handcircus

Games and Interaction design

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Fahrenheit

Just been playing the fahrenheit demo (available as a torrent from eurogamer here. Its a very fresh experience. As well as being a highly polished title, theres a number of really unique aspects in its design. Seemingly billed as an interactive narrative, the game is presents you almost as the director/storyteller, and is self-aware (the director introduces the game himself at the beginning). It throws you right in at the deepend. You've just commited a murder while in a trance produced by an unknown antagonist and have to clean up and get out of there as soon as possible. Plays like an adventure game but a little higher paced. Every scene can pan out in a number of different ways depending on your actions, and the use of split screen really adds to the pressure as you have to react and make decisions in a limited time. Its borrowed heavily from film, in terms of cinematography, writing, style and the wonderful music from Angelo Bandalamenti (of twin peaks and most lynch music fame). Significantly, it is truly engaging on an emotional level. Perhaps not as much as if it had been a film but impressive nonetheless

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Lyricography

Something ive been playing with over a couple of evenings is ways of representing music lyrically. walking around with ipod, like 90% of all londoners now it seems, one thing that really hits me is how differently lyrics might be visually represented from artist to artist, track to track. ive been meaning to write a little opengl/c++ text rendering engine for a while, and thought id plug in some lyrics and sync it up to some music. its really early work so far, with only a couple of effects on the text/camera and some blocks that look pointless and shit. anyhow, heres a quick vid.

Monday, July 25, 2005

What makes up a game? Where could game innovation lie?

been thinking a bit about what ultimately constitutes the structure of a game. not in terms of its artistic content, storyline, aesthetic etc but in terms of the bare parts of the interactive system. So heres my definition! hopefully ive not subconciously robbed this from somewhere else (although it is more than likely)

A game consists of a number of elements and systems that act upon these elements. These elements can consist of assets (passive elements) or agents (active elements). Each of these elements can have a number of attributes that affect their behaviour within the active systems. All games involve changing the value of these attributes or the attributes of the systems, with the goal of the elements being configured for a goal state. The attributes are modified by the player using one or more verbs. The final part is the input device allowing expressions of these verbs.

So for example in pong, you have 5 elements - the top wall, the bottom wall, the left bat, the right bat, and the ball. The bats and the ball are active elements. The walls are passive. The goal state is to get the ball past the opponents bat. The verbs you are able to use are to modify the height of the bat directly. The game system dictates how the ball behaves when it interacts with other elements. There is also an AI system controlling the opponent (unless also controlled by a human).

Or in a simple platform game you have your character and a number of AI controlled enemies (the active elements). You have a number of pickups and the environment elements (the passive elements). The verbs available to the player are apply a force to the left and right of the hero character, or apply a jumping force. The goal state is to get the player to a specific location. The systems in place are a general collision system restricting movement, gravity, and AI systems for each enemy.

So, given that those are the bare parts of games where can innovation lie? well i guess you could say:

Types of element
Types of simulation relating to gameplay (advanced AI as seen in Halo, advanced physics as seen in Half life 2, metaballs simulation in mercury, water/wave dynamics simulation in wave race)
Types of verb available to the player (rolling-collecting in katamari damacy, assigning creature behaviour in lemmings, swinging off buildings in spiderman 2, running up walls in PoP, holding hands in ICO)
Input device/method (eg Eyetoy, konga drums, gesture recognition in black and white)

Of course combinations of many different things is also innovation but this has helped me isolate areas for consideration for innovation and helped me to try think about the bare bricks of games .

My name in a game manual!

Just seen the manual for God of war, and seen my name in the manual for Sony Europe staff, for my role as interactive developer/designer for the God of war site. The site was quick to develop (about 3 weeks work, including the design, build, and 3d work, although we did have the benefit of being able to modify and use all the original game assets!) and although could have been better (bit more polish and a proper introduction to kratos and the narrative) im pretty happy with what i managed to do. more to the point tho, its awesome seeing my name in the manual :)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Tim Burton

Theres a wonderfully charming interview with Tim Burton on the guardian film site. his awkwardness and modesty are so likable. reading the article definitely makes me realise how much of my interests stem from story and the creation of interesting characters and worlds, as well as interaction and game design. whether or not this is purely as a result of recent reading and marks a burgeoning curiosity or whether its something thats alsways been there, im not sure. Also just seen that Amazon has an interesting book for sale comprising an extended interview, entitled Burton on Burton.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Comics and Sequential Art

Phew. One more to read, this time a book by Will Eisner, entitled "Comics and Sequential art". I got put onto Will Eisner by a young lady called Michelle (if memory served) who took a life drawing for animation class at London Studio. She brought the book in and it was truly inspiring. Drawing filled with expression, almost appearing as its animating even when static. Anyway, this is a book he wrote as a companion to a course he holds at NYU Visual arts school, examining the form of comic books, the combination of words, graphic design and illustration. Im hoping it will give me a bit of a hand getting to grips with storyboarding and visual storytelling.

Screenwriting

I've been reading a few books on story structure and how it can be applied to interactive narrative, but speaking to a mate on holiday (who works closely with the film industry), he mentioned Story by Robert McKee. Meant to be THE book to read on the subject, so im hoping to get a much deeper understanding in the form and the techniques involved in the creation of compelling characters and weaving a narrative that can touch its audience.

Seriously slack. some books to read:

What a hectic month. sadly no updates, but i've been up to a lot. Went to Malta on the SCEE company conference for four days of heavy drinking and a lot of early starts for sessions (and some real good sessions there were). Brass bands, fire jugglers, catamarans and phil harrison covered in plastic ducks were among the highlights (plus the unbelievable PS3 footage). This was followed for Kate's sis' fiance's stag do in budapest (more boozing, 4 airports in 24 hours was a real pain), and finally in the hot, expensive and surreal barbados for a mate's wedding. phew. anyway back in the uk, and ready to learn a lot more after a number of different points of inspiration.
Anyway, heres a few books ive been reading. Discovered Tom Robbins, now added as a one of my new authors to obsess about. Over the past month I've read a couple of his books, Another Roadside Attraction - a jungle king, his clairvoyant wife, a maverick genius and the baboon king steal the body of jesus and start a roadside zoo. its awesome. and also Fierce invalids home from hot climates - a CIA agent buddhist genius with a mind of his own is trapped in a wheelchair in supernatural circumstances and attempts to piece together the spiritual future of humanity. prose without compare, its well worth a read.
Also picked up the da vinci code and i thought id write a bit about the possibilities of adapting it as a game based upon the story structure and the events that happen within. ive made a few notes so i'll try and get them posted soon.