Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

15 March, 2009

Weekend Design Challenge: The Giant’s Causeway
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 1:58 PM

One of the game designers I admire and respect, Brenda Brathwaite wrote me to propose a challenge based on her “Irish History Week”. She posted some questions with David Perry who mentions the Giant’s Causeway as a spectacular location. Brenda thinks this could be a great inspiration for a game.

So, let’s get into Weekend Design Challenge mode and consider this challenge. Some thoughts after the break.

One of the more fascinating aspects of the Giant’s Causeway is how unnatural it looks, despite being a natural formation. The hexagonal columns look like they must be man-made. One myth surrounding the site has a great Irish hero building it as a way to get to Scotland without getting his feet wet.

Brenda mentioned that, “Personally, seeing all the naturally formed hexes leads me toward something non-digital,” since hex spaces are common in some board and war games. The basalt columns also remind people of platformer games. There is a lot of inspiration to be taken from the location and turned into a game.

This is also your opportunity to get some recognition beyond my blog! Brenda said she’d post up some of her favorite ideas on her blog as well. Fame awaits you!

So, what type of game could you make that would incorporate the Giant’s Causeway into it? What interesting bits of myth or history could you incorporate? What type of gameplay would you design?


  1. Ooh. As a wargaming/hex fan, I may well have to sink my teeth into this one. Thanks, Brian!

    …I love that place. I want to go to Ireland.

    Comment by Tesh — 16 March, 2009 @ 5:20 PM

  2. I think whomever designed Qbert may have already used up all the inspiration :D But I’ll give it some thought…

    Comment by Bret — 17 March, 2009 @ 9:47 AM

  3. I’ve been to the Causeway. Very cool! And I believe there’s more like it on some Scottish isles, hence the bridge myth. As a geologist’s son, I can tell you those hexagonal basalt columns are by no means the only rock/mineral formations that boggle the mind. Pyrite (Fool’s Gold) is easy to find and often forms in perfect cubes. One of my favorites is okenite, crystals which not only look but even feel like fur (though by touching them, you break them… hey, i was an innocent kid!).


    If I were going to make an Irish adventure game, I’d base it on the High Kings of Tara and the Tuatha de Danaan. In other words, a combination of pre-Medieval tribal conflict and interaction with the faerie folk, the spirits of the original settlers of Ireland of whom almost nothing is known. Poems/ballads from this time often involve elves (conniving faeries) playing tricks on the living and inviting them to interact in other ways. An adventure game might focus on animosity between a particular High King and the faerie folk, and the protagonist’s interaction in both worlds in an attempt to restore harmony between them.

    If I were going to make the Giant’s Causeway into a platformer, I’d probably do something similar to the “word of God” scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where the professor jumped from tile to tile in a letter series. The player’s avatar can leap from basalt step to basalt step within a given distance, in an attempt to form words ala Bookworm, but the step falls away whenever the player leaps to the next one. If the player performs exceptionally well, then the sea washes over the stones and restores a few steps. The player continues until his avatar can no longer jump to another step and complete a word. As the player completes words, it “fills up” (highlights) columns on the Giant’s Organ (those tall basalt columns). How much of the Organ is filled up determines the bonus modifier at the round’s end.

    Yeah, I like my first idea better. :P

    Comment by Aaron — 17 March, 2009 @ 11:17 AM

  4. My own idea:

    When I was young, I had a picture book about “Finn McCool” (anglicized form of Fionn mac Cumhaill, linked in the article above). It told a bunch of stories about how the hero used cleverness to escape from seemingly impossible situations. As far as the Giant’s Causeway, I think it would be interesting to have a game about constructing the bridge between Ireland and Scotland. Possibly something with mechanics similar to Tetris, where you want to make a relatively flat landing using the basalt pillar pieces so the hero can move from one side to another.

    This could be part of a larger game (or collection of games) that tell the adventures of Finn McCool, as the book from my childhood did.

    Any other ideas?

    Comment by Psychochild — 20 March, 2009 @ 2:08 PM

  5. Hex based tactical war game between the Fae folk and the descendants of Lyonesse.

    Comment by Tesh — 20 March, 2009 @ 8:29 PM

  6. I’d make a game where the bridge is being fought over by opposing armies, perhaps each headed by one of the mythological heroes associated with it; the player’s army is defending the bridge, while their opponent is trying to storm across it. The player’s and enemy armies are both controlled by the AI, and the player tries to set up favourable positions for his army, which is outnumbered by the enemy. Part of the gameplay would include raising and lowering the basalt towers to provide the player’s army with height advantage, and to strategically block the enemy army so it can’t outflank or overwhelm his. So it would be a puzzle/strategy game. Gameplay might even be divided into 2 phases, strategic building/tearing down of sections of the bridge, with a time limit, and then an action phase where the armies use pathfinding to try to reach the other side. During the action phase, the player could control his selected hero and try to help out the AI soldiers by participating in the battle and evening the odds in places where his army is at a disadvantage.

    Or a game where each hexagon is divided into coloured triangular sections, and the player has to align a certain number of triangles of the same colour. This causes all hexagons involved to be highlighted (rising above the level of the water, or maybe sinking below it, depending on whether the player is trying to build the mythical bridge, or knock it down). When the player highlights enough hexagons, they proceed to the next level. Bonus score for each level can be obtained based on completing each level by avoiding highlighting the same hexagon repeatedly.

    Comment by Destral — 23 March, 2009 @ 8:35 AM

  7. One more:

    In this one, you control Finn, who is trying to build the bridge. You play a variety of minigames, and for each round you complete, one hexagonal tower rises from the sea. The height of the tower is determined by how well the player does at the associated minigame. Finally, once the tower is built, perhaps there is one last 2D platforming minigame where the player has to actually traverse the bridge. Perhaps the player would have a limited endurance/health bar that depletes as they jump and climb, and then they must use that same limited endurance/health bar to defeat Benandonner. So the strategy would not be to get the highest score possible in each minigame, but to try to get as consistent a result as possible in each minigame to limit the amount of endurance spent before reaching the Boss at the end of the bridge. To add greater incentive to do well with the minigames, there would have to be greater concentrations or more dangerous enemies closer to the bottom of the areas of the bridge minigame, and maybe power-ups interspersed near the top.

    Comment by Destral — 23 March, 2009 @ 8:44 AM

  8. The Deep Physics – Intro

    [...] designer first and foremost and enjoy the game design challenges that Dan Cook and Brian Green like to post on their blogs, then this series is probably not for you. If a framework where you can [...]

    Pingback by Dancing Elephants — 7 July, 2009 @ 11:55 PM

  9. Whatever happened with this? I finally got around to hashing out a game design this last weekend, and mean to polish it up and make a PDF of it (like I did with Alpha Hex).

    Comment by Tesh — 27 July, 2009 @ 9:50 AM

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