Greetings and salutations!
It’s been quite a while since I simply wrote what was on my mind or what was currently going on with me, so this is me sharing. The most pressing matter at this moment in my life seems to be the fact that I’ll be ending my Full Sail University withdrawal earlier than expected and should be resuming pursuits towards my Game Design Bachelor’s in a matter of weeks or days! I’ve done my best to read my textbooks and stay up to date on what goes on in the game design/development world, but after a while, I started craving the interaction of instructors and students. The last time I was this excited about school was my tenure at SAE where I proudly received my Audio Technology Certificate in 2007. This all comes at the perfect time since many of you know by now I’ve channeled my focus to solely Narrative and Game Design collectively. Writing and sharing my stories, ideas and concepts have already been met with positive yet constructive feedback from many and I look forward to more growth.
Speaking of writing, I’ll be releasing some new samples this week that you may enjoy. I’ve opted to re-write a few popular video game cut-scenes that I plan to add to my portfolio. I figure it would be easier to sell my writing abilities to folks when they have visual cues that already exist to match the stories I re-tell in my way. Hopefully, I can get to writing more consistently so I can continue to shake off the rust, which is coming off nicely.
Daddy duty calls, so I must run, but again be on the look out for new content! See you soon and thanks again for visiting!
Essential tips for Game Designers
Originally posted on GameDesignDiary:
I’d like designers to understand the role of a timeline within a development team, especially in projects with a campaign mode. Designers should work with writers, directors and art directors to gather the required information when creating a timeline.
Basic elements covered in this post include:
- Game time line function
- Time line examples
- Communicating a timeline
View original 1,251 more words
Wish upon a star!
To aspire; to dream; to wish upon a distant star. Call it what you want, but we’ve all done it at some point in our lives. Unfortunately many of us are still doing so in our professional lives and in my own experience it’s proven to be a hindrance to my growth, creativity and my ability to set, stick to and meet certain career goals. While I’m not knocking day dreaming and the freedom to think and imagine yourself doing what you want to do (visualization techniques), there is a time and place for everything and eventually, you have to wake up from your siesta and convert dreams into goals. The conversion process isn’t always easy and is sometimes messy, but it’s doable.
Give yourself some credit!
A good friend of mine once told me that if you aspire for something, you’ll probably not amount to anything in regards to that particular pursuit. His philosophy was simple. If you’re taking the steps towards being what you see yourself as when you close your eyes, start referring to yourself as that. In other words, you’re NOT an aspiring Actor, Dancer, Physician or Designer. Assuming that you’re enrolled in some type of school or are taking courses (or even teaching yourself) says lots about the decision you made and the direction you’re going in. If you’re an actor going on auditions, don’t label yourself as an aspiring one JUST because you haven’t landed THE gig yet. Now this fictional actor we’re talking about can have short-term goals like “land a starring role on CSI:Miami” or “a permanent role in The Walking Dead” but that’s completely different from selling yourself short of your title simply because you haven’t ARRIVED yet. You’ll never hear a doctor refer to themselves as an ‘aspiring physician’ or a rookie cop say he’s an aspiring detective. Choosing a creative career is no reason to sell yourself short. I know actors who make deliveries just as sharp as any seasoned neurosurgeon so give yourself some credit.
Remain steadfast; Stay awake.
Ok, so you’ve woken from your stupor and you’ve removed the word ‘aspiring’ from your title. Now what? This is the tricky part. This period or purgatory or limbo has driven many to throw up their hands and give up on the dream simply because they didn’t meet their goals or missed a few milestones. This ‘meantime’ period is crucial as it’s a crucible more than anything; a place where your character is truly built. Rome truly wasn’t built in a day and neither should your dream. Now don’t you think for a second that it’s ok to lower the bar a bit here and there when things become difficult. It’s not. If you’re planning your goals in the dream world than maybe you should take it down a notch or two, but remember, we’re fully awake now and we should set our goals in that realm. Keep your sights set on that CEO title, but know that it’s going to take some hard work, serious networking and dedication to make it out of the ‘mailroom’ of where you currently are. You’re eventually going to graduate from that arduous program and that grueling internship is going to come to an end. Even more possible still is the fact that you may go months to years without being able to find something after graduation or that place you’re interning for may not feel that you’re a good fit. During these seemingly dark times is when you hone your skills and your abilities and maintain your level of desire. During points of inactivity it’s also always easy to figuratively drift off to sleep and dream up something else that pales in comparison to what you really want. Don’t just focus when the phone rings off the hook with offers. Channel your concentration even during the years of famine.
Take a detour; Reinvent yourself.
Re-routing is something that you have to accept will come but you must not take them as problems leading you off course, but rather embrace them as opportunities to explore the road(s) less traveled. At one point in my life I was convinced that I was going to become a recording artist, but on my way towards that goal, I sat down in a producer’s chair and learned the sonic art of music production, mixing and mastering. I haven’t left that ‘chair’ since. More importantly, I’ve taken several back road opportunities that I didn’t expect I would. During a span of 12 years I’ve professionally been labeled as a music producer, a vocal coach, a film score composer, a sound designer and re-recording mixer. After a dozen years I got on a completely different ‘vehicle’ and now I’m on my way towards a brilliant career as a Game and Narrative Designer. I am fascinated daily by the many paths I’ve taken and all of the choices I’ve made but inherently we all know when we’ve reached the ceiling or crossroads in our careers; the moment we all know when it’s time to get off the train and take a plane. If you started off wanted to be a film editor because you thought that’s what you wanted, but ended up being a set designer because you realize that’s what you truly needed, then you’ve successfully re-invented yourself and altered your path.
Ultimately, success should be the ‘ultimate’ goal, but even success comes in different forms, packages and time durations. Some of us will strike it rich (by rich in this case I’m referring to the wealth of discovering one’s true purpose) right out of college, while others like myself may take the Late Bloomer Expressway. Either way, it’s important to stop aspiring and start accepting. Accept that you are a Narrator, a Producer, a Dancer, a Poet or whatever you absolutely NEED to do with your life. In needing to be what you were called to be, you’re on a constant quest to quench a very real and very deep thirst to fulfill your potential and purpose, but you won’t be able to do so if you’re telling folks that you’re an aspiring this, that or the third. In many ways what you’re really saying is “I’m a dreaming artist who’s subconsciously telling myself every day that I’m not exactly sure if this is who I am and I’m looking for someone to tell me who that is.” Potential employers aren’t interested in nurturing hobby artists or awaken them from the dream state of aspiration. It’s your responsibility to know who you are and project that into the environment around you and the rest of the world. It is better to be than to aspire, especially if success (however it’s been tabulated for you) is the end result.
“Or how about that time Gram’s dentures ended up in our pasta?” Cain laughed, jabbing his brother playfully in the ribs. “That was friggin’ hilarious!”
“Yeah, priceless,” Abel mumbled, barely flinching as his brother unleashed a flurry of playful punches to his mid-section. Puzzled, Cain curtailed his onslaught to study his brother’s listless expression.
“Geez, what’s your problem, hermano?” Turning to face his twin, Abel opted not to mask his contempt, allowing Cain to feel the full extent of his anger.
“What’s my problem, he asks,” Abel said contemptuously, shifting his fiery gaze towards the kitchen sink. With a laugh that was one part maniacal, one part hysterical, he promptly reached into the sink, procuring a large butcher’s knife. “He wants to know what my problem is!”
“What the… Abe! Calm down, bro! Please!”
Enraged, Abel lashed out at Cain and in mere seconds had him pinned against the refrigerator with the blade’s edge pressed up against the vulnerable throat of his twin brother. Tears of rage burned Abel’s tear ducts as he fought to keep them back. Inevitably the levees broke and so did Abel as he allowed the knife to fall as he collapsed right along with it, crumpling to the ground retching in sorrow.
Momentarily dazed, Cain gasped for breath while holding his throat, still in disbelief as to what had transpired. Doing his best to collect himself, he sat down beside his brother placing his arm around the crumpled heap Abel had now become. They sat there in silence the two of them. Cain thought it best not to provoke Abel’s ire knowing him well enough to know that he’d speak when he was ready.
“You shouldn’t have called me bro,” Abel said weakly. “You shouldn’t–,” His voice trailed off to nearly a whisper. “That’s one thing I’ve never been, Cain. How could they—how could you betray me like this?” Abel asked, pulling away from Cain’s embrace.
“I’m gonna call Dr. Polycarpe,” Cain said rising quickly, reaching for the landline. “You need help.”
“Now come to think of it, you’re way too Neanderthal to have been a part of something like this,” Abel said, his words dripping with indignation. “So be a dear and ask the good doctor why there are no medical records of my birth at Jacoby Medical.”
“Yeah, hi Dr. P… Yes, it’s me Cain. No, I’m fine. It’s Abel. I think he’s having some kind of a meltdown”
Snatching the phone from Cain, Abel said sarcastically, “I’ve got this one, Cain. Let the clone speak for himself. Maybe he can prescribe something for this!”
Cain watched in horror as Abel stabbed himself in the hand three times without flinching, clearly feeling no pain whatsoever.
“Hey Doc! I can’t wait to share all the research I dug up on what’s happening to me; what you did to me. Wikipedia says I have a rare disorder called Congenital Analgesia; something about insensitivity to pain. So which one of you do I call dad?”
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.