Videogame Design and Programming - 06 Working with Dramatic Elements


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Lecture for the Videogame Design and Programming course for the MSc Engineering of Computing Systems (Laurea Magistrale in Ingegneria Informatica) - Politecnico di Milano.

Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
Dipartimento di Elettronica, Informazione, e Bioingegneria

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Videogame Design and Programming - 06 Working with Dramatic Elements

  1. 1. Working with Dramatic Elements Videogame Design and Programming Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  2. 2. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  3. 3. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  4. 4. Combat Chess 3DO Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  5. 5. Star Wars Chess Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  6. 6. Dramatic elements give context to the gameplay This lecture briefly reviews how dramatic elements are used to create engaging games. Dramatic elements overlay and integrate the formal elements of the system into a meaningful experience. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  7. 7. Challenge WRC2010 © Milestone Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  8. 8. Challenge is the one thing that engages most players. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  9. 9. What Do Players Mean by “Challenge”? 9 •  Not that they want to face an impossible or very hard task! •  They usually refer to § Tasks that are satisfying to complete and § Require the right amount of work to create a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment •  Challenge is therefore very individualized and determined by the abilities of the specific player in relationship to the game •  Challenge is also dynamic: a task is initially difficult and but after becoming accomplished in the task, players will no longer find it challenging and interesting. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  10. 10. Is there a way to look at challenge that is not defined by individual experience? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Regardless of age, social class, or gender, the people describe enjoyable activities in much the same way Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  11. 11. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Findings •  •  •  •  •  •  •  11 First, the experience (of enjoyment) usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing Second, we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing. Third and fourth, the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals, and provides immediate feedback. Fifth, one acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustration of everyday life. Sixth, enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions. Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically, the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over. Finally, the sense of duration of time is altered: hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  12. 12. “The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feel like expanding a great deal of energy is worthwhile simple to be able to feel it.” Csikszentmihalyi M., “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, Inc. 1990. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  13. 13. Csikszentmihalyi’s Theory of Flow Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  14. 14. In flow, an activity balances a person between challenge and ability, frustration and boredom, to produce an experience of achievement and happiness. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  15. 15. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi… •  •  •  •  •  15 Flow occurs most often within activities that are goal-directed and bounded by rules, and that could not be done without skills “When all of a person’s relevant skills are needed to cope with the challenges of a situation, that person’s attention is completely absorbed by the activity.” Players are so involved that activity becomes almost automatic, they stop be aware of themselves as separate from the actions they are performing. “[…] they stop being aware of themselves as separate from the actions they are performing.” In flow experiences, players know what needs to be done and get immediate feedback on how well they are achieving their goals (music, tennis, rock climbing, etc.). Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  16. 16. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi… •  •  •  •  16 In game flow, players are aware only on what’s relevant here and now (no tax problems, no laundry, just the game) Many game interfaces take over the entire screen or build impressive audiovisual worlds to focus all the attention The Paradox of Control: People enjoy the sense of exercising control in difficult situations; however it is not possible to experience a feeling of control unless the outcome is unsure, meaning that the person is actually not in control The paradox of control is a key element of the enjoyment of game systems: how can we offer meaningful choices to players, without offering complete control or an assured outcome? (god-like games) Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  17. 17. Amnesia Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  18. 18. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi… •  •  •  •  •  18 In flow, we are too involved in what we are doing to care about protecting the ego. Although during flow we forget our self consciousness while we are engaged, after a flow activity is over we generally emerge with a stronger self-concept Paradoxically, the self expands through acts of self-forgetfulness “One of the most common description of optimal experience is that time no longer seems to pass the way it ordinarily does” Digital games are notorious for sucking players in for hours on end because they involve players in flow experiences that distort the passage of time. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  19. 19. When most these conditions are present, we begin to enjoy whatever it is that produces such an experience. The activity becomes autotelic. There is no reason for doing it, except to enjoy the experience it provides Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  20. 20. When Designing a Game… •  What skills does your target audience have? •  20 What skill level they are at? •  •  •  •  How can you give players clear, focused goals, meaningful choices, and discernible feedback? How can you merge what a player is doing physically with what they need to be thinking about the game? How can you eliminate distractions and fear of failure? Or, how can you create a safe environment where players lose their sense of self and focus only on the task at hand? How can you make the game activity enjoyable as an end in itself? Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  21. 21. Play Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  22. 22. Play can be viewed as freedom of movement within a more rigid structure Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  23. 23. From “The Promise of Play” 23 •  “Play is no-directed” •  “Play is spontaneous” •  “Play is not scripted” •  “Play is loud” •  “Play is not work” •  “Play is physical” •  “Play is meaningless behavior. You do it for its intrinsic value to you […]” •  … Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  24. 24. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  25. 25. Types of Players •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  The competitor - always plays to best other players The explorer - curious about the world, loves adventuring, seeks outside boundaries (mental or physical) The collector - acquires items, trophies or knowledge The achiever - plays for varying levels of achievements; loves ladders/levels The joker – does not take the game seriously, plays for the fun of playing; might annoy serious players The artist – player by creativity, design The director – loves to be in charge, direct the play The storyteller – loves to create or live in worlds of fantasy and imagination The performer – loves to put on a show for others The craftsman – wants to build, craft, engineer, or puzzle things out … Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  26. 26. Can you name a game designed for one specific type of players? Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  27. 27. Level of Engagements Spectators Participants (might experience transformation play) Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  28. 28. Peacemaker Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  29. 29. Premise © Obsidian Entertainment Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  30. 30. Premise establishes the action of the game with a setting or metaphor Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  31. 31. Example: in the game you have a set of data. Your objective is to change your data to increase its values. To do this, you engage other sets of data according to a complex interaction algorithm. If the data win the analysis, you win. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  32. 32. Street Fight IV Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  33. 33. In traditional drama, premise is estabilshed in the exposition of a story Exposition sets up the time and place, characters and relationships, the status quo, etc. Exposition also depicts the event that upsets the status quo and creates the conflict; and the point of attack, the point at which the plot begins Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  34. 34. Angry birds Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  35. 35. S2 Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  36. 36. Pitfall Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  37. 37. Star Wars: Episode IV? The Fellowship of the Ring? Space Invaders? Pitfall? Diablo? Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  38. 38. The first task of a premise is to make a game’s formal system playable for the user Shoot aliens, not just shoot blocks! A premise that unifies the formal and dramatic elements provides another opportunity to engage the player Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  39. 39. Character Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi © Nintendo
  40. 40. Characters •  •  •  Characters are agents through whose actions a drama is told By identifying with the characters and the outcome of their goals, the audience internalizes the story’s events and empathizes with its movements toward resolution Several ways to understand fictional characters in stories Psychological – the character is a mirror of the audience’s fears and desire Symbolic – the character stands for a larger idea (Christianity, the American Dream, etc.) Historic – depicting real-world figures Stereotypical – representing cultural cliches §  §  §  §  •  The main character’s engagement with the problem creates the conflict that drives the story. It is faced by the antagonist. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  41. 41. Characters •  •  •  •  •  41 Characters are defined within the story by what they say, what they do, what they look like, or what they say about them. These are called methods of characterization Characters with well-defined traits and realistic personalities who undergo a significant change in personality during the story, can be thought as “round” Characters with few defined traits and a shallow personality are considered to be flat. They are also usually recognizable as stereotypes (the lazy guard, the evil stepmother, etc.) Characters must balance “agency” (their practical functionalities) and “empathy”? (the potential for players to develop an emotional bound to or to identify with the character) Sometimes, they are autonomous and controlled by the AI Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  42. 42. Four Key Questions 42 •  What does the character want? •  What does the character need? •  What does the audience/player hope? •  What does the audience/player fear? Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  43. 43. Story © Jummy Wasion Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  44. 44. The outcome of the story must be uncertain Games involve storytelling and narratives that begin in uncertainty and that are resolved over the course of time In many games, story is actually limited to backstory, sort of an elaborate version of premise. An example is the trend of inserting story chapters at the beginning of each level, creating a linear progression that follows a narrative but does not affect how the story plays Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  45. 45. S2 – Second Mission Intro Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  46. 46. Storytelling •  •  There game designers who try to allow the actions to change the underlying game story Several ways to accomplish this The simplest is to create a branching story line A story that emerges from the gameplay (The Sims, Black & White, Half Life, Halo 2) §  §  •  It remains to be seen if these attempts to allow emergent storytelling to arise out of formal game structure, but game designers are still searching for better ways to integrate story into their game systems Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  47. 47. World Building GTA Liberty City © Rockstar North Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  48. 48. GTA Liberty City © Rockstar North Subversion © Introversion Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  49. 49. The Dramatic Arc Heavy Rain © Quantic Dream Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  50. 50. The Dramatic Art •  •  •  •  •  Conflict is the most important of the dramatic elements discussed so far Conflict occurs when the protagonist faces a problem or obstacle that keeps it from accomplish its goal Traditional dramatic conflict can be broken down into categories such as character vs character, character vs nature, character vs machine, character vs self, character vs society, or character vs fate When the conflict is set in motion, it must escalate for the drama to be effective. Escalating conflict creates tension, and in most stories the tension gets worse before it gets better resulting in a classic dramatic arc This arc describes the amount of dramatic tension in the story as it progresses in time Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  51. 51. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  52. 52. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  53. 53. The Dramatic Arc of Jaws? Donkey Kong? What’s the difference between the protagonist of Jaw and Mario? Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi