Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Brainstorm: Egg

I'm not sure what I will do with this idea. It may become a game or it may become a comic or novel. Probably a comic. It'll be fun.

A world growing inside an egg that is almost ready to hatch. Such a process that will change the structure and peoples dwelling/growing on it.

Terra-Angels are human like beings with feathered wings. Within the embryo world of the egg, Terra-Angels can fly regardless of their wing-span. The size of wings denotes the greatness of heart which can grow or shrink throughout the course of life. Terra-Angels may look masculine or feminine, but they have no sex and can not reproduce. The egg world has merely been producing them. However, it has been a long time since the birth of a Terra-Angel...which means the world is about ready to hatch...which will change the appearance and everything they know to be true.

There are 7 eldest Terra-Angels. They were the first 7 to be born and as such were given authority. Their role is shepherd-like since the world is abundant there is no need to regulate. The youngest of the 7 is also a prophet. She has been hearing the birth pangs of the world. The 7 elders have to prepare the rest of the "children" for the birth of the new world. Change is never easy. Some of the Eldest are reluctant to accept the change. The Eldest are split into 2 factions...there is only one who sides with neither.

The seven eldest are named after the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Wisdom is the first born. She is robed in light. Her wings are white, hair is white and eyes are white. (Reason: What to believe)

Knowledge (Reason: How to Act) is the second born. He is robed with earth. His wings, hair and eyes are brown.

Counsel is the third born. (Right Judgment) She is robed with cloud. Her wings and hair are grey. Her eyes are clear blue.

Fortitude is the fourth born. (Courage). He is robed with flame. His wings and eyes are gold. His hair is blond.

Understanding is the fifth born. (Common Sense). She is robed with forest. Her wings are brown. Her hair is black. Her eyes are green.

Piety is the sixth born. (ability to worship God). He is robed in water. His wings are white. His hair is black. His eyes are blue.

Wonder is the youngest. The seventh born. (Fear of the Lord). She is robed in flowers and stars. Her hair is red. One wing is white and the other is gold. One eye is honey-brown and the other is blue. She is a prophet.

The Silent Hero

In RPGs (and other genres too) there are two types of heroes: the silent type and Story Type.
Mind you these are only MY terms that I will use throughout this article.

Silence is Golden
The silent hero seems to always silently concede to whatever the story says or supposedly respond to any question addressed to him/her. Link and Mario are some of the more obvious silent heroes. Although Mario and Link make "noises", they do not respond verbally to any dialog aimed at them. (In recent 3D games they have started gesturing). Dialog with NPCs and cutscenes always feel one-sided.

Some of the benefits of using the Silent Hero is that you never put words into the players mouth. This is to say that the player IS the hero. The silent hero does not have a bold personality per se, because that portion is suppose to be filled in by the player. In a yes or no situation, it IS the player saying yes or no. In a way, a silent hero is easier to relate to because his dialog is not showing off any personality.

The disadvantage of course is the one sided conversations which can feel a bit off. It seems as if all the NPCs assumed your response and can talk for centuries while you just listen not saying anything.

Story Heroes
These are story characters that a game designer developed for a specific role in the story. The player may or may not relate to that character. It all depends on the personality of the character. Still, it puts the player in the position of playing a hero that is NOT them. If we use language of literature, the player plays from a 3rd person view instead of a 1st person view that a silent hero can allow.

The benefits of the story hero is that NPC conversations are not one sided. Players can grow to like and relate to a well-developed character. The character's growth throughout the game story is visible or more obvious. It also allows for voice acting.

The disadvantages are almost the opposite of what a silent hero provides. It puts words in the player's mouth. The player might feel left out of the game, as if their choices in the game did not matter. There is always a danger of the character estranging the player from the game.

Which is better?
It is up to the game designer, since neither is really better or worse over all. It all fixes on the purpose of the game. Stories can be portrayed through both a silent hero or a story hero. The experience that a player gets is what matters.
Story Heroes are very popular. Like a hero in a book or movie, the player chooses to relate or not based on the character's actions and behavior within the story.

The relation and dialog between the hero and non-player characters (NPCs) is a key element in an RPG game. In the story hero case, the conversation is two-way. The NPC says something and the hero has a predetermine response. Sometimes input from the player can change the flow of conversation using branching dialog.

For the silent hero, the dialog is one sided. It is not a simulated conversation at all really. The NPC will rattle on and on, only pausing every so often for a yes or no response. (Usually the response HAS to be yes to continue with the game.) The NPC will continue to spout dialog to the simple "yes" response as if the hero had agreed to ALL the terms of their quest. The other thing that happens for a silent hero is having a talkative NPC partner. They might do some of your talking for you.

Final Thoughts
I normally have a preference for a story character. But this is because, as I mentioned before, that I have narrative motives when I play a game. I'm playing for the story. If the characters are obnoxious or a personality I don't like then I usually do put the game down.
I don't mind the silent hero because it has it's benefits.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Player-Centric Design

Player centric design for games means keeping your audience in mind and designing for them.
While making a hobby game, it is perfectly acceptable to make a game that interests YOU.
This method is designer-centric. You make a game you like and hope others will like it.

Different player types are usually driven by what motivates them to play or continue playing.
Motives can be things like high score, beating level 1, playing the story, exploring the world, playing with friends, competition, stress relief, or combating boredom.

These motivations in turn affect what sort of games the player likes to play. A player motivated by story and exploring a world would probably enjoy an adventure game. Likewise, a player interested in stress relief or relieving boredom or trying to relax may want to play a puzzle game or arcade game. Something that does not require too much focus or hard concentration.

Here are some more samples of Motivation for playing a game:
  • Entertainment (relieving boredom)
  • Relaxation
  • Social Activity
  • Completing All Obstacles
  • Obtaining the Highest Score
  • Narrative (interest in story, characters and worlds)
  • Exploration (both physical and psychological)
  • Role Play (Part of the personal exploration.)
  • Competition
  • Cooperation
  • The Gaming Experience (entering the "flow" state/Immersion)
  • Social Status (reaching a high level in an MMO for example)
There are of course many more ways to describe motives for playing. This is just to get started.

There are several theorists that divide players into certain types based on their motivation. Bartle's model is wide-spread as a model for MMO games. However, this is not enough to aptly describe a player. It is better to think of various motives instead. Bartle's model is mostly related to MUDs (the old-fashioned MMO). Here are some samples of player types that I have come up with.

Hard-Core Gamer - plays for long periods of time, high hand-eye coordination, motivated by being highly skilled, looks for a challenge, plays many games.

Casual Gamer - plays for short periods of time, motivated by game experience, looks for quick satisfaction, has not played many games.

Narrative Player - motivated by game story and characters, looks for rich worlds and narrative, prefers an easy challenge to progress in story.

Active Player - motivated by immersion into the game, plays for long periods of time, looks for rich narrative elements and challenge.

Passive Player - motivated by the effects of game play (stress relief), looks for gameplay elements, sometimes motivated by narrative arcs, likes patterns

Social Player - motivated by social aspects of gaming such as showing off scores, playing with people, competition or cooperation.

Non-Gamer - motivated by quick completion of goals in a game, easy instruction, low hand-eye coordination, low pressure situations, positive feedback, has not played many video games.

New Gamer - quick understanding of rules and controls, exploration of possibilities, low pressure, positive feedback, low hand-eye coordination, easily recognized patterns.

Nicole Lazzaro, Founder of XEO design and an expert on player experience wrote a report about the four keys to fun. They are Hard Fun, Easy Fun, Serious Fun (oxymoron!), and People Fun (or social fun).

Hard fun refers to overcoming a challenge. This is exciting for a player to experience and satisfying.

Easy fun is about curiosity and exploring possibilities. This is more about the visuals, the story, and the environment.

Serious Fun is when a player uses a game to evoke a feeling, sometimes stress relief. It's a way to relax.

People fun means games are social. Whether it is multi-player in nature OR you are able to share your experiences with friends.

This is important to remember because games are suppose to be fun. There are aspects in a game that cater more to one than another. Also certain player types probably enjoy more of one type of fun than another. For example, a "hardcore" player probably enjoys Hard Fun more than Easy Fun.

Certain types of players tend to be attracted to specific genres of games. Just as certain people have preferences for genres in books or movies.

Role-Playing (RPG) refers to any game in which you take on a role. Well, this could be any game you play a character in really. However, RPG is often associated or coupled with another genre: adventure. RPG/Adventure games are most likely what you will create with RPG maker. These are games that have strong narrative influences.

First Person Shooter (FPS) are games that often take a first person view. Usually these are war games. The camera is not giving the player a view of the character, only what the character sees.

Real-Time Strategy (RTS) are games like Starcraft, Age of Empires and Civilizations. It is all about managing resources and developing a strategy to win a war, thrive, or expand empires.

Arcade Style blankets many older 2D games such as Space Invaders, Frogger, and the like.

Simulation should remind you of Flight Simulator or the Sims series. Some theorists argue that these are not technically games, but we won't delve into that. Simulation reproduces an experience in a digital form, such a flying a plane or running your own Zoo or raising a pet dog.

Casual is a fairly newish genre consisting of online games, puzzle games and the like. They are quick to play, easy to learn and addicting. One of the more famous examples is Diner Dash.

Rhythm/Music is a relatively new genre as well. The advent of Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero. The only other game (that I remember) having special controllers was a Nintendo Track game where you had to stomp on a running pad.

Collector-style games are what I call the Pokemon series. It is an RPG/Adventure as well. You could also file the Yu-Gi-Oh series under this.

Racing games are pretty obvious. You're either behind the wheel of a car, on the back of a horse, or steering a Pod-racer.

Massive Multi-Player Online Game (MMO, MMOG, MMORPG) are online games that have thousands or millions of players connected to play a game. Often this is coupled with the RPG/Adventure genre, however FPS also have online play features. There are also casual. World of Warcraft is the obvious example of an MMO.