the answers people choose. With the addition of Live Show, we get to experience games a lot more than usual, and we’ve seen everything from smaller, intimate streams, to 30,000 people playing with Sodapoppin on Twitch. We’ve also had so many people contacting us with their suggestions to spice up the game with their own house rules such as Strip Awkward, or Awkward: The Drinking Game. One of the most magical things about making party titles is that half the game is something you can’t control - how the players interact with each other in the living room - and that’s different for every group and every play. Awkward was certainly a risk for us in a departure from our previously family-friendly titles, but it’s a risk that’s paid off. At Snap Finger Click, we continue to innovate in the party genre and we’re looking forward to sharing our next game with the world!

Key Takeaways:
• Look for a gap in the market within the genre of games you’re making.
• Take inspiration from successful titles in other similar industries, such as board and card games.
• When making a multiplayer game, the more controllers you require, the smaller your potential audience.
• Groups of two are the most popular way to play multiplayer games.
• Embrace streaming - it’s a great way to promote your game to a wider audience.

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