Real-Time Strategy Games

Strategy has become a more important factor in the current concept’s structure and genre. The more I revise the battles and character classes , the more it becomes clear that I need to find a way to invoke strategy into the core gameplay. The use of strategy will be what decides how the battle goes, as this game isn’t necessarily a typical ‘hero’ game. It is more focused to being a realistic hero, someone who follows the path of the hero but isn’t necessarily involved in all the drama and action of typical heros’.  This typical hero is used alot in games as the protagonist; the archetype is that of someone who follows a path that brings the greater good, saves the day and tends to get the girl. Our protagonist follows a similar path to bring peace to the conflict but less of the focus in this is on one singular person and more on the force as a whole.

Games that use this type of gameplay are: Civilisation, Age of Empires and Total War.

Absense of 3D work

Write about why I chose to not do any 3D work for the brief.

Time constraints plus finding other ways to explore the concept within a game context. i.e. gdd and narrative description etc.

In the project proposal i outlined that i would attempt to undertake some form of 3D realisation of the concept. Sadly, this didn’t happen due to a number of reasons. My lack of focus during the beginning of the project caused a back log of work to complete, which ended in a focus on the written work instead of anything else. I also found other ways to accomplish the purpose of the 3D work. It was needed to help me realise how the concept would form into a game. I realised this through the game design document and the key plot elements pieces of writing.

Final Book!

Final Booklet PDF

Above is a link to the final booklet produced in InDesign by Luke!

I am glad it is finally finished!

I think that it would have been nicer if it included more concept art but I’m a writer not a drawer!

Note: the pdf is in the print layout  to print double sided on A3, so the pages don’t follow on from left to right instead it zig zags down and then back up again!

Ambitions

I am my way through completing my final to do list for this brief. I feel it is going well but the realisation of the actual amount of work I set out to do on this project has dawned on me. There are a lot of things that i would have liked to have done but have simply run out of time!

One of the most interesting parts I have done in this brief was the key plot elements, were I went into detail about how the game would flow as a story. I especially enjoyed going into detail about the Battle for the Wall of Kastor, and found that possibly next year I would like to continue doing more descriptive narrative writing for game levels. Sadly though I do not have enough time left to go into detail about the actual structure of the battle for the Wall. This is kind of annoying as it is the part of the project that i found most interesting. I have outlined in base form the types of enemies, the boss battle including what they would use as special attacks etc, the structure of the land, and even a map. I do want to continue this on after this deadline as it is what I find interesting.

Another area that I haven’t had time to explore is script writing. I have used it in the past to help myself get a feel of how the characters would portray themselves in certain situations but sadly I didn’t have much time to develop it.

The Arc – Bella ou Nestra containment ideas

The BUBBLE!!!!

The idea behind the Arc formed in one of the first chat’s Luke and myself had about the concept for the Empire’s capital. We both agreed that the Empire’s mass colonisation would create a sense of unease with the surrounding nations, who would then rebel against them starting a war. Due to the involvement of the other much larger nations the Empire puts in place a technology that has long been forgotten to protect the city. This is the Arc, a massive city spanning force field that blocks out the surrounding world. The repercussion of the Arc is that the citizens within the city soon become less and less aware of what is actually happening in the world around them, as they are forced to stay within the barrier.

I know I haven’t done a lot of work on this idea but it is a major part of the overall world and its development. I wish i could have spent more time on it but I guess it will become a summer project for me!

Organisation

Throughout this project I tried to organise myself in manner that worked on a previous brief. I made myself a calendar to outline what I would need to complete on each day.

I found that at first this worked but due to the nature of the work i was undertaking it was hard to specific an amount of time that each part would take. Eventually I fell out of the routine and ended up getting too focused on the actual production of the work. I feel that this was because I didn’t have my calendar in the right place, I think in the future I need to have it in a main area, possibly on a wall where I can always see it.

Brink – Character Customisation

Brink is a valuable reference in terms of both character design and in-game character customisation settings.

From seeing a presentation by one of the concept artists who worked on Brink, I learnt about the teams design process. The use of different character classes  was conceived to allow for a diversity of different fighting and movement styles. The main separation between these is the light medium and heavy body types that the player can choose to have, each of these will impose a set of animations/move sets for the character. Alongside limiting them to certain attributes like speed etc.

This is one of the first things that I looked at for this brief, how do industry games incorporate different character classes and move sets for them. For the Brink dev team this was one of there struggles, as they had to cut down on some ambitious designs to allow for the actual realisation of the designs in 3D models. This is why they have the 3 start up sets of body shape, as later down the line it saves on the amount of animations, models and rigs that they need to produce, which also means less strain on the in-game render speeds. So in terms of the character classes Brink was designed to allow for a good game performance over amount of choice for the player. It does however offer up a wide variety of options in specifics for the visual aspects of the characters.

I think that the restraints that the Brink dev team had are something to consider but when you compare this to other games that are more in the RPG genre then they offer a lot more choices to the player than Brink does.

Maps Workthrough

The world in which this game is set is just as important as the characters themselves. From the offset Luke has been the one in charge of the environment for this world, but as the design for the map and land has progressed there have been a few learning curves for myself in regards to working collaboratively.

The initial idea for the map was conceived by Luke, he strategically placed similar areas of Earth’s world map together to get a rough idea of what types of landmasses would go where. Then to help both himself and myself get ideas of the type of terrains he added in area from around the world that they would be similar to. This really aided my design process as it allowed me to gather reference material from each of those places to get a feel of the environment and then place that upon the characters.

From this initial outline stage I gave feedback to Luke on the map:

This feedback was undertaken on the 2nd May 2012, which when you consider that it actually features the battle for the Wall is pretty strange! This must have been the first time I actually considered there being a battle that takes place in the circled area. Now obviously it has been developed into a full concept for a main mission level design.

From this basic rough outline, I decided to start figuring out what cities we could have and where.

I simply did a pen outline of the map adding in cities and features, like the Wall. This was all done running on creative juice. I began thinking up what the different races would be like in terms of cultures etc. but of course these were all simply ideas to aid Luke. Once he had this map within minutes he came back to me with a finished version that included all the cities, rivers, mountains etc.

Once this was all figured out we sat down together with a list of names that we had collated and we simply fit them where they best fit. All the different countries have different naming conventions that fit in with there positions within the world and there cultures, ways of life etc.

I think the process that myself and Luke followed to get to the finished world map was a very productive, efficient procedure but at times I think I started to forget its relevance to my character work. I began to think of it as being an unrelated thing that simply was needed to help the players get a feel for the world, where in fact I needed it to help me to fully develop the characters that where to inhabit the world. This is one area that I feel my work has lacked, I should have engaged the world development into my character development at a much early stage. This way I wouldn’t have had to re-work the main characters to fit with the new design for the world.

Concept Art is getting Somewhere!

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My main piece of concept art is coming along nicely. I have been working on it for some time now, I reckon the total hours from my initial drawing to this stage are around 9 hours. Which for this level of detail is quite a lot of time but then again I am slowly coming to the realisation that concept art to a high level isn’t my forte.

I am however pleased with the progress. There are a few alterations that I need to do before I continue onwards; I have been messing around with the composition for the piece and I am going to change the size a dominance of the characters to be smaller. This frees up more space to focus on the actual battle taking place behind the two characters. I also have rotated the background a little to the right as the horizon lines and perspectives looked odd! Below is an example of what the changes look like.

Dev Notes: Creating a Rebellion

This post is just an insight into a part of the story that both myself and Luke did not need to consider but we found ourselves getting obsessed with anyway! In the future with a brief like this I really need to outline exactly what parts I will be focussing on, so as to not get sidetracked.

THE REBELLION!

So both Luke and myself had been considering the rebellion and its forces, ideals and general ways of life throughout this project. After I completed the Key plot elements piece of writing we both felt that there was one thing missing from the story. It was in fact the birth of the rebellion! We had both touched upon it in our work, stating that the citizens felt repressed due to the Empire’s overwhelming control, but we had never actually decided what happened!

So we had a chat about our ideals so far, and it turns out that we both had pretty much the same thing! I drew up a quick sketch of both of our ideas:

LUKE’S:

MINE:

As you can see they both follow the same structure. The empire invades and has control over an area, then that area begins a civil war in which the leader of the rebellion is found.

I don’t think that we will need to go into much detail about this just yet either as in the key plot elements i outlined that the foundations of the rebellion are in the in-game narrative. Thus this civil war battle will probably become the one where the player decides what side they would like to help out!

GDD REVISED!

Game Design Document Pitch REVISED EDITION

Above is the revised edition of the game design document, this is the finished version that will feature in the book.

The purpose of a one-sheet in the industry is so that all the people involved in the development of a game can use it as a guiding vision throughout the production. Usually after being commissioned by a publisher, the developers will have to create the game design document that acts as an attachment to the contract. Making sure that the agreement between the publisher and the developer adheres at all times to the game design document.

I outlined in previous posts which parts of the full GDD to include in my work for this brief and considering my initial outset I think I have done quite well. Of course my GDD is not up to the amount of detail that would need to be in an industry level one but this is only due to my focus on one level within the game.

I have revised my original GDD on feedback from Luke. A lot of the comments he made were simply about grammar and punctuation. A few points were about my ability to get across my true vision, which after consideration I understand what he meant. I think I got caught up in the text and didn’t communicate effectively what actually happens within the game, probably missing key points out simply because I know they happen because I invented them. An interesting point that he made was about the tense of the piece of writing. Due to us still being in the early stages of the whole game development, he believed we should write the GDD like a vision for the game, almost like a pitch for it, so we would say things like “the game would be…”. I had written the actual document as if it was a finalised product, with no consideration to if’s and maybe’s. I’m not entirely sure what would have been the better way to phrase it but due to it being in the book which is meant to give people a general overview of the concept then we agreed to keep it in my tense. Mainly because it makes the game sound like it is set in stone, instead of it still being still in the early development stages.

Another change to the game design document is that collectively we decided to take out the final part of it, which is the Story setting section. The reason for this is because this section is meant to give a basic overview of all the story aspects of the game, but because both of us have gone into greater detail about them in other sections, it just didn’t fit right. Instead we are simply going to have the sections in the final book as separate pieces like the back story, key plot elements and the narrative description for the Battle for the Wall of Kastor.

Another good thing that came out of this chat was the forming of the Rebellion, as we both have been mainly focussing on the Empire, we managed to sit down and compare our current thoughts on how the Rebellion had been formed. I will blog this up into a nother post!

Also, Luke mentioned that he liked the key plot elements that had specific names like The Traitor. I also like this idea as it reminds me of trophies in games like Fallout, where it will pop up saying something like Last Hope of Humanity. I think it is something that will need to be considered but probably not at this stage in time.

Over and Out!

Analysis and Outline of Story Key Plot Elements

My key story elements are as follows:

  • Being born into a world filled with corruption.
  • Gaining valuable allies with both sides.
  • Choosing your side.
  • Gaining recognition from some higher ups.
  • A realisation. Player becomes aware of the bad side to whichever side they chose.
  • The Traitor. The choice to change sides.
  • Regain the trust (if you change sides) or commit to your fate (if you stay on the same side).
  • Kastor and the Wall. Specific character classes.
  • Infiltrate the enemy’s main city. Destroy them from the inside out.

I have gone into these in more detail outlining what needs to happen at each stage.

Key Plot Elements

Game Design Document

Now that we are coming to the end of this brief I have finished my game design document to a level in which it could be placed into the finished book. I have sent a copy over to Luke to get some feedback from him and so that he can check that what I have put is cohesive with his work.

Game Design Document Pitch sheet

After completing this a sense of relief has been lifted from me. I feel like the concept is becoming more than just a story with a few pictures, the game design document has put the game into context, allowing it to become a realistic pitch. The document covers:

  • Title
  • Genre
  • Target Audience
  • Concept
  • Category
  • Game Flow summary
  • Look, Feel, The visual style
  • Project scope
  • Story setting

From my original outset for the document I have covered pretty much all the points I wished to include. The only things I haven’t included are game art, gameplay and mechanics and the feature set. These were left out as at this point in the conceptual development I don’t have enough time or information to fully consider these; this is due to them being mainly finished outcomes.

Figuring out the Narrative Structure

MY initial reference for narrative structure has come from numerous places. I have delved into the endless pages of The Ultimate Guide To Video Game Writing and Design by F, Dille and J, Zuur Platten which has given me a theoretical side to the narrative process. Alongside this I have looked through the archived content on the Game Career Guide website, plus of course actually using my first hand experience of playing games. All of the relevant references can be found in alternative blog posts.

The first thing to outline within the process was what type of narrative did we need, linear or non-linear. The decision for this came out of me referring to my target audience, as stating in my brief game bible the game is designed to appeal to both male and female gamers, with a nice balence between hardcore and casual gamers; as stated before this will of course depend primarily on the gameplay mechanics. Also within this bracket of target audience the passion for an interpretation of historical warfare will be needed to appeal to the player. Following suit of this target audience, I was posed with two options, I could follow a structure similar to Dragon Age:Origins and begin by giving the player an option, which relates to a unique start then progress into a linear story or I could start them all in the same boat and allow them to choose their options as they progress, almost like a tree and similar to how Fallout is structured. From simply looking at this, I realised several problems on each side:

  • Alot of the current mission ideas consider that the player can play on either side of the war.
  • Currently neither side of the war is catergorised as “the bad guys’, so if I go down the route of having a very linear biased to one side story, much like modern day ‘hero’ games, then I need to decide which is the good and the bad side. This choice will however  restrain the allowance for choice within the game, and as it is an RPG game, this is an important part.
  • If I allow the player to choose either side, how do I approach this? When you consider that in most games they allow for a cut of point, a good example of this is Fallout New Vegas. Within this game the player could choose to hate both sides, the NCR and Ceaser’s Legion and they could go around kill everyone of them in sight up until a point. This is where the game splits for the alternate endings, and depending on what side the player chooses, they will get a clean sheet with them. Another strategy used in this game is that they warm the player of the cut off point, you can do missions for all the different parties up until a certain point and when you hit that a little pop up appears telling the player that if they continue there is no going back.

After thinking over all these points I ended up clasping at straws, and decided that there was no real way to sort it out until I had a good idea of what the actual gameplay would involve.

So, as you can see above I began to start coming up with ideas and bouncing them off of Luke and his back story to figure out how the narrative would need to flow.

What came out of this brainstorming session was the key to this whole project! It is where I realised that I needed to start considering a vital part of the RPG, the leveling system. Essential the narrative structure is not only about telling the story, it is about how the player progresses through the story. How do you make the player feel engaged and as if they are actually achieving something, it is all about the progression through the narrative and figuring out how to balance this.

So this was the birth of the realisation of the Battle for the Wall of Kastor and its relevance and importance in the player/character progression. During this part there were alot of alterations and changes where I considered how the battle would play out, who are the key characters and why? What does the player get as a reward and how is this reward decided? The idea of the how the reward was decided was the hardest part of this, because I knew that the reward would be the specialist level class, but actually how the game would decide this baffled me. After some consideration I decided that it would need to be predefined, depending on how they had played the game up until the cut off point. This left me with a pretty clear narrative for the mission, prior to this point in the game the player needs to:

  • have chosen a side for the war
  • have been given an odd number of skill points so that one class from the two is more advanced than the other
  • have an understanding of the elite classes, most likely from seeing them during previous missions, possibly aiding/working with them – this may not seem it but it would be vital, the last thing I want from this battle decision is the player to be left unengaged, so hyping up the elite classes and how they are needed for the big final battle is important. Plus simply just the fact that the player is now being assigned a set class/armour and other perks that have significant advantages and disadvantages against all the other classes. Dropping these into the story early on will allow the player to be able to transition straight into the new combat styles without too many pitfalls.

Also, after the cut off point the player needs to:

  • be allowed time to train in new combat especially if something completely new is introduced i.e. flight. Possibly they do a set of missions in their new class before the main battle for the Wall, in terms of narrative these would need to be something along the lines of setting up strategic points for the battle, claiming territory or Luke’s mission idea of reclaiming the Sword and Shield for the mediator.
  • possibly be giving a number of skill points to unlock perks in the new class before the main battle.

 

Below is my final rough idea for the whole narrative structure through the game which encompasses all of the above.

Feedback from Final Crit

On Friday we had our final crit presentations, for mine I did a basic power point that gave a brief overview of the world but mainly focused on the development of the 6 character classes. I received some valuable feedback on my work that highlighted that I needed to produce some more conceptual work to bring the world to life. I am glad that I have this final week to work on this as I can see why it is needed. Without the visual narrative the story is simply a story, it exists on paper in text form, but it is to be produced as a game. Visual are a much better way to present the game as well as them giving an insight into the world.

In the book How To Draw and Paint Science Fiction Art by Geoff Taylor has a very useful chapter on this subject. Visual Narrative explains how visual artwork works side by side the literature where the image could stand alone without the text. It goes on to explain how you should think of the images as different shot compositions within a film context I.e. establishing shots are used to set the scene. I think that I have been trying to encompass these ideas within my action shots of the characters, but as pointed out within the crit you need to have some reference to the environment to allow the viewer to become lost in the world. Without the environment certain key parts of the world are lost like the physics etc. I guess all I need to do now is crack on with the concept art!

Intial character ideas

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Above are my initial sketches for the characters. I developed these whilst I began writing up the key differences between the Empire and the Rebellion. Below are my notes from this, the process was simply for me to get a basic idea of the differences between each side visually and physically in terms of fighting styles.

Discussion Notes

1/5/12 – Discussion of general things that both myself and Luke agree that the world should incorporate. Possibilities and aspirations.

  • Mulitple playable characters. This is a possibility that came out of doing research into games that offer the ability to play over a longer time period i.e. Dynasty Warriors. The reality of this will come of the narrative structure that we decide for the game.
  • Time Zones, similar to the above, at this stage in the development it is simply a possibility that will become pre-defined.
  • Non linear narrative
  • Does it begin in the bubble? This is an idea of the beginning of the main narrative, but this needs to be considered more, as to what will happen prior and after this time. It has been addressed in another blog post.
  • Nomadic race mix with Africa, they have three types of warrior: Assassins, Foot Soldiers/Archers and Sailors. Multiple boats. Big ships fortified. Small one person submarine type? Water villages in fractal form.
  • Flying machines, gliders – tech people first invent these. Stolen by main empire to fight against boats as they are confined to the island. Main island have elite warriors, set class.Idea of set classes stem from here.
  • Need to work on the technology in the bubble. Use it to develop city, wind tunnels? Spies? threats.

Sorting it all out

I have been having a few doubts lately about the project and I feel as if I am trundling long with no real direction. So, I had an in-depth chat with my tutor about were I was up to so far and what needed to come next. The notes above outline what we talked about.

After the chat I have realised that I need to figure out a structure for what I am producing, if I am making a game design document what parts of the overall product am I focusing on? and Why? Another interesting thing that came out of the chat was that I had so far been consumed in the overall picture of the world and instead I should have been focusing on a specific set of people and events. (This is what spurred me on to think about creating a specific level environment that allowed me to explore different character classes.) Also, the theory side of things needs to play a small role but not take up too much time from the design process.

From this I have created a little to-do list that once completed I can begin work on the visual side of the project.

Back Story Part 1

Luke’s Back story Part 1

The above file is a PDF of Luke’s written back story pre-game narrative. It outlines the defining parts of the empires beginning. I have added some comments that will be used to aid my further development. Also at the bottom of the document is an outline of the things Luke needs me to complete to aid his development; these are aside from my main tasks at hand.

 

Development Notes – Brainstorming

30/04/12 – collective brainstorming session between Luke and Myself

Main Empire, needs a name! We are working with approximately 100 years time frame; how this will pan out into the games narrative could happen in two different ways. Either we follow something similar to how Dynasty Warriors allow the player to choose a side and then play as multiple characters from that side, or we choose a specific smaller time frame from the overall back story and concept.

WE decided to exclude all forms of gun-powder, this is because it allows for a different more simpler and specific concept. It allows me to give the visual style a unique approach but also makes things simpler overall, as it means that we don’t have any complications of one side being more advanced than the others due to gun powder. The race advancements are going to be solely down to more basic things like sheer power, amount of forces and race specifics i.e. the nomadic race will be much more agile due to them being hunters and have stronger defenses from the base concept that they separated from the mainland and have lost all contact with other races. the lack of gun powder does pose a problem though as it means that I will have to consider other forms of firearms and projectiles.

This brainstorming session has allowed us to figure out a base of the main empire. Following on with initial ideas that they will reside on an island and slowly branch out to create colonies on the surrounding islands and mainland cities. We concluded that we will be going ahead with the idea highlighted in my basic back story that after the collapse and rebellion, the main city of the Empire which is situated on the original island will go into lock down and block itself off from the outside world. My development of this concept has progressed so that I have created a type of bubble in which the citizens of the city reside, none the wiser of the outside world. Above the bubble rises the skyscrapers of the city, in which the higher class of the Empire live, fully knowledgeable of the rest of the world; this is where the key leaders resides, in the tallest tower overlooking the rest of his empire. To figure out how the bubble was formed in the first place we bounced ideas between us:

Me: During the collapse they bring their forces back – retreat tot he main city? Possibly they pit the leaders against themselves.

Luke: The main leader would only bring the leaders back, he would leave the people fighting the resistance/rebellions.

Me:Dissidence.

Luke: He would deny all communication. shut up shop, close the gates and leave the colonies fighting.

Me: Isn’t that too much of a threat? 1 colony has fallen so the 3 remaining colonies, if they realise that he has abandoned them, would surely band together and simply wipe out the original city.

Luke: So the exterior leaders need to either remain loyal to him or fear him. So possibly he contacts them and tells them that  they need to defeat the resistance to protect the capital.

Conclusion: The main leader becomes weary as he slowly realises that the mainland he has colonised was part of a much bigger race whose capital is situated at the other side of the Northern mountains. This means he is trying to fight wars on both sides, the colonies are becoming consumed by civil war and he is threatened by the mainland.

 

Nomadic Race

Wooden houses are structures based on the sea. Ability to move these structures around separately and join them together, i.e. Dynasty Warriors Chi Bi battle. The houses have no doors, a pool in the floor allows access to the exterior through the sea – this is due to the exterior of the ships being fortified, they are used as defenses bases to attack from with range weapons.

Thatgamecompany’s Jenova Chen on Journey

EDGE issue 240 My 2012, accessed on 25/04/12

Really relevant article in which Thatgamecompany’s Jenova Chen talks about Journey, an awe-inspiring game.

The game is a controlled, emotive experience, that lacks the common multi-player mechanics and interactions allowing for a singular experience.The co-op element isn’t forced – “a true collaboration only happens when both sides are voluntary.” Most co-op games force this collaboration. this is an interesting idea, as Journey has allowed the player to choose whether they want to work in a team or by themselves. This part of the game has been critically reviewed as a wonderful twist on multi-player, but why is it so well received? Possibly it could refer to the theory as to why players like having personal avatars and characters within games. As within Journey you cannot change to character, but you have full control over the multi-player aspect. Overall players want to be able to have some choices within a game; they want to be able to alter the path of the game but stay contained within a set of specific rules. Which is why Journey works so well; “It’s not about overcoming difficulty – it’s about sharing an experience with someone.”

Chen goes on to describe an interesting view on game mechanics, stating: “If someone wants to break the rules, it means the world is not well designed.”. Does this mean that a game designer needs to find a balance to make the game successful.

How am I going to incorporate this into my concept?

I suppose I have already begun to consider it, allowing for alternate paths of narrative to be taken, but are there any other ways? I think I need to look more towards similar game structures so that I can figure out how games in the industry balance the linearity.

Research – Fundamentals of Sociology

Notes written from Fundamentals of Sociology by McNeill, P and Townley, C.

Page 89 – Social Order, Social change and Socialisation

Explains that we learn what is acceptable; social order shows that we conform to generally accepted patterns of behavior. This means that we learn what is expected of us in a certain situation. Does this mean that we always have had social order? I suppose this is what a lot of dystopian and apocalyptic stories are based on – What happens when we lose our main form of social order?

“When groups socialised into different cultures (ways of life) have to live together, social order and stability can come under strain simply because members of the group have different values, customs and attitudes.”

This refers to the idea of generalisation, if within the concept the main city starts to colonise other areas, how would this affect the social order. Looking at direct references to the history of different colonies would help with this.

Page 90 – Self and Society

From birth, the individual or self is part of society, as we can’t survive without others.

Society is made up of people and it is only by interacting with other people that a child develops into a full member of society. What would happen if a child was separated – brought up in solitude?

I guess that this is similar to my current back story, a society is completely cut off from the outside world so the only contact that they know are within the containment. The values and rules built up inside the contained area have been bred into the civilians, so that when the city collapses they will have to integrate into a different type of culture.

Individuals learn from others:

“Values concern what is considered good or bad or desirable or undesirable in a society”

To explain this, human life is a prime example; many cultures have practiced ritual killing, in some cases they have undergone cannibalism, whereas in modern society human life is virtually a universal value.

This is the perfect reason as to why and how the island will wipe all knowledge of the outside world to its inhabitants. All they would need to do is take a selection of the citizens and make them believe that they are the only people left, make them believe that they are protected within the bubble as the rest of the world has fallen into a post-apocalyptic state. Gradually these ideas and values would spread through the citizens as they would conform.

Primary socialisation refers to early socialisation with family as well as later relationships that are intimate.

Secondary socialisation refers to the influence of more impersonal organisations, such as schools, places of work and the media.

Commonsense tells us that order is necessary for society to exist. There are few societies which are completely orderly.

Development Notes – Basic Backstory

25/04/12

After having a couple of chats and realising which bits of our joint research to focus on I came up with this basic back story. I utilised the first hand research from watching civilisation to create a colonial descriptive of the back story. I have posted the actual written back story up onto another blog, this one shall be used to decipher any alterations etc.

The main 4 key stages of the world:

  1. Original, pre-colonial.
  2. During generalisation, colonisation of the empire.
  3. Collapse
  4. Post-Colonial

The main factor that has come out of this conceptualisation is that there will a selection of leaders who will each be in control of a different area of the empire. This is taking reference from the Spanish colonisation of Southern America, where they would send out a certain person to take control of that area and turn it into a colony. This one person would have control over the area but they would also have to report in to the overall leader.

The fact that there are a number of different leaders allows for certain areas to fall before others during the collapse. These acts of the rebellion will induce either fear or inspiration in the other colonies, so depending on their leaders it will affect how this pans out.

This piece of text has been passed over to Luke now so that he can change it to fit in with a better understanding of the political system.

Development Notes 22/04/12

World Ideas Mind map:

Key Notes:

  • The map needs to allow for both a contained society alongside an outside world.
  • The whys and how they are contained need to be explored.
  • Within the contained society, who knows what is outside the barrier?
  • Islands are a good way to contain society, possibly don’t have means to travel to other islands? Explorers?

Chat: “I’m stuck on this idea of it being a contained area” – Me

Concept so far:

  • 1 race is contained within the barrier, possibly on an island.
  • Mix island idea with exploration or with political idea, they need to have a reason to explore in the first place. How does the empire come about?
  • totalitarian – island with strict government in which the citizen know nothing of the outside world. Possibly when they find out, different characters will act in different ways. Some will be pro-containment and pro-government, whilst others rebel?
  • The reason as to why the government has separated itself and created an island is because it was once a larger empire which has now regressed due to an uprising. The border and barrier were created to protect the main city.

 

If there is a rebellion how will the architecture and cities survive? Will they be left to rot away and become overgrown? This thought stemmed whilst I was visiting my sisters garden. It was tided out last year in July and had no weeds at all, now it is nearly a year later and it is overgrown! If it only takes a year of neglect to allow weeds to take control, what will happen in the cities?

 

 

Basic Backstory

Back story as of 25/04/12

­­Generalisation – one base empire that rules between 1/3 to 2/3 of the world, through the method of creating colonies that will eventually become a single unified force. A strict governmental method is created which gives full control over the people to one collective of leaders. In turn this creates unrest of the civilians, although through the use of the strict regiment of all influences, i.e. control over the media, the government will effectively be able to control the thoughts of people. Thus part of the civilians will defend them and fight for them, whilst the other side start a rebellion. An example of this can be seen during the invasion of Southern America where there was a large difference between the Spanish Conquistadores who came to colonise and the natives of the land; this effectively created a rebellion. The difference between the example of Southern America and the current idea is the time zone. We are looking at a much more advanced race than the ones seen during this time period.

 

The colonisation of The Americas is a much more valuable reference than originally planned: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_colonization_of_the_Americas

This Wikipedia page offers valuable information on the Spanish colonisation of the Americas but also offers links to the other European countries that also colonised the area over different time periods.

 

Collapse – possible reasons for this are: civil war, war with another country or a mix of the two.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decolonization_of_the_Americas

If we go down the route of mass colonisation, then the result of the collapse will be similar to decolonisation. Thus the effected areas will seek to become independent of the ruling state. Using The Americas as another example, this was achieved through revolutions in the late 18th and early to mid 19th centuries. These led to both peaceful and violent reconciliations. I suppose this is the initial idea that I had, that not all of the areas under the general rule would necessarily oppose them in such a force that would cause the need for a war.

What would be interesting here is the idea that if there were a number of different leaders, would they have different levels of patience with the people?

Could this possibly result in the difference of collapse over the land, meaning that depending on who was in control of that area would have different effects. Possibly, the first part of the collapse could be in an area where the civilians were fed up with the segregation, and they seek to reclaim the land, it just so happens that the newly stated president of this area is in fact a weak character, whose characteristics fit those of a Trickster. They have come into power through lies and deceit; this means that once the rebellion starts, they have no actual knowledge or ability to inflict the necessary actions to quell it.

A civil war would erupt which due to the lack of battle knowledge the government would fall, this would mean that the rest of the colonies would see this as a victory and inspiration and thus begin to seek their own independence.

 

This idea could relate to the time specific frame for the brief, this would allow me to explore how the original leader characters have a had a knock-on effect to the narrative characters. Also the way that each area falls would help us to get a better understanding of how the environment would change. The difficult bit of this will be that he environments will need to have three states:

 

  • Original before generalisation
  • During colonies, what changes do they make to the infrastructure?
  • Post-decolonisation, what do the individual areas improve on and change? Or do they leave it to decay?

Psychology of Avatars

Edge magazine issue 240, May 2012. Accessed 25/04/2012

Article which looks at why players seem to become attached to characters and avatars in-game.

Highlights:

  • Some choices are down to the game i.e. within the fiction of the game the race of the elves may be better at magic than the race of man/warriors class. So if you want to become a really good mage surely you will choose to be an elf.
  • “Studies have shown that, in general, people create slightly idealised versions of themselves”. The ability to do this effects how much we like and enjoy the game, how immersed we are and how much we identify with the character.
  • There is a theory that appearance affects our mood, “people conform to uniforms given to them”. Even though you may have made a really big bulky character, that tears every one down in his path, the player may alter this to conform to a specific rule etc.
  • Proteus effect – describes the phenomenon where people will change their in-game behaviour based on how they think others expect them to behave. This shows a perfect link to the sociology research I have conducted; societies are formed on individuals learning from each other, knowing what is acceptable etc.

 

This research is something to think about whilst constructing the protagonist for the game. As it will be going down the route of being an RPG game where the player will have control over the skill set of the character. Thus the playable character will need to be considered to make the player build the connection with them.

Game design bible outlines

As I have realised that I need some way to checklist the bits of work that I am doing, I have decided to follow a basic structure for a game design bible. This is due to my constant switching between different parts of the process, in which I end up getting confusing and thinking that I haven’t done some stuff.

I found a really useful and in depth article called Game Design in Six Easy Steps by Francois Laramee on gamedev.net. It gives valuable information on the types of elements that go into each step of the Game Design. It is however for a big production whereas I need it for a small simple level, so some of it isn’t relevant.

Design Treatment – 4 to 8 page description of what kind of product you would like to do and what you need to do it.

  • Genre, key features
  • Short description of the experience you want to give the player, this includes FP, 3rdP, linear or not
  • Look and feel of the game, includes visual design aspects as well as the type of gameplay
  • What are the major characters/units/game pieces?
  • Target audience
  • What platform are you developing for?

Preliminary design document:

  • Tech specifications
  • Backstory, including a storyboard for the games FMV intro
  • Cast of characters: player characters and their unique talents
  • List of the games environments and the missions taking place in each. About 1-2 pages of general info on unique characteristics of each mission
  • Special ammo etc
  • Enemies, what defines them? Endurance, hit potential, type of behaviour.
  • Lives, health, resurrections and tagging between player characters.
  • Player characters move style of combat?

Graphic Bible:

  • Style sheets and colour schemes for characters. Generally 4-10 different views of the character to guide the animators and 3D modellers in maintaining consistency.
  • Style sheets for major objects, vehicles and props.
  • Maps of levels and environments.

After reading this I kind of wish that I had seen it before I started this brief; there is a lot of work!

All in all, a design treatment should not require more than 100 to 150 person/hours of work; 75 if it doesn’t include any graphics. If you put more work than that into it, you are wasting your time.”

 

Basically I need to crack on, pronto!

I also found another much simple GDD Template, which I have outlined to what I believe is relevant for my brief; taking into account that I am focusing it on one level of the game.

  1. Game Name
  2. Concept
  3. Feature set
  4. Genre
  5. Target audience
  6. Game flow summary – how does the player move through the game?
  7. Look and feel – visual style/basic look and feel of the game
  8. Project Scope – number of locations, levels, NPC’s, weapons etc
  9. Gameplay and Mechanics – game progression, objectives, play flow, what are the rules of the game, physics, movement/interaction, combat, economy.
  10. Story setting and character – backstory, plot elements, game progression, cut scenes, game world, character, levels,
  11. Game Art

My conclusions from looking at these two game design documents is that I will succeed at this brief if I simply outline which bits I need to do in detail and which ones can be less considered. This means that as I am focusing on a single level of the game, instead of going into masses of detail about all the levels and how they pan out I should look at what comes before and after mine and leave it at that. Basically I am focusing on bits and bobs and then giving it some context.

So, which parts are the main focus???

Architecture References: Stone

All references and images taken from: Dernie, D, (2003) Stone Architecture:London; Laurence King Publishing

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Key factors from this book:

  • Page 17, high mountain people who live on the left hand side of the map will have some form of structure like this. Possibly something to do with religion. Also, a notable factor from could be the traditional style of the stone structure, taking reference for the Empire.
  • We want to incorporate some sort of glass, but after finding that really thin pieces of marble could be used as pieces of glass then this could be a viable option. Especially considering that the Empire have built up a city completely out of this material.
  • Gabions possibly used by the tech people in the north, some form of primary defence along the coast.

Architecture References: Wood

All images and refs are from: Slavid, R, (2005) Wood Architecture: London; Laurence King Publishing.

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Originally this book was chosen to influence the culture and architecture of the Sea Race, but upon further consideration the features within it were much more modern; thus it has become a relevant point of reference for the other races.

Key factors from this book:

  • Sea people take a mixture of water and wood elements to create their housing.
  • One race, most likely the Sea People will use some form of living architecture as seen on page 21 of the book.
  • Sea people houses/ boats act as defensive structures.
  • Page 137, idea for the bubble structure over the capital of the empire. Structure is supported through various pillars and forms as an arch over the world island.
  • A mixture of wood and stone architecture will be applied within the empire, they begin with fully stone structures and after a low supply of the material begin to rebuild and improve with wood.
  • Page 186 shows a good reference for what I intend the central tower of the capital city to look like. It is a mixture of wood and stone, that features a very harsh appearance due to the straight contours of the structure. This style of architecture is what the Empire should be made up of, big skyscraper like buildings that look menacing.
  • Can the Sea People alter their ships/structures? Some form of slits/blinds that can move to allow for archers etc.

Options for specific subject area

My first crit went well but it did bring up an interesting question: I need to focus myself more.

So I decided to outline a little mind map of my options for the subject specific area. My main focus was on the relationship between the player and the character, from here I stemmed out to the three key areas of research that I have looked at so far. After doing some more ideas on them I realised that the three areas all link up. They all coexist to allow the player to have a unique relationship to the character. This means that instead of focusing my attention to one I should utilise my research and apply it to the development.

How we play games?

Brian Howe: You’re Playing it Wrong

This Edge issue 239 article looks at how players take different approaches within games. Should we all start to realise that if the kingdom is in mortal threat, spending the hero’s times doing side quests isn’t actually helping anyone!

Howe gives a rather interesting article that outlines in plain sight the general set-up of an RPG’s questline:

You get sent by a highly regarded main sub-character to take on something of great importance, something that needs to be done sooner rather than later. But alas on your way to this matter of importance you run into some poor little girl whose family has been ravaged by bandits, so you end up taking her to some form of safety. This travel leads you to a town in which five new side-quests are started from NPC’s, and thus you have probably forgotten all about the great threat to the land.

Have no fear though!

This is a game so the actual ‘great matter of importance’ will surely only get triggered once you enter the quest zone!

It seems that over the course of the RPG/free roam games I have played this is the general approach, the designers give the player an option, in which they gain full control over where they go and which quests they undertake. The question is does this play a vital part in the overall concept of a game?

On one side it seems a very odd way to ‘pad it out’, instead of getting on with the main missions a player will undertake less important tasks. In terms of the concept there are two ways to look at this. The free-roam aspect will create a sense of a realistic world, where in the player is able to take control of an avatar or preset character. Side quests often, but not always, allow a much deeper understanding of the actual fiction to the environment. They allow the player to gain more information about how the world works in terms of the conceptual ideas and values as opposed to the mechanics seen through the in-game physics; this in theory will give a higher immersive level.

On the other side, the lack of actual time constraints hinders the concept, because in real life if there is an imminent threat it would need to be dealt with straight away. So, by giving the player the option to choose, combined with a lack of game mechanics that allow time constraints on quests, results in a disconnection between the fiction and the player; this is because it wouldn’t happen like that in real life.

Overall I think this is down to the media itself, video games are blessed because they can actually allow the player take up the power of choice. They are also cursed because this choice often means that they have to leave out valuable things that create a realistic sense of immersion within a world.

In terms of taking this knowledge into my current conceptual project, I think that I need to consider more how this will pan out into a site specific level. Thus allowing my to create a small version of the world and look into details how the player will interact. Another key thing is how much the player needs to know on the actual back story etc. When we look at Skyrim, the multitudes of books found within this game give the player so much information on how the concept works, it makes the game feel real to the player so they become more immersed. Saying this I should consider what types of information actually need to be revealed to the player at the key points for the narrative to flow.

Tips and Tricks

Game Career Guide has been a constant help throughout my continual development and I  have found yet another little gem.

One of their features has Gideon Shbeeb, a student at The Guildhall at SMU, pick apart the narrative structure of Bioware’s original Mass Effect depicting why it succeeds as an interactive story.I am going to take notes from the article to enable my development.

One of the key reasons it is an interactive story is the main character, Commander Shepherd is a typical protagonist from Bioware, but the thing that grabs the player is the immediate customisation. Not only are they allowed to customised the visual aspects they have to choose class specifications. This allows the player to customise the gameplay; this level of control influences the narrative, are you playing a good character or not? The narrative needs to fit around the protagonist, so if the game allows for multiple options of gameplay these need to reflect in the story.

Shbeeb states that the strongest elements of the games narrative come from the player character relationship, the most effective of which is the players attachments and emotional believability to the story and its characters. This means that to create a good narrative you need to have an understanding of what makes players attached to a game.

The least successful element is the exploration, some areas within the game are accessable but these are unnecessary. They ability to explore them hinders the narrative flow, as it allows the player to get distracted. I think this is a very hard thing to manage, especially when trying to do an RPG game, especially with the ever-increasing demand for longer levels. Within RPG games players seek a sense of a free-roam world, but to make a successful narrative that is enjoyable you need to give it some sort of structure. A good example of this can be seen in Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, the games structure of narrative is entirely down to the player but the world creation has given it a sense of stability. All the main towns are joined through set obvious paths, they mainly all feature the same set of cobble texture that notifies the player that this is a main road.

Shbeeb’s article: HERE