Category Archives: Radical Game Design

Radical Games: Her Eyes Post-Mortem

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.25.13 PM Her Eyes is a game that has been through so many iterations and pivot it’s goal is almost entirely alien from the original idea. That being said, the look of the game has remained very consistent from my end and even though I’ve had to rethink over and over the way characters and the world worked, I always felt like I was working within the safe frame of the general world I had created and the art that expressed that world. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.26.26 PM As it stands, the game is roughly half done, maybe less. While the majority of the assets are made, a number are still planned out, and the larger meat of the game, that being encounters, has yet to be worked in. Building such meaningful encounters in the time I had is what I struggled with the most during this cycle and what I would’ve wanted to put more time and thought it. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.30.34 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.22.57 PM What surprised me was how easily I found the art to do. In other ventures towards the visual world, I always found myself getting hung up on the details of what I drew and how they didn’t look exactly right because I was rushed or just couldn’t eyeball something well enough. With pixel art, I found the amount of precision and abstraction allowed me to make pieces of art that I truly felt proud of. While I wouldn’t say the game had any strong influences artistically, I do think my most recent play throughs of games like LISA and Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery did influence certain character designs, narrative themes, world building, and NPC interaction. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.32.05 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.31.37 PM Looking back, I feel that the two things I learned the most were exactly that. That meaningful encounters is the hard part, and art in this capacity is what I was strongest with. Know that earlier on would’ve helped me better allocate time and energy to maximize the potential of the product. Strangely, I never found the time to make music or sound for the game. The reason this is strange is that I’m a musician and one would think the music is what would come naturally. Pointing out then that I do not consider myself a visual artist, it is intriguing that the thing I found most uncomfortable at first (art) became the easiest and what I was more familiar (narrative, music) took longer and I was less pleased with the result. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.24.42 PM  Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 7.13.25 PM  

Conference Project Post-Mortem: MILA

walkthrough-maps walkthrough-popups buildingmap1 copy Mila is a top-down 2D RPG about a young girl’s search for a connection with her estranged father, and her slow disillusionment with the world her father is a part of. I’ve struggled a lot through the development of this game, and presently I am on a second or third draft of the art and maps. Functionally the game supports blendtree animation for movement, moving between scenes/maps, and collision. I spent a great deal more time than I expected to on the art, which is how I ended up with multiple drafts of nearly every asset and map. Because of this, the time I was able to spend on code suffered. I was able to make my game semi-playable, even with the amount of time I spent on the art. protag The process of the dev cycle helped me realize how well my background in design and visual art aided me in the process of game design. Although I was unable to spend as much time on it as I wanted to, I was also able to pick up on the logic of the code easily and quickly. I have a much better fundamental understanding of it now, and my skills in and understanding of animation grew a lot over the course of working on the character animations for this game. I’d like to continue to hone my understanding of abstraction and representation in art and animation, and to build my code vocabulary. During this project my greatest difficulty was scaling and rescaling the scope of the story. I began with a potential plot that was way too large to create within one semester – the fact that I spent the first few weeks of the semester working on and sketching out this plot (and then rescaling it when I realized it was unrealistic) lost me precious time that I could have put into making the game more functional. The coursework and materials gave me a lot of ideas about the functionality of a game, and the ways in which a game can get ideas across. I feel that I was able to incorporate a lot of ideas about shape theory and color theory, as well as taking design inspiration from a couple of top-down RPGs we played in the course, particularly Undertale and Suits: A Business RPG. I also took a lot of inspiration from Mortis Ghost’s OFF, which we did not play in class, but which I feel uses a minimalistic top-down format to create a very immersive and real-feeling world. It was also very helpful for me to see what my classmates were working on, as it gave me inspiration and motivation as well as reminding me that there is more than one successful way to make a game in the same code box. I certainly feel that I could have budgeted the time I spent working on code better on this project. I do feel that the amount of time I spent on art was warranted, as I will likely be able to reuse assets from this game in the future. On future projects I would definitely try to allow myself more time in the beginning of the cycle to focus on art before delving into the code.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: IV

IMG_0224 (1) IV is a top down RPG that tries to model the American medical industry within a video game using mythic imagery. Currently I’m at a place in the dev cycle where most every art asset is in the game, however the actual coded mechanics don’t quite work yet. The project had some major surprises, notably the coding and character animation came remarkably quick but the terrain and tile maps came much slowly. This is probably due to me using a different program (photoshop) and technique for these tiles than I did on my last game The Strength Needed. Much of the design choices came from this place of experience/need for growth. I wanted to expand my artistic skill set this semester by making the terrain far prettier than last semester. The main character had much of the same sort of art style I had cultivated before, but used some more complex shading techniques that made them seem more dimensional. I think I surprised myself this time with how quickly the character designs came out. Initially I had many different full walk cycles for multiple different characters that didn’t make it into the final cut of the game, but I still might use these assets and the practice they afforded me in future projects. I discovered a sort of natural ability to design characters this semester which honestly surprised me as I’ve had plenty of doubts throughout the year about my ability to draw/make pixel art. I had a lot of artistic inspiration from the game Hyper Light Drifter and used much of the articles I read interviewing the developer Alex Preston as guides for making this game. In addition, the games Lisa, Undertale, and What Now? as models for some of the things I wanted to do with odd mechanics. I did definitely learn how to do tilesets better this semester, which overall has aided my skill set as an artist quite well. The extra practice on characters also undoubtedly will make future projects that much faster. In addition, I think my skills as a designer definitely saw some improvement. On previous projects I don’t think I would have done much to draft out a main mechanic. Really thinking about the internal logic of the game’s central mechanic became a rather good thought experiment and practice for the future. The whole process of making a mechanic that didn’t play by conventional game standards made me question how to defy typical mechanics even more. However, although I cultivated a better sense of art and design I will mention my coding still feels subpar. While I’m aware much of my strife came from a major setback in the dev cycle when my computer lost all its data and was out of commission for two weeks, the fact remains that coding takes me far more time than any other aspect of the project and I should leave more time for it on my next project. Although I thought I managed my time well, clearly I’ll have to get better at deadlines in the future. IMG_0227   Best, Chris Haehnel (Kit)

Conference Project Post-Mortem: ADHDRPG!

Gamepic My game this semester is ADHDRPG!, a semi-autobiographical depiction of what it’s like to have undiagnosed ADHD in middle school. The game as I envision it depicts a week in the life of a girl (named Claire, after myself) as she attempts to navigate home and school while dealing with her ADHD. At home, she must manage to get out the door in the morning with everything she needs, a challenge that increases in various ways as the game goes on. At school, she battles the various manifestations of her ADHD, such as homework and distractions. gamepic5 I am still fairly early on in the dev cycle for this project, unfortunately.  My artwork is very involved and detailed, and I’d say that’s the most advanced aspect of my project. There are many objects that I have created art assets for but not implemented or implemented without planned interactivity. As far as coding goes, I got so far as to implement basic enemies into the game and add a system for killing them. If the game were to become fully realized, I’d say that I’m probably a quarter of the way through. gamepic2 I was surprised by how easy the coding aspect of the game was. I have a small bit of experience with Javascript, and while much of the actual scripting was different, the logic carried over to a surprising degree. Most of my problems came from careless errors, which were annoying but ultimately easy to fix. The most surprisingly time consuming thing was the art — I never realized how much I could agonize over the placement of a few pixels. To my pleasant surprise, I was more talented at pixel art than I thought. However, this came with the unfortunate flip side of me often wanting to go back and redo older assets as my skill increased. gamepic3 Other than a skill with art, I’d say I definitely gained more confidence in my ability to write code. In a less quantifiable sense, I feel like I have a better eye for design than I did when I had started the semester with no education on visual design and little on game design. That’s my biggest concentration in the future — improving my game design skills. I want to be a designer and a writer, and while art assets and code can always be done for me by someone else, design is absolutely necessary if I’m to lead the creation of a game. I really learned the value of feedback from my classmates, so I’ll definitely take advantage of any playtesters I can get for future games. gamepic4 I was really inspired by all of the projects created by my classmates this semester. I feel like every game that each of us created had different strengths, and every creator stood out from the others in their own way. The sense of humor in David’s game, the beautiful art in Colin’s, the use of a small and detailed space to create compelling story in Chris’ are a few of the many standout examples of things that I take as inspiration for this and future games. gamepic6 My one regret is that my time management absolutely could have been better than it was. I was hesitant to implement functionality into my game before making the necessary art assets, so that contributed a lot to me not having as much code and interactivity in as I could have. I learned that I need to create a stricter dev cycle and really stick to it. This summer, I plan on trying to finish my game. If I can create that structure for myself I’ll be at a huge advantage over where I was. I also hope that someday working with others on a game can keep me to task.  

Mila: Conflict vs Calculation

My focus throughout most if not all of my dev cycle has been on art, not code, and that definitely shows at the place that I’m in with my game right now. Most of my maps are on a second or third draft, and I spent a great deal of time solely on color in certain parts of my game. After our second state-of-game in class, I was able to push past a lot of difficulty I’d been having with the second map – the green outdoor map. I made the map larger and populated it with more plants and trees – thus making it feel more alive, more a part of the world, and less closed-in and out of place.  Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 9.15.37 PM   I’ve had consistent encouragement throughout the dev cycle that my art is successful in conveying what I want it to convey without words – sometimes the first or second draft of a map or character won’t be quite right, but usually by the second or third draft players can pick up a lot about the world with little explanation. Going into state-of-game, I was feeling very unsure about my choice to omit text in my game, concerned that players wouldn’t fully be able to read the art the same way they could read a description of it. There were definitely some critiques that I was able to take into account and make changes with (specifically in the second map, which I mentioned above, but also some notes about scale and trees) but I was surprised to find that my art got across a lot more about the story and characters than I expected it to. After state-of-game I put a lot of work into reworking the trees in my maps and the pathways and color schemes in a couple of them. I also spent a great deal of time to make the through-line of my maps very intuitive, something that I’m still working with. I want most of the conflict of the game to come from external forces and not from the player, so it was important for me that the world of the game be very immersive and steer the player away from seeking conflict. I feel I’ve somewhat accomplished this through the design of my player character. Almost everyone who’s playtested or looked at the game has felt endeared to Mila and has not gotten a sense of combat or fighting being necessary from the world.Players have expressed a feeling that conflicts in the world could be solved through conversation or compassion. protag_forprint Although there is often conflict surrounding Mila, I want most of the choice in the game to come from their decisions in characterizing her (in the conversation with the doberman, for instance) and from how they treat the other characters in the game (the vulture and mole, in addition to Mila’s father). I’ve also been playing a lot of game jam or lab games, usually made by one or two people, to get a sense of what other people are making working within the same scale or timeframe as I am. This has been immensely helpful in setting reasonable goals for myself and keeping me engaged in working on my own game.

IV: Conflicts V. Calculations

IMG_0223 IMG_0225 Over the past few weeks my game has felt rather laborious. Having had my computer crash and delete the majority of my art assets, set up, and nearly every ounce of data on my computer I honestly felt scared and awful going into game night. However, while my technical problems did impede some progress, I have some major notes that I received during both the state of game and game night. Another major setback came when I attempted to get the primary controller for the altar to work. Still to this moment I have yet to get it to work and little progress has been made. I think this comes from a bit of a misunderstanding of coding and going outside the immediate tech box. On a different note, a major advance in design occurred recently in the overall map design and layout. Most people responded positively to the overall art and feel of the game. Reportedly, the game moved well and had a good pace for the size of the map. Honestly, the game’s intent still keeps the project very alive for me. Being a radical game and having such a remarkably central and brutal mechanic, I just keep wanting to improve and finish said mechanic and really see it work and affect people. In addition, playing some other games with simple mechanics has really informed much of my approach. Recently, I watched a video that critiqued the game Yookulele. In the video, H.bomberguy (the critique) addressed the game’s use of transitions and abstract/impossible space to experiment with game design. It intentionally worked within the limitations of loading small areas of map in order to create a world that felt fast to move between and massive in scope. The video honestly reaffirmed much of my design and made me remember the importance of simplicity in mechanics and how limitation can easily lead to a great game and concept. IMG_0224 My main question going into State of Game was whether or not the art read properly? As the main mechanic had yet to work or be implemented in any tangible way, I felt that using the state of the game as a chance to hear about art and the legibility of each asset and character would prove useful. In addition, I wondered specifically if the altar pop up menu actually read well enough as things to be given up from the surrounding world. I was pleasantly surprised when a few people remarked “Oh, that little symbol is meant to represent the Old Man!” in a mix of horror and surprise. It honestly shocked me a little at first that people would have as expressive a reaction to my game as they did. Throughout State of Game many classmates mentioned that the art seemed troubling in that the main tile didn’t provide many transitions between areas. In order to remedy this a main thing I’ll be adding to my change list is to add other tiles to delineate space a bit better. In addition, the colour palette, while it does keep everything coherent, it causes a major disturbance in that it blurs many of the assets together and obscures things in a bad way. In a future rendering of the art I will adjust the art to stand out a bit more and not blur together as much. IMG_0227 I try to push my player from calculation when they choose an option on the main altar. I wanted to take each and every decision to a logical extreme. For instance losing your legs would result in the player being unable to move at all, effectively creating an end state in which they’d just have to be immobile for the duration of play. This, when reloading the game would make the player think twice about what they chose to give up and how to play the game. This will proceed to offer more choice and conflict in the game. In addition, I aim to add some more conflict and choice into dealings with the Old Man and with the other characters on the island. In order to develop a more full game, I need to apply more choice in the interactions with not only minor characters but also objects. For instance, the well has no real interaction planned for it and I received a note that perhaps the player should be able to choose to go into it. One area that I also felt should never have choice is in the primary outcome of the game. I thought that the game should really only have debilitating outcomes as the game aims to parallel the medical industry which tends to amount to a no win scenario. Best, Christopher Haehnel

Radical Games: Borrowing Post-Mortem

borrowing_11“Borrowing” is a top-down pixel art game that involves stealing from your neighbor’s house. The more you steal the more you learn about your character, but the more strangeness occurs in both your neighbor’s home and your own. As of now, I have the majority of base art in the game (not including art that would be involved for any currently planned or unplanned events) and movement, collision, and transportation between maps all up and running. Like a lot of my classmates, I was fairly surprised at how easy the sprite art for my game was to make. I purposefully adopted a very simple style – wanting to use as few and as solid colors as possible, while also limiting myself to 16-bit – as a challenge, but it turned out to be a huge advantage. In contrast to many of my classmates who got hung up on perfecting their art, I found that I could pump out a few simple textures very quickly and be very satisfied with the result. Looking ahead, I see only a few modifications I would like to make with the art itself. Being in set in a universe much like our own was very helpful in this regard as well since I had a lot of real life objects to reference and even take colors from directly if I wanted to as shown below. borrowing_9borrowing_8 As I mentioned in my second post, coding has certainly been the hardest part of this project for me. The video tutorials were very helpful in getting my game off the ground very quickly, but it was a bit more difficult for me to find ways of extrapolating from those lessons and doing something new with them. My time also was certainly not managed very well, especially towards the end of the semester, and I would very likely have a solution to my problem (in this case not being able to pick up and put down objects, the main mechanic of the entire game) if I had dedicated more time to sitting down and cranking out some code and/or looking up solutions to what I want to achieve even if it didn’t work. A failure is still a result and a way of pointing out how not to do things in the future, after all. As far as inspirations go, I probably can’t say much that I haven’t already said. Jason Rohrer’s Passage was an incredible piece to refer to when it came to abstraction and mechanic-as-metaphor; Every Day the Same Dream was a great piece of moody monotony; Packing Up the Rest of Your Stuff on the Last Day at Your Old Apartment is a game that I wish I could play over and over again for the first time every time I play, it’s the exact inverse of what I’m going for. borrowing_10 Designing games is entirely new to me but playing them isn’t, so I was surprised on multiple levels on how well I did in some areas, how poorly I did in others, and what I learned through being in this class. My professor seems to think that I’m pretty good at designing a game, but I have a feeling that’s the kind of compliment that she gives to all of her students. I honestly couldn’t tell you what makes my game “work”, but I think there may be something to be said about its simplicity. A majority of my classmates’ games dealt with either more than three maps or had about three very large maps, though there were a few others that had two maps or three maps of about my size, and I want to believe that in all of those cases that being able to design with economy of space in mind, especially when working on a project for only a single semester, is a real advantage. My main (only?) mechanic in “Borrowing” is very simple too: pick this object up here, plop it down there, rinse and repeat until you have nothing else to pick up and plop down. Getting to a place where I’ve done something simple that, in a “final product” state, is hopefully engaging is pretty nice feeling. But that’s just what I feel like I had trouble with: being engaging. My initial test of the game had the player run around to want to do other things, and it’s here that I found how difficult it can be to balance directing a player with information while also keeping them engaged while also not holding their hand. What I found out – something that was repeated to me quite often by my professor – was to give players what they want but not in the way they want it. Let them open that box and let the contents get popped out. Let them interact with those objects as much as they want. But when their back is turned, let them know they’re being watched. Or remind them that they’re not safe. There were a lot of really constructive suggestions in this vein and I was incredibly appreciative to hear what they had to say to get me into that space where I’m now comfortable with not only getting my player engaged but having some fun on my end and screwing around with their head a bit. I honestly wish I could show off what I have in mind with this kind of stuff in class; I think it would have been very fun.

Borrowing: Consequence vs. Calculation

borrowing_5As of the second State of the Game session, “Borrowing” is behind where I want it to be but still acceptable for what can be done in a single semester. There were no major advances or setbacks, but managing other schoolwork while attempting to figure out C# code has been difficult. My main source of difficulty has been constructing the borrowing system, that is, being able to interact with an object in the blue house, display a dialogue box with text and an option, use the player’s option to either leave alone or remove the object that was interacted with, and then being able to put it back down in a corresponding place in the yellow house after another interaction and small set of dialogue boxes. This should be very simple in principle, but getting my head around Unity terminology though C#, neither of which I’m familiar with, has proven very difficult. There’s a good amount that’s keeping me interested in the project, however. The end is in sight as far as laying down the main mechanic into the game goes, and having that done would be a huge milestone in the overall development of the game. I also found myself reinvigorated by the comments and suggestions made during the second paper game playthrough, but more on that later. Finally, it just so happened that I came across a free indie game called Packing Up the Rest of Your Stuff on the Last Day at Your Old Apartment that really inspired me. It’s a short first-person game where you do as the title says: pack up your things. As you interact with your junk, a sentence or two pops up where you reminisce about the object. There’s a bit of inventory management involved while packing since each object takes up a certain amount of space and not everything in your room can fit in your boxes; you have to decide what to keep and what to junk. It was a nice little bittersweet piece that I enjoyed the atmosphere of – a mix of hopeful nostalgia and melancholy – and that’s something I hope to get across in “Borrowing”, though, of course, in the latter you’re unpacking and there’s (hopefully) a much more foreboding ambiance. I didn’t have any questions going into the second State of the Game; I felt that what I had concerns about (mostly mechanical tidbits that were addressed in my previous post) had been addressed, and I wasn’t too surprised that the players were interested in wanting a bit more detail in the environment, especially the outdoor area, and text boxes because the game as it stood was very straightforward and there was not much room for critique. Changes after the second State of the Game are not incredibly substantial. I’m interested in seeing if I can play around with dialogue text color and perhaps tinting of rooms. borrowing_6borrowing_7 The battle between calculation and choice/conflict is an interesting one when it comes to “Borrowing”. In some sense, the game is entirely about choice (choosing whether or not to steal the objects in the blue house and then choosing whether or not to open the boxes in the yellow house) and one hopefully feels conflicted when being presented with these choices. It’s difficult for me to say where player calculation comes into play unless it’s the calculated decision that the game isn’t worth his or her time anymore. Ideally, all three maps – the yellow house, the blue house, and the street – have either conflict, choice, or both. The player must be both faced with choice and conflict in the blue house (again, the stealing is ideally both a choice the player finds they do not necessarily have to make as well as something of a moral conflict (or maybe they have fun with it and this is something of a critique that can be made, hmm…)); conflict must be faced in the yellow house (the Twilight Zone sense of unease is something that I’m going for in this case; the idea that anything can be in the boxes and anything can happen to the objects that are pulled out of the boxes, ideally to mess with the player and make them nervous to open the next one or wary of what might happen next was something that really struck home during the second paper game session); and conflict is something that I would absolutely like to present in the street (a car that follows you, a single person who walks up and asks what you’re doing, etc. would be a great way of presenting player conflict and heightening the dread or paranoia that comes with the acts you perform).

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Master Cube

d1fd2907396e9a36752890bc8745a4c8 Master Cube is a game about an unlikeable man named Davis that uses the story of a hero’s journey to point out the flaws in typical game protagonist behavior. Davis is a man with no friends, that argues or mocks anyone he speaks to, but lacks the ability or skills required to leave his small town, and so he is stuck as a store greeter. If he tries to leave work early, he won’t be able to return for the rest of the day to get earn money, but will be able to explore the town more and do more odd jobs for different townspeople per day. These tasks will be typical fetch and deliver quests that will be purposefully repetitive. If Davis tries to leave the town the guards will not let him because he is too weak and ill-equipped to handle the outside world. The guards say they’ll take a bribe, but it is a steep price. After speaking to the guard, a strange figure in a robe and wearing a paper-mache cube head will beckon him over. The strange robed man tells him he’ll pay the bribe for Davis if he signs a contract that he will find the Master Cube’s domain in the next week for perish. He is presented with two options, earn an honest living slowly and painfully in town through work and odd-jobs, or sell his soul to a cult for an easy way out to a real adventure. If he works his way out he will have more time to explore and be able to return to town and live his life normally. If he takes the easy way out his time will be limited and therefore more goal-oriented. Once in the world, it becomes clear that Davis is not ready, and the only safe place will be the cult headquarters. From there, Davis’ selfish behavior will take him far until he’s finally able to realize his dream of being important. He is able to complete the trials of the cult and sabotage them for others, until he is confronted by the leader of the cult for having more affinity for the Master Cube than him. He defeats the leader in a debate and is brought into the realm of the Master Cube by sacrificing the other members of the cult, and everyone in his hometown. In the Cubeiverse, Davis converses with the Guardian of the Master Cube, and debates it to death. Finally, Davis speaks to the Master Cube, who agrees to change the entire universe in any one way to Davis’ liking. Davis asks the Master Cube to make everyone adore him, for him to be the hero of this universe. There’s a great flash, and Davis finds himself back in town. He is able to walk around and converse with the townspeople and explore the world, but everyone in it now is Davis. IMG_20170502_145539 In the dev cycle I’m working on implementing the mechanics of play into the build of the game, and finalizing the overall large outdoor world and adding collision and interactions to that. Overall for this game making the sprites was easier than I expected it to be, and sticking to a single idea was harder than I expected it to be. The game ended up falling to feature creep and a lack of a written narrative and so the game right now is all over the place. The Unity work was also rather difficult as the YouTube tutorials I felt were so specific to making a specifically generic RPG that trying to find online resources on how to do anything else was either too advanced or hard to find. At this point I’m honestly just going to bin this project and in the future write out the design of the game before going into art development and such because without a solidly thought-out plan this entire thing just fell apart into a mess of ideas that don’t all fit together and most of my time was just spent rethinking the beginning of my game over and over and over again without making any progress on how the mechanics, level design, or narrative of the game would work after the beginning, and in the end the beginning changed so much that a lot of what I thought would be the core element of the game changed over and over.    

Master Cube: “Consequence vs Conflict”

My dev cycle is going rather slowly, the amount of art assets required is a bit overwhelming and the scale of the world I want to create is much larger than I anticipated. I’m often running into the issue of “feature creep” and will at some point need to cut a lot from the game in order to make it a more cohesive play. Not many major advances, my most major advance is the outside of the Cult HQ is essentially complete and I’ve redesigned my player character. The most major setback is adding to many ideas of features for the game and I’ve really over-complicated it. The idea of creating a game where the player wants to join a cult because they think it’s a good idea, and the result of it is it ends up destroying their relationship with the world. People read into the character what I designed them to so that was nice. Simplify the narrative in a way that makes sense and doesn’t draw attention away from the critical path and concept for the game. The player has the most autonomy when he leaves the town and joins the cult. There’s also the most conflict/choice in how to leave the town, join the cult, what to do in the world. I think I must over conflict and choice to leave, join, and how to interact with people in the world. Whether or not they want to sacrifice everyone to meet Master Cube. I don’t think I should offer choice in whether they’re allowed to leave work on the first day. The player will also have to complete the trials of the cult upon joining.

Radical Games: Master Cube

d1fd2907396e9a36752890bc8745a4c8 Master Cube is about a young man named Davis. Davis is a store greeter sick of his work and the people in town. He envies the heroes he sees pass through the store, taking what they please for their quest. Davis has very little for him in town, and tries to venture outside but the guards won’t let him, they say it’s too dangerous. He can leave if he can pay off the guards by working tirelessly as a greeter for hours and hours, the thought of which makes Davis want to blow his brains out. A robed figure calls out to Davis and promises to pay the guards for him if he signs his soul to him. He agrees and is told to seek out the great cube center, in the forest. He travels to the center, and is initiated into the Master Cube Society. To do so he completes 3 trials and then is sworn in by the leader. The leader tries to kill him for aligning with the cube better than he did. Upon defeating the leader Davis is summoned to the cube dimension where the master cube will change the universe for him in one way. Davis chooses to make the universe a universe where people will like him, and the cube makes everyone in the universe him.   IMG_20170306_155223 My game is radical because my goal with the game is to make the player feel that joining a cult is their best option.  Most people view cult members as aliens or freaks that must have been insane to give in to a cult’s ideology. I want my game to play with the idea that anyone could be put into a situation where they view joining a cult is smart of them. The life of the character Davis is unfulfilling, and players play games to fulfill needs. Basic needs such as wanting to have fun, or needing a distraction from every day life. This game initially does not offer the player what they want in the world to proceed or explore the world, and the fastest way out is to join the cult. Development is tricky. I’ve never been an artist with visual arts like drawing or painting and so the art design aspect of development has been tough if not overwhelming at times. Getting everything to look and feel right visually can be very frustrating. Luckily I’m used to using programs similar to Unity so that portion of development has been smooth. Unfortunately development rarely gets to building in Unity as the art still needs work! The ability to make pixel art that looks anything like what I want it to be has been the most surprising about my abilities to make the game. From paper game in class I’ve learned that my ideas are clearer than I thought they were visually, but I need to learn to better express my ideas so as not to confuse people as to what’s going on or going to happen. The biggest way my game says a lot with a little is the design of the player character. One look at him and you know he’s miserable and bored with his life and the people around him. I’m also trying to get the player to feel the way the character looks in the rather small space of a simple town store you’d find in most RPGs but rather than being the hero that comes and gets cool gear, you simply greet the heroes as they come in. The player can clearly see that there are others more important than themselves and so hopefully they will want to be more like the heroes and quickly realize how nearly impossible it is to do without some sort of outside help, or rather extreme patience.

Radical Games: Rescue

Rescue in its current form is an attempt to subvert the common RPG adventure trope of a hero rescuing a princess, but has been through numerous iterations and pivots such that numerous aspects of previous versions of the game appear in this most recent version. This history is long, complicated, and largely irrelevant, contributing to arbitrary aspects of the project. As it stands, the game is about a mother attempting to rescue her daughter, failing, and needing to be rescued by the supposedly helpless little girl. Village The inspiration came very soon after finishing LISA: The Painful in early February. My initial need was to create a game about a parent willing to do anything to save their child. This led to the character design of Isha, a middle-aged war veteran who is the mother of a small girl named Gemma. While initial aspects of the game revolved around the conflict between the Verda (Isha’s species of green skinned people) and humanity, I eventually dropped this idea in favor of trying to work off the medium of adventure games like Zelda and Mario, as it lay more within my areas of expertise. Because of this however, aspects of the previous world such as the Verda and Human conflict remain as backdrop and partial catalyst of the game’s events. The way I wanted to challenge the hero rescue damsel in distress narrative was to have the natural hero (Warrior character) be rescued by the small child. Since Isha was the main character of my previous idea, I made her the typical warrior character by virtue of that being what she was before. The idea was that the player would become comfortable playing as Isha and slide into the usual rhythms of an action RPG. However, once the actual quest began, Isha would be captured and the player would begin controlling the imprisoned Gemma. From there, the player would discover that Gemma had reality altering powers, able to tear holes in existence, and would go on to save her mother. Woods  Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 7.51.52 PM This section in particular during the paper test revealed several problems in the design I had laid out. Foremost was that when control of the characters changed from Isha to Gemma, it was not clear that that was simply meant to happen as an established event, not a mechanic that the player was in control of. Because of this, the player believed that the point was to return to a more powerful body, since Gemma seemed helpless and died anytime she came into contact with guards. This revealed both that the player felt mor e kinship to Isha (partially expected given the structure and my intentions) and that the player did not realize Gemma had any powers aside from running. Much of this was a symptom of oversights on my part that did not adequately inform the player of their abilities. What was positively revealed was the idea that the player wanted to chase Gemma, who in the beginning flees from the player, reinforcing the idea of following/rescuing the “princess.” However, I’m not sure that this adequately illustrated the relationship I wanted to express. State of the game was also fairly positive, but again showed mistakes made in character design (misunderstanding the age of Isha) and the pallet of objects blurring together at times. The art otherwise has been part of the easiest of this process for me, which I found exceptionally surprising as I have no real art education. While I’ve drawn for fun before, I’ve always found the details that I mess up too marring for me to really care what I’ve create. The abstraction of pixel art however, has made me feel exceptionally good about the kind of work I can produce. I feel this is well represented in the game. Aesthetically I wanted to go for darker, earthy tones, because the original idea was to try and make the Verda seem folksy, and slightly other, but in a natural way. I also then wanted to draw attention to certain characters by using slight deviations in these colors. One of my original Verda designs thus had bright purple eyes, at odds with the dark green of his skin. I also wanted this earthiness to contrast with the humans, who I planned to put in lots of pristine, white, clothing, evocative of the Roman Republic.   FullSizeRender-1   FullSizeRender Development up until state of the game felt very smooth, exciting, and pointed towards a specific goal. Since then, because of revisions, expansions, and downscaling, I feel that things have slowed somewhat to a near stall as I try and figure out connections between the things I had already decided I wanted in the game, while maintaining the structure I had envisioned. The path forward is a continuing distillation of what I’m trying to express, while retaining the impact fulness I want to create. In terms of art, I have a number of assets and environments left to build, as well as more animations for the characters and the world.

Radical Games: Mila

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 7.16.36 PM Mila is about a little girl (the titular character), who, lonely and estranged from her father, leaves her home to search for him. As she moves forward, the world becomes colder and more unforgiving. Winter trees give way to concrete skyscrapers. When she finally makes it to her father, she finds not a kindred spirit, but a cruel CEO who sends her back to her ramshackle house. She makes her way back to her father again with the intent not of reconciling but of freeing the workers she saw along the way. I was influenced by top-down RPGs like OFF and Undertale, which use a sort of 3/4 view to create a sense of depth and dimension, and Sword & Sworcery EP for its abstracted pixel art style. My intention was for Mila to be a bright spot in a dim and (literally) gray world. I took narrative tone inspiration from Russian novels and games like Spooky’s House of Jumpscares, The Stanley Parable, and Papers Please. I want to create a dismal setting permeated and slowly saturated by hope. I’m attempting to translate this through color and character design. I also plan to include friendly NPCs based on “ugly” animals, such as the star-nosed mole and turkey vulture, to create a reversal of the common Disney-esque trope of a female main character befriending cute woodland creatures. Mila is also ragtag and disheveled for this reason. My state of the game focused on translation of idea through visual aesthetic, and this was mostly successful; even without more than one map or a narrative, players gleaned that Mila was searching for something important to her, and that she was  a very hopeful character in a dreary world. I received some feedback about tile texture and made some adjustments accordingly; the workshop was very helpful in figuring out how to make certain textures (concrete, asphalt) read to a player in game space. Players also commented on Mila’s lack of a mouth, which I had intended as an artistic abstraction but which read as a conscious choice to show the character as quiet. I chose not to change this aspect of Mila’s character model because I don’t think the observation of her as quiet is incorrect and I am fine with the character being viewed this way. paper1   The paper game stage was very helpful for me in figuring out the layout of my story; I settled on a relatively linear progression mostly because of time constraints in the development process, but also because I felt it could get my meaning across simply and effectively. Players progressed mostly the way I expected them to, although I did receive some unexpected feedback about the presence of combat in the game, which led me to nix combat for the most part and look for other ways to portray and resolve conflict. Players thought that Mila attacking enemy NPCs broke an illusion of her “goodness” and that violence was unnecessary in the game. paper2 Development has been rocky less in terms of problem with code and programs but more so in terms of decisions about art assets and narrative choices. I’m currently struggling with the decision of whether or not to use dialogue in my game at all. I think dialogue in english might make the narrative feel less universal or more contrived. Players in the paper stage seemed to expect it, and without completed visuals I wasn’t sure how to express the narrative without it, but I would prefer to use pictures and scenes to illustrate meaning rather than dialogue.

Radical Games: IV

Screenshot (3) This semester I’m setting out to make a game that comments on the medical industry by using mythical allegory to explain some of the horrors that occur. To that end, I plan to construct a fantastical world in which the player must constantly give payment to “insert giant deity name here” in order to keep their Family Member alive. While I have not fully worked out all the kinks in this plot the main mechanic involves repeatedly taking things from either the land or yourself to keep your Family Member alive. The initial game was planned to include the main character venturing far out unto the world, but given the amount of time left in the semester, it is unlikely the whole story will be finished. Instead, I will be working primarily on the first main area The Island, The Siren’s home. The game is radical in that it works to take things away from the player rather than give them things to help them advance. The game gets harder, not because the world becomes less forgiving or more difficult but more so because the world takes so much from you that you may not be able to continue on. It also plays with conventions of myth and works to subvert what most people relate as happier narratives. Also, as a side note, all characters will have gender neutral pronouns. Part of me loved the mysticism and unity it presented in a game like Sword and Sworcery to have the gender of characters be slightly ambiguous. I took a lot of inspiration from the game What Now? and from Lisa. I wanted something dark that didn’t really make the player ever feel like they were winning. Going forward yes, but winning no. This game is meant to encourage a somber reflection, and I think both What Now? and Lisa really capture that. In addition, the art was heavily inspired by Scottish mythology as it has a lot of strange depictions of creatures and realms. Also slightly Lovecraft inspired but not by a huge margin. Development has had a number of hang ups. Particularly in the art department, but the story has also been somewhat troubling to finish and develop. While the main mechanic is okay at this juncture, during the paper game I saw many flaws in its scope and how players would typically use the main mechanic. The primary mechanic used to be “Accept Payment” but now that’s changed, will get into it further down. As I mentioned earlier, I had to spend a good deal of time learning value in order to make both sand and the interior of rooms a bit more shadowy. However, after several separate tile maps, I eventually got something I was proud of, then came the water, which quite honestly I still haven’t gotten to the point in which I’m satisfied. Screenshot (4) State of the Game taught me mostly that the world needs to be inverted. What I mean by this is that many thought the water was stone, like the walls of a cave, and I need the water to be lighter to look a bit more like water. Also, the player character needs to have a white border or something to make them look less flat against the sand background. Have yet to approach that experimentation, but hopefully just a white fill behind the player will suffice. Other than that, I didn’t learn too much from State of the Game. Essentially I heard what I needed to hear and many commented that they thought the protagonist looked quite good as well as the entrance to the Siren’s home that I spent a good deal of time making. IMG_0083 Things got a little dicey during my paper prototype. Essentially none of my main questions were answered and instead I was greeted with a glaring problem: people apparently didn’t care about much of the surrounding world. Mostly due to faulty development on my end, I seemed to leave out some key focalization in the paper prototype and consequently the player played the game somewhat contrary to how I envisioned. This is to be expected and must be remedied. One piece of advice that stood out was that I seemed to have a lot of assets and the world didn’t seem to immediately change in a way that felt impactful enough on the player. IMG_0087   What I came to decide was that the world and scope of the game was too immediately large. Also the wording of the main mechanic needed to be altered so that something might actually effect the player more than just the world. This I’ve decided to illustrate by changing the primary question from “Accept Payment?” to “Give Payment?” altering essentially the entire power structure of the game. The player must always give to receive passage in the game. Whereas the first question put the power of “G-d” into the Player’s hands, this puts the power into the systems hands, the worlds hands. IMG_0089 The game relies on simple story, simple mechanisms, and easily digestible and familiar art to establish a mythic realm of sorrow and burden. The game’s aesthetics work to address the concept of Payment, Guilt, and Debt through abstract symbols, one single line of text, and images. The aesthetic works to emphasize how it must feel to give everything and still have it not be enough and to have to accept that there are some points in which nothing may save or help a loved one.   Cheers, Chris Haehnel      
    Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 4.15.34 PM   Nazi Punch:The RPG is a hands on probe into the ethical dilemma of who it is or isn’t okay to use physical violence against.  The goal of the game is to provide the player with a myriad of options as to how to approach “combat” with traditional physical violence being only one of the many choices.  The goal of the game is to be a think piece that makes people probe deeper into their moral stances to find more nuanced understandings of their own self-imposed ethical guidelines.  You play as Jacob Liebowitz, a Jewish twenty-something living in a small New Jersey town.  You go to work, you buy groceries, your days are finite. The routine gets a wrench thrown in the mix when right-wing rhetoric begins to seep into your home town. Alcot_big_NoColl Is it okay to punch Nazis? That question is at the core of this game. The environment and the player character are meant to ground the player in a very real world as an attempt to make the question less hypothetical and more theoretical. Every secondary element serves this backdrop.  The notion of finite days, of limited time is meant to make the player question the weight of their actions in a world that changes on a day-to-day basis.  It’s meant to make you feel as though idly standing by is the losing stance.  Beyond that level of incentivization though, the player is free to choose to spend their days however they please, whether that’s arguing with internet trolls, or it’s saving up enough money to move by working full days. Just like real life, there are no rules of engagement on the social battlefield. The inspiration for this game came from the intense debate online about whether or not punching Richard Spencer was ethically sound as a course of action.  It was a question I myself initially grappled with.  In my own experience with the question, I found myself enriched by a deeper understanding of the ethics of violence then I had previously, and the aim of the game is to bring that to an audience.   Mechanically the game has two major wellsprings of inspiration.  One is the 2d RPG genre, games like Earthbound and Super Mario RPG, or more recently, Undertale.  The main mechanical grounding comes from these roots, and as a player, you function along these lines.  The second source of inspiration was Papers, please and it’s ability to use time and financial resources to put pressure on you as the player.  Grappling with necessity on top of the ethics gives them a grounding layer, they are no longer what if scenarios but instead they are divergent paths: do you prioritize your short-term needs, or the long term health of your cultural homestead? Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 4.16.40 PM Development is going fairly well, and the art resources for the game are coming along.  The main source of frustration on my part is finding a way to create turn-based combat without inserting a clunky UI.  In my prototype I was able to write out samples of what the conversations might sound like, and give the players choice within that. It demonstrated how the combat might work in the theoretical, and people seemed to respond relatively well to it.  As a way of making entire areas playable, I may create a twine file to serve as a stand-in for the combat system, and create a series of locks and keys, with the locks existing in the game proper, and the keys being at the end of the twine combat encounter.  In that way then, the game can respond to those encounters without them ever taking place within the Unity file itself, thus bypassing the UI bottleneck I know find myself at. If you had told me that the art would be the easiest part of the game to develop and enhance, I would’ve balked at you.  I have never been a particularly talented visual artist, but in working on this game I’m finding that my limitations were mostly mechanical: I have tremors that make it very difficult to draw a straight line. In Piskel these problems disappear, and I’m finding my aesthetic sensibilities to be keener than I had realized. IMG_7520 My state of the game went fairly well.  People understood the level layout for the most part, and they grasped what I was going for.  There were no serious elements of confusion where the visuals couldn’t guide people towards an understanding of utility. The paper game more than anything taught me the importance of secondary narrative threads accessible aesthetically within the world.  Every design feature needs not only a general narrative purpose, but a specific one. In building it out to a larger game, I think I’ll have to go slower, more purposefully, about designing future areas, and redesigning the central map. IMG_7526 The central goal of the aesthetic in this game is to present a world that is, visually at least not at risk.  Trees aren’t dying, buildings are holding up.  The threat and the emotional stakes are provided by the conversations, and eventually the appearance of threatening characters.  The world does not visually change to meet their appearance, just like the real world.  The central escape that this game provides is that it lets the player work out the ethical quandaries set forth at the outset in a safe environment where they can really engage with them, rather than letting the fear of real-world physical or verbal violence stand in the way of a greater, more nuanced assessment of bigotry in America. IMG_7523 In that way then I think character design is what is most meant to convey large narrative threads in concise imagistic detail.  The trump supporter and the internet trolls both have clear visual markers as to who they are as people, what they stand for, what they believe.  They don’t need back stories because it’s all explained in their appearance.  As more enemies pop up, I hope to continue that trend.  Every encounter should happen in a way that you as the player understand your circumstances from the outset. By the end of the semester I hope for a strong, playable vertical slice of the game that conveys the larger scope and narrative future that the game has to offer.  The meat of that work will come in the form of writing dialogue and narrative development on an aesthetic level.  The tile sets I have so far are the majority, and only a few small interior spaces are left to be created.  Overall I’m hopeful that by the time the semester comes to a close, the purpose of this game will be realized in its encapsulated form.  

Radical Games: Borrowing

borrowing_1The elevator pitch for “Borrowing” goes something like: you play as a little yellow man who is moving into a home in the suburbs that’s way too big for just himself. By unpacking, you take part in the yellow man’s kleptomaniac tendencies, uncover his peculiar obsession with particular pieces of popular art, and learn a little about his past. It aims for a balance between dry, sardonic humor and a Twilight Zone-esque sense of unease. Ultimately the game is about plagiarism and was inspired by a moment where I was publicly accused of stealing the plot of a famous film for a short story. In designing a game where you control a man who habitually misconstrues and rationalizes stealing for borrowing, the point isn’t necessarily for the player to feel sympathy for the yellow man so much as believe that stealing is the correct way to progress and therefore be complicit in his actions. In a fully completed version of the game, it’s conceivable that there might be multiple end states: one in which you’ve fully unpacked and furnished the house with things that aren’t yours and get caught; and a second where you’ve fully unpacked without taking anything at all, with the game’s design hopefully leading the player naturally towards the former on a first playthrough. The game has its roots mostly in the mechanic-as-metaphor styled abstraction seen in Jason Rohrer’s Passage, perhaps with a bit of the inquisitive exploration of molleindustria’s Every Day the Same Dream. borrowing_2The original intention for the aesthetic of “Borrowing” was to be reminiscent of old-school Atari games. I wanted to challenge myself by using a very limited amount of colors for each sprite, relying on the shape of each object to convey what it was more than its texture and detail. I feel I’ve accomplished this in some ways – the two houses, for example, are limited to four shades of yellow or blue each and have no heavy detailing – reached mixed results with others – the yellow man himself and the home interiors in particular – and completely abandoned this idea in others, as with the lawns and sidewalk. I still find myself a bit more attracted to the low detail aesthetic and would hope to continue it as more art is made. There may be something to be said about a “blander”, more empty world that uses swaths of color to define itself rather than a richly detailed one. Perhaps the yellow man, dull and unoriginal as he is, sees the world this way and so is shocked (and maybe the player is, too) when he sees the richly furnished insides of the blue house contrasting so starkly with the greater suburbs and his own home, but I feel that’s something of a stretch. State of the Game was based mostly on aesthetic development and focused in on the outdoor environment and the yellow man’s design. While I agree that the more detailed sprites for the exterior were more pleasing than the simpler ones (the solid green lawn sprites in particular hurt my eyes when the character moved), I’m still interested in finding some kind of compromise between the more highly detailed sprites that are used now and the less detailed work that’s found elsewhere in the game. Comments on the yellow man I found particularly helpful and amusing, and it was in his design that I saw the biggest drawback of attempting to adopt an Atari-like style. Though many thoughts tended more or less towards what I had intended for him – an average Joe, busy businessman kind of look – the simplicity of his design and restrictive use of color legitimately can make his hat look like horns and possibly does give him a more shady, sinister look. I was specifically fascinated by the latter, especially knowing what I wanted him to do in the game. He stands as he did during the State of the Game for now, but I’m not opposed to redesigning him in any way. borrowing_4 borrowing_3Going into the paper game, I was interested in seeing how it was possible to encourage the player to steal more than just the initial item required to open the boxes. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that some classmates’ first thoughts were to steal the items in the blue house, though I would hesitate to believe that that inclination was a direct result of the game, its design, or even the player’s/observers’ “gaming instinct” so much as the fact that it was readily observable in the paper models that each piece of furniture existed on its own and was therefore collectible rather than being drawn into the environment and inaccessible. The way I had originally thought to encourage the player to steal furniture from the blue house was for them to finish unpacking a box, then revealing a text prompt from the yellow man to go into the neighbor’s home and steal the corresponding piece of furniture i.e. by unpacking the box with books in it, the yellow man would indicate that he wants a bookshelf. This design does not account for a player who is disinterested in completely unpacking a particular box (the prompt from the yellow man was technically never reached, though I allowed the stealing mechanic to be unlocked and take effect anyway) and could be solved simply by having less objects in them if I wanted to keep this kind of design. The actual contents of the boxes are more or less obscure depending on how much background knowledge the player has about historical examples of actual and alleged plagiarism, and that’s something I’m willing to embrace, though having some kind of flavor note that tells the player that the yellow man is collecting pieces of supposedly plagiarized art would definitely be a plus. I was happy to see that the found flavor notes and plot hook items were capitalized on by the player (albeit at the encouragement of the observers) and the given connections between the notes and theme of the game were apparent. In a case where the player found more of these (again, probably a fault on my part from putting too many objects in each box), I feel that the theme of the game would have soon become apparent. In general, development is coming along quite nicely so far. The initial tilesets for both the interior and exterior areas of the game are entirely completed, and spritework has moved on to boxes, furnishings that can be borrowed, and the items that are unpacked. At a continuous, casual rate, I can see the majority, if not all, of the initial spritework completed sometime between a week and a week and a half. From there work on the code for picking up and placing down movable objects would commence, and I would be content to meet that milestone by the end of the semester.

post-mortem: a silt choreography

Coming upon Open Studios this week, my game is at a point of playability. It is an environment. diamond hole 2 The final challenge  in building this game to be at a point for playability involved getting collision on the diamond portal to trigger the scene change needed to create the visual effect of the fog obscuring the landscape of the scene. (Slitting the encounter, as it were– the instruction provided on the main menu). While I had hope to have music prepared by this point, this will have to wait. Going forward: I plan to research on how to incorporate text and hypertext.  Look into different methods of incorporating into the code (Markhov chains or otherwise). The poem that underlies this work has to continue to permeate it. And other possibilities that I’m not even aware of yet! (Particle systems! As you said, Angela.) I will keep learning C#. And coding in general. As well as Unity. Moving in a slow/accelerating drift with this knowledge / this kind of work. I will keep incorporating what I’m thinking and how I’m learning to “listen”, thinking of gaming/the environments one can make in terms of proprioception/somatics and “listening”/perception itself in relation to pensive spectatorship/participatory spectatorship + stayng attentive to the political potential / tasks that go hand in hand with being in a position to construct an interactive dream with procedural rhetoric, keeping in mind that

“Listening is not a natural process inherent to our perception of the world but rather constructed by the conditions of the spaces and times that engulf us” Lawrence Abu Hamdan (Tape Echo) (Rubber Coated Steel, artist from Lebanon).

The challenge: To be always building and unbuilding.

project proposal: a silt choreography

photo-2 Early concept art for the game. This is an early sketch of how the text of the poem “A Silt Choreography” might read visually at the representational level.  MARCH 2016 CHECK-IN: post one for class Radical Game Design.  Building in Process I am still in an early stage of building this game, making sprites in Adobe, et cetera. Have found myself working slowly in Unity. So this is where I am: still filling the gap between what I know about the engine and being able to put this game together!


If it can be, I want this game to be an experiment in choreography. I’ve been thinking about movement as a form of incitement; as a political act. I’ve been thinking about how we perceive our own flight as a political optics, and hopefully also a haptic. I was interested in developing a game that careens towards a different kind of sight, one that encourages and facilitates a soft gaze, one that prioritizes / embodies a different kind of perception, undergirded with the rewards of moving towards something other than progress. I’m interested in eventually (and maybe not in this first attempt) building a game interface based on haptic (rather than representational/optical) cues.


This game is inspired by ideas in haptic visuality theory. This game posits a kind of movement (proprioceptic) which departs from something like a  formal gameplay style, which relies on the fixed subjectivity of the player (subject-object duality) to create flow. I want flow to be interrupted / disrupted in this game in order to break up the “given.” Influences right now are Apichatpong’s film Cemetery of Splendor (2016), in which Apitchatpong uses layering techniques of incongruous text and image to say a lot about the violence of representation as crafted by colonialism, neoliberalism, capital and the Western eye. I’m also looking a the Heavy Industries project / Young-Hae Chang. link to Heavy Industries. Thinking about how text can drive a game. I’m Mona Hatoum’s work Measures of Distance as an example of a film that employs this haptic rubbing. Also, Fred Moten’s recent body of work from his talk “The Blur and Breathe Books” which is making the rounds right now. link to the talk at NYU this past February. A game designer who already implements these kinds of techniques within the video game medium is Bill Viola, whose game ‘The Night Journey’ incorporates blurred vision and prioritizes slow movement within the game space.

Problem Space / Solution Space*

*From Will Wright
It is impossible to visualize the kind of world that we can live in, that we would like to live in. Actually: It is so hard to dream into other temporalities. It is so hard to try. This is not about making being seeming (Massumi) but about shifting away from the primacy of this imagining of what living should look like.

Asset List

This is what the playtest looked like: The animated asset list at this stage (left to right) runs 1) starfish / cowhand boot 2) bubble blower 3) diamond bubble portal 4) stars that turn into star trails/bleeding stars, 5) radio dial 6) series of screens 7) also *potentially* a dial to switch the screens like a channel remote (actually, this should probably be not in your control at all– in order to communicate a roving disembodied affective spatiality). On the non-animated end, the additional assets that I need to build in Adobe Animate CC/Unity are: worms, disco balls, power line, stars, the train, landscape, platform path, the water, shells, starfish.

Notes from playtest:

Discovered out that I’ll have to decide whether or not to build the game with poetry audio built in to Unity or whether I should build it with the music accompaniment. Both will end up in the game, but I think adding music with ProTools later might be a good idea. Discovered that the mechanics I had in mind are pretty simple: For example, a major part of the game involves a collision of bubbles with a diamond portal into another world. They are meant to disappear through the hole, and they will, because a collision will make them disappear. As an endless runner, it resembles pretty closely the game that we build in the tutorials. It will be different in the mechanic in that there will be a screen that is hooked up to the speed of the player. Still trying to figure out what building that connection will entail.

Paper game playtest. Signs read, left to right: “Representation/visibility: Life as a disco, life as a rodeo”; “Screens” (the beginning of discontinuity between what we ‘see’ as a player and what we hear.

project update: a silt choreography

  (early april) Game update: Skinning, actualities   What i’m working on now  I am working in Adobe Illustrate now on final art for the game, and the assets, as well as the flow of the game itself, is unfolding into a much more simplified version of the game I brought to workshop. All the of the conceptual underpinnings and the affect of the poem/the theory remains, but it’s a simpler project. There’s something very gratifying about this stripping away until what needs to be there is all that’s left (something we talked about happening in the stages of a game design project). Impending breakthroughs -discovering I should be fading in between scenes instead of trying to change the fabulation by learning collision/sorting layers in Unity. -Currently sourcing some atmosphere (sonic), and learning how to insert this.  Building progress / growth[s] (things that are getting easier) Found using Unity for my own game in another iteration of learning a lot more instructive– Working with this material is helping the building techniques stick better. It’s been interesting getting lost (from time to time) in different tutorials’ methods, paths through the engine/Monodevelop, and realizing where the possibility of precision/elegance is in writing code, and where messiness just doesn’t even make sense. Something about working with the programs while already knowing what your goals are helps to understand why choices are made when/where (and serves memory better). Above all, I’m finding the mindset needed to do this kind of work easier to access, and is changing my work process a lot. The anxiety around the process has left for the most part and that hardiness / understanding that it’s always going to be gritty (and when it works, really satisfying) is setting in.   To reiterate, elements still needed to integrate and figure out:
  1. sound
  2. c# methods for: the cover page, the collision reaction (the kill box), the activation of the screen, the holes in the screen, the insertion of audio, which will be layered sound and poetry. the feeling of pink stone.
  3. how to work like heavy industries

The Clay – Post Mortem

Finishing up the semester and coming up on Open Studio, I think the thing I’ve learned most from this project is how hard it is to round out any sort of project that is editable. With a song, a play, a film, a story, etc., the piece is released as a whole is released often with a notion of acceptance from the artists that this, what is being sold and represented to the audience, is the final draft of the work in the way that it was meant to appear from the first day. Working on this game, I have come to realize how difficult it is to imagine an “end” to this process. Every time a milestone is reached, another one opens up, and in my free time concepts and symbols and extensions of the story burst forth at such a rate that my programming can’t keep up. If I could have had another semester on this game, it would have been totally different than it appears now – that said, I am very proud of how far the game and the world that inspired it have grown along the way.     Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 7.22.15 PM  

“The Clay” gameplay.

  If I could continue with the game for another couple weeks before the presentation, I would focus on adding menus, finishing up the splash screen (a work in progress), working on a second stained glass window, and adding a rough version of the ending I had come up with at the start of the class. I would spend more time studying textures, lights, and application of 3D objects within a 2D space in order to further bring the setting and its players to life. But overall, the finished product had progressed much more than I’d considered possible at the beginning of the semester. And working in a collaborative space where questions, concepts, and code were being passed around freely and frequently was very key in how successful I believe the process to have been.   Unfinished Splash screen  

A peak at the splash screen in progress.

The concept of individual game design was especially interesting in that it was a shot at taking on all of the roles involved in the process, many of which I had never attempted at all. Although I am involved in music, I had never before had to look at a project and write a piece that I felt captured the essence of what was going on on-screen and what mood I hoped would be resonating inside the head of the player. Scoring the project was a really interesting experience, and provided a cool exercise with adding boundaries to a process and finding inspiration within the limitations. I had a lot of fun imagining and coming up with a sound that was both hopeful and lonely, both dark and permeated with bits of light. The second new role I took on in this process was that of artistic director. I came up with the concept of a character, worked sans-tutorial with shadowing, player/object movement and animation, and worked and reworked color schemes until they captured the image I had of what this world looks like. Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 7.50.57 PM  

The score for “The Clay” in arranged in Ableton, a music production software.

Overall, I’m happy with the finished product, and plan on continuing to decorate it and sand the edges over summer break. Then, hopefully, I can release it online and continue to get feedback, make improvements, and expand the world that spawned on the first day in this class.