Tag Archives: non-linear

Nonlinear Narratives: Down Post Mortem

background pt 2 copyswamp grass copyswamp water walkable copy My game is about Kaira making friends in a swampy wasteland while on her quest to regain her memories and find out why she lost them in the first place. The game is right now basically a walking simulator. It will eventually be a choice based RPG with follower characters and branching dialogue and story options. In her quest to regain her memories she will eventually also realize she has a sister that she needs to rescue. The McGuffin is exploration as the only way Kaira can regain her memories is by exploring and solving the challenges she and her companions face along the way. For example Kaira is trying to regain her memories and some of the things she needs to regain those memories are in parts of the swamp she cannot breathe in, so she needs to gain the trust of a companion who can breathe in those areas so he can explore them for her. While this character has yet to be introduced in this game build he will likely appear very soon as he is pivotal to the story. I used abstraction in that the game is less detailed than I originally was going to have because the scope of the project would’ve been so much. I used aesthetic in my game to try and give it a dark and mysterious vibe. I use the purples and black colors to show that even though this is a swamp it’s not a swamp that one would find today. The environment is natural in form but unnatural in color scheme and inhabitants. The darker color scheme also gives a somber mood to the game which I am also going to toy with in later maps that will have warmer and more welcoming color schemes.
Nadia Sprite copy

Nadia, yet to be introduced character

One of the characters who will appear in this more warm place is Nadia. Even though her dress is cool colors I want her to still give off a warm and inviting vibe. I mostly have her in the dark blue dress to show that even though the home she’s crafted for herself is very different from the environment around her she is still very much one of the people who lives in the swamp. Another character who has a warmer color scheme is Shari, the talking serval. He is a swamp cat that if Kaira befriends, will be able to get things from the parts of the swamp that would be toxic for Kaira to enter. Almost all of the possible companion characters have an aspect of their design influenced by another companion to show that they are possible companions. Such as how both Shari and Zhis have orange, or how Shari and Nadia both have scarves like Kaira does. I want to use the warm and cool color schemes to make the player feel different things about the different environments. For example, Nadia runs a tavern that I want the player to find warm and inviting in comparison to the hostile and dark swamp outside. My story is nonlinear because it starts in the middle, the events that led to Kaira and Zhis being where they are happened before the game began and there was a whole mini adventure that the two went on before the game began but the game starts in the cage, after Kaira has forgotten all these things. The level that I’m working on now in the final game would probably be a flashback that happens partway through the beginning of the game.
zhis sprite copy

Zhis, Kaira’s first companion/friend

 
enemy static copy

The first enemy

 
shari sprite copy

Shari, Kaira’s second friend in the swamp

I used abstraction in the fact that a lot of major characters that Kaira can befriend or interact with aren’t human. For the majority of the beginning of the game Kaira is the only human the player sees. This shows that the environment is not one the player is familiar with, but Kaira’s casual interactions with these non human characters shows that it is an environment she is comfortable in. My plan for moving forward with this game is to flesh out the animations as well as the dialogue that Kaira has with the characters already in the game as well as the future characters. I also want to work on the next few maps as well as adding more sprites for future characters. (Kaira will have A Lot of friends) As far as feedback loops go the more the character explores and talks to people the more she will be able to remember which will make her want to explore more as she gets closer to her goal of confronting the force that made her loose her memories in the first place. How Kaira goes about accomplishing this will also effect how other characters see her. For example there are some choices she can make that will cause her companion’s deaths or cause them to abandon her because of her actions. A player who say doesn’t care for Zhis for example much might find this mechanic helpful while others may be distressed that their favorite companion could leave them depending on their actions, causing the player to have to weigh the pros and cons of the actions they take in the story. Another feedback loop will be an approval system where the different companions of Kaira’s will approve or disapprove of the actions Kaira takes and this will influence how they feel about and speak to her.  

Nonlinear Design: A Musician’s Quest, Post-Mortem

music note

  My game is about the story of a struggling musician going on an adventure to play a show at the end. Throughout the way, he collects musical notes to improve his ability to play and must have a minimum score to rock the world at the end. He also runs into events that would trigger “encounters”, or problems that would befall that of an artist in the music industry, such as paparazzi slowing him down as he aims to reach his destination, or groupies that negatively impact his musical talent. He must go through all these events while staying on his path to stardom and to rock out. I did not manage to finish the game but I was able to complete the paper game and see a physical representation of how the game would play out if it was finished. When I first started out in the planning process, I did not want to venture into the mentality of making my game memorable by any means. I wanted it to be relatable to the average, everyday musician. It was drawing from my experiences learning and performing music in my lifetime as I grew up playing the piano and now studying the drums and music more intensively as it is something I am deeply passionate about. I would like to explore this possibly as a job option in my lifetime if I can achieve it.

As I am not a talented artist I wanted the game to look simple but in doing so I found that my art ended up being very abstract which was not what I expected but I took that on to the fullest. It also fit with my idea that I wanted my game to be relatable. I ended up using the stick figure form as I thought that would be the best way to communicate the sense of relating to the player. Just like Borges in his story The Garden of the Forking Paths, I created a sense of nonlinearity while still being linear in my game design. In my world in the paper game, I created diverging paths to give the player a sense of choice. While there are not infinite paths as Borges suggests in his short story, I thought that multiple paths to the end goal in my game would be able to replicate the decisions that we must make as humans going about our every day lives. This also combined with the fact that our decisions and therefore actions have consequences, and that combines with the backward loop for my game. The backward loop in this game are the events that trigger as you go along your path, such as the paparazzi triggering slower movement for the player character if he takes a certain route or the groupies that were brought up earlier, making the character lose a certain amount of music notes, which is the score for the game. The forward loops are also the same, but they have a positive effect on the player, helping push him towards his goal, such as our character stumbling through his path and finding the event that has him being signed to have a record deal. This is just one example of the feedback loops that can happen throughout the game. Also, the McGuffin or the driving object that helps to advance the plot are the music notes that the player must collect throughout his journey. There are a bunch of events that can occur but the primary objective is to keep collecting the music notes and get the score required to get access to the ending. I fell in love with the fact that the minimalism of the game is also what can make it relatable. From the stick figure characters to the fact that there are not a lot of side objectives or that you must collect the music notes to progress, I thought that the minimalism does not detract from the experience that you have going through the game. The forward and backward loops are basically one and the same and they join together well because the events are connected to the player, also because of the branching paths.

The aesthetic of the game was designed to be escapist because as seen, it is not supposed to be seen as realistic nor reality, but simply to be relatable to people and the human condition. The stick figure aesthetic fits well for this mechanic as they can be relatively shrouded in mystery about the identity while still providing a basis for a being that everyone can relate to.



I believe that the player can see what is important because even with the nonlinear paths, the player automatically from the start can see where they have to go, which is basically to platform and collect all the music notes they can.

IMG_0805

The interactions between the player and the loops were also fun to think of from a musical standpoint as I got to expand my knowledge of the music industry as well as expand my creativity when it came to creating ideas for the game and definitely helped me think outside the box and to think more abstractly. I believe that the feedback loops are an integral part of this game, just as much as the world and the goal.

IMG_0808

Nonlinear Narrative: The Protagonist

For my protagonist, I wanted to design a character that would not stand out too much and could blend into her surroundings.  She had to be different from everyone else, but not be too different.  I sketched a few different styles of hair and facial features until I ended up with one that I really liked.  From there, I played around with detail and finalizing how she looks.  I also chose the name Lena to be hers.

Lena lives in a fantasy world, and a city where knights take care of crime.  She works as a knight in the city watch to protect the city.  She enjoys working with the city watch and cares deeply for her job.  The other people in the city watch are like family to her.  Her goal is to infiltrate and destroy the underground thieves’ guild.  She is given this task by her captain.  No one in the city watch knows where the guild is, so it is Lena’s job to find it ad take it down.  Lena has some problems accomplishing this task, however.  She struggles with kleptomania; she has done a good job overcoming this issue, but entering the thieves’ guild might cause an issue for her with kleptomania.  Lena has an ultimate choice to make in the game; she can either follow through with her captain’s orders and destroy the guild, or she can decide that the guild is where she truly belongs.  Throughout the game, Lena can talk to her captain and the thieves’ guild master.  The more she talks to these characters and how she talks to them can influence her choice in deciding where she wants to end up.

IMG_1301

This is one of the original concepts for Lena.

IMG_1302

From the first sketch, I played around with a different hair style.  I figured shorter hair would be more practical when fighting.

IMG_1303

I gave her a similar face to the original sketch.  I tried simplifying and changing different parts of her design.

IMG_1304

Drew her in a different angle.

IMG_1305

This is one of the final sketches for Lena.  This is where I start to finalize how her hair looks ad how her face looks.

IMG_1306

I gave her some piercings to add to her design.

IMG_1309

This is a sketch sprite for how she might look in the game.

  FullSizeRender (1)

This is the final, full-body sketch I decided on for Lena.  I gave her fairly simple clothes so that she could easily blend in with any faction.  I added some muscle definition to show that she is strong from her time working as a knight.

FullSizeRender

  Lastly, I gave her a sword to tie her back to the city watch.  The sword was given to her by the captain, and it is a cherished possession of Lena’s.

Nonlinear Narrative: The Protagonist

ProtagonistFinal

  My protagonist is a woman named Alessa Solaris, who lives in a futuristic society where human space travel has been achieved. In this universe, the resources on Earth have been completely diminished and humans have taken to gathering resources in the form of raw elements from elsewhere in the galaxy. These raw elements are bought and sold at high prices and used to create compounds that make up the materials humans use for everything from medicine to fuel. And because the element trading market is so lucrative, it has brought about a resurgence of space piracy. Alessa’s role in this world is one of conflicting loyalties. All she wants is to get married to the love of her life, but she has no money to contribute to the wedding, and she is desperate. Seeing piracy as the quickest way to get the money she needs, she joins a crew and sets off on her first mission to plunder a space station that is known to have a large supply of elements. Unfortunately, she soon discovers that this space station is where her fiance, a medical professional and virologist, is using those elements to create a cure for the viral epidemic happening on a nearby planet. This is how Alessa becomes torn between following her captain’s orders, and protecting her fiance, who plans on guarding those elements and his work on the cure with his life.

The major goals for this character design was to create a character who exhibited a merging of two different styles: futuristic space and old fashioned pirate, as well as showing her as a female, and making her seem friendly but somehow connected to the other two main characters who both exhibit differing styles: one being a healer and scientist, and one being a marauding space pirate.

To show Alessa as feminine, I focused on eyes and hair and slightly on body type. I didn’t want to fall into the trope of a female character wearing a skin-tight jumpsuit to show all her curves, so I thought focusing on feminine eyes and hair would be a better approach. However, if I wanted to show her hair, I couldn’t have a full space helmet, so I tried to take some inspiration from Starlord’s space mask from Guardians of the Galaxy.

Reference image source: http://cdn2-www.superherohype.com/assets/uploads/2014/07/starlordimage1.jpg

Reference image source:
http://cdn2-www.superherohype.com/assets/uploads/2014/07/starlordimage1.jpg



This led to a helmet that covered half of her head and a gas mask type attachment to her nose and mouth. This led to the misunderstanding that she was from a toxic environment more akin to a post-apocalyptic world. Which then led to the eventual development of the full face and top of the head type helmet that one can see in the final character design. This communicates the image of space much better. Also, thicker outlines and some light reflections were added to the eye protection so that it communicates goggles or a visor attachment to the helmet much better.

Since the helmet evoked the image of space more than the image of pirate, I used the clothing design as an opportunity to show more of a classic pirate type style. I originally was inspired by the movie Alien to give my character a jumpsuit that looked more like a uniform that one would wear in space.

Reference image source: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-XXlLOIYx5S0/T1Jpu0Y5rNI/AAAAAAAABGo/056ski5rXJ0/s1600/aliencrew.jpg

Reference image source:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-XXlLOIYx5S0/T1Jpu0Y5rNI/AAAAAAAABGo/056ski5rXJ0/s1600/aliencrew.jpg



This idea evolved because of the need to add elements of the classic pirate crewman style, which is where the vest, the belt, and the loose fitting pants come from. The heavy work boots are used to evoke an image of a tough work environment that requires stability and sturdiness, like one might come across as a crew member aboard a spaceship. This is also why they are more box shaped than any other elements of this character’s design, since square shapes indicate sturdiness and immovability.

  I used elements of color and shape to work out the other design details. Because she is the protagonist, I wanted to make sure the players can feel like they trust her. Therefore, I tried to stick to rounded corners, soft edges, and circular elements. This is why her eyes are so rounded and prominent. They communicate an innocence and trustworthiness. These characteristics are also exemplified with the eyebrows tilted upwards because it gives an openness to the face that echoes a friendly personality. The repeated use of round and circular shapes in the character design plays on the human habit of reading traits with those shapes as friendly, open, innocent, playful, and slightly feminine.

Color also plays an important part in the design of this character. First, I wanted to stay away from most cool colors like green, blue and purple, because those are usually used to convey a mysterious, untrustworthy, sneaky, or devious tone. However, while redesigning the helmet, I thought to use some grays with blue and purple tints to show her connection to the less than morally sound pirate crew. Other than that, I tried to stick to vibrant warm colors like red and orange. These vibrant colors convey energy and bring the player’s attention directly to the character, thus identifying her as the protagonist. The white in her vest also brings attention to her because it is a bright contrast from dark and mysterious tones, but is also associated with innocence.

This character design evolved as I created it. There was really only one sketch at the beginning, but the elements of her design changed as levels of the character were developed.

      Protag Sketch

She initially started with straighter hair, but to make her more energetic and dynamic, the hairstyle was altered. Her figure was also curved and rounded a little more during the outlining phase.

Protag Outline 1Protagonist 1

When going through the second phase of design where the helmet went through the most alterations, there was a sketch period where I played around with some other ideas. I thought about making her boots bigger, or giving her a big oxygen tank backpack, but these ideas were ultimately scrapped, as the bigger boots conveyed more of a stomping and squishing mechanic, and the backpack could not be seen from the front and would only cause confusion in this design.

  Protag Sketch 2Protag Helmet SketchProtag Helmet ColorProtag Helmet Linework

I also ended up exaggerating the effect of the helmet on her hair by making it curve out from under the helmet like real hair does. This made the borders of the helmet more clear and made it look more useful as protective head equipment. I also exaggerated the reflective shine on the goggles to convey more clearly that they are goggles.

ProtagonistFinal

As I am much happier with this iteration of the character’s design, this will most likely be the final, completed version of the protagonist. Also, this design will continue to affect how the other NPCs are designed. For example, the captain will have a new helmet that looks similar to the protagonist’s so that they are shown to be related through profession, however, the captain will be slightly more extravagant than the protagonist to show his higher rank. As for the fiance, the other NPC, he will show similar color and shape themes to be shown as innocent and friendly, but these similar themes will also act as a way to connect the two characters in the player’s mind.

The world design will also share similarities with the protagonist’s design. For example, anything related to the protagonist’s personal belongings should be in the same color scheme as the character, so oranges, reds, browns, and grays should be present in her living quarters. Also, to appears as if she fits in the environment, the world design, specifically the space ship, should look like the kind of heavy duty work environment that would warrant her need for those sturdy work boots.

By working with specific constraints based on style, story, and theme, this protagonist’s design has changed and evolved. Color, shape, clothing style, and attributes such as her helmet and boots give the player a clear idea of who this character is and what kind of world she lives in, as well as what her relationship to the two NPCs might be. If a new conflict appears in regards to the protagonist’s design going forward, she might change slightly once again, but for the time being, she is a completed character.

by Anna Beliveau  

Nonlinear Narrative: The Protagonist

The initial concept

The initial concept

My Protagonist is named Kaira Barnabus. Kaira lives in a post apocalyptic world that suffered catastrophic flooding several decades before Kaira was born and is filled with various forms of fauna that can talk and have formed various societies. Kaira has lost her memories at the start of the game but has vague recollections of someone underwater that she needs to find, the game is about her travelling to try and recover her memories and help those she meets along the way. I’ve had the idea of both this game and Kaira for a few years now and it wasn’t until I stopped just visualizing Kaira in my head and actually drew her that her design started to change. I always knew her color scheme was going to be more earth toned and slightly military-esque. One of the things that I’ve toyed around with was giving Kaira a facial scar.

Sketches where I messed around with the scar concept

Sketches where I messed around with the scar concept

I almost scrapped this idea because none of the scar designs I was using seemed to fit the character or her backstory, but then I gave her the X on her forehead that I’ve ended up keeping. Another idea that I ended up keeping was giving Kaira a scarf that was a pale blue/lavender. This is very similar in color scheme to Kaira’s sister and was meant to connect the otherwise very different looking characters visually. One aspect of Kaira’s design that was directly impacted by feedback I received in class was her boots, originally the boots were so big because I’m bad at drawing boots but then I thought about the fact that she’s in a world where she’s gonna have to fight but she didn’t have any weapons, so why not give her weaponized shoes? These shoes are also her Attribute Visual. Even outside of combat screens (if I get to that this semester) she will collide with things and will probably end up kicking at least one NPC.

How could I have a girl with Kicking Feet if I didn't draw her kicking at least once?

How could I have a girl with Kicking Feet if I didn’t draw her kicking at least once?

Drawing Kaira so many times also helped me solidify her personality a lot more. Even though she doesn’t remember who she is or her past she is still a very confident and sort of cocky woman who has a dry sense of humor. Sketching let me experiment more with her visually as well as with more internal concepts of the character. Giving her these huge boots for Kicking Things made me think about why she would be a more physical person both in terms of fighting as well as her life in general.

a sketch I drew to get a better feel of her personality

a sketch I drew to get a better feel of her personality

Kaira and Zhis were always designed with the other in mind, their color schemes aren’t similar but I made sure they didn’t clash and seemed visually on the same side. Kaira also has a sister and although she won’t appear in this project her design is very much influenced by Kaira’s. Another character who will appear in this part of the project though and was influenced by Kaira’s design is Nadia who dresses in a similar way to Kaira although physically the two women look quite different. At this point in the design process I’m starting to draw Kaira the same way physically in each image but small things about her may still change between posting this and actually making her entire sprite sheet for the game.

possible final sprite?

possible final sprite?

Another possible final sprite

Another possible final sprite

Kaira sprite draft copy

When I officially gave Kaira The Boots

Nonlinear Narrative: The Protagonist

Becca Radley Concept  

The protagonist for my game design project is Becca Radley. She is a 24 year-old professional ghost hunter with a predisposition for off-the-wall plans. When her producers demand that she and her brother/co-host Casper provide the funds for their next season themselves, Becca uses her money to purchase lottery tickets. One of them wins, but it is not enough to meet their goal. So, when Becca sees a massive old mansion for sale she hatches a plot to convince the owners the house is haunted and then convince them to sell their house for a lower price. Once it’s bought, she reasons, she can suddenly “resolve the haunting”, and sell it at a higher rate.

Becca is the “face” of the Radley ghost hunting duo, with a showmanship that made their show – Ghost Quest – somewhat of a cult hit. Her ideas are not always good, or morally stable, but things have a way of resolving themselves in her favor.

The top image is an example of Becca in the artistic style I’ll be using for conversations. I wanted to draw my inspiration for conversational sprites from dating sims and hidden object games. I also wanted my over world sprites to be fairly simple, so as not to crowd the viewer with detail.

The rest of the images are over world sprites, as I assumed that it would be easier to find a face that looked aesthetically pleasing in the simpler style then develop a face in the complex style, rather than developing a face in the complex style and then trying to make it read well in the over world sprite style.

I considered what props/special physical traits I might give Becca, but after some thought I decided that a more utilitarian design would function best for her. She’s a bit out-there as a person, but I wanted the townspeople NPCs to be bizarre with her as a grounding point, so I wanted her to look a bit “ordinary”. To that end, I decided I’d make her (and her brother to a lesser extent) stand out from the rest of the characters and the background by

I started with a free-sketching style in the first image. I liked the proportions in that image, but felt like it would make keeping on-model difficult. I gave her some earrings and an eyebrow ring to showcase that she was more rebellious, and gave her white hair so she would contrast with the background. In the second image, I tried giving her a jacket. When we brought our three characters into class, a few people thought Casper was the main character due to the number of accessories he had, so I thought I might give Becca a hoodie in a different color. It ended up covering up much of the design on her shirt, however, so I removed it in the next sketch. Ghost Quest is her personal project, so I wanted her to display the shirt openly.

This created the problem of how to properly display the logo. It was difficult to make one that read properly in the sprite style. In the next attempt, I simplified the logo under the logic that I could do the more detailed logo in the conversation sprites, but I ultimately didn’t like that. In sketch #4, I added a little ghost decal to the shirt to make it more clear that ghost hunting was what she’s about. I also simplified her shoes, as I was having difficulty making the white rubber section of her sneakers read well.

In the next sketch, I decided to make the design more shape-oriented, and also to try outlining Becca with black rather than a similar color to the actual part of her body it was next to. Making her blockier ended up making drawing her easier, but I didn’t like the black lining so I abandoned that in design 6. Design 6 and 7 were both attempts to decide what those shapes were, and improve on the Ghost Quest shirt design. I also made her eyebrows black, to call attention to the fact that Becca is bleaching her hair rather than just having her hair naturally white. In design 6-8, I also played with the color of her shirt and skin to have a higher outline contrast, and tried to figure out what shape of eyes i wanted her to have. I ended up fairly happy with the shape of design 8, though when I put her in the background image her color scheme contrasted poorly with the background. So in image 9, I used photoshop’s Kuler wheel to give Becca a shirt color that fit into the scheme. Using the yellowish green in image 9, I ended up with a color that was different from any of the colors in the mansion’s scheme, but still fitting in with them.

As this was happening, I started sketching the backgrounds for the game. This ended up fueling my decision to give the rest of the characters color schemes which were either black and white or closer to the background color schemes. In this way, it will emphasize the way everyone else is a part of the town they live in, while Becca is an interloper. I’ll also be tweaking Casper’s design so that it compliments Becca’s more.

The backgrounds ended up becoming more abstract/fauvistic. Becca has a fairly solid design contrasting the background, while the backgrounds and the other characters are a bit smudged and indistinct to give them an air of mystery.

I’m fairly certain that Becca’s design is still a bit incomplete, as it feels a bit too divergent from the background design at the moment. I want to work on sketching the backgrounds and other characters a bit more, so that I can be more aware of what I’m trying to contrast.

Beccaspritetry1 beccaspritetry2 beccaspritetry3 becccaspritetry4 beccaspritetry5 beccaspritetry6 beccaspritetry7 beccaspritetry8 beccaspritetry9

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