Saturday, October 31, 2009

Expressing story and atmosphere in 2D (part one)

2D is an interesting style of gaming, it is almost like when 3D became feasible on home consoles that the entire idea of a two-dimensional game was old fashioned and not as cool anymore, like a child discarding and decent old toy for a new one. Although some games have played around with the idea of intertwining two-dimensional game mechanics with three-dimensional visuals it wasn't until recently with the readily accessible online download services such as Xbox-live, Wiiware and Playstation Network as well as successful console based games such as Little Big Planet, that this genre is being explored again.

Why is this exactly? Do designers feel the idea of playing within two-dimensions hasn't been fully explored? Or that the constraints of a two-dimensional world easier to design for without over stepping the mark? Or is it a nostalgic trip, making games in homage to the ones we gained influence from as we grew up? For most I am guessing it is a bit of all of the above.

As I am playing around with different ideas and themes, I have become exceptionally interested in what a two-dimensional adventure game can achieve. Over the years I have played many games that have been side-scrolling or panel based in 2D, yet not many of them had a truly engaging story as well as a compelling atmosphere for its cause. There are a few games, especially from the 16-bit era. that did and two of those were "Flashback" and "Another World". They both had compelling stories that made you feel an integeral part of a universe outside of the game constraints as well as giving you believable purpose within the story world. Although most of the story telling was done through text both games, especially "Flashback" made use of rota scoped cut-scenes to build a believable picture of the world. Great for a 16-bit computer game! Yet in the modern day of gaming with games like "Shadow Complex" taking up the mantle of 2D/3D adventure games are separate cut scenes completely relevant? Imagine a completely integrated world where the camera can pan in and out showing a gaming view when needed and close-ups of scripted dialogue events seamlessly eradicating the need for cut-scenes. Half-life managed it from a 1st person perspective so how hard could it be from a two-dimensional perspective?

Excluding cutscenes in my opinion would help with the atmosphere of the game as it would continuosly keep you in the world of the game rather than taking you out of it. Other aspects of story telling used in three-dimensional games such as audio clips or written items could be used to expand the world you are in as well, or even use items in the world such as walls for text or televisions for audio to help piece together story in a more immersive manner. These are just mere ideas and examples and I hope to look further into it over the next week or so as I am designing my first level for the game I am currently working on. Next time I will look into some of these story-telling ideas in more depth and how by being innovative within the genre rather than purely inventive you might be able to evolve a genre in a positive way.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Level Design and Game concepts

Continuing projects on the course have seen me attempt to design my first level. A nice simple brief which helped me reflect on my own design processes as well the areas that a need to evolve in in order to adapt to my new subject area. The isometric physical design of the level was quite simple in execution yet applying the game mechanics to the design was essentially a steep learning curve for me. The ideas were always in my head and it does come through in annotation and conceptual drawings yet I couldn't quite grasp using the isometric drawing to illustrate the given game mechanics making them clear whilst presenting it. Failing this I ended up seemingly just telling a story rather than talking about the actual game mechanics needed to complete the level, essentially I needed to show what was required of the player. After thinking about this and understanding the faults in the design I can work towards rectifying this in my next brief which is to write a games proposal. For this I will have to think about game mechanics as well as a story and a theme in order to present and sell the idea.

On top of this project I still am pondering about ideas for my design practice project and what I personally am interested in within the design of games. A few thoughts have been bubblying out of late and are mainly aimed towards how narrative in games can effect game mechanics as well as work with them to integrate story into games more successfully than in the contemporary market. Coming from an animation background I have always enjoyed the artistic design from character to enviromental, but have always been fascinated by how the story and narrative uses these objects. The same goes for game design. The difference being that the story is interacted with in a first hand way. The problem with games at the moment in general (not all) use narrative as an after thought rather than a defining game mechanic, and one could even argue the ones that have involved it as a main game mechanic still haven't tapped into the potential. Well at least thats a starting point I guess, probably should look at articles relating to story telling in games and game mechanics as well as a few examples of bad storytelling and good storytelling within gaming history to give me a wider perspective on the idea. Till next time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So here we go...

Hello there. I see you are actually reading my blog so I guess I had better start writing something that is relatively interesting or insightful into the way that I think about my work in games design. After studying at Uclan for three whole years in animation I have decided to branch out my skills and career path into the field of games design. I like to think that I have narrowed down my educational route to a pinnacle this year and that after I complete this MA I will be ready to push for work wherever I damn well can find it and prove my worth out there. Its strange, but after working in animation for three years, although I enjoyed it and learnt an immense amount about design and myself, I never really quite felt 100% at home. After much consideration and understanding of myself I realised my true love and passion belonged with games.

All in all I like to play.

So here we are at the beginning of the year with an awful lot to learn in a very short amount of time, with a current catch up brief of creating an isometrically drawn level to demostrate an understanding of time and spacial awareness. This for me is a good chance to play around with the concept of level design pushing for new ideas and theories. In the way that I work I need a very detailed understanding of the world that I am creating for. To achieve this I first created a character that the player would play as, I then asked myself "What sort of a world would this character live in?". This allowed me to draw up some conceptual designs for scenery which I then developed into a basic level/game idea. From here I can now understand the world that I am creating a level for and how I need to lay it out.

Well this is just a basic introduction to this blog and a quick description of where I am at in life at the moment. Il be recording ideas, images and current briefs in this blog as the year goes on so if you are interested make sure to check up on it.