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. This is one of the original concepts for Lena. From the first sketch, I played around with a different hair style. I figured shorter hair would be more practical when fighting. I gave her a similar face to the original sketch. I tried simplifying and changing different parts of her design. Drew her in a different angle. 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. I gave her some piercings to add to her design. This is a sketch sprite for how she might look in the game. 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. 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.
My characters were limited by my artistic ability, but this led to a much more simpler and abstract design that I was influenced from watching the stick figure animations in my childhood. A lot of the design for the main character was influenced by a game called Fancy Pants Adventure. A lot of the design elements for the protagonist ended up being the same, such as the hairstyle for the protagonist. However, I wanted to put a unique spin on this style and blend it with music, which is something that has influenced me throughout my life. I thought the hair was very “punkish” which is something that I was aiming for as a design element. A lot of the bands in the 2000’s that I grew up listening to would have those kinds of edgy rocker hairstyles, the colored mohawks and the like. However, with stick figures, I thought that the character would be someone any aspiring musician could relate to in a way. The cigarette automatically tells me that the character lives a rough lifestyle and is out on the road a lot. As for the villainess, she was designed as an opposite for the protagonist. The term “opposite ends attract” was a core principle for me in designing the character. So as the protagonist is leading a lifestyle of rock and roll and on his quest in the game, the villainess is an opposite, offering a life of peace and stepping away from his dreams. I chose the split hair colors as a sly reference to the choice she offers in being the villain of the game. The roses and the drumsticks also are a nod to that. The two worlds colliding was an interesting dynamic for me to explore. It is either the rock life or the life of settling down and building another life together. This reference image I found was the basis of the hair color. As per the protagonist, heavily based off the Fancy Pants Adventure game, I found that I would put the protagonist in my shoes, as a drummer just like me. I thought his story would be interesting as well as funny for any musician, putting on the best show of all time, playing the best gig that he can. With the hair in mind, it ended up looking like a mix of the “mohawk” from the main character in Fancy Pants Adventure, as well as elements of Sonic the Hedgehog’s head mixed with a Super Saiyan in the Dragon Ball anime series. I liked the idea of hair being the distinctive item in all these characters, as I felt that looks would be important in distinguishing between all these characters. I liked being able to design one element that would stand apart from the others that would make them unique from each other. So I thought that hair would be the way to go as it is in some ways, a lot of people’s form of expression.I enjoyed just how animated and expressive you could make stick figures, even with how simple they are. You could have a character doing all sorts of things and make the action even more exaggerated. All the characters had elements of the music scene or an alternative look to them, which I certainly enjoyed giving and designing. A lot of stick figures are designed to be “bland” and not set apart from each other in an animation for example, but I liked giving them an air of distinction. For example, the roadie NPC was designed with long hair and always smoking a cigarette, which is a common trope/stereotype of the rock roadie scene that I thought I could play on.
Chief Dunlap and Tommie the first 2 NPCs I designed for this game. Chief Dunlap is meant to be a useless adult figure. He gives Hollie her cases, and is ignorant of the reality of the situation. Tommie is part of the influential and rich Winston family, and is an entitled little shit. I added a mustache to make him look older. He sits at his desk all day. He never leaves. Tommie grew legs to look less shady, and his money sign became more obvious. The color of his pants and hat is Nantucket Red which is gross and the perfect color for a rich white boy. I also covered him in blood to make it painfully obvious that he’s the murderer. The spelling of his name was also changed to fit the theme of every child characters’ names ending in “ie”. These three characters are the most important characters in the game, and made up the overall tone I wanted to set for this dark comedy game.When working on this project, I was inspired in style by old flash games like Riddle School, the idea of children in adult situations like South Park, and a girl solving a mystery that the police should themselves like Nancy Drew PC games. Hollie is 12 years old and in 6th grade. For months, she’s been working with the Safeville Police Department and Police Chief Dunlap to find missing pets. After the murder of classmate Joshie Felix, Chief Dunlap assigns Hollie to the case. When I first started, my idea was to have my protagonist be Little Red Riding Hood solving the murder of her grandmother. Her hood soon became her hair, and her name changed from Little Red to Hollie (named this way for heart i’s). Her big coat came from my style in middle school, which was big and baggie and something I could just hide my entire body in. I added the buttons to emphasize the fact that it was a big coat.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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
Game Design and Non-Linearity Heretic is a 2D PRG that follows a young girl living a barren village. Resources are slim, the soil is untenable, and the villagers only think of their own needs for survival. The villagers live in fear of dying and the unknown, and have begun to carry out witch hunts, resulting in the burning of various women at the stake for crimes of witchcraft. The player can choose to leave the village and enter the forest, of which most villagers are afraid. If the player brings an item to the book, the village will be changed – for better or worse. The player can decide the fate of the village and the villagers based on what items they bring to the book. For now, I’ve designed four items that the player can bring to the book – a shepherd’s crook, a sword, a shield, and a potted plant. Each item is symbolic of the change it will bring to the town, though not necessarily in the way that the player expects, and not necessarily in a way that the other villagers are happy with. The potted plant, when brought to the book, will result in the construction of a new garden for the herbalist, giving her the ability to grow more plants. The player can continue this cycle and improve the quality and size of the garden with each trip to the book. However, the blacksmith may feel threatened by the increase to her resources and decide to accuse her of witchcraft, leading to her being burned at the stake. The widow, also, has a shepherd’s crook from her late husband that may be brought to the book. If the player does so, the widow will receive a sheep and a small plot of grass in which the sheep can graze. Again, the player can continue this cycle, but risks arousing suspicion of witchcraft the more the player helps the widow. During witch hunts, the women targeted were primarily women who seemed threatening to the capitalist control of production and reproduction. Herbalists were threatening because they had natural knowledge of plants, and often assisted with women’s reproductive health. This power over life and death was threatening to a system that need to control reproductive power to be able to exist. Widows, too, were threatening, because they existed outside of the bounds of marriage. Ultimately, I would like this RPG to illuminate the sexist underpinnings of the witch hunts, and the way they were used as a means to protect capitalist patriarchal power through player choice and consequence. If the player chooses to bring the blacksmith’s shield to the book, a large wall will be built around the village. They can continue to fortify the village by bringing the shield back to the book, and the villagers will never suspect the blacksmith of witchcraft, because the resources he provides isn’t threatening to the capitalist system. The nature of the book should be ambiguous. It may be magical, or it may simply give the player the practical knowledge to achieve the change she seeks. Originally, I was going to have the player bring items to a gathering of chanting women out in the woods, but decided against it because I play testers very quickly associated it with a coven of witches. The book, to me, represents knowledge, which is ultimately what truly threatened the capitalist regime. This game is non-linear most obviously in that the goal is entirely up to the player – whether they want to help or hurt the village – and in that there’s no set path to reach that goal. Though there are only a few items to bring to the book right now, in the future, I want there to be many more, so that there are even more paths and twists and turns. One path won’t necessarily cut you off from another path – if you build a wall with the shield, you can still bring the potted plant or the shepherd’s crook to the book later. Though it will take a lot more design time, I want this game to reflect the possibility of alternate timelines as Borges described in Garden of the Forking Paths. In one instance of the game, the player may wish to indirectly kill all the other NPCs and leave the village in ruins. In another, the player may achieve a utopian village with bountiful resources and no conflict. In another, the player may try to save the herbalist but attempt to kill the blacksmith and the widow, and so on and so forth. The paths should fork and cross over one another and double back and allow for as much exploration as possible. In a lot of traditional RPGs, players use weapons to combat enemies, and the enemies make up the bulk of the narrative. In this game, there aren’t any discernible enemies. Yes, you can capture and kill a rabbit – but that’s not an enemy. The player can decide to buy the sword – one of the more expensive items – but the player can’t use it to kill villagers. If the player brings the sword to the book, the player may expect to receive some suit of armor, or a bigger sword, etc. But instead, a random building in the village will be destroyed. Just as the book isn’t necessarily magical, the changes it brings aren’t always good. The changes the book makes depends on the player and the items the player brings, and just as it can help make the village great, it can also destroy the village. In that way, this RPG is non-traditional – often, RPGS have one goal – to save someone or something – and there is one way to achieve that goal. In this game, the goal is up to the player, and the ways to achieve that goal don’t follow traditional narratives. For many games, a sword represents heroism. But in this game, the sword represents the violence of domination and oppression. Art Design Overall, I’m satisfied with how the game looks and feels. I drew inspiration from illuminated manuscripts of the 1400s and 1500s – a time of intense upheaval in Europe as the society transitioned from feudalism into capitalism. Illuminated manuscripts were usually drawn by religious orders, and were only accessible by those in power. I wanted to play with their patterns and symbols to evoke a religious and medieval aesthetic in my game, and also to re-appropriate the styles of the books to turn them against the will of the aristocrats that commissioned them – even if they did so five hundred some odd years ago. During my last leg of development, I decided to change the main village to be very rocky and barren, in stark contrast with the forest. I wanted to convey the level of separation of the humans from the natural world through color in my game. Often, human culture and society feel like they are natural to those participating in them, thought they are anything but natural. The colors of the human dwellings have bright accent colors that serve to further alienate them from the forest environment. Working in 64×64 in this dev cycle was not the best idea, because each tile took at least an hour to make, if not much more. The rock facade took at least eight hours. I got lost in the artwork, rather than the gameplay. I ended up spending a lot of time on water tiles that ultimately didn’t get much use in the game, because I worked on artwork before actually testing my paper prototype. I had the idea that the girl would maybe crash land on an island in a boat, but decided to scrap that idea because I wanted her to be a part of the community. I might use the water tiles for a fisherman narrative later, but I shouldn’t have devoted so much time to an idea I was completely unsure of. The walk cycle took a lot longer than expected because animating with pixels was a lot harder than i first thought it would be. It seems simpler because you’re working with small units, but it can actually get harder because making a bunch of squares into a cohesive moving shape is kind of difficult to do when you haven’t done it before. I got so frustrated by the walk cycle that I didn’t finish it till last minute, and then I didn’t have time to code in animation of items being picked up, etc. Animating the movement of the feet was particularly difficult, and I’m still not satisfied with the end result. I’ll probably change it in the future. What I Learned Always test your paper prototype first! That’s one of the big things I realized this semester. Don’t develop a bunch of art and THEN gameplay, because you’ll end up focusing too much on art and not enough on programming. I have a very clear idea of where I want my game to go now, but I have very little of it programmed because I was focusing too much on what the game looked like, and not enough on what actually happened. I spent hours designing the sheep above and it didn’t even make it into gameplay because I didn’t have enough time to program it. Granted, I still probably would have only been able to code and animate one narrative from beginning to end because the art is so detailed, but I wouldn’t have spent so much time on art that I’m now not sure if I’ll use. If I could go back, I would design in a lower resolution and make my paper prototype before I even touched pixel art. I prioritized art over programming and now my game looks really pretty, but it’s not actually that playable. This was a really hard to game to conceptualize because I was working with really abstract concepts, but I’m glad that I did it. I want to keep working on this game because I don’t think there are a ton of RPGs like it, and the ideas I’m trying to illustrate about capitalism are ideas that I want to continue to explore. Designing this game actually really helped me to understand Frederici’s ideas, in a way that just reading them did not. I had a lot of fun working on this game and I definitely intend to finish it.
The game The Strength Needed was a semester of fun, strife, and some sleepless night but by and large a wonderful experience and vastly informative for the next projects I inevitably wish to pursue next semester. The game in its current state is a glorified walking simulator with a few deaths. While this may seem overtly critical as many of my paper prototypes and even the art itself seems promising in a finalized product, by and large it did not quite get to the point I wanted it to get to this semester. It presents several key features like the enemies that can kill you, some moving NPCs and a world with loadable levels, but the objectives, the A story if you will, was never truly finished so what you end up with when you have the art, a few things that kill you, and the ability to load between levels is a glorified walking simulator I suppose. A pretty one, but not near completion. The project changed a lot over the course of the year. At one point it was a game about a small demon boy trying to defeat evil spirits while its body slowly degraded but then I decided to stick to the story of a game I previously made as a practice paper prototype that was way more well received then some of the other stuff I made this semester. One key feature that was in the very early paper prototype was the use of text, I cut out all of that. That is gone. I killed it with the power of a ‘delete’ button and sheer force of will. While I enjoyed the text I wanted to experiment with as much visual story telling as I could, even using words as structures and part of the world rather than using them in any narrative dialogue convention. A lot did go right about the project. The art mostly and a lot of the walk cycles and the entire Den of Gas room. That room turned out amazing. It had the most features fully furnished and thought out. The Gas Mask Lady in it moved the way I wanted her to, the gates projected the big ‘NO’ signs with her face on them. It turned out quite well. In fact, I was quite pleased with many of the animations that I did end up finishing, the Gas Mask Lady, Box Dog, the Wise One, The Player, etc. These all tuned out quite nicely. As for what went wrong…well the game isn’t done which probably feels worse than anything, time sorta got away from me on this project. Will be good to keep working on it over Winter Break but that doesn’t help the current product. Art was shockingly easy for me to handle. I thought that was honestly going to be the most difficult part but I ended up just going for it and creating something I was super proud of. The main movement programming also wasn’t too hard, really my main difficulty came down to the code as I was unfamiliar with how much of coding in Unity worked especially as it related to the animator and talking with the physics engine. That said, my experience with it got progressively better as the game kept getting worked on and now I feel far more comfortable with programming, designing, and Unity itself. Not super pleased with my final result because of how unfinished it is but by and large I liked the art and the story. I’m gonna keep working to improve it as well and make it better. The code also could use some work but I’m glad I could get as much working as I did. The Project was nonlinear in its subversion of genre and ability to make the player episodically visit worlds and places. I got a lot of ideas from the Flash Fictions and movies like Toto The Hero. It was so nonsensical and wonderful and captured a certain child like glee that I wanted reflected in my game. My classmates also provided a valuable insight into the game. As they pointed out flaws I missed or hidden symbolisms I didn’t intend, I ran with a lot of what they mentioned to me. In addition, my boy friend helped me play test it quite a bit and he has a keen eye for the wacky and nonlinear and helped shape those aspects of the narrative. Honestly, play testing mostly resulted in changes to code and added a few fun ideas like the gates that blocked people out. Other than that it provided reference for code to fix. The project was adequately coded in the most bare essential type of way. I followed the GamesPlusJames tutorials almost exactly except in reference to super specific things for my game. With the tile maps I primarily aimed to create a 2D top down space with patterned designs rather than photorealistic worlds as I didn’t have the skill for that. The animations I spent the most time on, using long walk cycles, a death animation, and a few other cool tricks. Most of the enemies however used static jump type walk cycles. Collision also was used sparingly, mostly to keep the player in the map or kill them. I didn’t want an interact button really. All in all, a fun project that I aim to keep working on. Chris Haehnel
The game I finally made is now called Into The Dark. The goal of this game is to explore the world I created and to defeat the boss at the end of the game. There are times were the player will die a lot but that is the only way to fully play this game, is by learning from your mistakes. How to defeat the boss is to find the power ups in the game, without the power ups the boss will defeat you and you have to start over. This project changed constantly for me, I do not think I went longer then a few days without changing my mind on something even if it was the littlest fix. With this being my first game I probably should have not fixed it as many times, but I could not help myself I wanted a good looking game, I wanted the little details and I wanted the game to look perfect, at the cost of time though. What I noticed went right with this game was the art. I really enjoyed using Piskel and creating pixel art, it was very relaxing as well as fun! I loved adding in the details, I worked in 64X64 which took a while to grasp how tiny it was but after a little practice I was able to get it. What did not work for me as well was getting a story for the game. I know I wanted something different, and I had an idea, but I just could not stick with it nor could I put it into a game on paper. Another thing that went right was the paper prototypes that I created for not only this game but other games. It really taught me out to put the story onto paper and really see what works and what does not. What was surprisingly easy to achieve was first the pixel art, that came very easy for me which I was shocked because I have never worked in pixels before. The second thing that came easy to achieve was after a long process of figuring out what I wanted to do, I knew exactly how I wanted to lay it out, where everything would be placed on my map and how I wanted it to look. The most difficult thing for me was figuring out how to make my game non-linear, I have never done this before and anything that I have done similar to this in the past, was always very linear based. So to go from a very strong background of being linear it was difficult for me to get the idea of how to be non-linear but I have a better understanding of it now. When I look at how I worked and how others in the class worked, I very soon was quick to pick up that I was going to be a slow learner at first because I was really the only one to not know exactly what they were doing. One thing that consumed most of my time was not being able to put the story all together. Also, the tutorials I had to keep watching over and over again until I understood them, and they were not short videos so that took up a lot of time as well. Now looking back at how I worked, next time I will defiantly start watching the tutorials as early as possible so that way I can watch the tutorials one at a time and then do the work with them. Also, I have a better understanding of non-linear thinking so I think if I did something like this again I would be able to think of a story faster. I think my final work that I have to present looks good, it is not much, but what I did try to do was make it look as good as possible. I spent a lot of time correcting details of objects until I got them exactly the way I wanted them, and then sometimes I would still go back and make edits. Some alternatives I tried were for example taking one tile I created for the ground, and for a different scene change the color instead of making a new tile. It saved time and it tied in the two tiles. Another alternative that I tried was watching one tutorial and working with the tutorial as it plays in the background, this helped a lot so I can watch what the tutorial did and I could follow along. In the beginning I would definitely say that my game was barely non-linear, but after hearing other peoples critiques, other peoples games and examples I started to understand the concept of how to make a game non-linear. I would not say mine is the most non-linear but I think it is non-linear. For example, with this wishing well you would think it should be put next to the house, but no its in the forest, and it is not your ordinary wishing well. Another example is the trees in the forest are the shape of any other trees that you have seen, very different and weird but a good weird. One of the readings that I got inspired by was Garden of the Forking Paths, I really enjoyed reading that and I felt very inspired after reading it. Even though this was not a reading, the movie Toto also gave me some great ideas on how to have a non-linear game narrative. I thought the movie itself was really good as well as giving me some ideas for my game which was very helpful. I can confidently say that have other sources of input and ideas really helped me a lot. For example, when we had class critiques it was great to see how everyone played my game. It was a great way to see how the player would grab the concept of your game, wether they got it or did not. Also, the feedback was great and very helpful, it gave me different thoughts about my game instead of my own. Reading other non-linear stories, watching non-linear movies, seeing different artist styles, other peers helping me with new ideas could not of helped me more, it was a huge part in my game being created and I think it is the only way to get a great game is if you have a lot of sources that go into it. Some changes that I made after my playlets were starting with the terrain. It had good potential at first, but it needed more, it needed to feel more like a world and less like objects got placed onto a map. Another one was to fix some coloring in the world, having my main character lay on this very yellow tile, the character slipped away into the tile. You could clearly see his clothes because they were very dark, but his skin disappeared so the main tile had to be darkened. Another change was that the well was not only moved into the forest to be an unexpected surprise, I also turned it into a room. It is very unexpected and exciting to see that you can go into the well and find what is inside. How my game was coded, starting with tile maps, what not an easy start, like I said before I could barely get a story together let alone the art together. But the tile map was at first intimidating because there is a lot of pieces to a tile map, and I mean that in the individual tiles themselves. After you get the hang of the tiles, it is so easy to use especially in Tiled. Tiled made it easy to create a map and just bring it into Unity. Next, the animation I did not get a chance to get to, but I got really inspired by other peers work, especially with fading in and out of entrances and exits. When I say fading I mean adding a fade to black every time a door way was used. Another animation technique I wanted to try was having an animated character appear out of nowhere, for example pop into the screen from the sky. Next, collision was a lot of fun to use and after I understood Tiled, collision became easier. It was hard to decide where to put collision and where to not have collision but collision itself is a great tool and really adds a lot to the game. Lastly, dialogue was something I was unable to incorporate but I would like to think that I added dialogue in a visual aspect instead of actually writing out dialogue. The emotion and feel of parts of the game can tell its own dialogue without me needing to write it in. For example, the character is happy and walking around a colorful world, it is a happy environment. Then you look at the boss, it is dark and creepy with an evil look on its face, it is an unhappy environment.
For my conference project I created a side-scrolling exploration/adventure game. The player controls an anthropomorphic hummingbird with a broken wing. The player progresses through the game by bartering with other anthropomorphic animals, providing them with items they need to repair damage throughout their dwellings. Along the way, the animals reward the player with mysterious parts, and at the end of the game the animals reward the player by building a hot-air balloon that will allow the player character to continue his migration. The project did not change a great deal from conception to realization. The bartering mechanic was part of the game from the beginning, as was the general structure of the story and events. Decisions about what other animals to include in the game and what problems the player helps them with did change over time. I’d originally planned to include swallows in the game, but decided variety among the animals would be best. I opted for a bird, insects, amphibians, and mammals. Some animals in the game can fly, while others are terrestrial or amphibious. A lot went well during my work on this project. I’m quite pleased with most of the art and animations, although it’s imperfect. The player character was the first sprite I created for this project—before I had a clear sense of the aesthetics of the game—and the color palette doesn’t feel entirely at home with the rest of the art throughout the game. The tree interior and cave environments are most representative of the style I aimed for with this project, whereas the colors in the grass and pond environments are something I’d revisit. I had no prior experience creating pixel art—and very little experience with visual art in general—but I’m pleasantly surprised by the results of my efforts. The game looks quite good. I also had zero programming experience and anticipated that programming this game would cause me a great deal of frustration and confusion. However, I found myself able to write all of the code this game required by adapting the basic concepts behind the Player Controller script presented in the GamesPlusJames 2D RPG tutorials on YouTube. I spent nearly two days writing my State Controller and Inventory Controller scripts and getting those to work, but generally I encountered few frustrating obstacles while programming this game. The animations required for this game were without a doubt the most difficult aspect of the process. The walk cycles for the player character required over eight hours of work, and the animation cycle for the water wheel required four-to-five hours. I could have managed my time much better while working on this project. Finding sufficient time to work wasn’t the issue—I invested a great deal of time into this project—but the timeline of my work in no way correlated with the timeline laid out in the dev cycle. One major reason for this was the complexity of the art and animations. Early in the process of creating concept art and designing sprites, I decided to work in a resolution of 128×128 pixels. Rather than working with canvasses comprised of 1,024 or 4,096 pixels total, I worked with 16,384. In addition, the game includes some fairly complex animations. Both player walk cycles contain eight frames of animation (and because of shading and the broken wing creating the second walk cycle wasn’t as simple as x-axis reflection of images), and the water wheel animation is made up of eleven frames. Because of the level of detail made possible by the higher resolution, creating the art and animations for my game consumed the vast majority of the time I dedicated to this project. I’d estimate that I spent ten hours on art and animations for every hours I spent coding. I knew early on that I’d have to deviate from the dev cycle because of my dedication to the visual aspect of the game, but even then I began coding in earnest far later than I’d planned. As a result, there’s still uncertainty about the state of completion my game will be in by the end of the semester. The non-linearity of this project stems mostly from two techniques: defamiliarization and central trauma. I present common animals in anthropomorphic forms, and these animals exist in constructed dwellings, wear clothing, and have a barter system. The hummingbird player character has a broken wing, and he provides assistance to various other animals by helping them to repair broken objects in their homes. I develop the motif of breaking, of damage, throughout the game, and this motif reaches its resolution at the end of the game once the player character has helped the various animals fix their broken things and the animals have rewarded these acts of kindness by building a hot-air balloon. I took some inspiration from Adam Cadre’s “Photopia,” specifically from how Cadre incorporates the non-linear technique of central trauma into his story. “Photopia” revolves around its central trauma without addressing it directly; instead, it sort of prods and catches glimpses of the trauma through a variation-on-a-theme repetition. The player or reader grows to understand the trauma through association and pattern recognition. I attempted to approach central trauma in a similar way in my own game. I had numerous children’s books in the back of my mind while creating this game, and influences include the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel and the animated film “The Wind In the Willows,” directed by Dave Unwin and based on the books by Kenneth Grahame. Although I may not implement as many of these changes as I’d like before the end of the semester, I was encouraged by play-testing to include far more objects within the world that allow interaction. Play-testing also encouraged me to add reaction animations to the NPCs when the player interacts with them. To create my maps, I used Tiled in combination with larger images inserted into the game directly through Unity as game objects. I used collision and key binds in order to support proximity-based interaction without the interactions triggering automatically. For example, I wanted the player to be able to walk past doors and NPCs without interacting if the player wished, so my code requires to player to collide with an NPC/object and use a command in order to interact. I came up with one solution that I’m particularly proud of to the problem of the sky. Although I first considered simply adding one large blue field behind the trees in the forest level, I knew I wanted a subtle gradient in the background. However, I also knew that the gradient would shift as the player moved along the map, so I created a gradient field of blue about the size of the camera’s field of view and added it to the game as a child of the player so that the gradient would move with the player and remain constant. Coding the State Controller and Inventory Controller proved to be challenging. I created string of boolean logic comprised of nests-within-nests, activating and deactivating eighteen different variables in different orders based on the player’s actions. This caused me a great deal of headache, because the first two or three versions of these scripts failed to work as I’d intended. I felt confident in my logic, my nesting of if/then statements, and my organization of the eighteen bools, but pinpointing the exact cause of my code’s dysfunction took hours of thought and experimentation. I eventually identified the problem: my code was structured around the location of scripts attached to game objects throughout the world, however, when Unity fails to locate an object in the current scene, it ends its search rather than attempted to locate other references game objects. My solution to this was to restructure my State Controller script by nesting all of my game object searches within a lines of code that checked the current scene’s numeric identifier. Therefore, when the player occupies scene one, the State Controller script only searches for the game objects present in scene one, and none of the game objects present in scenes zero, two, and three. Overall I found this project exciting, challenging, and highly educational. I may continue work on this project even if I don’t I plan to involve myself in game design projects in the future.
Despite this being the last paper test, what became clear to me is that I want to work over the narrative ideas this game still works by: particularly, and at this point, the game is still too linear. Here a much much more non-linear approach can actually really help me out … the elevator (Tree of Knowledge) does not need to take me somewhere, for instance – this is an idea I really love: instead of going somewhere, the elevator just brings me back, perhaps. But that can become more complex – As a side-note, I am getting more and more into designing my game on tablet. The artwork used for the paper prototype was actually painted using the app Procreate on iPad, with the Apple Pencil. I am putting most of my work into designing the Garden at this point, so what I am arriving at is a conception of the elevator as a device to actually initiate change in the Garden. The main character might step into it, there might be an interlude, perhaps something wildly unexpected as the “elevator scene,” and stepping out again, the Garden has changed a bit, or even dramatically. The non-linearity lies in the fact that the Game now becomes cyclical: in fact, perhaps scenes reoccur in the elevator, and “earlier” states of the Garden can be returned to. I think I am thus abandoning the whole office space I was envisioning, and contenting and enjoying myself just developing the Garden as an explorable space in and of itself. The goal I arrive at in this way for this class and this semester is then to complete a game that works by these shifts in emphasis. In the technical sense, I want to have the main Garden scene (initial Garden), an elevator scene, and then another Garden scene, showing the Garden in a new light. What I have come up with so far is a daylight change to the Garden. What I initially developed is the Garden at dusk: and everything this symbolically suggests. There is a dark, gloomy city in the background, and somehow the earth the character moves in is barren and dark too. I am thinking of contrasting this view of the Garden with something much more cheerful: fresh, green colors for the palette, a rising sun in the background. Angela and I were talking in conference about how the Garden might thus come to take on a quality of being alive: a living, breathing organism in its own right. On the technical side again, this image has the color palette I am thinking of for the second view of the Garden. This is a wall mosaice I found in the NYC subway system: I think it was a station on the F-line somewhere … (unknown artist). The colors a cheerful. Again on the subway (the subway as a repository of art, and the time to look at it too – waiting for my stop; price of admission $2.75) I saw this piece (again unknown artist) that develops a vision of technology (transit, the train) and the city much more optimistic, as indicated by a similar color palette to the when I am eying at the moment – Thinking about my landscape like this is fun to me: it’s a project that is carrying over into the rest of my life. I am curious as to where these things might be going, thinking beyond this semester as well. For now, it is a challenge to develop this alternative form for the Garden. What are the changes I want to make beyond those to the color palette? There is a whole other aspect to this, less expected: designing a slightly “fallen,” strange, barren Garden was more fun that creating a fresh, new, healthy one. How might this aspect influence my design approach? How might I consciously let it? I want to see if I can tie it all in to work nicely together and provide a continuos experience by Game Night!
In A Day on the Grand Canal with The Emperor of China David Hockney brings all his expertise as a contemporary painter to bear on an analysis he does of a 17th century Chinese scroll painting. The most striking aspect about this scroll is the way it engages space – I called this Spatial Elaboration in the title of this post. Hockney illustrates an example of this when he arrives at an interesting junction along the river. Coming down a street in a village, our view works from bottom left to top right. But if you pay attention as the street goes around the corner, the viewpoint shifts: the lines of the roofs of the shop stalls, and the store fronts indicate as much. We see sides we would not see if the viewpoint stayed the same. It is a shifting perspective we are talking about now. At the same junction there is gorgeous wooden bridge with a rounded top line that is seen from the bottom right, the same place the second order of store fronts is seen from: when you go to the top of the bridge then, with your mind’s eye, the wall of a house becomes visible that would only be visible from the bottom left, the perspective we had in the first place. The perspective shifts organically, according to the needs of the art in the painting. So you see what you need to see when you need to see it, but it still all makes sense to the logical mind too: it is not paradox in the end, actually, because it works. As Hockney remarks about the experience of seeing, and analyzing, the painting, these devices “make it far more spatial than our old friend Canaletto.” There is also another scroll, from slightly later, painted 75 years after the first one. Hockney is keen to trace a difference in style back to Western missionaries arriving in China with examples of Western works, deploying fixed perspective systems, in the time since the painting of the first scroll. The scroll again depicts a journey by the emperor, but this time “everything is beginning to recede: even the landscape is receding, the [emperor’s] boat going into the space, as it were, and not along it.” It is true, the parallel lines and fixed focal points draw our gaze very much into the picture, and at that, into one particular point at a time, instead of gently over the surface of the whole thing. Difference in spatial qualities extend beyond the vista of the whole, to the depiction of the particular: the characters are, Hockney notes about the first scroll now, less suspended in space. They tie in more organically with the land and the village and the river because they themselves have the organic features of animation and engagement with the other figures in the scene. There is linkage, and overlap: there is the unexpected effect of depth now that the more two-dimensional space (in the absence of the one vanishing point to help create spatial depth in a more three dimensional sense) is broken up like this, or rather, played with actually. There are interesting relationships between elaborating space, and elaborating time: Devices relating to “telling time,” even the story of time on one level, include such creative tricks as subtly shrouding the scenery in mist to convey a jump, as it were, in space, and therefore time, at times: the mist goes on to get so thick that only individual aspects of the landscape remain visible, and coming out the other end, the space we were in has changed. This particular device was a way to dissolve an edge too: there is no saying where or when boundaries were crossed, or to what extent; instead it is a continuous flow through the physical scroll (through a device like this made even even more capable to “hold” vast amounts of space that the 72-foot-length of the scroll already does). These strategies, for this is what they really are, to handle space and time and the narrative they can construct into a work of art relate very practically to where I was with my game at the time of the Unity play test and where I am now still: in fact, these questions will go with me until the game is fully developed. If I boil the aspects I talk about above down to the shifting perspective and the mist-device in particular, I can definitely find junctions and spaces within the overall space of my game to deploy these, or similar ones, in the vocabulary of the game language I have already established. For instance, a version of the mist for me might be a cloud shaped and colored to parallel the clouds already present out on the horizon line. This very trick would also be a way for me to address a criticism that emerged in the play test: the question of the relationship between the landscape in the “back,” as it were, and the main Garden. Can characters cross over? What is the significance of the city? Bringing things like the clouds out from the back into the front, playable space, represents away to tie it all together aesthetically, if not thematically, perhaps. Perhaps I really don’t want the character to go to the city in the end, in the game and where I am headed with it now that is – I simply don’t have plans for that (yet). But a device like this can give me a bit of breathing room: by creating a bit more of a unified field of sorts for the whole game to organically come together, this question suddenly does not seem as important anymore. An overarching design idea is to actually shape the landscape of the Garden in the shape of a fish, the ichthys, or the Jesus Fish in Christianity: that was an idea I had to begin with actually, something I subsequently went away from, and now would like to come back to. The relationship of the Garden to the city can be something like the river, river bank landscape and villages on the one hand, to the city behind the walls at the end of the scroll in A Day on the Grand Canal on the other. The river landscape exists in contrast to the city, the city does not need to fully explored either. The scroll’s artists were also not very concerned with their city: in fact, they made heavy use of the very mist device I was talking about, not so much to jump in space this time (that happens too, though) – but to pass over the city, to choose not to elaborate on it. It is the outside form of the thing, rather than the inside detail, that comes to fulfill some function for the rest of the space, and that is fine. I just need to put my finger, in not directly on, then at least a little closer to, what that function might be. In these ways, I have found my work to develop very organically, and in pushes and rushes and inspirations rather than continuously. We talked about this in class: the ideal conditions to get artistic, creative work done. They seem really different to more intellectual and academic work. For me it remains environmental, and has a lot to do with my schedule: I do not think I can do this kind of work as easily or to a better quality if rushed and to a deadline. I really notice it when I have things from my other classes on my plate … when I compare those days to a weekend with a little or nothing to do, it’s the latter I can get a lot of doodling, drawing and writing done in. The ideal for me is a lazy, rainy Saturday morning, with a bowl of cereal and a book – but this stands opposed to more realistic and practical requirements life makes generally. Right now I want to push what I can do with animation and collision to bring the world I am creating to life. I want to use collision more than just on the edges to create unexpected obstacles and thus add complexity to the surfaces. I am working on the river right now, one more strategy to tie in the background to the foreground. I had already established the body of water coming and going into the cityscape: I want to extend that into the Garden directly and exploit it as a great creative opportunity for some atmospheric animation. With perhaps only two frames, or more, I would love to add mirror reflections and the light bouncing off the surface of the water as movement. I would love to add falling leaves too, to the trees. Lastly, one more thing I want to change a bit is Adam’s walk cycle, which as it is now does not have very pronounced leg movement: