LAFS Game Design 7 - Prototyping


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Session 7 of the Los Angeles Film School's Game Design 1 class.

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LAFS Game Design 7 - Prototyping

  1. 1. Session 7 David Mullich Game Design 1 The Los Angeles Film School
  2. 2. Designer Perspective: Bruce Shelley G4 Icons Episode #15: Bruce Shelley
  4. 4. What is Prototyping? Prototyping is the creation of a working model of your idea that allows you to test its feasibility and make improvements to it. Game prototypes, while playable, usually only include a rough approximation of the artwork, sound, and features. Their purpose is to allow you to focus on a small set of the game’s mechanics and see how they function.
  5. 5. Types of Prototypes A single project might require a number of different prototypes.  Physical Prototypes  Visual Prototypes  Video Prototypes  Software Prototypes
  7. 7. Board Games Many video game designers started out as board game designers, and many video games are derived from board games. The designers or programmers of these games used the paper- based originals to figure out what would work electronically.
  8. 8. Board Games Extra Credits: A Case for Board Games
  9. 9. Physical Prototypes Physical prototypes are the easiest type of prototype for most game designers to construct on their own. They are typically created using slips of paper, cardboard, and other household objects.
  10. 10. Benefits of Physical Prototypes  Allows you to focus on gameplay rather than technology  Making changes is faster, allowing for more iterations  Allows for nontechnical team members to participate in the design process at a very high level  Allows for a broader and deeper experimentation process simply because it can be done without major cost or use of resources
  11. 11. How would you prototype the game Battleship? And, by the way, this picture is so wrong in so many ways.
  12. 12. So, you might end up with something like this: What rules would you modify and how would you implement them?
  13. 13. Prototyping A First Person Shooter Although a physical prototype of an FPS can’t help you understand the fluid process of running, aiming and shooting in a 3D environment, it can help you understand the tactical issues of weapon balance, territory control, etc.
  14. 14. Creating An Area Map  Use a large sheet of hexagonal graph paper  Cut out a small chit of paper and color it red to use as a spawn point  Put lines on the grid to represent walls
  15. 15. Units  Represent them with coins or plastic army men or other household units  The unit needs to fit in one cell  The unit needs to show in which direction it is aiming  Roll a die to determine the order in which players place their units in a starting cell
  16. 16. Moving and Shooting One way to represent these actions is to give each player cards for moving, turning, and shooting. 1. Build stack of 3 cards 2. Reveal top card 3. Resolve shoot cards 4. Resolve turn cards 5. Resolve move cards 6. Repeat steps 2-5 for second card 7. Repeat steps 2-5 for third card If a unit is shot, it is removed from the grid, and the player moves it to a spawn point.
  17. 17. Suggested Additions  Add a scoring system  Include hit percentage  Provide hit points  Drop in first aid  Add in ammo  Introduce other weapons You can use the system to create capture the flag games, cooperative play missions, and death matches. You can keep adding, testing, and tweaking until you come up with the right combination.
  18. 18. Board Game Prototyping Board Game Prototyping: inexpensive technique
  20. 20. Core Gameplay Mechanic The actions that a player repeats most often while trying to achieve the game’s overall goal. While the meaning an consequences of what a player does changes over the course of a game, the core actions remain the same from beginning to end.
  21. 21. Spider-Man 2 Core Gameplay
  22. 22. Core Gameplay Examples  Warcraft: Players build and move units on a map in real time with the intent of destroying opposing units in combat  Monopoly: Players buy and improve properties with the goal of charging rent to other players who land on them during the course of play  Diablo: Players battle monsters, seek treasure, and explore dungeons in an attempt to amass wealth and become more powerful  Super Mario Bros: A player controls Mario (or Luigi), making him walk, run, and jump, while avoiding traps, overcoming obstacles, and gathering treasure
  23. 23. The Lens of the Toy Stop thinking about whether your game is fun to play, and start thinking about whether it is fun to play with.  If my game had no goal, would it be fun at all? If not, how can I change that?  When people see my game, do they want to start interacting with it, even before they know what to do? If not, how can I change that? Jesse Schell, Lens #15
  24. 24. Building The Physical Prototype 1. Foundation: Build a representation of your core gameplay using paper and crafts materials 2. Structure: Prioritize structural elements to add to your gameplay. Focus on rules over features  Features: Attributes that make the game richer (like new weapons)  Rules: Modification to the game mechanics that change how the game works (like win conditions)
  25. 25. Building The Physical Prototype 3. Formal Details: Add the necessary rules and procedures to make it a fully functional game. Isolate each rule, test it, remove it, add another, test it, repeat. 4. Refinement: Now examine the details, and add ideas for features that came up during testing but were not essential
  26. 26. Never Give Up Hope! If your game doesn’t seem to be very playable:  Go back to your core mechanics  Strip away all the additional rules  Reintroduce them one-by-one to isolate the problem
  28. 28. Digital Prototyping A digital prototype extends the design work done for the physical prototype and allows you to test the essence of your game in its intended format Now you will want to build models of core systems that you have questions about: game logic, special physics, environments, levels, etc. You will also want to prototype your interface controls
  29. 29. Digital Prototyping Digital prototypes are made using only the elements to make them functional. Generally, they are made with minimal art or sound. (However, adding just a little bit of visual design and sound to a prototype can often help articulate the game mechanics.) Even their gameplay is incomplete, focusing only on unanswered questions and parts of the design that need clarity.
  30. 30. Keep In Mind… What are your reasons for making your digital prototype?  Are you trying to answer game design or technical questions?  Are you trying to establish an effective production pipeline?  Are you trying to communicate your vision to your team or a publisher?
  31. 31. Prototyping Game Mechanics Game mechanics are discrete features of the formal aspects of the game. When prototyping game mechanics, keep it simple and focus on your core mechanic. Do not try to integrate all of your questions about the game into a single prototype, at least, not at first.
  32. 32. Prototyping Game Mechanics Gameplay prototypes need not be stand- alone programs. Often the questions you will have about your mechanics will involve some kind of number crunching that could be tested using Excel spreadsheets.
  33. 33. Control Schemes In a technical sense, digital games are about three things: input, output, and AI. Controls are the input part of the equation. As a designer, you need to make sure you understand the capabilities of the controller for the platform you are designing to. This means creating a kinesthetic prototype and testing the controls until they are perfectly integrated into your gameplay.
  34. 34. Control Schemes When you have decided how the controls will work, create a control table to make sure you have thought of everything. Key Action Arrow keys Walk forward, back, left, right Shift key Run CTRL or Left Mouse Shoot (hold for continuous shooting) A key Look up Z key Look down
  35. 35. The Lens of Control  When the players use the interface, does it do what is expected? If not, why not?  Intuitive interfaces give a feeling of control. Is your interface easy to master, or hard to master?  Do your players feel they have a strong influence over the outcome of the game? If not, how can you change that?  Feeling powerful = feeling in control. Do your players feel powerful? Can you make them feel more powerful somehow? Jesse Schell, Lens #53
  36. 36. Prototyping Technology This is modeling all the software that it will take to make the game work technically. This would include prototypes of the graphics capabilities of the game, the AI systems, the physics. It can also include a prototype of the production pipeline. Prototyping in this area is about testing and debugging the tools and the workflow for getting content in the game.
  37. 37. Rapid Prototyping Digital prototyping is often more effective when it is done in small, fast, throwaway projects. When you pose a question about some aspect of your gameplay, come up with a potential solution and then build a quick and dirty model of that solution to see if it will work. A good rapid prototype makes a testable claim and provides actionable learning about that claim.
  38. 38. VIEWPOINTS
  39. 39. Viewpoints The digital interface for a game is a combination of the camera viewpoint of the game and controls that allow the user to interact with within the system. The viewpoints for the first video games were mainly limited to text descriptions (Zork is an example) but they could be very immersive.
  40. 40. Overhead View This view is primarily used for digital maps and digital versions of board games.
  41. 41. Side View The side view is popular with arcade and puzzle games, but it has its most influence with the side scroller.
  42. 42. Isometric View Popular in strategy games, construction simulations, and role-playing games, this view gives the player easy access to a lot of information.
  43. 43. First Person View This view creates immediacy and empathy with the main character, but limits the player’s overall knowledge of his environment.
  44. 44. Third Person View Adventure games, sports games and other games that depend on a more detailed control of character actions use this viewpoint.
  45. 45. Questions To Ask Yourself  What is the purpose of your interface?  What viewpoint is the best choice for that purpose?  How much information should the player know about the state of the game?
  47. 47. Designing the User Interface The game’s interface works together with the controls and the viewpoint to create the game experience, and it needs to be very understandable. So, how will you incorporate this information around your main view?
  48. 48. Form Follows Function Instead of merely copying the user interface and control scheme of a game that’s similar to yours, go back and think about what’s special about your idea. Next try to come up with innovative ways of representing the play value of that idea in both the controls and interface.
  49. 49. Metaphors Visual interfaces are graphical symbols that help us navigate through the game. When you design your game, you need to consider its basic metaphor. For example, objects that a role-playing character must carry could be placed in a backpack. When creating a metaphor, think about the range of concepts that players might associate with the game’s theme.
  50. 50. Visualization Players often need to process a lot of game information very quickly. Try to visual the information so that they know their general status at a glance. “Natural Mapping” is when we use cultural expectations – such as gas gauges and temperature meters – to cue us as to what the information presented on the screen means.
  51. 51. Grouping Features It is often best to group similar features together visually so that the player always knows where to look for them.
  52. 52. Consistency Do not move your features from one area to another when changing screens or areas of the game. Keep meters and buttons in the same place!
  53. 53. Feedback Let the player know, through either visual or auditory feedback, that their action has been accepted. Audio feedback is very good for letting the player know that input has been received or something new is about to happen. Visual feedback is good for giving precise data like the exact status of a player’s resources or letting the player know where his units are.
  55. 55. Programming Languages
  56. 56. Game Engines
  57. 57. Level Editors
  58. 58. FOUNDATION PROTOTYPE Your first prototype need only consist of the core mechanic (action-purpose: for example, jump to collect coins). Your main objective for this prototype should be to confirm that the idea is a fun foundation for a game.
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