Ivan Garde’s game design studies online notebook

and also an animator’s portifolio (hopefully)

Game Design Challenge: The Time Experiment #2 novembro 25, 2008

Filed under: Production — ivangarde @ 11:28 pm
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At 11/12 GameCareerGuide launched another of their weekly game design challenges, which, in their words is:

“Design an experimental game concept that plays with the notion of time, and explain why it is worthwhile to conduct this experiment”

I feel it’s a great way to put my skills and studies to test, so I went off and cooked 2 ideas for the challenge which I’ll transcript here, the way I submitted them. Note that I followed their submission form.
Without further ados, here is the second attempt:

Entry #2

1.What is the name of your game, and please describe it (100 words max.)?
Game: Dystemporalia
The experiment is Real Time Strategy game, the twist is that it’s played in three instances for the same battlefield at the same time, each representing a different age of history. Whatever a player does in the prior ages affects the future ones (like erecting/razing buildings). The elements for RTS are present, but split among the ages: gathering in the past, combat in the present and technological advances in the future (affects past ages after discovering time travel). Each age has an independent win condition and the player is only required to meet one of them to win.

2.How is the core gameplay experimental? Give detail on the gameplay experiment you are performing. Why is this experiment important? What does it bring to games that is not already ubiquitous? (300 words max.)

RTS games that plays in more than one layer is not exactly a new thing, the concept of differentiation between ground and air combat is an example of this. Dragonshard already implemented a two layered battlefield, one for the RTS but the other was an action RPG. The proposition for this experiment is to create a new mechanic that will influence the relationships of cause-effect in a RTS. If you want something built in the future age you have to manage the gathering age layer, erect the building (and pre-requisites) at some of the appropriate ages, defend it in the present age to ripe it’s fruits in the future layer. But in my opinion the most important twist in this experiment is that each age/layer has it’s unique victory conditions. With this a player can pursue different strategies that will require different ways of looking at each age. I hope to achieve with this the sense of focusing in a strategy while having to keep an eye for in which age(s) are your opponent investing more playtime. The experiment should throw in more cause-effect relationships not currently found in RTS games, increasing the complexity of the player decision-making process.

I think the game would benefit form features like a “time travel”, a way that units and technology built in the future age can interact with the prior ages, augmenting the loop of cause-effect. I also would like to throw in the design feature that allow short-term advantages for a player at the cost of negative effects in future ages, like industry in the present age that improve the income generation from the resources gathered, but that would cause environmental disaster at the future age (even leading to a automatic losing condition).

3.How will you know whether the experiment is a success? What problems and limitations might arise? What do these limitations mean for future incarnations of this kind of gameplay? (300 words max.)

I fear that a design like this may become too overwhelming for the players, not due the relationship between the elements through the ages, but due the fact of managing 3 different layers at the same time. This game is actually target to be a multiplayer, so both opponents would face the same limitations.I believe that in a commercial implementation a great effort should be put in how to create the interface with the player, specilally the one that help him navigate trough the ages and see what’s happening in each one.

This experiment will be a success if the players do not feel overwhelmed to manage 3 layers of a RTS game simultaneously, and specially if the new relationships between units, buildings, technologies and resources spread among the ages allow for new strategies not currently beign used in the RTS games found in the market.

Anúncios
 

Game Design Challenge: The Time Experiment

Filed under: Production — ivangarde @ 11:24 pm
Tags: , ,

At 11/12 GameCareerGuide launched another of their weekly game design challenges, which, in their words is:

“Design an experimental game concept that plays with the notion of time, and explain why it is worthwhile to conduct this experiment”

I feel it’s a great way to put my skills and studies to test, so I went off and cooked 2 ideas for the challenge which I’ll transcript here, the way I submitted them. Note that I followed their submission form.
Without further ados, here is the first:

Entry #1

1.What is the name of your game, and please describe it (100 words max.)?
Game: Cut/Insert/A day in the life
This game presents a puzzle in the form of a narrative, in every level there’s a small story usually played by more than one character. It often presents an inconclusive or sad ending. For the characters there will be available a time track, in which the player can interact, it will be possible to cut samples of time and insert it elsewhere in the track. The player can also accelerate or slow down parts of the timeline, the number of available actions is limited. The goal is to create a new ending by manipulating (rearranging, accelerating) the characters actions.

2.How is the core gameplay experimental? Give detail on the gameplay experiment you are performing. Why is this experiment important? What does it bring to games that is not already ubiquitous? (300 words max.)

In many games the player is acting through the character, I wanted to create something where the actions are already chosen, a story is already there, but like “having second thoughts” the player can recreate the story not by acting in new ways, but by the”correct usage” of the same actions, like saying something to someone at the right time, not too late. So, the way a player can interact with the game is by manipulating the characters timeline and not controlling them directly, something I believe is not quite ubiquitous.
I believe this kind of interaction can be very interesting for the following reasons

  • It’s a nice way to toy with interactive narrative
  • coupled with a clever level design and the limited number of cut/inserts operations, it can also become a challenging puzzle
  • It can be made in line with Augusto Boal‘s theatrical poetics, the Theater of the Opressed. Boal’s poetics links with videogames have already been the subject of a thesis in Gonzalo Frasca’s Videogames of the Oppressed. I believe this kind of interaction can be a nice way to translate theatrical play into videogame, without becoming just a sand box for character interaction.
  • It can be implemented with intuitive controls to increase accessibility (low number of operations).

I hope to study with this experiment a direct translation of interactive narrative into a puzzle mechanics. the player should feel that each time manipulation for each character is relevant and should be chosen carefully (due to limitation of the operations) but at the same time it should allow the player to toy with the narrative, allowing the emergence of different stories within the interactions in a level.

3.How will you know whether the experiment is a success? What problems and limitations might arise? What do these limitations mean for future incarnations of this kind of gameplay? (300 words max.)

Let me start with the problems that might arise. I believe that the level creation to validate this experiment, and even to expand it into a full game is not trivial, if we want to meet the two premises: the game as a puzzle and the game system for emergent stories. I hope that with this system a player can get to similar (new) endings by messing with the timing of the character’s actions in different ways. The actions that character perform in the story must something novel, in order to help the player feel they’re playing with something new, I mean, avoiding classical “videogame actions” like jumping or hitting something.
The experiment will be a success if:

  • The player feels he can modify the story in many ways by altering the time in which the character’s action occur.
  • He feels it can generate new meanings and feelings for the new story.
  • At same time he knows that arriving at a certain state of the story will take carefully planning when manipulate the time of the actions.
  • The designers are able to create several levels that use this mechanics in a clever way for the puzzles while maintaining the possibility for level to generate different endings. Although I believe that the puzzle side of this equation is more important.

And even a bigger success if this mechanic could be integrated in different game styles, for instance, in a fighting game after the player and an opponent exchange some punches, blocks or combos, the player could pause, go back in time and rearrange the order of movements as a special skill or as a game unique feature.

 

Thoughts on the Design of “World of Goo”

Filed under: Analysis — ivangarde @ 7:32 pm
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As one of the game design exercises I’m proposing myself, I’ll try to analyze the design of games in different styles. This time we’ll see a puzzle game that quite fast became big hit here in my place: World of Goo, form the indie dev

Crossing a gap at World of Goo

Crossing a gap at World of Goo

elopers 2DBoy.

In World of Goo you to help the charismatic goo balls to reach a pipe located in the level. You do so by using the intrinsic ability of the goo balls that is to unite with and grow some sort of lattice structure or trellis. That lattice is subjected to a very interesting set of physics, such as gravity, wind and the tension between the goo connections. The game has a “lemmings feel” due to the fact that you have to drive at least some number of goo balls to the pipe and, although they usually don’t run to suicide, every time you use a goo ball to grow the lattice you spend it and that’s one less to be saved (most of the time), making the game a bit more…could I say, strategic?

That’s basically how it plays and personally i think it’s a terrific game with lots of fun, but what are the design choices that make World of Goo such a good game?

First of all it’s nice to note that this game is based upon a specific toy: The lattice based physics. One of the two game authors, Kyle Gabler, created a prototype for the Experimental Gameplay Project back in 2006 if my memory serves me well called Tower of Goo and it was a big hit! So he and his partner Ron Carmel naturally took this toy and expanded for the World of Goo. Kyle Gabler has also several other very interesting prototypes in his profile at the Experimental Gameplay Project, all of them with a visual style that, at least for me, is greatly appealing!

A balance exercise
A balance exercise

Basically the puzzles are solved manipulating the growing lattice, sometimes you have to cross a gap or overcome a hazard and thus build a bridge, in others you have to reach a higher place, thus building a tower of goo. Each node (goo ball) in the lattice has a weight and each connection between the nodes has a tension, So everything you build in the game is subjected to a physical law, as said before, but this kind of system has some great advantages in the design space:

  • At first, the game has to tell the player only one rule: drag a goo ball with the mouse to attach it to the lattice. The rest, the way that the trellis will behave according gravity and the wind is easy to be infered by the player, since this kind of physical system behaves in a ubiquitous way for them. I mean, most of us have already made castles in the sand or played with some kind of Lego and we know that we can’t create a tower too high without a larger base. Since it’s natural to the player to understand the outcome of his/her actions in the system, it made up for a more engaging experience.
  • Even if you don’t understand the physical system, you promptly see the outcome of your actions, since each action affects the lattice right away, you build and the game answers you, a nice loop
  • The very action of building and playing with your structure is really fun, a toy per se. It’s so true that the game features a level for free goo-structure building, and people spends quite some time there.
  • A physical simulation system is naturally a system with emergent behavior, another important aspect of engaging games, although you have a clear objective in each level, the actions you perform to achieve the goal are far from scripted (opposite to many puzzle games, specially adventure games). Another great game that uses a physical system for puzzles that comes to my mind now is Half Life 2.
  • A reflection of this emergent behavior system is that each new goo ball introduced in the subsequent levels (the ones with new abilities) further increase the number possible outcomes for the structure. The final result of possible interactions and outcomes in the system is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Each new goo ability opens a lot of design space, such as the goo that inflates like a balloon, creating an upward force. In a moment of metalanguage, the “Sign Painter”, which is the game’s narrator, says something like “Across the distance they see lots of new goo species, the design possibilities are endless” 😀
  • To finish a level, the player has to bring only a certain number of goo balls to the pipe, a number usually small compared to the population of goo in a level. But each extra goo ball you bring to the pipe ends waiting for you at the free building area, so there’s is a purpose for getting more goo balls to the pipe. What i like about this is that it creates a variable difficult level, controlled in-game by the player. You can choose an easy play and just bring the minimum number to finish the level, or work hard to make every move worthwhile so you can bring a greater number of goo balls to the end.

I think World of Goo is a great game, not only with a very nice design, but the graphics and sound do a great job creating an almost idyllic place.