Category Archives: Radical Game Design

Union Town!: Post-Mortem

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What aspects of your game changed the most over the semester?


Originally, I had planned my game in a way that wasn’t really radical–it didn’t give the player the opportunity to choose their path. At first, it was just going to be the player could talk to the coworkers and do favors for them and that was it–but as my story developed the manager became more included and now the way the story of my game will play out is that the player has the opportunity to unionize or get a raise/promotion. There’s a genuine choice to be made between two seemingly good options, not just “unionize or don’t.”

What parts of the game stayed pretty much true to the original idea?

From the beginning I knew that I wanted cigarettes to be the social currency of the workplace. I wanted the player to use cigarettes to get to know the coworkers and build solidarity levels–the cigarettes also bring a playfulness to the game which I think makes the horrible workplace more fun.

How could you have used your paper model to save time?

The paper game was very helpful in figuring out how conversation would work. The first time we ran my paper game my conversations kept falling apart and they weren’t set up properly, which was helpful, even though it was at first frustrating. The paper model showed me how I needed to structure the conversations within the levels to ensure that the player would understand the goals of the game.

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Paper Game



What surprised you about your abilities to make your game?

Honestly, everything about this semester surprised me. I was very overwhelmed and a little afraid at the beginning of the semester–but I couldn’t believe that I managed to keep up with the class. Coding was a fun and engaging puzzle to figure out and of course I got frustrated but I am really proud of myself for getting conversations to work again after they broke for about three weeks after spring break.

What was easier to do than you might have expected?

Animation was easier than I was expected I think. It was super tedious, yes, but once you break down the steps it is easy to figure out to build the assets to move in a realistic way. Setting up the animator and controller in Unity was definitely more difficult, but overall animation was a more manageable task than I had expected.

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Walk Cycle Sprite Sheet



  What was harder?

Though I already mentioned that I was surprised at how quickly I picked up some aspects of coding, that definitely doesn’t mean I thought it was easy. At the very beginning, learning the differences between very basic types of functions and variables seemed impossible to me. I didn’t know what any words meant and I kept a notebook to remember the definitions of all the terms the textbook referred to in the chapters. That was a lot of work, but after the first few chapters the hard work paid off and I felt somewhat on top of the code.

How important was time management on this project?

Time management was definitely important, since it was always a stressor if I had worked on something up until the last minute but then some aspect of the game broke and I had to come to class with a partially broken game because I didn’t leave myself time to debug and unravel all of the error messages that would pop up when I would try to play my game.

What would you have done / chosen to do differently?

If I had the opportunity to start over with what I know now, I would maybe attempt a to build a more linear story for my first game, as what I have set up now feels a little ambitious for my first game. I think if I had a linear story line with sequential levels, it would be a lot easier to build and I could devote less time to figuring out the logistics of the story and more time to expanding my understanding of C Sharp and the Unity engine.

Union Town!: Event as Narrative

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How is your game story radical?

My game is radical because it teaches the player about labor organizing and the power of solidarity. The player has the option to put their head down, not get to know their coworkers, and listen to the manager to get promoted, or build relationships with their coworkers through giving them cigarettes, picking up shifts, and learning about their lives to unionize them. They have to make decisions about whats more important: the illusion of upward mobility or solidarity with other members of the working class that builds collective action.

How have you used events in your main and secondary level to express your game story?

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Old Worker suggests labor organizing to player



In the first level of the game, the player is introduced to an old worker who was recently fired from the restaurant for trying to organize the workplace. This worker sets up one goal for the player: unionize the workplace. They explain that its a risky job but that the player might be good at it, and it can be done by just talking to coworkers. Then, (this isn’t built into the game quite yet) the manager comes out to talk to the player and explains that if the player keeps their head down and does their job, they might get promoted and made employee of the month in due time.

In the second level, the player talks to their coworkers and learns about their life and hardships. While the manager isn’t listening in, one worker, after the player gives them a cigarette, tells the player how difficult it is to go to college and work full-time because the manager refuses to coordinate the work schedule with their classes. Another worker can’t find child care for their daughter while their at work and is often late to shift because of it. The workers only tell the player these stories after the player bums them a cigarette or they feel a certain level of solidarity with the player.

How have you used hitboxes and triggered animations as expressive elements?

I didn’t get a chance to include this in my game build, but I was planning on including hitboxes throughout my levels that would trigger a smoking animation, so any time the player collided with the hitbox they would pause, face forward, and take a drag of their constantly lit cigarette, no matter what level they were on. This would bring levity to the game and give the playable character a deviant personality, showing that they don’t really care about the rules anyway if they’re willing to smoke indoors in their workplace.

How have you tried to surprise the player?

I’ve tried to surprise the player with the places they can find cigarettes in the game, like among trash bags and in the refrigerator. This adds a kind of scavenger hunt element to the game, since you need cigarettes to get the coworkers to talk to the player.

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You found half a pack of cigarettes!



Is your game entertaining? In what way?

I hope my game is entertaining. I tried to make it entertaining! I aimed to bring a levity and playfulness to the dull and depressing life of the fast food industry. I wanted to show that union work and getting to know coworkers is what brings life to the workplace, and I tried to show that through the artwork and the walking animation. The aspect of the cigarette scavenger hunt also makes it fun because that’s just a funny thing to include in a game.

Conflict and choice in the Game.

The player is supposed to be somewhat conflicted in the game by being given the choice to not get to know their coworkers and instead get a raise. But ideally, I want the player to learn the power of solidarity and building relationships, so the reward for unionizing will be much more satisfying than the raise or promotion. The conflict arises when the boss asks you to do little tasks, and you must decided whether you’ll complete the tasks of the boss or the favors for your coworkers.

At this point, what ideas are keeping your game alive for you?

For me, the idea of building a UI element that measures solidarity levels among coworkers is very exciting to me. I want a little bar at the top of the screen that goes up and down depending on what you’ve learned about your coworkers and how much they trust you. If solidarity levels are high enough, you can file for a union election, but if they go too low, workers will quit or stop talking to you completely. This adds an element of stress to the game as it provides a tangible measure to how close you are to wining and failing.

Any new inspirations?

Undertale’s combat system is intriguing to me and I would like to draw on that for my game by adapting the combat system to be used for certain conversations. The player enters combat when talking to other coworkers and must build their levels of trust in order for them to tell you certain things and want to sign a union card. This idea comes from Undertale’s use of the combat system where you don’t have to fight–instead you can compliment you enemy or flirt with them to make them not want to fight you.

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Undertale combat system

Postmortem: Gentrifica-Town

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What aspects of your game changed the most over the semester?
The role of the player changed the most throughout the game. In fact, I would say that I’m still not really sure what the role of the player would be in the fully developed story.

I originally wanted the game to be broken out into three different acts and for the player to be controlling a different character in each act.

My plan from the beginning was to make a game about gentrification.

I wanted the first act to be about a young, upper-middle-class, recent college grad moving into a gentrifying neighborhood and having to face-off against the unfamiliar territory and the people who already live there.

The second act would be from the perspective of a younger, high-school-aged kid from a working-class family whose been living in that same neighborhood for several generations, and who now has to handle the changes occurring in the neighborhood (with those changes being caused by gentrification).

The third act would probably involve those two groups coming together and realizing that, while initially, they may have seen each other as enemies – both fighting for the same area – they actually have a common enemy. They need to come together to form a strong community to protect everyone who lives there. They would need to fight predatory real estate brokers and get laws passed to save the community.

I ended up simplifying the story considerably. I chose to limit the story to only being from the perspective of the college-grad who has just moved to the city and is looking for an apartment. I’m still not sure if that change is final or if it will just be temporary for this class.

Paper Game vs Final Game Build

Paper Game vs Final Game Build



What parts of the game stayed pretty much true to the original idea?
I went into building the idea with a strong and clear idea of what I wanted the theme of the game to be about and what I wanted the art and animations to look like. I think, coming out the other side, those things mostly seemed to stay unchanged.

Playing the Paper Game

Playing the Paper Game



How could you have used your paper model to save time?
I think the paper game could have been a good tool to lock in the game story early on and quickly test different ways of playing the game.

For example, I could have used it to decide between playing the game in three acts, with three different characters, as I mentioned earlier on in the post, or I with just one main character. It would definitely have been helpful to have seen how players reacted to both versions of the game.

Although I do think that in order to get helpful reactions from players, both versions of the game would have to be developed pretty fully, which I don’t think we had time to do in this one semester class.

What surprised you about your abilities to make your game?
I was surprised at how well my art and animations fit with the game format. They stood out from the other games in my class. And I think they made for an interesting and engaging world for players to explore.

What was easier to do than you might have expected?
I would have to say that the character movement was easier to add than I expected.

I went into the class thinking we would have to code in physics rules and ease in and out player movements so that they would come across as fluid.

There was certainly some coding involved but ultimately, Unity seemed to take care of most of that for us – which was certainly appreciated.

What was harder?
The coding was much harder than I expected it to be. I knew it would be an integral part of the process, but I don’t think I understood how integral it would be. I was surprised to find that in order to perform a function that, I would have initially thought to be extremely simple (for example, adding in a sound effect), was in fact at least a little bit more complicated.

Pretty much everything at least needs at least some code attached to it – while I expected more things to be plug-and-play, or able to be dropped into the scene and be functional.

How important was time management on this project?
Time management was definitely an important aspect of the project. I would say especially when it came to the debugging process.

Often, I’d be able to follow along with the book’s example and 75 percent of the code would work for my game but then there would be another 25% where I’d have to adapt it to fit my game which almost always required some trial and error.

Especially given that these were problems with code that I was only learning as we went along. I was almost always able to get everything working but it would take some time, which I needed to be sure to budget out.

What would you have done / chosen to do differently?
In retrospect, I would have wanted to spend more time up-front working out my game story, and potentially testing it out on paper before I began playing it. I felt a bit like I was assembling my airplane in mid-air – by coming up with the game story as we went. I don’t think it ended up being as strong as it could have been if it was locked down ahead of time, and I wasn’t making creative decisions reactionarily.

Playtesting with a Paper Prototype

Playtesting with a Paper Prototype



A major caveat to that would be that I was really glad that we actually got to build a game of our own as we were going. I don’t know if it would be as satisfying if I left the class with a game concept and a paper prototype.

Also, without having built a game before I don’t think I would have been in a good position to know what game elements would be feasible and what wouldn’t.

Therefore, even if I end up starting over from scratch, I guess I’m glad that we did it this way. I would say that the important takeaway from the class was not necessarily the game file but was rather the knowledge of how to construct a game and how to go about building it. (Sorry if that sounded cheesy and cliché.)

Gentrifica-Town: Event As Narrative

Start screen for the Gentrifica-Town game.

Start screen for the Gentrifica-Town game.

How is your game story radical? My game puts the player into the shoes of a recent college graduate, who got a job in the city, who’s looking for an apartment in a gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn. As the player progresses through the game, they will be working towards getting an apartment.

As the game progresses, the player will get the opportunity to rent their apartment but they may choose not to as it will be bad for the community. The goal is actually more complicated than they had initially understood. They have to rent an apartment without contributing to the gentrification of the neighborhood. What’s best for the player might not be best for the neighborhood.

How have you used events in your main and secondary level to express your game story?
The main point in the street level where the player comes face to face with the game story is speaking with the landlord out in front of his apartment. The player goal is to find an apartment, and this is their first interaction with the landlord who they may eventually decide to rent an apartment from. He’s dismissive of the player’s character because of their age. Although he tends to assume (from judgmental snap judgment) that the player comes from an affluent enough background that they’re probably receiving some financial support from their parents. While the player reveals that it’s not true, that characterization of the player will frame the landlord’s interactions with them as the game narrative continues.

In the secondary level – in the coffee shop – the player asks around for advice about living in the neighborhood. They speak with the vlogger working on her laptop and ask her about the neighborhood and what it’s like living there. She cuts him off and ignores the question. She doesn’t answer the question, but this interaction is meant to illustrate that the type of community represented by the boutique-y coffee shop. It represents a possible future for the neighborhood in which gentrification runs un-checked and there is no strong sense of community to protect the neighborhood and its inhabitants. While things may look nice and clean and minimal, everything is overpriced and clean to the point of sterility. If the player isn’t careful, their actions could cause that future to become a reality – they may get an apartment now, but it would destroy the neighborhood and the community. Eventually, the player would be priced out just like the people who are currently living there.

Tagger, writing radical messages on the temporary construction walls.

Tagger, writing radical messages on the temporary construction walls.



How have you used hitboxes and triggered animations as expressive elements?
On the main level, the player passes by a kid spray-painting a temporary construction wall. As the player passes, they will trigger an animation for the kid to spray paint the wall with new graffiti. His graffiti will subtly deliver the message to the player that the neighborhood is in the process of changing – not necessarily for the better – and as the player continues, they’ll see that their actions directly contribute to that change.

Radical Tags

Radical Tags



Additionally, as the neighborhood becomes more gentrified, the graffiti will shift from being tags (from this kid) to street art advertisements, commissioned by companies, in an attempt to get consumers to photograph and share it on social media.

How have you tried to surprise the player?
So far, I’ve tried to surprise the player with the dialogue. Certain interactions, such as the one with the MTA worker, where he tells the player they can’t pass because the subway is under construction. Then if you talk to him again he says that the seemingly endless subway shutdowns aren’t really construction but are in fact part of an elaborate social experiment. For the purposes of the game, I don’t know if that’s actually true or if it necessarily has any effect on the main game story. But I do think fun and surprising interactions such as those will keep the player on their toes and make them excited to continue to explore the levels. Even if they just reach a dead end, maybe they’ll also uncover something funny.

Play-tester playing Gentrifica-Town at our Game Night

Play-tester playing Gentrifica-Town at our Game Night



Is your game entertaining? In what way?
From the get-go, I’ve aimed to make the game entertaining through the art style and the animations. All of the art was done in Illustrator and then, when applicable, animated in After Effects. I think that makes for a clean, refreshing environment, in which the player can immerse themselves.

Then, once the player has started to get into the game, I’ve tried to make the game’s dialogue interesting and even a little funny (and at times even bordering on self-aware). I think, as long as the player is having fun interacting with NPCs, I’ll be able to deliver plot points to them bit by bit, without them losing interest.

Conflict and choice in the Game.
I want the player to feel conflicted when they finally get the chance to rent an apartment.

Speaking through the NPCs early on in the game, I will deliver the goal of renting an apartment – but it’s important that the directive doesn’t come from the game itself. I want to nudge the player towards renting the cheapest apartment, or the best apartment for them.

The player will have various hoops to jump through to achieve the goal but then, just as the goal is within reach, I will attempt to subtilty present them with an alternative. It won’t necessarily be of the greatest benefit to the player, but it will have the greatest benefit for the neighborhood and the community.

At this point, what ideas are keeping your game alive for you?
I still really like the idea behind the game and I enjoy working on it. I would like to see something come of it. I think it could use a more thorough dive into the full narrative of the game – it’s still not fully fleshed out. As it exists now, I think the game has an interesting concept but I think it would require a deeper dive to fully work out the minutia, in order to make it a more cohesive story.

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Any new inspirations?
I think games like Undertale and Papers Please are a great source of inspiration when working on my game. I really like the idea that the player is able to make decisions that matter rather than just being there to click buttons that advance the narrative. It seems like the best way to get players to feel invested in the story and how it ends is by giving them some measure of control over how the story unfolds.

Postmortem: Make or Break the Box

Photo taken during Game Night on May 2nd, 2018

Taken during Game Night on May 2nd, 2018

My game is based on the radical culture of the Sarah Lawrence College campus community. It is a whimsical critique on how many students pressure each other to over commit themselves and pursue social justice even at the expense of the individual’s own self-care. The core of the game focuses on the player’s decision to either fit into someone else’s box, or to make their own metaphorical box. To fit in, they must commit to other’s ideals even if it’s to an unhealthy extent. To create themselves, they must pick and choose (or choose not to choose) what they agree to commit to. The actual groups or goals that can be committed are concrete and feasible goals rather than abstract ideas. For example, the player could talk to a pink NPC who pressures them to build a ramp instead of stairs because stairs are ‘problematic.’  This game takes that tension and that cycle of hurt and adapts it into a lighthearted view.
One of the whimsical, fairytale-esque backgrounds of my game.

One of the whimsical, fairytale-esque backgrounds of my game.


My game is ‘radical’ because it is a Conform or Not Conform type of game. The game mechanics are not complex because I am fresh-faced beginner to coding. Thus, there are no branching dialogues, combat system, or a complicated web of interactions based on what you click or do not click. Instead, the mechanics are either you touch a NPC and initiate dialogue and thus conform, or you do not touch at all and ignore the NPCs. This is representative of the message of the game because you can either spend all your time listening to others by ‘touching’ them, or you can ‘keep your hands to yourself’ and explore the world by walking around them. You don’t have to listen to others and just listen to yourself. It’s up to you. Overall, I am proud of how far I developed my game. True, it’s not as accomplished or as sophisticated as my classmates but I am glad I took the class and got the chance to see a snapshot of game development process and culture. For example, I had no idea that game developers made paper prototypes of their games! It makes sense but it never occurred to me before. Otherwise, the game isn’t far along but I am glad I got as far as I did. I successfully implemented at least one conversation, freeze-player, and finally the map points. I also managed to implement the artwork and slice the sprites.     

Down and Out: Event as Narrative

Tavern

Tavern

My game story is radical in that even though the protagonist of my game has amnesia recovering her memories isn’t her primary goal. Her primary goal is to find a stranger whose ID she found in the swamp. This stranger turns out to be Kaira’s sister. While some parts of it haven’t come up in game yet there is the fact that Kaira, my main character is a queer black trans woman. This is always how I have conceptualized the character but she really isn’t the type of protagonist a lot of games have unfortunately.    
Kaira

Kaira

How have you used events in your main and secondary level to express your game story? I have used character conversations to push the story and the player along. My main level is largely used to establish setting and what constitutes “normal” in this rather abnormal place. I also establish the varying dynamic between the animal species and humans with these first few encounters. For example even though the swamp wolf doesn’t speak like Shari and Zhis do he still communicates with the other characters, establishing him as a member of a sentient species.
Wolf

Wolf

  How have you used hitboxes and triggered animations as expressive elements? As of right now I haven’t implemented hitboxes or triggered animations but I will be using them in future editions of the game. I will be using a hitbox to introduce one of my favorite characters in the game so far, Shari the four eyed cat.
Shari

Shari

  How have you tried to surprise the player? I’ve tried to surprise the player by having seemingly meaningless interactions be the precursor to more events in the game. I also hope having Zhis know more about the player character than the player does most of the time will also be a bit of a surprise.
Running into a tree makes an angry cat who talks like he's from Brooklyn fall out and yell at you.

Running into a tree makes an angry cat who talks like he’s from Brooklyn fall out and yell at you.

  Is your game entertaining? In what way? My game is very narrative focused so a lot of the entertainment comes from conversations and character interaction. The varying personalities of the characters is something I hope the players are entertained by. At game night several people who playtested the game seemed to enjoy it as well.   Where in your game would you like to push the player away from calculation and towards conflict/choice? I want the companion characters and their requests of the player, which will at the very least make other companion requests Harder if not Impossible to complete. This will make the player basically have to choose which character they would rather please. Where in your game could you offer conflict/choice? I could offer more conflict/choice by having the character not have to go to Nadia’s tavern, which would make things interesting since that is where the player character Kaira learns her name. Where in your game must you offer conflict/choice? I must offer conflict in whether the player truly wants Kaira to continue on her mission to find her sister or not. Because if there is no conflict within the player or the character then the game will be boring. Where in your game must you never offer conflict/choice? I think one place my game must never offer conflict/choice is in the player doing something. I have had many gaming experiences where I simply lose motivation even with quest markers and the like. I want the player to remain engaged with the game and not lose their reason for playing even if they aren’t focusing on the story quest. Being sedentary cannot be an option in this game. At this point my dedication to characters that haven’t been introduced is keeping me going on this project. Characters like Nadia and Shari who while they do have a few conversations are not as involved with the plot of the game so far as Zhis is.  As for new inspirations, I haven’t really had many as of late unfortunately. Hopefully working more on the music over the summer might give me some new ideas.

Post-Mortem : House H(a)unter

A screenshot of the dummies Casper steals a costume from.

A screenshot of the dummies Casper steals a costume from.


My game is about two ghost hunter twins, Becca and Casper Radley, who attempt to convince a wealthy couple that their mansion is haunted so that the couple will be forced to sell it at a price the hunters can afford. They are given a week to do so, and so every day the siblings talk to the people of town to fabricate a different haunting. In the process, they accidentally stir up real ghosts who are connected to the emotional instabilities of the people in the town, and so the player must exorcise these real spirits or risk being killed during their con.

In the levels I am submitting for this class, Casper goes to the local bank museum and steals a cowboy bank robber costume from one of the exhibits. He does so by trapping the bank owner in a photo booth and convincing the only employee to go help her. The sheriff’s mannequin disappears once he has done that, and there is a mystery as to where it went (spoilers, it will attack Casper in the next level).
 
Tessa Wycome, owner of the bank heist museum.

Tessa Wycome, owner of the bank heist museum.


The radical aspect in my game is in its manifestation of emotional conflict. The ghosts are representations of the town’s denizens, and have been a part of their psyches for so long that they cannot notice them. The only people who are capable of comprehending the extremely damaging way the townspeople are going about their lives are the twins, who are outsiders. The twins are drifters, and show a sort of amused disdain for the connections that give rise to these ghosts (as evidenced by the fact that the only ghosts they have encountered before are fake ones that they self manufacture), and their lack of understanding about a greater emotional support network likewise hinders their ability to exorcise real ghosts at first. In order to effectively deal with the enemies of the game the twins don’t become physically more powerful, but rather learn more about how to handle interpersonal situations with a level of sincerity.
 
This game idea was inspired by my love of cheesy ghost hunting reality TV, and from learning that in many locations a homeowner must disclose that a house is haunted before selling the property. It has for the most part remained true to this original inspiration, though in the earliest iterations of the game Casper was himself a real ghost and the events of this game were not the first time the twins had committed this con. The iteration I brought to the first class of the semester is fairly similar to the one which I ended up completing for my conference, especially Casper’s general amorality. The major change in concept over the course of the semester is the concept of ghosts as a manifestation of emotional turmoil. In previous iterations, there was only one real ghost (the ghost of one of the homeowners’ deceased brothers), and I felt that this reduced the importance of the other NPCs since they weren’t involved in the central haunting.
 
Sheriff Wycome's Hat

Sheriff Wycome’s Hat.


Development hit a bit of a snafu when I ran into an issue with the advancement of conversation flags resulting in the player missing some conversations. This has been rectified for the time being, though in the future I will likely end up removing the dialogue system I made and replacing it with a plug in.

From crits, I learned that people wanted more sound, and considered the strong point of the game to be the characters and humor in their interactions. To that end, the next thing I intend to add is more hitbox animations, extending the background music, adding sound to Casper’s footsteps, and stopping all background music when in the back of the museum.

I could have used my paper model more in earlier phases to predict the extensions I’d have to make to the maps. One of the weakest visual points of my game in its current phase, is, at least in my opinion, that there’s large areas of empty space beyond the boundaries of the map. This was done to avoid blue space visible on the edges. Had I used a frame around my player character during the initial testing, I would have been able to see how much extra background I would need and could have redone the art so that I could balance out where the walls were with how much space I needed in the map (my first draft was extremely crowded as well). One of the major critiques I received was that people were confused as to why they couldn’t walk further once they hit some of the invisible walls, and this could have been rectified if I’d paid more attention to my paper models.

The thing that surprised me the most about my abilities when making this game was how smoothly most of the initial programming went this time around. My last game, managing scene transitions was very difficult, but using the Game State Manager I was able to program in complex scene states and maintain a game across multiple rooms.
A screencap of one of hte conversations in the game.

A screencap of one of the conversations in the game.


The most difficult thing to program was the conversation manager. If I were programming the game again, I would have written it with a simpler dialogue system in mind for easier debugging. Though I’m satisfied with the dialogue interactions that I came up with, the system we used from the book was not intended for the level of complexity I ended up with. I would have also started implementing the dialogue sooner. If I had discovered that it was having issues earlier, it would have been less stressful to debug it before the due date.
 

Postmortem: City Watch

 
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Paper game model of the town scene

    My game is about a young adult, Lena, who starts off working in the City Watch, but later decides her path in life.  The City Watch is an organization in this city that protects people and prevents crime.  Their main objective is to shut down and underground organization, the Thieves’ Guild, that is committing most of the crime in this city.  The City Watch and the thieves are the two factions in this city.  While the City Watch is “morally right” and the Thieves’ Guild is “morally wrong” at first glance, that is not necessarily true.  Both factions have their upsides and downfalls.  While Lena works on her main objective of shutting down the thieves, she learns more about their objective and purpose.  As she learns more about them, she can decide to go through with her original goal of shutting them down, or she can join them and abandon her place at the City Watch. As Lena gets closer to the thieves, she learns that they are not as bad as the City Watch makes them out to be.  They steal a lot of valuables, but they do it out of necessity.  The city has an “every man for himself” vibe, so people have to do what they can to survive.  There is a lot of crime in the city anyway, and the thieves are at the root of most of it.  The thieves, however, are a sanctuary for any person that is struggling to make ends meet in the city.  So, even though the thieves may commit crime and steal, they are truly morally grey.  They help people while also committing crime.  Lena also learns that the City Watch does not help people who are in need; they only stop crime from happening.  They do not help people who are struggling to survive, they only help people when crime is involved.
The Thieves' Guild from the paper game

The Thieves’ Guild from the paper game

My game is radical because the player has a choice in which side they want to end up with.  Neither side is truly right or wrong.  Each side has its positives and negatives, so where the player wants to be is up to them.  The player can help out the thieves more, or the City Watch more, and those choices help shape the story in the game. My game was inspired by the games that I play often.  I tend to play a lot of RPG, fantasy-style games.  I like games where decisions and choice-making are heavy influences on the game’s outcome.  The Witcher franchise, and the Dragon Age franchise are a couple of the games that inspired my game idea.  These games use choice and player actions as a way to shape the story.  I wanted my game to be like that; I wanted the player to have a say in how they impacted the game. I think the art of my game that has changed the most over the semester has been the mood of the city.  At first, I had the city be fairly light.  The sky was a light blue and the colors of the buildings matched the palette of the City Watch and the color of the sky.  But I did not really like how that felt.  I thought it would be better if the town had a darker color palette.  I changed the sky to a dark grey-purple, and the buildings to reddish -purple.  The windows closer to the City Watch are light grey and light orange-pink.  As the buildings get closer to the sewer, the windows become darker grey.  While building this scene, I also decided that the characters should have an attitude of “I do what is best for me and no one else.”
The town from the game

The town from the game

  Lena stayed the same throughout the course of the semester, and the sewer scene also did not change much.  Lena’s design and personality have stayed the same throughout the semester.  The sewer’s design changed slightly, and it gained some more events, but it remained mostly the same across the semester. What surprised me the most about my ability to make the game was how much simpler coding it was than I remembered.  The longer I spent working on the game, the easier coding it became.  I had very few issues when it came to coding features in the game, and I had more issues when it came to putting together UI elements.  Before starting the game, I thought the difficulties of both those aspects would be switched. I think time management was super important when it came to making the game in this class.It is definitely easy to fall behind if work is not done on time.  I think I did well in managing my time and not falling behind, but I can see how it would be easy to get caught up working on one feature and letting all others fall by the wayside.    

Postmortem: Wild Tale

Playtesting during game night.

Playtesting during game night.

Wild Tale is a game that takes place on the movie set of an old west movie. The player controls a traveling cowboy who is looking for a place to settle down. The player will need to make choices that determines the type of cowboy he becomes.

This game is about the construction of identity. The game mechanics reveals to the player they are able to become the person they want to be through their actions. The interactions with the movie set reminds them of the constructed nature of reality. The game pokes fun at the myth of the Wild West subtle commentary on the way media affects the way we act.

My game is a response to escapism media. Many forms of entertainment get praised for the ability to immerse the audience in a new world and become someone else. However, they are often more reinforcing and restrictive instead of empowering. I want to call attention to the reinforcement that media can have on our perception of self and empower people to reexamine their self-perception.

My game subverts the typical idea that the player character has predeveloped personalities. Instead, the player character’s personality is shown only through the player’s actions. Instead of the player becoming a character, he or she inhabits the shell of the character and interacts with the world through that.

There are some games that emphasize on player choices. However, games with narratives like The Walking Dead by Telltale Games rely on analogue choices where the options are clearly presented. In my game, some of the options are not immediately obvious and there are no pop-up dialogue options to choose from. In a silent movie, the characterization is done mostly through actions. This choice reflects my answer to how I think one can express their identity. In real life, I think the thing that people can do to express themselves is through action.
An early sketch for the game.

An early sketch for the game.

I watched some old western movies as research for my game. I think the one that influenced me in term of aesthetics was The Good, Bad, and the Ugly. I think the movie fits very well within the stereotype I wanted to critique. I used the parts I thought were representative of the old west as influence to help me reference the genre.

When I researched western games, I was very surprised to find a game similar to my own. Westerado is also a game also about creating narrative by giving players freedom to express themselves. However, I’d like to note I discovered the game after coming up with the idea so it is not a direct influence.
I used LMMS to create the music for my game.

I used LMMS to create the music for my game.

Since my last update, I’ve fine-tuned the interactions with more efficient codes to prepare for game night. I learned a lot from showing my game at game night. The movie aspect of the game isn’t obvious enough but people responded well to the concept after I explained it in the end. I got helpful suggestions and comments that inspired new features in the future. One important suggestion I got was to add more movie set elements in the game. I think adding cameras, microphones, and wires will be a major step forward for my game. Otherwise, people liked the art style and the humor in my game. I think I will be adding more humorous elements in my game in the future.
A playtester explaining her thought-process as she replayed the level.

A playtester explaining her thought-process as she replayed the level.

The development of this game is, in a way, a reflection of my personal growth. I didn’t come in development with a firm idea of what the story was going to be about. As a result, the story of the game changed a lot. Because I gave myself freedom to alter the story dramatically during development, the game eventually became a manifestation of what’s on my mind. The story is still evolving as I’m developing it. I’m still thinking about the idea of identity and I’m using the development of this game as a tool to help me process it.

The idea that I was going to represent the old west with the twist that the player is going between the movie and the real world stayed true to the original idea. This was the idea that sparked the development of the idea about identity and what it means. The immersion breaking aspect of that idea was interspersing to me and I based my game off that.

I wished I had planned more hitbox interactions within my paper model. I was lucky that people responded well to my digital version. However, it would’ve costed a lot more time if I had to test and iterate the interactions digitally.

It was easier than I had expected to work in Unity. Importing sprites were quick and simple. I found that my experience working with level editors in other games I’ve played helped me understand the workflow of Unity. I thought Unity would’ve been a lot of codes but I learned that a large portion of the coding is actually done visually in the inspector. Understanding this made the development process a lot smoother. Also, I was surprised by my ability to make the music for my game. I plan to continue exploring music making after this project.

It was harder than I had expected to code many of the feature I envisioned for my game. I think I was overly eager with the feature lists. I was not able to realize many of those features within the semester long timeline. I should’ve realize earlier that this process was going to be new to me and decide on a project with a scope that is more achievable.
The auto-slicer for sprite in Unity is amazingly helpful!

The auto-slicer for sprite in Unity is amazingly helpful!

Time management was especially important for this project since my development schedule had to align with the school’s timeline.

I wished I had budgeted more time in the beginning for creating all the assets of the game because creating assets later on I disrupted to my workflow. I noticed that when I spent time creating assets, I wouldn’t have the mental focus to be able to debug efferently. Because of this, I ended up scheduling different days for coding and asset-making. If I had known about this situation earlier, I would’ve used early development time to create a pile of assets and pick from those assets instead.

The scope of my game was too wide for a semester-long development cycle. I should’ve made my game more focused so I could polish my game to a greater extent. I was also too focused on creating the story for the whole game when I haven’t finished the first level.

Postmortem: A Knight’s Quest

Facing the Dragons of Questionable Time Management Skills

Facing the Dragons of Questionable Time Management Skills

Trying to make this game was a learning experience to be sure. Going in, I had a very tenuous grasp of code from a crash course I’d taken before deciding not to join the robotics club, a semester of general art in high school, and a hobby of arguing with strangers on the internet about how games should be made. I was sure to try and place as conservative an estimate on how far I would get in making the game as I possibly could, and yet, I still fell short. Despite that, though, last night, when I finally had combat working well enough that I could attack an enemy and it died when its health reached 0, I could’ve cried with joy.

The game certainly changed a lot from how I had originally planned it out. Honestly, in its first iteration entirely contained to my head, it was more of a visual novel than anything else, so it would have had to change, but still, it’s remarkable even then. I had originally envisioned the game to be a series of days, where each day would comprise you selecting various activities to do, such as drinking, praying, or spending time with specific characters, and at the end of each day a battle would occur against the evil king’s forces, where you would fight alongside an ally you would have to protect. Now, how much of that didn’t come to be due to it being a poor idea and how much of that didn’t come to be because it was significantly beyond my ability to actually put into the game is up for debate, regardless, the game doesn’t resemble that in the slightest.

The model it’s now settled on would just have one long and drawn out battle, with brief respites for attempts at comfort by Red and the nun while the other rebels fought led by the General. The General as a character was changed rather dramatically in design as well, his look from Roman to something more knightly and his personality to something less unintentionally abrasive towards the hero.
General

The General Now

Actually, that brings up another interesting change which occurred that I hadn’t even realized until now. I had shifted away from conversations affecting Levi’s blood entirely. The only way to gain blood would be to kill the enemy soldiers and the only way to decrease it would be to physically remove the blood from Levi i.e. by having the nun wash his hands. This change really affects the general most pronouncedly, since he’s no longer going to actively harm the player by conversation, and is instead the one who gives Levi the respite necessary to speak with the nun and be cleaned.

Still, even now I’m trying to figure out better ways to have built the game and more interesting ways it could have communicated what I wanted it to. The roles of the Nun and Red were something I wasn’t too happy with at the end, and I think I could have made them both more interesting. I think that it would have actually made more sense for Red to be more in favor of Levi fighting against the evil king while the nun would have been more cautious and reluctant to force their problems onto some poor guy who just fell through a portal and landed in front of them. That would have allowed for a cleaner transition to the nun helping Levi handle fighting, and would have let Red be less of an antagonistic character at the start.
Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 8.22.02 PM

The Outside of the Church

Something that surprised me was how much easier it was to make the second scene after I had done the first. Due to some very lackluster time management skills, I was quite pressed for time when I finally settled down to make this scene, but I was able to do it with relatively little issue. Admittedly, there are quite a few things I would improve on in the scene if I were to go back to it, but it is certainly serviceable, and I received some compliments on it from my class. I did notice that people really wanted to go into the little houses in the back whenever they play tested the game, however, so now I know that when I include doors people will try to go into them.

Speaking of play testing, some interesting trends appeared in that. While there was some variation in how people responded to my first level, with some trying to run around between the pews, others talking to the nun immediately and then running into the sword which they couldn’t pick up, and still others who accidentally ran into Red, most people didn’t finish any of the conversation which I had put into the game. Each character had around three in any given scene, but frequently people would leave after only one or two. Some people even went through the second scene without talking to the general at all. That may have been an issue with the second scene, however, since the barricade on the right-hand side was being used as the barrier, and touching it loaded the battle scene after it. That seemed to catch a lot of people by surprise when they played my game, so I’ve learned a bit of a lesson there as well on the importance of making it clear what will and won’t lead to the next area.

I’m finally finishing up combat now. I still need to give the enemies the ability to attack the hero, and the selection circle doesn’t actually disappear until the enemy dies, which means on subsequent turns, when the hero selects an enemy for the second time, an additional selection circle is spawned. So there’s still more left for me to wrangle with, but I’m impressed at how far I’ve come since I started the year and balked at the idea of having multiple conversations going in one scene. And I’m looking forwards to what games I can make in the future as I gain a greater mastery (or any mastery at all, really) over Unity.

A Knight’s Quest: Event as Narrative

PatrickF

Inside the Church

A Knight’s Quest’s story is based around complicating the usual heroic narrative of an RPG. The hero arrives in a strange world and is given a sword and a goal: save the church from the evil king. In order to do this he’s supposed to kill his way through an army of mooks, level up, and eventually engage in an epic boss battle to vanquish evil from the kingdom and live happily ever after. The Hero, Levi, starts the game wanting to be this sort of stereotypical RPG hero, and so his entrance into this world is exactly what he should want. Previously I had planned for the complications to arise when he first met an enemy, but I’ve since begun implementing them as early as the church where he first arrives. The woman in blue on the left side of the church is the nun from my paper game, but the woman in red on the right side is new. As of now, the two of them are creating conflict for the player before he’s even left the church. The nun immediately greets Levi as a sort of phrophesied hero, the answer to her prayers, and is the one who gives him the sword and tells him about the evil king whose forces are bearing down on the church as they speak. The woman in red, who doesn’t have a name yet and so will just be referred to as “Red” from here on out, takes a much different approach. She is convinced that if the rebels peacefully surrender, the evil king will spare their lives. Levi presents a danger to this plan for her, since the rebels will rally around this would-be hero and fight instead of surrendering, thus eliminating any possibility of mercy for them. As a result of this, she urges him not to take up the sword and to instead calm down and wait in the church until the rebels surrender so that mercy can be granted to them. This sort of conflict is interesting to me, given that it seems like it would fit perfectly within a less radical game. Having a character opposing the hero’s decision to fight can serve to empower the player as they feel that they are already making their own decisions within the world and defying a cautious worrywart in their search for adventure. That being said, however, conflict still exists here, and it isn’t until the Nun helps convince Red to step aside that the player can leave this level with the sword to fight the enemies.
Altar

The Altar and its bowl

At the moment I’m trying to put something else new into the game. As Levi kills more enemies, I want it to be physically reflected on him, so I’m planning on adding blood left over from the enemies he’s killed to his sprite. This gives the player a very clear visual feedback on how much blood they have at the moment. The other thing this does is let me make it clear when it’s being reduced, by having that literally wash the blood off of his body. The nun will be the chief character in that role, as she will be using water to try and remove the blood from Levi’s body. In order to set this up early, I want to have her direct Levi to the bowl of water on the altar after he falls through the portal. It will help clear his mind after the disorienting passage through dimensions and time, and set up the water as having a mentally cleansing effect which the nun will be associated with. In order to do this, I’m working on putting a hitbox on top of the bowl which will trigger an animation of Levi splashing some of the water on his face, but that is proving more difficult than I expected. Apparently rotating a character’s head anything other than ninety degrees isn’t supported by Piskel, so I have to do it manually, and I must say it is significantly more difficult than I would have guessed.
BigSword

The Sword

The other hitbox I’m trying to add is one on this sword. It will be placed on the altar on the other side of the bowl, as shown in the first image of this post. One of the first things the nun will say to Levi after he’s regained his footing is that he should pick up the sword and go fight the evil king’s henchmen. Naturally, after she says this, people will want to pick up the sword, which is why a hitbox that triggers an animation of Levi picking up the sword would be of a great deal of use when he collides with it. This hitbox is interesting, because it will also need to change his sprite to have the sword on it, and his sprite will need to remain that way for the rest of the time he has the sword equipped, this means the hitbox needs to change that somehow. In all honesty, I have yet to figure out how exactly to make that happen. While I know how to have the hitbox change his animations to something else (I tested that by having one turn him blue) I haven’t figured out how to make that carry between scenes. It has occurred to me recently that I could just make it so the player is unable to leave this scene unless they have the sword and then change him in all of the other scenes so that he has the sword normally.

This sort of thing does raise an issue with my plans to increase the amount of blood on him, however. I think it is unavoidable that I will need to have some carry over of effects on Levi between scenes, unless I want to overload every scene transition with “if” statements to send him to different scenes based on the state he is in when he leaves.

Radical Game Design: A Knight’s Quest

Levi

Levi Devaux; Not Quite the Knight in Question

My Game, A Knight’s Quest, is not actually about a knight. Instead, it is about a young man, pictured above, who wants to be a knight, and finds himself thrust into a situation which demands him to do so. One evening, as he’s practicing with a training sword, a portal appears before him, seeming to offer adventure beyond its seductive glow. He steps through, and falls into a medieval church where a group of plucky rebels have been pinned down by an evil king. The rebels, in response to this stranger’s sudden and inexplicable appearance at their time of need, decide Levi is a hero and ask him to help them fight back. Naturally, Levi jumps at the opportunity to play the hero, and agrees.
PurplePortal

The Portal

Things don’t turn out quite how Levi imagined, however. Not because he is unable to perform those heroic actions, of course, he is actually the chosen one, and his capability in combat reflects that. What throws a wrench in things is that he has to kill them. Levi’s first encounter with the enemy is punctuated with their blood splashing out from their wounds and covering his hands. Levi, a sensible and modern young man, does what any of us would do in response: he starts flipping out. The rest of the game follows Levi as he attempts to cope with the brutality he must inflict in order to be the “hero” he wants to be.

Levi is a character of mine I have used in a few places before. He comes from a sort of homebrew Dungeons and Dragons style game I play online with some friends, where he has a similar struggle, and has been used in a few different campaigns there, as well as a story I wrote for one of my other classes. So, when I had to come up with a concept for my game, Levi seemed like a natural choice to use.
IMG_0485

My Paper Game’s first area

The paper game went relatively well, I think. I had a bar at the bottom, the purple thing in the picture above, which represented the player’s “Blood” so to speak. The encounters within my paper game would raise or lower it depending on what happened within them. There were three encounters to begin with, one with each of the three npcs.
IMG_0484

From Right to Left: “The General” “The Kidney Bean Person” “The Nun” and “Levi” (I haven’t come up with names for anyone else yet)

Levi starts off at the far right of the church area, so the person playing talked to the bean person first, which is just as well since I’d planned on using him to introduce the blood bar. He told the player that they had to be careful of getting too much blood, or else they would be unable to continue fighting. After the Bean person, the player went to speak with the Nun, who offered to pray with the player. Upon doing so, the bar decreased representing the comfort which the nun provided him helping Levi cope with the blood he had spilled. The player then exited the church room through the door in the upper left to enter the War Room.
IMG_0486

The War Room

In here they went over and spoke to the general, who congratulated Levi on his victory yesterday against the enemy troops, and praised him for his martial prowess. The praise forced Levi to remember the fighting and the people he had killed, resulting in his blood bar increasing. After this, the player left the war room and went to speak with the nun again, hoping to decrease the bar, but found that she couldn’t decrease it any more. I was out of content at that point, so the game ended there. I was rather pleased that I had been able to so quickly establish that blood was bad and they should want to decrease it, while also linking the nun with its decrease and the general with its increase. However, there were some complaints. People didn’t like the general just suddenly increasing their blood, so I think that it not being clear he would do that before he did it was a mistake. Also, at the time, I had assigned numerical values to the blood, and the Nun decreased it by the same amount the general increased it, so overall there was no net change which occurred, which also was cause for some complaint.
IMG_0488

Playing in the War Room

There was a particularly valuable piece of feedback I received from this. My classmates noted that the blood bar was sort of boring and wondered if there was another way I could convey the increase in Levi’s blood. I had been considering other ways to show this myself, though in addition to the bar, rather than instead of it, so I mentioned those ideas to my classmates. My ideas were to have the sky change based on the level of the player’s blood. When you first kill an enemy, a great red gash would appear on the sky, as though the blood you had just spilled had splattered over the sun itself. As more would be killed, more blood would cover the sky until eventually, it would begin to literally rain blood. My classmates seemed to quite like this idea and recommended I drop the bar entirely in favor of the sky blood, which I have decided to do.

At the time of the Paper Game, my build is not far along at all. I have completed the sprite work for Levi, including his walk cycle and idles, and have made it so that he is capable of movement. I have also done up the wall and floor of the church’s inside, however that is all. I still have yet to give the nun and the general their own sprites or move on further to even think of introducing the other concepts I want in my game, such as the changing blood bar.

City Watch: Event as Narrative

GameScreenshotScreen shot from the Town scene   My game is radical because of the way the story progresses.  The player has a few options to progress forward in the game.  They can either side with the thieves or they can side with the City Watch, which is where they start out.  The player is faced with the problem of choosing sides.  They start out working for the City Watch which is the “morally good” option to choose.  They stop crime after all.  But the player has many options to steal and take things that are lying around.  The more the player steals, the farther they are pushed away from siding with the City Watch, and the closer they become to the thieves.  There is no “right or wrong” way to play the game, it really depends on how the player wishes to play the game.  Choosing to a side pushes the player away from the other one, but neither side is technically better than the other. Currently implemented into the game are few hit boxes that help push the idea of stealing.  However, I plan to add more hit boxes with different events.  Right now the one that I have in the town scene involves running into a different looking tile on the ground, causing it to break open and reveal valuable jewels that the player then takes (or not take).  I am planning on adding some other events besides conversation triggers into the town scene.  I want to have an event that occurs where when the player passes by an alley, they see a crime going on.  It could possibly be a mugging or some sort of violence, but the player can choose to get involved and put an end to it, or turn a blind eye and let it continue.  Another event that I want to occur is when the player collides with the rat in the town, I want the conversation to play where it gestures for the player to follow and then I want it to walk off screen.  This would provide a bit of guidance for the player to go into the sewer scene of the game.  I want events to provide choices for the player to decide how they want to play the game, and I also want the events to guide the player a bit.
RatGood

The rat

In the sewer scene I also want to have a few events occur.  I want to have the player break off tiles from the wall to reveal more hidden objects similar to the event in the town scene.  I might implement two of those because the sewer is the entryway to the Thieves’ Guild.   I want there to be more implication that the player is approaching the thieves.  I also plan to add an event that triggers when the player gets too close to the sewer “water” where jewels and certain stolen goods float by.  I also have a battle scene that triggers in the sewer where the player can fight the rat or other sewer monsters that guard the Thieves’ Guild.
The sewer scene

The sewer scene

I have not thought about using events as a way to surprise the player.  I think that the random encounter that triggers the battle scene certainly has surprised players that have tested my game.  Other than that I am not sure that I have many things that are surprising.  I want to have things surprise the player, whether it be the story or events that occur, but I am not sure how I want to do that.  I am not sure what would surprise someone playing my game. I would like to think that my game is entertaining.  I hope that people that play my game have fun.  During the Game Night where people were testing out my game, it looked like people were enjoying themselves while playing.  I think that my characters are entertaining, they are all different and quirky.  The interactions that the player has with them are laced with humor, and the characters’ designs can be funny.  I think that having a giant, mangy rat in the town is unexpected and makes the game more interesting.  The shop-keep also has a grumpy and creepy personality to him which provides some humor into the game.
The Shopkeep

The Shopkeep

There are a lot of things that are keeping the game alive for me.  There are many things that I want to keep adding to the game, and there are characters and maps that I still want to put into the game.  I want there to be a lot of choices in the game, and I want the player to feel like there is plenty to do in all of the levels, regardless of whether the game is complete.  The main thing that keeps the game alive and makes me want to continue working on it is the idea of making a complete game.  A lot of the games that I play are RPG style games and they are always inspiring new ways in which I can improve my game.    

Postmortem: Down and Out

d&o cap1

My game tentatively titled “Down and Out” is about a human woman named Kaira who lives in post-apocalyptic Florida and has amnesia. She is trying to regain her memories and help the friends she makes along the way. Down and Out is radical in that while it is in a post-apocalyptic setting I don’t want the entire world to seem hostile. The game takes place after a sense of normalcy has returned to the world. The swamp Kaira lives in is her and her generation’s normal.

I was inspired to create this game several years ago when I wanted to explore a water-based post-apocalyptic setting as nearly all the post-apocalyptic media I have seen has been largely based on arid/desert conditions. It has since become much more than just the concept of a swamp with talking animals in it. The protagonist Kaira has come alive over this past year in ways I hadn’t foreseen when I started doodling her in my notebooks as a first year.


Kaira

Kaira



Development has hit a few unexpected snags and roadblocks along the way but overall I’m holding my own when it comes to coding and creating sprites is relaxing for me.If I could’ve done anything differently I would’ve developed the Tavern map more and filled it out more. As it is the map is quite barren and has no real interactions within. This map is one of my favorite places in the game so far so I really wish I had worked on it more than I did this semester. It is also a location that introduces another major NPC to the narrative who I didn’t have time to properly implement into the game.

Nadia

Nadia, Tavern owner



The Tavern map

“The lost and found bar” Nadia’s Tavern



My game hasn’t changed significantly over the course of the semester. It has changed since I first got the idea three years ago but over the semester Down and Out has remained largely the same. I’d say the biggest change was scrapping Zhis’s follow script and possibly changing the title from “Down” to “Down and out”. The character Zhis has remained largely unchanged since her original inception. If anything this semester has cemented her role as “The Companion” more than before. While Zhis is a character with her own motives and goals as will be seen at a later point in the game right now she is like a protector for Kaira. Kaira has lost all her memories and Zhis thankfully is there when she wakes up and is her friend. As she reintroduces Kaira to the world she’s lived in all her life she also guides the player into the world that is familiar yet foreign to them.

Zhis

Zhis



Getting a follower script running on Zhis turned out to be a challenge I couldn’t quite overcome this semester. This is unfortunate but not completely surprising. This is, however, something I intend to work on in the future. Time management was very important to this project and I wish my time management had been better so I could’ve accomplished even more with my game. For now, however, paired with what I accomplished last semester I am proud of how far I’ve come since starting game design.

While I had a few struggles while designing this game I also had some very pleasant surprises.  Such as discovering that not only did I enjoy composing music but I was fairly good at it considering that I have never composed music before. It went over well in play-testing and set the mood I was hoping for so that was a pleasant surprise. I have gotten a good handle on LMMS (the audio program I used) and I plan on making more sounds for my game in the coming months.

House H(a)unter: Event as Narrative

An image from the first iteration of the paper game.

An image from the first iteration of the paper game.

The radical element in my story is in the link between emotional burden and literal danger. All humans have skeletons in their closets, but in the town of Tawny Mill the things that haunt them might at any moment literally haunt them. The ghosts which pursue Casper over the course of the story are literal manifestations of the conflicts within others: a woman’s obligation to maintain the legacy of her deceased ancestors, another’s conflict about her murdered brother, or a literal demon linked to a disgraced exorcist to name a few possible levels. Moreover, these hauntings are much like the traumas people encounter every day in that over the years one becomes desensitized to them. The people Casper deals with in his quest have lived with real ghosts and so do not acknowledge them, rather allowing them to become an ingrained part of the subconscious. They can only be scared by the ghosts (problems) which the ghost hunters manufacture for them. Likewise, it takes the intervention of an external force (the ghost hunters) to cause the characters to confront their issues.

 

In the levels constructed this term, I focused on the establishment of a manufactured haunting. Casper acquires a costume which he can use to frighten the people occupying the mansion, but must select his second choice in costume as his first has mysteriously disappeared. The first costume, that of Sheriff Wycome, is associated with a man whom the museum is fixated on, to the point that his descendant feels obligated to put on his mask in order to run her business. Through dialogue, she is repeatedly shown to be unhappy despite her constant attempts to present a positive face and call herself the “Sheriff”. When Casper goes to steal the Sheriff’s costume and it has disappeared (followed by footsteps), it represents the fact that by trying to find out about town problems he has inadvertently opened himself to the suffering that involves.

This is furthered by the fact that both her and her only employee are only smiling when the player is nearby. When the sheriff dummy is collided with for the first time, a “spooky” sound plays, signifying that he will be a figure associated with a haunting. When the sheriff disappears, it is accompanied by strange footsteps and the destruction of the music option. This foreshadows the appearance of a real ghost in the next level, and indicates that the area is no longer a welcoming one.

A screenshot of the mannequins which Casper steals from.

A screenshot of the mannequins which Casper steals from.

I attempted to surprise the player with the disappearance of the sheriff ghost. The position of this set of levels (both in this standalone version of the game and in the completed version of the game that I envision) this is the first implication that ghosts really exist. Casper and Becca speak about ghosts as a thing to fabricate, and seem to be old hats at tricking people into believing in fake ghosts, and so initially the story is positioned to be one with no hauntings. This of course means that many players are going to assume that there must be a ghost eventually – almost everyone who has played the game has said in the first room/when I explain the concept that they hope there’s a real ghost – and so the surprise has to be in when the ghost appears. I position the sheriff as being the mannequin that Casper will steal a costume from by making him a prominent figure in the back of the museum – in early playtests, most people expected they’d get the sheriff costume – and then make him disappear. His prominence, which is what drew people to him prior, is in fact the thing that brings him back to life as a spectre.

A mannequin of the current homeowner's great-great grandmother Moira Blackwood.

A mannequin of the current homeowner’s great-great grandmother Moira Blackwood.

My game needs a few more hitbox animations to reach it’s full potential of interaction, but I believe that in it’s current state it is still entertaining. Most people that have played it comment on the fact that they enjoyed the dialogue and the music, and found the art style cute and expressive.

 

I’d like to push the player more into choice and conflict by presenting options to gain more influence in the hauntings at the cost of the NPCs relationships to one another. This would likely also increase the presence of the real ghosts, rather than the resolution of them. I’d want to offer some different ways that the player could pull information from the NPCs, or in the later phases solve the crises that the NPCs are having, so that the players can choose how to interact with the world. I’d also like those options to result in different items to “haunt” the house with, to account for different strategies and playstyles. At some point I think I probably will have to provide choice in dialogue, because this is a game with quite a bit of dialogue-based narrative and I think it will make the player more engaged in that dialogue if they have input.

The one area in which I cannot give the player conflict or choice is in the haunting itself. Conning people into selling their property is not a moral action, and so it will be necessary to make the Casper and Becca amoral enough that people won’t chafe at the idea of following the plot without putting them in a frame of mind where they no longer care about hurting others (such as when playing games like Saints Row or Grand Theft Auto). In order to do this I’ll need to make the con seem not moral but at least less hurtful to the owners of the mansion in order to prevent the player from distancing themselves.

  Right now, the concept of developing the interactions between characters, as well as the aesthetic character of the town, are what keep me enthusiastic about working on the game. I also reframed the way I develop each arc this term. Rather than being able to visit each location every day and develop the original hauntings over time, a new location is unlocked each day and the player uses the new haunting (or an old haunting) to scare the homeowners. After haunting using the new ghost, the next day will be divided into two parts: the first an opportunity to work to resolve the real hauntings caused the previous day and the second uncovering new hauntings to fake.

Make or Break the Box: Event as Narrative

Splash Screen for Make or Break the Box

The story of my game is radical because it’s a playful commentary on the campus culture of Sarah Lawrence College. The game revolves around the idea of fitting yourself into someone else’s box of who you should be, or you can break their box and be who you are. To express this, the main level of the game features NPCs who pressure the player to join their club, sign their petition, or commit to their project. However, I have been struggling with the code aspect to allow for multiple conversation threads to occur. (Right now I’ve only managed to have one conversation play for all the NPCs. For example, the Red NPC says “Join my club Flower Power!” and so does the Pink NPC who is supposed to say “Stairs don’t care! Sign my petition and build a ramp instead!”
Pink NPC: "Stairs don't care!"

Pink NPC: “Stairs don’t care!”

Although I understand the theory and concept behind coding, I don’t fully understand the practice and debugging aspect. Hence, I do not have any hit boxes or triggered elements to further express the narrative or goal the game. If I could successfully code, then I would want to implement hit boxes that allow for the posters on the wall to be read and taken. (Note: Sabrina missed class on 2/20/2018, 4/3/2018, 4/10/2018, 4/12/2018 and a support conference on 4/9/2018. These were the classes that covered hit boxes and reviewed some of the concepts of debugging. AF, ed). An animation could play where the player removed the poster from the wall and a sound effect plays to indicate the player has conformed to the ideas of that poster.
Admittedly, I haven’t tried to surprise the player. Instead, I let the whimsical artwork and abstract representations of the students entertain the player for now rather than rely on game mechanics or flavorful dialogue. As of now, the color palette and the style of objects are vibrant and child-like. They suggest a familiar world (school) while at the same time being distinctly separate from reality. This bright and cheery nature allows the player to understand that the message of the game is intended to be playful critique of the radical campus culture and not a heavy judgement.
As of now, there isn’t much conflict or choice actually implemented in the game. However, if I were to successfully put them into the game then I would like for the player’s choices to alter NPC dialogue. For example, if the player chose not to build the pink NPC’s ramp and joined the red NPC’s Flower Power club instead, then the pink NPC would scold the player for not doing enough to help save the world. Since the player character doesn’t have a speaking role, then the red NPC could act as a mouthpiece and defend the player to “follow their dreams.” Otherwise, the game is an experimental and explorative commentary. The goal isn’t black and white, but more of an open-ended gray.

Wild Tale: Event as Narrative

The hotel, the prop bush/barrel.

The hotel and the prop bush/barrel.

Immersion is an important element in the enjoyment of the game. My radical game attempts to break the immersion of its world without breaking the connection to the game. Deconstructing a medium comes with the risk of damaging the suspension of disbelief that allows the medium to communicate to its audience.

My game is all about deconstruction. I want to deconstruct the idea of “self” by encouraging players to create their own narrative. I want the world to deconstruct itself and the reality it reflects. However, I needed a way to do this without breaking the immersion of the player.

I was inspired by the way Batman Begins adapted its comic source material. A scene in the comic depicts young Bruce going to the movies with his parents. Adapting the scene directly in a movie format would be a problem because the audience is now watching a movie instead of reading. The director decided to change the scene to Bruce going to the opera because they didn’t want to break the immersion by reminding the audience that they’re watching a movie.

The early decision to represent a movie instead of a game was because I knew I was going to breaking the 4th wall in order to communicate my ideas through the medium of a game. My game and its interactions will dance between immersing the player in the narrative and reminding the players that they are in a movie.

Here's your script!

Here’s your script!

In the beginning of the game, the player is given a script that says the cowboy needs to find a place to stay. The act of “finding a place to stay” is a metaphor for the player choosing a role to inhabit for the duration of the game. They meet three different characters that offer solutions. The action they take will determine the character (type of cowboy) they become.

Falling animation.

Falling animation.

In the level, the player will encounter props that fall down when they touch it. This interaction helps further communicates to the players that they are on a live movie set. However, the camera never stops rolling and the game/movie continues. As the main triggered animations, the falling props is my way of communicating to the players that they have the power to deconstruct what they see. In the process of that, they regain the power to reconstruct their own identity.

The props falling down is something left to be discovered by the players.
The bush is fake?

The bush is fake?

They are disguised as backdrops that does not block the main path. It is possible for players to not trigger props falling down on their first playthrough. This is an element I want to be surprising because I want the discovery to be memorable and possibly thought provoking. From playtesting, I’ve noticed that once players discover that props can be fake and fall down, they try to bump into everything. In term of replicability, I think this interaction will encourage a more exploratory playstyle. Though this is something very simple, it communicates to the players that the game might have more to it than meets the eyes.

Since my last post here, I composed a theme music for my game. I tried to compose something that gives the game a sense of adventure. The music makes the game much more enjoyable. I think the music highlights the enjoyable parts of the game. It encourages players to explore the bright areas and interact with the distinct characters. Through this, players experience the freedom to express oneself through actions.

New map: The Saloon (quite empty right now though).

New map: The Saloon (quite empty right now though).

In the middle of the game, the player is given a choice to divert or stay on their story-path. This option is given after they’ve faced the consequences of their first choice of choosing who to trust and where they’re staying for the first night. Their choice will make them realize that their actions will have consequences. It is up to them to decide whether that consequence is desired and if they’d like to change it. This chance to change one’s destiny is central to the theme of my game.

Near the end of the game, many of the options and choices are removed from the players. Instead, they’re faced with singular options that result from the choices they’ve made previously. Perhaps the consequence is undesirable to the player. This last section leaves the player wondering “what if” they had done something different. I think the game is best experienced the second playthrough and this “what if” encourages players to replay the game.

What will you do?

What will you do?

Despite the grueling process of game development, being able to create something meaningful to me is keeping me motivated. I think the idea of being able to watch a movie trailer based on player’s actions at the end of the game is really interesting. It gives players a chance to shift their perspective to that of a passive audience. I won’t be able to implement this idea until the game is fully fleshed out. I’m excited to bring this idea to life.

Through developing my hitbox animations, I know what the ending of my game is going to be. [SPOILER WARNING] Though the narrative ending will vary (3 in total) depend on the decisions the player makes, I need a thematic ending to convey the symbolic aspects of my game. This game is about the construction of identity. Through the script-like narrative progression and the props falling down, the player becomes hyperaware of the construction of the narrative in which they’re creating and experiencing. At the end of the game, I want the player to realize the characters as constructed beings as well. Once the narrative ending finishes, the player character falls forward, revealing the cowboy character as a cardboard prop. Through this, I hope to confuse and surprise the player. This sequence would hopefully make players question not only the game but their own identity as well. Once the player realizes their own identity as a constructed reality, they are empowered to reconstruct their identity. They are free from the “script” of the world and the stereotypical “roles” presented by the media we consume. Outside of the game, the player has control over the actions they take; and through those actions, they create the story they tell the world.

 

Radical Game Design: City Watch

GameSceenShot2  Screenshot from Unity build My game, City Watch, is about a girl named Lena who starts as part of the City Watch.  The City Watch is the faction of the city that houses the knights who protect and watch over the entire city.  Their job is to patrol and protect the city from crime.  Lena is part of the City Watch, but she has been tasked with finding and infiltrating the Thieves’ Guild.  Because of her job to infiltrate the Thieves, the game can take a split.  Lena can either decide to fully join the thieves and abandon the City Watch, or she can do as originally told and destroy the Thieves’ Guild.  The choice is up to the player.  There are steps to accomplishing either faction in the game.  For the thieves, it is really all about stealing.  The more that is stolen, the greater chance of being part of the guild, but also the worse that the relationship becomes with the City Watch.  For the City Watch, the goal is to do good.  It is to help people, and to find crime in the city.  There are some shady people in the world, so it is up to Lena to get rid of them.  Of course getting rid of the thieves is also the main goal to the City Watch as well. There is a constant tug and pull in the game- the player can either do what is morally right, or they can bend the rules and go outside of the law in the game.  There is no real “right or wrong,” no way of the game is better than the other, both have their merits and rewards, so the game is really in the player’s hands on how they want to play it.  That is what is radical about my game; their is no truly right way to play it.  However the player wants to play the game is the “right” way to play it. I came up with the idea for the game based on my history with playing many video games.  I play a lot of fantasy styled games like The Witcher series and the Elder Scrolls series.  In those games there are many morally grey characters, which makes the games interesting and fun to play.  And especially within the Elder Scrolls series, there are always thieves guilds or darker factions within the world.  The player can join the guild through quests, and their is some risk in being caught stealing.  However, there is no real risk in the game for joining the guild.  It is a side-quest so it has no real impact on the game.  That is where I wanted to differently with my game.  I like the idea of guilds within a fantasy type world, but I wanted there to be more decision and change to joining them.  The idea of consequence and story changing decisions was influenced by the Dragon Age games as well as The Witcher.  Those games are heavy in story driven choice.  I like games that give options to the player; there are multiple ways to play the game based off of what actions the player decides to take.       GameScreenshot  Another screenshot from the Unity Build- Shopkeep on the left and Lena to the right The level that I am working on currently is for the city.  There are a few NPCs in the level.  There is the shady shopkeep, the suspicious teen, and there is the rat.  As I progress with the game I will probably add more characters to the level, but as of right now those are the characters that exist in the level so far.  By talking to the shopkeep, Lena learns rumor about the thieves.  The teen also gives different rumor, and I am working on creating interesting dialogue for both NPCs.  I want their rumors to be informative but not too telling, and I want more dichotomy in this level.  As of right now, the level leans more toward finding the thieves, but not much is talked about in terms of the City Watch.  There is also the rat in the level.  It leads Lena towards the thieves and toward stealing.  As Lena grows closer to the thieves, her bond also increases with the rat.  Eventually there will be a counter to the rat, there will be something that guides Lena more towards helping the City Watch. For the level, I am using a rather dark color palette.  The colors are mostly shades of grey and red.  Towards the right side of the level, where Lena comes out of the City Watch, I made the building colors slightly more colorful.  The red is brighter and the colors in the windows are lighter and pinker.  As Lena travels left in the level, the colors of the buildings change.  The base color of the buildings becomes a darker and grayer red.  The colors in the windows are now dark grey and the lighter grey from the right side.  There is less vibrancy in level on the left side because Lena is moving towards the Thieves’ Guild.  I had originally made the level pretty light and “normal.”  The sky was blue and the buildings were brown and grey; but I didn’t like the way that felt for the level.  Making the level darker made the level feel better.  The city is not a cheery place and there is a lot of crime that goes on, so it only makes sense that the color in the level reflect that.   Lena Front Sprite   Sprite for Lena in the game.   IMG_1309 Original paper game sprite for Lena IMG_1490 IMG_1489 PIMG_1488Paper game levels

Radical Game Design: Neighborhood Simulator

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 8.17.00 AM

What’s the game about?
Gentrification is about a player moving to a transitioning neighborhood. They just graduated from college with some student loans to pay off and they got a job in the city. Now they’re moving to an affordable neighborhood near their job – their goal is to get an apartment.

Where did the idea come from?
I grew up in New York City until I was nine, on the Upper West Side and in Harlem. I moved back to Harlem a few years ago, and it was crazy how much the neighborhood had changed since the last time I had been there. All of a sudden, we had a Whole Foods moving in down the street, a climbing gym moving in, and fancy coffee shops popping up. It’s the process of gentrification in action.

I was at a bookstore (in Harlem, coincidentally) when I found a book called “In Defense of Housing,” by David Madden and Peter Marcuse, that talks about the underlying causes of gentrification which I found interesting and which got me thinking about using it as a subject for my game.

How is your game radical?
My plan for my game is to build a simple and relatable environment in which the player’s goal is to get an apartment so they can begin to work (and begin to pay off their student loan). Through interactions with NPCs and the environment, it will become clear to the player that by taking the path of least resistance – simply renting an apartment – they will be at odds with the best interest of the neighborhood. They’ll be taking part in and perpetuating the gentrification that is negatively impacting the neighborhood and the community.

IMG_1922

How did your paper prototype play?
The paper prototype played well. I was very informative to see my idea for the game having been physically built. And it certainly helped to see my game through the eyes of potential players.

People responded well to the game design. The main feedback I got was that there wasn’t a clear enough idea of what my game was about. The class was able to figure it out on their own but it took some teasing out for them to get there. Moving forward, that’s something I’d like to pay special attention to – making sure that the directive is clear at every point in the game.

My initial plan was to make the game with a black and white color palette but in the play through, someone suggested trying it with color.

The third main feedback I got, was to give my NPCs a point of view, driven by some motivation in their interactions.

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 8.17.23 AM

What are your three NPC encounters in level one?
In level one, I’m planning to have my character encounter an apartment building owner from whom he can rent an apartment, the owner / manager of a new hip coffee shop that just opened up, and the owner of a corner deli whose family has been in the neighborhood for several generations.

IMG_5021

How did these encounters express your game idea?
Those three characters all experience the gentrification of a neighborhood from very different perspectives. Each plays a different role in the community. And each will be affected differently, and each has a different motivation.

The apartment owner has already been a part of the community but will want to take advantage of the trend of increased demand for his apartment and will probably raise the cost of rent.

The coffee shop owner is new to the area and is looking to capitalize on the influx of a new demographic of people to the neighborhood – one willing to pay extra for their coffee if it comes with a certain atmosphere.

The corner deli owner’s business may be threatened by the wave of gentrification.

How do your game encounters support a help and hinder paradigm in your design?
The player will have to decide for themselves how they choose to act, while progressing toward their goal. Their actions will either contribute to the gentrification of the neighborhood or they will help to support the community.

Characters like the coffee shop owner or the apartment owner benefit from the gentrification of the neighborhood. In interacting with them, the player will be pushed toward a simpler path to the goal of securing an apartment to live in.

Only by talking to other characters, like the deli owner, who don’t necessarily benefit from gentrification, will the player be able to find a path to their goal that doesn’t contribute to the gentrification of the neighborhood.

How is your game build progressing?
The build is coming along well. I have most of the art completed for the level. I still have to make some animations for my NPCs and background elements of the city in the distance. The code seems to be coming together well.

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 8.17.42 AM

How are you using color in this game?
After my first paper game play-through, the class suggested adding color to the game. I played around with it and I like the result – though I’m still nailing down a clear color script that will clearly define my character in relation to the world around him.

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Still, for now, I enjoy working in this simple palette; I think it gives the city a cool feel.

What was the rationale behind your level design?
I liked the idea of making a 2d side-scroller, set in Brooklyn. I think it sets up a lot of fun opportunities to design fun maps.

So far, I’m trying to keep a lookout for where I place the buildings I design and what that means for the community I’m creating, in doing so.

Where in your elements did you intervene to make the design of the game unconventional?
My ultimate plan for the game – although it may be a bit beyond the scope of this class – will be to add a bit of a fantastical / supernatural element to the third act. The evil that’s truly causing the gentrification to take place has its roots in the city (literally) and I plan to hint at this throughout the first and second acts of the game.

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How does your game ‘say a lot with a little?
Visually, the world I’m creating is designed to be simple and yet expressive. The characters are minimal and yet have enough details to convey a sense of who they are and what their relationship to the environment is.

How does your design act to express your theme or story?
If all goes as planned, the environment that the character is moving through will change and respond to the decisions that the player makes. If the player doesn’t consciously make decisions that will strengthen and benefit the community, they’ll see the level changing.

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As an example, when gentrification rises, you’ll start to see tags disappearing and being replaced with commissioned art.

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Can the player see what’s important in this early level?
The player’s goal – to rent an apartment without contributing to the gentrification of the neighborhood – will be very clear in this level. NPC interaction will be the biggest way in which I can make that happen.

How does your aesthetic emphasize emotion?
The goal of my game is to make the player aware of the negative impact gentrification can have on a neighborhood, help them to understand what causes it and what can be changed, and to empathize with the people who are impacted by the changing community.

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.