Two weeks earlier (whoo, how time flies!) we had the Ernest Adams “Fundamental Principles of Game Design”-workshop, which served as an interesting first “proper”, structured group-project in the course. This post is a combined re-telling of events and reflections on the project, snuggled up in a heap of TEXT and BULLET LISTS. Enjoy!
The workshop began with a presentation about (amongst other things):
- What is a game?
- Types of fun in video games.
- The components of gameplay.
- Types of challenges.
- Interweaving narrative and gameplay.
The most important take-aways from that part of the workshop for me were;
- A reminder about the importance of the player (“What is the player going to DO?”)
- Goshdarnit, I need to start writing on my blog. Soon. Right after *VERY IMPORTANT THING*
Number 1 I believe was a success, number 2 (as you might’ve been able to tell from the leading paragraph), failed miserably.
The second part of the workshop consisted of the actual assignment which was to create a game concept based on a randomly assigned dream and then present it. We were split into groups of either four or five people and given roles to assign amongst ourselves. These roles were:
- Lead Designer and Writer (runs the team, takes notes, resolves disputes, gives talk at end, determines story).
- Mechanics Designer (determines core mechanisms, internal economy and the victory condition).
- Art Director (makes concept sketches, defines visual appereance of the world).
- User Interface Designer (defines details of gameplay modes)
- Level Designer (devises scenarios). This was the expendable role if your group only had four people.
All of these roles had individual worksheets with questions specific to that role which helped us tremendously. I ended up being Lead Designer, partly because only one other person was interested in that role and partly because, having taken on the role of the secretary more than a couple of times during the last two years, I began taking notes right away.
Our dream turned out to be “I want to become miss World”, which kind of threw us off a little bit at first since neither of us knew (or wanted to own up to knowing) much about the Miss World competition. Our first step was research. Did you know that the Miss World competition also has a sports event? Cause we didn’t. Our Art Director later came up with the name “Call of Beauty” which we ended up going with for totally legitimate, well-articulated reasons but also because it was funny.
The second step thus was to ask ourselves the question “Why would somone want to become Miss World? What do they expect to have to do to reach that goal and what sort of experience do they want to have?” Our conclusion was that the most likely player of a game about becoming Miss World probably sought the glamorous parts, the beauty and the affirmation with instant gratification rather than being a spokesperson for a particular cause or the classic “help the children of the world” since there are other, more effective ways of achieving those goals. We still wanted to somehow include these aspects of the Miss World-competition without making them the main focus of the game.
We decided then that our game would consist of tfour different gameplay modes:
- Creating your character: The player would be able to select name, ethnicity, eye colour, hair colour and choose between a few basic hairdos and clothes. Since the Miss World competition does not allow men to compete we decided to omit the option of choosing your sex. However we also decided to not use pronouns in the game, allowing the player to create their own fiction about their character.
- Training for the competition: The player would be given a certain amount of days to spend a limited amount of resources per day on different activities. Performing an activity would increase a corresponding skill ( for example, exercising increases fitness). These skills would then result in a higher/lower chance of success in the different events at the actual competition. This would make up the largest part of the game.
- Pre-competition mingle: This is the player’s opportunity to select their clothes for the events, talk to the judges and to the other contestants, allowing them to gather information that is helpful while competing and improve their chances to win Contestant’s choice.
- Competition: This part would consist of several smaller events with mini-games that would give the player partial scores for each event that all add up to a total score which decides whether or not the player becomes Miss World.
In the end we decided to focus on the events Beach Fashion, Miss Sports, Top Model, People’s Choice, Personality and Contestant’s Choice, omitting the Multimedia Award, Beauty with a Purpose and Miss Talent events, partly because we couldn’t find descriptions for some of them and partly because we did not want to boggle down the player with an excessive amount of stats to focus on.
The idea for the internal economy was that the player would have a certain amount of energy points to spend on different activites per day. These energy points were restored by eating, drinking coffee or sleeping, but sleeping drained the number of days available to you to complete the task. The player could also earn money from either working or opportunities that would sometimes show up and give the player a choice that would result in reward in cash, skill increase or better reputation or a punishment if the player chose wrongly. With their money the player could buy more clothes and customizing options. Some of these clothes would give the player higher status (like designer clothes in the real world) and give access to special areas and better rewarded opportunities.
The activities and corresponding stats we ended up deciding on would make up the main gameplay would be:
- Exercise (Fitness)
- Practice Charisma (Charisma)
- Study (Intelligence)
- Work (To earn money)
- Sleep/Eat (To earn energy)
- Mingle (Reputation)
It was important to us that all activities would matter at the actual competition, for example having a high intelligence skill would give the player different answers with a better score chance to choose from at the Personality-contest. However if the player has not paid attention to the information from opportunities and talking to judges/other contestants or has to little charisma to sound convincing they might still fail the event. As another example, the sports event would be represented by an obstacle course. A player with high fitness gets increased speed, agility and reflexes but the player must still steer the character to victory and going to the competition with too little energy left will prove detrimental. With this we wanted to prolong the end game and increase replay value for the player.
We decided to go for the omnipresent control model with the player seeing their avatar in front of them. The player would see the world from an aerial angle similar to RTS-games and interact with it by clicking on locations and selecting from pop-up menus, in a manner similar to The Sims.
1145 words later I’ll finish up with including some of the concept sketches from our Art Director, Julia Engström and User Interface Designer Lucas Chang to give you an idea of what kind of visual style we wanted.
Character customization menu:
Traning for the contest – Player interface:
Setting example: Final stage
Finally, looking back I feel we did achieve what we wanted. The game turned out like a dating sim but through giving value to all player actions, creating different outcomes based on player actions and different ways to achieve the victory condition we believe we have deviated enough from the standard formula to feel “fresh” while also giving the player the experience of becoming Miss World.
Sadly we did not prototype and playtest everything, assign values to the stats and make sure we had an actual, balanced game but due to time-constraints and the fact that it was not part of the assignment we gave it a pass. That would however be our first step going forward with this project. I also thought later that including the Miss Talent event might be a good idea since it would give the player another opportunity to customize and characterize their avatar by choosing one special skill to improve.
If you, reader, somehow got through all this, I salute you.