Tag Archives: industry knowledge

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