zaterdag 31 januari 2015

Soft Reset

Thinking about interaction between players so much made my brain hurt a little. Was this really the thing I was looking for? If I want to answer all those questions I asked in my previous posts, I'll probably have to go back to the basics first. What do I love to do most? How would I want people to recognize me after my graduation.

I love to create images. And I want to make feel like they're there. Creating worlds for people to wander in. That's what I like to do most. So back to basic's with the question,

How can I make people feel like they're part of my worlds.

If I'm looking at it with my painter's hat on, I'd probably have to search for books about color and light, and books about composition and storytelling. How can I make believable worlds and paintings. This also has a lot to do with design, shapes, color, light and mood.

Most of my paintings are based on weird looking shapes. Interesting to look at (subjective), but lacking of a good story most of the time. So my paintings need story, something exciting happening. Something believable. I'm going to read some books about dynamic composition (Framed Ink) and a book about color and light (color and light, james gurney) To see if I can get some interesting insight about storytelling with images.

Because that's the thing. The first question I had to answer after my presentation was: Well do you actually need visuals to achieve your goals? My answer would have to be no. You don't need visuals to force people to make tough choices. But that's the thing. Creating worlds with visuals is what I like to do most. So soft reset. Not saying that my previous findings were useless. I still want to create a game that forces people to make tough choices. But visuals need to be a part of it somehow.

Because not using what you've learned for the past few years is like learning how to play the violin for years and years, and then play an instrument you've never played before on your final exam. It may be a bad comparison but I hope that makes sense!

The first thing I need to do right now is, gather information. There are lots of articles regarding storytelling out there. Lots and lots. And I have some books to read, and some movies to watch.
It doesn't really feel like starting over. I just need to take a few steps back and start with pure fascination.

There are some movies that make you feel like there is something evil, something monstrous out there, without showing it, creating so much suspense!! That's a sidenote though. There are some movies that did a great job doing that. Cloverfield for example! I'm going to watch that movie right now.

Signing off.

Tomorrow some more games that deal with storytelling, choices, concequences and visuals. 

This Research of mine

I was talking to my classmate Joost Bos about choices and consequences in games.  He said: you want to play a game which does this well? Play this war of mine. And I bought the game, because my classmate Joost is super trustworthy.

So this war of mine is about civilians in a war torn environment. Desperately trying to survive. The grim situation is perfectly reflected in the art style. A dark and moody painting style with rough, animated textures. It instantly gave me the „this is not a cool place to be in” feeling.
my three characters. first needed to clear their refuge of rubble and find all kinds of stuff. Some food, some medicine that might come in handy later. Well it did come in handy because one of the first things that happens to me, ten minutes in game, two little boys knock on my door, asking for medicine for their poor, sick mother. That’s a tough choice. I mean, we are all trying to survive right. But those boys seemed desperate. I might need those medicines later but those boys seemed desperate. So I decided to give them the medicine, only to find out that one of my characters fell ill a little bit later. Did I really have to give away my medicine? What if one of my characters dies because of my decision. I was lucky. My character was able to sleep it off. Could have been worse. But the game already faced me with a tough choice.

At night I got the opportunity to scavenge for some recourses and building materials. I took my tough looking girl and went looking for supplies in the nearby supermarket. I was being told that the supermarket was under military control, dangerous, but my characters were hungry so I had to take the risk. I took a shovel with me in case I had to dig through a pile of rubble or something. Arriving at the supermarket, I spot a girl. looking for supplies. She didn’t notice me because I was looking through a keyhole in the door. All of a sudden a heavily armed guy showed up. Clearly military. He was asking her name, trying to be nice and such. The girl didn’t really want to talk to the armed man. Just looking for supplies she said. The guy didn’t really like the reply. Don’t you want to come with me, have a good time? It was clear to me that the girl didn’t really want to have a good time with the tough looking guy. He asked her a second time, aiming his weapon at her face. I had to do something right? I didn’t really think about the risks, but I decided to help the girl. That shovel I brought might come in handy. I kicked the door open and charged the guy before he had a chance to shoot me. Quite a hit. But the man recovered and punched me in the face. „wounded” said my status bar. Ouch! I was able to hit him once more. Dead. I just killed a soldier. Shit. I have to get out of here before his buddies notice there is something wrong. The terrified girl already ran away, without saying thank you. I looked through the soldiers stuff. Machine gun? I instantly took it, might come in handy later when we need to protect our house against raiders. He was also carrying cigarettes, some booze and some bandages. Score! But with this impulsive action I might have caused some serious problems with the military. I hoped they didn’t see me.
When my character returned home her status bar said: Content. My character did something rather heroic by saving that girl from that monster with an AK-47. And I, the player felt pretty good about the whole thing too.

The choices made in this game our tough. Choices about life and death. In a situation like a war, everything could mean the end of you and your group of survivors. So the whole situation made choices even more tough. Give those meds to the little boys and lose one of my surviving characters to the flu? Life and death.

Such a setting might make choices even harder for players. And even more so when their choices could mean the end of the other players.
So if I want to face the players with tough choices and consequences I might want to think about such a story.

To summarize this game here are some pro’s and cons about it.
Pro's A tough setting that can make it extra tough for the player to make choices. Brilliant art direction. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices or even do illegal things for the sake of your own group of survivors. Moral choices! I felt kinda sad after robbing an old couple of their medicine and food.

Cons: It’s too bad that this game is single player only. If this game could be played with more players, each looking after one survivor, choices would be even harder to make. Who deserves that bandage more? Players would be sucked into this game as a group and would probably discuss things with each other while playing the game.

Maybe an alien attack like in war of the worlds. Where poor Tom Cruise had to survive while protecting his son and daughter. He also faced dilemma’s and tough choices. Because every wrong choice could have meant the end for poor Tom.
It’s probably up to me to come up with a captivating world, where the whole situation forces the players to make such choices.

I’m working on a paper prototype at the moment, where a story takes place in a city attacked and destroyed by extra terrestrial life-forms. 4 characters with different backgrounds have to survive in this world that became their nightmare.

In the next post I’ll talk some more about other cool games with branching story lines and random encounters.
I’ll also talk about lightning and mood in movies and games. As well as lighting and mood in paintings and images.

ps. to summarize what I’m doing at the moment: I’m trying to figure out how to create a game in which players have to face tough choices. Interaction between players is a key factor that I want to research. Can players interact with each other in real life to make decisions in game?

vrijdag 30 januari 2015

The Yawhg

Last post basicly contained a lot of questions. Most of them still remain unanswered.
But let's begin by explaining some pros and cons about games that deal with tough choices and interaction.

Basicly what I wanted to do was, to let players interact with eachother while playing a game together. Where they have to make choices that will have heavy concequenses on either the game or the players themselves.

And how can I conjure up a world that pulls players in and presents them with tough choices.
There are some games that really inspired me.

The first game would be: The Yawhg 

A game with a lovely art direction that's about a certain calamity. A storm? An earthquake? A horde of ravenous goblins that'll steal your underwear and trade it for candy? The game doesn't explain what the Yawhg is. Only that it's coming. I am not going to spoil all the secrets. It's defenitely worth checking out!

4 players take control of 4 characters who are leading their lives in fear of this Yawhg. What will the characters be doing? Every week, each player decides how to spend that week. You can visit the gardens, the forest, the slums, the alchemy tower, the arena and so on. Your stats will increase or decrease based on how you deal with these situations. For example. When you enter the arena you can choose either to compete, or to bet on one of the fighters. So when you compete you have a chance to win depending on the huge sweating brute you are fighting. So your stats will change based on how you spend your weeks before the Yawhg arrives.  So without spoiling too much of the game. It's about choices, and facing the concequences of that particular choice. Every time you play the game it's entirely different. I played it with people and we ended up laughing and yelling about the choices made by the whole group.

None of the choices we made seemed to affect the other players though. We were all just interacting with the game, and not with eachother.
So in the end their individual choices would have an impact on their individual game characters. But wouldn't affect their teamplayers.
But who wants to see their character die in the beginning of the game because one of the other players accidently shot a magic beam at his/her head? No one probably.

Players are able to prevent people entering areas in the game by either accidentally destroying those locations or occupy them for that week.

So wouldn't it be cool if the choices we made would affect your friends? 

The art direction and the music of this game makes it a lot more immersive. We all ended up having goosebumps by the time the game came to an end.

So they do a great job with confronting players with tough choices. Supporting the situations with simple but great visuals and beautifull ambient music.

But does the game need those visuals and sound? or will just text suffice?  I will be asking my collegues who also played this game about their opinions on this matter. And I hope to have an answer very soon. It's important for me to have an answer regarding this. Because I am mainly a guy who deals with visuals to tell stories.

So does my game need visuals?

For more information about the game (if you're not afraid of spoilers that is), this let's play video is worth checking out.

So how can I let people make choices that have a great impact on their teammembers?
About the Yawhg's art style
 This game deals with a very serious problem. A potentially catastrophic life-threatening calamity is on the way. But the art style gives the world a comical and colourful mood. What happens when the art style is changed to more realistic and dark visuals. Would that change the player's behaviour?

My next post will be about a game called this war of mine. Which deals with those dark and moody visuals.

woensdag 28 januari 2015

Graduation and lots of questions

Hellooooo everyone!

It has been a while since I posted anything here.
I am currently in my last year of a course called interactive performance design. And it's graduation time.

 So, what am I going to do? How do I want people to recognise me after I'm done with school. I've always been fond of creating worlds and environments. So perhaps that's something I could use! I am also working as a freelance concept artist in the game industry so that particular skillset (do you call it a skillset?) might come in handy.

Immersive games in particular are things that I like. Being sucked in into a world, that's really something!

That's what I would love to achieve. To make people feel like they're really there. Games like thatgamecompany's journey do a great job. Telling a story with just images and sound. No spoken word or dialogue. That's hard to do right! Will I be able to pull that off and how am I going to do that?

 So Journey, super immersive. Lovely design and mood. The Story is a bit linear but alright! It's a one person experience though. Alright there is another player on the other side of the great big internet who plays together, and shares the so called "journey" with you. But it's just not the same as being in one room with that person.

Wouldn't it be great if you could share those experiences with even more people. In the same room? Being pulled under into a world with a group, like with some pen and paper roleplaying games. Where decisions you make as an individual or as a team can mean the end of your entire party or even the end of the world. 

 But can this be done without a game master? Can I make a game with a branching storyline that changes based on the player's choices.

Can I face people with tough situations? Grab the treasure and leave the rest of your party to face that horde of angry genetically manipulated crododiles, only to find out that there is an even bigger crocodile standing behind a rock, waiting to smash you to bits?
Or face those nasty biters as a team, kick that big crocodile down a cliff, share the treasure and live happily ever after! 

Did your friend hurt his knee? But did you get a nasty cut on your elbow and there is only one bandage? Who's going to get the bandage? Who deserves it more? What are the concequences if I take that bandage for myself? Will my best buddy die from an infection just because I can't stand the sight of blood?

 What if I create a game for 4 people, and player 3 dies in the first 3 minutes of the game because the team decided it was a good idea to use player 3 as a bait for the alien sniper that had absolutely no second thoughts about shooting him. Would it result in merry laughter? or a mad player 3 because he had absolutely no intentions of dying and thought it would be a good idea just to work as a team.

What if Isildur threw the ring into that fiery volcano right away. His decision had big concequences for the rest of the story. Because if he did throw it it wouldn't be worth writing 3 books about it.

 Can I make a game in which players can work as a team to achieve their goal. But also make their own individual choices. Can my story turn people into excellent teamplayers or backstabbing monsters. And can I pull people out of that screen and make them discuss decisions while still being immersed in the game.

Face those concequences!

But here comes the thing with a questionmark on the end.
How am I going to do that? How can I pull people into a world I made up? How can I make people discuss their choices and show them what they've done?

and one of the more important questions is:  Do players need the visual aspect of a game to interact with eachother and make those choices? Or can they do without? 

That's a whole lot of words on digital paper. And all these questions raise even more questions in my head! So this first post might seem like a bit of a chaos. In my next posts I'll try to tackle one little bit at a time. Because all these questions are a little too much for my brain!  to handle.  I hope this first post about my graduation project made any sense.

There are a few games that work with branching storylines. Like the telltale games. (those are really good) and many more games.

I'll make a post about that really soon. Because I think it's important to look at how other people tackled these questions.

Thanks so much for reading!