Friday, 30 March 2007

Week 5 - Getting on a Role - No Rainchecks

This lesson we presented the class with the storyline, and the class gave critique on this.

Role Categorising - self-categorising flour - more roles than a human bakery. Today I was given four human roles for lunch.

Story > Puzzle/Logic. Cliff = Logical, Joseph = Creative
Sound Lead > Joseph, Sound Team: Winchey, Ellie. Sound = 60% of a game's immersion.
SME [subject matter expert] > Research > Joseph
Level Compiler/Designer > AGS = Joseph; Game Flow = Winchey; Programming = new Guy

The Design Document [the games bible] is due by next lesson, so I have a lot of work on.

Jason: Can you think of ways games could be less scripted and imagination external? Is there something there that could be used in our game?

Here is my brainstorming for this.

Going out and finding pieces to puzzles outside of the game.
Cut Scenes where the gamer must visualize the scene himself.
Gamer draws using mouse inside the game. Draws rooms and scenarios - selects objects in drawn scene and applies commands to them. Creates own weapons. Makes doors.

A game where the gamer is constantly asked to draw on past experiences.
Static images (like a comic book) where the gamer would be likely to imagine motion, probably supported with text.

Matrix - Creating the game
Wireframe game - insert colour yourself.
Breaking Rules - How?

Association/Description. A game like basketball the player has no reason to visualise images - only some visualisation of playing tactics and line of shooting etc. A game like monopoly however... has more potential for visualisation.

For instance, a simple hole could have a story behind it. It could be a bunny rabbit hole, a meteorite crater. Giving less visual information and more clues to what it really could be is a good way for many possibilities of visualisation.
Blurring and masking is a good way for imagining.

Having variables is also a good way to extend the imagination and thinking of the gamer.
Using sound to suggest the visual. The sound of a car whizzing past you has more effect (because of the uncertain, the variable of wondering 'how far away is the car from me?' simply because our judgment of sound localisation is far less developed than our visual sense.

The unknown poses limitless possibilities for imagination. A black wardrobe with no advisory is likely to make the gamer cautious and even wary of what could be inside! What if a horrible tongue smoking amphibious rabid giraffe sticks its neck out at you! These things are composed from and exaggerated by fear.

Likewise an image of a car's suspension rocking backwards and forwards would naturally (for the liberal gamer) bring on images of sex.

So mystery. Elements of mystery are needed to encourage the gamer to imagine scenarios thus not only having the strengths of wondering what could be in that obscured area but the personalising of the game by the gamer having contributed something to the story.

Anything abstract, anything that is potentially writhe with ambiguity is an opportunity for the gamer to theorise, use logic and creativity to apply their own experience into the game experience.
Simple teasers like having objects poised on edges will keep the gamer himself on edge and more alert, for he will be imagining that object falling and interacting with his character.
A seemingly good character could be holding a typically sinister item [like a sickle].

Newspaper articles could mention future events, like an oncoming storm, which will make the gamer hesitate thinking of the significance this information could have on the character and the gameplay.

"Police Raid House to Find Alien Robe of Young Boy"

this would have the added element of knowing the police are aware of a foreign presence, so hence you must tread carefully. Makes me think of countless stories/movies where the character must disguise himself and change his identity, his imaginary job/career/wife/history etc. in order to remain anonymous.

A pool of blood - animal kill or something else?
An alleyway - mystery and uncertainty.

An interesting puzzle could be counting the lines on the palm of your hand then connecting the edges to create a shape. This would take the gamer outside of the game for awhile, and would then be utilizing logic then creativity then logic again.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Week 4 - The Birth of a Story + Class to Team

Straight into it this lesson. Bam! Bam! Bam!
As I nominated myself as a story-writer I was to to prove myself to the class and Jason by reading one of my pieces of work. I felt strange in class that day, I was self-conscious and quite introspective [I'm not usually worried about such things] - so when I read out my piece "Indescent" I stuttered and blushed and spoke far to quickly. However regained some composure towards the end. To my surprise I wasn't completely rejected, so this was another example of fear of rejection.

I am a competitive person by nature, so I often find myself being concerned about whether my work is better [in my head anyway] than the other person's. I think this boils down to my primary school experience... I would always seek the praise of the teacher [I was always the most successful student in the class up until 3rd form anyway], and I would feel a huge sense of self worth when the teacher congratulated me on something or showed my work off to the other students. Which of course every student strives for, however it was a strange motivation... which is probably why I stopped pushing myself when I finished high school, in my gap year. So now my motivation is to challenge my own intellect, skills and creativity. Although in this assignment I feel I need to prove myself to the class - they rely on me [and the rest of the team] placing all the effort I can into this game - which will pay off in the end, with a fantastic game [I must prove myself to the AGS community also] and a group grade dripping with dressing.

Anyway onto what happened in this class:-
Some have expressed our concerns for those among us (of whom are shy or lacking in communication skills) that may not be happy with the storyline. I think this has a lot to with confidence and acceptance. I think we may be in dire need of some serious trust building. Having not only confidence in ones own skills - but in the skills of others. Knowing that when I ask a teammate to research something or design something or print something - that the request will be acknowledged and completed; also having confidence in that person to do it well. Luckily most of this won't be my concern as it will be Jesse in most cases [who has been 'erected' to project manager] that will be keeping us on track! I have faith [and this seems to be a shared opinion with the rest of the class] that he will carry out this role with success - being in the same class as Jesse last year gave me many indications that he was a motivated and trustworthy person with great time-management skills [... something I can learn from him!! I've been a dreamer throughout my life and this has meant spending a lot more time thinking and reworking ideas in my head than actually applying these processes to paper, resulting in all of last years' assignments being handed in at literally the last moment!!!]

This team building is wonderful really. I can feel the beginnings of a studio coming into play. The cogs are creaking into motion... now to apply grease and turn the crank...

In the second half of this class we developed the bare-bones of a story into an acceptable storyline. I'm on the story team but I didn't feel like I really contributed and spoke out a lot during this discussion - instead I put my listening skills into play... of which need as much practice as possible, being that I am an outspoken person and often times neglect to listen, let alone consider the other person's response - because during their speech time I am already formulating another idea or reasoning to bombard the other party with.

So to me this lesson was one of restraint and respect... of diluting my over-stimulated ego and truly listening to what other's have to say. A tough task for an introverted only child of one parent, who's thoughts were never rejected or challenged by siblings or a cocky father, but encouraged.

So instead of cracking my ego open in mummy's warm womb - I have fertilized it in hope that my ego will then hatch allowing it to be exposed to other ego's and roosters. I think it's about to crack... someone get the flying pan.

Week 3 - Pixels and Brainstorms

Back again! I've been a few weeks late updating this blog, I got a little lazy here and there - not to worry, it is in the past... I was considering lumping the two weeks together in a single entry, however I feel it would be easier to read if I kept them separate.

Well this week we were introduced to the 8bit computer game 'defender'. We played this on the class computers and competed for the best score. I didn't really play it that much however. I found it interesting seeing a side scrolling game with an interface that has been duplicated and mimicked by so many games - even recent ones. There is a small radar-like display showing terrain and enemies / ally parachutists that are off-screen, which enables the player to use more strategy by utilizing this additional visual information.

Funny just as I was typing this [at 5am on a Sunday morning, check my sleep blog for an explanation], there was a huge BANG outside my window (Ponsonby Road) - I rush to my window... and there at the intersection, a white car with a mangled tail-end limped to the side of the road, whilst the 4WD vehicle that hit the back of the white car sped off into the distance. A gray saloon car witnessed the collision, and the driver performed a quick 'U' turn proceeding to chase after the 4WD [probably to grab its number plate digits] however it soon returned to accompany the victim.

- In this case, the white car would be the parachutist [victim], the 4WD would be the enemy [or coward] and the gray saloon would be the rescuer i.e. the player.

Well anyway, after this we had a group discussion about what we enjoyed to play and what we would like to see in our game. To elaborate a little: What the theme/feel would be; possible story-lines; crazy ideas; what we DIDN'T want in the game etc.

I found this a valuable exercise for it allowed me to get a grasp on what sort of games my classmates like, and it seemed to present to me in an abstract form what peoples ideologies and work ethic would be like. Whether they have a short attention span, what aesthetic each person prefers, and most importantly - the discussion gave some strong clues to the culture and influences that these people were surrounded with. How could this be?

Because game provide us with immersion and temporarily mask our immediate physical reality, they have a powerful effect on the structure of the brain... our imaginations, the way we approach situations. Even if these in-game experiences may only indirectly influence our life (rather than applying game rules to reality, such as... if I shoot this person in real life, they will just re-spawn elsewhere or even as soon as I go off-screen, plus I'll get points for the kill [yeah right]), I believe that our dreams; our interactions with humans and the environment; emotion; comparing new experiences to past experiences for memory etc etc... all may draw upon our choices and memories taken from playing video games.

What is interesting is I may relate a new experience like say... stumbling across a waterfall in a dense rainforest - to a similar waterfall I passed by in a game. This may be the sound, the visuals or the emotion. Heck - the real life waterfall could trigger an in-game memory of a meteorite that hit the earth which sent a shock-wave through my hair, which fell like a golden shower, which reminds me of when I last lifted a reality toilet seat, and depressed the flush button, sending my fallen processed bodily fluids gushing and surging through the waterlogged toilet pipe.
Which brings me to the opposite of this. Which is however - not unrelated.
When I read a story, I will usually draw upon my real life experiences to create that imagery for me to involve myself [visually] in the story. It most probably be an amalgamation of many separate visual experiences to create a final coherent one to fit the description the story gives me in the way that I see fit. This visual statement may likely evolve and/or alter over time as more written detail is given to me.

I feel that in a game with graphics, very little imagination is necessary, for in most instances all the imagining has been done by the art department and what the gamer is interacting with is a final product of their thinking and tinkering. Same goes with movies, except with movies there is no interaction with the environment, only transportation into another's perspective and way of seeing. Games, novels and poetry have these limits also, however not to the same degree as the static physical state of film [frames are static images, game engines are often not, unless previously rendered].
Games, written stories and poetry as their mediums generally require far more brain power than film.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Week 2 - What Motivates us to Play Games?

At the beginning of the lesson we played chess.

Jason talked to us about the history of chess and how it was created (or at least initiated) by a woman. Chess came about as replacement for war games. The first simulation.
The people who played chess were often opposing leaders, who were to resolve conflict by the strategic outcome of a chess match. The opponents were very likely to be restrained by bodyguards in case one of the participants became angry and tried to kill the other during the game.

The opponent may take conscious psychological measures [as in poker] in order to influence the other that he is better and/or smarter, or to distract - by appearing confident / talking a lot / utilizing body language techniques etc. The opposite may also be observed, where a player isn't conscious of his behaviour, and may be displaying language that shows him to be unconfident or confident. However this isn't a fast rule, as the other may be completely oblivious to the others physical actions outside the moves he makes.

We also played poker to demonstrate to us this psychological warfare in one of it's most famous contexts - across the poker table...

What was up for grabs was our marks.
Jason convinced the naive amongst us that each chip was worth a mark. If we lost all our chips at the end... then we would in effect - fail this paper, if we won, then we could get up to 100% for the paper . Jason backed it up with stating he had verbal confirmation from John Piper [program leader] that this would be concrete.

An interesting tactic which of course made the players a lot more wary and focused. Even those who had suspicions for the truth in Jasons' ultimatum were still uncertain. For what if it had been true??? An example of fear in action.

If there had been nothing to lose or gain (except our self-esteem) then naturally the players would have been a lot more reckless and careless about placing bets.

Evidently the game was rife with body language cues... an eye movement here, a change in posture and arm positioning, a scratch there... you get the idea.
Some of the more observant and perceptive players may have picked up on this behaviour, consciously or subconsciously. The point was, that each bet presented itself as a risk. The reward being higher grades. The risk? Failing.

A perfect example of fight or flight.

Jason told us about evolution and how only those who are fearful will progress. Fear is the fundamental motivator in virtually all elements of life. Social interaction, self improvement, work, love.

This was of course debated by the class, however Jason backed himself up every time with some example of fear preceding any other emotion or decision. Whether we are aware of fear rearing its head in our head or not, it is hardwired into our brains. We are naturally scared of heights because if our ancestors had not been fearful of this imminent danger, then the likelihood of us being here today is unlikely.
Survival of the fit.

The importance of reproduction was also discussed. We are sure of only one thing in this life - that we will die. So the act of producing offspring is necessary to pass on our knowledge and genes to later generations.
In fact, if we don't reproduce, then most of us will feel remorse at not doing so. These emotions may occur early in life or later on. When a woman approaches menopause, they often have an acute need to have children. This comes back to fear... what if the woman doesn't have a baby? They will regret this action for not experiencing motherhood. However some may prefer to adopt a child. Which isn't evolutionary however the child will take on many of the characteristics of the parents, so there is still opportunity for evolution - even if it is unrelated. I think this is rooted in the desire to teach others. Which is itself rooted in fear and guilt of knowing something and not sharing it... the possibility of dying without passing on wisdom and information. We teach our friends by engaging in conversation - sharing ideas, experiences, quotes, jokes, gossip and so on.

We are also wary of the unknown. That which cannot be explained. We tend not to trust things that haven't been proven by someone we trust, or that which we haven't experienced for ourselves. Perception is reality. Fear is the motivator.

This wariness can spur curiousity. Fear breeds motivation. We may walk down a dark alley because we are curious.
We eavesdrop for the same reason, to know the unknown, to experience the other...

Watching reality TV, travelling, reading, diving, bungee jumping...
These are examples of our desire to experience alternate realities.

Fear of inferiority. Of rejection.
Making the audience feel superior is the one of the fundamental principles of comedy.
When we laugh at anothers' joke we temporarily give ourselves over to that person. It is practically impossible to hate someone with whom you laughed with.
There is a need to feel better than the other person. This may seem to contradict the previously stated rule of teaching others, however teaching also makes the teacher feel superior because a teachers' position is one of authority, of knowing more than the other.
We feel a need to prove ourselves to others. That we are smart. Fear.

Survival =

Fear - Curiousity - Reproduction - Imitation - Superiority - Motivation - Risk