Tag Archives: aesthetic

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: 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: 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