segunda-feira, 16 de janeiro de 2017

Iterative design & games

Gaming creativity process, allow a myriad of methodological using possibilities. In the gaming projects that I participated, I frequently used the iterative design method. One first view about this methodological process comes from Zimmerman (2003, p.176), who says, ‘iterative design is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a work in progress’.



Complementing the previous idea, the process of iterative design for games, can be divided into few stages (FULLERTON et al, 2008, p.249): A) conceptual phase: consists of generating ideas, formalizing and testing them; B) pre-production: here the ideas are reviewed to evolve and be tested again; C) the production stage: the game is tested and revised with different groups of play testers to locate errors; D) phase of quality assurance: where the game is tested to be launched without errors.

We'll discuss more about these subject in a future post using some examples (indie games and triple A games) to clarify this idea. Until then, check out the video below about iterative design applied to games:



#GoGamers



References:

ZIMMERMAN, Eric. Play as Research: the Iterative Design Process. IN: Design Research: Methods and Perspectives, (2003): 176-184. (also available at last access: May, 2015).

FULLERTON, Tracy et al. Game design workshop: a playcentric approach to creating innovative games. Burlington: Morgan Kaufmann, 2008.

sexta-feira, 13 de janeiro de 2017

To think about fun, play and games

"Fun is the aftermath of deliberately manipulating a familiar situation in a new way" ( BOGOST , 2016, p.57)



Source: BOGOST, Ian. Play anything: the pleasure of limits, the uses of boredom, & the secret of games. New York: Basic Books,2016.

segunda-feira, 26 de dezembro de 2016

Book: Levelling Up - The Cultural Impact of Contemporary Videogames

Wow! I want to share very good news in this last post of the year: in 2015, I presented the paper “Observing Iterative Design on the Game Dominaedro”, that I wrote for the Video Game Cultures & The Future of Entertainment conference (VG7).

Yesterday, I received awesome news from the organizers: all the papers from the conference were compiled in a fantastic book named "Levelling Up: The Cultural Impact of Contemporary Videogames". Edited by Brittany Kuhn and Alexia Bhéreur-Lagounaris, and published by Inter-Disciplinary Press (Oxford) the book is a wide discussion about gaming culture in the contemporary scenario. Check the cool cover below:



CLICK HERE to buy!

Below, you can read the book's synopsis:

"Videogames have come a long way from Super Mario Bros and Pong. After thirty years of technological advancements and academic criticisms, videogames have become a fertile ground for social change and virtual identity creation. Where big game companies like Bioware, Bethesda, and Rockstar Games have begun to include more inclusive narratives, independent game companies are beginning to delve into the field of ‘serious games,’ capitalising on the popularity and prevalence of social networking to inspire and assist non-game-related fields. While all of this is happening, a new subculture has become to dominate social media: that of the fanboy and the Let’s Play YouTube video phenomenon. It is a dynamic time in videogame studies, from the perspective of player, designer and theorist. However, with the advent of virtual reality, the question remains: where will videogames, and subsequently our society, ‘level up’ to next?"

#GoGamers

segunda-feira, 19 de dezembro de 2016

A practical checklist for your gaming project

I’m a very methodical person. I like to organize everything in my everyday life and in my work. In this post, I want to share a small checklist I’ve created for my gaming projects. It’s a synthesis of the main points to remember in a game’s creative process and production. Check the fields and plan your work!



You can use it, copy it, add elements to it and share it. Just remember to give credits to @vincevader. Enjoy it!

Essential elements in the game design/production process Yes (√) No (X)
The concept and main idea are defined
I can tell the game idea in 20 seconds
The game has a narrative
In case of a narrative, it has a well-defined beginning and ending
The game is focused in pure mechanics, there’s no need of a narrative
The mechanic(s) is (are) well defined
I already constructed a simple pre-prototype (digital or analogical)
I already tested the game with imaginary players simulating a real match
I already made one first complete prototype (analogical or digital) that can be played by beta-testers
I already coordinated at least ten beta-test sessions with different players, using the first complete prototype
I applied modifications in the game after the beta-test sessions
I already created a more complete prototype that has most parts of the game’s final version
I made contact with other professionals (artists, programmers etc.) to finalize the game
I have a strategy to launch my game and disclose it in social networks, sites and other channels
I have a partner to distribute/sell the game
I’m satisfied with the final product
The game is ready to be launched

#GoGamers

quinta-feira, 1 de dezembro de 2016

The Witness

Jonathan Blow is the game designer behind Braid, one awesome 2D platform game that uses time distortion as gameplay. In Braid, you can manipulate time to avoid death, solve puzzles, send a shadow to the future to perform an action, create “bubbles” of time lapse and many others cool mechanics. It’s one of my top 10 games. Check the trailer below:



In January of this year, Blow launched his new game: The Witness. Similar to Braid, it’s a puzzle game, but in a first person point of view. The mysterious narrative puts you in an abandoned and colorful island, full of digital screens. Each screen has a kind of an enigma that conducts you to the next one. Each puzzle solved gives you a small piece about the enigmatic history. You can check the main idea in the game’s trailer:



Points to highlight in the experience of the game:

1) Jonathan Blow recreates the classic mechanics of drawing a line through a labyrinth. Using colors, spatial restrictions, different shapes and logical reasoning, the game designer put the players’ mind to work, many times. The level of resolution of some puzzles is impressive.



2) The scenario is part of the narrative, and it works as a tool. Every single detail and object in the ambient contributes with the history. The island is full of statues and behind them there are hints for the plot. There are also some digital recorders with voices saying facts about the place. The colors of the trees, the direction of the light, the passing of time etc. everything could be an element for the story.

3) The game is full of references from movies, literature and other games. I found lots of similarities with Adolfo Bioy Casares’ “The Invention of Morel” book.

4) It’s a daring production. The Witness is a very artistic game. It explains little to the player and, most of the time, it’s essential to explore and use your mind to try to solve the puzzles.

I’m still playing the game, but the experience – till this moment – is strange, difficult and relaxing.

#GoGamers

segunda-feira, 7 de novembro de 2016

INSIDE: an obscure ludic experience in a dark landscape

Limbo, created by the independent studio Playdead, was my favorite game in the year of 2010. I think I might have played the full game around seven or eight times. It’s a simple puzzle-platform 2D game, but the narrative and dark ambience won my attention in an epic level. Six years later, Playdead launched another big hit: INSIDE.



Put the mechanics and gameplay from Limbo in a blender. Add some dystopian elements from George Orwell’s “1984” novel and mix in a pinch of technological horror. There you have it: INSIDE. The gaming plot is about a nameless red-shirted boy that must survive in a hostile futuristic ambient, trying to avoid well-equipped guards, killer dogs and natural disasters. As the story goes, you will discover parts of a huge conspiracy that aims to create an abominable creature. To go further in the narrative, the player must solve puzzles using things that are scattered on the scene; sometimes, they seem pretty obvious and sometimes not too much. I want to highlight the “mind control” puzzles where you put a device on the boy’s head to gather zombie-type characters from the scenario to help you (a very similar mechanics from the game Swapper).

Check the gaming atmosphere and gameplay in the video below:



The soundtrack is another incredible feature from the game. During all the experience, you can hear a very disturbing soundscape. INSIDE’s soundtrack is very similar to Zoät·Aon’s album “Star Autopsy” and Robert Rich and Lustmord’s “Synergistic Perceptions”.





INSIDE
is not a horror game, but it can create a unique atmosphere of fear and despair with the strategic use of its dark scenario, obscure music, horrible deaths and dangers in the journey. Saint (2014, p.3) argues that the mixture of fear and the sense of impotency (two basic features of this game) can create an aura of horror and a deep dive in the game’s reality. But, in this context, it’s important to remember that the “term horror is extremely broad and covers an expansive range of themes, experiences and reactions” (MARSHALL, 2014, p.60). INSIDE offers a different specter of horror/fear/terror. It’s subtler and demands the use of the players’ imagination to complete some points from the narrative.

In other words, INSIDE’s context works with the immersion in the dark reality of the game and the empathy we can feel for the fragile character fighting the dangers.

When we feel with other individuals or characters we not only use our imagination in order to undertake a shift in our cognitive perspective and imaginatively to experience the world from their point of view but we also use our imagination to adopt the assumed emotional state of the target individual. That means, when moviegoers or readers* feel empathy with a character, they perceive the events in the story from the spatio-temporal position of that character and at the same time experience emotions that match those of the target character in terms of quality, albeit maybe not in terms of quantity” (TRIEBEL, 2014, p.5).

INSIDE is a masterpiece to discuss questions about game design and narrative. It’s an awesome example of how the classic platform format still can be creative, immersive and full of meaning. In this ambient full of “ludic fear” there’s a crucial question: why do some players search for fear and other bad feelings in games? To solve this puzzle, we quote Suits (2005, p.55) who says, “Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles”.

*We can include gamers in this context



References:

MARSHAL, James L.. The potential and limits of a visual arts practice. IN: SMITH, Shilinka; HILL, Shona. Transforming fear, horror and terror: multidisciplinary reflections. Oxford: Inter-disciplinary press, 2014.

SAINT, Michelle. Horror in art, horror in life: its nature and its value. IN: SMITH, Shilinka; HILL, Shona. Transforming fear, horror and terror: multidisciplinary reflections. Oxford: Inter-disciplinary press, 2014.

SUITS, Bernard. The grasshopper: games, life and utopia. Toronto: Broadview Encore Editions, 2005.

TRIEBEL, Doreen. Manipulating empathic responses in horror fiction. IN: KATTELMAN, Beth; HODALSKA, Magdalena. Frightful Witnessing: the rhetoric and (re)presentation of fear, horror and terror. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2014.