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Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher

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So, guys. I'm pretty sure that, whenever you played Phoenix Wright, you thought to yourself "Man, this game would be so much better if it was about moral philosophy instead of high-stake courtroom arguments." You may not have realized you were thinking this to yourself, but it was lurking in the back of your mind.

Well, I have come to make all your dreams come true. I'm currently looking for play-testers for Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher, so that we can make it as awesome as it could possibly be before we unleash it on what is sure to be a starved market. After all, no one is filling that philosophy game nitch. The demand must be huge, right? Right?

ANYWAY.

If you are interested, the prototype build of the game can be played here.

If you could play through it, and PM me any feedback you have, you would basically be the best person ever.

Things we would love to know:

- What is your overall feeling towards the game?

- Do the mechanics make sense?

- Where did you really get into it?

- Where did you get stuck/confused?

- Is there any place you made a move you thought would present a specific argument and it didn't?

- Are the characters likable/Did you enjoy the story?

- What are your favorite moments? Any lines you enjoyed?

imma give this its own thread.

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Dis is good game. Scarecrow gives 3 and a half out of 2 donuts.

Really am loving it though, sadly my save data seems to have been deleted by my computer, so on the morrow I will have to begin anew.

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ok, trivial things first.

- i believe nitch is spelled niche.

- the interface could use some jazzing up. there's only 3 query options so they don't have to be buried in a submenu. having to click twice to ask each question gets annoying.

- the art style feels kind of amateurish. like fan art. perhaps work on it some more or find some starving professional artist you can pay in sandwiches or something.

- the title. socrates jones isn't a professional philosopher. he's an amateur philosopher with a strong aptitude! the alteration is nice, though. here are some other p words you might consider: paramount, peerless, perfect, preeminent, premium, prime, primo, principal.

ok, now i will answer your questions.

i definitely enjoyed the game overall. it's neat to see how well the phoenix wright formula translates to philosophical arguments. i did kind of miss the investigations part of phoenix wright, but i can understand not including an equivalent to make development more manageable.

yep, the mechanics make sense. i've already played a phoenix wright game so i got the mechanics instantly, but i think your tutorial would have done a good job had i not. also, good job on the low-stakes tutorial. i hate when games make the tutorial all in medias res and i have to worry about saving the world at the same time as i'm trying to learn what button makes me jump.

where did you get into it? probably

when your daughter dies. totally upped the drama. careful not to cop too much from phoenix wright, though. i'm heavily reminded of when his big-breasted mentor (i forget her name) gets killed.

i didn't get too stuck at any particular point. i did have the exact same problem i have with pheonix wright though: at some point i get exhausted, my reasoning skills kind of go out the window, i stop trying to think critically and i start trying to just figure out what is the answer that will get me through to the next question. it's like when you're taking a multiple choice test and you look at your answer sheet and you start trying to notice patterns in it instead of focusing strictly on the questions. does anyone else do that? i think another way of stating this problem is that sometimes i know what i want to say but it's kind of vague as to which combination of dialogue line and idea/evidence will trigger that. it starts to feel less like critical thinking and more like trying to figure out what the author intended for you to select. there was a good example of this in the john stuart mill part but i closed the window the game was in and the level select options did not persist. maybe you can just add a cheat button to unlock all levels? at least in your playtesting build.

ha, it looks like your next question already recognizes this problem. yep, there was a point where i thought a move i made should have worked but it didn't. i don't remember it exactly. maybe add in that all levels unlocked button and i'll find it.

yep, the characters are likeable. i felt like socrates was a little too dopey at the beginning. like, does he really need to ask his daughter for advice on how to talk to a salesman? phoenix wright came off as inexperienced, naive, maybe childish, but i don't remember him ever coming off as an idiot. i know the point of this is to set up the tutorial and to demonstrate that socrates doesn't initally care much for philosophy, but i think there's a better way to write the dialogue so that he seems more inexperienced and not plain stupid. also, this is a minor thing but

at the very end the real socrates said something like "see you in a couple dozen years", alluding to socrates jones' eventual death. i feel like that did not hit the right tone, slightly. just the way it's worded. you could say something like "i think we'll meet again" which says the same thing but i think puts more emphasis on socrates being eligible for philosopher heaven and less on that, yeah, like all other mortals he only has a certain number of years left. maybe this is a matter of taste, though.

there were a lot of cute moments in there but after the time spent typing the above most of them have kind of faded from memory. the one that sticks out the most though is that

your daughter says "called it an hour ago" when the real socrates reveals himself. because i was totally waiting for that reveal for an hour too. ha ha. good stuff.

also i liked how "rawr fear me!!" hobbes was. also kant should have talked about morning walks more. the idea of morning walks seems kind of funny to me right now. ha ha. i should go to bed.

final verdict: this is probably about as fun as philosophy will ever get. it's not perfect, but it doesn't have to be. ha ha.

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Hahahaha, I love you guys. This is super helpful. Looking forward to reading peoples thoughts as they come in. Just hope the people playing don't read them until they finish themselves!

Quick notes:

Scarecrow, game saves are stored in the flash cookies. I've been thinking we need a back up system on top of that, though, like passwords, as some people have their cookies auto-clear.

Hot: you could always edit the post you quoted to fix the spelling! I can't do anything about it now! Also, I like the art...

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Hey, Chief! Glad to see you visiting back on these forums, and giving us a behind-the-scenes look at your work!

I played the whole game through and was thoroughly impressed. I certainly learned a whole lot from playing this, and after completing it- left me contemplating a lot of what was debated. I had heard about many of these discussions before, both in school and in philosophical discussions with others- but what I liked most about this game is how it puts it altogether so concisely. In fact, I'd dare say if one was curious, they could play this game as a crash course over taking a full college class in Philosophy (I speak for only those who wish to invest their time in other pursuits aside from philosophical debate).

Whereas I've previously played a Phoenix Wright game as part of a demo, I never fully completed one of those games before. That said, the tutorial does do a good job showing how to play. The tutorial was a little dry though and I lost a little bit of interest at first. Though as soon as the story for the real game starts I was pulled in. So perhaps there's a way to make the tutorial shorter or perhaps make it somewhat more engaging might keep players glued to it.

Though I love how the deer is what ultimately brings you to the netherworld.

My thoughts:

- This is clearly a game for smart intellectual types. Not saying I'm necessarily smart, but I do consider myself in the latter group, and am grateful there are game developers out there willing to target this demographic. That said, it may be a riskier market with a much smaller base. People may prefer games with action and immediate gratification than reading and considering the philosophical implication of ideas. Still, I'd definitely support this!

To answer your questions:

- What is your overall feeling towards the game?

Already stated above. Was really impressed. I'm still thinking about the ideas they discussed. I'd actually like to discuss them now with someone, but think it would derail this thread and it's intent

- Do the mechanics make sense?

The commands are simple enough, but I agree with hot that often it felt like I had an idea of how I wanted to argue a statement, but either the game had not anticipated that response or only offered a different type of argument. Thus, even if one is engaged in the topic, to move past that point would often involve exhaustive trial and error where you ask the person to clarify or defend every statement which got kind of tedious. Not sure what else can be done for this though- these type of "debate" style games can not cover every possible idea every player has, but I feel there must be a way to keep the players interest at the same time. Perhaps there can be an argument tree displayed that diagrams the argument like a mathematical proof? That way the player can better see the opponents reasoning as well as perhaps their own.

- Where did you really get into it?

Only once they drive into the deer

- Where did you get stuck/confused?

Mentioned above. The trial and error questioning of every statement. Might help to "see" the argument displayed as a mathematical proof

- Is there any place you made a move you thought would present a specific argument and it didn’t?

Yes, a few times. One prominent one when

debating Euthyphro, and I wanted to argue that just because one does not believe in a deity or gods does not make him immoral or act immorally. But when I tried that angle, it only gave me the option that I had to argue assuming Euthyphro was correct in assuming that god(s) existed. Of course, this is a deeper discussion. Also, many times I tried using the Relevance question but to no avail- especially when the opponent made relative comments like "I feel.." or "I think..".

- Are the characters likable/Did you enjoy the story?

I really liked the overall story. I didn't like the main character of Socrates until he gets to the netherworld. Sort of agree with hot that the tutorial kind of makes him look like a foolish goof since it seemed like he never encountered a door-to-door salesman before. This might detract players' interest away or confuse them into thinking that the hero is one of those "lucky" goofballs like homer simpson.

Also, I guessed the ending as soon as he got into the netherworld- no lie :) so the whole time I was just waiting for that reveal at the end. I still like it though, and don't think you should change it. It works. Just one question though- what did the original Socrates propose as the ultimate answer to the source of morality?..

- What are your favorite moments? Any lines you enjoyed?

Little tidbits - as soon as it was mentioned that Socrates Jones was an accountant, I knew the symbolism. An accountant's job is to verify data and make sure it all adds up. They are supposed to be divorced from love and subjectivity- purely objective, looking at issues only mathematically. As an ideal, this is the perfect philosopher. Or the closest we can get to a human computer.

I think the overall set up of the situation and story was really well done. His daughter's obsession with Mill; Socrates Jones' unspecified history.. just what was the original Socrates' ultimate answer that let him leave??

Oh, and I thought the art was fine. Fit really well with the game in the same way Phoenix Wright's art fit that game. These types of games aren't about graphics anyway, but the content.

I'm wondering if this type of game can really allow for any sequels- not sure if this was even something you guys had in mind or specifically wanted it as a single game with no sequels. I mean- most other famous philosophers are dead, and it would seem silly to always bring Socrates Jones back to the netherworld. Then again, being from a scientific background, the whole time I wanted the debate to include physicists and mathematicians who look at the world objectively. I'd have a lot to say in this matter actually.

Maybe in a sequel Socrates Jones could debate a super computer like IBM's Watson? ;)

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Bumping this thread because I realized that, while I have talked about it on chat, I've never actually posted anything here since the game took off. Which means I am doing a terrible job at being vain and self-promotey.

Socrates Jones is live! It was the second best rated game of the last month on Kongregate, and that is in no small part due to the great feedback people gave me here.

If you haven't had the chance to check it out, here is a link to said game.

Also, have a stupid trailer we made:

(Not sure why embedding isn't working)

Oh, and a Gamasutra article...

Even though the game is out now, I'd love to hear any feedback that people have! Kongregate lets us upload new versions, thankfully.

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I keep forgetting to play this all the way through. Fucking other games distracting me with their radicalness!

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I keep forgetting to play this all the way through. Fucking other games distracting me with their radicalness!

I'm interpreting this as feedback that I need to make Socrates Jones more radical by giving him sunglasses and a skateboard. You know, to appeal to the youth.

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Jetpacks and dinosaurs work too. Or if you make it exactly like Mega Man but also different. That might work. And a pizza. Make me a pizza, and I will play your game.

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I played this like two weeks ago after it was featured on JayisGames, and I loved it. I'll give a more nuanced view forthwith, but for now, just get some praise! And an Internet cookie.

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so, if you had to do a sequel how would you approach it? with phoenix wright the answer seems obvious (there's always more crimes), but it seems a little trickier in your case. would you rely on the philosopher heaven conceit again or would you try to apply philosophy to real world situations? what you covered in the game seems like philosophy 101: would you go more in-depth with the ideas already talked about or would you explore new ideas and philosophers? is there a point where the ideas will become complex enough that it will kind of ruin the fun of it being a video game?

anyway just curious about your thoughts since you've probably spent more time thinking about this

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Not sure. If I was to continue with this -- which I don't think I will, at least not for a good while -- I'd probably make an expanded remix of the game before I did a sequel. Allow multiple counterarguments, with a couple different directions each debate could go (some being dead ends, requiring you to retreat back up the chain) expanding on the philosophers who are currently there, and maybe adding a few Epilogue chapters with Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, and Confucius. Or maybe some other trio.

I do think the accessibility of the game is a big plus, but Kant is pretty complicated as far as philosophies go and we managed to communicate the basics of him so I think we could get a little more complex.

But with that said, I'm pretty sure a sequel would explore a different subject matter than moral philosophy, and maybe mix it up between philosophers and real people. I do have a vague idea involving political philosophy and a real-world government organization, but i'd have to rethink it as it doesn't work as well with the plot changes in the first game.

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I played through the earlier version of this a while ago, but never got around to commenting. It's a fun game though, and I enjoyed playing through the new version to see how it's changed. I think it's interesting that (after

hitting the deer

), it's

Socrates

who ends up

dead

instead of

his daughter

. In the first version, I did find Socrates' reaction to that bit to be pretty callous and, although I still don't think I'd react that calmly if I

died and went to philosophy heaven

the story did seem a bit less jarring in the new version.

The argument with

John Stuart Mill

annoyed the heck out of me in both versions of the game; I'm well enough acquainted with

utilitarianism

that I knew that

the problem with the argument is in its allowance of (and implicit support for) uneven happiness distributions

, but

figuring out which statement of Mill's would cause Socrates to jump from "happiness distribution" to arguing against the happiness distribution

is pretty much a guessing game. The "correct" statement to challenge, "

as a result, one should choose every action in order to maximize overall happiness

" doesn't logically contradict the axiom that

an uneven distribution of happiness is acceptable

(indeed, the statement is almost a restatement of the axiom) -- it's the axiom itself that needs to be challenged.

That aside, I did enjoy the game and I thought it worked surprisingly well to communicate philosophical ideas (even ones as impenetrable as

Kant

). The multi-stage arguments really help break up ideas into understandable chunks, which is really neat. If there were to be a sequel, I'd like to suggest a philosophy of mind theme, since that's a topic that's close to my own heart (and there's lots of fun debates to be had in that area).

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- Is there any place you made a move you thought would present a specific argument and it didn’t?

Yes, a few times. One prominent one when

debating Euthyphro, and I wanted to argue that just because one does not believe in a deity or gods does not make him immoral or act immorally. But when I tried that angle, it only gave me the option that I had to argue assuming Euthyphro was correct in assuming that god(s) existed. Of course, this is a deeper discussion. Also, many times I tried using the Relevance question but to no avail- especially when the opponent made relative comments like "I feel.." or "I think..".

I was willing to overlook that issue, because I felt the game was trying to encourage the practice of tackling arguments on their own ground. So

you need to accept that whatever opinions you bring to the debate; your arguments will be stronger if you can use only your opponents views to show contradictions in their reasoning

. I think this is a good practice to instill early in the game, but some of the later events seemed to undermine it a bit. For example, when Socrates twists the point about

free speech

to argue against

Protagoras's argument that there are no things upon which everyone can agree

right after that example was presented as evidence in support of the statement

(and the idea that "some people believe that those who speak out should be put to death" is absolutely in line with his statement that there is nothing upon which everyone can agree -- he's not claiming to hold that position himself while remaining moral or that the act of free debate is absolutely moral, which would be a contradiction)

.

I think a lot of the confusion I had in the game stemmed from the fact that I was expecting the "idea slate" to correspond to axioms or evidence against specific statements, but often Socrates would often need a random statement to act as a launching point for attacking the ideas themselves. I'd really recommend that you separate out challenges of statements (does a statement contradict an axiom or fail to follow from previous axioms) from challenges of ideas (is an axiom outright false).

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