Monthly Archives: September 2016

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!

Non-Linear Design: Paper Prototype Poster Children

Quick notes and impressions (see photos, especially abstract for game (as non-abstracted as I can get pre-actual design) about on-going design of the game::actually making it playable now, that’s where it’s at. I have my materials and ideas in one place. Challenge: view finder and 5-part layout. What’s good: fleshed-out ideas. Focus: materials, design, own art work, having fun doing it – ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Details to These Notes –– (mainly concerning the mechanics of the game–) I drew/wrote up a mind-map style plan for the game play of this game (see image below): the main idea is to switch between characters. All of the characters are mentioned in the story, so that is what I can work with, and although the story is told from the point of view of one character, the way that character emphasizes the we and us when she talks about the protesters at the convention lends itself to having all of them playable throughout the game. The other idea essential to the game is how I want to deal with time and space. I’ll go ahead with that initial thought of having the cell scene flash back to the main events of the story (outside and inside the convention, really). The way I actually want to have the flashbacks work is to switch over to the cell whenever a room change occurs. This is where the view finder and the layout come in: as I want to test in class, I am going with a five part cross/grid, and the view-finder model to implement the different “rooms:” outside the convention (hotel lobby), inside (in three parts/rooms), and the cell make for five separate parts that the character can move between. Only the cell cannot be accessed physically, that occurs with flashbacks. I mounted all of this to a large piece of cardboard I had in my room, and I went with a sort of collage to tie it all together. I still need to set aside some time to work on my pixel art, but basically I would just glue/tape that on the board. For now I have some sketches as stand-in artwork. See below for an image of the materials in loose form (see class for the finished board), and a photo of the white board with Angela’s ideas I tried to implement (the five-part layout and viewfinder in particular). The photo with “High Concept – Practical Ideas” is part of the mind-map I made (let me know if you would like to see it, but I will try to talk about some of the difficulties of implementing ideas at the next/last play-test). fullsizerender-3 fullsizerender-4 fullsizerender-5 fullsizerender-6 :)  

Non-Linear Design: Paper Prototype 2 Post-Mortem

unnamed-2 This past paper prototype was made with the primary intention of mapping my game out in such a way that I envision my final game to be mapped out as well. To that end, it seemed worthwhile to explore a far less text based game that dealt more in visuals. I aimed to improve upon Industry Knowledge which used text as a way to tell story. In the second paper prototype, I focused far more on the use of visual space and backgrounds as well as the permeability of several different sprites. The sprites would change over time which thoroughly helped with players feeling like they had an impact, and the objects in the space were all able to be interacted with. Such objects include: the fridge, clothes, mirror, shoes, gramophone, etc. The gameplay and story revolved primarily around an interactive mechanic and the McGuffin of the story was in many ways the door that could not be opened and the distortion ghost. The door did not work as well as I had planned and perhaps in further drafts of this game that door could be made either less desirable for a player to enter or alternatively I could make the door begin to appear as the ghost slowly disappeared, this would help tell the story a bit better and keep the player feeling as though their actions mattered. I feel as though this game very successfully did a lot with a little. I only used very basic designs for all objects and while the backgrounds were semi complex, they only contained the bear essentials to tell the story. unnamed The main challenge to keep note of is how exactly the player will plan to interact with all the various objects as I had not accounted for the player wanting to try to use the ‘matches’ on the ‘chair’ and several other instances of such foolery. In a later update I may attempt to add more results to the player’s various choices with the given items. – Chris Haehnel on The Stones She Gathered

Non-Linear Design: Industry Knowledge Post-Mortem

img_0090 Carter’s “Industry Knowledge” essentially details the specifications of a pair of white stockings. Because the stockings are described precisely and meticulously, I asked myself the question, “What would happen if these specifications were not met?” And that was how I approached making a prototype for a game based on the story. The gameplay consists of the player testing various footwear options in a testing zone populated by hazardous obstacles. Inappropriate footwear—i.e. difficult to balance in, electricity-conducting, not resistant to snake bites—results in the test subject falling victim to one of the obstacles. The player can “trash” certain items of footwear in order to find exactly what they need. The prototype played quite well. Although it’s certainly simple, it’s quite intuitive, and seemed engaging and amusing. img_0089 The McGuffin, of course, is the stockings: the only item that allows the test subject to safely reach the exit of the testing zone. The game is somewhat non-linear because the player can choose which items of footwear to test, in which order to test them, and which to trash. In retrospect, I could have made the game more non-linear by creating a more open and less linear testing area. Once again, I think I succeeded in saying a lot with a little, using minimalism effectively, and allowing the player to easily identify what’s important. The red and green lights indicated which obstacles each item of footwear managed to bypass or not bypass. img_0092 My main challenge for the future will be to create an aesthetic that’s both original and emphasizes the emotion of my story. Now that I’ve become somewhat comfortable with accurately representing objects using pixel art, I need to move on to the next step: working in an abstract, original aesthetic.

Non-Linear Design: Possessions Part 2 Post-Mortem

image-1 I created another paper prototype for the flash fiction story “Possessions” by John Smolens.  I based this off the last paper prototype I made but made it more playable and more advanced with new ideas.  The goal of this paper prototype was the goal being to get the most items to receive the most stones at the end of the game.  Still included the ghostly wife can take away items hence less stones won at the end of the game.  With the addition of the full map, there was the bedroom, kitchen, living room and the everything must go room. image-3   image-4 The player starts by choosing a room, but beware in each room the ghostly wife follows.  The player must go up to each object and see if an item is behind it.  If an item is behind the object, you will receive the item and it will be put in your inventory.  If an item is not behind the object the ghostly wife takes away one of your items which cannot be found again in that room.  After finishing finding the items in the room, you must drop everything off at the everything must go room. image-5 Watching my paper prototype be played out today I realized a lot about my game.  The dominant reaction I received that the concept of my game was not fully grasped or that there could be so much more done with it but it had good potential.  I thought about how there could be more objects within each room so it is a little harder to find the items.  One comment was that the ghostly wife could do so much more than she is in the game, she could reck havoc so much more than she did instead of just taking away an item.  The items themselves I thought could be a little more exciting/random.  Maybe specify items specifically like a shirts, dresses and shoes, cans in the kitchen etc.  Also some items could have a kind of reaction when you find them, good or bad.  For example if you find the shirt you get extra stones but if you find the dress you get one stone for it and dresses fill the room as a bad reaction for getting rid of it. My use of abstraction in this paper prototype I feel is a lot better than my first one, but I still would not say its great.  I defiantly need to add more color and emotion to my games characters and items.  The structure of my game is defiantly still linear/branching style. My goal for this game if i were to go back and change it would be to have it play out better without any explanation and a better understanding for the games goal.    

Non-Linear Design: Possessions Post-Mortem

image-1 I created a paper prototype for the flash fiction story “Possessions” by John Smolens.  In the game, the player controls where the Husband goes and collects all the items from each room without running into his ghostly wife.  The more items the player has, the more stones you receive. image-2 The player has the option on the map to choose which room to go into first: bedroom, living room, kitchen.  In the room that has been chosen, the player must find all the items in that room by walking up to objects in the room.  But if the player runs into the ghostly wife, they lose one item which can not be retrieved again after gone.  The controls are the arrow keys on the keyboard to move around the room: up, down, left and right. image-3   How to get the stones is returning all the items found in one room to the Everything Must Go room.  The player must do this after every room or else they can’t move on. The McGuffin in this game is how many stones the player has at the end, the more the player has the better.  If the player only manages to get half of the items, then the player only gets half the stones at the end of the game. My use of abstraction in this prototype is not very well since this was my first paper prototype ever.  I decided that I would use color on the players character and no color on the ghostly wife to show the difference between alive and dead.  The narrative structure of my game would probably be branching.  I say branching because you have to go to three different rooms, but always return to the same place you started. My improvement for this game would have it play out better.  Also I would redraw my layout of the game a little better because it was a little confusing to understand, but it was a good starting base. image-4

Non-linear Design: Poster Children

Poster Children was a flash fiction that resonated with me. But it was actually a design element I could use as an avenue into designing the game, or at least a general outline of what the game could be: I got excited by the idea of using the pictogram/icon/abstract style of wheelchair access signs, either in vector (smooth) or pixelated form (both would make for interesting designs, I think), for characters in a flat 2D world – the background for which is not developed yet; right now I am going with sketchbook-style simplicity. fullsizerender-2 So on this visual level there is already a lot of abstraction going on: maybe some kind of incorporation of non-abstract art would make for more depth, the contrast to the pictogram style adding an interesting effect. An idea prompted by the strange, futuristic wheelchair/scooter/gadget convention in the story was to use 50s/60s style advertisement/magazine/sales catalog background elements and mix styles in an equally strange way. There is something strange to the story as a whole: the way it’s broken up into three disconnected bits, and the fact that we don’t know what’s going on exactly, make for a sense of danger, and give us an impression of the character as somehow lost in the world. I want to think about how the game might capture these aspects … The segmentation of the story lends itself to non-linear design: the fundamental (narrative) idea I had was to tie the two sections in and outside the convention lobby together spatially (through a passageway/door?), and connect these as a unit via flashbacks to a dialog scene in the cell. fullsizerender Maybe the dialog could contain game elements, but it could also be straight-forward exposition-type reading, except that I want to focus more on conveying that mood of strangeness (setting the stage for the flash-backs) than on the narrative – since, really, the narrative itself does not seem to matter too much in the end. I am not sure what the story is about then, and I don’t think I can know for sure. I would say though that the central theme is living with a handicap: this is where I see the main challenge of designing this game – how could I address this? (Initial thoughts I had was to think about movement and design this into the game: perhaps the wheelchair characters move horizontally, and other characters vertically, to highlight the differences of movement. Perhaps getting through the door into the lobby is a challenge – things like this.)

Non-Linear Design: Clown War Post-Mortem

img_0035   I created a paper prototype for a game adaptation of Cuomo’s flash fiction piece “War of the Clowns.” In the game, the player controls the actions of two clowns with the goal of attracting the attention of a crowd and inciting violence. The player chooses between three possible actions for each clown: insult, trick, or fight. Upon choosing an action, the player must successfully complete a rhythm challenge to achieve the desired effect. Insult and trick actions attract the attention of passers-by and generate loyalty to a specific clown. Once passers-by become loyal, the player may then cause the clowns to fight each other in order to incite violence. img_0038 I used quite a lot of visual abstraction in this prototype: icons to represent actions, exclamation points and/or question marks to represent passer-by reactions, changing clothing colors to represent loyalty, etc. I intervened in order to make the game non-linear by incorporating several locations in the game and allowing the player to access the locations in any order. The player also has choices regarding the actions of the clowns. This non-linearity expressed the story by portraying the clowns as roving agents of chaos. The McGuffin in this game is chaos and violence itself. The use of abstraction (coins falling into the street once passers-by become violent) indicates the value chaos and violence have to the clowns. img_0036 I believe I used minimalism effectively. The game contains essentially three sprites that vary in color, three locations, and half a dozen game objects. The player knows exactly what’s important and can easily observe the consequences and collateral damage of their actions because of the minimalistic design. My greatest room for improvement, I think, is in the game’s aesthetic. Although I’m happy with the art considering I first forayed into pixel art about a week before creating this prototype, the game aesthetic isn’t particularly new, creative, or original. My goal for my next prototype is to develop a more unique aesthetic that serves my narrative. img_0037  

Non-linear Design: Paper Prototype 1 Post-Mortem

unnamed I set out on the paper prototype for ‘Industry Knowledge’ with the express purpose of creating something a little off beat that captured the same form of absence of explanation that the flash fiction “Industry Knowledge” did. The player would spend time doing several recreational tasks such as ‘go to bed’, ‘try on clothes’, ‘shop for PVC’ and then inevitably go out on the town to see how their choices impacted the overall game. While I must admit that the ‘bed’ and ‘shop’ mechanics worked fairly well, I found that the game not only didn’t capture the ‘measuring’ aspect of the story super well, but also relied a tad bit too heavily on short dialogue mentions and didn’t exactly shock the player too much. The game suffered in many ways from there simply just not being much escalation. While it did succeed in being non-linear and using stockings as what Kurland calls the “McGuffin” — that which holds the story together — the game failed in that it could become fairly monotonous once many of the options became exhausted. unnamed-1   For instance, the above ‘ending’ is the quintessential “good end” of the story, however this ending was drawn first. If I were to edit and retest the game I would likely have the option to buy the PVC that leads to this ending further down the list. This would also aid in adding tension, as the other ‘stores’ would instead feature more calm images than the one where the player can buy the “best stockings”. The abstraction in this prototype is essentially every aspect of the player’s quest and the results. Nothing in the game is explained and all of the game takes place in one room. Upon further revisions, cut scenes should replace the text based outcomes: this would actually limit the abstraction of text but improve on overall quality. The aesthetic of the game is new and engaging as it uses fairly basic art and minimal explanation to force the player into discovering the outcome of some fairly basic options. There are only so many options but these options occur semi-randomly and provide a backbone for engaging non-linear story telling. The game lends itself to more replays for better effect and better understanding of it’s various paths. The player can see everything essential to the game directly on the first screen and is delighted through subtle surprises. The game’s overall aesthetic is one that subverts the player’s usually expectations of reality. – Chris Haehnel, on Industry Knowledge    

Game Studio: Solar post-mortem

  

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Solar Main Menu Screen

Solar is a project that has gone through many changes over the past few months. Initially I wanted the game to be a Metroidvania game with a timed mechanic that encouraged progression rather than backtracking. The initial concept had the player travelling across the galaxy while being chased by a powerful enemy (who would serve as the game’s final boss).

The player would be required to explore multiple planets in order to find items and upgrades that would help make the final encounter with the boss fair. Since being constantly chased was a core mechanic of the game, the player would have to be efficient with the amount of time spent on a planet and with the amount of fuel consumed when travelling from planet to planet. This is where collecting fuel, in addition to the aforementioned items and upgrades became an important task.

ship-with-crew

The ship serves as a hub from where the player can choose a planet to explore

Over time however, after multiple meetings with my professor Angela Ferraiolo, I was convinced that colonialism should be the main theme of Solar’s story. Incorporating this into the game proved to be a lot more difficult than I thought. Colonialism is the practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country (in this case, planet), occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. So how can this be represented in a 2D platformer like Solar?

The first thing I did was make the collection of fuel the primary objective. The player would have to find blocks of raw minerals spread across multiple planets and combine them to make fuel to power the ship. To ensure that there is never a shortage of minerals, the player can choose to leave one of his crewmates to occupy a planet that holds a particular mineral. This way the player is notified whenever more raw material is available. The consequences of doing so would be made apparent upon returning to a planet the player has “occupied”. For example: Pewhiusium is an element available on Pew-Oria; a quiet and peaceful planet. The residents of Pew-Orian are known to be simple in nature with very little need for conflict as there has never been a shortage of Pewhiusium (which the Pew-Orians consume as their primary source of nourishment). If the player chooses to leave a crewmate on this planet, after enough time passes, and depending on which crewmate is chosen to occupy the planet, the residents of the planet will either become hostile or die out completely.

planet-one Pew-Oria, with a block of Pewhiusium

combat

NPC’s currently are passive; only doing damage upon player contact.

As I move forward with the development of Solar, I want the player to realize the repercussions of doing this and have the player’s actions culminate into something significant and of consequence. I have yet to figure out what that will be. I have decided to put a hold on adding more mechanics and focus more on the atmosphere and visual elements of the game as I feel that doing so will help influence the narrative of Solar. I have been hesitant to use blocks of text for exposition and hope to use the visuals and gameplay to tell the story instead.