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Emotions Explained

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mindrot

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Staff members have contradicted my ideas on several occasions. You can view the differences in opinion here. Their statements on what is and isn't acceptable is obviously more valid than my own, as they are going to the ones who are making the judgments. This, therefore, is meant to be more of a guide for myself, and perhaps also to be an influence for someone who is otherwise stumped.

There is a fundamental weakness in the concept presented in my previous entry. As intriguing as the story may have been, it simply lacked the ability to incorporate an emotional element. I did not want to; as one of the staff put it, 'bolt it on'. Doing so makes the emotional features seem out of place and superficial.

I am going to explore the exact wording of the definition of the element, emotion. Here it is in its entirety: "Your game must heavily feature, or make a clear effort to evoke in the player, a particular feeling or Emotion, or the concept of Emotion(s) in general. For example, you could have your game try and evoke fear in the player, or set your game in a world fuelled by greed.

"Your game must heavily feature..."
It is clear that the emotional element in the game must have importance. There are four elements in this contest, and they should compose the four prime distinguishing features of your game. From this I gather that the emotional element should not simply be in the game as a background influence. Fundamental game mechanics involving characters and the player should revolve around this type of emotional inclusion.

"...make clear effort to evoke in the player..."
This is a different type of implementation of the emotional element. Thus, we have two options available for us to pursue to in this category. The definition does say, "OR", but we are obviously not limited in choosing one or the other as it would be near impossible to create one without remnants of the other. We are expected, then, to generate a feature set which explicitly focuses on one or both. An example of the later would be an FPS which attempts to create suspense and fear in the player, but in addition to the dark music in the background, and the dark corridor ahead, the main character has a fear bar which affects his performance in or around these scary areas. It's a lame example, but it is just meant to be descriptive. I think that those who manage to integrate the emotional element in both the player and the characters will have a distinct advantage over those who focus on only one.

"...a particular feeling or emotion..."
Singularly choosing one emotion will be the option of preference for those focusing on invoking emotion in the player. This option allows one to focus all of their writing, visual content, and game play features towards the chosen emotional mood. I fear, however, that fear will be the emotion of choice for most developers. Fear is an over-rated, and over-used emotion, and while its not too easy to actually inspire fear in people, it is too easy to "...make clear effort". I foresee many people making games trying to scare you, but because of either lack of clever dialog, quality sound effects, or awe-inspiring graphics, will fall short, and instead of ending up with a terrorific game, will end up with a giant piece of moldy cheese.

"...the concept of emotion(s) in general..."
This will be the choice of most developer's, as it doesn't require psychological analysis of the reaction content will produce. In addition, it doesn't require a target audience for said analysis, as the judges will most likely be composed of people whose traits and responses greatly vary. Unfortunately, because of these two reasons, choosing this option will allow people to pass through the elimination process without actually focusing on an emotional significance for their project. Having your NPC's posses a "happiness" trait that influences the cost of their goods, and an aggression trait which influences how much insubordination guards will put up with is neat. However, it does not satisfy the very first requirement listed, "heavily feature". These things are background features, and are most likely transparent to the average player. Simply, listing these variables somewhere on the interface does not make their existence essential to the game, as the elements are intended, but instead, simply makes their presence obvious.

"For example..."
I understand the generality of the examples listed. They don't want to give away solutions to the problem, as it ruins an opportunity for those who would otherwise come up with the concepts themselves. However, I need to expound upon what they are saying, and clarify some misconceptions many people may have.

The element Emotion should not be treated as a secondary economic factor. Having emotional settings such as in Civilizations IV where your populace is represented by an emotional state is not only insufficient as a sole inclusion of the element; it also lacks personal links with the player. Do not turn emotions into statistics. Even if you are going for the RTS/Sim theme, the concept of emotions, and a statistic is different. A player must deeply associate themselves with characters and the setting in order to feel an emotion. However, if you are using the other approach, a player must still understand the emotions of characters. In a purely stat based environment, there is no understanding; there is the acknowledgement of arbitrary numbers. The way units feel must have an effect on the actions they take. You must help the player to know why things are feeling the way they are. But most importantly, you must make the player want to know these things.

Using the element of Emotion as a concept allows you to create a more free-form environment. However, it doesn't exclude you from trying to invoke emotion in the player. It simply allows the player to choose the emotional associate on their own terms. If your city is mad because of an opposing force's presence, you should be mad too. However, if your city is happy because of the great harvest and the recent treaty with a neighboring nation, you should be glad too. These emotions are less defined, and you have less control over them than those who choose to focus on a specific mood, but they are sill emotions. Keep them that way.

ALL of the four elements should be given equal importance in your game design. Falling short of one can not be made up for by enhancing another. The elements Emotion and Europe are definitely the easiest to 'ignore' or 'write-off'. They are also the two elements that will, in most cases, uniquely identify your game from another, and thus, keep it from being labeled in terms of other games. You do not want to be labeled as a Diablo or Fallout clone. These contests are designed to encourage creativity and growth in our field, not regurgitation of pre-existing games. Be creative and distinct with your games.
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