The last time Spencisco was thrown from his six-legged steed, they were both younger and more immature. Having gone without incident since that time, he knew that something had gone terribly wrong with his loyal, sure-footed companion. He often fell asleep leaving the Wolf’s Wharf since Dreyfus knew the way home, but the violent shift in gravity–as well as the sharp pain in his head–had him in a state of shock and high alert. Despite the stiffness in his sword hand, he stealthily unsheathed his broadsword as he peered through the darkness in an attempt to locate Dreyfus as well as their would be attacker. Judging from the sound of the beast’s labored breathing, Spencisco gauged that the injured creature was at least 4 paces away. Summoning the stallion would possibly cause him more injury and more importantly, alert their assailant to their current position. Having recently been expelled from Braxia Academy, his combat skills were raw and untested at best; A thought that quickly rushed to his consciousness as the snapping of a fallen branch caused him to whirl about. It was then that the sinister pair of eyes he felt all along peered out from the dark, seeping all life and courage from the young man’s body.
Despite how awesome the games industry is and how many times you watched that company video on why you should work at studio Such and Such, it’s still an industry and despite it’s youth, it’s highly competitive. Compared to the more seasoned Film industry and even more ancient Music Industry, the Games realm hasn’t yet lost all of its innocence (though I have a few colleagues who would argue otherwise with the emergence of in-app purchases).
I’ve benefited from some solid advice from a proven agent/headhunter by the name of Adrian Smith of Jobs In Games who interestingly enough refers to himself as Ade (aid, get it?). I’ve known Ade now for a little over 3 years and it’s been an awesome and informative experience. Being on the outside looking in, I could only assume I knew what companies were looking for and would blindly send resumes (often to multiple unrelated positions) and was clueless as to why I never got as much as a call back. Once I connected and re-connected with Ade, who I affectionately call my agent, I had an inside track on how the industry worked and was forced to look at myself in a much more realistic set of lenses (I’m embarrassed to share my plans before I met the guy).
Ade and I are constantly hacking away at our ‘Action Plan’ and like me, he’ll help you find what your “transferable skills” and qualities are, especially if you lack the “years of experience” that many of these daunting job descriptions say one must have to join the ranks. Trust me, I’ve never had a clearer picture and path towards my goal of becoming a Narrative Designer until I met someone who genuinely wants to help people achieve their dream goals and make them a fantastic reality! If you’re truly serious about your career in games then you really should check him out on the site link above and let him know I sent you. No gimmick, no tricks, no fine print. Deep down you know that all you need is a little boost. Jobsingames.net is that boost; A turbo boost!
I was having a lengthy conversation with my agent/headhunter and we briefly discussed one of my game designs and the characters I created. He liked the narrative and thought the overall idea was decent but as I wrapped up the description of the depth of their world and how they all interacted he pulled up an existing story with images and said to me, “I hope and pray that your characters don’t look like this.” They didn’t, but the concept art, the time period and other nuances I had in mind weren’t too far away. I was put off a bit at first when I thought about how much work I had put into the fine details, but shrugged it off and realized that I just had more work to do. Still, in a heartbeat several months of work was nearly thrown away. He assured me of one thing; “People will copy, or attempt to copy you.” After our Skype call, I realized that it isn’t so much how much time one spends searching the world and their mental constructs for something that no one’s done before as it is all about extensive and lengthy research.
Once we’ve established that there are no shortcuts in building meaningful characters, I’ve found that we should create the nuances that make the character(s) relatable before we go to great lengths to make them completely unique. The best of today’s modern games (across all game genres) are rich in characters with character and vast in world depth but when we look at hit games like Plants Vs Zombies, the entire game world takes place on your front lawn and we never actually see our main character (though we can also argue that the plants are our main characters). Having said that, physical game world size matters little as does the feeling of immersion in said game space. By creating a greater sense of urgency when night falls in the game, Pop Cap developers succeeded in creating depth by simply having the sun set–which has an immediate impact on the user’s meaningful choice and game mechanic options.
Clearly, it’s becoming a bit complex and messy discussing depth of character, but maybe that’s the concept. Maybe it’s important to not focus on depth for depths sake or to fill up our characters with so many traits that they’re borderline Schizophrenic (unless that’s what we’re going for). Whether the world is fictional or based on our very real world, a character should be created and nurtured based on their truth, whatever we the creators deem that to be. Just as having a firm foundation laid down is important to the stability and/or “truth” of a structure, this is also true for creating memorable characters that stay true to who they are, what they believe and the world that they live in. If you take a glance up at the picture above, we all know at least one of the depicted characters and know that no matter what happens, they will always be that character and like a film thespian, their performances will always be believable and convincing.
This concludes my thought process on this matter today…
It’s still a rough prototype but Share or Snatch is my first attempt at designing a game. In Game Design 1, we were asked to design a game almost literally by picking certain names out of a hat. I chose Hunger and so generally it’s a survival game where you have to eat as many meals as possible in as many days as possible. It sounds simple enough, but with 3 other players attempting to do the exact same thing, it becomes a bit of a task. You will be asked to either share what little you have with someone else, or snatch a meal from them and run off.
As a young designer, I’m open to constructive criticism from senior designers, developers, professors and game enthusiasts, so have at it!
*In this class discussion, we were to comment and debate the validity (or insanity) of renowned author (The Art of Game Design) and Game Designer Jesse Schell as he spoke at Dice 2010. He covered lots of topics including but not limited to hot topics like gamification (a word I despise) and in-game purchases as well as the future of game design.*
December 17, 2013
I do agree with Jesse Schell’s predictions (which actually translates to me as clever observation and analytics) for the future of game design and development and those like us who take on this discipline. He spoke quite amicably about Utopia, and frankly, why shouldn’t he have? As far back as I can remember, when I turned on my NES it wasn’t always because I was thinking, “Ok, it’s time to have fun now!” There were many times when I was thinking, “My dad really didn’t have to yell at me like he did. It was only a C+.” When I felt my dad was being a bit too harsh and I needed an expedient way to escape the real world, I’d turn on my Nintendo and desperately seek to forget a horrible parent-teacher’s conference encounter.
Still, I believe Schell and many others wish for more for our culture and more from us as designers. With the way things have evolved, why only settle for creating an escape for our players when we can create an enriching experience for our fellow man? As the Captain in Wall-E said, “I don’t want to survive. I wanna live!” and we can truly learn from this all important phrase, because inherently it’s how we all feel, whether we voice it openly or the thought remains solely in our subconscious. Mike Wu touches on the enriching of life in this article where he broke down how the “Speed Camera Lottery” works using Fogg’s behavior model, which consists of three elements that must converge simultaneously: Motivation (Drivers have to want to win and winning money is always a great motivator), Ability (We assume that licensed drivers have the ability to slow down when they need or want to) and Trigger (the actual Speed Camera Lottery sign).
Speed limits have been in place for a very long time for the safety of all vehicles, their occupants and pedestrians. Speed cameras aren’t that new either as they’ve caught many offenders who take red lights or disregard speed limits for whatever reason. History also is filled with news of fatalities that occur because of these offenses. This is where the ‘Lottery’ takes something that already exists (something humanity has mastered for decades) and adds a fun element to it. Granted, winning a lottery is a great thing, but car companies like Volkswagen who have adopted a rich culture of safety for their passengers put more emphasis on driving safely and how it enriches lives. The carrot on the stick they use is the lottery. The beautiful thing about this and other reward based systems (insurance companies writing checks for customers who drive safely within 365 days) is that unlike current gaming systems you already have the tools you need to participate in these ‘games’; A car, hopefully a valid License and a basic understanding of speed limit laws.
When people run through red light cameras unknowingly, the next time they approach the offending camera they’ll be sure to slow down because they don’t want a ticket. However, when car companies and dealerships get together to employ ideas like the Speed Camera Lottery, we then deepen the conversation and we unearth the other, more important reasons why we shouldn’t run red lights or exceed the speed limit in a school zone when school lets out. Someone could get hurt or killed and when we take a moment to think about it, we’ve potentially enriched the lives of countless individuals not just by obeying the law, but thinking about the context for which the law was written. Utopia doesn’t always have to be a place on escapes to or one of us crafting the perfect game. Sometimes, it’s a state of mind knowing that I’m doing something to make a difference, and sometimes a reward for that is icing on the cake.
Wu, M. (2011, July). Real Life Gamification: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Lithosphere.lithium.com. Retrieved December 17, 2013 from http://lithosphere.lithium.com/t5/science-of-social-blog/Real-Life-Gamification-The-Good-the-Bad-and-the-Ugly/ba-p/29464
Fogg, BJ. (n.d.). BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model. Behaviormodel.org. Retrieved December 17, 2013 from http://www.behaviormodel.org/
Rolighetsteorin. (2010, November 12). The Speed Camera Lottery – The Fun Theory [Video File] Video posted to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iynzHWwJXaA
*Below is an assignment I submitted for my Design, Development and Analysis course. The assignment was a chance to work critically and creatively. We were asked to choose a game and improve upon a design element or create a brand new one. We were then asked to draft a proposal pitch with details of the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ behind the improvement. I’ve added the unaltered assignment and look forward to comments and constructive criticism from my peers. Have at it!*
Assignment 02: Gameplay Pitch
December 13, 2013
The gameplay pitch being presented here is for Indigo Prophecy (also known as Fahrenheit) released September 26, 2005 by developer Quantic Dream. It was developed for the PS2 platform as well as for PC. It’s a cinematic interactive drama action-adventure game with a decision based conversation system that allows players to alter the story as it unfolds: a solid integration of narrative and gameplay. The game is designed for the patience of mature adult players.
THE CURRENT PROBLEM
+ As the narrative integrates with gameplay, it creates an immersive experience for players as they connect with characters. At best, players will feel like co-directors to the story as it unfolds.
+ Pausing the game is handled in the same fashion as would watching a film on DVD or Blu-ray. Whether in the middle of an unplayable cut-scene or a player searching for an item in the character world, gameplay can always be paused.
- The interactive HUD (colored rings) for key action sequences is placed directly in the center of the screen. In the event that the sequences of analog stick flicks are complex, players focus less on the actual scene (if at all) and solely on getting the sequences correct.
- The camera view switching seems unpolished and can cause irritation for players trying to maneuver the character from one spot to another. This becomes a real problem during time-based challenges as players can become disoriented and quickly lose their sense of direction.
Of all the negatives, the second point was the one with the greatest potential to lose the player completely to another game or discourage them from future games with similar, unconventional game design mechanics.
When developers design their gameplay mechanics, it is imperative that the players find them to be as fluid as possible. When we delve into the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ fundamentals of gameplay, moving should always be second nature to a player as it is the basic mechanic the player uses to maneuver their character through the game.
The camera switching in game employs the use of the L1 (camera switch), L2 (reset camera behind character), R1 (camera switch) and R2 (1st person camera) respectively. A efficient camera system can truly enhance the interactive film concept the developers were going for. While it is possible to use the right analog stick to change the camera perspective, the current system makes it impossible to do a full 360-degree pan unless the character holds the R2 button (which also switches the perspective from 3rd person to 1st.
In order to enhance the game flow and enrich the player’s experience, relegating the entire camera system to the right analog stick with full 360-degree panning capability should be implemented. Very little thought should go into maneuvering the character or changing the POV when searching for key items needed to advance through the game.
The first step in implementing this camera POV overhaul is making cinematic camera switching completely automatic(or giving players the chance to disable it all together). The L2 function (reset camera behind character) should be retained as this is a common feature in similar games and allows the player to center the character and focus forward. The R2 function (toggle 1st person POV) should also be retained, as a different view can always be helpful in locating items the character must interact with.
The second and final step should be implementing a camera-viewing mechanic similar to that found in the GTA and Assassin’s Creed franchises. Both of these franchises display a seamless connection between the left analog stick (player movement) and right analog stick (player camera view). The moment-to-moment gameplay should be immediately enhanced in Indigo Prophecy. With the right analog stick mapped with the ability to pan a full 360-degrees, the player will feel confident about character movement (especially in time based challenges) and will do less thinking in regards to switching camera views to complete game objectives. Retaining the aforementioned L2 and R2 button functions ensure that players can still explore areas in different ways when there are no challenges or objectives that require immediate attention.
Ultimately, this pitch should succeed in that the change was made to a very basic aspect of the game. It will also enhance the overall gameplay by employing Schell’s ‘invisibility’ concept which basically states that gameplay mechanics should be so fluid that players are truly immersed in the experience rather than distracted by problems they feel would make the game unplayable and therefore, undesirable.
December 3, 2013
In my years of experience as a composer, music producer, mixer and sound designer I believe I started off in the “Later” tier of “scoping” when it came to delivering a finished product, whether it was for my production team at the time or for a client. Needless to say, we learned the hard way that this frame of thinking simply didn’t work for us (not to mention we had no idea what ‘scope’ was back then, which would’ve saved us lots of time and therefore, money). It wasn’t until we set up strict and semi-flexible goals and rules of engagement that we began to have some legitimate success, which ranged anywhere from me co-writing a song that caught Josh Groban’s interest, or just consistently making our clients happy.
From what I understand so far this week about scope, you can’t claim to have it without having purpose. In fact, purpose is a pre-requisite. In many ways purpose is the dream or the concept while scope is an amalgamation of things (a strong team, decent funding, discipline, etc….) that ensure purpose stays the course on the unchartered seas towards the final goal, whether it is a certain number of sales or just the sense of having the game completed. So put more plainly, purpose is the pipe dream while scope is the stubborn zeal one must have to take the dream from fleeting idea to solid, tangible reality. I’m actually gaining more understanding of this as I write as I think back to my career in music. Successful songwriting, I’ve learned uses the 1-2 punch of employing purpose and scope, again never trumping one over the other. Much like the Game Design world, finding the purpose of the song was paramount and I spent lots of time with my clients asking and probing as much as possible before I whipped out a pen or stroked a piano key. Once I had the client’s purpose memorized and fully understood, I was often trusted to set a scope of my own choosing as much of the ground work was covered with what was needed.
It’s important to point out how iteration fits into this love affair between purpose and scope. Whether your scope level is set to the barebones, market standard or the innovative, never-before-attempted level, we must be prepared to go back to the drawing board over and over and over again. To the emotionally attached designer this can be painful and lead said designer to resentment, having them walk away or give up on the project altogether. Once again, making reference back to the working model in my life, I’ve had situations come up where I had to talk clients down from the ledge of “but that’s how it came to me in the shower.” Often times, there’s this ‘Disneyesque’ approach to creative people that can be maddening to anyone trying to help them create product or profit from their art or gift. If only we realized how many misses were needed to construct any type of hit (pun intended). Even now as I type this I’m thinking about the game I’ve been designing since Game Design 1 and I’m secretly dreading sharing it openly with any of you, though deep down I know it’s for my—I mean, the game’s own good.
Ultimately, what we’re doing now with this class and enrolled in our respective programs is probably the best example. The purpose of signing up and attending Full Sail is for some, to complete their degree with the highest level of excellence exercised. The scope, I can imagine changes each academic year. I know for a fact that my outlook on my career as a game designer now in this DDA class is much different than it was when I was taking Game History, still overly excited that I was even attending Full Sail. If we think of the ‘Pursuit of happiness’, something that I believe we all share in common, happiness in this case is the purpose while the pursuit is the scope. Basically, what that means is your success will come based on what scope(s) you choose, so choose wisely, my friends.
Hiwiller, Z. (2011). Practical Tools for Game Design Students, 1st Editions. Pgs. 40-44
Gregory C. Vilfranc
Design and Development Analysis
Game 1: Batman: Arkham City
Game 2: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Let’s first address the what, how and why for games 1 and 2. For Game 1, the ‘what’ comprises of movement and combat, or moving and fighting. Breaking down the ‘how’ of the movement process involves walking—which incorporates variable speeds anywhere from what player may perceive as slow to normal. Also within the movement tier are the abilities to climb, glide, roll, run, slide, crouch, hang and fire a grappling hook (which moves character vertically to reach high platforms). In the fighting tier the ‘How’ points to varying degrees of attack skills based upon character level-ups throughout the game. The character is also able to parry or counter-attack. Choosing to deploy the use of stealth or a ‘no-holds-barred’ approach are options players can choose to achieve gameplay objectives. We will address ‘Why’ the gameplay succeeds or fails later on.
Game 2 is quite similar to Game 1 in nearly every gameplay aspect on the surface. The ‘what’ is also moving and fighting. How the moving works in Game 2 involves variable walk speeds, running, jumping, hanging from ledges, crouching, light pushing (gently moves NPCs out of the way without raising alarm), and gliding (with the help of a parachute). The ‘How’ of fighting involves a set attack system, a parry/counter-attack system and much like game one, players can choose to attack in an open manner or use stealth.
Looking now at the ‘Why’ of Game 1’s gameplay, the ‘What’ and ‘How’ both work well leading to this point. Attacking is dedicated to a single button and a combo multiplier system is employed to keep things interesting and challenging. As the player’s character combines numerous attacks to the enemy characters one can observe that each subsequent hit is different from the last, which also helps fighting feel smooth based on the character’s superior fighting ability. Game 2’s character has a very similar fighting gameplay mechanic in that the player can use a single button to dispatch enemies with a seemingly wide range of attacks. Unlike Game 1, Game 2’s character incurs no XP points for attack combinations strung together. Game 2 also adds the ability to block enemy attacks, which functions differently from the character’s parrying ability.
As we dig deeper into movement there are a few more differences between the two games. In Game 1 falling from a lofty distance doesn’t always translate into death or loss of life for the character. The ability to glide adds an extra dimension of longevity to the character’s life by giving players options to stay alive. In Game 2, there is such a system, but it isn’t as foolproof as Game 1’s. It is possible to break one’s fall by grabbing the closest ledge when falling straight down from the face of a structure. But if it is a free fall, unless the character is equipped with parachutes (which can be purchased in-game), health damage or death are certainties at this point. It should also be noted that the character in Game 1 takes no damage when falling from a structure several game stories tall, if and only if the Glide function (an ability that is always with the character) is utilized.
As it was mentioned earlier both Games gave players the option to complete tasks in a few different ways, but based on who the characters are (Batman and Ezio Auditore) the stealth approach is highly encouraged over the reckless abandon approach. In fact both games contain mission objectives where completing said mission is dependent upon stealth movement and remaining undetected by foes. Both games employ a visual response or focus aesthetic that allows the player’s character to pick up clues or identify hidden targets that can seem virtually invisible to the naked ‘game’ eye. These ‘focus’ views give player’s an exciting edge against difficult AI or a situation that involves a finding a hidden door or access point.
When it comes to AI ramping, characters in both games have the ability to upgrade and ramp as well, though both approach this very differently. While Game 1’s character has to unlock his weapons, tech and abilities by earning experience points, Game 2’s character earns in game currency and has to purchase upgrades for weapons, armor and other devices that can be used against the enemy AI. These gameplay features work well with the rest of the aspects of the game (story, music, etc.…) and creates an environment of balance where the player never feels too powerful, yet doesn’t feel that their characters are inadequate either. It should also be noted that the open-world/3D camera concept creates a rich experience that seem to add to the simple/complex line that both games tip-toe across creating an ebb an flow experience. Both games employ situations that are hair-raising, creating tension while also giving players a chance to decompress and relax a bit before taking on the next challenge.
So glad you stopped by!
This website/blog has been set up for many purposes; the main one being that I need to have a central location for everything pertaining to Gregory C. Vilfranc and the Vilfranc sound (whatever that is). I like to think of myself as an audio mad scientist and a musical neurosurgeon as both titles have to do with being extremely meticulous and driven while also maintaining a strong sense of spontaneity and child-like creativity. I also like to think of myself as being a visionary who is always thinking of how to position his pawns to become greater (Yes, I do love to play chess). Case in point: I’m currently enrolled at Full Sail University as a Game Design student and a few people didn’t understand why a musician/audio guy would make this move instead of choosing to study music or sound technology. The truth of the matter isn’t just based on how far video games have come rivaling the big budgets of many blockbuster films. It really boiled down to taking 3 things I loved (Music, Audio and games) and combining them creatively into something fresh and new. Naturally I want to create a future for my son, but I more so want to build a legacy for him. Taking this challenge makes perfect sense in my strategy of moves for a checkmate in this life.
I’ve spent an entire lifetime expressing myself through music and sound and knew a long time ago that this was how I wanted to make a living for my family and never work a day in my life; well, that is if you don’t count my childhood dream of making it to the NBA. These days are spent having several creative sessions with my also creative wife (She’s Awesome) and taking cues on the meanings of life from my 2.5 year old phenom of a son.
I’m in a constant state of learning that I fight daily not to be pulled from. I love engaging in riveting conversations with just about anyone and always look forward to meeting just one more person who’s life I can enrich as well as them empowering mine. I view professionalism in a very holistic manner and prefer to treat every meeting, interview and connection as though it’s a new and unique opportunity that I’ve never experienced before. I don’t copy and paste cover letters or resumes and I’m actually becoming quite amused with the file system I’ve set up categorizing the jobs I’ve applied for just this year alone.
I enjoy marching to the beat of my own drum, which is just a fancy way of saying I work well by myself, but I also enjoy teaching others how to catch the rhythm of what it is that I’m playing; another fancy way of saying I love being a part of a team. I hope this site entertains and educates you on the brain-trust that simply is me; Gregory Charles Vilfranc.