Well, I have been working on my game jam, although it’s been hard with my equipment dying on me…
I have been working on a game about time loops being used in a positive sense. In my opinion, one of my best ideas so far has been a game where the player is a farmer with fields that have different temporal properties – for example, reversed time, time looping, slowed time and fast time.
This is a screenshot of the gameplay I’ve been working on, using Inklewriter, a tool for people writing interactive stories.
This is the link to my game: Time Farming
Over the term break I have mainly focused on doing research regarding games and time mechanics and concepts in particular.
Videos that I have watched:
- Errant Signal
- Game Maker’s Toolkit
- Lots of Extra Credits
- I pretty much looked at everything recommended in this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjGTQrsUOKM
Games that I have found that use time, time travel or time loop concepts and mechanics:
- Twelve Minutes
- Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
- Time Frame
- Save the date
- The Sexy Brutale
- Assassin’s Creed
- Sonic CD
One thing I’ve found is that a lot of games seem to use time loops as a tool to fix something that’s gone wrong story wise, and the end goal is almost always to end the time loop, either because it’s not needed anymore, or because breaking the loop was the goal. It is generally a sign or symptom of something being wrong or broken. In some ways I want to look at ways that time loops can be shown or used in a more positive light.
Three playful activities I did this week…
I have found that the freemium game style has dominated my experience with mobile gaming, and while I don’t hate it enough to not play them if they interest me, I definitely don’t enjoy the general experience. This week I played two games, one of which was freemium and another that was paid, which was a very new experience for me.
Playing Monument Valley
This game was new to me in many ways and I found it refreshing, as a game that had a definite start and end, didn’t require any sort of in-game currency and had a story that wasn’t purely created with the dialogue in cutscenes. The gameplay was interesting and engaging – I very much enjoy puzzles that require me to think carefully and try things out, and this delivered.
Playing Kingdom Hearts Union X[Cross]
This is a game I have played for a while now, and I have enjoyed it a lot despite it’s freemium status. Some of the things I think help mitigate that are the frequent 0 AP events (which allow you to play without having to wait for any cooldowns), and the similarly frequent gifts of enough premium currency to purchase new medals in the shop without having to spend real money on it. One thing I really don’t like is having to spend so much time messing around with the medal fusion and evolution. The fact that inventory space is so limited (and requires premium currency to expend) is incredibly frustrating as having a full inventory prevents you from playing the actual game. Part of my frustration is probably due to the fact that I have never been super into the ‘collecting and raising things’ types of games – my love of Pokemon/Digimon/YuGiOh/etc stemmed from the animes I watched as a child before I ever got my hands on any of the games. I prefer games with constant action and story over fiddling around with weapons or pets.
While I still haven’t finished The World Ends With You, I have found it to be extremely inspiring with the unique style in the art, gameplay, music and story. I spent some time doing a lot of sketches inspired by the clothing found in the game, and made a sort of minigame for myself with it, based on some of the ‘lore’. Each of the 12 main fashion brands in the game is representative of one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac – I challenged myself to make up outfits for characters entirely from the items in a brand that matches their zodiac year. For example, being born in a Year of the Ox, my brand is D+B (Dangerous Buffalo), so my self-portraits in this exercise mainly consisted of miniskirts/shorts, tall boots and cute tops.
Indie Prototyping – Jon Blow
- I really agree with the idea that even if it didn’t make a successful game, if you learn something, it was a successful prototype
- A lot of the things mentioned – like scrapping things because they don’t change the game enough or they don’t feel good or fun – reminds me about my own process with some of my past prototypes. Especially the repeated comments about “if I don’t get it, how can I expect other people to?”. I had the same problem with one game idea, where I was constantly asking myself “If I don’t think it’s fun, how can I expect others to play it?”
- The issues with art and gameplay development are interesting to me. I’ve tried making a game with just ‘programmer art’ for the prototype stage, but looking back I think it was more a lack of inspiration than trying to save time.
- I found the comment about ‘Japanese spin off games just add “Tactics” to the title’ funny.
Play Without Pixels
- Paper prototyping is a lot easier for me, since I come from a traditional art background, so I find both digital art and programming are harder and more time consuming than making something with paper.
Creativity – John Clease
- The penicillin example kind of sounds a bit dodgy to me – a scientist is supposed to question everything, to look at an unsuccessful experiment and ask ‘why’? So what, in a different state of mind he would have disregarded the scientific method?
- I can recognise some of the behaviours and mental states he mentioned in myself, and I have to agree with some of them, but also disagree. If you’re doing something that’s simultaneously work and creative – like for example iterating on a game design – are you supposed to be open or closed? If you’re open, and supposedly can’t work well, then how do you get the idea made? But if you’re closed and not creative, how do you look at what you made and come up with a new idea for it? If you need to rapidly switch between the two – like in a game jam – then how do you get the apparently necessary space and time to do so?
- Actually, a lot of the talk sort of makes the whole game jam process sound really bad in terms of creativity – limited time and limited space for the open mode to come out, having to keep going to make the deadline instead of taking breaks every one and a half hours. In some ways it depends on the jammer, but overall it sounds bad.
- “It’s easier to do trivial things that are important than it is to do big things that are not urgent” This is so very true.
- This time was very brief, as we quickly went on to working on making a game prototype
- One thing we did discuss that stuck with me was the idea of ‘stealing like an artist’, which I didn’t know much about and find hilarious when considering how much of an issue people make about plagiarism and how many online artists I see worried about art theft.
- Stampin’ Up – a company that sells papercraft supplies – has a slogan for it’s representatives, who often do craft classes to showcase their wares: C. A. S. E. which stands for Copy And Share Everything. Basically, steal all the ideas, but give credit where it’s due.
- Our game brief was to make a game about a political issue in a randomly selected area of the world. We got the Carribean and decided to focus on Cuba in particular. Our game is about the oppression of people – how the government will arbitrarily throw people in jail for any random thing, which can be as small as taking a video of something, or peacefully protesting. It is basically a roleplaying game with elements similar to Mafia (except without a specific goal, the players choose actions individually, and the game master is the ‘mafia’).
- Each player is given a role – worker, reporter, political activist, game master/government
- Each turn, the game master gives the other players a scenario – a hurricane occurs, someone has started a protest for workers rights, there’s been a car crash.
- Each player decides on an action fitting their role – the reporter might decide to report on the hurricane damage, for example.
- The game master takes their actions and decides if and how they affect the next day’s scenario – the game master’s modus operandi is to be extremely heavy handed with the ‘go to jail’ results, unless the player is keeping their head down and just working like they’re supposed to.
- We have written several suggestions for actions that may or may not get a player sent to jail, designed to illustrate how some seemingly innocent things may get you a disproportionate punishment.
Smash Bros. as a spectator sport
- I can agree with the idea that watching someone play a game that you are familiar with and interested in, that you understand, is more engaging than watching one that you don’t play or understand.
- I personally don’t usually find spectating anything to be particularly interesting, so I don’t really relate to this well.
World of Warcraft – Crashing a funeral in Winterspring/Morality, Reality and Taste
- I have many, complicated feelings about this. I can see and understand both sides of the argument, but I don’t think I can really commit to either. Yeah it’s kind of mean to crash someone’s funeral like that, but it’s also kind of silly to hold a funeral in unsafe territory and not expect that to happen. Also, straight up asking people to not do something is definitely going to get someone to do it just to be contrary, especially on the internet.
- I personally wouldn’t have done it, either the crashing or the not-so-well thought-out funeral planning, but then again, I don’t really play online multiplayer games (or any kind of multiplayer games) so I don’t think my thoughts are very accurate to real life.
2015: A Year in Review
- I thought this was a good metaphor, and I found it amusing. Based on some people’s feelings about 2016 (that I have read online), it would be even more relevant for last year.
Slave of God
- I actually found this to be completely unplayable. The visuals put me off and I hate not being able to control my character or understand where I’m going.
- This made me feel sick and violated after reading it. I don’t enjoy either the subject matter or the bait-and-switch of giving the player completely meaningless choices that are disguised as meaningful ones.
Dr. Langeskov, the Tiger and The Terribly Cursed Emerald
- Despite the lack of choices in this game, I didn’t feel as cheated as I did ‘playing’ Cyberqueen. I think the difference is that there was no implication that it was anything but a linear story – the game didn’t try and make you feel like you had agency only to take it away.
- I liked the visual storytelling and the way that it had the narrator giving you one part, and the environment giving you another, somewhat-contradictory part. The ending surprised me, but I like that they gave an in-game reason for why you can’t play the ‘real’ game, however morbid it may be.
Class Discussion/Post-class thoughts
- The game world can break into the real world through merchandise and augmented reality
- Inter-text knowledge – the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game requires it to complete
- A thousand blank white cards – this sounds very interesting and also reminds me of the failed Meme Wars game my group came up with last semester, except possibly more successful.
- Braid and Save the Date are both games that deal with time travel that have been suggested to me as ones to research for my jam.
- The difference between culture, protocol, ritual and habit – in the context of a repeated activity, to me, culture is what your family or society tends to do, protocol is a required task, ritual is a task with a purpose (for example, spiritual or religious), and habit is an activity that you do because you’re used to or conditioned to doing it. All of these things can intertwine – something that you do habitually may be because it is a cultural tradition that you have become used to.
- Pokemon metagame – similar to Super Smash Bros. – I find it interesting how player trends can alter the metagame in multiplayer games, but not so much that I really want to try them.
- One idea was mentioned about a walking simulator style game where you have to walk fast through a beautiful game, or the scenery will glitch – could be an interesting metaphor for the world looking pretty when glanced at but being ugly and horrible when you take a closer look – like sitting on a train, not seeing the trash and tagging on the side of the train tracks.
- I did not initially realise that it was possible to raise the character in 2015: A Year in Review with enough dedicated button mashing. I think it is a clever way to extend the metaphor, but also kind of morbid in that no matter how high you go, you always fall back down.
- The Christmas Truce was brought up, as a reason for why the WOW Winterspring funeral raid was bad, but I would argue that no-one actually agreed to anything regarding the request for other players to leave the funeral party alone.
- Looking back at it, with drowning, physical and mental violation, being eaten by a tiger and drug usage, all of the games this week have had pretty dark themes – even though ‘Slave of God’ is supposedly about drugged-up happytimes, which I wouldn’t really know because I barely played it. The title still fits the dark aspect.
Fun: UX Week (Bogost, 2013)
- Does a game have to be fun? I feel like the idea that games have to be fun is possibly not right, or at least not always right, and the fact that “a game has to be fun” is taken as a given in game design is maybe something that shouldn’t be – some of the games from last week certainly weren’t ‘fun’ but I don’t think they were any less meaningful or impactful because of it.
- Words can be “Only meaningful when you expect to hear [them] and don’t” – I found this really intriguing, and also something I’ve experimented with to some degree – when people ask “how are you?” often a reply of “good” will get a neutral/non-existent reaction while “alright” or anything less than “okay” will result in the person suddenly being interested or asking what’s wrong.
- Could be an interesting game concept
- People go to games/gamification for ‘fun’, because it seems exotic – I find this understandable, but at the same time I don’t necessarily feel like it’s a good idea, for many of the reasons that Bogost mentions.
- I pretty much agree with everything said here, although I’m not sure I like the word ‘wretched’ for what it’s used to describe – I feel like it’s an overly negative word for the context.
- Errant Signal – Gamification – examines why gamification doesn’t make things fun, just exploits people
- Achievements make things less fun, as does playing games for work
- I think this ties in well with the idea of not respecting the thing as what it is – achievements rarely enhance the experience of a game, just add more work for the player if they want to be able to say they’ve fully completed the game
- This can be argued though – some achievements may help enhance the game, or bring features that would otherwise be ignored to light. I think it very much depends on how they’re used.
Naughty Dog removes word ‘fun’ from Uncharted 4 focus tests
The computer that mastered go/Google’s artificial intelligence machine to battle human champion of Go
- I found this really interesting
- Computer imagination
- Games as a stepping stone for real-life/serious applications
- Probably the biggest thing I got from these was the humility of AlphaGo’s creators – they are hopeful but do not expect to win absolutely – brings to mind the idea that it’s better to fail repeatedly and learn than succeed once and learn nothing – possible that they want to fail and learn how to do better?
- I played a few rounds with my mum, who was also a beginner and had less idea of what she was doing than I did
- The simplicity is both a boon and a curse for beginners – there aren’t many rules to remember, but the lack of constraints means there are many, many possible moves, making it hard to know what to do or where to start
- We used a smaller board – 9×9 – since we were both beginners, and due to our limited number of pieces we played until one player ran out of pieces and that player would be the winner since they had more pieces (i.e. all of their pieces) on the board
- I found it interesting, learning some of the tricks to surrounding the opposing players pieces.
- I think it would have been very different if I had been playing a more experienced player, but I also feel like playing against someone who was also a beginner made it easier for me in terms of comfort – playing against someone experienced would have been intimidating.
Snakes and Ladders, iterating
- We played it and finished pretty quick – this surprised me as I don’t remember it being this quick when I was younger, but I think that may be due to impatience, the way time seems slower when you are young and the fact that we were playing pretty quickly – not wasting time between turns with chatting or exaggerated rolling or moves.
- I really feel like there needed to be a larger board, or possibly a smaller die? Our turn average was around 12 turns before the game ended, which made for very short games.
- Tried many, many different versions
- Going backwards on the board, reverse snakes and ladders effects, both players go in opposite directions, climb each ladder rung one at a time
- Instead of getting a free roll if you get a 6, get a free roll for a 1 – this was possibly the most effective, as we had several times in previous games where one player would suddenly be halfway up the board because they’d gotten a 6 and a 5 or a series of sixes
- The climbing one rung at a time also had some potential, but maybe wasn’t as fun?
- I didn’t really have a specific goal in mind while iterating, but I suppose if I had it would have been “trying to make the game last longer”. I was also trying to make the game less unbalanced – when one player got ahead, they generally stayed ahead – but nothing I did was particularly helpful in that respect
The feeling of agency – what makes choice meaningful?
- I can agree with these definitions of choice and meaningful choice
- Choice: Any moment during play where the player could perform two or more distinct actions, but has to pick some number of actions less than the total number available
- Meaningful choice:
- The decision making choice is not arbitrary
- The player understands the choice their making, has some system to weigh the options – does not necessarily know what the outcomes will be
- Belief that there will be a different outcome dependant on the choice
- The choice is not a calculation
- The choice may be meaningful or not meaningful dependant on the player
- One thing I don’t think this video touched upon – I don’t know if they discuss it later in the series – was how some of these ‘rules’ for what makes a choice meaningful affect each other. For example, they say a choice can’t be a calculation, but what if a player doesn’t know it’s a calculation, or does, but chooses not to look it up? Does that make it meaningful for that player? I think I would argue for the former, and against the latter, as with the ignorance, the choice is still meaningful to the player, if only because they don’t know any better, but knowing and ignoring it is more like the novice fighter-gamer button mashing.
- I do think that the situation is a little different in single-player games versus multiplayer games – in a mmo, having the best gear/build is required since you are competing against others who will have that, but in a single-player game, you don’t have the same social pressure to be the best
- One situation I thought of while watching this is the series of choices at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts – the ones made during the ‘Dive to the Heart’ tutorial level.
- The first of these is pretty simple, but is meaningful – you choose Sora’s strengths and weaknesses via the relatively obvious metaphor of picking to take, discard and ignore a sword, shield and stave, affecting your attack, defence and magic/abilities respectively. None of these are any better or worse, except for an individual player’s goals or preferences.
- The second set is quite similar in that you chose a series of options to get one of a certain number of outcomes, however this time there are many more possible combinations – 3 questions with 3 answers each since you aren’t eliminating an option with each one this time – the options are much more abstract and the results are fewer? These choices determine the ‘pace’ of the game, or how quickly you level up. However it is near impossible to understand that with only the context given, making it feel more like a random personality test, and consequently losing any meaning it had.
September 12th: A toy world
- A bit confused about this, the first time I saw it I thought the ‘player’ was the terrorist and the non-civilian people were military and the crying civilians were joining the military to avenge their loved ones?
- In some ways I think it’s a good way to show the situation and make people think about it, in others I find it’s kind of depressing – in particular the “there is no way to win”
Class Discussion/Post-class thoughts
- The idea that go only looks complicated or chaotic to people that don’t know how to play it and/or have little experience with it.
- Simple can be more complex – less rules equal more possibilities
- I honestly thing fun is more of an opinion than something universal – like how some people like the taste of certain things that others dislike (personally I hate seafood), fun can be different things to different people. So in some ways, the argument about “What is ‘fun’?” is not only circular, but pointless. It’s like asking a group of people what tastes good and expecting to get a single answer. There is no way for everyone to agree on what ‘fun’ is, but at the same time, chefs don’t stop cooking just because some people don’t like their food. Relevant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmxIK9p0SNM
- Wretchedness – I was amused by the fact that Hell Tetris is a thing. I do think it illustrates the point very well. Original Idea, Kongregate version, PlayTetrisGames.org version
- Toy world – it’s fine as long as you have no empathy or morals, and your goals are ONLY to shoot at terrorists, not preventing terrorism. The comment about how the terrorists don’t actually do anything makes it even worse, especially considering that without a goal or a win/lose state, you could just leave it alone and not shoot at anyone and you would have less terrorists and far less casualties.
- Some initial ideas for my conceptual jam:
- ‘Asshole games’ that have a stated goal, but are actually impossible to win – a playtest setup could have it include a player name option where a specific player name makes the game winnable, and anything else is not. Have a person play with that name, and see how the rest of the playtesters react. Will they keep trying or just give up, and will someone apparently being able to win encourage them or not? Will they get suspicious?
- Time loop games – something based on the infinite loops?
- Multiplayer game where people who are griefing get debuffs or people who are being griefed get buffs? Revenge?
This week I have read the first two chapters of Pilgrim in the Microworld (Sudnow, 2000), the Gamasutra article Cutting Corners: Networking Design in Journey by Clark (2014), a tumblr post by alwaysblack called Bow Nigger, and reread MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research (Robin et al., 2004).
Pilgrim in the Microworld was very interesting, as it gave me an idea of what it’s like for an outsider to the world of games, looking in, trying it out and eventually immersing themselves and understanding that world in their own way. It also gave me a deeper sense of how people understood, reacted to and interacted with the limited narrative of games of that time, such as the one featured in those chapters, Missile Command.
Cutting Corners was interesting to me in a different way – I had never realized that Journey had any sort of multiplayer function at all. From the way it was described, it actually sounds like the sort of thing that I – as a self-proclaimed “solo player” who prefers single player games to MMOs and the like – would enjoy as some of the main things that have put me off of multiplayer games in the past are made into features of Journey. For example, I used to find any sort of online game impossible to play due to slow or unreliable Internet connections, but in Journey losing connection is simply an opportunity to connect with a different player, and the seamlessness of it allows for the player to stay in the game space without being broken out by jarring “connection lost” screens.
Bow Nigger showed a fight between ‘good and evil’ that was very real despite the fact that it occurred in a virtual world. The descriptions of the traditions that had developed in the player culture were fascinating as, as I mentioned above, I am not an MMO player, so I don’t have much experience with that sort of thing, although I am aware of it in a purely academic sense. One thing I was left thinking about at the end of my second read through of this tumblr post was that the ending was quite ambiguous. As I am unfamiliar with the mechanics of Jedi Knight II, I don’t actually know if this is how it worked, but the remark of the next player could be interpreted in different ways. The obvious implication was that the next player was complimenting the author for his skill, but if there was no healing between fights, the new opponent may have been saying “awesome”about the fact that his target was down to 1 health point thanks to the previous enemy. It even could have been the latter situation with the author deliberately implying that it was the former for the sake of his tale.
In this week’s class, we discussed ways that we look at games and what we can expect for the rest of this semester.
I found a lot of our discussion quite interesting – one thing that stood out to me was the questions asked about the MDA (mechanics-dynamics-aesthetics) framework. Ever since reading Hunicke et al’s article about it, I sort of just accepted the idea that the player looks at games from the aesthetics first (and then the dynamics and the mechanics), and the designer starts with the mechanics and goes the other direction. Our discussion has made me realize that that isn’t necessarily true, for either part of the statement. While game designers may well start at the mechanics side of the framework, they could just as easily start with aesthetics or even dynamics. In particular, with games that are made for a purpose or a client (for example, serious games, or games made to promote something), the designer basically has to start with the desired reaction or learning goals for the players, so they can make a game that successfully completes their task.
On the other side, players don’t always just look at the aesthetics. Critics and play testers may also look at the aesthetics of the game, and that may be the first thing they see, but they are also more likely to dig deeper in order to give in-depth feedback or reviews.
Another thing we discussed was the game design schemas laid out in Salen and Zimmerman’s Rules of Play, these being rules, play and culture. Compared to the MDA framework, I feel like the game design schemas cover a broader scale. In some ways, the ‘rules’ schema and the mechanics part of the MDA framework could be considered analogous, while from my point of view, dynamics sits between rules and play, and aesthetics between play and culture.