There is a story to Pokr, even though it is as small a game as there can be. And it is strongly interlinked with a well known psychological mechanism which in my case expresses itself as a mild obsession in the way i perceive games and the world. This mechanism can be described as looking for references, similarity, or: more of the same. Plainly said, i’m just a sucker for references. Well, we all are, or aren’t we?
The story of Pokr begins 20 years ago, in a time when i was still frequenting the arcades. There was a game named Gun Dealer. It was basically a Puzzle game of the Tetris variant with a Poker sujet, or to be more precise, strip-Poker, as pictures of lightly clothed ladies of the early manga-kind popped up after finishing a level (and i think that’s exactly what our game is lacking).
I never played this game, but i was instantly fascinated by it. I always liked games that simulated reality or better said, had a connection with some other thing, like movies, etc.
For example, i remember vividly how much i adored the game Willow, because i adored the movie (but of course it was a fantastic jump-and-run in itself). In contrast, i only played Ghostbusters II on Amiga because .. it was Ghostbusters (the same is true for Ghostbusters 1 on C64, which was not as bad, and even had a quite unique game machanic). I was fascinated by flight simulators, even though they bored me to hell. I even got kinda excited by the first surgeon simulator and i still see the 4-color CGA-graphics palette in my mind when i think of it (Yes, from an early point in my digital career, i was spoiled by the rich colors of Commodore machines).
I played the hell out of ‘Death Knights of Krynn’, or at last i tried, but never bothered with the likes of ‘Curse of the Azure Bonds’, simply because i’ve read the Dragonlance novels, and Forgotten Realms was in comparison only another distant name related to an analog game system i continously failed to get properly acquainted to (and that’s also why i adored Dragonstrike and just recently read all Dragonlance comics i could get my hands on). But of course my favorite RPGs were the grossly underrated Darklands, set in medival Europe, and the Star Wars installments Knights of the Old Republic. I didn’t quite get a grasp on the other Star Wars games even though i’m not a total stranger to FPS – i simply love the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series, set around the desastrous nuclear power plant Chernobyl, and of course Battlefield, the modern combat simulator.
I finished Great Giana Sisters and Katakis (without much enjoyment), because, right, they were basically clones of Super Mario and R-Type (and for the record, from the new promo text of the new Giana Sisters: More than 25 years ago Armin Gessert developed with GIANA SISTERS one of the first Jump’n Run games for the Commodore C64. The console manufacturers got anxious and tried to stop the sisters. .. that is a very lame but highly diplomatic piece of text).
To cut a long story short: I was enjoying good games for sure, but i would also play bad games when they were made significant to me, had some kind of reference to something i cared about. Or at least i would go through great lengths to ensure the particular game was too bad to play.
I certainly had my limits, and my brother would earn some lack of understanding from my side for playing ‘Knight Rider’.
In these days it was a common fact that conversions of movies are as a rule bad games because the licencing costs would devour a great part of the production costs, as the budgets of these games were much smaller than today.
Was not E.T. the poster game for the first video games crash in the early 80ties?
And for the same reason i played all these adaptations of movies and real life, i was intrigued by Gun Dealer, this lightly shabby action-poker. Tetris i played regularly because it was a good game, but to Gun Dealer i was drawn because it had to do with Poker. It was a kinda adult game for sure, and only some middle aged men, often with a mustache, smoking, played it (We were playing the hits: Super Mario, Super Wonderboy, Bubble Bobble, Tetris etc.)
Fact is also, i’m not too big a fan of Tetris-like and Puzzle games, though i might play them eventually. I didn’t care for Puzzle Bobble, a well exploited mechanics that still rules the day, and even though i recently finished Klax, i never played it in the arcades.
The whole point of Gun Dealer for me was the Poker sujet. In fact, i never even bothered to understand its rules, but 20 years later.
And still, it never stopped to fascinate me, this match of Poker and Tetris. This ‘fascination’ files perhaps in one of these more obscure departments of the brain which everybody has, of things that aren’t really pressing, and even seldomly see the light of day at all, but instead are lurking around, waiting for a time where circumstances are in their favor to express themselves, against all odds.Fast forward some 20 years, when i made another attempt to create games (the forth maybe?); The mobile revolution of our days. Recently i met a guy who also wants to make games and we started thinking what we could do. Our first collaboration, besides a server – chat program for the Java developement classes we attended is a game for the Oculus Rift VRJam. After one month the game gets finished, and we not only didn’t win, but my unusual attempt of a free flying game with two main paths and no die-condition flops totally and does not rise any kind of curiosity from our fellow developers.
After that we wanted to tackle mobile, particularly the libgdx development library, which i was afraid to take on alone. My colleague is a real code-head, he has an understanding of Java i can never hope to achieve (well, he has also more education in this field), as i, besides of the Java classes, never had any formal coding education.
Early on in our beginning friendship we discussed some beat-em-up side scroller RPG and what not, his dream is to make a RPG of course, but recently, after he was actually exposed to some game developement during our last project, he got cautious of any big project.
There was my entry – the lurking fascination got the better of me:
I thought about the smallest game possible and my old dream of a Poker-tetris popped into my mind. And even though my colleague is no friend of card games he agreed to do it. As a proof of concept of our collaboration.
The core idea was to drop cards on a playfield and to decide which combinations to remove, in contrast to Gun Dealer, which only allowed for the usual threes and more. And that’s exactly what we did.
Quite soon in the development proccess we added levels with different goals, which very much made it into a proper game.
And it has a two player option on one device, which is a reference to the old Nintendo Game&Watch Vs. series, which i was quite obsessed with..