My game is about a cowboy in a movie set of an old west movie. Players progress through shooting various scenes in the movie with freedom of choosing how the scenes play out. Their previous actions they take dictates the actions they can take in future scenes. For example, helping the bandit early on could mean not being able to talk to the sheriff later on. After shooting the scenes, players get to see what kind of movie they’ve made at the end.
The idea came from the development process of the game. At first, I wanted to make a game about the pressure to conform to a role in front of other people. After researching the old west genre, I decided a more interesting theme to explore would be the dissonance in the escape and immersion popular entertainments promise and the stereotypes they actually show.
To bring out this idea, my game puts the player in both the shoes of the producer and the audience of entertainment. After the players decide on the type of movie this is going to be about, they are forced to consume it. Through this, I call attention to the decisions made for us by the producers of the media we consume and the stereotypes they reinforce. I purposely break immersion with the movie sets to call out the lack of immersion breaking that encourages consumers to passively consume media.
Early on in development, I made a paper prototype to test out some of the ways I could explore this idea within a game environment. My paper prototype was based on an earlier idea of the game where players had no choice but to conform to stereotypes. I learned that the traditional gamey elements like quests and dialogue options were too distracting. By stripping my game of some traditional elements, I was able to bring out the focus of my game.
Through that process, I was able to iterate on various ideas that resulted in what I have now. Currently, I have just the first level partially built. The NPC encounters in the first level are the director, bandit, saloon girl, and sheriff. The director sets the scene of a cowboy looking for a place to stay. The rest of the NPCs each represents a “type” of cowboy the player could play. They all offer a solution for the player’s problem. By choosing the align with the bandit, saloon girl, or sheriff, players will have decided on if they want to play the bad, carefree, or good cowboy respectively. Throughout the game, players will be given the options of staying with their alignment or straying away from it.
Currently, I’m working on getting my first level to run with dialogues and traversals smoothly. I’m still establishing some of the base codes of the game. Once that is done, it should be a matter of writing and building out the rest of the game.
Regarding the aesthetic designs, I’m using bright colors to contrast the muted and dark color scheme of the western world. The various movie set objects in the game should stand out with their industrial and bright colors. I’m contemplating on potentially changing the colors of the game to show the player’s current alignment with the type of narrative they’re on the path to create.
One of the design challenges I face is to find a way to convey choice. In a traditional game, a choice is typically presented with a drop-down menu describing the various actions players could take. However, I wanted to reinforce the idea that in real life, our choice and actions aren’t always going to be laid out for us. To do this, I’ll be applying the design strategy of presenting players with options before the choice. For example, in the example of my first level, players naturally encounter with the bandit. The bandit provides the option of stealing a key from the sheriff. However, to choose that option, players will have naturally encounter their two other options before being given the ability to make the decision. Once this pattern is established, I plan to have more obscure options players can take to communicate the idea that our choices about personal identity require exploration and are not always the first option presented.
While I haven’t fleshed out the full story of the game yet, I plan to keep my game fairly short in order to encourage replay attempts. I think the message becomes the clearest when players become more conscious of their actions and consequences. By having two gameplay experiences, they have a different result to compare to. Some may argue that the intended replayability makes the game’s choices less meaningful. However, I think the players’ own curiosity to explore the various options in the narrative is exactly the mindset I want them to have. The curiosity to explore the options is more important to me than living up to the consequences of the actions.
Early on in the game, the impact of the players’ choices is not immediately obvious. It’s not until later in the game when restrictions are placed on the choices they can make are the results of their actions obvious. At this point, some players may feel a bit of frustration or guilt in their lack of freedom. I think this is positive for the game because it encourages people to replay the game. However, they will always end up with a coherent narrative where the cowboy is reinforcing some sort of stereotypical narrative. If the lack of control at the end takes players out of the immersion and gets them to think about how they’ve constructed their narrative, then I will have succeeded in getting my message across.
I didn’t plan for the game to be so reflective of some of the things in life I’m working through right now. The process of creating this game is forcing me to look deeper at some of the influences (both positive and negative) I had growing up. I hope that this experience will not only help me grow personally but also result in a shareable product that inspires introspection for other people as well.
“Listening is not a natural process inherent to our perception of the world but rather constructed by the conditions of the spaces and times that engulf us” Lawrence Abu Hamdan (Tape Echo) (Rubber Coated Steel, artist from Lebanon).
The challenge: To be always building and unbuilding.
EthicIf it can be, I want this game to be an experiment in choreography. I’ve been thinking about movement as a form of incitement; as a political act. I’ve been thinking about how we perceive our own flight as a political optics, and hopefully also a haptic. I was interested in developing a game that careens towards a different kind of sight, one that encourages and facilitates a soft gaze, one that prioritizes / embodies a different kind of perception, undergirded with the rewards of moving towards something other than progress. I’m interested in eventually (and maybe not in this first attempt) building a game interface based on haptic (rather than representational/optical) cues.
InfluencesThis game is inspired by ideas in haptic visuality theory. This game posits a kind of movement (proprioceptic) which departs from something like a formal gameplay style, which relies on the fixed subjectivity of the player (subject-object duality) to create flow. I want flow to be interrupted / disrupted in this game in order to break up the “given.” Influences right now are Apichatpong’s film Cemetery of Splendor (2016), in which Apitchatpong uses layering techniques of incongruous text and image to say a lot about the violence of representation as crafted by colonialism, neoliberalism, capital and the Western eye. I’m also looking a the Heavy Industries project / Young-Hae Chang. link to Heavy Industries. Thinking about how text can drive a game. I’m Mona Hatoum’s work Measures of Distance as an example of a film that employs this haptic rubbing. Also, Fred Moten’s recent body of work from his talk “The Blur and Breathe Books” which is making the rounds right now. link to the talk at NYU this past February. A game designer who already implements these kinds of techniques within the video game medium is Bill Viola, whose game ‘The Night Journey’ incorporates blurred vision and prioritizes slow movement within the game space.
Problem Space / Solution Space*
*From Will WrightIt is impossible to visualize the kind of world that we can live in, that we would like to live in. Actually: It is so hard to dream into other temporalities. It is so hard to try. This is not about making being seeming (Massumi) but about shifting away from the primacy of this imagining of what living should look like.
Asset ListThis is what the playtest looked like: The animated asset list at this stage (left to right) runs 1) starfish / cowhand boot 2) bubble blower 3) diamond bubble portal 4) stars that turn into star trails/bleeding stars, 5) radio dial 6) series of screens 7) also *potentially* a dial to switch the screens like a channel remote (actually, this should probably be not in your control at all– in order to communicate a roving disembodied affective spatiality). On the non-animated end, the additional assets that I need to build in Adobe Animate CC/Unity are: worms, disco balls, power line, stars, the train, landscape, platform path, the water, shells, starfish.
Notes from playtest:Discovered out that I’ll have to decide whether or not to build the game with poetry audio built in to Unity or whether I should build it with the music accompaniment. Both will end up in the game, but I think adding music with ProTools later might be a good idea. Discovered that the mechanics I had in mind are pretty simple: For example, a major part of the game involves a collision of bubbles with a diamond portal into another world. They are meant to disappear through the hole, and they will, because a collision will make them disappear. As an endless runner, it resembles pretty closely the game that we build in the tutorials. It will be different in the mechanic in that there will be a screen that is hooked up to the speed of the player. Still trying to figure out what building that connection will entail.
- c# methods for: the cover page, the collision reaction (the kill box), the activation of the screen, the holes in the screen, the insertion of audio, which will be layered sound and poetry. the feeling of pink stone.
- how to work like heavy industries
“The Clay” gameplay.If I could continue with the game for another couple weeks before the presentation, I would focus on adding menus, finishing up the splash screen (a work in progress), working on a second stained glass window, and adding a rough version of the ending I had come up with at the start of the class. I would spend more time studying textures, lights, and application of 3D objects within a 2D space in order to further bring the setting and its players to life. But overall, the finished product had progressed much more than I’d considered possible at the beginning of the semester. And working in a collaborative space where questions, concepts, and code were being passed around freely and frequently was very key in how successful I believe the process to have been.
A peak at the splash screen in progress.The concept of individual game design was especially interesting in that it was a shot at taking on all of the roles involved in the process, many of which I had never attempted at all. Although I am involved in music, I had never before had to look at a project and write a piece that I felt captured the essence of what was going on on-screen and what mood I hoped would be resonating inside the head of the player. Scoring the project was a really interesting experience, and provided a cool exercise with adding boundaries to a process and finding inspiration within the limitations. I had a lot of fun imagining and coming up with a sound that was both hopeful and lonely, both dark and permeated with bits of light. The second new role I took on in this process was that of artistic director. I came up with the concept of a character, worked sans-tutorial with shadowing, player/object movement and animation, and worked and reworked color schemes until they captured the image I had of what this world looks like.
The score for “The Clay” in arranged in Ableton, a music production software.Overall, I’m happy with the finished product, and plan on continuing to decorate it and sand the edges over summer break. Then, hopefully, I can release it online and continue to get feedback, make improvements, and expand the world that spawned on the first day in this class.
The piece of note paper, including the first idea for the ‘clay’,
concepts for the music, thematic elements, and the ending of the story.However, this is a ‘radical’ video game design class. Most games are designed to bring the player into some sort of a ‘trance’ – what would be different about this game? The radical aspect of this game, in my opinion, is that, while being so simple, there will be no way to keep track of a score. The only thing driving the player to play the game will be whatever emotional connection they have to the character. There will be no way to measure how far they get into the ‘endless’ level unless they’ve beaten it (which will certainly require a lot of time and perseverance). And hopefully, with slow, droning music and an adequately designed setting, the trance state that the players are brought into will be one not of energy, anxiety, and hyper-awareness, but one in which their brains are opened into pathways of thought and focus that bring them into a more relaxed and real-world-productive state.
Concept art for the antagonist (left) and the main character (rightThe game will feature assets that will attempt to work in ways that the player would not expect, but will still make sense. For example, there will hopefully be creatures crawling around the temple that the game is based in that the player can encounter – upon touching these creatures, either nothing would happen to the character, or something positive would happen that would catch the person off guard. If there are creatures that resemble broken, crumbling forms of the antagonists, maybe upon coming into contact with them the protagonist will take pity on them and give them aid. Torches, which are generally used to provide light, could be used to harden the clay and thus have a negative connotation. Generally, while providing an entertaining and compelling experience, I want the game to make subtle, consistent nudges at the player’s expectations of what a game should be.