A little bit of time has passed since the results of the Italian phase of the Game Chef 2013 were published, and still I haven’t posted on my blog what the three judges said about my game. You can find here the original post, containing the judgements regarding all the three runner-up games. Here there is only the part concerning Pandora Unboxed:
Pandora Unboxed shows huge potential, and with a bit of work it could create a small revolution in role playing games as a medium.
The premise is strong and very fascinating, and the procedures are really innovative. The progression of the Control Questions seems quite engaging, and the idea of tasking the player directly with the tampered AI response is simple and effective. The format allows to play easily and quickly, integrating the game in your daily life and creating an immersive experience. Creating an app to support the game would also solve the issue of calculating the counters' values. Ending a game of trust and risk with the prisoner's dilemma is a quite appropriate idea.
The mechanics are somewhat asymmetrical, and it's a bit complicated to keep track of four counters (even if well contextualized). Additionally, the counters allow for strategically advantageous moves with a small amount of preplanning, while counting the points at the end of every I(n)teraction makes it possible to read the other player's choices.
Without a test on the road, we suspect that the temptation to betray one's companion to the machines might not be enticing enough, which might reduce the tension in the final choice. Additionally, it's unclear what it entails for a player to discover they're an AI - the possibility doesn't emerge sooner in the game, leaving the reader confused. The ending is a bit murky: what does it mean to betray for an AI and to betray it? If an adventurous player can see how an AI in this phase can come out as human, having shown feelings, emotions, maybe affection during the game, the flavor text points in a different direction, without clarifying the author's original intention.
We believe that the pre-game decisions on the themes, the city and so on are a bit off key. Our encouragment is to be brave and embrace the media shift in full, leaving the elements to emerge from the game without getting in the way of immersion.
The procedures of play are very accessible and (aside from the final videocall) Pandora Unboxed can be played by pretty much anyone. The current layout, on the other hand, could cause issues to dyslexic readers, or people with sight issues.
To summarize, Pandora Unboxed is a game of great experimental courage, in the true Game Chef spirit. It opens up a world of unexplored possibilities and new evolutions of gaming.