LAFS Game Design 1 - Working With Dramatic Elements


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Session 4 of the Los Angeles Film School's Game Design 1 class.

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  • Star Wares: A New hope instantly grabs the viewer’s attention with the opening scene of the Rebel ship being capture. The engagement sequence then progresses in a series of hills and valleys, building higher and higher until the climactic destruction of the Death Star.

    Virtually all good entertainment has a similar pacing curve.
  • LAFS Game Design 1 - Working With Dramatic Elements

    1. 1. Session 4 David Mullich Game Design 1 The Los Angeles Film School
    2. 2. Designer Perspective: Shigeru Miyamoto G4 Icons Episode #6: Shigeru Miyamoto
    3. 3. How To Start Your Game Narrative Extra Credits: How To Start Your Game Narrative
    4. 4. Take-Away Don’t start planning designing a new game by creating the game’s story. Start with defining the experience you want the player to have, and then create a story that will provide that experience.
    5. 5. DRAMATIC ELEMENTS  Challenge  Premise  Character  Story
    6. 6. CHALLENGE
    7. 7. Challenge Most people would agree that the one thing that engages them in a game is challenge. Challenge is very individualized and is determined by the abilities of the specific player in relationship to the game. Challenge is also dynamic. A player might find one task challenging, but after becoming accomplished in the task, they’ll find it no longer challenging.
    8. 8. The Experience of Enjoyment Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found that certain conditions made activities enjoyable:  A challenging activity that requires skill  The merging of actions and awareness  Clear goals and feedback  Concentration on the task at hand  The paradox of control  The loss of self consciousness  The transformation of time  Experience becomes and end in itself
    9. 9. Flow Csikzentmihalyi created a theory called “flow”, the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
    10. 10. Flow  If a challenge exceeds the abilities of the current skill level, it can lead to frustration  If the skill level is increasing faster than the challenge, it leads to boredom  Both of these will normally end with the player leaving the game
    11. 11. The Lens of Flow  Does my game have clear goals? If not, how can I fix that?  Are the goals of the player the same goals I intended?  Are there parts of the game that distract players to the point they forget their goal? If so, can these distractions be reduced, or tied into the game goals?  Does my game provide a steady stream of not-too- easy, not too-hard challenges, taking into account the fact that the player’s skills may be gradually improving?  Are the player’s skills improving at the rate I had hoped? If not, how can I change that? Jesse Schell, Lens 18
    12. 12. PREMISE
    13. 13. Premise Premise establishes the action of games within a setting or metaphor. Without dramatic premise, many games would be too abstract to become emotionally invested in their outcome. Game Premise Space Invaders Defend the planet from invaders Pitfall Harry Explore the jungle and find hidden treasures Diablo Defend the town from Diablo and his undead army Myst Unravel the puzzles of a deserted island
    14. 14. Tasks of the Premise  Make a game’s formal system playable for the user  Makes the experience richer for the player  Unifies the game’s formal and dramatic elements
    15. 15. The Lens of Unification  What is my theme (or premise)?  Am I doing everything possible to support that theme? Jesse Schell, Lens #9
    16. 16. CHARACTER
    17. 17. Character Characters are the agents through whose actions a drama is told. By identifying with a character and the outcome of their goals, the audience internalizes the story’s events and empathizes with its movement toward the resolution.
    18. 18. Type of Characters  Protagonist: The main character, whose engagement with the problem creates the conflict that drives the story  Antagonist: A person or some other force that works against the Protagonist  Major Characters: Have a significant impact on the story’s outcome  Minor Characters: Have a minor impact on the story’s outcome
    19. 19. Understanding Characters in Stories  Psychological: A mirror for the audience’s fears and hopes  Symbolic: Standing for larger ideas such as the American Dream or for a group such as an ethnic group
    20. 20. Four Key Questions Whether for a story or a game, ask yourself these questions to make sure you have really thought through your character’s presence in a story:  What does the character want? (Their goal)  What does the character need? (Tools or resources required to achieve their goals)  What does the audience/player hope?  What does the audience/player fear?
    21. 21. Myers Briggs and Character Creation Myers Briggs and Character Creation
    22. 22. Methods of Characterization Characters are defined by:  What they do  What they say  What others say about them Round Characters: A character with well-defined traits and a realistic personality or undergoes a significant change of personality during the story Flat Characters: Show little or no change in personality, and they are often used as foils to show off elements of another character
    23. 23. Agency vs. Empathy What is unique to game characters:  Agency: The practical function of a character to serve as a representation of the player in a game  Empathy: The potential for players to develop an emotional attachment to the character, to identify with their goals, and consequently, with the game’s objectives.
    24. 24. Characters vs. Avatars  Predesigned Characters: Backstories, motivations  Player-Created Characters (Avatars): Role- playing, growth, customization Both have potential for empathy; the question is which is best for the game’s design and player experience goals.
    25. 25. Free Will vs. Player Control  AI-Controlled Characters: Characters exhibiting “free will” by having their own personality and inner thought process  Player-Controlled Characters: Player assumes agency for the character’s actions  Mixture: Player-controlled characters with elements of simulation that provide character (such as Sonic the Hedgehog tapping his toe)
    26. 26. The Lens of the Avatar  Is my avatar an ideal form likely to appeal to my players?  Does my avatar have iconic qualities that let a player project themselves onto the character? Jesse Schell, Lens #75
    27. 27. The Lens of Character Function  What are the roles I need to have the characters fill?  What characters have I already imagined?  What characters map well to which roles?  Can any characters fill more than one role?  Do I need to change the characters to better fit the roles?  Do I need new characters? Jesse Schell, Lens #76
    28. 28. The Lens of Character Transformation  How does each of my characters change throughout the game?  How am I communicating those changes to the player? Can I communicate them more clearly, or more strongly?  Is there enough change?  Are the changes surprising and interesting?  Are the changes believable? Jesse Schell, Lens #81
    29. 29. The Lens of Character Traits  What traits define my character?  How do these traits manifest themselves in the words, actions, and appearance of my character? Jesse Schell, Lens #77
    30. 30. STORY
    31. 31. Backstory In many games, story is limited to backstory, an elaborate version of the premise. The backstory gives a setting and context for the game’s conflict, and it can create motivation for the character, but its progression is not affected by gameplay.
    32. 32. Amnesia and Story Structure Extra Credits: Amnesia and Story Structure
    33. 33. Standard Story Structure
    34. 34. Pacing in Star Wars
    35. 35. The Hero’s Journey Extra Credits: The Hero's Journey (part 1) Extra Credits: The Hero's Journey (part 2)
    36. 36. The Hero’s Journey From the 1949 Joseph Campbell book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces: Jesse Schell 1. The Ordinary World 2. The Call to Adventure 3. Refusal of the Call 4. Meeting with the Mentor 5. Crossing the Threshold 6. Tests, Allies, Enemies 7. Approaching The Cave (setbacks) 8. The Ordeal 9. The Reward 10. The Road Back 11. Resurrection (greater crisis) 12. Returning with the Elixir
    37. 37. The Lens of the Hero’s Journey  Does my story have elements that qualify it as a heroic story?  If so, does it match up with the structure of the Hero’s Journey?  Would my story be improved by including more archetypical elements?  Does my story match this form so closely that it feels backward? Jesse Schell, Lens #68
    38. 38. The Lens of the Story  Does my game really need a story? Why?  Why will players be interested in this story?  How does my story support the aesthetics, technology, gameplay? Can it do a better job?  How do the aesthetics, technology and gameplay support the story? How can they do a better job?  How can my story be better? Jesse Schell, Lens #70
    39. 39. Exposition Extra Credits: More Than Exposition
    40. 40. Outcome The outcome of a game must be uncertain. The same is true of a story. However, the outcome of a story is resolved by the author, while the outcome of a game is resolved by the player. Because of this, it is difficult to integrate traditional storytelling methods into games.
    41. 41. Branching Storylines The problem with branching storylines is that they have limited scope.
    42. 42. Emergent Storylines The story emerges from gameplay rather than from a predetermined structure.  The Sims: Players can take snapshots of gameplay and arrange them in a captioned scrapbook  Black & White: Combines elements of simulation with strategy and gameplay  Half-Life: Story sequences are triggered by character actions
    43. 43. World Building
    44. 44. World Building World building is the deep and intricate design of a fictional world, often beginning with maps and histories, but potentially including languages, governments, politics, economics, etc. Examples:  Dune  Lord of the Rings  Star Wars  World of Warcraft
    45. 45. The Lens of the World Think about the space in which your game really takes place when all the surface elements are stripped away.  How is my world better than the real world?  Can there be multiple gateways to my world? How do they differ? How do they support each other?  Is my world centered on a single story? Or are there many stories happening here?Jesse Schell, Lens #74
    46. 46. Extra Credits: Design Analysis Design Club - Super Mario Bros: Level 1-1
    47. 47. 1. Download GD1 4 Resources from the LAFS GD1 website Session 4 page 2. Create a Platform game
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