Monday, November 23, 2009

Catch up time!

Okay so I’ve not posted on here in a week and a bit and its been bugging me somewhat. I’ve been working on a literature and contextual review to support the recent research I have been doing into game writing and narrative in video games which has taken a decent amount of time away from my drawing as well as my posts on here. So as a bid to catch up with posts and design work for my GDD which I am currently undertaking as a brief I am going to try and get posts up at least 3 times a week with drawing illustrations and ideas.

So lets start with a brief catch up on what I have been up to over the last week or so. I have been working on a proposed GDD for a game named “Zombie Wrath” (I know its not a particularly imaginative name but I can confirm it is a working title) which I have done a game proposal document for as well as a level design with game mechanic storyboards to accompany it. Now at this point I will just stress that this is a slimmed down GDD so to speak and I will be focusing on more complex level design as well as character design and narrative design. The premise of the game is a 2.5D shooter that will try and introduce a more atmospheric and puzzle based game to the downloadable services of xbox live and PSN. At this moment in time all I really have to do for this brief is to complete a second level design and the animation sets for my characters which hopefully will not be too much bother, and if time permits to build a small example level showing scenery as well as mood and character.

On top of this as I have mentioned that I am currently researching into game narrative and how designers can use it too their advantage. This has proven to be the most interesting aspect of my work at the moment and could be something that I will continue to focus on throughout my MA. I also have just got a free igda account online in a bid to try and integrate myself solidly into the games design community and get some of my ideas in design and writing out there. My last post concentrated on game narrative through environment rather than a sole character and talked about a realistic mortality element in computer games that I believe has directly influenced my interest into game narrative and the design that follows it.

My next post will be a full update on my GDD with plenty of illustrations to show the direction that I am heading with it as well as some of the basic game mechanics that would be included in the game. This should be followed by another more comprehensive update on my game narrative ideas and the research I am undertaking. Lots and lots of work to do then! Yay!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mortality in games

I came up with an idea the other day with the help of a friend when playing the Left 4 Dead 2 demo which has sparked an interesting thought process in my head. As I'm sure most of you know in Left 4 Dead you start each campaign with choosing a character out of four to play as and the idea is to get to the end of the campaign without dying. This is where in terms of realism it gets tricky, as if you DO die you are not really dead and your team mates can actively re-rescue you from an impossible to escape cupboard the same character that had just died. This is a disruption of reality in most worlds, when you are dead you are dead forever, not for five minutes until you magically spring back into existence in a constantly safe space. Now what if we take the idea of the same character re-spawning away?

For example lets say we have a disaster at the beginning of our game like a plane crash. If instead of choosing a character when you start, the game randomly generates a character for you instead. So if four people are playing at the start of the game four randomly generated characters will survive the crash, if only one person is playing only one character survives. This helps with other aspects of a drop in drop out co-operative system. Say you are playing through the game solo and one of your friends wants to join they can drop in to the game as a "new" survivor which if on the same console would be close to you for screen space sake and online could be anywhere in the same check point area. This system would add more realism to the world that you are playing through as each character is technically a living character within the world, and as I said earlier in the blog when living things die they permanently are dead, this brings me to my next idea. With the random character generator if your character dies he is dead, no respawn for him and no extra lives. Instead you will re-spawn within the nearest check point area (a select area defined through various check points) as a new survivor. I initially thought this would result in a lack of connection with the characters yet with your survivor being fragile with a definitive end if you do like the person created you will want to hold onto them. This could be especially engaging in co-operative mode as real stories through various survivors could take place. For example your best friends character "Jim" went back to heal "Dave" after he got knocked down by a horde of zombies yet couldn't get there in time and watched him be devoured. "Jim" is dead for ever and if the idea is pushed could even come back as a zombie to be later re-discovered as you are trapsing through areas. The only issue with this is that the story through out the campaign could not possibly be character based therefore the story portrayed through the world would have to be cleverly engaging and interesting to keep the players hooked. As I said in a previous post this could be achieved through audio from televisions or radios or out of reach converstaions or writings on the walls. You could even have events happening in the background that are key things to the overall story of this world giving your characters reason to survive.

A tough design route possibly yet ultimately engaging and different. If handled carefully and designed well the inclusion of mortality in games could invigorate the story rather than detract away from them.