To create dramatic effect and to spark interest in our prototype, we decided to go with a very theatrical story line with enough of information to get people interested in the game and hopefully wanting more. Today after a joyous 10 hour shift at work, I managed to sit down and complete a storyboard for the tutorial level of the game that will introduce the story and basic controls to the player.
I’ve decided to get Callum to work on the rest of the paperwork as I think he has a good idea of how everything in the project is going to fit together. My hope is that I can get to work on creating the game while Xuan and Conrad start modeling the characters. I need to make sure we are ready to model everything by confirming the rigging and importing processes.
Today was a day of 1 step forward 2 steps back. We realised very early on in the lesson that our game was not interesting or fun. We needed to change our idea. We came up with several ideas only to drop them before they could really take off in any significant way. We attempted to think of games that had mechanics that we liked but to no avail. In the end we went full circle back to our original idea. What we needed was constraints. Too many ideas all at once was making it difficult to focus on any one idea. We decided on two concrete things that we need for our game. This removes any temptation of changing it. We are going to make a card game and it will incorporate a risk reward system. There are a few games that use this mechanic well but the one we had a lot of fun with was the game Coup. We already liked the idea of roles and having the element of mystery in our game. We will need to create the prototype by Friday so simplicity will be key.
I have finished writing up the basic plot for our game which has enough information to storyboard our 3 main parts. The story was written by Callum with my occasional input:
Hamlet built his family’s business from the ground up. He was a smart and inspiring leader who stopped at nothing to get what he wanted: A better life for his family. When Hamlet had access to anything he wanted in life and the largest gang in town to back him, it all fell apart. He became lazy, opting for the life of peace and relaxation rather than the brutal power hungry life he was renowned for. Members of the gang began to talk of overthrowing Hamlet, the centre of this coup, his own brother Claudius. Claudius had stood in his brothers shadow for too long and coveted the power his brother had. When the opportunity came to eliminate his brother, he took it.
The game starts with a fade in, from a first person view inside a limo. You can hear the murmuring of thugs outside as the car cruises through the empty street. The car stops and the door next to you opens. You step out onto the street. A group of gang members standing outside start whispering to each other. The man who opened the car door is a sentinel. The street is completely empty save from a few groups of gang members dotted around the entrance to a warehouse directly in front of you. A tool tip appears directing you to move around. You walk up to the door to the warehouse, two guards are standing by the door. The move as side as you approach. When you enter the warehouse you see its completely empty except for a chair in the middle with a man, head down, strapped in. Another tool tip appears telling the player to press F to draw their weapon and click M1 to shoot. A cut-scene plays showing (from hamlet’s perspective) Claudius shooting his brother.
With hamlet dead, Claudius now has control of the gang. He starts by immediately starting wars with neighboring gangs seeking more and more power but more than that; a legacy that shadows his brothers.
Free Game-play Starts:
Horatio, a very thin and reasonably twitchy looking man wakes Hamlet up informing him of his death. Horatio tells you that he has brought you back to kill Claudius and get revenge. The player can accept or refuse this. Either way Horatio informs Hamlet that he can manifest himself in the real world but only for a short time. While the player is in the real world they are vulnerable and can die forever. If the player chooses to ignore Horatio, they will be tasked with making their way to the gang’s hideout to talk to Claudius If not, the Horatio tells hamlet to gather some men around the neighborhood and fight your way to Claudius.
Last week we began our first assignment for the course. In groups of 3 we were tasked with creating a paper prototype for a game centered around an everyday activity. Our everyday task was walking the dog. Initially we struggled to get a concrete idea as a group but we managed to come up with something reasonably simple and ‘playable’. We based our idea on the card game ‘Spoons’. The players start in each of the four corners of the board and receive a random task. Only you know what your task is and it is your job to complete the task and make it to the center of the board first. To add a system of choice or randomness, we added another set of sabotage cards that each player receives as well. These can be used to force other player to perform an action in an attempt to slow them down. There were a few mechanical problems with our game to say the least. The first was that we initially planned to make it so that if any player completed a task, anyone could get to the lamppost. The problem with this is players can camp by the lamppost waiting for someone else to complete their task. This is countered in the game of spoons by having two win conditions. Players are occupied with the pace of the game and completing the original task of completing a set of 3. This distraction is what our game lacks and to make the game playable we will need to rectify that. Once the game has been play-tested we will know how much more is wrong with it.
I am not too worried with the final result of the game. I do not plan on putting too much extra effort into this project as I feel like it is more useful as a failure that we can learn from. Time constraints on other projects are also a bigger priority for me.
We are now into the 3rd week of the project and we are on schedule however, I would like to be a little further ahead at this point as we are moving into unknown territory. I am the only member of the group that has character modeling experience and while I know from experience that its not a difficult thing once you get into it, I also know it can be foreboding. I’ve decided to start coding the game using placeholder objects in the mean time.
The concept art for all 3 characters has been finished. I am very happy with all of them. The real test will be in retaining their individual styles in the modeling stage. I still need the models to be consistent. I believe we are able to make changes as we go and that we should keep moving forward however, Callum believes it is important to get the models looking 100% accurate before continuing. Callum has been a huge help with decision making so far and so we are going to take our time and make sure everything is ready before we begin the next phase of the project. This means completing the story and gameplay plans, designing all the miscellaneous pieces of concept art and the level design.
Today I was able to meet up with my group to discuss their ideas for the development of the game and more importantly, the story. On Monday, I quickly checked up on them to see how they were handling the work I assigned to them. Xuan had completed some sketches for the protagonist and said she would be able to have some more in time for the Tuesday meetup. I definitely liked the sketches she showed me. I asked her to now work on creating a turnaround for the character so that we are ready when it comes to modeling him. As for Conrad, he had nothing for me. He did however send me a design for a character very early on which I am happy with as a concept so I’ve asked him to work on a turnaround for him.
Not having the art is annoying because its crucial to get the concept art done and out of the way early on so we can focus on the bigger aspects. I told him this and have decided to keep checking up on him more regularly as I need him for other jobs. I got Callum to work on the level design and help me write the story for the game. He spent a solid 2 hours looking through the asset store looking for things we could use for the game. After the meeting we discovered that our story had too many roadblocks so we sat down and worked on it for a good few hours. We still need to refine it by taking a look back at “What is the Hero’s Journey” but for the moment its good enough. To help with the artwork which we are all working on now, (Callum is working on the level design and I’m working on a design for a mentor) I made a quick mood board of reference images showing our theme:
The theory behind a game is as important, if not more, as the game itself. There are several important factors to consider when designing a game. The easiest way to see how these aspects interact with each other is through research and play-testing. The key aspect in a game is THE RULES. We learnt very early on that without rules, there is no game. The second aspect after rules is mechanics. What can you do and what can’t you do in a game. This sets the challenge for the player. Knowing these two main elements of game design, we had to change the maths behind a game of UNO. In a group of two, we decided to change the amount of cards each player picks up when they pass their turn. The hypothesis was that the game would take a lot longer to complete but the result was as the number of cards increased, from two to four, the games became shorter and shorter. The second task was to alter how the maths was applied in the game. We changed how the “+4” card worked by changing it from “four cards from the top of the deck” to “four cards from the opponents hand”. This resulted in us having to create new rulings for the game. In the event that the “+4” card is not your last card but, you have less than 4 cards in your hand, you are required to pick up another card off the deck as the rules state; “if a player does NOT call ‘UNO’ on their last card, that player must draw a card”. In conclusion, altering the maths of a game is a lot easier than altering the way the maths is applied.
Onto snakes and ladders, a game with little interest and unfair play-testing. The goal of this second exercise was to incorporate 3 things into snakes and ladders which would make for more interesting and fair play. The first was to add a “positive feedback loop”. This is best described as progression. It’s what makes a player strive to reach milestones in a game. In our version of snakes and ladders, we added a very simple mechanic which was; “when a player reaches tile #50 or higher, that player may use a D12 die instead”. What this does is accelerates the game and gives the player an advantage for reaching the halfway point. Because snakes and ladders is a game where luck plays a huge (possible only) role in the game, it is very easy for players to become disinterested. This is why a game needs a “negative feedback loop”. Best described as losers advantage, this helps players in last place continue to feel like they are part of the game and have a chance at winning. In our version, we made it so the player in last place rolls two dice and takes the higher number. This helps to speed the game along “from the rear”. The last addition is the most important thing in a game. Choice. This is what separates a games non linear story from that of a film or book. In our group, we ended up missing the mark a little on this. We made it so if a player rolls a 6 or 12 respectively, that player chooses how many tiles they would like to move (between 1 and the highest denominator of the die).
In conclusion, our version of snakes and ladders improved on some of the problems the base game had but, overall we were unsuccessful in creating a non linear story. This has given me a good amount of insight as to what I need to work on for my future projects.
Researching games similar to Hamlet: Dragon Age.
Dragon Age origins is a perfect example of a game that tells the story of hamlet but in a completely new way. Another is the movie the Lion King. Since both of these are famous titles it gives the group something to refer back to while creating the game and developing story.
Genres and themes.
We decided to go with a style of artwork similar to that of Borderlands. This is because it keeps things simple and plays to the artist strengths. When it comes to texturing the 3D model, we can create our own textures quite easily using simple colours and outliner features, giving us more control over the design.
Callum and I are planning on creating our own soundtrack for the game as this will have a serious impact on the mood of certain scenes.
Game Design and Mechanics
As far as mechanics go we have no clear idea as to what we will put into the game. If we can solidify a genre by tomorrow then we can get things really moving with the project. What we have decided is that it should be 3rd person. This is because we are going to spend a lot of time designing our main character Hamlet and it seems a waste to lose him for most of the game (because of the lack of cut-scenes).
Brief and Research
We were assigned Hamlet as our play. Hamlet is a good starting point as there is a strict deadline on the project. It also leaves a lot of free reign as far as artwork and mechanics go, however the narrative still needs to be true to the original play. I feel that we can push the boundaries of the brief by justifying all of our decisions as far as narrative and artwork goes.
The Story of Hamlet
From the brief research I have done so far, I have noticed that Hamlet follows a 5 act structure. This makes narrative easy to create and alter as we see more development in the character and level designs. Having two artists working on one project seems like it will be problematic in the future with regards to continuity. In an attempt to counteract this pre-emptively, I felt like it would be a good idea to have one artist on environmental creations while the other works on character. I will know more once we brainstorm and come up with some mood boards and mock ups. I will create some sketches of different genres to start the ball rolling.
The 5 act structure of Hamlet
The structure of hamlet above should be fairly easy to follow and adapt. As a group its important to have a clear and similar view as to the theme of the game. As the game developer it is my job to ensure this is done and that I learn the strengths and weakness regarding the group so that we can either work on these areas or avoid them as the time limit draws near.
As a group we need to decide what we can achieve early on so that we don’t get distracted or overwhelmed. My hope is that we can follow the brief as tightly as possible by completing the game and releasing it as a completed prototype. Since we have 2 game artists, we should be able to achieve a high standard of work in a short amount of time. While aesthetics are important, I believe that we can substitute them for completion and mechanical polishing. It would be a good idea to get stuck into this project ASAP. Knowing this, I have planned a meeting for Tuesday so that we can all start to work on our respective areas. I will hopefully be able to help in all aspects to ease stress and stick to the deadlines I will set tomorrow.
This is another in a series of interactive story games which aims to educate people in societal problems. This one in particular has many different stories and aims to simulate experiences that are unpleasant for the player. This tactic of education is in my opinion rather brutish, but I cant fault it as it can work for some people. I personally was not moved by the stories in the game. This is most likely due to the fact that I am aware of these issues already. For someone who is not educated in what happens in countries where your rights are taken from you because of something you have no power to change, these games are so important. It raises the issues in the safety of a game platform where it is easy to simply disregard it as ‘not real life’. The game pushes past this by relating back to enforce the point that actually, this is real life. I enjoyed playing through the game and reading about all of the stories and I would recommend it.