There’s a long list of things to hate about New York City, and the impossibility of finding parking has always been one of them. A dedicated parking spot (i.e., a neighbor’s driveway) typically costs in the $100-200/month range, which isn’t worth it for me, as I drive only once a week or so.

I’ve come home late at night a few times this year, only to drive around in circles for up to half an hour before I find street parking. It’s really bad. Terry and I began thinking of possible solutions.

Maybe I could try constructing Larry David’s car periscope?

Then I thought about those cheap camera drones that go on sale a lot. What if the passenger could send a drone to nearby blocks and look for open parking spots? I realized this presented a sort of cooperative two-player game between the driver and passenger. We could call it “UPS” — Urban Parking Simulator.

The driver’s job:

  • Follow normal traffic rules (don’t hold up traffic, obey one-way streets, don’t hit anyone or anything, don’t run red lights)
  • Decide when to turn or circle back, and when to keep going straight (farther from “home”)
  • Visually confirm that a parking spot is actually valid (there aren’t any no-parking signs, fire hydrants, or driveways)

The passenger’s job:

  • Pilot the drone in an efficient manner (don’t waste time sending it the wrong way, as it isn’t very fast)
  • Identify potential parking spots (empty spots along the curb, pending visual confirmation from the driver upon closer inspection)
  • Determine the order in which to check all the open-looking spots (hey, sounds familiar!)
  • Effectively communicate directions to these spots (cardinal directions, or relative?)

Best of all, there’s a natural time pressure (no one likes circling around aimlessly). Scoring could also take into account how far you went from home. Later down the road, we could add car and drone upgrades! Including hats to put on the drone!

We were pretty excited to try prototyping this, so I jumped into Unity the next day. On February 26 (about three weeks ago), I whipped up a sloppy proof of concept and sent it to some friends, but didn’t have time to blog about it. These wonderful volunteers gave me excellent feedback on it, and I’ll be working on the second iteration this week. Here’s a gfycat featuring a few seconds of gameplay:

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the primary goal of a solo developer juggling a lot of other commitments should be to prototype quickly and see what sticks. That way, I can build up a collection of solid prototypes and, with the help of others’ input, figure out which one(s) to sink more time into and flesh out further. The end goal is to leverage these “prototype plus” projects into partnerships with other folks (i.e., a dedicated artist, and perhaps even another coder). It’s hard to ask someone to collaborate with you on something when all you have is a rough GDD or, worse, an elevator pitch.

Speaking of prototypes, I’ve also spent the last week (March 5 – 14) on my take on the popular board game Scattergories. It’s got the dueling aspect of Anomia, plus a “veto” element that’s prevalent in e-sports. I got the idea from a random note I jotted down in my phone that just said “1v1 word game with pick/ban phase.” More on that soon!

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