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Bluefirehawk's: "Path to World Domination"

About Core Aestetics and how you DO NOT start a game project

Posted by , in Game Design 18 January 2013 - - - - - - · 1,287 views

sooo... this week's entry is about the completely same topic as the last one, but a bit from a different side. In a nutshell I want to show what I did wrong in my first game draft and what I further change. At the same time this should be a bit of a example how fast your game idea can change.

in this post, I rely heavily on the principles explained in this video:
So, everybody watched it? Yes? Everybody understood it? NO?! GREAT, let's move on!

The Original "Project: Phoenix" Game
In retrospect, the game I had in mind when I wrote the first entry, has something like these three core aestetics:
  • Co-Op
  • Exploration
  • "Strategy"
Looking back at it, this seems a bit overblown. I fear it would have been too much, a too mixed experience to be any good. It is like combining drama, documentary and action in one movie. Even if you pull it off, it is too mixed for the viewer, not focused enough.
Especially the Co-OP and Strategy aspect would have been in conflict with each other. The original game would have been more like two completely different games in one.
I am sure there exists a way to make a beautiful game with very similar core aestetics, but maybe not for this type of game.

It may be important to note here why this happened, I am sure many new game developers do the same mistake I did:
You want to make your game you always wanted, your awesome revolutionary idea, so very different etc. Even if you KNOW this to be wrong, it still felt that way when I first wrote about my game. I see a lot of similar dream posts when I have a look at the forums. When you first write about it, you tend to explain it with different games (Oh, it's gonna be like StarCraft, but with your friend being able to play as a champion like in League of legends... etc.) and that's basically what you did, what I did. Mashing games together. That's why this won't work, you end up trying to provide many different core aestetics without analysing if they actually fit the game. How could you, you just started really experimentnig with game design. The best you could achieve is getting two different games packed together in one, or the worst and more likely solution, you get a game that is neither of those you originally mashed. Like having a bollywood romantic plot in a shocker movie like Repo Men.

Obviously, Project: Phoenix has to change. One aestetic has to step down from the core. It can still be in the game but only to enforce the other two aspects. This means that there would be a planning phase but far less powerful,more as a platform for players to communicate what they want to do.
But by having these two core aestetics in focus, Co-Op and Exploration, makes for a different play, a different experience. It is, a different game.
Welcome to "Project: Phoenix 1.1".
I think this could make an awesome game, putting in many of the ideas I touched upon in previous entries. The soundtrack fits perfectly.
Even the theme I have in mind only enforces the two core aspects of the game. I'd like to explore the very human feelings you get when you are sent out in a world where everything is here to kill you, where your life is essentially in the hands of the guy next to you. I would need to scrap the previous lore and story drafts but I wasn't too happy with it anyways.
Maybe you haven't noticed but I am very fond of this crude draft of the game, so why am I using words like "would"?
I won't be working on that game. Not in the near future. It has a more serious theme and requires serious artwork, it's a beast of a game that needs more content, it requires more resources than I have.Furthermore it is my fist game, this isn't a good platform to experiment with. I would be too attached and too fearsome to release any version of it to playtest.
I would trap myself in a circle of doom and never progress further.

What to do now? Well, I can play with the aestetics, setting and theme of the game and have a look what comes out. Maybe I can reuse some ideas from the original game. Maybe something comes out that takes less time and may be interesting to experiment with from a game design perspective.

Variation 1:
The biggest resource eater is the Exploration aspect. So let's get rid of it. It's still a post apocalyptic isometric shooter, but not the same game anymore. The basic storyline would be something like "Old bunker should be breached and cleared for a new base in this area. Make it happen." This leads to a more Level-like area, with limited space and limited possibilities. This would also get rid almost rid of any strategy aspect. This game would have the player to think about the tactics but that's not as in depth and complex than anything you'd expect from a strategy game.
This is the closest I get to the original game idea, not bad.

Variation 2:
Let's scrap the Exploration part and the game theme and instead, play with the gamer's "Trust". Let me explain:
Normally in a multiplayer game you can very much trust your partners. They have the same goal as you, if you lose, they lose too. Unless you have a troll, they probably don't want to stab you in tha back.
But what if your partner has a different goal?
The idea is taken from a social game I think the english world knows as "witch hunt" or "mafia".
Reimplementing a social game is a bit futile, then the gamers could just play it via skype. But I can take out the basic idea of the game, there is an informed minority in a group that try to work against each other.
I haven't figured out much, but I know that it makes sense to change the setting too.

You see, now I have a completely different game that shares almost nothing with the original draft.

Variation 3:
Scrap Co-Op, exploration and the theme. Instead focus on action and storytelling, making it a single player experience. There probably won't be a leveling system in this variaton. In the Project: Phoenix 1.1, the leveling system is used to enforce "Co-Op", each member is trying to get more valuable for the team, being the guy the team needs him to be. But in this variation may a leveling system even be wrong.
In such a world, a more scary theme could be a good way to go but that also requires a different protagonist that isn't a soldier.

So what is it going to be?
I don't know, I seriously don't. But of one thing I am sure, the game I'll be making probably deserves a new journal.

Evouluushun, why scrapping a game is good

Posted by , in Game Design 11 January 2013 - - - - - - · 888 views

sooo... this week may be a bit of a weird post. More weird than usual? Maybe, probably...

I am sort of scrapping everything of Project:Phoenix and start again, except for the code, there isn't much around yet, but more to that later.
I didn't write about it, but a lot changed since the last time I updated this journal, the game today and the game I wrote about in my first post back in August are more different than they could be. It seems very similar to species evolving, diversifying and eventually becoming so different that they are considered different species.
The same thing happened with the game idea, I added, changed and removed ideas and ways I thought about, now it is a different game.They still are related, I am proud that so many ideas persisted for so long and how many will persist that I haven't even written about. I am sure that this could become a great game one day. But I'd have to work on it till the end of times to be in a fit and finish I have in mind, until I can move on.

So what changed then?
Something I found out I defined without really knowing what I did. I first imagined that people will play it at LAN-Parties, just having a good time.
Without knowing, I defined a theme, a feeling for the game, something the player should experience while he plays. But I also had a second theme in mind, I wanted to be more realistic in how a military team works. Look at the Battlefields and Call of Duties out there, Everybody does what he wants and shoots around. In reality, an attack is planned beforehand, the bigger the attack, the more vigorous the planning.
I didn't put both in, because they fit well together, they don't. I put them in because I liked the idea, because in my simple imagination it worked. In reality however, they are more conflicting than not.

And that's what I changed and what I haven't yet decided, the theme. One idea for the theme is Trust. You are sent in a dangerous world with your fellow gamers, you live because the guy next to you doesn't let you die. But he is encouraged to. In the end you are set to face a dilemma, only one of your team can survive and join at the side of the commanders. So you either have to kill your team or you all die.
I like the theme, you can have plot twists which are not in the plot, but in the action of each friend you are gaming with.

Sadly, empowers the game as much as it hinders it. This game does not make sense in single player model. Let's be honest, I never released a game, practically nobody knows about it, there is nothing I can show. I am lucky enough when somebody takes a look at it, when it is required to play with a friend or two, who probably aren't around at the moment.
In short, scrap it. Valve could pull something like that off, but I don't. So I don't

What am I doing?
I don't know, I am still dreaming about different things, scenes, and in general, what you should actually let the player do, how do you tell a story, how do you let the gamer experience something about himself. But I can tell you this much, it will be a single player game, some mechanics will prevail, but it will be vastly different from the game I have in mind.
When I have the theme laid out, I will rewrite my basic game idea, trying to draw a more acurate picture than I did before and, try to show you just how much it deviates and where it is very much the same game.

The lesson to learn here: if you want to make a game and you have a game idea, try thinking about the theme, what feeling the player conciously or subconciously is exploring while playing your game. What question he's left with when he finished. It defines EVERYTHING!

January 2013 »


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