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character development

Game Design: Introducing your characters (what rapport do you speak of?)

A foggy night with a pale moonlight shimmers among still water. Murmuring in the distance interrupts the tranquil silence. A ripple in the water catches your eye and you trace it back to where you think it came. The camera closes in on your face as you try to make out what could be ruining the tranquility of the scene.

Introducing your character into a story is important to give a grounding for who the player will control and their significance to the story. Will I be analyzing my character or the story around them? Will I be able to impose any free will through them? Are they reliable, are their perceptions to be trusted?

You not only establish a rapport with the character but you establish the ground rules for interaction with them.

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Game Design: Always with the Family Issues

Load up a game, any one that is story driven, and find yourself in a world where your main character is either a mercenary/soldier, a camera vehicle for a larger story, or a single white male father/ex-father figure type.

camera-on-car

Call of the Battlefield is a vehicle for set pieces.

Ambiguous man is a vehicle for some story that you’re just a bystander in, watching the main actors propel the story forward. You go from scene to scene where the other actors talk to you, but are giving you the plot points that they’ve enacted at this point in the story. Sometimes you impose some driving force, but the story isn’t necessarily centered around you.

Mannequin

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Dialogue Delivery p5: How, not what.

Obligatory Past Post Countdown:

Player Paced Dialogue Delivery [link]

Character Paced Non-verbal Dialogue Delivery [link]

Character Paced Verbose Dialogue Delivery [link]

Character Paced Short-Form Dialogue Delivery [link]

 

Stepping away from the focus on “what” is said, it’s still important to talk about the setting of the delivery. For all of the previous articles, we’ve only talked about dialogue and plot points delivered through extremely disruptive cutscenes. I don’t mean disruptive in the sense that it causes the player to drop the controller out of frustration, but disruptive in that it shifts your agency from playing to watching for a short while. The player stops “playing” the game and starts “watching” the game for a short or extended amount of time. This doesn’t necessarily cause a distraction for the player, but it does give an idea to the pacing of the game for the player. If the cutscenes feel long and troublesome, it can quickly demotivate the player from wanting to continue playing the game. So today, let’s focus on the two major pacing types used in gaming.

Continue reading “Dialogue Delivery p5: How, not what.”

Dialogue Delivery part 4: Short but Provocative

The story thus far:

Player-Paced Dialogue Delivery

Character-Paced Delivery w/ No Dialogue

Character-Paced Delivery w/ Verbose Dialogue

 

Verbosity in games, much like any medium, is hard to get right. The dynamics of a game and the habits of a gamer are those that contribute a response towards quick reward systems. Run right and jump = Progression. Turn on console -> Start Game -> Join Game -> Start Killing things, all in a matter of a minute or two. But becoming programmed to this sort of habit goes against what verbosity tries to deliver. We’ve talked about how being verbose can be used correctly before, about not letting the mechanism for delivering the dialogue interfere with the agency of the player as they go about through the game. The delivery should only interfere when absolutely necessary but not for too long otherwise it pulls the player out from the immediate sense gratification that a game presents, but it means that shortened dialogue delivery needs to be discussed.

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Dialogue Delivery part 3: The Wind Blows Long

When a character speaks, the player listens. When a character speaks too much, the player tunes out. Continuing with our look at Dialogue Delivery systems, we still need to look at when character-paced acting is mixed with dialogue as a means of delivering story, character development and plot points. The previous two can be found here and here which discuss Player-paced storytelling and character-paced dialogue-less storytelling, respectively.

There are various means for pushing dialogue onto the player. Text-based, dialogue-based, interpretive gestures and symbols. I don’t want to focus too heavily on what they are actually delivering, but instead focus on how each will be received.

Information delivery is important to think about when designing a game because you’re asking a lot of the player as they try and soak in the information presented. You’re dropping the player into a conversation among other people and expecting them to take the conversation as seriously as the other participants. If there is too much information, it becomes a chore to participate in the conversation.

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Let’s Talk about Infamous: Second Sons

Infamous, the experiment in developing an original Superhero with the freedom of creating abilities and lore that’s untied to any pre-existing superhero universe. Two surprises from the PS3 generation was the ambition of Infamous and Prototype in creating an original open-world Superhero universe, but it would seem that Infamous had the staying power between the two with its 3rd installment released on the PS4. While the first 2 followed Cole and his very Spiderman-like origin story and his various continuous acts of self-sacrifice throughout the two games, we move on to Delsin and his X-Men-like origin story. The game tweaked a few aspects from the past few games but still did a great job at creating an original identity to both Delsin and the game instead of just another iteration of the same franchise. That doesn’t mean that everything went well, which is the topic for discussion to see how the experience can be overall different.

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Tomb Raider and the Definition of Definitive

                Here’s lookin at you, kid.

Yes, Tomb Raider has been a bit stale for a long while and yes there hasn’t been a good iteration for very long time for the franchise. Guardian of Light was probably the only notable step in the right direction, but took the gameplay in a different direction from the traditional Tomb Raider games of the past. The big problem is that corridor crawling adventure games were clunky for the longest time and there was a big gap in the genre since the 3d era began. Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, even Mario and Zelda games made big advances in the 3d era, but of these early predecessors Tomb Raider holds up the least. Mario and Zelda prided themselves on fluid controls which made playing these games, even today, very enjoyable. The primitive interpretations of how players should be able to move translated well to the format that gamers are used to nowadays. Resident Evil controls like a 1920s era tank sold at discount from the crazy soviet from down the block. Turn in place, run forward. Turn in place some more, run forward. Fast mobility wasn’t a priority, and actually worked towards the games theming. Resident Evil is meant to be a survival horror game, so having fluid mobility takes away from the fear of the game. The awkwardness when controlling Jill or Chris adds to the panic when you’re trying to get away from the Zombie or Crimson making its way to eat some face. Tomb Raider controls in a similar fashion, with some more mobility than Resident Evil, but still extremely clunky by today’s standards, but since Tomb Raider isn’t a Survival Horror game, it makes the game all the more frustrating when revisiting the game with present eyes.

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Attachment Issues

It’s a little but funny, but then again, no.

How we attach ourselves to characters in a television show.

I don’t have much to say, but if I did

I’d write a blog about it, where it would live.

                One thing that I love is getting wrapped up in a story. Getting wrapped up in the lives of characters who have lives outside of the story taking place. Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Doctor Who. It’s not just enough to have motivations of people inside a story but to know that these people have personalities, aspirations, or a psyche outside of what’s going on in the day-to-day moments of whatever medium the story is taking place. And some mediums have characters who persist for years, while other formats have characters who only show up for an hour-long episode before they go away. In spite of this, it’s sometimes easier to develop an attachment towards the hour-long character than the decade long one. But that’s counter-intuitive, don’t you think? If you’ve spent a decade following a character around, you’d expect there to be more of an attachment to these characters because you’d (hopefully) know their motivations to a better degree than someone who you’ve only known for an hour, where of that hour was also focusing on some event occurring around them so you can’t solely focus on this one-episode character the entire time.

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