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Experiencing Environments



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Experiencing Environments

  1. 1. Experiencing Environments Introduction Introduction Page 1 / 40
  2. 2. Experiencing Environments Introduction Martin Nerurkar Level Designer & Game Designer Diploma-Ingenieur (Architecture) Making games since 1997 Started with modifications for the Quake series and other FPS games Joined the games industry in 2008 Currently employed as Lead of Game Design at Gameforge Teaching Game and Level Design 3 years as Level Design teacher at the Games Academy Frankfurt Multiple lectures as a speaker on game conferences and events Page 2 / 40
  3. 3. Experiencing Environments Introduction What are Game Environments? Are made up of many different elements: • Textures • Lighting • Entities • Geometry These properties have many uses or goals: • Limit progression • Hide information • Provide challenge • Trigger emotions Page 3 / 40
  4. 4. Experiencing Environments Introduction What Experiences is this Talk about? This talk focuses on two very specific uses of game spaces: Environmental Storytelling This is the art of using a pre-designed environment to inform the visitor. It is comparable to set design in movies and theater or to theme park design. Player Navigation Using cues in the environment to subtly guide the visitor or his gaze in the desired direction or to help him orient himself. Page 4 / 40
  5. 5. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling Environmental Storytelling Page 5 / 40
  6. 6. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling What is Environmental Storytelling? Environmental Storytelling is the telling of „stories“ through a space and it's contents. This is the art of using a pre-designed environment to inform the visitor. It is comparable to set design of movies or to theme park design. For video games this is done using all the tools at the Level Designers disposal. This includes: • Textures • Characters • Geometry • Sound effects • Visual effects Page 6 / 40
  7. 7. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling Example 1 Page 7 / 40
  8. 8. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling Example 2 Page 8 / 40
  9. 9. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling Example 3 Page 9 / 40
  10. 10. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling What can Environmental Storytelling do? There are three primary ways to environmentally tell stories: Macro Storytelling Supports the larger story of the game by providing subtle context. Micro Storytelling Presents small story vignettes within the space for the visitor to interpret. Player Storytelling Provides a playground for the players to create stories. Page 10 / 40
  11. 11. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling Why do We need Environmental Storytelling? There are a few differences to classic exposition storytelling: Exposition (audible, textual or visual) • Requires concentrated attention from the audience • Often creates a break in the game flow • Tends to be explicit: It makes it obvious what it's about • Audience is only passive, can only consume Environmental Storytelling • Audience can soak up peripheral information without interruption • Often seamlessly integrated into the game experience • Tends to be subtle: Information is not directly told • Audience is required to actively interpret Page 11 / 40
  12. 12. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling Reading Environmental Cues Humans are trained to take cues from the environment: • We recognize patterns • We compare them to learned patterns • We come to conclusions This happens within microseconds. • The subconscious „auto-pilot“ can register a lot more information than focused attention can. • It only alerts our active thoughts if there is something of special interest. Page 12 / 40
  13. 13. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling Information Interpretation Once the pilot has been alerted the viewer will focus his attention on the stimulus and actively investigate it. • The visitors curiosity is piqued • He wants to solve the puzzle, to understand the situation • If he is not interested, he can simply ignore the information This will lead to the players' version of the presented information: his own story created at his own pace. Page 13 / 40
  14. 14. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling What can Environmental Storytelling tell Us? Environmental storytelling provides context to the visitor: About the Place • What is this location or it's purpose? • What happened here? What is the history of this space? About the People • Who are the usual visitors/inhabitants of this place? • Who are you in regards to this place? At home? An intruder? Page 14 / 40
  15. 15. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling Macro Storytelling Paints a picture of the entire space in broad but subtle strokes. What can it do? • Sell the reality of the environment as presented in exposition. • Support the larger story of the game by providing context. • Provide a visual reward through variety or special unique scenes. • Reinforce the player identity by clarifying the relationship to this place • Set up expectations for the location and it's contents (affordances) Page 15 / 40
  16. 16. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling How is it done? • Spatial sequence: Progression from room to room • Coherent use of subtle cues, both small and big • Establishing a fitting mood Page 16 / 40
  17. 17. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling Micro Storytelling Presents the relics of specific events within a space. What can it do? • Add character to the individual scenes. • Provide warning or examples for player to learn from. • Give hints to game functionality • Can be used as breadcrumbs to focus visitor attention • Support the larger setting through fitting vignettes. • Give insight into specific events in the history of this place. Page 17 / 40
  18. 18. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling How is it done? • Handcrafted scenes showing the remains of previous actions • Remains can be coincidental evidence of these actions • Or they can be a conscious expression of previous „visitors“ Page 18 / 40
  19. 19. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling What does it need to work? The information has to be noticed • Create contrast to clearly highlight your scene • There are many ways to attract the visitor's attention • Movement and strong light & color contrasts work well • Redundant information makes finding the clues more likely Information needs to be understood • The player will interpret the information based on his perceptual space • Intuitive understanding is necessary to avoid confusion • Use familiar objects or carefully introduce new ones Page 19 / 40
  20. 20. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling Player Storytelling Provides methods and opportunities for player-created stories. What can it do? • Players are able to express themselves directly in-game. • Or the game simply records the „evidence“ of their actions. • Players can find out what has happened in game based on this. How is it done? • Actions change the environment and it's contents, be this bullet holes, a paintbrush or enemy corpses. Page 20 / 40
  21. 21. Experiencing Environments Environmental Storytelling Storytelling Exercise A small exercise to help you understand how to tell stories through the environment. You have 30 minutes to: • Take a game or setting you know or make one up on the spot. • Think of a specific place, a Macro and a Micro Story within that world. • Write your stories down, don't show them to the others. • Come up with concrete ways in the environment to tell these stories. • Take some time to list these methods or make some sketches. • Outline the game and setting so we know the larger context. • Describe your scene to the group, don't explain the story! • The rest of the group tries to come up with their own interpretation. • Compare this to your original story ideas. Do they match? Page 21 / 40
  22. 22. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Player Navigation Page 22 / 40
  23. 23. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Why Player Navigation? Players need help finding the right path or important spots without being frustrated by an apparent lack of options. • Constant increase of complexity of spaces in games • Early games were perfect information: all on one screen • Then we introduced multiple screens, creating a need for maps • With the step to complex 3d simple maps become unfeasible Page 23 / 40
  24. 24. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Ways to Help the Visitor navigate? Immersed Tools These methods are created by the Level Design within the space. • Attract the visitor to specific spots • Help the visitor identify different areas • Provide concrete guides and signs Discrete Tools These options are a part of the interface and not the world itself. • A map provides an overview over the space • Markers are useful to highlight specific, possibly mobile, spots • The compass provides information in relation to the visitor position Page 24 / 40
  25. 25. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Attract The goal of this method is to attract the player's attention to a spot. • Useful for linear level design to keep the flow • In non-linear levels it can highlight areas of interest There are many ways to achieve this: • Contrast • Composition • Weenies • Motion • Cutscenes • Pickups • Characters Page 25 / 40
  26. 26. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Contrast • Visual contrast attracts the eye • Color, shape, brightness are all good ways to create contrast • Light usually works really well on a broad but subconscious level • Try the squint test to see what stands out in a certain view Page 26 / 40
  27. 27. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Composition • Environment subtly points toward the target • Lines are oriented as desired • Lines crossing boundaries have a stronger effect Page 27 / 40
  28. 28. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Weenies • Larger structure visible over a greater distance • Provides reference points for navigation • If interesting enough the player will be curious to investigate • Works especially well in non-linear level design Page 28 / 40
  29. 29. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Motion • Motion is really good at capturing attention • This is usually a conscious attention and far from subtle • Effects are an excellent way to introduce motion: Sparks, flickering... Page 29 / 40
  30. 30. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Cutscenes • Cutscenes take away control of the camera from the player • This way specific areas and paths can be clearly highlighted • However this interrupts gameplay and could be skipped Page 30 / 40
  31. 31. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Pickups • Place items (weapons etc.) to lead to your desired location • The in-game value of the item will attract player • Often these items are also visually highlighted Page 31 / 40
  32. 32. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Characters • Characters often combine movement and game value • Player is trained to react to characters, esp. enemies • Even if he is not aware of them, if he is attacked he will be • Following friendly characters also leads the player along Page 32 / 40
  33. 33. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Identify This method helps the player to distinguish between different areas. • Different locations get a strong identity • Makes it to remember and create a mental model of the space • Very useful if the player has to create his own path (non-linear or multiplayer maps) Page 33 / 40
  34. 34. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Landmarks • Large, immediately visible features of the location • Within the area it's hard to overlook the landmark • Can also be used as Weenie to attract over longer distances • Generally used to refer the location to other people Page 34 / 40
  35. 35. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Style • No single dominating feature • Create a contrast between different locations • Different styles (architectural, lighting, textures...) for different places Page 35 / 40
  36. 36. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Guide Guides provide in-world information about the different locations and their relative position • Useful if players know where they want to go but not how • They are only relevant if there is a choice of routes available • Can be confusing if there are multiple routes to the same goal Page 36 / 40
  37. 37. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Signs • Useful for non-linear level design • Often difficult to use without breaking immersion too much • Requires conscious attention from the player to read Page 37 / 40
  38. 38. Experiencing Environments Player Navigation Lines • Visualizes path between two locations • Difficult to show info about path and goal at the same time • Often tough to integrate into the world seamlessly Page 38 / 40
  39. 39. Experiencing Environments Questions? Questions? Page 39 / 40
  40. 40. Experiencing Environments Questions? License This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit the following website: • Photo Credits • • • • • Page 40 / 40