Tag Archives: non-linear

Non-Linear Design Project Proposal: Migration

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

Non-Linear Design: 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: 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