Thursday, January 8, 2015

Video Game Idea: Extreme Croquet

Croquet: Not as boring as you may think
I consider this to be a very unique topic because this is something that has caught my interest before in the past. Here is a little backstory of my love for the idea of extreme croquet. During the mid 2000's I was searching on the internet for something interesting, for a custom game that was unique enough that I could possibly experiment with. I initially searched for croquet and found that the normal way to play croquet was pretty bland and boring. Normal croquet is basically a game you would see around the country club, a game normally played by wealthy folks.

To my surprise, however, numerous variations of croquet existed, and once I found extreme croquet my imagination started to run wild.

Consider that I was a teenager still trying to find things that truly interested me at the time, and for whatever reason, thinking about extreme croquet just stuck with me. It was an otherwise normal blah game that was transformed to become something fun, cool and entertaining. That's what sparked my interest right from the start. When you check out some of the websites that are made for specific extreme croquet groups (and I only recommend the more professional-looking websites) you will notice that each extreme croquet club (or organization) has a different set of rules that they abide by when they play. Extreme croquet doesn't sit under the same restrictive umbrella of rules that normal croquet does.

No matter the terrain or condition, extreme croquet is played

Extreme croquet is more expressive and subjective in the manner in which players play. Perhaps it's even artistic in the way that the custom playing fields are set up. You can place the wickets next to trees, behind bushes, in sand traps, right next to water puddles, and wherever else. You can even create your own wickets and allow those custom wickets to be meaningful in a game. You can also place the end posts (that's what I'll call them) wherever you want as well. Some extreme croquet clubs keep track of scoring every time a player sends a ball through a wicket. Other clubs only record wins and losses. Some clubs even attach "style points" for "bonus wickets" as fun additions to their croquet experience.

Now don't some of these things I just mentioned relate to what game developers would do to jazz up a gaming experience for gamers? Customization brings out the best of some items, and when we consider the media form of video games, who is to say that we couldn't make an awesome video game out of extreme croquet?

Croquet in the snow? Unthinkable!
Let's begin by fleshing out what we would like to have in our custom extreme croquet video game. For starters, we have to determine how "out of bounds" we want the customized rules of this game to be. Remember, we are not making a normal croquet game, but rather an extreme croquet game. Due to the enhancements that game development could bring to this game, we would have to consider putting in some random items that would make some sense in adding to the gaming experience. I believe customization is the key to this extreme croquet video game. I would probably recommend an extensive Level Creator Mode.

For the Level Creator Mode, I believe we could give the gamer options such as whether the playing field would be that of an urban city setting, a rural neighborhood setting, a forest, a desert, a beach, a sub-zero paradise (like the picture above), or even a sports stadium that would be converted. Next, we could determine how many wickets we would like to play with. We could play with 6 wickets, 9 wickets or even more. For extra features, would we want to put in ramps to launch the croquet balls off of? Would we like to put in a trampoline just for kicks? How about a loop that's big enough to support a croquet ball all the way through? Some features could remind us of miniature golf in a way because of the added obstacles.

For basic visuals, here is how I would compare this extreme croquet video game's mechanics to...

Mario Golf

Marble Madness
Super Monkey Ball
MVP Baseball
I propose to take bits and pieces from the mechanics of the games featured above and mold them into the kind of mechanics that would be fitting for extreme croquet. We could establish the mechanics for how to swing the croquet mallet as a cross between a golf club swing and a baseball bat swing in one sense, and even after the ball is hit, we could allow the gamer to control the rotations of the croquet ball as it moves. We could experiment with the control sticks on the console controllers to move the croquet ball so that it will go through the wickets. Plus, depending on how much speed a launched ball has, controlling the croquet ball can either be very easy or very difficult. We need to make sure the player is in control of this option, that the player determines with a mallet swing how fast or slow the ball is going to go.

Just like with any other sports video game, this extreme croquet game would feature competitive modes to keep the players interested, such as Tournament Mode, Elimination Mode, Timed Matches, Knockout Matches, 1-on-1 Duels, 2-on-2 Team Play, etc. You don't want to limit the possibilities for an expressive game like this. You want to get in touch with the extreme croquet (like watching some videos online) environment a little bit before determining where to go with this video game. You could focus on things like momentum, tempo, mallet-to-ball detection and playing surface effects to capture the feeling of extreme croquet.

One thing that I think could be put out on the forefront in this custom video game would be the act of implementing incentives. Players would sometimes need to be given something else to play for other than to win a game of extreme croquet. For example, in Mario Golf, Birdie Badges are always featured to encourage players to shoot for a birdie at a hole. The more Birdie Badges a player collects, the more likely it is for that player to unlock another character or golf course in the game. Also think about Super Monkey Ball and how players are always timed to get their characters across the finish line before time runs out. We could put up timed challenges where players would need to clear the entire extreme croquet course within 3 minutes or so. If you want to factor points into the equation, measure extreme croquet's scoring system similar to that of the MVP Baseball series and how those games kept track of players' stats.

Now when it comes to a Story Mode or a Season Mode, I believe it should remain subjective. Extreme croquet is obviously not a professional sport so we can relax the playing schedules for these kinds of modes. If you want your extreme croquet calendar to start in January (not that I would in real life), then you could place the starting point of the season then. If you prefer March, April or May, then that's fine too. Even if you start in October for whatever reason, that's also cool. You could schedule just how many extreme croquet games you want to play for the season, hold your postseason tournament events and then crown a league champion at the end of the season.

It saddens me to see that extreme croquet has pretty much died down considerably in popularity ever since the mid 2000's. There's no real good explanation as to why extreme croquet has faded from the public scene other than for me to speculate that former extreme croquet enthusiasts have just lost interest or they no longer have the time to play so much anymore. Even when new extreme croquet clubs emerge it doesn't seem like they will last for very long anyway, probably at best lasting for 3 years.

Even so, I hope this custom video game idea for extreme croquet caught the imagination of my blog readers.

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