13 March 2015

Made in Brunel

Our game, Meeting, is now an award-winning game! Judged and awarded by Steve Jackson, co-founder of the Games Workshop, Lionhead Studios and writer of the Fighting Fantasty series. Here we are, accepting the award at the Made in Brunel event. From left to right: Steve Jackson, Matthew Halls, Tim Phillips, Rosa Carbo-Mascarell, Dan Thompson and Olga Guseva.

How it happened: Every year the Department of Computer Science hosts a software innovation event where students showcase their software to academics and professionals. This was the first year (of hopefully many years) that Games Design collaborated in the event. The heads of Game Design decided which would be the four chosen games to be displayed at the event. Apparently it took some "heated debate with some wrestling and walking over fire challenges" before deciding on the games. The four games that were finally chosen were "What do we do now?", "Tribe", "Nope!" and "Meeting".

The event itself was a very busy success. There was a blurr of many game players and curious students. Dan did an amazing job at describing our game to newcomers and many players high-fived each other when completing the game.

The highlight of our showcasing was when Steve Jackson came around to play our game. There was much laughter and banter ping-ponging between Steve Jackson and his co-op as they played Meeting. After plenty of shouting across laptops, they solved the puzzle with much cheering, back-patting and hand-shakes. As a game designer, seeing the two players leave the game buzzing with camaraderie and amusement was the most rewarding experience of the event.

The games showcased at the Made in Brunel were all made as part of the Global Game Jam 2015 in collaboration with the department of computer science. If you are interested in the event, I have written about the experience here. I am incredibly proud of the games my fellow Brunel students have made. If you have a chance, make sure to check them out at the GGJ website here.

Read about the award-winning Meeting on Gamasutra.

Play v1 of the game!

4 March 2015

Digital Games: Weeks 22-23

Story was the requirement for the weekly game. We discussed branching narratives and how to make a story appear non-linear. As an example, we looked at Harry Potter. How different would the story experience be if the exact same things happened but Harry was portrayed as an evil antagonist?

I paired up with Toni (who's storytelling skills have awed the course more than once) and made a game inspired by a short film. "Feeders" is an anti-commercial about psychic vampires - beings that suck your energy dry.

The game is set around a dinner party with old friends and rising tensions. The way you respond to conversation changes people's mood around the table. Toni did an amazing job at the script which Ivo, director and creator of Feeders, Toni and I then edited together.

We used various game design tricks to give the sensation of non-linearity. Starting with the player feedback loops: upon making a choice in dialogue, the facial expressions of the characters change, giving the player a sensation of meaningful choice. The script itself follows the same topics and happenings, the only difference is the tone in which the characters can respond. They have three moods: positive, neutral and negative. Because of these changing tones and moods, players can get a different perception of the characters. For example in one playthrough, Lorenzo might be really aggressive, in another he might be really loving. This can tint the player's opinion of who is the psychic vampire.

You can play the game here.

In theory we discussed race the first week and age the second and both were preceded with a fun exercise related to each topic. For race we had to create a fantasy or sci-fi race that was not based on any real-life cultural references. The stuff some people came up with was hilarious but probably the most profound lesson learned from the exercise was this: If play is the basis of all culture, then the first question we should ask ourselves when designing a culture is "how do they play?"

The second exercise was a look at representation of age in games. I went on a quest on Reddit to look for women over 40 to see if I could identify any patterns or, in fact, if any existed. Many answers were given and I collated portraits of the highest voted replies. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised at the range and complexity of female characters over 40. Less so when I looked at how many of these women were playable characters.

For the second week I took a break from the a game a week exercise due to other commitments. While at a loss in terms of game design practice, it has allowed me to step back and evaluate my schedule. Deadlines are looming. It's time to fight these hand-ins with my deadly post-it notes of ultimate planning.