December 16th-19th 2011 :: Theme: Alone

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Expecting a Call

by devwil - 48 Hour Compo Entry

Created with FlashPunk.

Entered into the Ludum Dare 22 competition and created in less than seven hours. The theme was 'Alone'.

Expecting a Call is a game in which you play as sixteen separate individuals, each anxiously awaiting a phone call in their apartment.

Left-click on an apartment to make its tenant answer the phone.

Downloads and Links




Pixel_Phased says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 9:27am

wow, already finished, neat concept

nuprahtor says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 9:32am

Well, that game is quite addictive

flyinpancake says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 10:13am

Nice job! And the quickness too!

Mjiig says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 11:15am

Very clever, better than my idea by a long way and actually finished :) Nice work.

volando says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 12:38pm

neat neat neat, sorry (tlf)

Dec 17, 2011 @ 3:32pm

Wow, clean and.. very basic.

firehand94 says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 3:48pm

what does it have to do with alone though

J.R. Hill says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 3:53pm

Is there a way to win or lose this game?

Deza says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 3:57pm

Very clean, also, very boring.

agentmaine says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 5:35pm

I applaud the ambition, but it is only sort of related to the theme and it is more addictive then it is fun. Kind of like a boiled down and more fair version of farmville, which isn't exactly high praise.

Whitenickel says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 9:45pm

Very neat and addictive!

devwil says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 10:22pm

I'm very surprised that anybody is unsure about its connection to the theme. Each of the tenants is alone, despite how close they live to one another, and the telephone, despite each of their excitement to answer it, does not remedy their loneliness.

I feel like explaining it may do it a disservice. :( I want more games to be open to interpretation, and giving my own view of what the game means is unfortunately closes that kind of thing off, to some degree.

devwil says ...
Dec 17, 2011 @ 10:24pm

Oops! Too many verbs!

Suese says ...
Dec 18, 2011 @ 1:17am

Innovative use of the theme!

Dec 18, 2011 @ 6:23am

whats my goal?

devwil says ...
Dec 18, 2011 @ 7:02am

To help lonely people answer their phones. :)

By the way, I never acknowledged all of the positive feedback in this thread, which is actually very encouraging. I very much appreciate it.

I try to make games that are fairly conceptual (and proceduralistic, to (mis?)use Ian Bogost's term), and I recognize that sometimes this is at the expense of fun. Those are the pitfalls of exploring games as an expressive medium, though! I'm not afraid to fail a little here and there if I can simply provide an alternative to games that don't really try to say anything about anything.

Why am I shooting that Arab-type gentleman in the face? Because it's fun? Eh, it was kind of fun when I was in high school and playing Counter-Strike, now I'm just not interested.

Why am I jumping on these platforms and/or solving these puzzles? Because they're there? Eh...

[end arguably pretentious and defensive games-as-art mini-blog :P]

Acrux says ...
Dec 18, 2011 @ 11:03pm

Random clickfest... meh.

fishbrain says ...
Dec 19, 2011 @ 9:01am

Nice graphic style. Nice little idea which needs to be expanded upon.

Suese says ...
Dec 19, 2011 @ 12:53pm

This was a great entry for innovative use of the theme.

stefano_ninja says ...
Dec 19, 2011 @ 6:54pm

It was all right, but I don't understand the connection to the theme, because phone calls don't really mean being alone to me. but good stuff!

youdonotexist says ...
Dec 20, 2011 @ 6:02am

I like this. It seems like a concept you could build up on, especially on a multi-touch interface (I ONLY HAVE ONE MOUSE CLICK TO GIVE!)

The game started off as addicting, but very quickly tapered off. Adding some sort of element that changes things up a bit (outside of speed) would definitely keep me playing longer.

kelp says ...
Dec 20, 2011 @ 9:45am

Nice idea! It is not fun for long, but it is a good and creative interpretation of the theme.

iansnyder says ...
Dec 20, 2011 @ 6:17pm

Clever, especially for such a short amount of time. I totally get the connection to the theme; I actually had an idea where you'd be surrounded by people on a busy city street, but how you can still feel alone in that situation :)

devwil says ...
Dec 20, 2011 @ 8:26pm

iansnyder, interesting!

Thanks for the feedback, everybody else! Very much appreciated.

However, i think it's a little weird to say things like it's a "Nice little idea which needs to be expanded upon"! I'm not going to add features unless they also feed into the theme(s) I wanted to communicate.

I definitely see this being an interesting game to put on smartphones, though! The touchscreen would make a nice (albeit easier) interface, and a game about answering phones on a phone would be a pretty cool thing!

Dec 22, 2011 @ 5:13am

Fun until I realized there was no lose condition, and it was an endless positive feedback loop.

Penalty for missed calls, or an overall timer (the sun setting would have been visually cool) and then making it a high-score chase would have been a couple of ideas.

callidus says ...
Dec 22, 2011 @ 8:50am

more of a toy than a game ( no win/loose ) however nice clean execution, I guess after your explanation It fits the theme too ( think it says more about me than your game that I missed the link before ) good effort!

marudziik says ...
Dec 24, 2011 @ 10:59am

Too simple. I understand the connection to the theme, and definitely I can appreciate graphics - no problems here - but saying this is an art game is a little exaggeration. You didn't have much time and it's okay for less than 7 hours, but don't make it something it isn't.
Is it a game? There's interaction, but no real goal, no lose condition, no diversity in content (many clicks feels just the same as the first one). Is it art? As much as generating some random numbers can be an "art", as anything can be a subject of interpretation, or "overinterpretation".
Btw. you'd probably be interested in reading this:

Nevertheless, it's an interesting LD entry.

devwil says ...
Dec 25, 2011 @ 2:05am

I appreciate your feedback, but I think it's a little... presumptuous, to be honest. I'm sorry it's not what you think an 'art game' is, but I think you're overstepping bounds in proclaiming what it is or isn't.

Is it a game? In the sort of classical definition, maybe not, but calling this out for not being a game isn't relevant to me. It looks like a game and feels like a game and was made like a game, and I believe that all definitions are ultimately stipulative, so I really don't think it's an interesting conversation to have.

The game mechanics are deliberately unsatisfying. The thesis of the game is that technological communication is unsatisfying. I'm still not at all convinced I didn't succeed in expressing this. This game was and continues to be exactly what I wanted it to be. I don't see anything lacking from it in the context of what I wanted to implement. I am completely open to the idea that it could be better, but I haven't heard any convincing ways to improve it.

So is this art? Of course it's art, if only because I say it is. People trying to demarcate art and non-art are stuck in the 19th Century. As soon as someone presents something as art, it's art. You could even argue that objects not presented as art can be art.

The following isn't directly aimed at you, but it's just a few things that I do find relevant:

Games don't begin and end at their rules. All games include sensory or fictional elements, which the audience uses to contextualize their actions.

I don't think I'm a talented visual artist, but I think the visual art in this game is completely sufficient. It communicates everything I want it to. I really like low-resolution art. Not only is it the only art I'm comfortable making, but it places the onus on the audience to interpret pixels into recognizable symbols, which is what we do regardless of resolution and manhours. Also, low-res art isn't necessarily easier. It's quite restrictive, and each pixel's worth of decision-making is even more important.

I'm on a bit of a tangent at this point, but I really think Rez and Minecraft are two of the most beautiful computer games ever made, despite their lack of expensive, high-polygon-count art assets. I digress.

Nobody has commented on the use of sound in this game. I'm not lamenting it; I'm not so proud that I'm offended. However, I spent considerable effort and attention designing the sound in this game, and most people are treating this like programmer art on top of whack-a-mole. I mean, feel free to think that, but did nobody play this with the sound on?

As long as the game is running at a reasonable framerate, the background music and non-interactive sound effects are both in key and in time with each other. It was meant to be somewhat synaesthetic, and I deliberately used MilkyTracker and SFXR to make an aural environment that directly ties in to the game's fictive elements.

The phone ringing is a classic chiptracker arpeggiated sound that sits somewhere between a ringing phone and what I felt fit the background music. These arpeggiated chords are played back in stereo based on the apartments position in visual space, so I meant it to be an audio-visual experience as well as a ludic one. The background music itself could be heard as the echo of phones ringing. Finally, the sound made when a player successfully answers a phone is meant to be an abstraction of a person saying "Hello?" It's a two-syllable sound effect (if a non-verbal sound effect can have syllables) that is meant to mimic a human saying "Heh-lo". The sound design then becomes a concert of phone rings and "hello"s, and the one-sided representation of these phone conversations feeds into the theme of Alone. For all the audience knows, these tenants never actually get spoken to by anybody on the phone.

Maybe it's my failing that people ignored these elements that I thought seriously about. However, the aesthetic considerations that I took, as well as the interpretability of the piece, would certainly push whatever this is (software toy/game/bullshit) towards art.

When people in the games community act like they have some authority over the metaphysics of art, these people never strike me as people who actually have an education in the arts. Setting things apart as art and non-art is such a boring, if not dead, issue. I think Marcel Duchamp proved as much.

In this "game", not every click feels the same as the first. The first click holds a promise of meaningful interaction. The player's final click is a punctuation on an unsatisfying system.

I think Expecting a Call is an unsatisfying game. I also think this makes it successful as a work of art.

I won't apologize for being pleased with my work, but I do feel tremendous regret over involving myself in such explicit conversations about it. More games need to be open to interpretation, and–- while I'm allowing myself to do it-- I don't think it's good for me (the author) to be explaining my work.

devwil says ...
Dec 25, 2011 @ 2:07am

Correction: one way to improve it would be to make it an iPhone app. I think that would add a wonderful new dimension of context.

marudziik says ...
Dec 25, 2011 @ 8:33pm

Not my point to discuss if this is art. My point was to discuss it's quality, maybe because I apparently didn't get the idea behind it. I got that it's unsatisfying and stopped there. :)
Don't apologize that you're pleased with your work, as long as it's good.

triplefox says ...
Dec 26, 2011 @ 3:08am

I generally agree with critics that there's something missing from this game. In my model of design I look for a mapping to language - what vocabulary is "in the world," and what is afforded to the player.

If I were trying to show telecommunications keeping people alone, I would try to develop it a bit beyond "clicking to satisfy the person." As it is, everything at the surface of the game suggests that people are, in fact, satisfied by receiving the call, and you are doing the right thing and earning points by helping them. Only through an artist's statement does the subtext gain weight - so it fails "show not tell."

I would instead try to depict how answering calls pushes people apart.

Maybe they are at a party and when you click to let them take a call, they can literally float offscreen, and everyone becomes slightly less happy.

Or I could cut it down to one person and assign numeric values to various activities, including using the phone, and make the downsides of the phone greater than the benefits. (this would be a bit of a "sledgehammer" approach but still effective)

devwil says ...
Dec 27, 2011 @ 12:33am

I'm not convinced by your alternatives, but thanks for the feedback.

Ultimately, I just read this game differently than a lot of people are. Sometimes that happens.

Pierrec says ...
Dec 29, 2011 @ 3:18pm

Very clever.

Pierrec says ...
Dec 29, 2011 @ 3:20pm

It's funny because I tried to express quite the same thing in my own LD game (, but in a very different way. It looks like we both don't like phones :)

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