Honours Blog #1 – Introductions and Initial Ideas

So this is it, the fourth and final year of university. I’ve missed a month of university already due to my internship at NaturalMotion so i’m still playing catch-up but overall it should be fine.

I’ve had a good idea on the topics I want to cover for my honours since halfway through third year and talked about it briefly with our GDPM Mentor Dayna over Skype halfway through September (when I was still at my internship) and later on last Monday to iron out my ideas.

My initial idea essentially evolved around worldbuilding (the creation of a setting from its terrain and geography, history and cultures – and pretty much everything else under the sun and beyond).

 

Initial Research Idea

I had wanted to turn the project into one where I could just focus on worldbuilding but in my opinion it doesn’t really relate to a Game Design and Production Management degree but more for a Creative Writing degree: I needed a way to make it relevant to my course.

Windows to a Greater World: How games worldbuild effectively

This was my main idea, in which, instead of focusing on the worldbuilding itself, the dissertation would focus on what techniques and systems games use to show the world beyond the main story. The title “Windows to a Greater World” itself comes from the realization that in many RPGs, such as BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 (2012), the player character’s party members are each representatives of both their homeland and species and the main source of exposition and lore for the player.

This research would look to:

  • Identify systems and mechanics used in games
    • (eg Codexes, Audio Logs, Dialogue Wheels)
  • Comparing the same system across different games
    • (eg Codexes in Mass Effect vs Glossary/Bestiary in Witcher 3)
  • Highlighting most effective techniques
    • (perhaps via survey and/or personal analysis)

 

The Real Question: What is my game deliverable?

My main idea for the practical part of the project was from an honours student 2 years ago who had created a physical world bible but from an art-oriented character-development perspective, which explored how establishing a species’ look, culture, religion and the like could inform the aesthetic look and feel of said species. However I don’t think I could do that myself, or at least not as well executed, as I can’t for the life of me draw that well!

I needed a more practical project in mind, so instead of a pure worldbuilding-oriented project I thought of several game ideas in mind (luckily I was more comfortable with programming and the engine-side of things than art!)

I was told that I didn’t need to make a game, and I wouldn’t be marked on my programming skills but instead more on my processes on how I go about this, but I still really wanted to make something practical – something that I could show off at the Grad Show other than pie charts and research papers.

As such the main issue I was having from starting this module fully was: what game idea should I deliver?

I had several ideas but I wasn’t very sure on which one to follow through with:

 

Idea 1: Spymaster Game

Idea 2: Character-driven text-Adventure

Idea 3: Mobile Story Tiles Game

  • Dissertation Link:
  • -Can we make a game where reading codexes and researching lore is part of the gameplay?
  • Dissertation Link:
  • -Can we make a game that’s all about exploring the world via characters?
  • -If so how do we make it effective?
  • Dissertation Link:
  • -Is there a way to create a visually-led story game on mobile?
  • -How do we tailor the identified worldbuilding techniques to a casual mobile audience?
  • Engine:
  • -Unity? (Unity programming may be less bulky and have more tutorials)
  • -Unreal? (I have codexes set up in some form from my 3rd year project which I could use)
  • Engine:
  • -ChoiceScript
  • Engine:
  • -Unity
  • Environment:
  • -Enclosed space, spymaster’s quarters
  • -Large map on table (How Core Game Loop happens)
  • Environment:
  • -Campfire setting (enclosed environment, again)
  • Environment:
  • -N/A, always changing – vector art style
  • Core Game Loop: Essentially Assassin’s Creed’s idle quest system
  • -Research info about quests
  • -select quest
  • -Send spy / send further instructions
  • -Wait (probably a day skip mechanic?)
  • -Rinse and Repeat
  • Side Focus:
  • +Character-driven link (by giving spies personality, maybe different skillsets)
  • Core Game Loop: Conversations (but what is the purpose here?)
  • -Talk to people
  • -Find out about them
  • -Talk to more people
  • -Maybe as a test as a part of research: questions about what they’ve found out?
  • Code Game Loop: Story tiles makes a tapestry
  • -Get shown 3 tiles like a slot-machine
  • -Player can swipe up and down on the tiles to show alternate versions (eg version 1 may have a single person in it, version 2 may have a large crowd, etc)
  • -Players select and move on to the next tiles
  • -When done the game runs through the entire tapestry from the start narrating the story
  • Challenges:
  • -3D art assets, programming codex (at least) and time-based missions
  • Challenges:
  • -Reliant more on writing, haven’t used choicescript before but familiar with their games and common systems/techniques used. Should be simpler than actual programming.
  • Challenges:
    • -Mobile programming, making an interface-based tile swiping gesture system, voiceover?
  • Comments:
  • -This may be too hard or too big of a challenge here, it requires the most art assets (3D models and textures) and programming of all the other ideas. Overall, it has a lot of stuff that needs to be done FROM SCRATCH!
  • -This idea would be really cool (and probably simpler to execute) in VR but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here
  • Comments:
  • -Being stuck in a “room” with NPCs to talk to gets boring fast – what’s the purpose/goal in the game here?
  • -Probably the easiest to do out of all the other ideas
  • Comments:
  • -Once the core system of swiping is done then most of the programming is finished, more reliant on vector art assets instead

 

Now that’s a lot to take in, so i’ll talk about my meeting with Dayna on guidance on next steps in Honours Blog #2!

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