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:
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.