Don Marti

Thu 09 Sep 2010 07:07:40 AM PDT

A new kind of crime game

Last year I tried playing Zynga's "Mafia Wars" for a little while, and actually, it's more like "Grind Wars." But no matter how much you get bored by grinding away doing the same job over and over, the real problem is the way the invitation incentives are set up.

In Mafia Wars, you have no incentive not to add a random Facebook contact to your Mafia family. That's right, there's no risk in letting someone you don't know very well into an organized crime operation. This is obviously unrealistic, bogus, and not supportive of quality gameplay. Even something as simple as Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma is a more interesting crime game than "Mafia Wars."

What you need in a crime game is some risk in doing jobs and especially in adding people.

I wrote a simple game based on that idea last year, and when I ran into Adrien Lamothe at a café, he suggested doing an implementation in Ruby, and integrating with Twitter. So here's a YouTube link to a demo, work in progress.

(Quick Heist is set up to use Twitter instead of Facebook, in order to make it quick to make your play for the day, get out, and get on with real life. Remember, "quick" heist, not "grind" heist.)

If you've seen a heist movie, you know most of the rules. You get a crew together, spend some time and money planning the heist, and either you succeed and get the money, or someone betrays you and you have to figure out who it was.

In the game, each heist opportunity has a minimum member count and a required investment. You choose what to take on, and some time later the game decides when it completes. The time between deciding on a heist and getting the money is the planning phase. Possible scores go all the way from "steal cans out of recycling bins" with minimum members 2, investment 0, all the way up through larger banks, the DMV, a multiplex theater, and finally big stuff.

If you're not planning a heist, you can leave the crew, invite a new person to join your crew, or throw out a member. You can also transfer money from your personal account to the crew account, or vice versa.

In planning phase, you can't add new members or transfer money, but you can rat out your crew to the police. (You can't betray the crew outside of planning phase, because everyone gets rid of anything incriminating as soon as it's no longer needed.) Nobody else in the crew knows who betrayed it--just that the current heist failed and the money is gone. The police can also discover a job in progress at random, without any crew member having betrayed it. Nobody knows whether this happens or if a betrayal happened. Should be good for some, um, out-of-band discussions.

Anyway, we're going to launch this thing on an invitation basis soon, so if you want an invitation to play when it's up: follow Adrien on Twitter or follow me on Twitter, and we'll send out an invitation code that way.