Gimme Friction Baby is a game written for JayIsGames' Casual Game Design Competition #3, whose theme was Replay.
It's a pure, minimalist piece. There's some austere music; there are a few highly geometric elements, in black and white and pale blue. Even the lettering is a blockish sans-serif.
The gameplay is similarly free of complication. The player fires balls up into the space overhead, where they gradually slow (presumably thanks to stiff air resistance) and then expand to fill as much space as possible until the circumference somewhere touches a wall or another ball. The player doesn't even get to aim the turret, just choose when in the course of its slow arc he wants to fire.
The aim is to eliminate the balls you've already shot -- if any ball is hit three times by other balls, it explodes, leaving that space open again. If, on the other hand, a ball bounces back into the lower space of the screen, you lose. No extra lives, no second chances. Instant death.
Gameplay is thus a delicate process of trying to build ball structures that won't fill too much of the available space (lest you not have anywhere to park new balls), but where it's possible to bounce a new ball off several of the old ones (to maximize the destructive power of each shot). You may also find yourself pondering whether it's better to try to send a ball into a tight corner where it will have to remain small (thus taking less space, but making it harder to hit again) or letting it grow large (easier to eliminate, but more of a blockade to future shots). Considering how challenging it is to eliminate any balls at all, good scores tend to be startlingly low: breaking double digits is fabulous. Nonetheless, I find myself playing over and over.
I wish GFB were a little more about strategy and less about performance. I have ideas about the sorts of ball layouts that would serve me best, but in practice I seldom succeed in building them because I miscalculate angles or mistime shots, wind up with balls where I don't want them, and have to improvise. At that point it goes wrong the way a game of Tetris goes wrong: every mistake restricts the player's options further, makes it harder to maneuver new pieces, and escalates the stress until space runs out completely. The difference is that in Tetris the controls for dropping new pieces were a little more reliable -- you could mess up, of course, but not as often, not as easily.
This is one of those cases where a minor change of interface would turn the game into something substantially different. Imagine if the player were allowed to control the aim of the tower and line up shots. Or if there were an accuracy sight from the ball gun that would give the player a sense of the ball's probable course. Even if the "laser" petered out after a certain distance or number of bounces, that would make it easier to create purposeful structures. And to my mind, that's what is interesting about Gimme Friction Baby. There are lots of games about accurately aiming and firing round objects, from baseball and billiards to Snood and Luxor. GFB's development in this department is
not especially refined. It's the simple ruleset about ball expansion and elimination, and the strategies that emerge, that make GFB compelling enough to replay.
So I think this game could do better at the things I like about it. On the other hand, maybe adding doodads like laser sights or more controllable towers would just corrupt the simplicity of the designer's vision. Either way, it's pretty fun already.