110: Let’s Tell a Tale (Story)

screenshot-2016-03-01-15-37-56

Last time I posted, I mentioned that storytelling and world building are two of the main reasons that I’m interested in creating video games. Which is a good thing, seeing as chapter 5 of our book is all about story.

Going back to why people play games, one reason that Game Development Essentials brought up was the idea of escapism, or how people look to video games to experience worlds differing from their own. A game with a good story is going to allow the consumer to do just that; the same way a book would, but visually, or a movie could, but interactively.

Video games actively put the player in the center of the action, allowing for the player to affect the outcome of what’s happening. They take on the role of the protagonist, they deal with each trial and knockback the hero does themselves. They receive the same advice from the mentor as the hero. It’s their villain that they defeat in the end. The better the narrative is throughout the game, the more weight each of these steps will hold with the player.

Gamesindrustry.biz posted a recap of script writer Rhianna Pratchett’s talk at the D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain)  Summit earlier this year. In said talk, Pratchett goes on about the importance of stories of games; how gameplay can hold the mind, but story holds the heart. She uses TellTale Games as an example of what incorporating a focus on narrative can do. Originally small indie developers, they’ve grown exponentially in popularity with story driven titles The Walking Dead, and The Wolf Among Us. Even in my own household, my little sisters recognize TTG from the mobile versions. I’ve been told about different series the team has made by coworkers who’ve previously shown no interest in games. The Walking Dead franchise has been licensed to more than a few games, but there’s only one I hear about in my day to day life; the one that focused on a good story with relatable characters. My team is attempting to make a game with episodic content, and story will be key for us is we wish to emulate the success TellTale has had.

 

110: The Art of Creation

mobile_game_development

In my past post posts, I’ve been talking a lot about the need for understanding who we are selling to, and why they would want our product. Here comes the part where I look deeper at what it is I hope to accomplish. To be more precise, “Why make games in the first place?”

When it comes down to it, I don’t believe that I actually have an answer for that question in particular just yet, but I do know one thing. To put it most simply, I want to create. I don’t exactly know what I want to create as far as what product in particular, but I want to create something that at the end of it all I can take a step back and see that I have made something. Something that one day my kids, when that time comes, can look at and know that their father had a hand in making. Something that I can share with my parents, sisters, and the rest of my family and the people I know and say “Here it is, this is what I’ve been doing with my time, this is why I’ve made the choices I’ve made coming this far.”

Personal rhetoric aside, the idea of making a game has always been an intriguing idea in the back of my head. Not just because I like playing games, maybe too much, but because I want to create so many things and video games pretty much encompass all of them. I’ve always had a desire to tell stories, and, very much more so, world build. As a big fan of franchises like the tv show Avatar: The Last Airbender, the film series Star Wars, and thee video game Destiny, a part of what really pulls me is the world surrounding the story that we’re given at face value. At the same time, I’ve spent a good majority of my spare time, and often my work time as well, drawing things. Animated films are currently and will always be my favorite form of movies, whether 2d or 3d. Which is the main reason that I’m currently attending school for an associates in 3d animation (Who even has the time to draw each frame?). Video games give me a media in which I can combine both of these passions and do something more with both of them. I can involve my viewers in the story itself. So when I show my parents, my family, my friends, my yet to be born kids the thing that I created, they can truly interact with that work that I made.

An article I read recently by Jeff Vogel on Gamasutra.com talks about the very long process of becoming a creator. in the article he gives his 5 tips on what aspiring creators should be doing with their time. The first and seemingly most obvious tip for making games is to make games. Seems simple enough, but if you don’t create games, you can’t really be a game creator, and there’s no better teacher than experience. Outside of the game we are designing for class, I’ve been working on my own idea for a tabletop game for the past 5 years in my spare time. So I feel I’m on the right track, however, I really need to work on getting finished modules done so I can have people play  test. What’s a game if no one ever plays it? On that subject, Vogel’s second tip is to play games. Can you really make games if you never play games? How can you make a good sandwich if you’ve never had a good sandwich? My former manager at my current job was really big into Pathfinder and as a result, I’ve recently been more into tabletop games in general (PF, D&D, Shadowrun, etc.). Vogel then goes on to advise us to absorb all media. I may harp on how much more interactive games are to other forms of media, but that doesn’t mean that they have nothing to offer. I’ve mentioned my fondness of Star Wars and Avatar, but I’ve recently added reading comics to my list of personal vices. Vogel’s fourth tip is something I really wish I had received a lot sooner. He warns us to be careful about college, and that really hits home for me. This is my third major now since I’ve been out of high school, and it’s the first one where I’ve felt like I’m actually doing something I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life. Starting here would have definitely put me in a better position financially coming out of this program than my current situation, but there’s no use harping on the past now, and I feel that I’m where I’m supposed to be now and that’s what matters. Vogel’s fifth and final tip is to find your own voice. Essentially, everyone is a snowflake, unique in their own right, so as long as you showcase just how special of a snowflake you are, you’re on the right track, Just remember everyone else is probably doing the same thing, so learn what you can from others, but at the end of the day make sure that your work is good. But that’s why we go to school right, so I’m making an effort towards that already right.. right?

110: The Game and the Making of It (Players)

star-citizen1

Looking at making games for a profit, it stands to reason that you’re going to have to make something that people are going to want to buy. If you’re going to make a game that someone is going to want to buy, you’re going to have to know what they want to buy in the first place. That however is just one piece of the puzzle. If I open a restaurant, I’m going in with the knowledge that people want food, but the next step involves knowing why they want the food they want. If I know my restaurant is going to be near a college campus, I’m likely to go for more of a take-out, faster dining route. I know that college students have classes to attend, homework to finish, social lives to lead, and possibly even jobs to work. Because I know this, I know that they will be most responsive to food that can come to them, makes for good leftovers, and is, almost most importantly, cheap. With all this in mind, you understand why pizzerias and Chinese take-out dominate in those areas versus upscale seafood restaurants or steakhouses; knowing that people want food isn’t enough, you have to know what food they want, and why they want it.

In chapter 4 of Game Development Essentials, we learn more about the different reasons that people play games and the different demographics those reasons create. I spoke briefly in my last post about what games can offer to the consumer, whether it be a means of education, recreation, or socialization. This can be taken a step further. Games cater to their audiences in a way that other forms of media are not likely to compete with. People look to games as a form of recreation because they can offer entirely different worlds to experience that an individual may have no other way of visiting as in depth. Some seek that out out to lose themselves in their own personal seclusion, a way of putting themselves in a story that goes farther than being told what happens like in a book, but being able to directly interact with the characters and world around them. Others socialize with their friends in cooperative story narratives, becoming the heroes in the epic in front of them, where otherwise they might just go and quietly see a movie together then discuss what they’ve seen with one another after the fact.

A recent article on from gamesindustry.biz by Rob Fahey highlighted Roberts Space Industry’s upcoming title Star Citizen, the now ~4 year development cycle it has gone through, and the unique dynamic between developer and fan base. For those not aware, Star Citizen is a highly ambitious, and almost equally highly crowd funded, space-faring MMO with an emphasis on players driven content. In the game, pretty much any interaction you can have with an npc is carried out by another player; stores are player run, trade between factions/worlds are transported by players in freighters while attempting to avoid pirates who are also players, protection is bought from mercenaries who are again players, and the list of possibilities goes on and on. With such an ambitious title promising so much to prospective players, crowd sourcing could have potentially been a disaster for RSI as they near the 4 year mark since their start date. What RSI understood about their particular brand of consumer is their willingness to listen when spoken to about the nitty gritty of developing such a large project. Where other companies in the past have dismissed their delays as “polishing time,” RSI has been, for the most part, transparent in their development of the game, realizing that with their crowd-sourced title, allowing fans to see what exactly their money is going towards, and what roadblocks are preventing them from having it now has been the cause for a great deal of relief on both sides of the maker/buyer relationship. In a way, RSI’s transparency has been a form of advertisement for the title, allowing patrons to feel like they’re really a part of the process, encouraging them to urge others into joining the cause, drawing in more funding for Star Citizen.

Our group could learn something from this strategy. While I doubt we will be crowd sourcing our title, having a blog with periodic updates on how they game is coming along could be a smart way of advertising for us. Especially considering this is going to be most of our group’s first game, it’ll give insight into the game making process, that I’m certain our potential gaming demographic could appreciate.

110: What Can We Make? (Platforms/Goals)

gts-1When it comes down to it, the Game Industry is an industry, and industries exist around the idea of making a product. If you want your product to be successful, there are quite a few variables to deal with in any market; selling games is far more than just fun and games. Chapter 2 of Game Development Essentials asks us to look at where we put our games and to think about how that will impact its development. From the portability of a handheld device or the pre-installed user base of a mobile app, to the wider accessibility of consoles or the freedom from hardware limitations on a pc. What people have the ability to play your game on has a serious impact on who is going to be playing your game, how often/long they’ll playing, and how you’ll be able to make a profit off of them playing.

Just as we should have a goal in mind for ourselves when creating a product for our consumer base, we should be considering the goals of our consumers and what will drive them towards our product in the first place. In the following chapter, the idea of what purpose a game can serve is brought up. Some assume games are made for a pure entertainment value, a game just to be a game. While this may hold true for certain games, dependent mostly on the consumer, much more can be taken from the titles we release. Games with an emphasis on larger player sizes within a single instance, like mmos, can provide a social safe place for people to interact with others in a way never before conceivable. Our products can even be used as a means of education, through the gamification of different real world tasks. These games can be used to teach shapes and words to children, offer a cheaper, more accessible digital instrument (like a virtual piano) to learn music on, or provide a safe simulation for future pilots to practice landing air crafts with.

We need to really think about the game we want to produce moving forward. There are more than a few platforms out there to release games on, and many more genres to release them in. With an digital only retail release via Kongregate in mind, my team and I need to develop a game that is going to appeal to more pc oriented users. If we can hone in on what it is that our intended market wants in a game, and what purpose our game will serve, we have a good chance of creating a successful product.