Tag Archives: nonlinear design

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 Narratives: City Watch Post-Mortem

Background City Watch My game is about a girl who has to decide her own path in life.  She starts out in the City Watch, which is where she currently works as a knight for the city.  She is supposed to prevent and stop crime from happening.  She is assigned a major task, to find and take down the thieves’ guild in the city.  A problem with that, however, is that she is a kleptomaniac.  She has to infiltrate the thieves’ guild while struggling not to steal stuff.  Or she can give in to temptation and steal a lot of stuff.  It is the players choice to decide whether they want Lena to stay true to the CIty Watch or steal things and truly become a member of the thieves’ guild.  The characters in the game can also help influence her choice.  The captain, Morgan is very kind and caring to all her members; she treats them like family.  And Rob, the person in charge of the thieves’ guild, isn’t all bad.  He helps people who are in need and takes care of orphaned kids.  He provides people with a family as well.  So, the ultimate goal of the game is for Lena to decide whether she wants to stay with the City Watch and demolish the thieves’ guild, or leave her place at the City Watch and join the Thieves’ Guild. Lena can walk around and talk to people in each level of the game.  There are many items to buy, pick up/steal, interact with, and people to talk to.  Depending on who is around, when Lena steals objects, dialogue options will change with Morgan and Rob.  If a knight is around, Lena will lose favorability with Morgan, but if a thief is around, Lena will gain more favorability with Rob.  To get closer with specific characters, their approval rating will have to be a certain level, so stealing items is a necessity, as well as doing heroic and just quests.  Heroic quests will improve Morgan’s approval rating without necessarily decreasing Rob’s. The McGuffin in the game is the sword that Lena has.  It was given to her by Morgan earlier on in her life and it serves as her connection to the City Watch.  It changes/ disappears altogether depending on specific actions Lena takes throughout the game. The abstraction in my game is how there is not a set path to follow, there are different options on how to progress the story, and there are multiple things to do at once.  This ties in with the nonlinearity of the game.  There is not one way to play the game.  Each playthrough of the game would be different because there are different side quests to take, different things to steal, different outcomes of the game.  Nothing in the game follows one path.  The forward and backward loops also tie into the nonlinearity.  The loops correlate to the approval ratings; doing a good thing will generally increase your approval with Morgan but decrease approval with Rob, and vice versa.  Depending on how the player chooses to play the game doing a good/bad thing will make one side of the game easier while making the other side harder. My game says a lot through a little by using environmental storytelling.  The way places and characters look says a lot about them.  The outfits I chose for Henri and Morgan tie them together at the City Watch making them look like part of a team.  Lena’s outfit has the same boots as Henri and Morgan, but Lena has a much more casual look about her to make her blend into an average person.  The thieves don’t really where armor because they don’t need to.  They have more casual clothing to help them blend in because they aren’t supposed to stand out.  A thief that stands out is not a good thief.  That’s why Lena starts out with basic clothing.  She can get armor later in the game to help add to her defense, but her look should stay fairly basic.  Items within the environment also help to enhance the setting.  The setting is a mix between fantasy-medieval and realistic-modern.  There are items scattered around like smartphones and electronics.  There are working lights, but there aren’t cars.  There are typical RPG style vendors where Lena can buy and sell certain goods.  And the factions- City Watch and Thieves’ Guild are inherently fantasy tropes. The nonlinearity of my game helps expand the theme and story because the purpose of the game is to choose your own path.  The player should feel free to follow whatever road they want to, and by not having a strict storyline, it allows the player to do what they want.  The ability to be free may also change how the player feels throughout the game.  By learning more about one person may affect how they want to play the game.  Discovering different parts of the game builds onto the world and influences the player’s decision without forcing them to do anything. I think I have used the power of minimalism within my game.  I tried to give life to the environments and character through how they look without having anything be too cluttering.  The look of people and places should be simple but telling. In a way the player can see what is important.  They know from the beginning what one option for the ultimate goal of the game is.  And they can soon learn the importance of one side or the other side.     HenriFace   Henri’s face   knight sprite Henri’s sprite Lena Front Sprite   Lena’s sprite Morgan Sprite Morgan’s Sprite         Lena Face Lena’s Face     Morgan Face   Morgan’s Face   FullSizeRender (1)   original sketch for Lena FullSizeRender   Lena’s sword given to her by Morgan

Nonlinear Narratives: Water Warrior

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 5.16.56 PM My game is about a woman in a blue dress named Watershed (pictured in the center), whose goal is to defeat a bunch of ninjas to get back the money for, ironically, her water bill. This is ironic because Watershed, former superhero that she ostensibly is, has the ability to shoot water like a water gun, which she uses to battle the ninjas. At the moment, the only area/level I have implemented is this city area (pictured), where Watershed can interact with a ball person named Clarc (pictured to the upper right), who only shouts at her in his strange voice, as well as the mysterious Man in Black who prevents her from leaving town. The game’s McGuffin is the money necessary to pay off Watershed’s water bill, which she can pay to the Man in Black on the map screen. The Man in Black, theoretically, also sells Watershed items that she can use to make the levels easier, at the cost of making it take longer to ultimately pay off the water bill. ninjas   Watershed can acquire money by putting out fires and battling the individual ninjas, many of whom carry torches to represent their connection to fire, which Watershed can of course easily destroy with her water gun powers. I intended for this to be an example of instructive game design similar to that seen in Super Mario Bros., as the player would learn from a mostly harmless, stationary flame that the player character can easily put out fires, which would be followed through with a more threatening, moving enemy who also uses similarly designed fire to attack. The fire serves as an example of abstraction, abstracting the idea of being able to destroy obstacles and move forward by designing the obstacles around a common theme, in this case fire, which can be extinguished by water. The game’s art style is also pretty simple and unrealistic in general, but the characters’ and objects’ vibrant and oversized elements (such as Watershed’s transparent, watery blue hair) show basic things about them, such as Watershed’s association with water and the ninjas’ black clothing that emphasizes their sneakiness. The forward loop of the game is the mechanic in which money can be used to buy helpful items, which can then be brought to other levels in order to get more money from them, and so forth. The more money Watershed has, the easier it is to get more, and more, until the player has collected enough to finish the game. The backward loop in this game is that the player’s death, which can be triggered by running out of health, causes the player to lose all their items. This encourages not dying, as well as saving their money to an extent since it will all be able to be bought back later even after dying if the player has a lot of money saved up. Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 5.43.09 PM I focused mostly on art in the development of this game (which, by the way, is tentatively titled Water Warrior, as can be seen in the very much work-in-progress title screen). I design a lot of characters in my free time, which the character designs for this game are taken from. I would say that bringing these characters to life via their animations was in the end my main goal throughout most of the development – I’m not historically used to drawing characters that are in a constant state of animation like those seen in this game, just stationary drawings. I got a lot out of this class in terms of learning to make sprite sheets using software like Inkscape and Pencil 2D. In making the fire sprites (seen two images above) I initially had concerns about how to animate it convincingly, but I realized that fire need not look the same even a frame of animation apart due to how it moves in real life, so I completely redrew the sprite for each frame of animation aside from the wooden boards being used as tinder for the fire, which made it look like a constantly burning mass. Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 5.44.43 PM   I don’t focus on realism in my art style – as seen in the image above where Watershed is interacting with the man in black, human character’s proportions are not very realistic in this game. Although I wasn’t concerned with realism, I did have an interest in keeping the individual humans’ proportions similar (this also applies to the ninja sprites I designed above). Although my artwork would hardly pass for realistic humans, I believe that they stand for what they are and look like humans in the context of the game – they resemble each other and appear to be members of the same species despite having numerous individual traits, such as skin color, clothing, and hair (or lack thereof). I believe that the player can see what elements are important in my game because at the moment at least, they’re the only things that move and/or are interactable. Watershed herself is pretty distinct from her environment, being a fairly vibrant shade of blue among a background that mostly consists of gray, red, and green. In conclusion, Water Warrior aims to be a simple platformer, but one in which the player has a lot of options, hence the nonlinear design. I’d really like to finish this and add all the features I hoped to add over the course of the class – this creative stuff is really important to me and I’d hate to see this all go to waste. Thanks!    

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 am studying the drums and music more intensively as it is something I am deeply passionate about. I would like to explore 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

House H(a)unters – Post-Mortem

HHScreenshot  IMG_4995   My game is about a pair of ghost hunting twins named Becca and Casper Radley. Their producer has informed them that they must raise the funds for their next season on their own. Becca hatches a plot to convince rich couple Nigel and Mira Blackwood that their house is haunted so that they will sell it for an affordable price. Once Becca has purchased the house, she intends to “debunk” the haunting and resell it for the full cost. For unknown reasons, the Blackwoods must move out in exactly one week, and so the twins have seven days to scare them into belief.   This game plays in two different sections. At night, Casper places scary traps and triggers them at the correct intervals to scare the Blackwoods before he is discovered by them. During the day, Becca talks to the residents of the town, performing tasks (mini-games and puzzles) to convince them to tell her more about the history of the Blackwood Mansion. In the portion of the game which I programmed this term, Becca speaks with the residents of the mansion in order to establish her cover as a ghost hunter. In order to investigate the house fully she must gain access to the basement, and to do so she distracts the maid Emily with a leaking pipe. She can also gain Emily’s assistance by admitting that she is running a con scheme. These actions introduce the player to the fact that they will need to solve puzzles in order to convince people to work with them, as well as the fact that the tone of their interaction will have consequences. At the beginning of night sections, the player (as Becca) will be able to tell Casper what facts about the “ghost” she has learned during the day, and he can use these bits of information to craft a more believable haunting. Ideally, the dialogue in the game would have basic choices and question trees, so that the player can pursue the lines of inquiry that are relevant to the approach they are taking to the haunting. In this build of the game that is not developed, so I’ve tried to distill the dialogue down to what is important for completing the level.   The McGuffin in the game is probably the house. The house has a worth to it for the Radleys – in that it will allow them to achieve their end goal of continuing their show. Additionally, it is uncovered over the course of the game that the house is a centerpiece for several occult happenings in the town – a demon summoning, a murder, and a bank robber being killed to name a few. Not only is the mansion the pursued item, it is also in the end the cause of all the weirdness which Becca is channeling as she creates her ghost. IMG_4996   Primarily, the abstraction was on the artistic front. The characters have simplified design so that they can be drawn easily. Most of the expressiveness is seen in the dialogue sprites, which also have a few poses and rely primarily on facial expression to convey opinion. I also abstracted the backgrounds, and the relationship between characters and backgrounds. The scenery has a smudged look, all of the colors blending in to each other. All of the characters who are a part of the town also have this appearance to them to a certain degree, aside from the Radleys. This – along with the fact that the Radleys use different sections of the color palette I composed for the scene than the other characters do – showcases that they are intruding onto the small town space. The blending also created a sense of otherworldliness. This mansion is supposed to be “haunted”, and by blurring the lines it becomes more difficult to distinguish reality in the house. By creating this atmosphere, and throwing in some strange happenings, the player begins to wonder if they are the only ghost in the mansion. Truthfully, a lot of the design choices I made were due to the limitations of my own artistic ability. In a way, though, not being able to do detailed lineart helped me: because I am unable to IMG_4997   The positive feedback loop is in the “belief” system of the game. Unlocking levels of belief unlocks dialogue options which can add effects to Casper’s hauntings. These would make it easier to win the game. The negative feedback loop is also based around the belief system of the game. As the player builds up belief with The Blackwoods, they also build up belief with the priest Father Jacobson. While The Blackwoods are more talkative the more they become convinced of the haunting, Jacobson becomes more wary. As being caught results in a game over, this means that though successes become more rewarding as the game goes on mistakes are more costly as well. Because of the loops of belief, a player can unlock different facets of the haunting at different points in the main storyline. If they focus on making Father Jacobson believe (which is required to get the most positive ending, in addition to being something which increases the difficulty of the game), but not on The Blackwoods then the game becomes more difficult but also reveals things about his story earlier on. This gives that player, who knows about his story on say day 4, a different perspective on the things he does than someone who focuses on The Blackwoods and never learns his motives. Through these mechanics a player defines their own experiences. They can make the story more of a challenge for themselves by picking less beneficial dialogue options and creating a more hostile haunting environment, which will teach them different and perhaps enlightening things. Or, they can make the story easier, which also unlocks facets of the story.   I drew a bit from Garden of the Forking Paths with my ideas for the order of events things could occur in. In Garden, the protagonist muses on multiple realities where the characters had developed different relationships. Because of this, I wanted to experiment with how Becca’s relationships with characters interacted her relationships with other characters. In real life, a person’s current relationships affect their development of new relationships, and so I want to play with the idea that developing her interactions with for example The Blackwoods would also affect her relationship with the other townspeople.  

Postmortem: Love, Marriage, and Space Pirates Post-Mortem

Example0   This game follows the story of the protagonist, named Alessa, who joins a league of Space Pirates to earn money quickly to pay off her debts and pay for her wedding. It centers around the internal struggle that she has when her work and home life collide and create a situation in which she could lose everything. By taking this job with the pirates, Alessa ignores her morals to try and earn enough money to get out of the business as soon as possible and marry her fiance. However, when her job requires her to steal the resources her fiance is using to help cure diseases, she faces a potential impasse. And in this game, the player gets to make the tough choice for her. While there are some aspects of the game that are satisfying, there are still many others that could be improved. For example, the door animations are smooth and aesthetically pleasing, but the door assets themselves are not always at the right scale or angle thus looking slightly wrong. Also, the speed of character movement is matched well to the walking animation but the animation is not as smooth as I would like, plus the sprites could be improved quite a bit. I could go on for a while since it is always easier to pick out the problems in one’s own work, but I will say that overall, the game has a good start and plays well enough for me to consider expanding and improving it in the future.Example1 Initially, the main McGuffin in the game is the treasure, also known as the raw elements that the pirates are planning to plunder. However, one could make the argument that the fiance is the McGuffin, since a player’s understanding of the story could lead them to attempt to rescue him. How the player chooses to play the game determines what their motivations are. I would say that the short term goal is retrieving the elements, but the true McGuffin is, in fact, marriage. This is because this is the protagonists overall goal and everything else in between just manages to get in the way. Working the job with the pirates, getting into a conflict with the captain and her fiance, and paying off her debts are all things that keep the protagonist from her main goal. The loops in this game are all related to the story, since the gameplay is mostly related to the internal struggle of the protagonist and how that makes the player feel. Therefore, the main forward loop is interacting with objects, which gives the player more information about the story, which allows them to progress to the next room, where they can interact with more objects that will either give them more information, or will give them a useful tool to get more information in one of the later rooms. This way, the player is rewarded with story elements and progression through the rooms. Plus, getting these rewards allows the player to progress towards the end of the game and get the good ending. A forward loop in gameplay acts as the leading movement toward the end of the game, and the backward loop is what pushes back and keeps the player from quickly reaching the end. Therefore, keeping the player from progressing through the rooms would be an appropriate backward loop. The way I do this is by having certain doors locked until a specific task is completed, so if the player is progressing quickly, they are impeded by the locked door until they slow down to interact with some of the objects and fulfill the objective. Because this game is based around story more than mechanics, the loops work together to make the experience of the story nonlinear. For example, the forward loop pushes the player to progress through the rooms, so it introduces the possibility of missing some story elements. The backward loop makes the player slow down, which introduces the possibility of noticing more interactable objects and thus being exposed to more narrative elements. What I took from the readings and incorporated into my game is the idea that nonlinearity is about experiencing the same thing in different ways. For example, one player’s understanding of my game could be very different from another player’s simply by choosing to go to the bridge of the ship instead of going to the crew quarters. The player who goes to the bridge of the ship might get wrapped up in the goals set by the captain and might miss all the story elements that were present in the crew quarters. This could lead to the player having a very different understanding of the characters and relationships between them in the final room where the climactic choice takes place. Also, my game imitates the idea about a nonlinear story having multiple paths by having different endings that the player can get depending on the choices they make. The nonlinearity of my design is tied in directly to my story. The main goal as a designer was to have players feel a range of emotions towards the characters to see if they would experience the second-hand internal conflict and how they would react overall. The nonlinearity of my level design allows for the player to have the freedom needed to view the circumstances of the characters in unique ways. SpaceStationTheBridgeFinal When designing the rooms, I used a lot of basic shapes to leave most to the imagination. They are simple enough to reuse the same elements and get the idea across, plus it has the added effect of making the rooms look like they are part of the same ship. TheHub_paperGame Overall, I kept level design pretty minimalistic. I only added assets that were necessary to the player’s interaction with the world and tried to keep from adding anything that would serve no purpose but to take up space. Thus I used the minimalistic approach when populating my scenes to leave what was important and prevent useless clutter that would discourage the player from interacting with objects. CrewQuarters_paperGame The way my game looks and sounds adds an atmosphere that helps build the world and make it believable. The repeated shapes draw the rooms together and help evoke emotions whether they are feelings of safety or unease. The music adds an air of playfulness, as do the characters. The color schemes I use also work to evoke emotions and bring a coherence to the idea. By Anna Beliveau