Author Archives: Emory OConnor

Radical Game Design: “Down and out”

The leading lady herself

The leading lady herself

My game is about a woman named Kaira who lives in a post-apocalyptic swamp world. She has amnesia and is trying to recover her memories while also keeping herself and her friends alive in the swamp. I got the idea for the game several years ago and was able to bring part of it to life last semester in the nonlinear game class. My basic premise was based on the idea of a post-apocalyptic swamp and the kind of animals that would inhabit such a place. This is why for much of the game Kaira is the only human I wanted to showcase how different this world was from our own. One of the ways I tried to make my game different visually was making the environment unnaturally colored, the grass is purple and the sky is magenta! While I wanted the setting to have a bit of a fantasy element to it I also focused on making cool colors and specifically keeping green out of the game. This will contrast with a later map where the colors will be much warmer to illustrate that this other location is an oasis of warmth in the swamp. I’m not sure if my game qualifies as radical right now. I do know there is a specifically combat based mechanic I want to implement that I have not seen before. I’d say my game is raddish, working on being all out radical but with a bit of room to grow.
Magenta can be the sky too

Magenta can be the sky too

But I also wanted this very unrealistic place to have connections to reality. One NPC encountered in the first level is a bioluminescent swamp wolf. While his fur is a normal color for his species it is the algae that has made its home in his fur that cements both this individual wolf as well as his species in the “Down and Out” universe.
A red wolf with some algae friends

A red wolf with some algae friends

I was originally designing a plain gray wolf with glowing bits before I discovered that there is a type of wolf that lives in Florida’s swamps, the red wolf. While this wasn’t the biggest change it added that connection to our world that I was looking for. Before making the wolf a specific type of wolf the game didn’t have a real-world location in mind after this however I realized this game took place in post-apocalyptic Florida. For now the wolf encounter functions to hint that this place is an altered version of a real place. Also in all honesty it was an excuse to include bioluminescent fauna, which has fascinated me since I was a kid. d&o cap1 Other than the swamp wolf Kaira also encounters an african serval in a tree, animating him falling out of it is a trial I am working on overcoming. Once Kaira encounters him he will turn his attention to the follower character, a lizard person called Zhis. Zhis and Shari, the serval, know each other it turns out. Shari functions as the game currently stands as a hindrance rather than a helper. He distracts Kaira and also makes the player backtrack to gain his favor. Eventually he will be a follower character like Zhis, once I learn how to do that at least.
an angry boy falling out of a tree

an angry boy falling out of a tree

zhis front sprite copy As we can see Zhis, unlike Shari and the red wolf, is an animal from pure science fiction. An amalgamation of bits and pieces of other animals. She also fills a different role than the other NPCs encountered thus far, she operates as a companion while also reminding Kaira of their overall goal. In the paper prototype the most confusing element seemed to be lack of a clear goal for the player. I hope by having a cutscene with Zhis to make things a bit clearer without removing all elements of mystery, they are playing an amnesiac afterall! As far as where I want to go from here, I need to make a cutscene because as Zhis and Kaira are currently programmed they cannot interact. I am also working on animating and coding Shari’s one time animation and making the wolf collide correctly.  

Nonlinear Narratives: Down Post Mortem

background pt 2 copyswamp grass copyswamp water walkable copy My game is about Kaira making friends in a swampy wasteland while on her quest to regain her memories and find out why she lost them in the first place. The game is right now basically a walking simulator. It will eventually be a choice based RPG with follower characters and branching dialogue and story options. In her quest to regain her memories she will eventually also realize she has a sister that she needs to rescue. The McGuffin is exploration as the only way Kaira can regain her memories is by exploring and solving the challenges she and her companions face along the way. For example Kaira is trying to regain her memories and some of the things she needs to regain those memories are in parts of the swamp she cannot breathe in, so she needs to gain the trust of a companion who can breathe in those areas so he can explore them for her. While this character has yet to be introduced in this game build he will likely appear very soon as he is pivotal to the story. I used abstraction in that the game is less detailed than I originally was going to have because the scope of the project would’ve been so much. I used aesthetic in my game to try and give it a dark and mysterious vibe. I use the purples and black colors to show that even though this is a swamp it’s not a swamp that one would find today. The environment is natural in form but unnatural in color scheme and inhabitants. The darker color scheme also gives a somber mood to the game which I am also going to toy with in later maps that will have warmer and more welcoming color schemes.
Nadia Sprite copy

Nadia, yet to be introduced character

One of the characters who will appear in this more warm place is Nadia. Even though her dress is cool colors I want her to still give off a warm and inviting vibe. I mostly have her in the dark blue dress to show that even though the home she’s crafted for herself is very different from the environment around her she is still very much one of the people who lives in the swamp. Another character who has a warmer color scheme is Shari, the talking serval. He is a swamp cat that if Kaira befriends, will be able to get things from the parts of the swamp that would be toxic for Kaira to enter. Almost all of the possible companion characters have an aspect of their design influenced by another companion to show that they are possible companions. Such as how both Shari and Zhis have orange, or how Shari and Nadia both have scarves like Kaira does. I want to use the warm and cool color schemes to make the player feel different things about the different environments. For example, Nadia runs a tavern that I want the player to find warm and inviting in comparison to the hostile and dark swamp outside. My story is nonlinear because it starts in the middle, the events that led to Kaira and Zhis being where they are happened before the game began and there was a whole mini adventure that the two went on before the game began but the game starts in the cage, after Kaira has forgotten all these things. The level that I’m working on now in the final game would probably be a flashback that happens partway through the beginning of the game.
zhis sprite copy

Zhis, Kaira’s first companion/friend

 
enemy static copy

The first enemy

 
shari sprite copy

Shari, Kaira’s second friend in the swamp

I used abstraction in the fact that a lot of major characters that Kaira can befriend or interact with aren’t human. For the majority of the beginning of the game Kaira is the only human the player sees. This shows that the environment is not one the player is familiar with, but Kaira’s casual interactions with these non human characters shows that it is an environment she is comfortable in. My plan for moving forward with this game is to flesh out the animations as well as the dialogue that Kaira has with the characters already in the game as well as the future characters. I also want to work on the next few maps as well as adding more sprites for future characters. (Kaira will have A Lot of friends) As far as feedback loops go the more the character explores and talks to people the more she will be able to remember which will make her want to explore more as she gets closer to her goal of confronting the force that made her loose her memories in the first place. How Kaira goes about accomplishing this will also effect how other characters see her. For example there are some choices she can make that will cause her companion’s deaths or cause them to abandon her because of her actions. A player who say doesn’t care for Zhis for example much might find this mechanic helpful while others may be distressed that their favorite companion could leave them depending on their actions, causing the player to have to weigh the pros and cons of the actions they take in the story. Another feedback loop will be an approval system where the different companions of Kaira’s will approve or disapprove of the actions Kaira takes and this will influence how they feel about and speak to her.  

Nonlinear Narrative: The Protagonist

The initial concept

The initial concept

My Protagonist is named Kaira Barnabus. Kaira lives in a post apocalyptic world that suffered catastrophic flooding several decades before Kaira was born and is filled with various forms of fauna that can talk and have formed various societies. Kaira has lost her memories at the start of the game but has vague recollections of someone underwater that she needs to find, the game is about her travelling to try and recover her memories and help those she meets along the way. I’ve had the idea of both this game and Kaira for a few years now and it wasn’t until I stopped just visualizing Kaira in my head and actually drew her that her design started to change. I always knew her color scheme was going to be more earth toned and slightly military-esque. One of the things that I’ve toyed around with was giving Kaira a facial scar.

Sketches where I messed around with the scar concept

Sketches where I messed around with the scar concept

I almost scrapped this idea because none of the scar designs I was using seemed to fit the character or her backstory, but then I gave her the X on her forehead that I’ve ended up keeping. Another idea that I ended up keeping was giving Kaira a scarf that was a pale blue/lavender. This is very similar in color scheme to Kaira’s sister and was meant to connect the otherwise very different looking characters visually. One aspect of Kaira’s design that was directly impacted by feedback I received in class was her boots, originally the boots were so big because I’m bad at drawing boots but then I thought about the fact that she’s in a world where she’s gonna have to fight but she didn’t have any weapons, so why not give her weaponized shoes? These shoes are also her Attribute Visual. Even outside of combat screens (if I get to that this semester) she will collide with things and will probably end up kicking at least one NPC.

How could I have a girl with Kicking Feet if I didn't draw her kicking at least once?

How could I have a girl with Kicking Feet if I didn’t draw her kicking at least once?

Drawing Kaira so many times also helped me solidify her personality a lot more. Even though she doesn’t remember who she is or her past she is still a very confident and sort of cocky woman who has a dry sense of humor. Sketching let me experiment more with her visually as well as with more internal concepts of the character. Giving her these huge boots for Kicking Things made me think about why she would be a more physical person both in terms of fighting as well as her life in general.

a sketch I drew to get a better feel of her personality

a sketch I drew to get a better feel of her personality

Kaira and Zhis were always designed with the other in mind, their color schemes aren’t similar but I made sure they didn’t clash and seemed visually on the same side. Kaira also has a sister and although she won’t appear in this project her design is very much influenced by Kaira’s. Another character who will appear in this part of the project though and was influenced by Kaira’s design is Nadia who dresses in a similar way to Kaira although physically the two women look quite different. At this point in the design process I’m starting to draw Kaira the same way physically in each image but small things about her may still change between posting this and actually making her entire sprite sheet for the game.

possible final sprite?

possible final sprite?

Another possible final sprite

Another possible final sprite

Kaira sprite draft copy

When I officially gave Kaira The Boots