Friday, November 6, 2009

Fear of GDD...

The pressure is on.

Seeing past student's GDD's (especially a certain 3-Book Colossus) has been fairly intimidating. On average, these things usually top 100 pages with ease. We have until mid-December to create one and so far, I can't stop drawing! =P It aint such a bad thing though and it is helping me form stronger ideas as Jim had suggested it would.

Above is another Pic of Sheol and you may notice that he's slightly more 'clothed' than previous drawings. I figured every time Day Zero re-starts, all of Kold's inhabitants will find themselves wearing what they originally had on that morning. Since they have all dramatically changed physically, many of them will find that their clothes are either way too big, or in Sheol's case too small and have torn. Where could you find shoes to fit those claws, eh? Thus, I am thinking of including some kind of appearance customization, although I don't want to just for the sake of it. I can imagine Sheol stealing clothes from washing lines in an attempt to disguise himself, perhaps?


This also ties in with a bit of research I've been doing on character movement. I took a look at 3 contemporary titles on 360 which encompass the kinds of fluidity I'm aiming for. They are Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia and Wet...

First of all, Altair. The first time I played AC I was blown away, primarily by the smooth animation and the ease of which you could traverse the landscape. It felt good to play and with few complicated button combinations, you could scale a wall, hop across the beams of a collapsed roof and then leap into a hay-pile below. Interestingly in this case, you spend the majority of your time running away - something which I hadn't fully realised when thinking about my project. My only concern was the fact that you have to hold RT to run and then another button to jump and a third to Sprint. Why have to hold a run-button when you spend 99% of the time running anyway??
AC also made me think about outfits when I noticed that Altair's movements are made all the more dramatic by the constant motion of his loose clothing. A free flowing cape or robe of some sort definately enchances the experience.

Prince of Persia was nice... meh. That pretty much sums up my feelings for it. All I had seen previously was the concept art and I have to say I expected the Prince to be this dark, brooding, awesome warrior. And he was a dick. I actually had to turn it off after little more than 15 minutes because he pained me so much. In terms of movement, the wall running was interesting, the combat was noteable but I think the thing I really took away with me was the 'kind-of-cell-shaded-but-not' graphical style. Along with the recent Borderlands, I'm thinking it's a style that if used correctly would suit this world quite well.

And finally Wet. A game that had a lot of potential. With it's Kill Bill-esque heroine and its dynamic slow-mo gunplay the ideas were there, but to me it felt slightly rushed or unfinished. I like the way pulling the trigger during a jump or slide automatically slows things down and allows you more controlled and accurate shots ...but that is exactly where it fails because the analogue settings are SO sensitive, it's near impossible to get a precise aim at anything! Also, the wall-running, climbing element was there, but I found myself constantly jumping away from where I wanted to go, letting go of ledges and getting generally frustrated. The control scheme could definately have done with a polish.

Assassins Creed is without a doubt the closest representation of what I would like 'Again' to achieve. Hopefully, the impending sequel (ACII) will further this too. A fluid, smooth and easy 'free-running'. And a context-sensitive button is the way to go e.g. when standing by a wall - use A to climb it, when standing on a ledge - use A to jump it, when being attacked - use A to dodge/counter. Something that is also used to great effect and was (or may have been) pioneered by Zelda.
Additional games I may take a peek at include Batman: Arkham Asylum, Mirrors Edge and Prototype.

...and other stuff

In the other areas, I have kind of been going off on tangents. I had already preemptively done some plans for camera angles and menu screens among other things (and I will post them when they're more polished) but more recently I have done some paintings of suggested colour palettes and some rough quest ideas.

Here, I did a quick mock up of a village square and then tried to show how it may change visually over the course of the day. At night, the world is a dark inky blue, lit only by the yellow glow emanating from the homes of Kold's residents. As the sun rises, a small amount of snow falls so the morning is white and misty. By afternoon, the snow has begun to melt and the dark eerieness of Kold begins to shine through. As the day draws to it's epic conclusion, the world starts to tear itself apart. It is night but the streets are lit by flashes of lightning and wild fires. Since the game is set in the same place over the course of the very same day, I want to try to give it varying moods as time moves forwards.

This chap's one of the Departed. I haven't named him yet but in my head I've created a whole mission around him which I will now attempt to describe. (let's call him Ned for now) =P

On Day Zero he was a simple hunter. Ned woke up early and took his rifle and his dog into the forest at the foot of a mountain which surrounds his home, to look for deer. He spent most of the day stalking various animals and killing them to bring back to his family for dinner. When the time-loop began, Ned found himself acting out these events over and over again. As 'time' progressed, he evolved to become the ultimate hunter. His sight, hearing and smell developed past the ability of any known predators and his skill with his rifle became totally unmatched. Spending the day entirely alone had severe adverse effects on Ned. His mind became entirely focused on the task at hand and gradually, he forgot about his family and the village and his past. All he knew was hunting. Now he roams the forest silently like a ghost, picking off with ease any intruders who cross his path.
This is a major issue for the 'waking' towns-people who realise that Ned's family are trapped on the other side of the forest. Essentially cut-off from the rest of the village. None of them stand a chance against Ned.

In the game, the villagers explain Ned's tale of woe to Sheol, presenting him with an obstacle that you, the player, may choose to overcome in your own way.
Your options will be so-forth:

1. You may choose to enter the forest alone and try to either eliminate or avoid Ned. Once you approach him, you may attempt to attack, but his heightened senses will mean he will spot you every time and a bullet from his rifle will prove fatal. If you choose to run, he will continue to fire and you will be able to avoid his shot's using QTE's. You must sprint through the trees, using the lance to swing from branches and leap over obstacles in order to reach the other side and contact Ned's family there.

2. You may encourage a small group of villagers to enter the forest as bait (if they die, they know that they will return when the day starts over so it isn't THAT bad), this will rely on speech skill and dialogue choices within conversations with various NPC's. As you enter the forest, Ned will pick off the others allowing you enough time to make a break past him to the other side. Note, that if this method is chosen, the characters who get killed will remain dead until the day is reset.

3. You may train with a rifle of your own (up to a particular skill level, through combat), find an outfit that is camouflaged both in appearance and in smell (through NPC interaction/gathering items) and then silently enter the forest and try to 'snipe' Ned from a distance without him sensing you. This will take the most time and effort to accomplish but will result in a swift solution to the 'Ned problem'.

I want every quest to have multiple routes allowing the player a huge amount of options and experimentation which cover every element of gameplay. I may try to story board these ideas and also hope to post up more soon...


  1. GDDs seem like a mammoth task, but if you like design (which you seem too) they become quite enjoyable, as you get to develop each aspect of the game to its near final incarnation. Just start with the contents page, work from that. ;)

    It's interesting you comment on ACs "complicated inputs", a problem I had with Creed was how automatic platforming was, you would just hold or massage the one action button and he'd do all the work for you. LOOKED great, but didn't really FEEL great. I can't speak for the latest PoP, but the original trilogy is a fantastic series. The "Prince" has always started as a sarcy so-and-so, egotistical and rash, the "dark brood warrior" is something he evolves into due to turns in the narrative. You can dark linkin park Prince in "Warrior Within", and to a lesser extent in "Two Thrones". Anyway, it has fantastic platforming, the wall run is a vital connection for the platforming elements it borrows from other properties; although from wat I saw of the latest PoP, it made everything a little too floaty and supernatural, there used to be more of a focus on the acrobatics of it.

    The difference is AC uses adaptive methods to traverse a free roaming environment, PoP sees players using a tool set to deal with a linear problem the environment presents, more skill is involved. In your case, this makes AC sound like the better choice. I'd also reccomend you get your hands on Infamous, which has great custom platforming in the free roaming game world, despite its flaws.

    I like the missions with freedom of approach, and the "washing line" mechanics and skill trees etc, my only advice is to remember, this is a game. Eventually, it will be a finite product. Something I had to learn in Games Design was when your floaty perfect concept has to come down to earth and exist within set rules and parameters. That time is when you start your GDD, lol. You can't include every realistic option just because you could take that course of action in real life, focus on your mechanics, expand them out so they touch on those player-driven solutions, but because in the end you can only offer the solutions you have thought of, the players will always hit walls if you give them the impression they can do anything their initiative allows.

    Of course, Hitman manages, using quite contained mission environments... given the size of your game, you will have to find a balance.

    Nice work anyway! :D I'm impressed by the process and work ethic.

  2. You're off to a good start, you've got a lot of good references to go by (from this blog and in class). Like Steve said you gotta reign in all these crazy ideas and make it realistically work.

    The thing I always start off with is explaining the game play mechanics in detail. Every single mechanic is explained in words and pictures. Usually the full list of mechanics is decided upon while making the pitch (you decide what to leave out) then included in the GDD. You can add any new mechanics that you think would work and change mechanics that you didn't like.

    After that, explain how the character moves and interacts with the world. What happens when you press X, what happens when you press X near a donkey and all that jazz. How does tilting the Left Stick work differently than pushing it?

    That's usually a good start, things like characters, abilities, enemies and weapons etc come later and usually take up the most time in terms of drawing and writing.

    Levels for me come last, after you've set and agreed upon all the other aspects you can pick and choose certain things for your levels. I wouldn't worry about doing every single level with your deadline so close (though you could - in the 2nd year we had around 3-4 weeks to do a GDD). But certainly pick out the most important. Usually the first and last levels and some interesting stuff between.

    Good luck with this, you'll feel like you need it, lol.

  3. As always guys, really appreciate the feedback! It's sound advice - "reigning in all the crazy ideas" is definately something I need to do. Kind of wish we did have a little more time so I could cover EVERYTHING I want to but I can imagine the ideas would probably never stop and I'd be here forever.

    Steve - my feelings on Assassins Creed are somewhat mixed. I remember feeling the same as you the first time I played it. Comparing it to the likes of Tomb Raider where you had to jump, grab and then pull yourself up with three separate actions, AC originally felt ridiculously simplified. I guess I had forgotten about the old days and as I remembered it, AC used one action button to do pretty much everything so on replaying it, I was surprised that you actually had to use more. I'm interested to hear your thoughts (both of you - in fact anyone reading!) on wether these simplified controls enhance or 'dumb-down' the gameplay. Like you say - it looks great, but would it feel better had they implemented a more sophisticated control scheme? Gears of war is kind of similar in that you simply hold A to duck and run, then enter cover and dodge etc. And as of Ocarina of Time, Zelda games haven't even included a jump button; you simply run off the edge of platform n good ol' Link does all the legwork for you. Do players feel more rewarded when they themselves have to perform the jump, say from a certain distance, with a certain run-up, holding the jump button for a certain period of time? I over-analysing?? Haha!

  4. I like your character, he has loads of expression and is well proportioned. I would like to see how he looks without a white line around him. For me, the white edge flattens it and divorces it from the backdrop.

  5. lol lost my last attempt at a comment.. stupid blogger. S'ok, always better the second time around :P

    Over analysing? Nah :P

    When you simplify the controls for an aspect of a game, you essentially streamline that part of the experience, causing the player to pay less attention to it as a core aspect. In the examples you gave, those streamlined aspects are simplified, but that is ok, because they are not the "core" of the game, Gears isn't about sprinting and dodging, Zelda isn't about jumping, so it's actually a good thing that these parts of the game aren't difficult to perform.

    Players feel acheivement and reward when they feel they have successfully executed an action, do not streamline the controls during any part of the game you want the player to think, react and feel "part" of the game. PoP focuses on platforming challenges, so if the platforming was borderline automatic, players would disconnect due to lack of fulfilment during the core of the game.

    In your case though, I'd repeat that in a free roaming world, platforming cannot be too challenging or specific, because it must be applied openly to the game world as a whole rather than to pre-scripted linear design. I'd go with something a little more streamlined, although if you could mix in a little more interaction, it would give the player more of a connection to the stylish moves unfolding on screen, allowing them to feel more responsible for the action.

    ...of course some games are making a move towards streamlining the whole game, so players can experience the untraditional parts of a game while essentially fastforwarding through the core gameplay. This school of thought isn't really applicable to you, but just as a piece of interest; Bayonetta features an easy mode which actually allows gamers to perform flashy combos by pressing the same button again and again, and of course, Demo Play is releasing soon, a method that literally lets the game play itself. This is designed to let non-gamers and weak players experience what the game has to offer without actually playing.

  6. Phewee!! Your expertise never fail to amaze!

    Think you've hit the nail on the head there. It's about focusing on the main aspects and attuning them in order to draw the player in and make them feel a 'part' of it all as you say. The 'menial' tasks can be relegated to use more simple controls or even be automatic.

    Now that you mentioned Bayonetta, I think I may have overheard some of you talking about that feature in class a while back - interesting idea.
    And Demo Play could spark a whole new debate altogether! But we won't go into that! Hehe.

    I would never want a game to become merely a cinematic experience. 90% of the time I believe there is something you can do to make the experience interactive in some way, without losing anything. I guess it's keeping it interesting that's the hard part though.

    It's a challenge, and like you have said before, something that no other medium has to implement.

  7. Also, thanks Bev!

    I think I probably included the white line for that exact reason - because I wasn't happy with the background. If I get the time, I will try to take your advice and paint something better behind him to be included in my GDD.

  8. heh late to the party as usual ;-) After today what can I add? So as I think you now know, nail down the game play (possibly using the first exercise to help plan it), and all of these ideas will take life in a definite game concept.