Category Archives: Non-Linear Narrative

Game Studio: The Protagonist

My characters were limited by my artistic ability, but this led to a much more simpler and abstract design that I was influenced from watching the stick figure animations in my childhood. A lot of the design for the main character was influenced by a game called Fancy Pants Adventure. A lot of the design elements for the protagonist ended up being the same, such as the hairstyle for the protagonist. However, I wanted to put a unique spin on this style and blend it with music, which is something that has influenced me throughout my life. I thought the hair was very “punkish” which is something that I was aiming for as a design element. A lot of the bands in the 2000’s that I grew up listening to would have those kinds of edgy rocker hairstyles, the colored mohawks and the like. However, with stick figures, I thought that the character would be someone any aspiring musician could relate to in a way.

Reference Image: David Beckham

I enjoyed just how animated and expressive you could make stick figures, even with how simple they are. You could have a character doing all sorts of things and make the action even more exaggerated. All the characters had elements of the music scene or an alternative look to them, which I certainly enjoyed giving and designing. A lot of stick figures are designed to be “bland” and not set apart from each other in an animation for example, but I liked giving them an air of distinction. For example, the roadie NPC was designed with long hair and always smoking a cigarette, which is a common trope/stereotype of the rock roadie scene that I thought I could play on. roadie NPC The cigarette automatically tells me that the character lives a rough lifestyle and is out on the road a lot. As for the villainess, she was designed as an opposite for the protagonist. The term “opposite ends attract” was a core principle for me in designing the character. So as the protagonist is leading a lifestyle of rock and roll and on his quest in the game, the villainess is an opposite, offering a life of peace and stepping away from his dreams. girlfriend villain NPC I chose the split hair colors as a sly reference to the choice she offers in being the villain of the game. The roses and the drumsticks also are a nod to that. The two worlds colliding was an interesting dynamic for me to explore. It is either the rock life or the life of settling down and building another life together. This reference image I found was the basis of the hair color. As per the protagonist, heavily based off the Fancy Pants Adventure game, I found that I would put the protagonist in my shoes, as a drummer just like me. I thought his story would be interesting as well as funny for any musician, putting on the best show of all time, playing the best gig that he can. game protag   With the hair in mind, it ended up looking like a mix of the “mohawk” from the main character in Fancy Pants Adventure, as well as elements of Sonic the Hedgehog’s head mixed with a Super Saiyan in the Dragon Ball anime series. I liked the idea of hair being the distinctive item in all these characters, as I felt that looks would be important in distinguishing between all these characters. I liked being able to design one element that would stand apart from the others that would make them unique from each other. So I thought that hair would be the way to go as it is in some ways, a lot of people’s form of expression.

Reference Image: Dragon Ball Z

Reference: Sonic the Hedgehog

Characters for Hollie, Girl Detective

Hollie, Girl Detective

Hollie, Girl Detective

When working on this project, I was inspired in style by old flash games like Riddle School, the idea of children in adult situations like South Park, and a girl solving a mystery that the police should themselves like Nancy Drew PC games. Hollie is 12 years old and in 6th grade. For months, she’s been working with the Safeville Police Department and Police Chief Dunlap to find missing pets. After the murder of classmate Joshie Felix, Chief Dunlap assigns Hollie to the case.
IMG_8826

Hollie first sketch

When I first started, my idea was to have my protagonist be Little Red Riding Hood solving the murder of her grandmother. Her hood soon became her hair, and her name changed from Little Red to Hollie (named this way for heart i’s). Her big coat came from my style in middle school, which was big and baggie and something I could just hide my entire body in. IMG_8832 I added the buttons to emphasize the fact that it was a big coat.   IMG_8827   Chief Dunlap and Tommie the first 2 NPCs I designed for this game. Chief Dunlap is meant to be a useless adult figure. He gives Hollie her cases, and is ignorant of the reality of the situation. Tommie is part of the influential and rich Winston family, and is an entitled little shit. IMG_8831   I added a mustache to make him look older.   chief dunlap   He sits at his desk all day. He never leaves.   IMG_8828   Tommie grew legs to look less shady, and his money sign became more obvious.   tommie winston   The color of his pants and hat is Nantucket Red which is gross and the perfect color for a rich white boy. I also covered him in blood to make it painfully obvious that he’s the murderer. The spelling of his name was also changed to fit the theme of every child characters’ names ending in “ie”. These three characters are the most important characters in the game, and made up the overall tone I wanted to set for this dark comedy game.

Nonlinear Narrative: The Protagonist

ProtagonistFinal   My protagonist is a woman named Alessa Solaris, who lives in a futuristic society where human space travel has been achieved. In this universe, the resources on Earth have been completely diminished and humans have taken to gathering resources in the form of raw elements from elsewhere in the galaxy. These raw elements are bought and sold at high prices and used to create compounds that make up the materials humans use for everything from medicine to fuel. And because the element trading market is so lucrative, it has brought about a resurgence of space piracy. Alessa’s role in this world is one of conflicting loyalties. All she wants is to get married to the love of her life, but she has no money to contribute to the wedding, and she is desperate. Seeing piracy as the quickest way to get the money she needs, she joins a crew and sets off on her first mission to plunder a space station that is known to have a large supply of elements. Unfortunately, she soon discovers that this space station is where her fiance, a medical professional and virologist, is using those elements to create a cure for the viral epidemic happening on a nearby planet. This is how Alessa becomes torn between following her captain’s orders, and protecting her fiance, who plans on guarding those elements and his work on the cure with his life. The major goals for this character design was to create a character who exhibited a merging of two different styles: futuristic space and old fashioned pirate, as well as showing her as a female, and making her seem friendly but somehow connected to the other two main characters who both exhibit differing styles: one being a healer and scientist, and one being a marauding space pirate. To show Alessa as feminine, I focused on eyes and hair and slightly on body type. I didn’t want to fall into the trope of a female character wearing a skin-tight jumpsuit to show all her curves, so I thought focusing on feminine eyes and hair would be a better approach. However, if I wanted to show her hair, I couldn’t have a full space helmet, so I tried to take some inspiration from Starlord’s space mask from Guardians of the Galaxy.
Reference image source: http://cdn2-www.superherohype.com/assets/uploads/2014/07/starlordimage1.jpg

Reference image source:
http://cdn2-www.superherohype.com/assets/uploads/2014/07/starlordimage1.jpg

This led to a helmet that covered half of her head and a gas mask type attachment to her nose and mouth. This led to the misunderstanding that she was from a toxic environment more akin to a post-apocalyptic world. Which then led to the eventual development of the full face and top of the head type helmet that one can see in the final character design. This communicates the image of space much better. Also, thicker outlines and some light reflections were added to the eye protection so that it communicates goggles or a visor attachment to the helmet much better. Since the helmet evoked the image of space more than the image of pirate, I used the clothing design as an opportunity to show more of a classic pirate type style. I originally was inspired by the movie Alien to give my character a jumpsuit that looked more like a uniform that one would wear in space.
Reference image source: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-XXlLOIYx5S0/T1Jpu0Y5rNI/AAAAAAAABGo/056ski5rXJ0/s1600/aliencrew.jpg

Reference image source:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-XXlLOIYx5S0/T1Jpu0Y5rNI/AAAAAAAABGo/056ski5rXJ0/s1600/aliencrew.jpg

This idea evolved because of the need to add elements of the classic pirate crewman style, which is where the vest, the belt, and the loose fitting pants come from. The heavy work boots are used to evoke an image of a tough work environment that requires stability and sturdiness, like one might come across as a crew member aboard a spaceship. This is also why they are more box shaped than any other elements of this character’s design, since square shapes indicate sturdiness and immovability.   I used elements of color and shape to work out the other design details. Because she is the protagonist, I wanted to make sure the players can feel like they trust her. Therefore, I tried to stick to rounded corners, soft edges, and circular elements. This is why her eyes are so rounded and prominent. They communicate an innocence and trustworthiness. These characteristics are also exemplified with the eyebrows tilted upwards because it gives an openness to the face that echoes a friendly personality. The repeated use of round and circular shapes in the character design plays on the human habit of reading traits with those shapes as friendly, open, innocent, playful, and slightly feminine. Color also plays an important part in the design of this character. First, I wanted to stay away from most cool colors like green, blue and purple, because those are usually used to convey a mysterious, untrustworthy, sneaky, or devious tone. However, while redesigning the helmet, I thought to use some grays with blue and purple tints to show her connection to the less than morally sound pirate crew. Other than that, I tried to stick to vibrant warm colors like red and orange. These vibrant colors convey energy and bring the player’s attention directly to the character, thus identifying her as the protagonist. The white in her vest also brings attention to her because it is a bright contrast from dark and mysterious tones, but is also associated with innocence. This character design evolved as I created it. There was really only one sketch at the beginning, but the elements of her design changed as levels of the character were developed.       Protag Sketch She initially started with straighter hair, but to make her more energetic and dynamic, the hairstyle was altered. Her figure was also curved and rounded a little more during the outlining phase. Protag Outline 1Protagonist 1 When going through the second phase of design where the helmet went through the most alterations, there was a sketch period where I played around with some other ideas. I thought about making her boots bigger, or giving her a big oxygen tank backpack, but these ideas were ultimately scrapped, as the bigger boots conveyed more of a stomping and squishing mechanic, and the backpack could not be seen from the front and would only cause confusion in this design.   Protag Sketch 2Protag Helmet SketchProtag Helmet ColorProtag Helmet Linework I also ended up exaggerating the effect of the helmet on her hair by making it curve out from under the helmet like real hair does. This made the borders of the helmet more clear and made it look more useful as protective head equipment. I also exaggerated the reflective shine on the goggles to convey more clearly that they are goggles. ProtagonistFinal As I am much happier with this iteration of the character’s design, this will most likely be the final, completed version of the protagonist. Also, this design will continue to affect how the other NPCs are designed. For example, the captain will have a new helmet that looks similar to the protagonist’s so that they are shown to be related through profession, however, the captain will be slightly more extravagant than the protagonist to show his higher rank. As for the fiance, the other NPC, he will show similar color and shape themes to be shown as innocent and friendly, but these similar themes will also act as a way to connect the two characters in the player’s mind. The world design will also share similarities with the protagonist’s design. For example, anything related to the protagonist’s personal belongings should be in the same color scheme as the character, so oranges, reds, browns, and grays should be present in her living quarters. Also, to appears as if she fits in the environment, the world design, specifically the space ship, should look like the kind of heavy duty work environment that would warrant her need for those sturdy work boots. By working with specific constraints based on style, story, and theme, this protagonist’s design has changed and evolved. Color, shape, clothing style, and attributes such as her helmet and boots give the player a clear idea of who this character is and what kind of world she lives in, as well as what her relationship to the two NPCs might be. If a new conflict appears in regards to the protagonist’s design going forward, she might change slightly once again, but for the time being, she is a completed character. by Anna Beliveau

Nonlinear Narrative: The Protagonist

The initial concept

The initial concept

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

Sketches where I messed around with the scar concept

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

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

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

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

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

possible final sprite?

Another possible final sprite

Another possible final sprite

Kaira sprite draft copy

When I officially gave Kaira The Boots

Nonlinear Narrative: The Protagonist

Becca Radley Concept   The protagonist for my game design project is Becca Radley. She is a 24 year-old professional ghost hunter with a predisposition for off-the-wall plans. When her producers demand that she and her brother/co-host Casper provide the funds for their next season themselves, Becca uses her money to purchase lottery tickets. One of them wins, but it is not enough to meet their goal. So, when Becca sees a massive old mansion for sale she hatches a plot to convince the owners the house is haunted and then convince them to sell their house for a lower price. Once it’s bought, she reasons, she can suddenly “resolve the haunting”, and sell it at a higher rate. Becca is the “face” of the Radley ghost hunting duo, with a showmanship that made their show – Ghost Quest – somewhat of a cult hit. Her ideas are not always good, or morally stable, but things have a way of resolving themselves in her favor. The top image is an example of Becca in the artistic style I’ll be using for conversations. I wanted to draw my inspiration for conversational sprites from dating sims and hidden object games. I also wanted my over world sprites to be fairly simple, so as not to crowd the viewer with detail. The rest of the images are over world sprites, as I assumed that it would be easier to find a face that looked aesthetically pleasing in the simpler style then develop a face in the complex style, rather than developing a face in the complex style and then trying to make it read well in the over world sprite style. I considered what props/special physical traits I might give Becca, but after some thought I decided that a more utilitarian design would function best for her. She’s a bit out-there as a person, but I wanted the townspeople NPCs to be bizarre with her as a grounding point, so I wanted her to look a bit “ordinary”. To that end, I decided I’d make her (and her brother to a lesser extent) stand out from the rest of the characters and the background by I started with a free-sketching style in the first image. I liked the proportions in that image, but felt like it would make keeping on-model difficult. I gave her some earrings and an eyebrow ring to showcase that she was more rebellious, and gave her white hair so she would contrast with the background. In the second image, I tried giving her a jacket. When we brought our three characters into class, a few people thought Casper was the main character due to the number of accessories he had, so I thought I might give Becca a hoodie in a different color. It ended up covering up much of the design on her shirt, however, so I removed it in the next sketch. Ghost Quest is her personal project, so I wanted her to display the shirt openly. This created the problem of how to properly display the logo. It was difficult to make one that read properly in the sprite style. In the next attempt, I simplified the logo under the logic that I could do the more detailed logo in the conversation sprites, but I ultimately didn’t like that. In sketch #4, I added a little ghost decal to the shirt to make it more clear that ghost hunting was what she’s about. I also simplified her shoes, as I was having difficulty making the white rubber section of her sneakers read well. In the next sketch, I decided to make the design more shape-oriented, and also to try outlining Becca with black rather than a similar color to the actual part of her body it was next to. Making her blockier ended up making drawing her easier, but I didn’t like the black lining so I abandoned that in design 6. Design 6 and 7 were both attempts to decide what those shapes were, and improve on the Ghost Quest shirt design. I also made her eyebrows black, to call attention to the fact that Becca is bleaching her hair rather than just having her hair naturally white. In design 6-8, I also played with the color of her shirt and skin to have a higher outline contrast, and tried to figure out what shape of eyes i wanted her to have. I ended up fairly happy with the shape of design 8, though when I put her in the background image her color scheme contrasted poorly with the background. So in image 9, I used photoshop’s Kuler wheel to give Becca a shirt color that fit into the scheme. Using the yellowish green in image 9, I ended up with a color that was different from any of the colors in the mansion’s scheme, but still fitting in with them. As this was happening, I started sketching the backgrounds for the game. This ended up fueling my decision to give the rest of the characters color schemes which were either black and white or closer to the background color schemes. In this way, it will emphasize the way everyone else is a part of the town they live in, while Becca is an interloper. I’ll also be tweaking Casper’s design so that it compliments Becca’s more. The backgrounds ended up becoming more abstract/fauvistic. Becca has a fairly solid design contrasting the background, while the backgrounds and the other characters are a bit smudged and indistinct to give them an air of mystery. I’m fairly certain that Becca’s design is still a bit incomplete, as it feels a bit too divergent from the background design at the moment. I want to work on sketching the backgrounds and other characters a bit more, so that I can be more aware of what I’m trying to contrast. Beccaspritetry1 beccaspritetry2 beccaspritetry3 becccaspritetry4 beccaspritetry5 beccaspritetry6 beccaspritetry7 beccaspritetry8 beccaspritetry9

Non-Linear Post-Mortem: Heretic

Screenshot (19)   Game Design and Non-Linearity  Heretic is a 2D PRG that follows a young girl living a barren village. Resources are slim, the soil is untenable, and the villagers only think of their own needs for survival. The villagers live in fear of dying and the unknown, and have begun to carry out witch hunts, resulting in the burning of various women at the stake for crimes of witchcraft. The player can choose to leave the village and enter the forest, of which most villagers are afraid. If the player brings an item to the book, the village will be changed – for better or worse. The player can decide the fate of the village and the villagers based on what items they bring to the book. For now, I’ve designed four items that the player can bring to the book – a shepherd’s crook, a sword, a shield, and a potted plant. Each item is symbolic of the change it will bring to the town, though not necessarily in the way that the player expects, and not necessarily in a way that the other villagers are happy with. The potted plant, when brought to the book, will result in the construction of a new garden for the herbalist, giving her the ability to grow more plants. The player can continue this cycle and improve the quality and size of the garden with each trip to the book. However, the blacksmith may feel threatened by the increase to her resources and decide to accuse her of witchcraft, leading to her being burned at the stake. The widow, also, has a shepherd’s crook from her late husband that may be brought to the book. If the player does so, the widow will receive a sheep and a small plot of grass in which the sheep can graze. Again, the player can continue this cycle, but risks arousing suspicion of witchcraft the more the player helps the widow. During witch hunts, the women targeted were primarily women who seemed threatening to the capitalist control of production and reproduction. Herbalists were threatening because they had natural knowledge of plants, and often assisted with women’s reproductive health. This power over life and death was threatening to a system that need to control reproductive power to be able to exist. Widows, too, were threatening, because they existed outside of the bounds of marriage. Ultimately, I would like this RPG to illuminate the sexist underpinnings of the witch hunts, and the way they were used as a means to protect capitalist patriarchal power through player choice and consequence. If the player chooses to bring the blacksmith’s shield to the book, a large wall will be built around the village. They can continue to fortify the village by bringing the shield back to the book, and the villagers will never suspect the blacksmith of witchcraft, because the resources he provides isn’t threatening to the capitalist system. The nature of the book should be ambiguous. It may be magical, or it may simply give the player the practical knowledge to achieve the change she seeks. Originally, I was going to have the player bring items to a gathering of chanting women out in the woods, but decided against it because I play testers very quickly associated it with a coven of witches. The book, to me, represents knowledge, which is ultimately what truly threatened the capitalist regime. This game is non-linear most obviously in that the goal is entirely up to the player – whether they want to help or hurt the village – and in that there’s no set path to reach that goal. Though there are only a few items to bring to the book right now, in the future, I want there to be many more, so that there are even more paths and twists and turns. One path won’t necessarily cut you off from another path – if you build a wall with the shield, you can still bring the potted plant or the shepherd’s crook to the book later. Though it will take a lot more design time, I want this game to reflect the possibility of alternate timelines as Borges described in Garden of the Forking Paths. In one instance of the game, the player may wish to indirectly kill all the other NPCs and leave the village in ruins. In another, the player may achieve a utopian village with bountiful resources and no conflict. In another, the player may try to save the herbalist but attempt to kill the blacksmith and the widow, and so on and so forth. The paths should fork and cross over one another and double back and allow for as much exploration as possible. In a lot of traditional RPGs, players use weapons to combat enemies, and the enemies make up the bulk of the narrative. In this game, there aren’t any discernible enemies.  Yes, you can capture and kill a rabbit – but that’s not an enemy. The player can decide to buy the sword – one of the more expensive items – but the player can’t use it to kill villagers. If the player brings the sword to the book, the player may expect to receive some suit of armor, or a bigger sword, etc. But instead, a random building in the village will be destroyed. Just as the book isn’t necessarily magical, the changes it brings aren’t always good. The changes the book makes depends on the player and the items the player brings, and just as it can help make the village great, it can also destroy the village. In that way, this RPG is non-traditional – often, RPGS have one goal – to save someone or something – and there is one way to achieve that goal. In this game, the goal is up to the player, and the ways to achieve that goal don’t follow traditional narratives. For many games, a sword represents heroism. But in this game, the sword represents the violence of domination and oppression. Screenshot (18) Art Design Overall, I’m satisfied with how the game looks and feels. I drew inspiration from illuminated manuscripts of the 1400s and 1500s – a time of intense upheaval in Europe as the society transitioned from feudalism into capitalism. Illuminated manuscripts were usually drawn by religious orders, and were only accessible by those in power. I wanted to play with their patterns and symbols to evoke a religious and medieval aesthetic in my game, and also to re-appropriate the styles of the books to turn them against the will of the aristocrats that commissioned them – even if they did so five hundred some odd years ago. During my last leg of development, I decided to change the main village to be very rocky and barren, in stark contrast with the forest.  I wanted to convey the level of separation of the humans from the natural world through color in my game. Often, human culture and society feel like they are natural to those participating in them, thought they are anything but natural.  The colors of the human dwellings have bright accent colors that serve to further alienate them from the forest environment.    Screenshot (17)    Screenshot (15) Working in 64×64 in this dev cycle was not the best idea, because each tile took at least an hour to make, if not much more. The rock facade took at least eight hours. I got lost in the artwork, rather than the gameplay.  I ended up spending a lot of time on water tiles that ultimately didn’t get much use in the game, because I worked on artwork before actually testing my paper prototype. I had the idea that the girl would maybe crash land on an island in a boat, but decided to scrap that idea because I wanted her to be a part of the community. I might use the water tiles for a fisherman narrative later, but I shouldn’t have devoted so much time to an idea I was completely unsure of. The walk cycle took a lot longer than expected because animating with pixels was a lot harder than i first thought it would be. It seems simpler because you’re working with small units, but it can actually get harder because making a bunch of squares into a cohesive moving shape is kind of difficult to do when you haven’t done it before. I got so frustrated by the walk cycle that I didn’t finish it till last minute, and then I didn’t have time to code in animation of items being picked up, etc. Animating the movement of the feet was particularly difficult, and I’m still not satisfied with the end result. I’ll probably change it in the future. sheep   What I Learned Always test your paper prototype first! That’s one of the big things I realized this semester. Don’t develop a bunch of art and THEN gameplay, because you’ll end up focusing too much on art and not enough on programming. I have a very clear idea of where I want my game to go now, but I have very little of it programmed because I was focusing too much on what the game looked like, and not enough on what actually happened. I spent hours designing the sheep above and it didn’t even make it into gameplay because I didn’t have enough time to program it. Granted, I still probably would have only been able to code and animate one narrative from beginning to end because the art is so detailed, but I wouldn’t have spent so much time on art that I’m now not sure if I’ll use. If I could go back, I would design in a lower resolution and make my paper prototype before I even touched pixel art. I prioritized art over programming and now my game looks really pretty, but it’s not actually that playable. This was a really hard to game to conceptualize because I was working with really abstract concepts, but I’m glad that I did it. I want to keep working on this game because I don’t think there are a ton of RPGs like it, and the ideas I’m trying to illustrate about capitalism are ideas that I want to continue to explore. Designing this game actually really helped me to understand Frederici’s ideas, in a way that just reading them did not. I had a lot of fun working on this game and I definitely intend to finish it.  

Non-Linear Design Post-Mortem: The Strength Needed

The game The Strength Needed was a semester of fun, strife, and some sleepless night but by and large a wonderful experience and vastly informative for the next projects I inevitably wish to pursue next semester. screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-29-32-pm The game in its current state is a glorified walking simulator with a few deaths. While this may seem overtly critical as many of my paper prototypes and even the art itself seems promising in a finalized product, by and large it did not quite get to the point I wanted it to get to this semester. It presents several key features like the enemies that can kill you, some moving NPCs and a world with loadable levels, but the objectives, the A story if you will, was never truly finished so what you end up with when you have the art, a few things that kill you, and the ability to load between levels is a glorified walking simulator I suppose. A pretty one, but not near completion. screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-25-14-pm The project changed a lot over the course of the year. At one point it was a game about a small demon boy trying to defeat evil spirits while its body slowly degraded but then I decided to stick to the story of a game I previously made as a practice paper prototype that was way more well received then some of the other stuff I made this semester. One key feature that was in the very early paper prototype was the use of text, I cut out all of that. That is gone. I killed it with the power of a ‘delete’ button and sheer force of will. While I enjoyed the text I wanted to experiment with as much visual story telling as I could, even using words as structures and part of the world rather than using them in any narrative dialogue convention. A lot did go right about the project. The art mostly and a lot of the walk cycles and the entire Den of Gas room. That room turned out amazing. It had the most features fully furnished and thought out. The Gas Mask Lady in it moved the way I wanted her to, the gates projected the big ‘NO’ signs with her face on them. It turned out quite well. In fact, I was quite pleased with many of the animations that I did end up finishing, the Gas Mask Lady, Box Dog, the Wise One, The Player, etc. These all tuned out quite nicely. screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-24-57-pm As for what went wrong…well the game isn’t done which probably feels worse than anything, time sorta got away from me on this project. Will be good to keep working on it over Winter Break but that doesn’t help the current product. screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-25-50-pm   screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-30-20-pm screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-30-46-pm screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-39-35-pm screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-40-17-pm  screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-42-17-pm Art was shockingly easy for me to handle. I thought that was honestly going to be the most difficult part but I ended up just going for it and creating something I was super proud of. The main movement programming also wasn’t too hard, really my main difficulty came down to the code as I was unfamiliar with how much of coding in Unity worked especially as it related to the animator and talking with the physics engine. That said, my experience with it got progressively better as the game kept getting worked on and now I feel far more comfortable with programming, designing, and Unity itself. screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-41-15-pm Not super pleased with my final result because of how unfinished it is but by and large I liked the art and the story. I’m gonna keep working to improve it as well and make it better. The code also could use some work but I’m glad I could get as much working as I did. The Project was nonlinear in its subversion of genre and ability to make the player episodically visit worlds and places. I got a lot of ideas from the Flash Fictions and movies like Toto The Hero. It was so nonsensical and wonderful and captured a certain child like glee that I wanted reflected in my game. My classmates also provided a valuable insight into the game. As they pointed out flaws I missed or hidden symbolisms I didn’t intend, I ran with a lot of what they mentioned to me. In addition, my boy friend helped me play test it quite a bit and he has a keen eye for the wacky and nonlinear and helped shape those aspects of the narrative. Honestly, play testing mostly resulted in changes to code and added a few fun ideas like the gates that blocked people out. Other than that it provided reference for code to fix. The project was adequately coded in the most bare essential type of way. I followed the GamesPlusJames tutorials almost exactly except in reference to super specific things for my game. With the tile maps I primarily aimed to create a 2D top down space with patterned designs rather than photorealistic worlds as I didn’t have the skill for that. The animations I spent the most time on, using long walk cycles, a death animation, and a few other cool tricks. Most of the enemies however used static jump type walk cycles. Collision also was used sparingly, mostly to keep the player in the map or kill them. I didn’t want an interact button really. All in all, a fun project that I aim to keep working on.   Chris Haehnel

Game Proposal: The Strength Needed

The game I set out to do this semester was focused primarily on building on a lot of the work I put into the third Paper Prototype I did. This game was meant to focus on the one line that stood out from the short flash fiction, Industry Knowledge: “this will give them the strength they are going to need.” In setting out on this game I decided upon a minimalistic approach to the art, vying for 32×32 as my resolution instead of the smaller 16×16 or the higher 64×64. As for colour palette, I did not have much in mind, but heavy experimentation and contrast in colour is a prominent feature. For gameplay I felt an easy approach with collision and loading new levels as the main source of interaction. The game would be more story driven than anything relying primarily on the characters and locations rather than any real concrete game play. Just your basic run of the mill walk cycles, collision, and nice art. In addition, I intended to use as minimal text as feasibly possible. The game should use primarily images to convey the overall story. Just as Industry Knowledge accomplished a lot with a little, I intend that with this game as well. Another aspect I intended to include was the development of several varied uses of rubber throughout the game. As rubber plays a pivotal role in the story of Industry Knowledge, I wanted that reflected in every win condition of the game. Rubber = Power in the world of The Strength Needed. The PVC pants provide safety, the Rubber Ball provides a weapon, and the Balloon provides an escape. These rubber artifacts act as the game winning devices and provide The Strength Needed to defeat The Beast.   Chris Haehnel

Non-Linear Design Project Proposal: Migration

player-sprite-sheet My goal for “Migration” is to create a 2D side-scrolling RPG based on exploration and interaction. I’m aiming for a whimsical, fantastical aesthetic reminiscent of pages from children’s books. I will express the narrative purely through visuals and won’t rely on text or symbols. Movement and interaction will be the sole mechanics of the game. This will emphasize exploration and action, the two essential elements of the game. tiles The player’s actions will influence the game world, and the player will understand their role in the story through the changes the witness in the game world as a result of their actions. The ideas of breakage and repair will function as central themes of the game. One non-linear technique this game will make use of is central trauma: the player, and anthropomorphic hummingbird with a broken wing, helps other anthropomorphic animals to repair damage in their homes. At the end of the game, these other animals reward the player not by literally repair the broken wing, but by constructing a hot-air balloon for the player, thereby restoring the player’s ability to fly. cloth The visual art may be the most important aspect of this game. I’ve chosen to create sprites in 128×128 pixel resolution—higher than we often see in pixel-art-based games—because I see that level of detail as necessary for the creation of my characters. I created early prototypes of sprites in 64×64 resolution, but quickly realized I would need a larger canvass to properly enliven the characters I imagined in my sketchbook. Developing my color palettes was also an essential part of developing the visual aesthetic of this game. Animating with bright, expressive colors that avoid garishness is important to this project.

Non-Linear Design Post Mortem: Into The Dark

66single-character The game I finally made is now called Into The Dark.  The goal of this game is to explore the world I created and to defeat the boss at the end of the game.  There are times were the player will die a lot but that is the only way to fully play this game, is by learning from your mistakes.  How to defeat the boss is to find the power ups in the game, without the power ups the boss will defeat you and you have to start over. This project changed constantly for me, I do not think I went longer then a few days without changing my mind on something even if it was the littlest fix.  With this being my first game I probably should have not fixed it as many times, but I could not help myself I wanted a good looking game, I wanted the little details and I wanted the game to look perfect, at the cost of time though. idle What I noticed went right with this game was the art.  I really enjoyed using Piskel and creating pixel art, it was very relaxing as well as fun!  I loved adding in the details, I worked in 64X64 which took a while to grasp how tiny it was but after a little practice I was able to get it.  What did not work for me as well was getting a story for the game.  I know I wanted something different, and I had an idea, but I just could not stick with it nor could I put it into a game on paper.  Another thing that went right was the paper prototypes that I created for not only this game but other games.  It really taught me out to put the story onto paper and really see what works and what does not.  What was surprisingly easy to achieve was first the pixel art, that came very easy for me which I was shocked because I have never worked in pixels before.  The second thing that came easy to achieve was after a long process of figuring out what I wanted to do, I knew exactly how I wanted to lay it out, where everything would be placed on my map and how I wanted it to look.  The most difficult thing for me was figuring out how to make my game non-linear, I have never done this before and anything that I have done similar to this in the past, was always very linear based.  So to go from a very strong background of being linear it was difficult for me to get the idea of how to be non-linear but I have a better understanding of it now. 1 When I look at how I worked and how others in the class worked, I very soon was quick to pick up that I was going to be a slow learner at first because I was really the only one to not know exactly what they were doing.  One thing that consumed most of my time was not being able to put the story all together.  Also, the tutorials I had to keep watching over and over again until I understood them, and they were not short videos so that took up a lot of time as well.  Now looking back at how I worked, next time I will defiantly start watching the tutorials as early as possible so that way I can watch the tutorials one at a time and then do the work with them.  Also, I have a better understanding of non-linear thinking so I think if I did something like this again I would be able to think of a story faster. I think my final work that I have to present looks good, it is not much, but what I did try to do was make it look as good as possible.  I spent a lot of time correcting details of objects until I got them exactly the way I wanted them, and then sometimes I would still go back and make edits.  Some alternatives I tried were for example taking one tile I created for the ground, and for a different scene change the color instead of making a new tile.  It saved time and it tied in the two tiles.  Another alternative that I tried was watching one tutorial and working with the tutorial as it plays in the background, this helped a lot so I can watch what the tutorial did and I could follow along. 2 In the beginning I would definitely say that my game was barely non-linear, but after hearing other peoples critiques, other peoples games and examples I started to understand the concept of how to make a game non-linear.  I would not say mine is the most non-linear but I think it is non-linear.  For example, with this wishing well you would think it should be put next to the house, but no its in the forest, and it is not your ordinary wishing well.  Another example is the trees in the forest are the shape of any other trees that you have seen, very different and weird but a good weird.  One of the readings that I got inspired by was Garden of the Forking Paths, I really enjoyed reading that and I felt very inspired after reading it.  Even though this was not a reading, the movie Toto also gave me some great ideas on how to have a non-linear game narrative.  I thought the movie itself was really good as well as giving me some ideas for my game which was very helpful. I can confidently say that have other sources of input and ideas really helped me a lot.  For example, when we had class critiques it was great to see how everyone played my game.  It was a great way to see how the player would grab the concept of your game, wether they got it or did not.  Also, the feedback was great and very helpful, it gave me different thoughts about my game instead of my own.  Reading other non-linear stories, watching non-linear movies, seeing different artist styles, other peers helping me with new ideas could not of helped me more, it was a huge part in my game being created and I think it is the only way to get a great game is if you have a lot of sources that go into it. 3   Some changes that I made after my playlets were starting with the terrain.  It had good potential at first, but it needed more, it needed to feel more like a world and less like objects got placed onto a map.  Another one was to fix some coloring in the world, having my main character lay on this very yellow tile, the character slipped away into the tile.  You could clearly see his clothes because they were very dark, but his skin disappeared so the main tile had to be darkened.  Another change was that the well was not only moved into the forest to be an unexpected surprise, I also turned it into a room.  It is very unexpected and exciting to see that you can go into the well and find what is inside. How my game was coded, starting with tile maps, what not an easy start, like I said before I could barely get a story together let alone the art together.  But the tile map was at first intimidating because there is a lot of pieces to a tile map, and I mean that in the individual tiles themselves.  After you get the hang of the tiles, it is so easy to use especially in Tiled.  Tiled made it easy to create a map and just bring it into Unity.  Next, the animation I did not get a chance to get to, but I got really inspired by other peers work, especially with fading in and out of entrances and exits.  When I say fading I mean adding a fade to black every time a door way was used.  Another animation technique I wanted to try was having an animated character appear out of nowhere, for example pop into the screen from the sky.  Next, collision was a lot of fun to use and after I understood Tiled, collision became easier.  It was hard to decide where to put collision and where to not have collision but collision itself is a great tool and really adds a lot to the game.  Lastly, dialogue was something I was unable to incorporate but I would like to think that I added dialogue in a visual aspect instead of actually writing out dialogue.  The emotion and feel of parts of the game can tell its own dialogue without me needing to write it in.  For example, the character is happy and walking around a colorful world, it is a happy environment.  Then you look at the boss, it is dark and creepy with an evil look on its face, it is an unhappy environment.    

Non-Linear Design Post-Mortem: Migration

For my conference project I created a side-scrolling exploration/adventure game. The player controls an anthropomorphic hummingbird with a broken wing. The player progresses through the game by bartering with other anthropomorphic animals, providing them with items they need to repair damage throughout their dwellings. Along the way, the animals reward the player with mysterious parts, and at the end of the game the animals reward the player by building a hot-air balloon that will allow the player character to continue his migration. screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-16-47-am The project did not change a great deal from conception to realization. The bartering mechanic was part of the game from the beginning, as was the general structure of the story and events. Decisions about what other animals to include in the game and what problems the player helps them with did change over time. I’d originally planned to include swallows in the game, but decided variety among the animals would be best. I opted for a bird, insects, amphibians, and mammals. Some animals in the game can fly, while others are terrestrial or amphibious. A lot went well during my work on this project. I’m quite pleased with most of the art and animations, although it’s imperfect. The player character was the first sprite I created for this project—before I had a clear sense of the aesthetics of the game—and the color palette doesn’t feel entirely at home with the rest of the art throughout the game. The tree interior and cave environments are most representative of the style I aimed for with this project, whereas the colors in the grass and pond environments are something I’d revisit. screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-15-53-am I had no prior experience creating pixel art—and very little experience with visual art in general—but I’m pleasantly surprised by the results of my efforts. The game looks quite good. I also had zero programming experience and anticipated that programming this game would cause me a great deal of frustration and confusion. However, I found myself able to write all of the code this game required by adapting the basic concepts behind the Player Controller script presented in the GamesPlusJames 2D RPG tutorials on YouTube. I spent nearly two days writing my State Controller and Inventory Controller scripts and getting those to work, but generally I encountered few frustrating obstacles while programming this game. The animations required for this game were without a doubt the most difficult aspect of the process. The walk cycles for the player character required over eight hours of work, and the animation cycle for the water wheel required four-to-five hours. screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-14-49-am I could have managed my time much better while working on this project. Finding sufficient time to work wasn’t the issue—I invested a great deal of time into this project—but the timeline of my work in no way correlated with the timeline laid out in the dev cycle. One major reason for this was the complexity of the art and animations. Early in the process of creating concept art and designing sprites, I decided to work in a resolution of 128×128 pixels. Rather than working with canvasses comprised of 1,024 or 4,096 pixels total, I worked with 16,384. In addition, the game includes some fairly complex animations. Both player walk cycles contain eight frames of animation (and because of shading and the broken wing creating the second walk cycle wasn’t as simple as x-axis reflection of images), and the water wheel animation is made up of eleven frames. concept-art Because of the level of detail made possible by the higher resolution, creating the art and animations for my game consumed the vast majority of the time I dedicated to this project. I’d estimate that I spent ten hours on art and animations for every hours I spent coding. I knew early on that I’d have to deviate from the dev cycle because of my dedication to the visual aspect of the game, but even then I began coding in earnest far later than I’d planned. As a result, there’s still uncertainty about the state of completion my game will be in by the end of the semester. The non-linearity of this project stems mostly from two techniques: defamiliarization and central trauma.  I present common animals in anthropomorphic forms, and these animals exist in constructed dwellings, wear clothing, and have a barter system. The hummingbird player character has a broken wing, and he provides assistance to various other animals by helping them to repair broken objects in their homes. I develop the motif of breaking, of damage, throughout the game, and this motif reaches its resolution at the end of the game once the player character has helped the various animals fix their broken things and the animals have rewarded these acts of kindness by building a hot-air balloon. screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-17-17-am   I took some inspiration from Adam Cadre’s “Photopia,” specifically from how Cadre incorporates the non-linear technique of central trauma into his story. “Photopia” revolves around its central trauma without addressing it directly; instead, it sort of prods and catches glimpses of the trauma through a variation-on-a-theme repetition. The player or reader grows to understand the trauma through association and pattern recognition. I attempted to approach central trauma in a similar way in my own game. I had numerous children’s books in the back of my mind while creating this game, and influences include the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel and the animated film “The Wind In the Willows,” directed by Dave Unwin and based on the books by Kenneth Grahame. Although I may not implement as many of these changes as I’d like before the end of the semester, I was encouraged by play-testing to include far more objects within the world that allow interaction. Play-testing also encouraged me to add reaction animations to the NPCs when the player interacts with them. To create my maps, I used Tiled in combination with larger images inserted into the game directly through Unity as game objects. I used collision and key binds in order to support proximity-based interaction without the interactions triggering automatically. For example, I wanted the player to be able to walk past doors and NPCs without interacting if the player wished, so my code requires to player to collide with an NPC/object and use a command in order to interact. I came up with one solution that I’m particularly proud of to the problem of the sky. Although I first considered simply adding one large blue field behind the trees in the forest level, I knew I wanted a subtle gradient in the background. However, I also knew that the gradient would shift as the player moved along the map, so I created a gradient field of blue about the size of the camera’s field of view and added it to the game as a child of the player so that the gradient would move with the player and remain constant. screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-8-12-23-pm Coding the State Controller and Inventory Controller proved to be challenging. I created string of boolean logic comprised of nests-within-nests, activating and deactivating eighteen different variables in different orders based on the player’s actions. This caused me a great deal of headache, because the first two or three versions of these scripts failed to work as I’d intended. I felt confident in my logic, my nesting of if/then statements, and my organization of the eighteen bools, but pinpointing the exact cause of my code’s dysfunction took hours of thought and experimentation. I eventually identified the problem: my code was structured around the location of scripts attached to game objects throughout the world, however, when Unity fails to locate an object in the current scene, it ends its search rather than attempted to locate other references game objects. My solution to this was to restructure my State Controller script by nesting all of my game object searches within a lines of code that checked the current scene’s numeric identifier. Therefore, when the player occupies scene one, the State Controller script only searches for the game objects present in scene one, and none of the game objects present in scenes zero, two, and three. Overall I found this project exciting, challenging, and highly educational. I may continue work on this project even if I don’t I plan to involve myself in game design projects in the future.

Non-Linear Conference Proposal: Heretic

For my conference project, I am drawing from marxist feminist texts – Caliban and the Witch and Revolution at Point Zero by Silvia Frederici – to make a game that reveals the powerless position women have been forced into by the hands of capital. Frederici explains in these two texts that in the transition from feudalism to capitalism, it was necessary for women to become an unpaid source of reproductive labor. This transition was anything but peaceful – it happened in violent bursts that culminated in the witch hunt. For capital to convince women that their work – reproductive work – was not work worth being paid for, it first had to systematically revile femininity by equating womanhood with unholiness. Not all women were targeted; the primary targets of witch hunts were, unsurprisingly, women who held some sort of power outside of the patriarchal system – widows unbound by marriage, herbalists who wielded the power of nature, and midwives who had power over birth. The female revolutionaries that actual threatened the system were often spared by the witch hunters, because killing them would have given validation to their cause. The degradation of female power during the witch hunts forced women into a position of fear, and allowed men to kill those women who threatened to exist outside the bounds of their power. Some sketchbook pages (with notes from my readings): img_72461 img_72471 img_72481 img_72511 img_72501 img_72521     img_72531 I’m using illuminated manuscripts as inspiration for the visuals of my game. The game will center around a young girl who can pick items up and bring them to a gathering of women in the woods. Whether or not the gathering can actually use magic is unclear, but they will change the village of the young girl based on what she (the player) brings them. A potted plant will give the herbalist a garden, but may arouse the suspicion of witchcraft by the other members of the town. The protagonist’s actions can affect the fate of her town, for better or for worse. Ideally, the game will convey both the fear and frustration of women during a time period in which being independent from men could be prosecuted with death. screenshot-5   The protagonist in the herbalist’s building, with a potted plant.   screenshot-6   The protagonist with an old woman, near the (uncompleted) herbalist building.         screenshot-7   The protagonist with other interactive items – a sword and shield.

Non-Linear Design: Post-Mortem ADAM

Despite this being the last paper test, what became clear to me is that I want to work over the narrative ideas this game still works by: particularly, and at this point, the game is still too linear. Here a much much more non-linear approach can actually really help me out … the elevator (Tree of Knowledge) does not need to take me somewhere, for instance – this is an idea I really love: instead of going somewhere, the elevator just brings me back, perhaps. But that can become more complex – As a side-note, I am getting more and more into designing my game on tablet. The artwork used for the paper prototype was actually painted using the app Procreate on iPad, with the Apple Pencil. img_0007 img_0018 img_0002 img_0001 I am putting most of my work into designing the Garden at this point, so what I am arriving at is a conception of the elevator as a device to actually initiate change in the Garden. The main character might step into it, there might be an interlude, perhaps something wildly unexpected as the “elevator scene,” and stepping out again, the Garden has changed a bit, or even dramatically. The non-linearity lies in the fact that the Game now becomes cyclical: in fact, perhaps scenes reoccur in the elevator, and “earlier” states of the Garden can be returned to. I think I am thus abandoning the whole office space I was envisioning, and contenting and enjoying myself just developing the Garden as an explorable space in and of itself. The goal I arrive at in this way for this class and this semester is then to complete a game that works by these shifts in emphasis. In the technical sense, I want to have the main Garden scene (initial Garden), an elevator scene, and then another Garden scene, showing the Garden in a new light. screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-2-41-02-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-22-at-2-34-38-pm What I have come up with so far is a daylight change to the Garden. What I initially developed is the Garden at dusk: and everything this symbolically suggests. There is a dark, gloomy city in the background, and somehow the earth the character moves in is barren and dark too. I am thinking of contrasting this view of the Garden with something much more cheerful: fresh, green colors for the palette, a rising sun in the background. Angela and I were talking in conference about how the Garden might thus come to take on a quality of being alive: a living, breathing organism in its own right. On the technical side again, this image has the color palette I am thinking of for the second view of the Garden. img_0060img_0059img_0060 This is a wall mosaice I found in the NYC subway system: I think it was a station on the F-line somewhere … (unknown artist). The colors a cheerful. Again on the subway (the subway as a repository of art, and the time to look at it too – waiting for my stop; price of admission $2.75) I saw this piece (again unknown artist) that develops a vision of technology (transit, the train) and the city much more optimistic, as indicated by a similar color palette to the when I am eying at the moment – img_0056img_0055 img_0054 Thinking about my landscape like this is fun to me: it’s a project that is carrying over into the rest of my life. I am curious as to where these things might be going, thinking beyond this semester as well. For now, it is a challenge to develop this alternative form for the Garden. What are the changes I want to make beyond those to the color palette? There is a whole other aspect to this, less expected: designing a slightly “fallen,” strange, barren Garden was more fun that creating a fresh, new, healthy one. How might this aspect influence my design approach? How might I consciously let it? I want to see if I can tie it all in to work nicely together and provide a continuos experience by Game Night!

Non-Linear Design: Proposal ADAM

img_0080 In A Day on the Grand Canal with The Emperor of China David Hockney brings all his expertise as a contemporary painter to bear on an analysis he does of a 17th century Chinese scroll painting. The most striking aspect about this scroll is the way it engages space – I called this Spatial Elaboration in the title of this post. Hockney illustrates an example of this when he arrives at an interesting junction along the river. Coming down a street in a village, our view works from bottom left to top right. But if you pay attention as the street goes around the corner, the viewpoint shifts: the lines of the roofs of the shop stalls, and the store fronts indicate as much. We see sides we would not see if the viewpoint stayed the same. It is a shifting perspective we are talking about now. At the same junction there is gorgeous wooden bridge with a rounded top line that is seen from the bottom right, the same place the second order of store fronts is seen from: when you go to the top of the bridge then, with your mind’s eye, the wall of a house becomes visible that would only be visible from the bottom left, the perspective we had in the first place. The perspective shifts organically, according to the needs of the art in the painting. So you see what you need to see when you need to see it, but it still all makes sense to the logical mind too: it is not paradox in the end, actually, because it works. As Hockney remarks about the experience of seeing, and analyzing, the painting, these devices “make it far more spatial than our old friend Canaletto.” There is also another scroll, from slightly later, painted 75 years after the first one. Hockney is keen to trace a difference in style back to Western missionaries arriving in China with examples of Western works, deploying fixed perspective systems, in the time since the painting of the first scroll. The scroll again depicts a journey by the emperor, but this time “everything is beginning to recede: even the landscape is receding, the [emperor’s]  boat going into the space, as it were, and not along it.” It is true, the parallel lines and fixed focal points draw our gaze very much into the picture, and at that, into one particular point at a time, instead of gently over the surface of the whole thing. Difference in spatial qualities extend beyond the vista of the whole, to the depiction of the particular: the characters are, Hockney notes about the first scroll now, less suspended in space. They tie in more organically with the land and the village and the river because they themselves have the organic features of animation and engagement with the other figures in the scene. There is linkage, and overlap: there is the unexpected effect of depth now that the more two-dimensional space (in the absence of the one vanishing point to help create spatial depth in a more three dimensional sense) is broken up like this, or rather, played with actually. There are interesting relationships between elaborating space, and elaborating time: Devices relating to “telling time,” even the story of time on one level, include such creative tricks as subtly shrouding the scenery in mist to convey a jump, as it were, in space, and therefore time, at times: the mist goes on to get so thick that only individual aspects of the landscape remain visible, and coming out the other end, the space we were in has changed. This particular device was a way to dissolve an edge too: there is no saying where or when boundaries were crossed, or to what extent; instead it is a continuous flow through the physical scroll (through a device like this made even even more capable to “hold” vast amounts of space that the 72-foot-length of the scroll already does). These strategies, for this is what they really are, to handle space and time and the narrative they can construct into a work of art relate very practically to where I was with my game at the time of the Unity play test and where I am now still: in fact, these questions will go with me until the game is fully developed. If I boil the aspects I talk about above down to the shifting perspective and the mist-device in particular, I can definitely find junctions and spaces within the overall space of my game to deploy these, or similar ones, in the vocabulary of the game language I have already established. For instance, a version of the mist for me might be a cloud shaped and colored to parallel the clouds already present out on the horizon line. This very trick would also be a way for me to address a criticism that emerged in the play test: the question of the relationship between the landscape in the “back,” as it were, and the main Garden. Can characters cross over? What is the significance of the city? Bringing things like the clouds out from the back into the front, playable space, represents away to tie it all together aesthetically, if not thematically, perhaps. Perhaps I really don’t want the character to go to the city in the end, in the game and where I am headed with it now that is – I simply don’t have plans for that (yet). But a device like this can give me a bit of breathing room: by creating a bit more of a unified field of sorts for the whole game to organically come together, this question suddenly does not seem as important anymore. An overarching design idea is to actually shape the landscape of the Garden in the shape of a fish, the ichthys, or the Jesus Fish in Christianity: that was an idea I had to begin with actually, something I subsequently went away from, and now would like to come back to. img_0099 The relationship of the Garden to the city can be something like the river, river bank landscape and villages on the one hand, to the city behind the walls at the end of the scroll in A Day on the Grand Canal on the other. The river landscape exists in contrast to the city, the city does not need to fully explored either. The scroll’s artists were also not very concerned with their city: in fact, they made heavy use of the very mist device I was talking about, not so much to jump in space this time (that happens too, though) – but to pass over the city, to choose not to elaborate on it. It is the outside form of the thing, rather than the inside detail, that comes to fulfill some function for the rest of the space, and that is fine. I just need to put my finger, in not directly on, then at least a little closer to, what that function might be. img_0098 In these ways, I have found my work to develop very organically, and in pushes and rushes and inspirations rather than continuously. We talked about this in class: the ideal conditions to get artistic, creative work done. They seem really different to more intellectual and academic work. For me it remains environmental, and has a lot to do with my schedule: I do not think I can do this kind of work as easily or to a better quality if rushed and to a deadline. I really notice it when I have things from my other classes on my plate … when I compare those days to a weekend with a little or nothing to do, it’s the latter I can get a lot of doodling, drawing and writing done in. The ideal for me is a lazy, rainy Saturday morning, with a bowl of cereal and a book – but this stands opposed to more realistic and practical requirements life makes generally. Right now I want to push what I can do with animation and collision to bring the world I am creating to life. I want to use collision more than just on the edges to create unexpected obstacles and thus add complexity to the surfaces. I am working on the river right now, one more strategy to tie in the background to the foreground. I had already established the body of water coming and going into the cityscape: I want to extend that into the Garden directly and exploit it as a great creative opportunity for some atmospheric animation. With perhaps only two frames, or more, I would love to add mirror reflections and the light bouncing off the surface of the water as movement. I would love to add falling leaves too, to the trees. image Lastly, one more thing I want to change a bit is Adam’s walk cycle, which as it is now does not have very pronounced leg movement: adam-main-walkcycle

Non-Linear Design: Poster Children Progress

My paper prototype was finally based on Poster Children, in its playable version. I tried to capture as much of the story as I could and found this interesting effect: as I decided on rules and mechanics to make the game work, the project took an a life of its own in the sense that it became incredibly easy to work out the details to match the story. This worked so well that I was able to discover aspects and nuances of the story I had not been aware of. It is a give and take though: arguably, the initial decision on the basic workings of the game are already a significantly biased interpretation. My decision on the rules of the game were as follows: (1) the player can only moved across smooth surfaces and (2), the player looses a life point (one out of three total) every time he runs into the police, which are moving NPCs. Rule (1) does stretch the idea of creating a 2D game, I am aware. I decided to go with it though to put that emphasis on movement and difficulties of movement that the characters face, which, at least in part, is what the story is about to me. An ambiguity that was encountered was the actual physical implementation of smoothness and non-smoothness in the game’s surface. At various points in the play-test the player was unsure about his movement, if he could or could not get across somewhere. I could argue that this could be seen as an essential aspect of talking about movement in this story – the movement of being handicapped, in a wheelchair. But the game-play suffered, so this would be an actual thing I could work on to improve – say, by changing out materials used, or adding visual cues. An interesting point came up during the play-test: perhaps in choosing to set up the game in this way, I was putting too much focus on the movement-aspects, at the expense of other themes in the story, such as questions of moral high-ground, that are also essential. The flash-back and -forth between the “main” game and the cell worked okay. I think the player and spectators appreciated breaking up the temporal order of things in this way, but playability of the future scene in the cell (future, or later in the time-line) could be increased. As it was implemented, the exposition I pushed for in the cell just slowed down the game to the point of dragging. If I were to develop this game, apart from options already mentioned, contrasting the movement (or rather, different kinds of movement) of different players would be something I would want to add as well – since allowing for the player to play different characters is actually an essential non-linear feature of the game. The objective of the game became character interactions: the player receives points for meeting different characters at the convention, each intended to develop the weirdness of this whole convention. The limiting/time mechanic of the game are the encounters with the police force, as mentioned.fullsizerender-7 fullsizerender-8The end scene with the final encounter would also need to be developed. Or maybe an abrupt, strange, open ending is exactly what the story needs: these qualities make out the story from the beginning.  

War of the Clowns Postmortem 1

bbehrman_153414   A Clown Character The first paper prototype I did was based on a fiction piece title War of the Clowns. This story was about two clowns who have an argument with each other in a city. No one really pays much attention at first because they are clowns and they don’t believe it to be real. As the argument escalates the citizens begin to take notice and side with a clown. Soon the clowns are beating each other up and the citizens are killing each other and destroy the city. At the end we see the clowns leaving the city with all the coins from the destroyed city and move onto the next city. In my prototype, titled Mortal Clownbat, you play as the clowns. bbehrman_163656   The beginning of the game You can insult each other, throw pies, and hit the other with a bat. As you insult each other more people crowd around you. And when you use violence, the police begin to take notice, but people begin to fight. The goal of the game is to get the all 4 fire emblems to pop up without the 4 handcuffs popping up and also while not popping all of your fellow clown’s balloons. If you achieve this you destroy the city and move onto the next one. bbehrman_163901 The ending phase All in all the playtest went okay. I thought it could have been better. I wish I had used pixel art for this demo as well as using a cutting down on the UI. Throughout most of this playtest people were unsure of what it all meant. And because of this people were confused how the game worked. I want to design something different where the player doesn’t get confused by the UI. Also from a non linear standpoint, there wasn’t much story here. The mcguffin of the story, the coins, are also not necessarily completely understood from this playtest. I think with my next playtest I’m going to do a better job with this and put in a little more time. All in all it felt a bit rushed.

War of the Clowns Version 2 Postmortem

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The start of the game.
For my second paper game I decided to revisit the War of the Clowns story from the perspective of one of the townspeople. I designed the game as a simple RPG with five scenes: home, home internal, park, convenience store, and convenience store internal. The player could travel freely between these scenes. The actions available to the player were moving from side to side, picking up items (a knife and a gun), and interacting with certain environmental objects (the bed, the clowns, and the other townspeople). The game had a time limit of five ‘days’. A new day would begin each time the player interacted with the bed. For each day that passed, the clowns would gain another follower in the park. After four days passed, the clowns would equip bats and the convenience store (where the gun object could be found) would close. On the fifth day the townspeople would turn violent and kill the player, ending the game. If the player killed a townsperson in sight of another townsperson, or killed one of the clowns in sight of a townsperson, a police officer would come and arrest them, ending the game. Visually, I attempted to illustrate the difference in perspective from the first iteration by giving the clowns a more threatening appearance and humanizing the townspeople somewhat with the inclusion of eyes and hands. I wanted to communicate that they clowns held a sort of hypnotic influence over the people gathered in the park, so I created two different versions of the townspeople, a “normal” version in which they had pupils in their eyes, and an “indoctrinated” version that was lacking pupils. I also decided to alter the scale somewhat, replacing the multi-story buildings with a single-story house and shop. I created red blood puddles to emphasize that the player character was more affected by the violence than the clowns were in the first version. img_0765

The player did not behave as expected.

The playtest did not go as expected. The player elected to resort to violence almost immediately, taking the knife from the house on the first day. They tried to cut down one of the bushes outside their house, an action that I declined, and then went on to murder the convenience store clerk. They then took the gun and used it to murder the only townsperson with the clowns. Because no one but the clowns witnessed these crimes, the player was not immediately arrested. The player then proceeded to kill both clowns and went home. They asked if they could kill themselves, an eventuality I had not anticipated. I declined their request. The police officer arrived at their home, and they murdered the police officer (whom I had neglected to provide with a weapon). As there were no more possible actions, I ended the game at this point.

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The player killed every other character in the game on the first day.

The most striking lesson from this playtest was undoubtedly the tendency of players to test the limits of your system. I expected the player to behave within the bounds of normal social behavior, and expected them to resort to violence only in the later stages of the game, if ever. In retrospect this was an unbelievably foolhardy assumption. That being said, although I was taken by surprise and unsure of how the system would respond in a couple of cases (killing the only spectator in front of the clowns, for example; do the clowns call the police? I decided no), overall I was able to extrapolate a response from the rules I had laid down for the world. The fact that an unexpected narrative emerged from the system I had created feels like something of a triumph, and, in my opinion, led to this iteration being feeling much more “alive” than the last where the player’s actions were much more severely limited.

I also realized a short way into the playtest that I had not given ample consideration to the tendency of players to experiment with any interactive game object they are presented with. I expected the player to take an initially non-violent approach, but the only obviously interactive objects I provided them with were implements of violence. If I were to do a third iteration on this game, I would be tempted to hide the weapon objects from the player somewhat and provide them with interactive objects that might encourage them to explore other avenues.

It is also worth noting that the bed object did not give any indications as to its interactivity, and although this issue did not impact the playtest, it would likely have proved to be a stumbling block for any player that did attempt a nonviolent approach.

War of the Clowns Postmortem

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The beginning of the game.

My first paper prototype was based on the flash fiction piece War of the Clowns. The piece tells the story of two clowns who carry out a mock argument and battle in a public space in a city. Eventually their conflict inspires so much sentiment in the spectators that the community self destructs and they make off with the townspeople’s money. My game allowed the player to take on the role of one of the clowns, choosing from a set of three actions for their character to carry out. By choosing the correct actions, it was possible to gather spectators and eventually cause them to fight each other. More chaos resulted in the spectators dropping more coins, which the player could collect. The game ended when all of the spectators were dead or had fled the scene.

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The player throws a pie to gain spectators.

Visually, I wanted to communicate the emotion of the story from the clowns’ perspective. I attempted to visually distinguish in show their importance both through their size and their level of detail compared to the faceless spectators. I opted for a simple, superficially friendly but distorted representation of their facial features in an attempt to communicate their jubilation and appeal from the perspective of the spectators while also indicating the distorted nature of their personalities.

The playtest itself showed the design to be successful in that the player seemed to be able to grasp fairly intuitively how to play the game, although the nuances of how the player’s actions caused a reaction in the spectators could have perhaps been clearer. The player showed a tendency to choose the “bat” option fairly early, causing the spectators to kill each other before they had fully amassed. The player also showed in interesting an unexpected tendency to attack the spectators directly.

The end of the game.

In retrospect I feel as though the options provided to the player were overly limiting. In attempting to remain faithful to the source material I ended up restricting the player to a narrow range of actions and outcomes. Given that the player seemed to express destructive tendencies even beyond what the clowns did in the story, it would be interesting to leave the player with a few more options and a little less guidance, and allow them to stumble upon the destructive outcome of the game naturally. Ultimately, I feel that increased player agency in this game might have functioned to create a more empathetic understanding of the situation from the clowns’ point of view.

   

Non-Linear Design: Paper Prototype 3 Post-Mortem

unnamed In my most recent paper prototype, I redid one of the flash fiction pieces I did previously. Here, I took PVC and completely changed the game I once had. Taking what I learned from the first two prototypes I developed a top-down RPG based entirely on the flash fiction, Industry Knowledge, and did my best to make the whole game as absurd as possible. My main goal in this design was to create several memorable characters and make the player feel as though they had real impacts on both the world and the NPCs. I did this through the use of several items that would trigger different environmental and character changes. The game also had a heavy difficulty spike, presenting the player with the end boss in the first screen. The player, upon walking into the boss would immediately die, sending them back to the opening screen. This screen would have two options, ‘Start’ and ‘Cry’, which would serve to remind the player that this game would not be forgiving of their choices. The player had complete autonomy in where they would go and what items they would pick up along the way. The various items in turn would change NPC behaviour towards them. Picking up on a note I received earlier, I wanted to capture the narrator’s aversion to the Gas Mask Lady from the story Industry Knowledge as best I could, so I had that NPC chase the player upon entering the Gas Mask Lady’s zone. The overall aesthetic emphasized minimalism and used only the bear necessities. The backgrounds contributed little but the main details, the character models were extremely vague, and the overall story even did nothing to explain what you were doing. unnamed-1 The McGuffin of this story was really the beast. While in the previous instalment I stressed the importance of the stockings, the thing that made this game ‘work’ was the beast that is always present in the main room. You can fight the beast at anytime but it would beat you unless you completed all the tasks to make the perfect pair of battle stockings. This was mostly due to the last quote of the story that I overlooked the first time through: “this gives them the strength they are going to need.” – Chris Haehnel on The Strength Needed

Non-Linear Design: War of the Clowns Post-Mortem

image I created a paper prototype for the flash fiction story “War of the Clowns” by Mi Couto.  My first two paper prototypes were off the same flash fiction story, “Possessions” by John Smolens, but for my third one I decided to try something completely different.  This paper prototype is about two clowns causing chaos at first amongst each other and people don’t seem bothered, more like entertained.  Then as each day goes by, the crowd gets more and more into the clowns argument and fight.  The goal of my paper prototype was to cause the most damage to each clown and receive the most coins from all the chaos and fighting. image-2 In this image above, it is Day 2 in the game.  More people crowded around, and you have two options of damage unlocked.  The first is verbal attacks and the second is a balloon sword.  You get two turns to cause damage giving you a certain amount of coins from the crowd of people. image-3] The next image is Day 3 in the game.  The goal for day 3 was to show emotion through the sky getting darker and the houses and people the same color of each clown on each side.  This shows aggression and more chaos created by the clowns.  Also, day 3 unlocks the punching attack or “POW!”. image-5 Next is day 4, which I tried to show as much chaos as possible.  The sky is so dark, theres fire and smoke coming out of the buildings, people are dead on the floor and shooting each other and the last two items were unlocked; the stick and the bat.  The more items unlocked, the more and better amount of coins the crowd of people throws. image-6 Lastly the way I had my game end was in a ironic comedy type of way, following the way the story itself ended.  The two clowns, who you think throughout the game hate each other and want to kill each other, walk away happy as ever ready to destroy another town.  Another little thing I added to the end was the sign that says “Thanks for coming!  Visit soon!” which is ironic because the clowns destroyed the town and took all the money. Watching my paper prototype be played out today, it did not go as expected.  I did not expect to get the reaction that I received, but that happens in gaming.  I think I want to test out my paper prototype on some other people before I make major changes because I thought this was my best one yet, but defiantly could use some more surprising and unexpected twists to my game.  One suggestion that really stuck with me was that every time an action is used, instead of receiving the same amount of coins for that action every time, to change it up.  For example, the verbal attack was 1 coin every time, but what could be a better idea is for certain verbal attacks thrown, more coins could be offered than the weaker verbal attacks.  Also maybe change some of the options of color I had used in the backgrounds to keep it more clear, like in day 1 where the backgrounds only color is the sun, gamers can mix that up with thinking its a special button when in my game it actually wasn’t. Mu use of abstraction in this paper prototype I feel is my best one yet.  I personally enjoyed the amount of color added, I feel like it wasn’t too much but not too little.  I also liked how each day went by, more color appeared not only in the background, but in the foreground where the people were.  This paper prototypes structure was defiantly linear this time, with cause and effect bringing the game to it’s one and only outcome of destroying the city. My goal for this game if I were to go back and change it would be to make the actions more surprising and unexpected.  Also maybe have the backgrounds change with some of the actions, like if you use the balloon sword it could rain balloons animals everywhere or if you use the sword too much it could pop!