Tag Archives: paper game

Radical Game Design: City Watch

GameSceenShot2  Screenshot from Unity build My game, City Watch, is about a girl named Lena who starts as part of the City Watch.  The City Watch is the faction of the city that houses the knights who protect and watch over the entire city.  Their job is to patrol and protect the city from crime.  Lena is part of the City Watch, but she has been tasked with finding and infiltrating the Thieves’ Guild.  Because of her job to infiltrate the Thieves, the game can take a split.  Lena can either decide to fully join the thieves and abandon the City Watch, or she can do as originally told and destroy the Thieves’ Guild.  The choice is up to the player.  There are steps to accomplishing either faction in the game.  For the thieves, it is really all about stealing.  The more that is stolen, the greater chance of being part of the guild, but also the worse that the relationship becomes with the City Watch.  For the City Watch, the goal is to do good.  It is to help people, and to find crime in the city.  There are some shady people in the world, so it is up to Lena to get rid of them.  Of course getting rid of the thieves is also the main goal to the City Watch as well. There is a constant tug and pull in the game- the player can either do what is morally right, or they can bend the rules and go outside of the law in the game.  There is no real “right or wrong,” no way of the game is better than the other, both have their merits and rewards, so the game is really in the player’s hands on how they want to play it.  That is what is radical about my game; their is no truly right way to play it.  However the player wants to play the game is the “right” way to play it. I came up with the idea for the game based on my history with playing many video games.  I play a lot of fantasy styled games like The Witcher series and the Elder Scrolls series.  In those games there are many morally grey characters, which makes the games interesting and fun to play.  And especially within the Elder Scrolls series, there are always thieves guilds or darker factions within the world.  The player can join the guild through quests, and their is some risk in being caught stealing.  However, there is no real risk in the game for joining the guild.  It is a side-quest so it has no real impact on the game.  That is where I wanted to differently with my game.  I like the idea of guilds within a fantasy type world, but I wanted there to be more decision and change to joining them.  The idea of consequence and story changing decisions was influenced by the Dragon Age games as well as The Witcher.  Those games are heavy in story driven choice.  I like games that give options to the player; there are multiple ways to play the game based off of what actions the player decides to take.       GameScreenshot  Another screenshot from the Unity Build- Shopkeep on the left and Lena to the right The level that I am working on currently is for the city.  There are a few NPCs in the level.  There is the shady shopkeep, the suspicious teen, and there is the rat.  As I progress with the game I will probably add more characters to the level, but as of right now those are the characters that exist in the level so far.  By talking to the shopkeep, Lena learns rumor about the thieves.  The teen also gives different rumor, and I am working on creating interesting dialogue for both NPCs.  I want their rumors to be informative but not too telling, and I want more dichotomy in this level.  As of right now, the level leans more toward finding the thieves, but not much is talked about in terms of the City Watch.  There is also the rat in the level.  It leads Lena towards the thieves and toward stealing.  As Lena grows closer to the thieves, her bond also increases with the rat.  Eventually there will be a counter to the rat, there will be something that guides Lena more towards helping the City Watch. For the level, I am using a rather dark color palette.  The colors are mostly shades of grey and red.  Towards the right side of the level, where Lena comes out of the City Watch, I made the building colors slightly more colorful.  The red is brighter and the colors in the windows are lighter and pinker.  As Lena travels left in the level, the colors of the buildings change.  The base color of the buildings becomes a darker and grayer red.  The colors in the windows are now dark grey and the lighter grey from the right side.  There is less vibrancy in level on the left side because Lena is moving towards the Thieves’ Guild.  I had originally made the level pretty light and “normal.”  The sky was blue and the buildings were brown and grey; but I didn’t like the way that felt for the level.  Making the level darker made the level feel better.  The city is not a cheery place and there is a lot of crime that goes on, so it only makes sense that the color in the level reflect that.   Lena Front Sprite   Sprite for Lena in the game.   IMG_1309 Original paper game sprite for Lena IMG_1490 IMG_1489 PIMG_1488Paper game levels

Radical Game Design: Neighborhood Simulator

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What’s the game about?
Gentrification is about a player moving to a transitioning neighborhood. They just graduated from college with some student loans to pay off and they got a job in the city. Now they’re moving to an affordable neighborhood near their job – their goal is to get an apartment.

Where did the idea come from?
I grew up in New York City until I was nine, on the Upper West Side and in Harlem. I moved back to Harlem a few years ago, and it was crazy how much the neighborhood had changed since the last time I had been there. All of a sudden, we had a Whole Foods moving in down the street, a climbing gym moving in, and fancy coffee shops popping up. It’s the process of gentrification in action.

I was at a bookstore (in Harlem, coincidentally) when I found a book called “In Defense of Housing,” by David Madden and Peter Marcuse, that talks about the underlying causes of gentrification which I found interesting and which got me thinking about using it as a subject for my game.

How is your game radical?
My plan for my game is to build a simple and relatable environment in which the player’s goal is to get an apartment so they can begin to work (and begin to pay off their student loan). Through interactions with NPCs and the environment, it will become clear to the player that by taking the path of least resistance – simply renting an apartment – they will be at odds with the best interest of the neighborhood. They’ll be taking part in and perpetuating the gentrification that is negatively impacting the neighborhood and the community.

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How did your paper prototype play?
The paper prototype played well. I was very informative to see my idea for the game having been physically built. And it certainly helped to see my game through the eyes of potential players.

People responded well to the game design. The main feedback I got was that there wasn’t a clear enough idea of what my game was about. The class was able to figure it out on their own but it took some teasing out for them to get there. Moving forward, that’s something I’d like to pay special attention to – making sure that the directive is clear at every point in the game.

My initial plan was to make the game with a black and white color palette but in the play through, someone suggested trying it with color.

The third main feedback I got, was to give my NPCs a point of view, driven by some motivation in their interactions.

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What are your three NPC encounters in level one?
In level one, I’m planning to have my character encounter an apartment building owner from whom he can rent an apartment, the owner / manager of a new hip coffee shop that just opened up, and the owner of a corner deli whose family has been in the neighborhood for several generations.

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How did these encounters express your game idea?
Those three characters all experience the gentrification of a neighborhood from very different perspectives. Each plays a different role in the community. And each will be affected differently, and each has a different motivation.

The apartment owner has already been a part of the community but will want to take advantage of the trend of increased demand for his apartment and will probably raise the cost of rent.

The coffee shop owner is new to the area and is looking to capitalize on the influx of a new demographic of people to the neighborhood – one willing to pay extra for their coffee if it comes with a certain atmosphere.

The corner deli owner’s business may be threatened by the wave of gentrification.

How do your game encounters support a help and hinder paradigm in your design?
The player will have to decide for themselves how they choose to act, while progressing toward their goal. Their actions will either contribute to the gentrification of the neighborhood or they will help to support the community.

Characters like the coffee shop owner or the apartment owner benefit from the gentrification of the neighborhood. In interacting with them, the player will be pushed toward a simpler path to the goal of securing an apartment to live in.

Only by talking to other characters, like the deli owner, who don’t necessarily benefit from gentrification, will the player be able to find a path to their goal that doesn’t contribute to the gentrification of the neighborhood.

How is your game build progressing?
The build is coming along well. I have most of the art completed for the level. I still have to make some animations for my NPCs and background elements of the city in the distance. The code seems to be coming together well.

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How are you using color in this game?
After my first paper game play-through, the class suggested adding color to the game. I played around with it and I like the result – though I’m still nailing down a clear color script that will clearly define my character in relation to the world around him.

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Still, for now, I enjoy working in this simple palette; I think it gives the city a cool feel.

What was the rationale behind your level design?
I liked the idea of making a 2d side-scroller, set in Brooklyn. I think it sets up a lot of fun opportunities to design fun maps.

So far, I’m trying to keep a lookout for where I place the buildings I design and what that means for the community I’m creating, in doing so.

Where in your elements did you intervene to make the design of the game unconventional?
My ultimate plan for the game – although it may be a bit beyond the scope of this class – will be to add a bit of a fantastical / supernatural element to the third act. The evil that’s truly causing the gentrification to take place has its roots in the city (literally) and I plan to hint at this throughout the first and second acts of the game.

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How does your game ‘say a lot with a little?
Visually, the world I’m creating is designed to be simple and yet expressive. The characters are minimal and yet have enough details to convey a sense of who they are and what their relationship to the environment is.

How does your design act to express your theme or story?
If all goes as planned, the environment that the character is moving through will change and respond to the decisions that the player makes. If the player doesn’t consciously make decisions that will strengthen and benefit the community, they’ll see the level changing.

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As an example, when gentrification rises, you’ll start to see tags disappearing and being replaced with commissioned art.

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Can the player see what’s important in this early level?
The player’s goal – to rent an apartment without contributing to the gentrification of the neighborhood – will be very clear in this level. NPC interaction will be the biggest way in which I can make that happen.

How does your aesthetic emphasize emotion?
The goal of my game is to make the player aware of the negative impact gentrification can have on a neighborhood, help them to understand what causes it and what can be changed, and to empathize with the people who are impacted by the changing community.

Radical Game Design: “Down and out”

The leading lady herself

The leading lady herself

My game is about a woman named Kaira who lives in a post-apocalyptic swamp world. She has amnesia and is trying to recover her memories while also keeping herself and her friends alive in the swamp. I got the idea for the game several years ago and was able to bring part of it to life last semester in the nonlinear game class. My basic premise was based on the idea of a post-apocalyptic swamp and the kind of animals that would inhabit such a place. This is why for much of the game Kaira is the only human I wanted to showcase how different this world was from our own. One of the ways I tried to make my game different visually was making the environment unnaturally colored, the grass is purple and the sky is magenta! While I wanted the setting to have a bit of a fantasy element to it I also focused on making cool colors and specifically keeping green out of the game. This will contrast with a later map where the colors will be much warmer to illustrate that this other location is an oasis of warmth in the swamp. I’m not sure if my game qualifies as radical right now. I do know there is a specifically combat based mechanic I want to implement that I have not seen before. I’d say my game is raddish, working on being all out radical but with a bit of room to grow.
Magenta can be the sky too

Magenta can be the sky too

But I also wanted this very unrealistic place to have connections to reality. One NPC encountered in the first level is a bioluminescent swamp wolf. While his fur is a normal color for his species it is the algae that has made its home in his fur that cements both this individual wolf as well as his species in the “Down and Out” universe.
A red wolf with some algae friends

A red wolf with some algae friends

I was originally designing a plain gray wolf with glowing bits before I discovered that there is a type of wolf that lives in Florida’s swamps, the red wolf. While this wasn’t the biggest change it added that connection to our world that I was looking for. Before making the wolf a specific type of wolf the game didn’t have a real-world location in mind after this however I realized this game took place in post-apocalyptic Florida. For now the wolf encounter functions to hint that this place is an altered version of a real place. Also in all honesty it was an excuse to include bioluminescent fauna, which has fascinated me since I was a kid. d&o cap1 Other than the swamp wolf Kaira also encounters an african serval in a tree, animating him falling out of it is a trial I am working on overcoming. Once Kaira encounters him he will turn his attention to the follower character, a lizard person called Zhis. Zhis and Shari, the serval, know each other it turns out. Shari functions as the game currently stands as a hindrance rather than a helper. He distracts Kaira and also makes the player backtrack to gain his favor. Eventually he will be a follower character like Zhis, once I learn how to do that at least.
an angry boy falling out of a tree

an angry boy falling out of a tree

zhis front sprite copy As we can see Zhis, unlike Shari and the red wolf, is an animal from pure science fiction. An amalgamation of bits and pieces of other animals. She also fills a different role than the other NPCs encountered thus far, she operates as a companion while also reminding Kaira of their overall goal. In the paper prototype the most confusing element seemed to be lack of a clear goal for the player. I hope by having a cutscene with Zhis to make things a bit clearer without removing all elements of mystery, they are playing an amnesiac afterall! As far as where I want to go from here, I need to make a cutscene because as Zhis and Kaira are currently programmed they cannot interact. I am also working on animating and coding Shari’s one time animation and making the wolf collide correctly.  

Radical Game Design: House H(a)unters

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Casper – The player character for this level

  House H(a)unters takes place in a modern setting which is mostly realistic, if slightly absurd and more prone to supernatural occurrences than ours. The player takes on the dual roles of Becca and Casper Radley, twin ghost hunters who are down on their luck. In order to fund the new season of their show Becca, the snake oil salesman of the two, decides they will convince clueless rich couple Mira and Nigel Blackwood that their mansion is haunted so that she can buy it at a discount and then resell it for full value with the ghost mysteriously gone. The Blackwoods are eager to sell the house quickly, and thus give the twins seven days to prove that the ghost is gone before accepting a higher offer they have already received.

For part of the game, the player will be inhabiting the role of Becca, who is extroverted and conniving. Her levels are focused toward discussion with other characters, and manipulating them into believing in the fictional “phantoms”. Casper, who also plays the role of whatever ghost the player constructs using the clues they find during the day, is more analytical and his levels tend to be more focused on finding physical “evidence” and props he can use. For the levels in this class, Casper visits the Tawny Mill Bank and Bank Heist Museum and learns about one of the potential phantom roles he can inhabit: that of a deceased bank robber from the 1800s.
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Tessa – A museum owner.

Museum

The bank heist museum.

One question I’ve struggled with while working on this game for the past couple terms is: are there real ghosts, and if so how many? It was quickly obvious to me that I ought to have at least one, simply for the comedic value of showing the charlatan Radleys what true spirits can do. Then I realize that the ghosts ought to mean something. Initially I was going to have only one spirit, who would be the ghost of Mira Blackwood’s deceased brother, angry that his sister is leaving.

In this current build, there are quite a few more. Ghosts, in the town of Tawny Mill, exist in a sort of chicken and egg relationship with the living residents. Though some of the ghosts are older than the residents that they haunt, they only seem to appear as a manifestation of those citizens’ troubles. Because our own inner turmoil eventually becomes a familiar friend, the citizens of Tawny Mill don’t really notice that they are being literally haunted as well as metaphorically, but the Radleys are a fresh perspective. The more that Becca and Casper prod into people’s issues, the more ghosts appear. Therefore in constructing false ghost stories with which to “haunt” the mansion, Becca and Casper inadvertently create real hauntings. Unfortunately as the people in town are all “used” to these ghosts they don’t seem to notice, and so they act more as a hindrance to the player as they have the potential to catch and kill Casper during his nightly rounds.

The idea for this game came to me in a bit of a convoluted manner. In high school I wrote a short screenplay about a ghost who had to balance the thin line between convincing people her house was haunted to keep them away and being surreptitious enough not to be exorcised by a priest. This later evolved into a ghost hunter who died in a house, and was “fabricating” a demonic infestation in order to sell tickets to her friends’ haunted house. Eventually I learned that homeowners who wish to leave a haunted house must disclose that status to all potential buyers, and the idea evolved into this. Initially I had Casper as a real ghost, but eventually made him alive because the role ghosts played in the story transformed for me.

The radical aspects of the game tie into the way the twins interact with the world. What Casper and Becca are attempting to do is morally questionable, and a bit off the wall, but they are still complex individuals, as are the inhabitants of the town. The townies, however, exist in a heightened reality, where demonic cults and disgraced exorcists are considered normal inhabitants. Because the people they are attempting to fool seem so ridiculous, it can be easy for both the twins and the players to forget that any injury to the characters are injuries to “people”, but I aim to give the characters hidden emotional depth which, when uncovered, makes players question their previous impressions of the NPCs.   My paper prototype was for the most part a successful one. I presented three levels: the bank itself, the front entrance to the museum, and the back room of the museum which acts as a sort of shrine to the bank robbery. It became clear that I need to more eloquently elaborate the conflicts of the NPCs to give the player something more to work with on a larger scale and give them an idea of what they’re meant to be doing sooner.   The three encounters on level one are:
  1. Interact with bank worker Clint, who appears worried but brightens as soon as he sees Casper to tell him a bit about the bank.
  2. Get coffee, which can later be given to Tessa to improve her mood toward the player.
  3. Second encounter with Clint, where upon further prodding he reveals that he was worried because his boss scheduled him to work all this week, thereby depriving him of time to shop for an anniversary present for his husband in time for their date on Friday. In my mind, after this conversation a few set items would move slightly.
These encounters highlight a few mechanics which take place over the course of the game. The first is the introduction of a fairly straightforward NPC who seems like he is just there to give Casper information. The second showcases the gifting system, and how holding onto objects for later can result in new avenues of investigation. The third shows how, if the player chooses, they can create a greater haunting.

This third interaction also showcases the help-hinder loop. Interacting with Clint more causes Casper to learn more about the heist, but also exacerbates his emotional issues. Eventually, the “ghosts” that are haunting Clint will appear and start causing Casper trouble in his work. Therefore Casper needs to learn more about Clint as a person in order to help him overcome his troubles – which requires speaking with other NPCs, unlocking more information about the mansion and also more ghosts to haunt Casper.

Clint

Clint Crandall – The only employee of the local bank.

Currently my game build is progressing smoothly. I have art for all three of the levels, as well as sprite sheets for the conversation sprites for Casper and Clint. I still need to complete Tessa’s. the first interaction with Clint is coded, and I have figured out how to trigger conversations with the space bar – mostly. Unfortunately, the space bar coding only works if the space bar is hit AS the player collides with the NPC. Next, I need to both code for multiple conversations and edit the sorting script to allow for multiple objects having it, both of which will be made easier with tag implementation, and allowing the space bar to be pressed at any point during collision.
The bank

The front of the local bank, sans furniture.

I try to use limited color palettes in all of the levels for this game. For the mansion levels, I limited myself to dark greys, browns, reds, and greens. These all feel like very “haunted”, old colors. For this bank level I went with lighter blues out front and then dark browns in the back of the museum to emphasize both that it is a “dark” part of the past and also much older – brown reads as an old color to me due to its connection with natural materials. I picked light blue for the front as blue, being a “soothing” color is a common color for professional buildings, and it is also the signature color for many banks. Both of these palettes lack bright greens, as this is the color of the Radleys’ shirts and I wanted them to pop a bit in the scenery.

Each character on the levels has one item of clothing which ties them to the environment. For the mansion, this is a deep blood red. For the bank this is light blue. Tessa also has a green hat brim, which ties her to the painting of her great grandfather Sheriff Wycome.

For these levels, I maintained a mostly linear character design for the first two rooms, followed by a large open room with interactable objects spread throughout. The first two rooms are the public fronts: the bank directs you to the door and to Clint in a straight line so that people can go about their business quickly, and the front of the museum directs the player down a line of interaction to Tessa. In the third room, where Casper encounters history, he is confronted with a bit more open world, as the past tends to be a lot less neat than the present makes it seem.

Interactable objects and NPCs are all sharp, which makes them obvious against the smudged background of the rest of the map. I resisted going into high levels of detail in the backgrounds, as I don’t want the game to become a pixel hunt for important items. Having the background blurry showcases the situation of the people in the town: because they have lived so long and become so used to their lives, everything has sort of settled into a haze. They cannot see the ghosts, or the objects which are important to solving their crises, or that the Radleys are conning them, even if those things are right in front of them. The Radleys and the players, however, can see what is important in the world quickly because they are looking at them with fresh eyes.  
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A mannequin of the famous lawman Sheriff Wycome.

Moira

A mannequin of old-timey socialite Moira Blackwood.

 

Radical Game Design: Union Town

Gal Large face

My game Union Town (a working title) is about an unnamed new hire at a fast food restaurant. You play as this new hire, making connections with the other workers by getting to know them, picking up shifts, and bumming them cigarettes in order to form a union. Meanwhile, the manager of the restaurant offers you a raise and the employee of the month award if you refuse to help out your coworkers and only flip burgers. I got the idea for my game because this is actually what my brother is doing right now in Portland. He’s working on a union campaign at a fast food restaurant chain, flipping burgers and building relationships with his coworkers and helping them learn the power of the union.  Talking to him about his day-to-day life as a union organizer gave me the idea for my game. He’s having fun working on building the union, but building community in the face of corporate isolation and the trauma of poverty created by working minimum wage jobs is tough work. This game is radical because it examines this process of union building, promotes values of class solidarity, questions the ethical authority of managers and bosses. The main radical aspect of this game, though, is its promotion of radical friendship and solidarity building. Though the tactics of striking, boycotting, and other contentious means of forming a union are definitely vital to organizers, the radical nature of relationship building is an essential and undervalued aspect of organizing that I want to highlight in this game. My paper prototype played fairly well during the Paper Game class, I had some trouble creating and nailing down the interactions for each level.

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I had planned my game around the player having options for response, this mistake definitely showed through during the paper game play through, and working around that has been a little difficult. But I’ve figured it out for the first level at least, where the player begins outside the back of the restaurant.

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Here, there are three NPC encounters. The first is with a former worker of this restaurant, who informs the player of their task to unionize the workplace. He tells the player that he had been fired for organizing and warns the player to watch out for the manager.

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Another encounter on this level is with the trashbags, among which the player finds a pack of cigarettes that they can then use to build friendships with other workers. The final encounters in this level is with another worker who is outside on a smoke break. He asks to bum a cigarette, and if the player has already picked up the pack of cigarettes from the trash, the worker continues talking and tells you about his work woes. After he finishes talking, the manager comes out and tells him his break is over. Then the manager turns to the player and tells him to not mingle with the other workers because they’re lazy etc. and that you should just stick to flipping burgers if you want to be employee of the month. These encounters work to express my game idea by first setting up the goal of the game with the former worker, then providing an opportunity to build friendship and solidarity with a worker right off the bat. The help and hinder paradigm is then seen when the manager comes out and offers you an alternative goal for the game, achieving employee of the month. My gamebuild is progressing fairly well considering it is my first game. I’ve made one level in Unity with one interaction. I am having some trouble with the animation, as it seems to be skipping when the player walks down and to the side (though not walking up, for some unknown reason).  It’s going slowly but surely, and I’m enjoying learning how Unity works.

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My use of color is somewhat strategic. I plan on utilizing less and less color as the player moves through the levels. In the first level, the back of the restaurant, the assets are very colorful. The layout of the level is also very open, the player can move around the road/parking lot and has to explore the level to see the other worker. This is meant to make the player feel free, able to move around and engage with the level without any visible constraints. This serves as a juxtaposition for the following two levels.

Back of Work

The second level is a bit more closed and a bit less colorful. I use grayscale and browns to make the player feel less free. Its rather empty (there will be NPCs in this level, however). The grayscale is meant to represent the feelings of boredom and entrapment that workers of minimum wage jobs often feel.  The third level, the shop floor, is an exaggerated version of this. It will look more like a prison or cage with less color and less room to move around. I don’t think I’ve intervened enough to make this game unconventional, so far it is pretty straightforward, but the structuring of the levels is somewhat unconventional in that it is not necessarily linear. The player can move between the levels freely, moving toward and away from the imprisonment by capitalism.

Break Room 2

I think this game, though fairly simple, puts forth some big ideas about the power of building relationships when confronting capitalism. The game is not just getting union card signatures and striking, but actually interacting with other workers and forging strong friendships with them by getting to know them. In the end, it is this solidarity that helps build unions, not just old leftist tactics. This is something we can all stand to learn, leftists and non-leftists alike. Often, leftists get caught up in the glamorous, contentious aspects of organizing work, thinking that the radical work is the disruptive work. But this game is meant to serve as a reminder that radicalism also manifests in acts of friendship, and the power of radical friendship is not something to be dismissed or undervalued in the fight against capitalism.

Radical Game Design: Make or Break the Box

A snapshot of the current level in my Unity Build.

A snapshot of the current level in my Unity Build.

My conference project focuses on the player’s decision to either fit in someone else’s box, or to make their own metaphorical box. To fit in, they must commit to other’s ideals even if it’s to an unhealthy extent. To create themselves, they must pick and choose (or choose not to choose) what they agree to commit to. I got the idea from the eccentric culture on campus – students often push themselves so hard to accommodate others that they forget to accommodate themselves. For example, many students will tear themselves apart whenever they make a mistake like forgetting correct pronouns. They forget that mistakes are okay and allow people to learn and grow as people. This game is a physical representation of that pressure to fit in and over-commit yourself to make others happy. The game itself says a lot with simple drawings. The image below depicts the entrance to a dorm building with stairs leading to the blue player’s dorm as well as posters on the wall.
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The entrance to the Blue Player’s dorm room.

The posters represent the various clubs, events, and petitions that overwhelm the walls by the sheer amount. The color itself are bright and cheery in order to keep the energy of the game light and humorous. The actual content of the game will have silly conversations that highlight the ridiculousness seen on the campus. For example, instead of students feeling guilty and helpless for being born into a privileged group (“Oppress the oppressors” is a saying found on campus) They can be empowered to take action in situations to change reality for the better. One situation that is playful is when the player encounters a Pink NPC next to the stairs leading to a pink door (their dorm). The Pink NPC barrages the Player with “Stairs don’t care! Say no to stairs and build a ramp instead. Sign my petition and make a difference!” The player can choose to complete the quest to build a ramp, or can choose to simply tackle a different quest.
The Pink NPC standing next to the stairs leading to their dorm room.

The Pink NPC standing next to the stairs leading to their dorm room.

As for the color scheme, the game utilizes the concept of “wayfinding” to persuade the player to click on certain objects in the game. For example, the blue door is the blue player’s dorm room! Another thing to note is that this game has been revised a few times. From the sizes of the art assets to coding hiccups, it has lots of room for improvement. Even now, the story needs a more clear overarching goal with tangible smaller interactions that the player can see helps or hinders their journey through the game. Overall, the game is progressing slowly but surely.
The old Paper Prototype version of the current level in the Unity Building.

The old Paper Prototype version of the current level in the Unity Building.

For the future, I’d like to add a splash screen to better convey the goal of the game. So far, the image below depicts the paper prototype version of an idea for the splash screen. Radical 005We’ll see how far this game will go!  

Radical Game Design: Wild Tales

The outside of the saloon in the first level.

The outside of the saloon in the first level.

My game is about a cowboy in a movie set of an old west movie. Players progress through shooting various scenes in the movie with freedom of choosing how the scenes play out. Their previous actions they take dictates the actions they can take in future scenes. For example, helping the bandit early on could mean not being able to talk to the sheriff later on. After shooting the scenes, players get to see what kind of movie they’ve made at the end.

The idea came from the development process of the game. At first, I wanted to make a game about the pressure to conform to a role in front of other people. After researching the old west genre, I decided a more interesting theme to explore would be the dissonance in the escape and immersion popular entertainments promise and the stereotypes they actually show.

To bring out this idea, my game puts the player in both the shoes of the producer and the audience of entertainment. After the players decide on the type of movie this is going to be about, they are forced to consume it. Through this, I call attention to the decisions made for us by the producers of the media we consume and the stereotypes they reinforce. I purposely break immersion with the movie sets to call out the lack of immersion breaking that encourages consumers to passively consume media.

The start of the level shows the main character and the director.

The start of the level shows the main character and the director. Note the contrasting colors.

Early on in development, I made a paper prototype to test out some of the ways I could explore this idea within a game environment. My paper prototype was based on an earlier idea of the game where players had no choice but to conform to stereotypes. I learned that the traditional gamey elements like quests and dialogue options were too distracting. By stripping my game of some traditional elements, I was able to bring out the focus of my game.

Testing an early iteration of my first level.

Testing an early iteration of my first level.

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The inside of a building that isn’t in the current game build.

Through that process, I was able to iterate on various ideas that resulted in what I have now. Currently, I have just the first level partially built. The NPC encounters in the first level are the director, bandit, saloon girl, and sheriff. The director sets the scene of a cowboy looking for a place to stay. The rest of the NPCs each represents a “type” of cowboy the player could play. They all offer a solution for the player’s problem. By choosing the align with the bandit, saloon girl, or sheriff, players will have decided on if they want to play the bad, carefree, or good cowboy respectively. Throughout the game, players will be given the options of staying with their alignment or straying away from it.

Currently, I’m working on getting my first level to run with dialogues and traversals smoothly. I’m still establishing some of the base codes of the game. Once that is done, it should be a matter of writing and building out the rest of the game.

Regarding the aesthetic designs, I’m using bright colors to contrast the muted and dark color scheme of the western world. The various movie set objects in the game should stand out with their industrial and bright colors. I’m contemplating on potentially changing the colors of the game to show the player’s current alignment with the type of narrative they’re on the path to create.

The color of the buildings in the town blends in with the orange sky in the background.

The color of the buildings in the town blends in with the orange sky in the background.

One of the design challenges I face is to find a way to convey choice. In a traditional game, a choice is typically presented with a drop-down menu describing the various actions players could take. However, I wanted to reinforce the idea that in real life, our choice and actions aren’t always going to be laid out for us. To do this, I’ll be applying the design strategy of presenting players with options before the choice. For example, in the example of my first level, players naturally encounter with the bandit. The bandit provides the option of stealing a key from the sheriff. However, to choose that option, players will have naturally encounter their two other options before being given the ability to make the decision. Once this pattern is established, I plan to have more obscure options players can take to communicate the idea that our choices about personal identity require exploration and are not always the first option presented.

While I haven’t fleshed out the full story of the game yet, I plan to keep my game fairly short in order to encourage replay attempts. I think the message becomes the clearest when players become more conscious of their actions and consequences. By having two gameplay experiences, they have a different result to compare to. Some may argue that the intended replayability makes the game’s choices less meaningful. However, I think the players’ own curiosity to explore the various options in the narrative is exactly the mindset I want them to have. The curiosity to explore the options is more important to me than living up to the consequences of the actions.

Early on in the game, the impact of the players’ choices is not immediately obvious. It’s not until later in the game when restrictions are placed on the choices they can make are the results of their actions obvious. At this point, some players may feel a bit of frustration or guilt in their lack of freedom. I think this is positive for the game because it encourages people to replay the game. However, they will always end up with a coherent narrative where the cowboy is reinforcing some sort of stereotypical narrative. If the lack of control at the end takes players out of the immersion and gets them to think about how they’ve constructed their narrative, then I will have succeeded in getting my message across.

Sprite art of the director.

– the director.

I didn’t plan for the game to be so reflective of some of the things in life I’m working through right now. The process of creating this game is forcing me to look deeper at some of the influences (both positive and negative) I had growing up. I hope that this experience will not only help me grow personally but also result in a shareable product that inspires introspection for other people as well.