Research

http://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2012/11/07/dear-esther-39-s-dan-pinchbeck-talks-amnesia-a-machine-for-pigs.aspx

Interview with Dan Pinchbeck about Amnesia a Machine for Pigs. Really good section on the engaged experience of Amnesia games.

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Ref – Church Wales

Some more photos that have come in handy for the brief. This selection is of photos of a church  near Beaumaris, Anglesey, Wales.

These have come in handy for the area around the shrine within my concept.

Defining the project

AS I have been cracking on with my project I have found that now I have begun my visual practical work that I have hit a brick wall. What type of storyboard am I producing? This is something that I did not outline within my statement of intent and now I am struggling because of it.

SB rough gameplay asylum startOne thing that I have found interesting but too difficult to string a decent concise story out of is Gameplay storyboards. I enjoyed the process of developing these tests like the one to the left and playing around with the idea of how the gameplay would begin. One of the limiting parts of this was the idea of everything being seen through the player characters eyes in first person. For me this was the most challenging part as I struggled with the shot progression, and a lot of the time composition was ignored as you had to take into account that the player could see everything and move about everywhere, looking at things from different angles. A part that I did like was the creation of level progression, and the consideration of how you could lead the player through an environment.

Overall my negative and positive points were too extreme so I tried out a different type of SB Asylum startstoryboard, cut scenes. I enjoyed this style of storyboard but I also found it similar to the gameplay one that it was limiting and hard to put a concise story together. This is simply because you miss big sections where it cuts off to gameplay, which for my concept of an interactive narrative a hell of a lot happens in the gameplay. So this didn’t really work out either.

I then turned my attention to conceptual storyboard like the one on the right hand side. These were extremely fun to do and very creative, as I was always thinking  about composition and player progression. Plus I didn’t feel restrained by shot limitations, whereas on the other two I had to conform to the HD 1920×1080 resolution. On the conceptual storyboard I drew whatever size I wanted it and didn’t really think about the consequences.

So By this point I have dabbled in three different styles of storyboard and found pro’s and con’s for each. My next move has been developed and decided due to the consideration of these pro’s and con’s. So to progress I will concentrate on a narrative storyboard that maintains a fixed frame size to support my animatic work. The bulk of the storyboard will charter the story progression through the level and focus on how and why Parker explores the terrain. The main body of the storyboard will showcase a conceptual take of the narrative, with consideration to cut scenes within the game and possible gameplay sections. Overall the storyboard should express visually how the story is an interactive form and how this transcribes to the narrative.

Character Ref – Michael Myers

Michael Myers is the main character and antagonist from Halloween, a horror film series spanning 34 years. The franchise contains 10 feature films all focusing on Micheal’s story.

Key refs:

  • The mask – it’s meaning, and the man behind it.
  • Slasher – to do or not to do?
  • Psychological background and upbringing of a serial killer.

“If a character has no face, his face is that mask.” – Rob Zombie

One of the key points of the inspiration for my indie practice from the halloween franchise is the use of the main character Micheal Myers. His mask and the idea of hidding his face is key to the horror/psychological side of his character. I found a documentary that describes the many masks of Myers, which offers up some useful info from the actors, director etc:

A key thing that popped up from this video is that the actor and director wanted to emphasise some form of character behind the mask. The initial utilisation of a mask in all mediums is effectively to create a barricade that shows no emotion, or a fixed set emotion. This theory could be linked back to Commedia dell’art. Within Halloween they effectively have allowed the character of Myers to become more than the initial concept of a ‘shape’. This is done through the use of shot composition and the actor’s ability to express emotions through simply his eyes. On a side note this technique of showing emotive values through simply the actor’s eyes reflects back to Les yeux sans visage(Eyes Without a Face).

Another intersting part is the section with the clown mask. I especially like the shot where the mask is slightly offset on the face, so that Myer’s eyes look jagged. I think this tiny offset to what we know as a typical, usual human face makes this even more scarier. This is one of the main reasons why on my design for Bubbles we have this distorted and unmirrored face. Especially to heighten the reasons as to why he may have wanted a mask in the first place; similar to Myers near the beggining of the film when he states that he wants the mask to ‘hide his uglyness’, to hide his face. The other key part about this lack of symettry is that when the mask is ofset it is harder to see the person’s eyes. This being a key point of my struggle with Bubbles’ development. I think that it is more beneficial to have the mask offset so that the player can hardly see his eyes, as this invokes a sense of unease and confucion within the viewer. Eyes are the key to human emotion, and if we can’t see someone’s eyes we find it harder to read them, and understand what is going on in their head. This relates to horror perfectly and it is showcased in loads of films. Imagine that you are beign chased by a villain, they corner you and you manage to grab a piece of scrap iron to use as a weapon. You can’t see their eyes, only a half illuminated mask, that is expressionless, is visible. What option would you choose: Fight for your life, Plead with them or Run? The lack of understanding of the villain makes it immpossible for the viewer to know what is the best option. By knowing more about them for instance we could say that the look in their eyes has some form of compassion, it isn’t just a ruthless killer, this means that the best option would be to plead with them.

A really good example of this is shown in Hostel 3 HERE. Warning extreme violence. On a complete side note, this is actually quite intersting to see how similar this is to the scene in Les yeux sans visage.Completely different in approach and style of horror; Hostel chose to show the gore, whereas Les yeux sans visage opted to hide the gore and allow the viewer to imagine what was happening.

Asylum Beach Inspiration/Reference

 

After settling on the beach as the start of my concept for the Asylum level design I looked back over some reference photos that I took during the summer break. I visited Anglesey, which has some really amazing coastlines and beaches. These photographs and even just my memories and jotted down notes of the holiday and its rugged unusual terrain really inspired the development of the coastal start to the level. I utilised the internet as well to refresh my memory on some of the unusual places that I visited one of which was Ynys Llanddwyn. It is an island that houses a very strange lava rock formation and two lighthouses. It is also situated on the coast of the massive forest; Newborough Forest that spans the entire coastline of a white sand beach.

Capture

My memory of this place is one of isolation, you are completely separated off from the rest of the world. On one side you have the ocean and on the other you have an intimidating forest. Especially because of the expanse and stretch of the beach at Newborough, even as you are walking along it you hardly see anybody else. It is a completely isolated place. This got me thinking about the layout of the beach and the idea that a forest backs on to the beach. If this is the case then as I said before the player only has one of two options, they either run along the coastline hoping to find something or they head inland through the forest. The instigation of the surrounding has already set the player on a certain path to follow, without any need of additional characters showing them the way. Plus the idea of isolation that is found on this particular shoreline is another interesting area to explore as the concept I am dealing with is interested in the horror genre and this feeds off of the idea of isolation.

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

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

Narration Research

http://www.brocku.ca/english/courses/2F55/pt_of_view.php
The above link is a website that I found that started my research into narration. It offers up a useful insight into the various sections that need to be considered when constructing any form of narrative.

Form this I continued on my research with the book, Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames.
Harvard reference: Batman, C, (2007), Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames. Massachusetts, USA; Charles River Media.

Some useful things were found here
to get my narrative development started. One main section being the 3 main parts of game narrative, these are: immersion, reward and identification. If these are the key things to consider then I need a narrative that will incorporate these aspects. Another key theme is the idea of narrative experience, this is how the writer understands that the nature of a videogame allows the player to choose their own path. This experience is also contained by the writer as they strive to guide the player through the game world.
I think that my method so far has been incorporating these aspects subconsciously. Now I think about it the idea of narrative experience within my concept has been informed by my dissertation research in interactive stories. This has added to my development of the game narrative as one of the key parts of the genre of horror is how to invoke a sense of fear into the player. After my research into horror theory I found out that this happened within all moving image media by the use of set script pieces. For example within Dead Space, we see challenges that the player faces falling into this, as you walk upto a door, you see a person stood down the corridor, before you know it they walk away never to be seen again. This type of technique invokes fear because it makes the player question the reality of the game world.
Another key area within the book highlights the idea of narrative and techniques that games use to make the player stay aware of what is required of them. This is done through various ways, one of which is the use of internal monologue. In which the player character will remind themselves of what it is that needs to be done. Considering me narrative arc so far I am interested in utilizing this element of internal monologue and possibly showcasing it in my comic book version of the storyboard’s. This will allow me to fulfill the element of scriptwriting that accompanies the narrative.

Sound Consideration: The Last of Us

http://www.1up.com/previews/last-of-us-restraint-create-tension

Simply written up notes from the 1up.com cover story: The Last of Us Employs Phenomenal Restraint to Create Tension.

The Last of Us is an upcoming third-person survival action-adventure game set to be released in 2013. The setting of the game is a post-apocalyptic world, where the player character traverses a dilapidated city overrun with greenery. The overall soundtrack of the game was developed by Gustavo Santaolalla, an oscar winning composer, who is known for his emotional work. In terms of the game this is an important factor as the basis of the story is about a father-daughter like relationship between the two main characters.

Within the article it focusses on the sound design of The Last of Us, as it takes the familiar approach to a lack of sound, much used in the horror genre.

First off the article credits NAughty Dog’s previous endeavors: the Unchartered series, stating that the score for it was undoubtedly fitting the concept of an adventure game. Within The Last of Us they have used the technique much seen in the horror genre, lack of sound.

It delivers “a post-apocalyptic world that is nearly completely devoid of music altogether”.

This adds to the atmosphere of the environment, making the concept of a city devoid of life believable. Within the horror genre I have found out that this is used a lot, and it is often combated with a swell of music that signs the start of a fight. Within The Last of Us, they have stepped away from this cliché;

“Even when the action kicks in and Joel is forced to viciously murder an oncoming attacker, the game abstains from queuing a cliché “fight for your life” tune.”

The lack of music makes the minor sounds stand out, this invokes tension and describes the daily life that the characters face.

“That silence helped solidify the feeling of being completely alone in a strange, forgotten world.”

The game utilises sound design to make the player believe in the world. they are faced with a city devoid of life, so why would there be sound? I guess in away this could be compared to the sound design in the Fallout trilogy. Something to note is that it used general, obvious sounds to heighten the tension of the dramatic conflict scenes. i.e. Laboured breathing, creaking floorboards etc.

Another interesting thing from the article is the game’s depiction of violence.

“It’s far more difficult to listen to the game’s brutal violence than it is to watch. The sounds of Joel beating a man to death with a pipe are able to hauntingly replicate reality much stronger than modern technology visually represents the murder.”

This depiction is often shown with a sense of the morality, how would you react to having to  take another man’s life? Which refers back to one of the development teams inspirational references, The Road. I find the depiction of violence interesting, as not only does it inject morality but also it takes away the general game progression of: to get to the goal, we need to kill everyone in our way!!!!

Game Analysis: F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. is a psychological horror game series best known for it child antagonist Alma Wade. Here are my key notes: Game Analysis F.E.A.R

One of the main things that has informed me from looking at F.E.A.R. is how to pace the narrative. For instance the first game features a twist in which the primary threat turns out to be a family relation to the player character. The method of storytelling within F.E.A.R. looks very similar to that of Bioshock, in which the player is given little or no information at the start and then is dripped a little at a time. I think this method maintains interest in the story and keeps the player guessing.

The video below sums up pretty much how the scare tactics within F.E.A.R. work. Something that I find interesting is the use of combat-less enemies and projections. These are the enemies that appear briefly but require no weapon use from the player character; or even the player characters weapons are often useless against these. The idea for this type of enemy is to infect the player with the idea that even though they have the upper hand as they have a weapon, that not everything is affected by weaponry. It adds the aspect of caution to the player as they are aware that they are not invisible or in fact immortal.

Character creation – Parker, protagonist

“Characters need to be created with the needs of the narrative in mind.” – Chris Bateman.
When creating my character of Parker, I constantly kept in mind the fact that he was our protagonist and such he needed to be a character that the player would want to inhabit throughout the story. To achieve this I refined Parker’s character so that he would be more accessible and interesting to a wider audience. This happened after I had developed my first draft of his character sheet. In which I outlined some elements of his character. The main feedback that I received about him, was the occupation, background and his persona. I received feedback on these after handing out the character sheet to a mixture of people that I work with. Some of the participants are affluent gamers and some detest the subject so I managed to get a wide degree of feedback. Plus the age range within the group spans 40 years. Generally the main issues with Parker were his general persona, the fact that he is a rich, handsome business man that has very nationalist views. This degree of his personality had put off the majority of the viewers as they found that they couldn’t relate to him. To combat this, I altered the character sheet so that Parker was more of an average Joe, instead of being a super hero style of character. This allowed me to develop his character to fit with the protagonist in the horror genre. In this genre we see a protagonist that has some faults that they need to overcome to achieve a positive outcome in the story. Although I kept his occupation and sense of morality as it helped push the type of guy he was, I added in a lot of friendlier aspects to him. I.e the dependency on his family, his discontent at work and general dislike at the spending habits of the rich. He knows he is from a rich background and he has maintained his business formal occupation to appease his father but at the same time he does not believe that wealth is superior.
Another aspect of Parker that is quite important is the flaws in his personality. Without these it would not have been believable for him to repress his childhood and live out the events of the narrative. So, in a way he needed to be portrayed as unstable and unhappy yet at the same time have some strong personality aspects so that the player believes that it is possible for him to overcome his demons and suceed as this is what we strive for within a game.

The power of cutscenes

http://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2012/11/01/surprise-protagonists-a-new-perspective.aspx

I’m having a bit of a game informer obsession at the moment but it does have a lot of really useful articles on currently. Just found this one that goes into detail about how cut scenes can give a new perspective to a narrative. They allow the player to see the story through another characters eyes, sometimes not that of the protagonist.

This shifting perspective is a two-headed beast. While in one instance it may give us valuable insight into the mind of a villain or compatriot, another might make us miss the former character all the more. The line between dynamic storyline and critical misstep is a thin one. However, good writing can widen that line, and the games that have are hard to forget.

I guess if I decide on doing a cut scene storyboard I will need to consider which characters will be portrayed and doe the game allow for other playable characters to be introduced within a cut scene.

A tad random…

http://www.computerarts.co.uk/blog/gs2012-christian-schmeer-do-not-look-inside-123394

This post is a bit random but it has some relevance.

I found this rather interesting little piece of art work on computer arts online. It is an installation and book by Christian Schmeer, called Do Not Look Inside.

One of the things that drew me to it was the use of negative suggestion to invoke a sense of intrigue within the viewer. This to me is quite interesting, especially if you apply it to game design.

Say for instance you tell the player not to do something they will automatically want to do it, unless they are the type of person that analyses it and thinks that it will be a trap. I know that what Schmeer has produced isn’t necessarily dealing with the same type of design as myself but it is all revolving around interactivity and suggestive thought. This notion of negative suggestion could be a way to confuse the player into what is actually the intended outcome. Telling somebody not to do something inspires intrigue and intrigue creates obsession. This is a theme that I need to consider for my concept, and pretty much my practice in general.

Primary Research – Temple Newsam: Grounds/Colour Palette/Inspiration

This is my first post as part of my Temple Newsam primary research visit. I chose to visit the historic house to gain some inspiration for the childhood home/estate level of my concept. The visit was particularly fruitful as you will see in my next couple of posts.

So we begin with the overall feel of the Estate, the grounds, outhouses, and general autumnal colour scheme displayed on a brisk winter morning.

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The overall feel of the grounds at Temple Newsam was quite tranquil. I went on a Monday morning and it was really quiet, I think I only met around 10 other people. This lack of contact with others led to a general feeling of isolation; which was intensified by the stillness in the air. The grounds are made up of a mixture of open grassed areas and a large woodland section intermingled with buildings and visitor attractions. This mixture is quite nice, I especially like the run up to the house and the general layout of the grounds. The mixture of sloping hills accompanied by the grandeur of the house compositionally is lovely.

Straight road leading to the house.

A great thing about Temple Newsam is the lead up to the house. A long straight-ish road leads you up through the gate houses and around the back of the house.

This long walk/drive is very scenic, but it kind of builds tension. As I was walking along I realised that a long driveway up to a centralised house can be quite daunting. It gives the player time to think as they approach this old abandoned house. Plus the symmetry used on this lead up with the trees either side, is a really nice composition. It feels quite imposing, and I can just imagine it within a game where the point of interest on the radar would be straight ahead, willing the player to traverse the long stretch to the house.

Temple Newsam Gate Houses

The gate houses were also very inspirational. I have been to Temple Newsam loads of times before, but never have I noticed that there are two gatehouse’s. Upon closer inspection I realised that they have different plaques next to the doors; one is the East Lodge, the other the West Lodge. My initial thoughts for the gatehouse, is a possible start for the level. One of the things i do like about them, is the fact that there are two of them, I think a lot of the structures and walkways around Temple Newsam relies heavily on symmetry. This links back to the above note about the corridors of trees dotted around the Estate, as in it is very grand but also daunting and imposing.

Dirt path, runs alongside the road leading to the Mansion.

My general feeling of isolation, and lack of pretty much any living organism was broken when I came across a Magpie. This section of my exploration of Temple Newsam was highlighted with a video recording I did to monitor the sound of the environment. I came to the conclusion that the player character would likely by traversing a dirt path as opposed to a road around the general grounds of this level, so I set about a very shaky recording of my walk along this dirt path. The sounds that I got are actually really useful, you can hear my footsteps, crunching of leaves below my feet, shuffling leaves, a slight wind and a random encounter I had with a passerby.

The actual recording plays out quite well, I shall describe it below:

A car passes by, heavy footsteps, and a slight noise that sounds like my breathing can be heard. The wind is quite loud, plus there are parts in which I am sniffling, evidence of the cold weather. A playing field is to my right, the road to my left, as i continue i notice a Magpie walking along near a tree to my right. I zoom in to observe it, this makes me think about the type of animals that would be present in the level, I jot down “Wildlife, -birds, blackbirds, magpies -small birds, – squirrels – flies, buzzing around face”. I watch the Magpie as the sound of children begins to appear, along with a really faint humming. This is from a group consisting of two adult men and two children passing by. I turn the camera back round as one of the men shouts for the children to catch up with them. I continue along the path, crunching leaves as I go.

Key things from the video:

  • a bird of some sort could grab the viewers attention, which distracts them from another entity appearing down the road; hence the man shouting at his kids.
  • wildlife, could include birds, flies etc.
  • the general sound scape is fairly silent, this links to the research i have been doing into horror games, the soundtrack is silent to add tot he isolation. The player seeks any noise aside from the normal, which could link to the man humming and shouting???

Right onwards, another thing that stood out in the general grounds was the other buildings. Now I wasn’t going to include any other building in my level but I think they add to the grandeur of the Estate. plus they invoke a feeling of history, especially stables, because in the olden days stables will have been needed, now not so much. The link to history is very important in horror as it allows the viewer to assume that it is haunted. I have found also that within horror games this happens a lot, in the sense of abandoned areas.

In terms of the colour palette for my level, I am looking at a similar, washed out version of my photographs. It is very autumnal, a mixture of reds, yellows, greens and oranges. I think maybe it is a little bit too bright for a horror game scenario but I do like the eccentric flashes of bright colours within the photos. So I will maybe have to find a middle ground, possibly have a dull washed out general palette with random trees being overly bright. this would add to the illusion of the dream-like state our player character is in.

A corridor of trees leads tot he house.

Research: Silent Hill Environment/Characters

Silent Hill is a staple of the survival horror genre. It is a series that has spanned 13 years, with 9 video games, various printed media and 2 feature films.

An important part of Silent Hill’s make up is the characters, they are portrayed as ‘everyday’ men, instead of combat-trained protagonists. This is one of the reason’s that I have chosen to use this as reference for character/environment design over Resident Evil.

Another key reason that this is a good game to reference is due to the initial production of it. At first it was proposed by Konami to be a game that appealed to the United States for financial reasons, but after the development team realised the scope they wanted, they abandoned the limits of Konami’s initial plan and decided to make a game that would appeal to the emotions of the player.

So shall we start with the environments…

The Silent Hill game worlds mostly consist of the foggy American rural town of Silent Hill. This town is completely fictitious and a dark alternative dimension called the Otherworld. The Otherworld resides half between reality and the alternate dimension, which is why the player character often see shifts between the two worlds. All of the environments are loosely based on general locations that a town would have i.e. school, church, subway station etc. The horror aspect comes from the player characters unconscious minds, mental state and innermost thoughts, as these projections appear as if they were real in the Otherworld.

A lot of the games scare factor comes from the lighting within the levels, a torch is often needed to navigate your way around the locations. This is a great way to induce fear in the player, the fact that you can only light up a certain amount of the screen, and the rest is left unseen to the human eye. This adds to the tension created by other visual effects and the soundtrack. A good example of how Silent Hill utilises the torch can be seen here:

I think the torch is a good factor in the horror as it is linked to light and in semoitics light is positive, it leads the way. I also think that the torch radius offers up a sense of isolation to the player character.

The other main thing about the environments within the Silent Hill games is that they have a very dark palette. Even the exterior of the town is misted with thick fog, rendering any sunlight practically non-existent. These settings allow for a believable torch scenario, but also it shows the kind of colour palette that I need to consider. A lot of the environments are typical horror, blood stained rooms, corpses dotted around, any thing that takes all of the safety away. I guess the main thing is the fact that it is designed to be an alternate world, so the law of physics can be denied.

Also, final point on the environments, they are often quite claustrophobic, very confined areas that are clogged up with random debris etc. Does this add to the tension, when you try to escape, you have to battle with labyrinthine levels that repeat textures to confuse the player?

Sounds and Gameplay…

Another highlight of Silent Hill is the soundtrack, and the use of sounds to scare the player. Within  the first 3 games this method/scare tactic was used a lot, which can be seen in this top 10 scariest moments video:

The above video is a user video from youtube, the amount of likes to dislikes suggests that the overall public agrees with the list. A lot of the scares in the video are produced by sounds. For example, a locker door banging against itself, highlights to the player that something is there, something is telling them to go over tp the locker and investigate. The player does so, approaching slowly as the locker clatters against itself, building up the tension. As the player builds up the courage they open the door, only to see an empty blood covered locker, the tension subsides. Then the player heads towards the exit, as they do so a loud bang occurs as a dead body falls from a locker. This makes up of building tension for a fake scare, then introducing a new horror, is key to most horror media, as seen in the Film, horror reader.

A good thing about the Silent Hill gameplay is the use of the interactive movie side of things, they offer up the scare during mini cutsene’s this allows control over the composition and what the player can see etc. I have noted this as an important factor for the horror genre during my film theory reading, I guess Silent Hill is an example of how this can be achieved within a game.

Now for the protagonist….

Two main recurring factors about the player character exist within the Silent Hill series of video games:

  • they are depicted as an ‘everyday’ man
  • they are searching for their lost loved one

What I find interesting about the protagonist across the games is that only one of them is female. I wonder why this is? Is it down to the target audience primarily being male? Or is it down to the journey that the player character takes? A male character fits highly into the stereotype of a journey to protect, and to save.

Research: Derren Brown Apocalypse

Derren Brown’s Apocalypse aired last Friday, it is a 2 part tv show that documents an experiment to change a mans life. Within the programme Derren Brown and his team set up a staged scenario in which one man is made to believe that the world has ended.

Whilst I was watching this programme, I realised that the reactions of the victim Steven could help my independent practice. The whole experiment is set up to make him believe that the world has ended, this is done through various small set that he is confined to; plus the help of a lot of actors. The main relevance of this is that the victim is experiencing these events within his reality, he believes that this is actually happening to him. For my psychological horror game some of his reactions, expressions and motivations may be relevant to my protagonist. Within the games I have been using as reference a lot of ‘fear’ is shown through the characters reaction to things, which as a viewer these immerse within the experience. I guess that I should take a few pointers from the victim of Apocalypse to help me get into the mindset of someone who resides in a horror game world.

Research – Silent Hill 4:The Room

This piece of research was another gem that was mentioned by Jade during one of our character development chats at the beginning of the project. I have only just found the time to start researching around it.

Silent Hill 4:The Room is the fourth installment in the Silent Hill series. It revolves around protagonist Henry’s apartment which has holes dotted around it that lead into the games levels. The main relevance of this game to my concept is the interpretation of alternative dream worlds. As described above the protagonist is suffering from nightmares and at the start of the game has been locked in his apartment for five days. He then notices a hole in the bathroom wall, which of course he travels through into subsequent silent-hill-styled worlds.

I have not player this game before so I have been resorting to youtube to find walk-throughs of some of the games key parts, below is my analysis:

Part 1 – Locked in an apartment.

So we begin by waking up on the apartment floor as our protagonist Henry, this is done with a first person camera so intially it makes the player feel disorientated; you can see the fan spinning above you but this is the first thing you see, so it is not clear as to what has happened so far, why are we on the floor? The player is then forced to get a first person look at the nightmares as to which Henry has been having, this nightmare switches between first person and other camera angles. This makes it feel like a cut scene but also heightens the tension, choppy changes between different angles.

An initial key part of the opening scenes of this game is that it highlights lots of basic things to make the player grasp the idea of isolation. Henry, checks the phone, looks outside, checks the lock on the door, all of these added up make the player begin to become intrigue, why are we locked in here?

As a starter level it paces itself slowly, minimal scares, a lot of information to intrigue the player, and minimal sounds apart from when key progress is made by the player.

Part 2 – Through the bathroom rabbit hole

the player begins to navigate the narrow pipe aiming for the light at the end of the tunnel. This crawling is laced with a horribly repetitive shuffling sound. The first person camera takes up the style of an old film camera, with flickering lines appearing on it, it also starts jumping in places ever so slightly. Is this referring to the idea that it is a dream? Or is it simply to make the player aware that they are watching these events?

Upon entering the light, Henry is then seen traveling down an escalator into a subway station. He runs along the corridor to find his first companion, Cynthia. It turns out that Cynthia is dreaming as well. Seconds later she stops the player progression as she runs into the toilet saying she is going to throw up. Unwillingly the player is forced into a cut scene that means that they have to wait for her instead of trusting their gut feeling and running off. In my opinion this is how I would react, this set up is conspicuous and I think that the designer have made it into a cut scene to force you to stay put. Not surprisingly 3 rabid dogs emerge from the mens toilet, allowing the player their first taste of combat.

After this point the player is allowed to forget about Cynthia and progress by themselves. The soundtrack thus far is mainly silent; the only sound as you explore is the echoing footsteps of Henry and added sound effects increase when combat arises.

Once you wonder about and kill a few more rabid dogs you can enter the bathroom in which Cynthia went and upon entering a hole in the wall you are teleported back to the apartment.

Part 3 – Skip to our first lose as a player character.

This section of the game involves Cynthia’s death, it is the first tragedy that has struck our protagonist and the setup of it is quite interesting.

The whole motivation of the previous levels is to inspire the player to care about Cynthia and want to save her. She continually will call out to Henry as he travels around asking for help, and subsequently telling him to hurry. This method makes the player feel a need to progress quickly to save her in time. I haven’t considered this as a motivation method before but it is one that can be used interestingly. In Silent Hill 4, we see Henry’s hopes and dreams of saving Cynthia crushed as he finds her dead, this impacts the player in one of two ways. They will either get the intended outcome and be affected as Henry is, this makes them inspired to ‘try harder next time’ and not let anyone else die. On the other hand, they will have no attachment to the character of Cynthia and merely consider the attempt to save her a waste of time and then simply get on with the game. Why is this?

I have gained a lot of good information from looking at this game but the more I look at it the more frustrated I get. Simple things, that should have been added into it, to make it more believable, don’t exist. For example, when you are in the apartment, you can walk up to the door, look through the peep hole and see a passerby. If this happened in real life, surely the person locked in the room would shout, bang on the door, do something…anything!!! Henry merely looks out at the person and then walks away, at no point in the footage I have seen does he even attempt to escape. For me this is really jarring, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

In retrospect a very good thing about this game is the idea of the Otherworlds, these are the dreamlike worlds that Henry enters as he travels through the hole in the bathroom.

There are seven Otherworlds all of which link to the antagonist Walter, for a list of these visit here: http://silenthill.wikia.com/wiki/Walter%27s_Otherworlds

This idea of the Otherworlds relating to the antagonist and representing ghosts of his past is quite interesting and bares a resemblance to what I am trying to achieve. I guess if anything Silent Hill 4:The Room is a good reference for this.

Inspiration – The Little Fears

Near the beginning of my brief I was pointed in the direction of The Little Fears  by my peer/collaborator Jade. She informed me of the youtube channel that held a mass of short stories all themed around horror.

The Little Fears Youtube Channel

I have been listening to the variety of short stories that they offer over the past couple of weeks. Sometimes simply listening to them to whilst I work or even analysing them for tips. Overall I don’t think it has played a massive role in my brief but it does have a nice insight into the subtlety of sound. Each video possesses little sound clips of what the narrator is describing. For instance in One In The Oven, where the story revolves around old video footage, there is a slight sense of white noise in the background. These little hints at the narrative add to the tension built up by the viewer.

A good start for my sound consideration!

Protagonist Ideas

I have been considering the protagonist of my tale and decided upon a specific thing.

At first the idea was a little vague and the protagonist was no set being. I had thought that it would have been a good idea to have a customisable protagonist to allow the player, from the offset, to gain a bond with them. As with many modern RPG’s this aspect allows the player to choose what they would like there character to look like. This in my opinion does heighten the player experience as it is easier for them to believe that they are the character, it is an avatar of themselves and not another person.  For this I had discussed with Jade to have a male/female character design for the protagonist, plus a child version of them.

As time progressed I ran into a few problems with this idea. The main one being that as a player you have more control but as a designer it limits certain things. For example if we have a vague character you lose some of the character background design. I wanted my protagonist’s back story to be laced with horrors from his past that would now be influencing his current affairs. The main issue with this is that if we have a fairly hard hitting narrative that is describing how an individual relives his childhood, then you don’t necessarily want it to relate to the player. For this you need a separate being from the player, this is seen within Dead Space, where the player takes up control of Isaac Clarke, the protagonist set on escaping the living hell abroad the space-station USG Ishimura and hoping to find his girlfriend along the way. Clarke has his own agenda and path to follow, all that is up to the player is to progress him along this path.

Another downside to having a player centered protagonist within my current concept is that I am focusing on a lot of disturbing media/visuals. If we are saying that the character is the player then you have to limit down the actual psychological side of it. For instance my narrative is depicting a man having a mid-life crisis, eventually breaking down and committing a crime. Due to the nature of the narrative, it would be better to have a separated protagonist, one like Isaac Clarke, where the player can sit back and experience the horror at the same pace as the character but they can always retreat and say, “it is happening to a character and not to me!”. I think this style of protagonist is the best choice as the narrative deals with a lot of psychological issues for the protagonist, the whole game is centered in his mind, his thoughts and I think that even though this means there isn’t a big bond between the player and the character, that it is for the best. I think the subject matter of the game dictates that the character needs to be a separate being from the player. In no way shape or form do I want it to instigate that the player is losing their mind, it has to be depicting as the character is the one going insane and the player is a bystander watching the events unfold.

Well, I am glad I have cleared that up! A few questions do still remain though, a bit of food for thought if you will:

  • Does this mean that the game is more like an interactive movie than an immersive experience? I guess so but this may need to be a necessary sacrifice  that I will have to overcome.
  • How far should the experience be pushed, i.e. how psychological are we talking?
  • What are the more in depth pro’s/con’s of immersive characters?

Protagonist Development

I have been thinking over my protagonist and what exactly he will be like. A few things have solidified in my brain as to what he actually will be and why so here we go:

Our protagonist is in his late 30’s, a man stuck in the habit of a dead end job.

Up until the events of the game he lives a fairly normal life; earning a decent wage that he devotes unwillingly to his wife and daughter, one could say he spoils them but to him his family is his life. He would not see any faults within his life and this would probably rub off on the player. He isnt actually a bad guy, but he does have a jaded past that is his downfall. I think this element should be failry balenced with his good nature as we do not want it to become too overbearing for the player. They need to connect.

Primary Research

To begin my primary research for the environments, I decided on a couple of easy access places that I could travel to during reading week. My shortlist of places:

  • Lotherton Hall – Woodland, House
  • Temple Newsam – House, Gardens, Lake, Woodland
  • Kirkstall Abbey – Ruins, Grounds, Museum
  • High Royds – Asylum, Architecture, Facilities, Deterioration
  • Stanley Royd Hospital Museum and Chapel – Insight into artefacts that have been preserved from Stanley Royd Asylum.

Currently I think that I should choose Temple Newsam over Lotherton Hall, as it offers more references in one place.

Kirkstall Abbey is a good option as it has the ruins of the abbey, but I need to decipher how relevant ruins actually are; so far I have no use for them.

Both the Asylums are good references, a visit to the Stanley Royd Museum is a must, and I know that access to High Royds is available if you ask the right person. As we are now in the winter months, I’m not positive if it would be the best idea to go get some photos at the abandoned building, plus the whole idea of going there is creeping me out already. I may try to source some photos off of someone who has been before instead of going myself. Plus there is an abundance of reference material on the internet, even some useful video interviews with previous patients.

R&D Presentation

Once again I found that I had to steel myself to stand up and present my Research and Development portfolio thus far. I managed to shakily make my through the presentation and luckily I had the support of two of my peers, Mary and Jade.

We had decided to present as a team as we are all collaborating on individual briefs. This was mentioned in the feedback where we were notified that the statement of intent needed to clearly represent exactly what we were doing for each other. Personally I need to discuss a bit more with Jade to understand exactly how much she would like to do for my project. I think that if she just did the character design sheets and turnarounds, then she could use it to animate from and I could develop it into the narrative storyboards etc.

On Mary’s brief I have already had a chat with her and I know exactly what she wants from me. It is to help with the development of a scenario in which she could animate her character. So, I will approach this by looking at a series of events leading up to an interesting scenario. I am a little unsure whether or not to include this in my Indie practice brief, as it isn’t directly linked to my conceptual work.

Overall the presentation was good and not much critical feedback was given so I guess it is all systems go, just need to crack on.

Notes from reading Dark Places, The Haunted House in Film

Curtis, B, 2008. Dark Places, the Haunted House in Film. 1st ed. London: Reaktion Books LTD. Page 31-66

LINK TO BOOK

Haunted House in Film Notes –

  • It is an easily recognisable place
  • Often identified by the neglect, failed rituals/maintenance
  • Exploration of the house means that you have to engage with the “strangely unfamiliar” What would this mean to the player?
  • The deteriorated state of the building is a constant reminder of its past inhabitants
  • It represents a slippage between the contemporary and the timeless encounter.
  • The idea of a haunted house has always incorporated the idea rightful inheritance. Is this something I could play on as he will be returning home?
  • Within films the journey through the house is often characterised by visual incoherence and emotional disorientation.
  • “Ghosts in ancient times were associate with restless victims and with unresolved issues of inheritance”
  • Houses are often detailed as possessed by slight alterations in sound levels, temperature or the displacement of objects.
  • Within films the key to communicating this with the viewer is the use of the soundtrack, signs and disturbances and most importantly the balance in anxiety created by what can be seen and what is unseen.
  • An interesting theory applied by the author is that of Rudolph Arnheim’s exploration of visual perception.This theory describes how a person views landscapes paintings from a pleasurable point of view; they are allowed a scope of vision and a sense of containment. Curtis describes how this comfortable viewing point is constantly being denied to the viewer. This will create tension and suspense, when we view any form of art the human mind needs a sense of security.
  • Another good point is the fact that the make up of a house can be very confined, doors can lock, thus rendering their initial purpose to allow access through the house obscure. This containment is similar to what the above point is stating, it is the idea of what is seen and what is unseen.
  • Analytical description of House (1986) need to watch the intro sequence. “It’s status as a childhood home and it’s complexly coded past is what enables it to function as a portal into other places and times”.
  • “The theme of childhood is encountered again and again in films about haunting, particularly in relation to memories of fear and experiences of abuse.” “The adult witness is subject to a situation in which the causes are obscure and only the effects are experienced.” How will this be communicated? Can it be done the same way as in films?
  • Psycho- contemporary type of haunting. The motel is sinister as it has been left behind, they moved the highway away. Does this mean that the house and other environments need to have these subtle connotations. One of the key parts of Psycho is the use of mirrors, the shots incorporate them in everywhere; this is used to show the theme of multiple personalities plus opening up the architecture as a maze-like structure.
  • Haunted houses require the exploration of labyrinthine spaces, which offer up the search for an explanation.
  • “unresolved past and it’s mise en scene as a childhood environment….influential in the later representation of heritage, memory, identity and real estate.”
  • Page 64 – pictures from The Haunting, top image is a high camera angle at the top of the house showing the car as it approaches. This scene depicts subtly that the house is looking at the protagonist as she approaches. I really need to consider these small connotations that are invoked by the composition of shots.

“The approaching camera tracks or zooms tentatively, configuring a timid, anticipatory and often disempowered childlike encounter.”

A lot of interesting questions have arisen from this research exercise, many that I hadn’t considered. I suppose the important fact is that when I begin designed the narrative, characters and environments I consider that they aren’t just what the obvious states i.e. what the character sheet details etc. This will be important as there are a lot of different aspects and semiotics to look at for every asset I include. What I need to do is choose which are the important parts of it, for instance one of the key themes is the idea of childhood so I should focus on this aspect.

Identifying Stages

After the R&D presentation yesterday I decided to look into developing a Gantt chart to monitor my progress through the brief, plus it adds pressure to finish each stage on time.

My initial Gantt chart only had my work on it, so I have added in a couple of sections to monitor my other work for Jade and Mary. So far I think I am a little behind schedule as I need to blog up all of my research, until now it has been residing inside my head. My current task is to get all of the research out-of-the-way so that I can focus on the practical side of it.

Unclear Narrative Style

Currently the concept is moving towards being an unclear journey through our protagonists mind. This is to incite the player into his thought process, and due to his schizophrenic disposition he will most likely change his switch throughout the game between his states of mind. Thus we will have a jumpy/non-linear realisation of the narrative.

To help realise my concept for the story, I am looking at Memento, this is a film by C.Nolan which tells the story of a man suffering from short-term memory loss to gain revenge on the man who he believes killed his wife.

The story happens in stages, which are non-chronological, and cut up in terms of each scene/ part of the narrative. This gives the viewer a mish-mash of information as you are constantly going back and forth within the story. This gives a feeling or insight into the way that the protagonist, Leonard Shelby, is living his life. It is constantly starting over as his memory gets wiped, and he has to restart his thinking processes. This jumpy narrative adds to the frantic and self-depending lifestyle that Leonard has, it gives the viewer some knowledge and confusion over the story and the narrative, which is exactly what Leonard is experiencing within the story. This is quite interesting as it reflects what I would like to achieve with my own narrative, this bond between the player and the character.

The breaking up and backtracking of the film is only one techniques used to inform the viewer of Leonard’s lifestyle. Another key demonstration of this is the overriding obsessive nature of the protagonist. He is very aware that he has short-term memory loss, and the way that he approaches the other characters picks up on this. A notable scene for this is the first time the viewer meets the guy that works on the reception desk at the motel; at this point in time we do not know how long Leonard has been staying at the motel and his reaction to the reception clerk is very confrontational, and suspicious.

Another interesting part of his development as a character is how his relationships with the sub-characters change over the time in the film.

Time heals all wounds, but what if you have no sense of time? – Total Film

He always seems to be aware of everyone, becoming suspicious of them to the point of frantic paranoia. When the female character is introduced within the story, he becomes familiar with her, keeping bits and bobs to remind him of who she is. This relationship becomes a little odd when she starts taking advantage of him, and the viewer loses a connection with Leonard because it is hard to believe that he could be tricked so easily. Then again we don’t fully understand what is going on in his mind, and this is where it gets interesting. Whether it is intentional or not the story starts to confuse the viewer.

The techniques used in Memento aren’t hard to achieve, I just need to consider a clever way to incorporate them into a narrative. This is why Memento works, because of the introduction of Leonard’s condition to the viewer and the pacing of its deterioration; and most importantly the amount of information given to the viewer and the pacing of this information is actually what makes this such a good film.

So, what I need to take from this:

  • A mixed up narrative works, but it will need to be explained to the player/reader.
  • Think about the pacing of the story, keep the player interested.
  • The lack of connection with the protagonist after building up a relationship is sometimes a good thing – consider this for the concept!

References:

Total Film. (2000). Memento Review. Available: http://www.totalfilm.com/reviews/cinema/memento. Last accessed 25/10/2012.

Wise, D. (2000). It’s Unforgettable. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2000/oct/15/features1. Last accessed 25/10/2012.

Momento, 2000. [DVD] Christopher Nolan, United States: Pathe.

Silent Hill Storyboard

This is a great example of the kind of product I need to produce for the animatic. The Silent Hill 3 opening scene where Heather acquires the Pistol is shown through the storyboard pretty accurately. I especially like the different shot angles used, to add tension and suspense to the animatic. Also, one thing that stands out is the use of character expressions during the scene. I think these emphasize the actual fear factor of the scene better than the composition, sounds, shot angle etc. It gives the viewer a sense of what is going on in the mind of the protagonist. This is very useful for me as it means that I should probably spend a fair amount of time on the character expressions sheets.

The Eagleman Stag

The Eagleman Stag is a 9 minute stop motion animation, by Mikey Please, that received a BAFTA in 2011. It depicts a mans life story which he narrates to the audience. It is a beautiful short film that is fully monochrome, and holds a good message at its heart.

The relevance of The Eagleman Stag is due to its depiction of the characters story. We meet him whilst he is in his mother’s womb, and he takes us through several key moments in his life up until dies and beyond. The method of storytelling is through the characters narration which gives the viewer a belief that these are his thoughts and feelings mingled in with his memories. It depicts a distorted view of his childhood due to this narration. The sentences are often broken up with different aspects that gives the feeling that he is remembering these facts. To the viewer this appears as if he is actually talking to them and telling his story, instead of it being concise and ‘scripted’.

I think this narration method adds to the understanding of the characters perception of his life. the underlying theme of this animation is about how he perceives time over his life. As we become more aware of the type of character he is we can start to appreciate his thoughts more, and ultimately realise why he begins taking desperate measures.

Not only does this animation offer a way of how a child would appear through the narration of his older self, which is a key part of my brief, but it also shows how the mental state develops. As my concept focuses on the protagonist having an internal battle for the control over his mind, the narration method of storytelling shown in The Eagleman Stag is really useful for reference.

The only bad aspect of the stop-motion animation is that it doesn’t fully depict the actual character of Peter, the protagonist. This is down to the fact that it is driven by the script, which is particularly witty. This is something that I need to contemplate when considering my script for the protagonist because I need the player to feel attached to the character. Due to its medium of a video game, the protagonist needs to connect to the player, they need to make them want to play as them! I don’t want the script to alienate the player.

The Eagleman Stag website

Balancing The Design

I have come to a stalemate with my current brief, independent practice. I have focussed up to now on the research of creating a solid narrative for the game. Which is correct in terms of progress but I find myself stuck with a process to achieve my outcome. So, I have delved into the library to find a book that will outline a good process.

Playing Video Games by Vorderer and Bryant is said book. Page 98 in the chapter on why we play video games offers up a nice outline of a realistic designers process.

1. Artistic impulse. This is where the designer details what they would like the game to become based on their natural impulses and personal preferences.

2. Demographic Considerations. Where you ask: who is the game for? What would those people like? This takes into consideration age, gender, and the interests of the intended audience. The key to this is understanding the psychology of the target audience/s.

3. Experience Design. What should a successful experience include? These principles are about the decision the player should be asked to make, the pacing/intensity of it, level of difficulty etc.All of these aspects need to balence with the demographic considerations, for example you need to consider the psychology of the audience to make the experience enjoyable.

4. Innovation. Designers often ask, What is new in this game? What is the innovative features that stand it apart from the genre clichés?

5. Business and Marketing. This area includes questions like: Are the story and theme appealing to consumers? Is it easily explained, could a person understand the theme through the cover art alone? How does it link to other games in the genre? and what expectations will consumers have because of these ties? This section is the one that in the industry can completely change a games innovative idea, because if it wont sell then from a business point of view it would be a bad investment.

6, 7 and 8. Engineering. Social/Community. Playtesting. These sections don’t necessarily relate to what I will be producing for this brief. Nevertheless they are an important factor that I do need to consider.

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I reckon that currently I am about stuck between artistic impulse, demographics and the experience design aspect. I have my story to an extent that is based heavily off of my personal preference, which is limited due to it being the horror genre that I don’t know much theory about. From this I am trying to create something for the target audience of horror but at the same time, due to the content of the story, I do not want to paint a bad image of the theme.  Technically I am stuck in the target audience area as I want to stick to a typical style of horror seen in other games but the topic of the narrative is quite sensitive. The question I need to answer now is how do I overcome this obstacle? Can I sacrifice the vast target audience for the story?

Research

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is an upcoming horror video game. I half got pointed in the direction of this one and half found it from looking into the previous Amnesia games.

Website: http://aamfp.com/

The Amnesia games are a valid research point for this brief simply because they hold dear the essence of fear. Much of the gameplay is about the suspense created and installed within the player, the subtle ideas that they need to run and hide. Ultimately all of this is created through the soundtrack, the level design and the conceptual basis of the game.

One of the interesting parts of the hype and the promotion of the Machine for Pigs game is the use of language on the website. Here is the official synopsis of the game:

The year is 1899. Wealthy industrialist Oswald Mandus has returned home from a disastrous expedition to Mexico, which has ended in tragedy. Wracked by fever, haunted by dreams of a dark machine, he recovers consciousness in his own bed, with no idea of how much time has passed since his last memory. As he struggles to his feet, somewhere beneath him, an engine splutters, coughs, roars into life…

From simply reading that short paragraph the reader has invoked a sense of suspense, due to the way that it reads. The idea that the character has lost their mind, installs a sense of lack of reality and lost reality in which any horrific game universe can reside. The final sentence draws the reader into the concept, it installs an idea but never fully explains it. The idea that a giant engine has come alive and you the protagonist are stuck aboard this vessel, in desperate need to find an exit, a safe haven, in which you can gain a sense of reality.

The pacing used within the synopsis has helped me to try to develop my writing so that you can inspire a concept within a few sentences. To achieve this I have been dabbling with a synopsis for my survival horror concept.

Initial Thinking: Overall player experience

Just a quick brainstorm to solidify my idea.

I need to choose the best way to experiment with experience in a psychological horror. So far I have noticed some questions that need answering sooner rather than later.

How can we involve the player? Does there need to be some form of choice system? From my research it has become clear that generally the horror genre uses timed/triggered events to scare the player. This means that the actual scares need to be well-thought out and planned. Which leaves little room for player choice unless it is utilised through the level design. For instance if the level is fairly open but still linear, and allows the player to choose the path to reach the objective. This would allow for timed scares, but also some sort of visual clues to lead the player to their goal.

How does this relate to the target audience? An emotional attachment needs to be formed between player and character to get the most out of the fear. How can this be done with a fairly large target audience? A possibility is one that is shown in the horror genre a lot: the female protagonist. If the protagonist is a young female, then the female audience will automatically connect and think that the character could be them. Thus they will have a connection to the character and want her to escape. For the male audience this invokes a sense of primal behavior, that requires them to assess threat levels (reference from Leslie Fink) . They will be assessing what they would do to protect the female protagonist. These most likely work due to the archetype of the female protagonist being characterised as a weak individual, who is often being haunted by one of two characters. We either have a male antagonist who poses a massive threat to the female, he is stronger, possibly faster and he has a simple primal motive to kill; he is hunting prey. The other choice that is regularly used is the innocent, almost trustworthy villain. these come in the form of children and women. It’s scary because it is the unusual, it is making a harmless character into a dangerous foe.

This shows that the enemy is an important factor in the character relationship. Things I need to consider for the enemy are:

-why are they here? What motivation do they have to torment the protagonist?

-How do they fit with the story?

-What interaction happen between the protagonist and the enemies?

 

The start to a new brief…

I have finally gotten myself round to some actually constructive idea generation and now have a starting point for my independent practice brief. YAY!

I was stuck for ages trying to push a quote that I acquired from the dissertation into the brief, the problem was that the said quote(see below) isn’t very attuned to a practical brief. Don’t get me wrong the quote is perfectly fine and dandy for my critical writing but not really a practical based brief.

Quote by Kirkpatrick:

The “upbringing of the game designers, their education in games like ‘dungeons and dragons’, is why games follow a similar pattern of gruesome imagery, magical powers, mythical creatures and massive battles.”

This quote poses the question of who is it that actually contextualises a video game? Is it the culture of the games designers or the player? and does this pose a cultural cross-over of experience?

From this I have tried to attune a brief that encompasses this core idea of player experiences in relation to cultural differences.

So, my initial thoughts were based directly on this subject matter. I was aiming to develop a game environment and characters that would clearly show the difference between the cultures. For this, two ideas popped into my mind as I started to think how to visually present the idea:

  1. An island of some sort, quite small that would be cut up into different sections. Each section would portray a different style etc.
  2. A progression level walk-through. A fairly linear level that would allow the player to progress through different stages/cultural references.

A couple of problems arose fairly quickly with these ideas. The main one being that, although I would be delivering a critical idea through a game, it just seemed a tad simple. It didn’t feel challenging, I would simply be using reference material to ‘copy’ and mimic other games. This idea so far held no creative insight.

Another issue that arose is that it would be extremely difficult to not mimic other games from a different culture to my own. This is supported by my dissertation research so far which says that we use our cultural and experience knowledge base to contextualise games.

Thus I reached a dead end, in which the only way to get back out of it was to apply a certain amount of time to create a very basic brainstorm of what I actually want to do within games design. I hate to admit it but I actually think that the summer break has made me question exactly where I fit into the industry. So, I really wanted to tune this brief to exploring this.

What came out of this exercise was that I needed to develop a practical understanding for my dissertation topic. I went back to the original quote and broke it down into two important factors: the global sublime and player experience. What I needed to explore was the use of subtleties that the designer puts in to guide the player. The player has a certain experience due to the choices that the designer makes. Subtle hints and clues are key to an understanding of a video game concept. In the current creative climate, you cannot simply over-emphasise certain elements in the game and hence they often get criticism for treating their players like idiots; explaining too much could ruin play-through and immersion. 

From this I realised that what I wanted to test was why games use these subtle hints. For this I needed to choose the right genre. After considering my more favored RPGs and also FPS, I eventually chose to step out of my comfort zone and go into a genre that I admire but dislike playing: horror. I think horror games and films are great. I admire the use of sounds and visual hints to provoke the player/viewer into believing something that defies the laws of nature/physics; but I absolutely hate playing horror games and thus my knowledge of them is pretty basic. This is perfect for my brief as I need a genre that will allow me to knit-pick it and experiment with it, if only in a basic form. By doing this I should become more aware of the technical/conceptual side of ‘play’ as an experience.

Another good thing about this genre (especially psychological horror) is that it is more often than not about the characters journey through a narrative. This will allow a lot of time devoted to the development of key concepts, i.e. characters, environments etc. which is the subject matter that I am interested in as my practice.

I need to start drawing!