Category Archives: WIT

Grapes of Wrath – Level Design Lessons

Last week I designed Grapes of Wrath, a multiplayer level for Battlefield 1. Reflecting on the experience I will detail my process, and lessons learned.

Conceptually I split design into two areas. Theme & Structure.

Theme

Given I was aiming to create a post apocalyptic theme I searched for reference images several of which inspired my design.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

During this consideration of theme I considered the games structure.

Structure

In the context of Battlefield 1 I define theme as the map objectives, points of interest, and player flow. My research in this area began with Battlefield 1’s two game modes, Conquest & Rush which I intended to incorporate into my map.

Not only did I experience these modes by playing them, but used spectator mode to watch the battle play out on a meta level. This allowed me to more easily see how objective placement and points of interest affected player flows.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I then looked at the the different units, studying Battlefields different infantry classes, tanks, airplanes and vehicles. I found categories of each which had different play styles:

  • Air – A fast but weak plane, a slow but powerful bomber, and a hybrid plane
  • Tanks – A fast but weak tank, a slow but powerful tank, and a hybrid
  • Infantry – Short, medium and long range infantry
  • The Behemoth – A tie breaker

Battlefields vehicles cater to extreme playstyles with disadvantages, and usually a third averaged option. Combining map knowledge with player elements I created a ‘cerebral map’ of objectives with player flows and major elements such as a Behemoth route and an underground bridge. I had an idea of the experience I wanted to create though this clearly was not a map!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What I had created was akin to a disfigured skeleton which needed its flesh added and bones tweaked.  A location was needed a to root these abstract concepts in.

Continue reading Grapes of Wrath – Level Design Lessons

Difficulty in Difficulty

How does one convey difficulty levels?

The most common method in video games is through a menu from which players choose terms to set the difficulty of the game. Such menus generally take the form of the following:

  1. Easier than Easy
  2. Easy
  3. Medium
  4. Hard
  5. Harder than Hard

With each term developers have two ‘paths’ they can take. A generic or idiosyncratic term.

  1. Generic – Commonly used terms which have no thematic basis in a game
  2. Idiosyncratic – Terms that have a thematic basis in a game

Generic

The following are examples of generic terms:

  1. Beginner
  2. Easy
  3. Medium / Normal
  4. Hard
  5. Expert

A clear advantage to using such terms is they are established concepts in the gamer zeitgeist making them more likely to be know across cultures, and languages.

On the other hand a number of issues arise when using generic terms such as:

  1. Different MeaningsNintendo Hard’s easy is harder than Western easy
  2. Different Connotations – There are many interpretations of the term. For example Easy can have negative connotations to a players self sense of skill though it may be appropriate. This may cause them to choose a higher difficulty than is appropriate resulting in a less enjoyable experience.
  3. Not Thematic – Alone they add little flavor to the game

Continue reading Difficulty in Difficulty

Shadow of The Colossus, Visual Story Assignment

As part of our Visual Story course at Carnegie Mellons Entertainment Technology Center we were required to briefly analyze visual imagery in a piece of media. I choose the game Shadow of The Colossus as my subject matter.

Diagonal Lines

As the game begins with an eagle in the distance. The eagle descends into a mountain range flying rapidly, in a titled manner past our hero creating a momentary clear diagonal, and frame within a frame. The combination of techniques draw our eyes into that area of the screen where we our introduced to our hero clearly contrasted in brighter colors against the dark mountains.

Contrast

As our hero continues to travel under the cover of darkness, we see the moon peer out from the canopy. the contrast between the moon and the dark leaves draws our eyes in which the director then uses for a smooth visual transition to the next scene which has a horse’s feet moving at the position of the moon.

As our hero approaches his destination he encounters a pass. Our eyes are drawn to our hero in his bright cape, and the glowing pass which contrasts with the stone grey scene. The techniques help setup our eyes on to our hero and where he is heading.

Continue reading Shadow of The Colossus, Visual Story Assignment

Entwined, Impressions

Entwined is a rhythm game developed by PixelOpus for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

Warning there be spoilers ahead! Read at your own peril!

Entwined’s gameplay can be broken down into two sections:

PowerUp

  • An on the rails experience in a tube game space with a fish and bird respectively confined to a half of the tube.

  • Each side of the tube has a PowerUp bar that is filled by the player collecting objects contained on that side.
  • Objects are collected through the player moving the fish and bird using their controllers joysticks.
  • When the bar is full the player morphs into a dragon and goes into the SkyWrite section.

SkyWrite

  • A freeroam experience where players use their controllers joysticks to fly around a fixed area collecting orbs till the sections PowerUp bar is filled.
  • Once the PowerUp bar is filled the player can SkyWrite leaving a persistant trail.
  • When SkyWriting is complete the player can proceed to the next PowerUp section to continue the game.

Like

  • Beautiful visuals
  • When the bird and fish come close together their color melds into a green, which is the same color of the dragon they later morph into.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Little orbs used to direct player to fly interesting areas

  • Powerup system links into joystick controls well
  • Great tutorial. The developers employed practical examples with clear visual indicators in both PowerUp and SkyWrite sections.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Good use of orange and blue which are strong color themes throughout game

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Continue reading Entwined, Impressions

Almost Famous, Heroes Journey Assignment

From suburbia to rock heaven and back again, Almost Famous is a story of an out of place boy sent into the unknown, to return with the truth.

Warning there be spoilers ahead! Read at your own peril!

The Known

The Heroes Journey of Almost Famous begins with our protagonist William, and his known world. William is a boy ahead of the curve, being significantly younger than his classroom peers.

Despite Williams gifts, he has his share of troubles due in part to two differences:

Physical examples:

  • Where are your pubes? – incident in Williams High School.
  • Looking out of place when brushing his hair in the bathroom due to not having a beard

Mental examples:

  • His joy when others are corrected – incident with the ‘Xmas’ painter where William happily looks on
  • An intense interest in his mother’s interests – whilst cooking soy cutlets
  • Nobody includes him. They call him “The Narc” – this is indicative of Williams dislike of drugs, a quality presumably gained from his mother

Due in part to internalizing his mother’s choices at a young age, William is an abnormality in the ordinary world, and he is scorned by his peers for it. Williams mother, and their home is what he knows, and is thus symbolic of the known world. The known world is not without conflict though.

Troubles manifest themselves through William’s sister who rebels against against the known. During this time William is shown not only to have a limited awareness of his problem, but is unable to influence his world. 

Watching helplessly Williams mother and sister fight infront of him. Ultimately Williams sister abandons the known for the unknown world, though not before aiding William. Williams sister increases his awareness of a need for change, through her music records.

Continue reading Almost Famous, Heroes Journey Assignment

Heart of The Swarm, Impressions

Recently I’ve been playing Starcraft 2 Heart of The Swarm, a military science fiction real-time strategy video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. The following are my notes:

There be spoilers ahead, read at your own peril!

Like

  • The Hyperion mission! Having to manage one unit with a continuous stream of battling non playable characters takes away the added task of micro management and lets me enjoy a feeling of ‘distinctiveness’

  • How ‘cutscenes’ meld into gameplay e.g when saving Raynor, Kerrigan’s Leviathan arms smash into the prison ship which then transitions into the game level

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Evolution missions really helps players understand how an evolution works and how to use it

Dislike

  • After Kerrigan’s battle with Narud, I felt she recovered too quickly. It drew from the gravity of the fight. She should have been in an injured state for the Leviathan section where characters could comment on her fight. Then by the next mission having recovered, there would be a contextual piece of dialog about it

Continue reading Heart of The Swarm, Impressions

Dyscourse, Impressions

Recently I’ve been playing Dyscourse, a survival adventure video game developed and published by Owlchemy. The following are my notes:

There be spoilers ahead, read at your own peril!

Like

  • Effective non playable character ‘humanization’
    • Text – One character makes a reference to the main players clothes
    • Actions – Passing around of water bottles scene

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Warm colorful storybook art style
  • Characters reflect ‘character’ through facial expressions, walking style, and speech which conveys the characters emotion
  • ‘Torchlight Talk’ mechanic, it makes sense that the fire goes out over time making talking limited

  • Time based events with clearly conveyed state e.g combo sequence required to defeat boar

  • Color coding for character dialog messages

  • Slight shine on wooden planks to attract players attention

  • Choice confirmation points that give a player a chance to again consider

  • Rewind feature, which allows player to go through the story again and try get the outcome they actually desire

Continue reading Dyscourse, Impressions