Tag Archives: choice

Union Town!: Event as Narrative

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How is your game story radical?

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

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

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Old Worker suggests labor organizing to player



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

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

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

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

How have you tried to surprise the player?

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

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You found half a pack of cigarettes!



Is your game entertaining? In what way?

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

Conflict and choice in the Game.

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

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

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

Any new inspirations?

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

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Undertale combat system

Gentrifica-Town: Event As Narrative

Start screen for the Gentrifica-Town game.

Start screen for the Gentrifica-Town game.

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

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

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

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

Tagger, writing radical messages on the temporary construction walls.

Tagger, writing radical messages on the temporary construction walls.



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

Radical Tags

Radical Tags



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

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

Play-tester playing Gentrifica-Town at our Game Night

Play-tester playing Gentrifica-Town at our Game Night



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Down and Out: Event as Narrative

Tavern

Tavern

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

Kaira

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

Wolf

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

Shari

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

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

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

A Knight’s Quest: Event as Narrative

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Inside the Church

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

The Altar and its bowl

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

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

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

City Watch: Event as Narrative

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

The rat

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

The sewer scene

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

The Shopkeep

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

House H(a)unter: Event as Narrative

An image from the first iteration of the paper game.

An image from the first iteration of the paper game.

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

 

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

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

A screenshot of the mannequins which Casper steals from.

A screenshot of the mannequins which Casper steals from.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Wild Tale: Event as Narrative

The hotel, the prop bush/barrel.

The hotel and the prop bush/barrel.

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

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

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

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

Here's your script!

Here’s your script!

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

Falling animation.

Falling animation.

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

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

The bush is fake?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will you do?

What will you do?

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

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

 
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IV: Conflicts V. Calculations

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Over the past few weeks my game has felt rather laborious. Having had my computer crash and delete the majority of my art assets, set up, and nearly every ounce of data on my computer I honestly felt scared and awful going into game night. However, while my technical problems did impede some progress, I have some major notes that I received during both the state of game and game night. Another major setback came when I attempted to get the primary controller for the altar to work. Still to this moment I have yet to get it to work and little progress has been made. I think this comes from a bit of a misunderstanding of coding and going outside the immediate tech box. On a different note, a major advance in design occurred recently in the overall map design and layout. Most people responded positively to the overall art and feel of the game. Reportedly, the game moved well and had a good pace for the size of the map. Honestly, the game’s intent still keeps the project very alive for me. Being a radical game and having such a remarkably central and brutal mechanic, I just keep wanting to improve and finish said mechanic and really see it work and affect people. In addition, playing some other games with simple mechanics has really informed much of my approach. Recently, I watched a video that critiqued the game Yookulele. In the video, H.bomberguy (the critique) addressed the game’s use of transitions and abstract/impossible space to experiment with game design. It intentionally worked within the limitations of loading small areas of map in order to create a world that felt fast to move between and massive in scope. The video honestly reaffirmed much of my design and made me remember the importance of simplicity in mechanics and how limitation can easily lead to a great game and concept.

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My main question going into State of Game was whether or not the art read properly? As the main mechanic had yet to work or be implemented in any tangible way, I felt that using the state of the game as a chance to hear about art and the legibility of each asset and character would prove useful. In addition, I wondered specifically if the altar pop up menu actually read well enough as things to be given up from the surrounding world. I was pleasantly surprised when a few people remarked “Oh, that little symbol is meant to represent the Old Man!” in a mix of horror and surprise. It honestly shocked me a little at first that people would have as expressive a reaction to my game as they did. Throughout State of Game many classmates mentioned that the art seemed troubling in that the main tile didn’t provide many transitions between areas. In order to remedy this a main thing I’ll be adding to my change list is to add other tiles to delineate space a bit better. In addition, the colour palette, while it does keep everything coherent, it causes a major disturbance in that it blurs many of the assets together and obscures things in a bad way. In a future rendering of the art I will adjust the art to stand out a bit more and not blur together as much.

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I try to push my player from calculation when they choose an option on the main altar. I wanted to take each and every decision to a logical extreme. For instance losing your legs would result in the player being unable to move at all, effectively creating an end state in which they’d just have to be immobile for the duration of play. This, when reloading the game would make the player think twice about what they chose to give up and how to play the game. This will proceed to offer more choice and conflict in the game. In addition, I aim to add some more conflict and choice into dealings with the Old Man and with the other characters on the island. In order to develop a more full game, I need to apply more choice in the interactions with not only minor characters but also objects. For instance, the well has no real interaction planned for it and I received a note that perhaps the player should be able to choose to go into it. One area that I also felt should never have choice is in the primary outcome of the game. I thought that the game should really only have debilitating outcomes as the game aims to parallel the medical industry which tends to amount to a no win scenario. Best, Christopher Haehnel

Borrowing: Consequence vs. Calculation

borrowing_5As of the second State of the Game session, “Borrowing” is behind where I want it to be but still acceptable for what can be done in a single semester. There were no major advances or setbacks, but managing other schoolwork while attempting to figure out C# code has been difficult. My main source of difficulty has been constructing the borrowing system, that is, being able to interact with an object in the blue house, display a dialogue box with text and an option, use the player’s option to either leave alone or remove the object that was interacted with, and then being able to put it back down in a corresponding place in the yellow house after another interaction and small set of dialogue boxes. This should be very simple in principle, but getting my head around Unity terminology though C#, neither of which I’m familiar with, has proven very difficult. There’s a good amount that’s keeping me interested in the project, however. The end is in sight as far as laying down the main mechanic into the game goes, and having that done would be a huge milestone in the overall development of the game. I also found myself reinvigorated by the comments and suggestions made during the second paper game playthrough, but more on that later. Finally, it just so happened that I came across a free indie game called Packing Up the Rest of Your Stuff on the Last Day at Your Old Apartment that really inspired me. It’s a short first-person game where you do as the title says: pack up your things. As you interact with your junk, a sentence or two pops up where you reminisce about the object. There’s a bit of inventory management involved while packing since each object takes up a certain amount of space and not everything in your room can fit in your boxes; you have to decide what to keep and what to junk. It was a nice little bittersweet piece that I enjoyed the atmosphere of – a mix of hopeful nostalgia and melancholy – and that’s something I hope to get across in “Borrowing”, though, of course, in the latter you’re unpacking and there’s (hopefully) a much more foreboding ambiance. I didn’t have any questions going into the second State of the Game; I felt that what I had concerns about (mostly mechanical tidbits that were addressed in my previous post) had been addressed, and I wasn’t too surprised that the players were interested in wanting a bit more detail in the environment, especially the outdoor area, and text boxes because the game as it stood was very straightforward and there was not much room for critique. Changes after the second State of the Game are not incredibly substantial. I’m interested in seeing if I can play around with dialogue text color and perhaps tinting of rooms. borrowing_6borrowing_7 The battle between calculation and choice/conflict is an interesting one when it comes to “Borrowing”. In some sense, the game is entirely about choice (choosing whether or not to steal the objects in the blue house and then choosing whether or not to open the boxes in the yellow house) and one hopefully feels conflicted when being presented with these choices. It’s difficult for me to say where player calculation comes into play unless it’s the calculated decision that the game isn’t worth his or her time anymore. Ideally, all three maps – the yellow house, the blue house, and the street – have either conflict, choice, or both. The player must be both faced with choice and conflict in the blue house (again, the stealing is ideally both a choice the player finds they do not necessarily have to make as well as something of a moral conflict (or maybe they have fun with it and this is something of a critique that can be made, hmm…)); conflict must be faced in the yellow house (the Twilight Zone sense of unease is something that I’m going for in this case; the idea that anything can be in the boxes and anything can happen to the objects that are pulled out of the boxes, ideally to mess with the player and make them nervous to open the next one or wary of what might happen next was something that really struck home during the second paper game session); and conflict is something that I would absolutely like to present in the street (a car that follows you, a single person who walks up and asks what you’re doing, etc. would be a great way of presenting player conflict and heightening the dread or paranoia that comes with the acts you perform).