Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Batman Arkham Asylum Multiplayer

This is an excerpt from an original early concept created by me, Ronildson S. S. Palermo, for a hypothetical multiplayer component for the already released title Batman: Arkham Asylum. The text assumes, for the general purpose of illustrating the idea, that much of the game’s design and features would remain the same and that only small changes and additions would be made, all of those will be, of course, explained and detailed along the way.


High Concept

Multiplayer revolves around the clash between hero and villains. Gameplay is set much like a challenge room. The hero and the henchmen battle for basic multiplayer objectives like deathmatch (or in batman’s case: outcoldmatch), protect/capture the VIP or a special item and others. Of course all the components are stylized and themed for batman’s world using people and items of interest in the universe for the multiplayer. Some changes in perspective and slight additions to combat would be created and balanced. The hero would struggle to remain undetected and silently eliminate any immediate threats to his life and, if necessary, engage enemies in physical combat to achieve his objective. Villains would work together to find and eliminate the hero as soon as possible, combining their many different abilities to find, corner and kill Batman. Many game modes and play styles could be created by tweaking the numbers in the game, for example, like creating a pure predator mode where all thugs have guns or a wave mode where Batman must fend off wave after wave of increasingly better equipped enemies.

Gameplay Features

  • A multiplayer match begins like a challenge room. There’s the possibility of mixing combat and predator gameplay in the match by introducing armed and unarmed opponents, using the match’s settings, forcing heroes to integrate and coordinate their skills in both Predator and Freeflow gameplay;
  • Villains play using a first person perspective camera to facilitate weapon aiming and handling, build more tension around fighting and allowing more freedom for the hero to perform stealth maneuvers;
  • Hero keeps third person perspective;
  • Batman has only one life and henchmen have plenty, depending on balance and game mode. As thugs go down, they respawn until they run out of lives;
  • Visual obstacles are mainly used to hinder the villain’s line of sight and create suspense as well as to allow some surprise for the hero in terms of enemy positioning. It allows stalking, silent approaches, quiet elimination of threats and ambushes, the latter possibly coming from both sides;
  • Levels would contain pipes, tasers, knives, wall boxes and even weapon lockers. But never enough for more than a certain fraction of the thugs. This creates diversity and allows some predatory gameplay to take place in order for the hero to pick off any gun-wielding thug and increase their survival chance during close encounters;
  • Villains can communicate through in-game voice chat. But when one of them are neutralized, no warning or notice is given to their partners. This feature helps the conveying of the experience of being Batman and eliminating a large group of enemies one-by-one leaving the rest to wonder what happened to the others, it also incentives thugs to work in groups.
  • Detective Vision’s X-Ray range would be limited to two-three dozen feet, roughly 8-12 meters. This makes it mandatory for Batman to actively move and explore the area in order to find the all thugs’ positions, at the same time, henchmen outside his vision’s range would be given a chance to relocate and surprise the hero;
  • The ceiling of every interior area, as well as the high perch areas of outside environments, (above the floodlights that light up the area) are shrouded in darkness. It allows Batman to move and scour the area without being seen by any thug who simply happens to look up. Batman would be able to grapple from gargoyle to gargoyle and range the area, assess the situation and then expose himself;
  • Rifles have flashlights; these are capable of penetrating the thick darkness that embraces the high points of every area. Armed goons are capable of seeking Batman in the darkness, so the hero is not totally safe while scouting the area from the high points. The hero needs to avoid their light beams and keep moving in order to avoid getting caught by a dutiful guard.
  • Tasers and other weapons do not respawn in a standard match. They spawn once, at the beginning of the game, and whenever a henchmen carrying one is neutralized, the weapon drops on the floor. Respawning thugs have to search for their initial weapons on-site. Batman cannot interact with them. This makes ammunition for the rifles extremely scarce, since they only have one ammo clip from start to finish. Making thugs think twice before spraying bullets into the known gargoyle positions.
  • Villains have a similar set of movements in combat to the hero, except Batman’s counter is replaced with a block for villains and, though their evade jumps have the same range as batman’s jump/roll, their recovery time after an evade jump is a lot longer and, during this period, they are completely vulnerable to attacks, not to mention they cannot vault over someone with an evade move. The cape stun would be changed to a crippling blow or a ramming move that cannot be countered, only evaded, and would leave batman exposed for a second. Note that these additions, along with the tweaking of the henchmen controls to support weapons, would inevitably increase the number of animations.
  • Henchmen are encouraged to work cooperatively and cover their weaker partners. If their partners are not as good as them in combat then the hero gets punches in and builds up a combo worth a takedown, thus enabling the hero to take out any thug in one move. That makes the game a lot more tactical for both the hero and villains. The hero would do its best to avoid the most skilled henchmen and pick off the weaker ones to enable takedowns which he can use to tackle better ones down, all the while the best thugs have to corner the hero and avoid him from building up combos, sometimes even using the weaker ones as bait; this requires some amount of coordination from the thugs’ part and gives a purpose the communication system mentioned earlier.
  • Combat mechanics get one new addition, a cancel effect. The reason for this is quite simple: Batman Arkham Asylum was a single player experience, so it was important to empower and take care of the individual having the experience, since we’re dealing with human controlled villains now, they’re not going to want to wait to attack Batman whenever he counters a move. They’ll feel extremely frustrated if Batman becomes invulnerable whenever one of their friends makes a dumb move and the hero counters it. What’s proposed is a quick tweak in the counter move. Instead of triggering a cool cinematic camera and slow-motion effect whenever the hero successfully counters and attack, the counter animation is played normally like any other move during combat and, during the counter, if the hero triggers an evade move or another counter move due to a second wave of attack, the current counter is stopped and the thug takes a percentage of the full damage the counterattack would cause him. That allows Batman to deal with multiple attacks incoming at once. But also allow thugs to help out each other by striking when Batman counters one of their friends, forcing him to give up the full damage he would do to the specific thug in order to preserve his own life. But not entirely making the move useless, since some damage is still done. This way Batman can still defeat them by constantly switching targets, avoiding damage and doing little bits of damage every time he successfully counters and attack. This process considerably extends the length of the battle, making Batman susceptible to more attacks and, since he only has one life, each chance the thugs have of landing an attack on him brings him one step closer to losing. Cancel Counter is a very fast move, giving Batman the ability to counter any number of attacks in a fast sequence, provided they aren’t thrown at a very tight time gap. If two or more attacks are synchronized and thrown by thugs at the same time or with a very small time gap between them Batman won’t be able to counter all the attacks because of his Cancel Counter delay and would be forced to evade instead, in order not to be hit.
  • Building up a combo rewards the player with the possibility of using a combo takedown and a throw. These are rewards the hero earns for playing well and keeping his combo up by dealing with whatever situations were thrown at him by the bad guys. Throws work just like in the single player and are used to stun one thug, potentially more if used right, except in multiplayer they have a stun effect that lasts a lot longer than that of the average stun cape. It does no damage unless the enemy is thrown against an environmental hazard like fatal drops or electrical cages, in which case the throw becomes deadly. It is also noteworthy to point out that a throw is unstoppable, it can’t be blocked, only evaded. Takedowns also work just like in single player, they are unstoppable, unavoidable and disable an enemy instantly, but the catch is that a combo takedown can only be applied on an enemy which is within eight feet from the hero, allowing thugs to attempt to get clear of the takedown once they feel it is coming by taking some distance from the hero, usually with an evade jump. Another problem with the combo takedowns and throws is that attempting to realize one and failing in multiplayer breaks the combo, this allows for thugs to break a hero’s combo by capitalizing on the move’s weaknesses, evasion for the throw and distance for the takedown. Going from the principle that a takedown and a throw are rewards and the design presupposes that they’re hard moves to unlock when playing against henchmen who know what they’re doing, these move should be non-cancellable by either Batman or the henchmen, this means that once a hero lands a throw or a takedown on a thug, they become momentarily invulnerable until the move is done;


This is just an initial high concept and by no means should be treated as the final documentation of a product or component of the game. Features here could, and should, be changed as further playtesting and polishing is conducted and done. All the ideas indicated here also should be changed, tweaked, expanded and shrinked in the designed experience’s best interest. Any mechanic or idea could be pulled independently or in conjunction with others from this document and used as the designers or developers see fit. Other aspects of the game design such as the rest of the wide range of gadgets Batman had in the game (Sonic Batarangs, Explosive Gel and the Line Launcher), special moves for the villains and others weren’t mentioned here but would also need to be fully explored, designed, balanced and tested for a fair and fun experience. This is just a sample that illustrates my vision of Batman’s multiplayer from an idea I had nearly a year ago. Although, I do think some major changes should be done in order for multiplayer to truly fit and feel right in the game, but I did my best with what I know Batman Arkham Asylum had in terms of gameplay and experience.

Most of the tweaks and changes done here were realized with balance in mind. Batman is the hero of the game, granted, but unless the “evil” side holds some appeal, no one would enjoy playing and spend time getting good at it. Therefore the use of known villains as potential playable characters in the multiplayer such as Joker, Zsasz (he has been introduced in the challenge rooms), Bane and others is an idea that came to mind and could be further explored and discussed, but wasn’t fully detailed in this excerpt.

I have no connection with Rocksteady Studios or Warner Bros. And Batman, along with any other names or logos are trademarks from their respective owners.

Monday, November 15, 2010

PACE System

A great paradigm for MMO’s today, if not the greatest, is its progression structure, based on experience gathered from activities such as killing monsters or other players, completing quests, exploring new places and such. This experience is then converted into levels, labeling the character a given level and rewarding him/her with points they can either freely spend on their desired attributes or with preset values that are added to the  attributes automatically after each new level is achieved.  The GameCareerGuide.com “MMO-OFF” contest had the objective of inciting the creation of ideas and designs which incentivized players to spend less time inside the game. As well as solving the problem of players burning through the hand-crafted content too fast, which these genres of games so heavily rely on. The problem, as the contest presented, led me to wonder about two issues of the standard system today, which were the following:

Issue 1: Players spend too much time in the game. Now this is interesting, because can you really blame players for wanting to spend more and more time inside the game? When the precise message the gameplay yell is: “The more you play it, the further you get into it!”. It’s hard to think that players actually dedicated and truly interested in playing and exploring the game’s world, lore and gameplay possibilities would not follow this simple advice from the game itself. You’re creating the game and telling players not to experience it, not to enjoy it as deeply as they can. It’s like putting food for your dog and making the poor thing just sit still right by it and stare at it, you can’t really blame him if at one point, sooner or later, he starts eating. It’s just natural and instinctive. So, one way that could be changed is by having the experience of playing the game convey a different message. This “message” would be one that incites players to explore and dive into the world in doses, balancing time inside and outside the game in order to fully progress in the game, without worrying about leveling up or if he’s friend is going to surpass his level because he’s not investing 7 hours a day into it. So this is one point that ought to be re-explored and maybe even re-defined.

Issue 2: One of the aspects that keeps the playing of the game interesting is the feeling that there’s always something new to be found in the next corner, in the next area, after a certain event, a new NPC to meet, someone new to get acquainted to or the latest development in the conflict afflicting the land the game features and the player ventures. This necessary aspect makes the game fun to explore, but when put together with the current message most game structures convey, players end up experiencing content rather quickly, sometimes  even to the point where it renders the game boring. Even though it’s a given this state will be eventually reached by all players, unless more content is released periodically, it would be, nevertheless, interesting for developers to have a reward system that looks free and intuitive, even though it provides them with a subtly tighter control over how long it would take for all players to experience all content without making them feel like they’re being controlled or kept (be it either in time or space) from experiencing all the game has to offer.

With these issues in mind, and attempting to create a solution that addressed them both, I came up with the  PACE system, which was my submission for the GameCareerGuide’s Game Design Challenge regarding this subject, although it was rather poorly explained in the original entry due to word-count limits, the name  of the system stands for Persistent Absorption Character Enhancement and it is, at its heart, an MMOG character progression/reward system which mainly focuses on inciting players to limit their playtime in the game without feeling like they're being kicked out of it by some mechanic that increasingly limits their progress the more they play and allows developers to manage the amount of content players have access to in a given amount of time.

A first, and very important, point to be made is that leaving the game is entirely up to the player, at all times, though the system subtlety encourages him to do so through rewards and benefits if he takes longer periods of time off the game between quests and adventures. Secondly, keep in mind this is a system, therefore it’s flexible. It should work for the designer’s purpose, not the other way around. It can, and should, be tweaked for the experience’s best interest. More on this later, as I unravel the concepts behind the system.

So, basically, the two main issues presented by the challenge were the fact that players need to forget the notion that spending 10 hours a day playing the game is necessary to enjoy it, but in doing so they also need to be aware they’re not missing out on anything, making sure they don’t fall too behind in terms of progress, since it’s a given that if they indeed cherish your game, they won’t want to be behind their friends and other players who can afford to spend 10 hours inside the game (issue number one) and we need to allow a more rigid control over the game’s content by the developer that created it (issue number two), from there I created the key concept behind the PACE system: The Slow-Absorption Element (SAE), or just Element. Ideally, there are no levels in PACE. The Slow-Absorption Element is the item sought by players to enhance their attributes, just like experience and levels would in any other MMO’s, but an Element is not limited to just that. In PACE, SAE’s are the responsible for character growth in all aspects of the game, be it new equipment, magic, spells or whatever other feature the designer wants to make accessible to the player. Elements can be used to give players access to new technology, reach the next level in their character’s magical studies or any other contextual reason the designer might've created for their players to pursue. The sources from where a player could get a a SAE also depend solely on the developer's choice and design. It could be something bought in the black market, assembled from a series of special ingredients and rituals or found through exploration of desolate planets across the galaxy.

There are two kinds of SAE's: Consistent and inconsistent. Consistent ones are those achievable by some type of currency. Money or any other type of currency the game might feature. Fallout 3, for instance, used bottle caps. These consistent Elements can be bought in a regular store or even in the black market, as I’ve already mentioned before. So, questing for money is the way to get them. They’re called consistent because they’re always there, available to the player, as long as he/she has enough currency to get it. There're also the inconsistent ones, which require the player to explore and quest for the items specifically, thus the player never really knows when he'll come across an Element or if he'll even successfully find one at all.

After completing quests, amounting enough money and/or uniting the recipients needed for the SAE’s formula the players have three choices: the first option is the trick behind PACE, the player can choose to persistently absorb all of the artifact’s power through a slow and lengthy process, called the Persistent Absorption Process (PAP). By undergoing PAP the player fully absorbs the power contained inside the Element and takes full benefit from his efforts spent into acquiring the SAE in-game. Second option, absorb it right away and gain some of the Element’s total benefit instantly in order to keep playing, we encourage the player to leave the game after collecting some Elements, but he’s never forced, this second option is his tool of choice in order to keep playing. A third option would be to save it for later. Players do have slots to hold onto some SAE’s and use them after an event or something important they have scheduled later that day or so, though not too many slots are available to the player. We don’t want them scheduling PAP’s for the next five months and not showing up until then. So, summarizing, if the player wants to rush the process of absorption and keep playing, he can, sometimes, do so using the second option. There's no penalty for it, he’ll even gain some of the SAE’s benefits, but not as much as if he took a break and underwent the PAP, but we never force the player to use the SAE right away. We give the player some flexibility to plan and even to go back on a choice, depending on the element being used.

The Persistent Absorption Process requires no player input; in fact it actually requires the player to be logged off. The progress of the PAP is showed in the login screen letting the player know when it'll be finished and what percentage of power has already been absorbed. Attempting to login before the process is finished prompts a warning, informing the player that entering the game will interrupt the PAP, either making the remaining energy in the artifact go to waste or resetting any benefits acquired from the Element, but letting the character keep it, at player’s choice. Needless to say that PACE is a pretty context heavy system, and this means two things: Number one, it goes against the flow of experience and level based character progression systems known today. So you need to make it clear for players what they're getting into. Number two, you need to ornate the system a lot with reasons, explanations and excuses as to why things must be done the way they do. Everything must be pretty well explained, otherwise the mechanic becomes a nuisance in the eyes of players much used to the old whoever gets there first, leaves there first mentality.

It's also important to remember two things: First, it is part of the designer's job to know the average time it takes a player to get a hold of a SAE at any given point in the game. Thus it’s also his job to choose how the system will play out in his game. Does he want the system to even out any discrepancies that are going to occur by the difference in playtime the players have? Then the designers should tweak the numbers so that any benefit a player can acquire by absorbing an Element for three hours can also be acquired by instantly-absorbing X Elements, X being the average number of Elements a player can possibly find in the same three hours, and so on. It solely depends on the designer’s vision. Secondly, it’s important to point out that the so-called SAE’s, or elements are just generic names. A project's creative designer has to come up with cool items that relate to the world’s back-story and make sense gameplay-wise to fill the SAE's position, like the examples I mentioned above.

During the creation of the PACE I came up with 4 different items that could be classified as SAE’s. Please, keep in mind that I created all these examples using a 4-layered character structure, therefore any differences towards any other character structures would have to be appropriately balanced and adapted. For the ones who don’t know what I’m talking about, the four layers are:

The first layer contains attributes like Strength, Dexterity, Vitality and Intelligence which the being invariably has. These are all attributes which define who the character is. This category holds all the attributes and numbers that have a more indirect use in the game world. It’s what defines all the abilities the player has.

The second layer is the abilities layer, which carries specifications for actions like running speed, explosion speed, physical damage capable of inflicting and withstanding with his limbs and torso, will power, fatigue level, reaction time, awareness and etc. They’re all calculated using attributes as their base. Abilities are, in this particular sense, what the character is naturally capable of doing when bare naked, with simple clothing or with no skill and technological assistance. This category holds all the attributes and numbers which can be more directly used in the game world, therefore they can be considered the actual gameplay itself.

The third layer refers to the skills possessed by the player, the knowledge which augments the performance or the duration of the basic abilities held in the second layer such as making the character’s accuracy better or increasing the it’s sprint time. It’s a fact that a character can get better and better in using a rifle through training or he can even entirely learn how to shoot a rifle through constant necessary experience, of course some things might not be capable of being used or operated unless the player previously has the skill, like a special vehicle or armor. In that case, it would be advisable to require the character to have the skill prior to trying to make use of the item. Basically put: the skill level affects the natural ability of the character, if such exists. These natural abilities are presented, again, in the previous layer.

The fourth layer holds all the equipment the player has. Equipment in a game can sometimes increase the player’s performance and capacity or even enable some kind of gameplay style or move in the player’s repertoire. Equipments work just like skills, except they can make a character fly and other cool stuff which simple skills can’t, unless you’re an alien, then maybe you can fly or become invisible with mental training. Anyhow, of course equipment can always be stripped of a character, whereas a skill can only be taken away with brainwashing, if you’re into this “staying true to some aspects of real life” thingy. It greatly supports the performance of skills and abilities, sometimes even enabling a given style of gameplay or adding to the player’s choice repertoire.

It is important to remember that none of elements explained below are in the same universe, much less in the same game. They could be, with the proper tweaking of their backstories, functionality and effect. Though it was chosen to present and explain them for what they are, using separate universes, backstories and the like. These are mere examples with the purpose of exemplifying the potential and some of the uses an element could take shape as. Anything not explained or detailed could, and should, be filled in with your imagination.

The first element I came up with during the creation of the system was an alien tablet. This tablet contains specifications for advanced technology; they’re called “Inscription of the Ancients”. This is an example of an item that could be used for a equipment-oriented reward and an example of an inconsistent SAE, since it’s an item generally found and not bought. The tablet can be read by a Portable Factory Module which is an item all characters heavily dependent on equipment have in the fictitious game world I created for particular this example. The Inscription is inserted into the factory and blasted with radiation which reveals the hidden markings and symbols. A little backstory for it: the tablet was actually thought to be mystically dangerous in ancient times, until a human scientist discovered how to read the information in it, ever since then PFM’s have been created and continuously improved. This explosion in portability and tech incited the search and scavenging of these tablets across all galaxy, one tablet can be read one time, and having technology nobody else does is considered to be an advantage. The PFM is programmed to thoroughly analyze the tablet and create the best possible outcome out of the information it contains. The process, of course, takes time (PAP), though the device does present the possibility of just skimming the inscription and assembling a quicker outcome. For example, let’s say the player comes across a flame ignition control and power tablet, one from which could potentially spring a nice flamethrower attachment for his main rifle. If the player decides to undergo PAP he’ll get a portable flamethrower, attachable to the main rifle, enabling him the use of two powerful weapons at once. If he decides to “instantly absorb” or, in this item’s context, skim the tablet in order to keep playing, the character will get a big and bulky flamethrower with a much less powerful oxygen combustion system than the original attachment. Not to mention the weapon is going to have to be wielded by itself. While the player still gets access to new tech, even though he instantly skimmed the tablet, this serves to incentivize the use of the PAP. This player, who skimmed the tablet, would have to find another flame ignition control and power tablets and either instant absorb a certain number of then or PAP the next tablet. The bright side is that, ideally, the PAP process would last a little less this time, supporting the idea that the skimming already meant something and that the PFM already has some information about the fire technology the tablet holds. Again, totally up to the designer to tweak these numbers and perhaps even out the differences a bit if he feels he doesn’t want his game to convey this message or experience.

The second Element is called “Hourglass”. This device is placed in one’s ear when it goes to sleep, provoking lucid dreams. The element allows anyone to train and improve their skills even when they’re sleeping. This is an example of an item which is used for a skill-oriented reward. It is also a consistent Element, which, as a perk of its own, cannot be instantly absorbed and the reason for that is simple: knowledge invariably requires practice and time for natural absorption and by the time this device was built they still hadn’t found a way to spike brain activity in a way a person could read and assimilate a 700-page book. Upon use of an Hourglass, the player would choose which skill or list of skills he would like to share his practice time and then get dreaming. The device works through emission of a very high frequency sound wave which is not even heard by the human ear, but is felt by the brain. The wave incites a slight peak in brain activity right before it’s about to enter a sleep state, causing REM sleep. In this state, the character enters a dream state which is moderated by the device, preventing the corruption of the “physical” dream world with fantastic features not true to the real world, although it still gives enough autonomy and freedom to the user to break those rules when strictly requested, the Hourglass simply makes sure the user gets a real experience, one that can be passed as a legit memory, not just a dream. But the user never loses consciousness that he’s not in a real world. As one could expect, Hourglasses require an enormous amount of energy to function, energy they get from the cracking of ruxxy crystals. Ruxxy crystals are incredibly expensive jewels which are mined from planets all over the galaxy. The population of the universe often wonders if the crystal’s steep prices and all the restraints put into the Hourglass device’s design are due to actual difficulty in finding and extracting the crystals or a way to keep a good percentage of the universe from engulfing themselves into a world of pleasure and fantasy that only their minds could provide for them, of course the results of such a trend would be terrible since it would alienate most of the population. In this hypothetical game world I present the players would buy the Hourglass device once, and subsequently buy any crystals he wishes in any authorized sale store, thus explaining why it is labeled a consistent SAE. After activating it the player would choose how many hours he would like to spend practicing each skill, and then logoff. When logging in the prompting is pretty much the same as the Inscription, although there’s one detail which I thought could be further discussed and I’ll leave it to the readers to take their pick: the hourglass could work in a way all the progress is lost if the player chooses to login without waiting for the crystal to run out of energy. That would require a change in the lore so that if the process is interrupted the crystal would need to remain intact, thus giving a chance for the player to reschedule his PAP. The second option is to use a more practical approach and go for the principle that what you learn, you don’t simply forget. Making players keep the progress they had up until the point where they cancelled the process, but taking the crystal from them. I enjoy the latter a lot more, for one because it provides a little variety in the way these this SAE works when relating to others. Even though the first option could be perfectly realized since people usually don’t remember all their dreams and the designer could very easily capitalize on this simple fact from the human condition to craft an acceptable reason for the players’ progress to be lost.

This third SAE is called “Essence of Kings” and it serves a very specific purpose, it was designed to be used for a mechanic called Path of the Ancestors. The Essence of Kings is, basically, a mystical glowing crystal shape and, even though it is solid, something glows inside the transparent crystal. The essence carries glowing dust scattered among the crystal’s molecules and absorption of the dust grants permanent benefits to the person’s natural abilities. For optimal dust absorption rate it is recommended to hold the artifact for a continuous period of time, usually during meditation (PAP). This allows the dust to be slowly absorbed by the skin, with no loss to the environment. On the other hand, one could break the artifact and, with the crystal shape broken, set the dust into the air and inhale it, though this method allows for only a portion of the dust being effectively inhaled. Its backstory is quite peculiar: In fantasy worlds these artifacts are generally created by collecting the necessary items for its creation and then imbuing the crystal with energy, coming from the character’s ancestors. The imbuing process can be done, once the materials are collected, by either the ever-moving spiritual sages, these are NPC’s scattered around the game world; the trick is that these sages are difficult to find. They are nomads and are constantly changing place, but they realize the work for a symbolical fee, since they are not interested in any material wealth. The imbuing process can also be done by any player with a spiritually-linked class, these of course are much easier to find though much more expensive. Imbuing the power of an ancestor spirit in the crystal creates a dust which carries the power of those who lived and trained before you. By seeking, crafting and using Essences of Kings the player has an opportunity to achieve key bonuses to their abilities and, at the same time, he actually crafts some of his story for himself. This gives the player a chance to incorporate into his RPG experience a history for his character, where he came from, who were his ancestors, what they did, what they accomplished at the same time he “chooses” which ancestors he would like to absorb knowledge from and carry on with him. This possibly increases the bond between character and player. This, of course, is an example of an inconsistent SAE, with an ability/skill-oriented reward focus. I do believe it is possible to incorporate this idea in a sci-fi world with a simple change from a spiritual to a scientific approach to the matter. In this case it would be explained that the Essence of Kings, possibly carrying a new name due to cultural differences, would be a product that must be produced on-demand, costing huge amounts of currency for a single iteration of it, of course, the SAE would then fall into the consistent category. The futuristic version of the element would scavenge the user’s DNA for ancestor’s genes which made them especially good at an specific ability or skill and rewrite these new-found genes into remote areas of the genetic code which would take effect, yet not disturb the physiological integrity of the body. This way the ancestral benefits for skills and abilities could still be achieved, but through a scientific approach, impliedly a DNA memory theory used in many games such as Assassin’s Creed.

The fourth, and last, SAE is a drug called “PUX-24/x”. Its backstory is one of misuse and carelessness: humanity had expanded throughout the galaxy and with its technological advances, some scientists created a drug which triggers the artificial development of the human body and mind. It is capable of enhancing one’s strength, agility, health, intelligence and perception, among other things. With the cheapening of the technology, the use of the drug became widespread among humanity: humans used it all the time to become stronger and/or faster for sports, more intelligent for test and such and some people even used it to live more. In fact, humanity started to abuse this drug to such an extent that a condition started to manifest itself in a great portion of people, eventually reaching out to 97% of humanity, the condition was dubbed metabolical development disorder, or MDD, and humans who suffered from MDD did not develop properly, either muscularly or mentally. The problem is that it is a genetic disorder, so parents passed on this condition to their offspring. The only way found by scientists to ensure a steady, healthy growth of the human body and mind was to continuously make timed use of the drug. The irony is that the drug is the precise thing that caused the problem in the first place, some folks around the galaxy even wonder if this was a planned feature for the drug all along. The rise of what soon got to be known as a disease was that PUX started to be seen as a constant need for humanity. As a consequence, its production had a huge boom in production and R&D, as more and more children were born with the condition; more and more drug doses were needed. Today,  PUX treatment is much like standard vaccines: you must take it as early as the age of three to properly develop body and mind. This triggered a bending of the default human figure. Old standards lost themselves among the prospect of stronger, faster and more intelligent humans that could more optimally perform their everyday tasks if they made continuous use of the substance. Doses which are mandatory for a child’s standard development are subsidized by the government, since the doses are extremely expensive. Anything beyond the necessary use has to be bought by the individual himself. As the backstory may suggest, this is a consistent SAE with an attribute-oriented reward. The name comes from the nickname that many scientists, during the first run at researching the main properties of it, used to refer to the drug: Power Up X;24” refers to the version of the drug, with each new version providing much less side effects and a revised formula for increased performance. “x” indicates the drug’s variant: “s” relates to the strength variant, “v” is the letter for the vitality variant, “a” is the agility variant and the “i'” codename indicates the intelligence variant. A designer could have as many variants as he/she wants, though, ideally, there’d be, at least, as many variants as needed to cover all the attributes individually. In this case, at least one variant relates to at least a single attribute, developing it when applied. It works like this: players need to first buy a syringe, which he’ll use to inject the drug into himself, simpler syringes allow for smaller doses to be applied and not much combination to be done, bigger, more advanced syringes allow for bigger cocktails of variants (thus creating bonuses for mixing them), after acquiring the syringe the player has to buy the doses from any regular store or pharmacy and mix them if he wants, and then apply the cocktail to himself. For example, combining one strength variant, two vitality variants and one agility variant would prompt a bonus for vitality, allowing for further specialization of the attribute if a character continuously takes a single variant at a higher rate. Time control over the PAP of this SAE is done by managing the size of doses, smaller doses are absorbed faster, which incites to player to have more contact with the game at the beginning and bigger dosages, which are unlocked later in the game, allow for developers to control and incentivize players to take a longer break between play sessions.

It goes without saying that much of the fiction created and used here does not match the reality of our own world and it doesn’t exactly have to be that way, this is to say that I am not an expert in alien technology, engineering, biology or sleep and the explanations for the Essence of Kings, Inscription of the Ancients, PUX-24/x and Hourglass do not have, in either shape or content, the pretension of being scientifically accurate.

I truly believe that the experience and the way people play MMOG’s should and can be a lot more healthy without taking away any of fun and the abundance of content and immersion. This is just one idea, one system which I try to present in order to give the first step, try and discuss a different way. The idea presented in this piece of writing is simple: make the player feel less constrained to the game in regards to time, allowing him to player other games, have different experiences and even work without worrying about the fact he’s being left behind by people who do have the time play the game all day long. At the same time that we try to keep the player within the game world through more interesting means like better content, more compelling story and more interesting experiences. The PACE system aims, as a first objective, to present a way of playing that doesn’t require the player to be at the game 24 hours, making an effort to change the way people think of online massive gaming and also give the developers a bigger control over the time people take to experience content, since all the experience is based around time and periods the developer himself have created, he can easily calculate the average amount of time it would take a person to experience all the sequences and acquire all the items.

Please, comment! Let me know what you think of my idea and let me know of your ideas. Tell me what’s bad in my design so I can make it better.

I appreciate your attention and your patience, if you’ve endured this far.

Licença Creative Commons
Persistent Absorption Character Enhancement System by Ronildson Scarani Sillas Palermo is licensed under a Licença Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Provocando Emoção

O papel das ciências sociais no game design

This article will be translated to english ASAP, while the translation’s not up you can check the original article. Thanks for your patience! – Roni

Os jogos estão tão intrinsecamente conectados ao nosso cotidiano que é difícil imaginar uma época em que os humanos não usavam estas atividades recreativas para seu lazer e aprendizado. Jovens de tribos indígenas no sul da Austrália costumavam brincar de Battendi (jogo no qual o objetivo é lançar objetos) para praticarem sua pontaria com as lanças¹ e adultos chineses jogam Xiangqi (famoso passatempo, conhecido como o xadrez chinês²) para se distraírem da mesma maneira que crianças, hoje, brincam de pique-esconde para passar o tempo enquanto adultos jogam xadrez para exercitar suas mentes. Uma certeza é irrefutável: a noção de jogo nos acompanha há tanto tempo que é difícil até mesmo separá-la da condição humana. Hoje, jogamos para aprender, jogamos para nos distrair, jogamos para ter experiências e até jogamos para nos emocionar, mas todas estas possibilidades oferecidas pelos jogos digitais atualmente não nasceram da noite para o dia. Isso foi fruto de um processo lento que necessitou de muita tentativa e erro e da idealização de diferentes tecnologias.

Partindo de um exemplo remoto como a criação do famoso jan-ken-pon, jogo criado na China antiga³ que é usado como base para o equilíbrio da jogabilidade de muitos jogos hoje, ou da invenção do xadrez, na Índia, durante meados do primeiro milênio4 já é possível notar a necessidade do idealizador de tomar decisões sobre como uma partida de seu jogo, mesmo este sendo clássico (fazendo uso de tabuleiros, cartas, dados ou até mesmo as mãos), irá transcorrer. É necessário decidir quais serão as regras deste jogo, estipular seu objetivo pelo qual o(s) jogador(es) tem que competir, seja esse objetivo baseado em tempo, quantidade ou conquista. Além de definir o espaço deste jogo, explicando se a movimentação dentro dele é livre, regrada ou até mesmo controlada baseada em alguma coisa. Informar como os jogadores podem manter o controle desse movimento (mapa de quadrados, hexágonos, círculos, régua flexível) também é necessário, sem esquecer de escolher quais artifícios usar (cartas, dados, fichas, fotos, esculturas) para representar as idéias que o jogo precisa que o jogador entenda ou observe. E definir quais as interações possíveis do jogador sobre o jogo, o que ele controla, o que ele não controla, quantos jogadores podem participar de uma partida, como manter o jogo interessante para todos os participantes, como um jogador pode afetar o outro, quais as ações que cada jogador pode exercer sobre o outro. São essas as características que definem o conceito e a jogabilidade do seu jogo. São estas decisões que compõem o game design5.

Estes simples exemplos mostram necessidade de criar sistemas e estruturas que engajem e cativem o jogador a participar e interagir, pois jogos, enquanto entidades interativas abstratas, são naturalmente atividades e não trabalho. Portanto, na grande maioria das vezes, a participação do jogador é totalmente opcional e particular a ele, se ele não se sentir motivado a jogar, não participará. Outra característica notável é o fato da maioria destas características serem totalmente voltadas para a parte funcional, e consequentemente mais genérica, do jogo. Essas características previamente apresentadas, as quais se limitam a não apresentar razão ou lugar para elas mesmas, não tratam de nenhum assunto em especial. São apenas partes que compõem uma estrutura genérica a qual pode ser encaixada qualquer contexto. Essa estrutura possui conceito, características, mecânicas e ações. Mas ainda falta dois elementos básicos: Conteúdo e contexto6. Todos os jogos criados no passado e até há algumas décadas atrás tinham conceito, características, mecânicas e ações bem definidas e significativas, mesmo que poucas, mas não tinham tantos artifícios para relacionar o jogo com a realidade, no caso conteúdo e contexto. Não existia visuais aprimorados e em tempo real, nem efeitos sonoros realistas ou trilhas sonoras, ou qualquer assinatura própria com a realidade do jogador. Isso é um aspecto que caracterizou a maioria dos jogos clássicos: a necessidade de limitações nos campos de conteúdo e contexto serem preenchidos com a imaginação. O jogo, sem contexto e conteúdo, é só um conjunto de regras abstratas o qual regem sobre um universo, que é a partida. Um jogador, provavelmente, só lembraria dessa estrutura genérica quando jogasse algum outro jogo parecido ou lembrando de algum acontecimento extraordinário, que provavelmente aconteceu externo ou universo do jogo, mesmo que durante uma partida, como alguma interação entre jogadores ou algum acontecimento engraçado devido as regras do jogo. Essas eram as dificuldades enfrentadas dentro da dinâmica dos jogos clássicos e até de brincadeiras de criança. Todas estas formas de jogo necessitavam de criatividade e imaginação para se aproveitar suas experiências em ao máximo. Não era fácil, se ao menos possível, contar uma história profunda, significativa e complexa através de jogos clássicos ou brincadeiras, entretanto era possível criar estruturas genéricas sobre as quais os jogadores aplicavam suas histórias, personagens e narrativas. E estes exemplos, claro, também se aplicam aos jogos de tabuleiros mais sofisticados que são comercializados hoje, pois a mídia, e consequentemente suas limitações, continua praticamente a mesma.

Portanto, levando em consideração todas as limitações da mídia analógica em relação à quantidade de informação apresentada a(os) jogador(es) para que o jogo corra de maneira flúida, as limitações em contextualização e a exposição de conteúdo simbólico significativo, caracterizado pela diferença entre mostrar uma carta de uma personagem e materializar, mesmo que virtualmente, a personagem diante do jogador, dar uma voz a ela e um conjunto de opniões e diretivas para que ela interaja com o jogador, já é possível definir alguns aspectos que caracterizam razões para a força da experiência interativa não ter sido plenamente explorada pelos jogos:

Primeiramente, não havia tantas e nem tão simples formas de difundir a capacidade de imersão e intimidade que os jogos proporcionavam entre o jogador, a narrativa e suas escolhas dentro dela, no passado. Talvez uma das raras formas de jogo que poderiamos qualificar como criador de experiências plenamente interativas são os RPG’s de mesa como Dungeons & Dragons e GURPS, populares na década de 1970 e 1980, aonde o jogo, por ser mediado por um ser humano presente à mesa, tem infinitas possibilidades ao passo que qualquer indagação ou ação tomada por um jogador pode ser rapidamente interpretada e incorporada ao jogo através da vontade e imaginação do chamado ‘mestre’ da sessão, criando uma sensação de realidade e imprevisibilidade. Esses sistemas de jogo de interpretação criaram a possibilidade de histórias serem contadas através do jogo em si, com os jogadores fazendo escolhas que afetam a história de maneira ativa e dinâmica, criando relacionamentos e relações com outros personagens e NPC’s dentro do jogo. Porém, por apresentar um conjunto complexo de regras e que necessitava ondas constante de cálculos, um pouco de trabalho por parte do mestre para a preparação dos materiais para a sessão de jogo e muita imaginação por parte dos jogadores para superar as limitações audio-visuais e de imersão que os sistemas de RPG de mesa apresentam, essa não foi uma forma de jogo muito difundida.

Vale citar também que, devido as limitações de mídias analógicas já mencionadas, as experiências proporcionadas pelos jogos e brincadeiras clássicos eram baseadas em emoções básicas, como as da lista mais simples apresentada por Paul Ekman na década de 1970: alegria, tristeza, cólera, surpresa, nojo e medo7. Sendo as últimas duas, ainda sim, sendo exploradas de maneira muito superficial, de maneira que é necessário um nível de imaginação e compromentimento com o jogo muito alto para genuinamente sentir medo atráves de simples representações ou até mesmo nojo de qualquer experiência que o jogo em si possa vir a apresentar, ao passo que é mais fácil que essas emoções surgam em relação a qualquer um dos outros jogadores, o faz relação direta com o próximo item.

A grande, e quase generalizada, dependência das estruturas de jogo na participação de mais de um jogador para potencializar o possível compromentimento emocional com os resultados que o jogo pode proporcionar. Os jogos clássicos necessitavam de imaginação e adicionais jogadores para as experiências vividas durante as partidas se traduzirem realmente em emoções, do contrário elas eram simples sentimentos, ou sensações. Não havia personalidades dentro do jogo para culpar por erros, acontecimentos ou perdas a não ser que o jogador imaginasse o bispo esquerdo do xadrez como sendo um homem terrível que queria tomar o trono do rei negro. Era tudo mecânico, o que dificultava o relacionamento dos acontecimentos com a realidade. O game designer criava estruturas de jogo sobre as quais deveriam ser implantadas as histórias, personagens e narrativas do jogador. Ele criava sentimentos e possibilidades, nada mais. É mais fácil proporcionar a possibilidade da emoção nojo surgir quando você obriga um primeiro jogador a disputar pela vitória com um segundo jogador e este se mostra disposto a trapacear para completar seus objetivos, uma opinião da qual o primeiro jogador repugna.

Isso leva a crer que emoções básicas são facilmente representadas pela forma como agimos com objetos, objetivos e problemas os quais não precisamos interagir de maneira social para que sejam resolvidos, mas ao inserir um elemento social na disputa, como a introdução de um jogador oponente, ou a simulação deste, capaz de se comunicar e interagir com o jogador fora do âmbito de jogo, o jogo dá margem para a criação e/ou o desenvolvimento de toda uma teia de motivações, pensamentos, sentimentos e emoções que cada jogador deverá tentar desvendar para auxiliar no entendimento e na superação de seus oponentes. Isso traz todas as emoções envolvidas no processo social para dentro do jogo, o que só auxilia na tarefa de imergir o jogador em um mundo único no qual ele possa viver uma história que ele irá acreditar e, possívelmente, extrair algo de positivo, levando consigo lembranças das experiências vividas nesse mundo fictício.

Mesmo com todos as limitações da mídia analógica, o nascimento e a popularização dos videogames trouxeram uma mudança para o paradigma do papel do game designer: na década de 1980 a terceira geração (8-bits: SNES, MegaDrive) dos consoles de videogame chegou e com ela muitas franquias de RPG’s começavam sua tentativa de apresentar uma história, personagens e uma narrativa que tentava cativar e emocionar o jogador que estivesse vivenciando o protagonista. Pela primeira vez havia um jogador que interagia socialmente com outras entidades simuladas, o que permitia partidas individuais, e essas entidades, por sua vez, interagiam com o jogador utilizando programação de computadores para fazer a análise do que deveria ser tido ou feito dentro do jogo. Havia razões para os acontecimentos dentro do jogo. O jogador ainda tinha a liberdade de fazer o que ele quisesse dentro do mundo do jogo, dentro dos limites impostos pelos designers naquela determinada estrutura, mas havia ali uma história, algo que deveria ser seguido, explorado, descoberto e entendido. Agora havia vilões, entidades com motivações ou intenções opostas as suas. Mas dessa vez havia motivos que podiam ser descobertos pelo jogador e esses motivos iam além da simples alegria, tristeza, surpresa e outros. Agora havia a possibilidade do jogador finalmente derrortar um vilão só para descobrir que seus motivos talvez fossem tão nobres quanto os seus próprios ou que ele tinha sido levado a isso por forças maiores que ele, o que poderia levar o jogador a sentir pena do que antes ele pensava ser seu arqui-inimigo. O aspecto emocional evoluia dentro da mídia dos jogos através do advento dos jogos digitais e da introdução da narrativa de maneira difundida para as massas. Game design estava se transformando em algo mais complexo do que simplesmente criar regras e métricas para que os jogadores projetassem suas emoções. O papel do game design agora era o de provocar emoção. Um game designer precisava fazer seu jogador chorar, rir, ter ou perder a esperança, sentir medo, aflição, nojo, culpa e muitas outras emoções para que sua narrativa e seu mundo fossem lembrados e incorporados na vida do jogador quase como uma memória, algo que os seus jogadores pudessem lembrar e aprender com, e não como um simples sonho ou jogo.

As limitações dos jogos clássicos começavam a ser superadas com a introdução de narração e tecnologia digital o que, permitindo o processo de um enorme fluxo de dados, facilitava a criação de jogos maiores e mais complexos que ainda sim pareciam simples para o usuário final. Todavia, na terceira geração os visuais ainda eram rústicos, portanto ainda havia a dificuldade de transmitir sensações e emoções relacionadas a lugares, ambientes, visuais, trilhas sonoras e efeitos sonoros, mas o ofício de fazer jogos finalmente começava a dar seus primeiros passos em direção a ser considerado arte. Algo que não era visto em todo seu potencial, nem em todo seu espectro. Com o passar dos anos a tecnologia avançou, passando para a renderização de jogos em três dimensões, o aumento exponencial de polígonos renderizados na tela, a quantidade de texturas que os modelos suportavam e assim foi o desenvolvimento das tecnologia disponíveis hoje.

Hoje títulos de jogos como Ghost Recon, Gears of War, Call of Duty, Dead Space, Fallout e Batman: Arkham Asylum lideram o avanço das inovações que ocorrem todos os anos no mercado mainstream de jogos digitais. Novos designs se transformam em novas idéias, novos sistemas de jogabilidade ou em novos jeitos de representar as idéias mais inusitadas e os personagens mais fantásticos no mundo virtual. Muito se fala do costume de comparar o ramo dos jogos com o ramo dos filmes, mas é válido fazer a analogia de que hoje o trabalho de um game designer é muito mais parecido com o de um diretor de cinema. Ele tem a idéia, o conceito em sua mente. Todo o jogo se passa em sua cabeça: a jogabilidade está montada, todo o ambiente modelado e texturizado, os efeitos prontos, os NPC’s no lugar, todas as set pieces, sequências pré-programadas, já animadas e preparadas. O game designer já pode vivenciar toda a experiência em sua mente, se colocar no lugar do protagonista e sentir tudo o que ele pode, entretanto ele precisa passar isso para a equipe, o jogo estar pronto em sua mente é somente o primeiro passo.

Um game designer precisa aprender a traduzir o que sente quando vivencia o jogo em sua mente: quais são as emoções chave para a experiência sair do jeito que ele a idealizou, quais as características mais marcantes dos momentos que se passa em sua cabeça e como traduzir isso para o jogo. Essencialmente, um game designer precisa construir mecânicas e ações que o seu jogador irá realizar repetidamente dentro de seu jogo e estas mecânicas e ações devem influenciar os jogadores a sentir algo. Ter uma sensação única ou estranha a eles, como sentir desgosto ao tomar uma decisão não muito convencional, mas necessária para a preservação de sua vida dentro do jogo, uma sensação de poder e controle quando estiver detonando diversos meliantes pelas ruas de uma cidade tomada pela violência ou sentir desconforto e medo enquanto explora um laboratório escuro e parcialmente destruído localizado no fundo do mar enquanto ouve sons estranhos e gritos de dor a distância. Por isso ele precisa conhecer a si mesmo e o que sente para poder transmitir isso através de vias comuns como um jogo, criando jogabilidade e situações que vão colocar o jogador sobre pressão, fazer ele pensar em alguma coisa ou fazer ele agir de alguma forma, só para citar alguns exemplos. Para isso o game designer precisa, como um provocador de emoções, se apoiar em ciências que estudam os diversos aspectos de quem vai jogar seu jogos, seres humanos. Para isso ele faz valer de áreas estudadas já há algum tempo como Antropologia, Psicologia, Linguística e História.

A antropologia estuda o homem, como o nome indica: antropo, do grego anthrōpos – “homem”, e logia, do grego logia – “estudo”, a partir de diversas perspectivas. Dentro da antropologia há quatro áreas principais: antropologia biológica, antropologia cultural, antropologia linguística e a arqueologia8. A principal área contribuinte para a matéria interdisciplinar que é o design de jogos é a antropologia cultural. Ela engloba o estudo da cultura de uma população, o que é especialmente útil para julgar a melhor forma de focar os esforços no momento de elaborar o game design dedicado a uma porção da população. Usando o exemplo de um jogo casual: é fato consumado que nem toda a população do mundo aprecia as mesmas atividades, portanto é útil saber qual porcentagem de pessoas gosta do que e focar os esforços em desenvolver as áreas em maior demanda para atingir um nível de aceitação adequado. Mas isso só caracteriza um exemplo, também é hipoteticamente possível usar o conhecimento gerado pelas pesquisas e experiências dos antropólogos para detectar padrões de gosto e preferência e aplicar isso na criação de designs, apontando a confecção de desafios, mecânicas e ações para padrões cognitivos específicos, exemplo disso é montar uma mecânica ao redor da idéia de repetição ou sequenciação, dependendo do foco e da preferência dos jogadores. A antropologia linguística e a biológica dão respaldo ao uso de outras áreas na criação de designs, como a linguística e a história, respectivamente.

História é uma área usada, juntamente com a antropologia biológica, para dar suporte às narrativas dos jogos atuais, tanto para as que carregam um teor fantástico ou fictício quanto para as narrativas mais contemporâneas que apresentam alguma conspiração, ramo desconhecido da história ou teoria da destruição mundial. O uso e o estudo da história são importantes por diversos motivos, um deles seria para dar consistência a narrativa e encaixar ela de maneira eficiente no escopo mundial que o jogador conhece, outra utilidade do estudo de história para aplicação na narração de um jogo seria utilizá-la para misturar fato e ficção de maneira que aliene o jogador em relação ao que realmente aconteceu naquele período de tempo, isso se prova especialmente eficaz quando partes da história são inexploradas ou parcialmente desconhecidas pelo o jogador, assim o designer tem a liberdade de criar ficção ao mesmo tempo que à apresenta de maneira convincente e quase que real, o que pode ser usado para manipular a visão e opinião do jogador sobre acontecimentos passados. Enquanto isso possa parecer um tanto mácabro e maquiavélico de ser realizado por parte de um designer, esse método é simplesmente mais uma opção em seu arsenal para apresentar sua idéia e convencer os jogadores de que ela e válida ou fazer eles sentirem empatia por um lado ou uma perspectiva da qual ele acha válido apresentar para o mundo, novamente, parecido com o jeito que um diretor impõe uma visão ou um sentimento sobre sua audiência. É só mais um jeito de influenciar o jogador e um bom exemplo dessa técnica é o estilo de narrativa do jogo hit de succeso Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater9. No jogo, Hideo Kojima, o principal designer, escritor e idealizador da franquia, utiliza de muita técnica para aplicar alguns conceitos de hiperrealidade na ficção do jogo. Ele foi tão cuidadoso em sua aplicação em relação a conteúdo e método, além de ter escolhido uma ótima época para aplicá-la, que não seria um absurdo considerar a possibilidade de que muitas então crianças, o jogo é de 2004, foram expostas ao conteúdo do jogo e tomaram como verdade muitos dos fatos expostos no jogo. Uma breve explicação, a efeito de exemplo. No jogo, Kojima apresenta a crise dos mísseis em Cuba como uma farsa, apenas uma mentira apresentada pelos EUA para encobrir a verdadeira moeda de troca usada para forçar os russos a retirarem os mísseis de Cuba. Os russos queriam, na verdade, um de seus cientistas, que havia fugido para o oeste anos antes, de volta. Esse cientista se chamava Sokolov e era o principal responsável pelo desenvolvimento da tecnologia que possibilitou o voo do foguete Vostok, responsável por mandar Yuri Gagarin para o espaço por uma hora e quarenta e oito minutos. Sokolov havia fugido para o lado oeste da cortina de ferro depois de se ver forçado a adaptar seu trabalho para ser utilizado na criação de um sistema de lançamento de mísseis balísticos intercontinentais. A URSS queria Sokolov de volta, por motivos que os EUA não completamente entendiam, e, devido a gravidade da situação e ao desconhecimento dos norte-americanos dos planos russos, eles o devolveram, mesmo contra sua vontade. Anos mais tarde um agente da CIA, codinome Snake, durante a execução de uma missão que provaria para a agência que sua unidade especial estava pronta para ser aprovada e oficializada, ele foi designado com a missão de extrair Sokolov novamente para o oeste, baseado em inteligência de que ele estaria trabalhando em um novo sistema de lançamento de armas nucleares. Durante a extração da área de operação o cientista é recapturado por uma facção separatista que tem planos para tomar a Rússia e o líder dessa facção explode um protótipo de uma bomba nuclear portátil norte-americana que a melhor agente secreta americana deu de presente a ele quando traiu os EUA para se aliar ao bloco soviético, mais precisamente se aliar a esta facção e causa uma instabilidade no governo russo, o que força Khrushchev a dar um ultimato secreto no presidente dos EUA, forçando o agente da CIA envolvido no primeiro incidente a voltar a campo, mesmo tendo sido seriamente ferido. Isso é só para ilustrar, de maneira branda, o quão fundo Kojima foi para montar sua ficção em cima da história que conhecemos hoje. Embora o cuidado e a execução possam ser considerados impecáveis, o principal atrativo de tudo isso ainda é a época em que ele decidiu posicionar o jogo e esta narrativa. Como o nicho de jogadores está mais envolvido ao redor de jovens que não viviam na década de 60, poucas delas conhecem o que realmente acontecia em 1964 e quais eram as possibilidades da tecnologia da época. Dando margem para Kojima brincar com a realidade da época. Já que tudo o que esses jovens conheçem é tecnologia, não seria um absurdo imaginar que a 40 anos atrás tudo também era tecnologia. Isso dá a Kojima e sua equipe a liberdade para alterar a história e inventar pontos que façam com o que jogador tome alguns acontecimentos do jogo como reais, mesmo que não seja e ajude os jogadores a simpatizarem com seu, já conhecido, tema anti-guerra e anti-nuclear.

A Psicologia é o campo que estuda o papel das funções mentais no comportamento individual e coletivo e seu objetivo imediato é entender a humanidade através da descoberta de princípios gerais e o estudo de casos específicos, por isso é um campo tão explorado na área de design, principalmente pois se trata de criar experiências para pessoas e para realizar esse feito conta muito ter a disposição uma ciência que estuda a razão para pessoas se assustarem, apaixonarem, se sentirem felizes, deprimidas ou praticamente qualquer outro sentimento ou emoção. Os casos de uso que as técnicas da psicologia proporcionam para o game design são inúmeras, mas algumas valem a pena ser citadas. Por exemplo, é muito útil saber qual a sensação ou emoção inatas que as cores transmitem para a maioria das pessoas. Se for o objetivo do designer criar uma área que parece mais solitária ou isolada ele pode se basear nos conhecimentos e pesquisas feitos pela psicologia para usar as cores que correspondem com a emoção que ele quer transmitir. Outro caso interessante é o do próprio estudo do comportamento. Sabendo quais os movimentos, expressões e jeitos de falar de uma pessoa que está mentindo, falando a verdade, sendo espontânea ou deprimida é muito mais fácil representar isso na tela durante a atuação de seus personagens. Outro caso interessante é o efeito da noção de recompensa na mente do jogador, analisando o exemplo do jogo Diablo, por exemplo. Diablo é um jogo que, apesar de todo seu contexto e conteúdo, se caracteriza por apresentar uma dungeon (um calabouço ou uma simples área subterrânea ou separada do mundo normal que apresenta perigos e tesouros desconhecidos) na qual o jogador deve aplicar sua habilidade, fazer valer seu equipamento e utilizar seus itens para eliminar todos os inimigos ou encontrar a chave para o próximo andar, que geralmente vai mais fundo. Ao final ou durante os confrontos de um dado andar o jogador obterá novos itens que repõe os itens gastos com recuperação de energia ou mana e também terá acesso a equipamentos mais poderosos com um contexto ainda mais místico e maravilhoso e com visuais macabros e ainda mais fantásticos. Entretanto, o que o jogador não percebe é que o jogo está simplesmente o enganando. Ao dar os itens que o jogador gastou de volta, aumentar a capacidade de seu personagem e lhe provir equipamentos mais fortes o jogo está proporcionando ao jogador a sensação de sucesso, de missão cumprida e de recompensa. Após todo o esforço e todas as perdas ele sente que conseguiu algo novo e mais poderoso, algo que o difere do resto dos personagens de seu mundo, entretanto, no momento em que ele faz a transição para o novo nível, que contém inimigos mais fortes, o próprio jogo anula qualquer benefício que ele tenha ganhado anteriormente. É um clássico caso aonde o jogador pensa que está ganhando algo fantástico quando na verdade só está ganhando aquilo que o jogo julga necessário para que o jogador sobreviva e possa ter uma experiência satisfatoriamente divertida e ao mesmo tempo não menos difícil do que o nível anterior. Pode ser feita uma analogia com esse exemplo, imagine que você esteja dentro de um carro, andando a noventa kilometros por hora em uma estrada de cinco pistas, seu carro está na terceira pista e todos os carros nessa mesma pista parecem estar andando a uma velocidade parecida, em relação a você eles parecem parados. No momento que você acelera para cento e dez kilometros por hora, tudo parece mais lento, você está indo mais rápido que a maioria e sente isso. Entretanto, no momento em que você muda para uma pista à esquerda você percebe que tudo volta a ficar relativamente parado. Na realidade o aumento de velocidade só conta na pista mais lenta, quando você passa para uma pista mais rápida o ganho se incorpora a necessidade natural de velocidade para não bater o carro em um veículo que venha atrás. E com um algoritmo simples de criação de mapa, posicionamento de inimigos e um escalador de pontos é possível deixar o jogador passando de um nível para outro com inimigos mais fortes, mais resistentes e com armas mais fantásticas por um período praticamente infinito. Outro exemplo interessante, e que não havia sido explorado de maneira aberta até pouco tempo atrás, é o mapeamento de personalidade e comportamento para uso dentro do jogo. Imagine que um jogo tenha um questionário tão detalhado que, ao respondê-lo de maneira verdadeira, ele apresenta desafios, sustos ou estímulos que são feitos sobre medidia para você. É o seu medo na tela, aquele susto ou aquele local foi feito para estimular você de uma maneira que o designer deseja. Pode parecer algo estranho mas foi justamente o que Silent Hill: Shattered Memories apresentou ao criar um contexto de consultório psicológico no qual um psiquiatra lhe faz perguntas e grava suas respostas para influenciar a jogabilidade e até os personagens e o que eles falam para o jogador. Esse conceito ainda não foi plenamente explorado, mas traz possibilidades animadores para designers de todo o mundo.

A Linguística é a ciência da comunicação, como hoje trabalhos com narração e jogabilidade juntos. Vemos uma tendência: o crescimento da personalização e da aleatoriedade da narrativa. Hoje a narrativa ganha espaço e vem se transformando em algo tão aleatório e tão controlável pelo jogador como as ações de jogabilidade de nível baixo de seu personagem. O princípio é básico: toda ação dentro do mundo do jogo deve ter uma reação, uma consequência. O campo da linguística ajuda na confecção de diálogos e da comunicação básica entre jogador-jogo. Além de beneficiar em campos como o da criação de significado, já que a linguística também estuda a formação de símbolos e como o cérebo os interpreta. Isso é particularmente útil quando criando mensagens subliminares ou criando cenas que possuem, ou não, um ar misterioso. Um item bem posicionado e bem mostrado pode valer por mil palavras quando o que está em questão é o entendimento de um significado pelo seu jogador ou a criação de um. Além da exposição de sentimento e emoção através de itens cotidianos em nossa vida. O estudo de como símbolos e o significado são criados ajuda o designer a criar ou expor símbolos e significado para o jogador o que potencializa e muito a força que uma experiência interativa pode ter sobre uma pessoa.

E assim se pode constatar a evolução do ofício de fazer jogos em um trabalho de criação de experiências, algo tão íntimo, real e carregado de significado que é de interesse do designer e de toda equipe de desenvolvimento que as experiências exploradas e ocorridas dentro do jogo não sejam tratadas apenas como diversão, embora elas, muitas vezes, possam ser, mas como algo da onde possa se aprender algo, tirar significado. É uma perda de energia e também uma pena não considerar todo o potencial que experiências interativas tem sobre nossas vidas, uma vez que é da condição humana prezar por tudo aquilo que é construído por nós mesmos. Nada mais natural do que prezer com vigor extra o resultado de um jogo, que é fruto direto das escolhas do jogador. Sejam essas simples, básicas, complexas ou simplesmente escolhas. O trabalho de um designer é muito divertido, mas ao mesmo tempo de grande responsabilidade. Somos susceptíveis a estímulos quando procuramos diversão. Encaramos o que vemos de maneira aberta e totalmente sem preconceitos uma vez que escolhemos aquele jogo, filme, livro ou aquela experiência para vivenciarmos. Portanto, o que uma pessoa joga, assiste, lê ou ouve durante sua infância, e talvez até em sua vida adulta, influência em como esta pessoa pensa, age e vê o mundo. Trazer questões pertinentes ao cotidiano do público e usar os jogos como uma ferramenta que possibilite o balanço de uma visão, geralmente, unilateral para que, a partir daí, este público possa encarar situações com diversos pontos de vista em mente e assim tomar atitudes de maneira informada é uma responsabilidade que todos os designer de jogos e de entretenimento em geral carregam, invariavelmente. Claro, é de opção pessoal engajar ou não nessa empreitada, mas sem dúvida, está nas mãos de game designers uma mídia de extrema força que carrega, por natureza, o poder de convencer os mais teimosos dos homens, se bem usada.


1. Traditional Aboriginal Games & Activities, http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/sport/traditional-aboriginal-games.html, acessado em 28/10/2010;

2. Xiangqi, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiangqi, acessado em 28/10/2010;

3. Rock-Paper-Scissor, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock-paper-scissors, acessado em 28/10/2010;

4. History of Chess, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_chess, acessado em 28/10/2010;

5. SCHELL, Jesse (2008), The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses, pg. xxiv;

6. LOPES, Gilliard; KUHNEN, Rafael (2007), Game Design Cognition: the Bottom-Up and Top-Down approaches, http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2129/game_design_cognition_the_.php?page=1, acessado em 02/09/2010;

7. Emotion Classification Theories, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion_classification, acessado em 04/11/2010;

8. Anthropology, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropology#Military, acessado em 04/11/2010;

9. IOVANOVICI, Zoran (2010) Analysis: What Metal Gear Solid 3 teaches us about Hyperreality, http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/29377/Analysis_What_Metal_Gear_Solid_3_Teaches_Us_About_Hyperreality.php, acessado em 01/10/2010;

Monday, May 31, 2010

Alan Wake

I got a copy of Alan Wake, for Xbox 360, this weekend. I started to play it and didn’t really know what to expect, I knew the game had been in development for a while now, but that was pretty much it. I didn’t know what it was about, the story, the genre, the world or anything. So I approached it with no expectations whatsoever, and I must say that perhaps that was for the very best.

The moment I started the game I felt a strong atmosphere, not that of an horror game, but that of a reality, the game’s reality. Much like a TV show, which has its cast and its set of events and this feeling is hugely aided by the format of the game. It’s great and fits perfectly with the story in a lot of ways. For those of you who haven’t played Alan Wake yet, the game is divided in episodes, much like a TV show, like Supernatural, if you will. Each episode takes from 1 and half to 2 hours, depending on skill level and knowledge of the story. They usually end in a cliffhanger or a revealing moment and the beginning of each new episode starts with a “Previously on Alan Wake” presentation introducing some important facts for the current episode. Having this episodic format helps the game to keep a great pace and maintain a seasonal feeling. Which includes the fact that more episodes will come in DLC. Episodes also reference back to books, which is what Alan Wake does for a living, he writes books. And it’s what the game revolves around, a manuscript Alan allegedly wrote.

Detail seems to be a big deal to Remedy, since you can spot places you were in different episodes and see places you wish to go in the distant landscape. In one episode, I could see a couple of floodlights bathing the clouds above the town and kept wondering what it was. After some time I found myself there and I could see the very street I was when I looked up and had that thought. And this is not a one-time thing neither. During another moment, you have to make you way through the mountains and more than once or twice you can see the places you’ve been in the distance, including seeing places you have visited previously, in other episodes, that led to different places.

The soundtrack is one thing that really surprised me. At the ending of each episode you have a featured song, which usually refers to some part of the episode, which makes you think they were either expertly crafted for the game of carefully picked to fit it, which again, makes you think back to how much thought and care this game received. Sound was also used very intelligently, for example, there’s only one sound for a locked door, but it’s such a generic SFx that you don’t get exactly sick of it, instead, you quickly relate it to doors you won’t be able to explore. And there’s not a single door that’s closed and doesn’t play that sound in the game. There’re sounds for everything in the game, from reloading your weapon to the flickering of your flashlight if it’s weak on batteries, going through the swaying of leaves in a tree out in the courtyard during a brewing storm. And it’s those same sounds that help you check if you’re OK or if it’s time to start searching for some bigger light source.

When dusk comes, Bright Falls becomes a hostile environment which you quickly come to get anxious and nauseous about. Specially when you’re wandering the dark woods. When you’re alone and slowly walking among trees and rocks in the dark, silent woods of Bright Falls’ forest you come to think of your flashlight as your best weapon. The Taken, which are your primary enemies in the game, are like Shadow minions, so if there’s shadows, they can pop up there. Now imagine being lost in a forest at night! How many shadows are there? They can practically come from anywhere. So if you turn you back at then and start simply running, they’ll appear right behind you, thus making just running a bad idea. The only way to keep them at bay and possibly get away is to keep them in the light with your flashlight, that makes them a bit uncomfortable and halts their charge, but point enough light at them and they become vulnerable to gunfire, which might at first seem like a good thing, but there’s a catch here.

As they become vulnerable, which means, the external darkness fades away, they can be killed with bullets, but light no longer affects them so hard. Which means you either kill it fast, or it’ll close in on you fast. It’s a nice gameplay feature, because although it changes the game, it still balances the danger. Once you get rid of the darkness in one of them you must commit to killing it, otherwise it closes in on you much faster.

The atmosphere is superb, when you’re walking in the dark you can see nothing but your flashlight, and these environment sounds around you keep you thinking if it’s an enemy, or just noise. You’ll be turning for a door and meeting enemies at point blank, ready to cut your arm off more times than you’d like to. Which is something great, because it keeps the tension on. You’re never really safe. It mixes exploration with action, something Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (a similar game in more than one way) failed to deliver.

The items you find are simple and clear on how to use them, which is always good news for newcomers. But the enemies are resilient and numerous enough that you will find yourself in though situations and forced to expertly use your resources, which will please the more hardcore gamers playing the harder difficulties. Revolvers, Double-barreled shotguns, pump-action shotguns, hunting rifles and flare guns and the only weapons you’ll find, which are weapons you would inevitably find in countryside houses and towns. Emergency flares and flashbang grenades are also on the list, as throwable weapons. The flare gun is the most powerful weapons in the game, and the most rare one to come across until later in the game. One shot from it will eliminate any enemies unprotected by darkness in its area. If you want something more direct, you could try shooting one of the flares into an enemy and see it explore as if it were a 4th of July firework.

The dodge system is very simple, and reminds me of Resident Evil 3: The Last Escape. Press a shoulder button at the right time to dodge. The difference is that this time the dodge works all the time, even if you don’t synch it. And the animation for it is not something expertly done. It’s more like a fumbled jump to the side accompanied by a ducking move and it works beautifully, because that’s exactly the kind of movement you’d expect from someone that’s not an athlete. If you do synch the dodge with an incoming attack, you trigger a slow-motion cinematic dodge, which lets you breath for a little longer and allows you to take a better look at the situation.

The writing is a brilliant work of creativity, there’s no logical explanation (at the very least, not yet) for the events and the entities that haunt the place. Which conflicts with the writer’s very beliefs, or disbeliefs for that matter. Alan Wake is a skeptic, his only perception of the supernatural was that it was a huge metaphor for the human psyche. When this happens to him, the writer, it’s like it’s happening to ourselves, because the majority of gamers are seeing the game as a work of fiction and are also disbelievers at some level. So both objectives line up.

Another interesting fact is that the story of the game is about a script you wrote, and the script you wrote is about the story of the game so you’ll be finding loose pages of the manuscript around the world, and get to read about events that have or not yet happened to you and while this may seem strange at first it’s actually a perfect way to prepare the player or leave a mysterious air about something, or even explain something. The words in the pages are loose, and usually depict a very particular scene that is impossible to determine when it happens or what it’s about unless you’ve already been through it. So if you have experienced the sequence, the script serves to explain things that were either left unanswered or that the player had no way of knowing. If you haven’t though, it serves as a shock moment, it’s saying that something will happen but there’s no way for you to pinpoint when it’s happening, so you can only try to make true sense of it. And sometimes you can’t even believe what you’ve read, it makes you anxious to know what happens next and sometimes it makes you nervous about what can you really do about it when it happens. When said event does come around the manuscript page gains new meaning and assumes the former use I mentioned. It’s a very interesting use of the story in itself.

The overall feel of the game is amazing, and you feel more like in a TV series than in a game, except it’s you controlling the character and it’s your choice happening on the screen. Honestly, I’m more excited about how Alan Wake’s story continues and ends than I ever was about how Lost ended. So I guess it’s that good and that better. Go see for yourself.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Player’s lack of commitment, or developer’s failure?

I’m a great fan of horror games, like Resident Evil, which after each iteration has become less and less of an horror game. Silent Hill, which had its missteps but had a great comeback, in my opinion, with Shattered Memories. Another fairly recent game that stroke me as great horror game is Dead Space. Another interesting thing about these games is. As a big horror fan, I have a lot of fun with these games. Granted I play them under the right circumstances: At night, with head phones in high volume and alone. So I do get the occasional scare, and most of the time I’m on my toes about when will the next monster jump on me.

I get to enjoy the atmosphere, the action, the suspense, the surprises, the story. It’s all a great package for me. So I can tell you those are great games, but, I’ve ran across more than a few threads and messages of friends and people in the internet that say they haven’t felt a single thing with the game.

Since I have, I know those things are there. So the question I ask myself is: Are the players around the world, afraid of being afraid of these games, and thus playing and exposing themselves to it in situations were the only option is to ridiculize the game and don’t feel anything?

Or is it a lack of imagination and work from the developers to attempt and convince these players that the game’s worth their attention, or even scare them in the light? (Resident Evil 5 rings any bells?). I’m more convinced of the former.

Horror experiences are fragile, yet powerful experiences that must be exposed to the person, in very particular situations for maximum effect. So if the person buys the game and thinks that playing it in the middle of the day with a bunch of friends around is going to be any good, they’re wrong. It might work for the more easy to impress ones, but for the overall audience, it just won’t cut it.

So I would have to say that there’s an absolute lack of understanding on how to play and enjoy these horror experiences. And if they indeed don’t get scared with the game even playing it under the circumstances I pointed out above, then maybe they’re just afraid of being afraid of something. Which is something bad, because you can only hold your emotions for so long and for so much stimulus. They might not be impressed by a game, but I’d like to see them react to the real thing.

Lastly, I’m not afraid of feeling fear, being afraid, jumping in my couch and feeling those strong emotions, because I believe that’s what those games are for, and that’s the greatest way to enjoy them. So if you have a horror game in your shelf that you didn’t enjoy because it felt bad, wait for nightfall, get to play it alone and with the volume high enough for you. It will be a whole new experience.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Saturated storytelling

Storytelling is something that’s rather saturated in the world at this moment, from my point of view. Maybe I’m just narrow-minded towards the subject, maybe I just suck at telling a story, or perhaps I’m not that deeply involved with narrative techniques. But for me, at least, whenever I enter the theater, the first 10 minutes is all that’s needed for me to figure out who’s the villain, who’s the hero and what the main conflict will be. Or at least have a pretty good overall idea of what it will be.

Let’s take Iron Man 2, for example, which I recently went to see. In the first 3 or 4 scenes it was made pretty clear who the villains were, of course we already knew who the hero was, we also got a hold of the bad guys’ motivations in those scenes. My point being: what’s left? We already know who the bad guys are and why they do what they do. Their actions have almost always nearly nothing to do with their pasts, so there’s no connection there too. Which is something that could be explored for more interesting plots and plans. The question I ask myself is: Is the audience only interested in the explosions and special effects? Do they don’t care about trying to figure out the plot by themselves, by being surprised by a big revelation at then end, or even deceived until the very last minute by a smart trick pulled by the writer?

Let’s take a more successful movie then: Cameron’s Avatar. From the start I knew that the guy with the big scar in his face would be the ultimate challenge presented to the protagonist. And I also knew that the protagonist would become a Na’vi in the end. Now, I’m not saying these stories were bad or didn’t have meaning. Because they all do, especially Avatar, which had a lot of bitch slaps for the human race as a whole. Topics like, recycling, morals and ethics were all subtly mentioned and explored. It’s not that. They’re pretty good at that. What’s lacking, remember, in MY opinion, is the unfolding events, what happens in the story and how it happens. I feel like there’s no room for expansion or change there. Everything is simply based off of something previously released. Which is the normal course of things, as humans usually use the evolutionary process for everything: Take something old, change it a bit for the better and there you have something new. But if I take a mouse, paint it yellow and call if a Shbuck, it doesn’t mean it’s something new, just something sold to you as new. And I feel that’s exactly what’s been going on in storytelling. Movies and games alike.

I do have come across some interesting books, so I can’t complain about that. And I’m a little off of the new books and new stories that have been coming out, so book-wise I think we’re good. Maybe it’s because a deeper story and a more complicated set of events would keep the masses away from the theaters afraid of not understanding half of what’s said in the movie? Who knows. I just wish we could go back to ages that making something new was more valued than making money.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

To be regenerative, or not to be…

I was always fascinated by the handling of health in games. How do you honestly convince someone that the damage they take, no matter how severe and utter it is, can be treated with a simple med-kit that can be found in the next room. It’s something that eventually grew old in games. Then someone had the brilliant idea of changing it. Instead of having the player collect health packs, the player’s health would regenerate if they avoided any kind of damage for a certain period of time. It first appeared in a game called Faceball 2000. Many think it was first introduced in Halo, but that’s not right in more than one way.

It’s a feature that can help the surprise aspect of the game. In games that do use normal health, more often than not I found myself running into a room and finding med-kits, of course the next thing I though was that something up ahead was going to make me need those. And more often than not I was right. Which kind of broke the surprise aspect of those encounters.

Regenerating health on the other hand, doesn’t cause the same problems, though it does emerge some of its own: How the hell can the player take so many bullets and heal himself. Or how can he fall from such height and heal his ankle out of nothing. For me, regenerating health, or realth as I’ll be calling it from now on, has always been misused and misinterpreted. If it were up to me, and it will be soon enough, I would use realth not as health, but regenerating focus, or stress. For me, realth is more about being able to consciously avoid, not evade, bullets and damage. And when that realth is completely lost the player is susceptible to damage, like being pumped and unfocused enough to forgot make that rolling move when you jump from a certain height, or becoming sloppy when performing that disarm on the opponent. Forgetting to jump for cover when thugs make a corner and start unloading their automatic weapons on you and that kind of stuff. Something believable enough. After all, in my mind, if a bullet hits you, it’s over or at least the beginning of the end.

It’s that kind of thought and experience I would like to pass to players in games. Something believable and still fun. Many developers get to the point of neglecting a certain aspect of a story or a reality for the sake of gameplay. I believe the true challenge lies in creating something good enough that can please both hardcore fans and casual gamers alike.

I’m currently thinking about the possibilities for the combat gameplay in my Game² project. I’m pretty sure I’m going to use a realth system, the details are all in my head, somewhere, I just can’t get around putting them into paper yet. I feel like a long path extends into the horizon ahead of me, I’ve never been so excited to find out what’s on the other side.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Game² is reborn, first project on the way!

I’m currently studying Game Development at a public university here in Brazil. I already knew that the education system here in Brazil wasn’t all that great, but I had no idea it would actually have an effect on my graduation process. I’ll explain:

Since education in Brazil is a far cry from what you’d expect from an emergent country, most teenagers make their way through high school with little knowledge from what a computer can actually do besides browsing the internet and listening to music and how it came to be. And of course, they don’t learn it at home in their senior year’s vacation time. So they reach college with the same flaws. Of course the government figured that out eventually, they’re not exactly dumb, just lazy. They care about results, which means throwing people out university doors with graduation papers in their hands, ready to work, so instead of fixing the system’s problem the right way, also known as the slow way, they said “Ah, screw it!” and did it the quick way. The quick way involves taking one of the three years of a technologist course and turning it into a prep course. I won’t go into too much detail about what they should’ve done, because that’s not the focus here. So…

My first year of college is almost everything I learned during my computer technical course I did in high school. Of course, you do eventually learn a couple things, but most classes are about stuff I generally already know. Which makes it boring and nearly useless to attend to, but in order to advance I must show up so I do. So, to crack the boringness of time and to do something I want to I decided to create a voluntary cooperative group of game development. We’re really just a bunch of kids with a lot of will and nearly no knowledge, so I decided to use that will to something useful. We’re going to learn the skills by ourselves and apply it by ourselves, it’s bound to fail, but that’s the beauty of it. The people who can’t handle failure, will simply drop out and the people who I can trust will stay and learn with me and we’re gonna make great games.

It’s a bit ambitious, but I like it better that way, we’re bound not to accomplish everything we thrive for, but aiming high is enough to do a good amount of things.

I created the project and there’s about 20 people in it, including me. We decided to work on a 3D project for our first one, it’s kind of crazy, but I strangely believe each and everyone in the team, it’s entirely up to them to destroy that trust and belief, though I rather they didn’t, some are obviously going to.

We decided it would be a Survival Horror game, I already set the setting and we have a prototype of the story, it’s currently in the works for a better version. I managed to come up with a good portion of the combat system and atmosphere.

I’m Game Designer and Project Coordinator. It’s nice to be working on something I love. Some people are already leaving, some are joining, it’s a good cycle. I finally have something to exercise what I know about videogames.

I’m pretty pumped for it. It’s also much easier than actually managing to land a job at Ubisoft or EA, specially in Brazil. Some update are bound to come now. Stay tuned!