Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Update: What I've Been Up To and A NEW ALL CAPS ANNOUNCEMENT

So it's been quite a few months since my last post, and I am truly sorry for that. I think I owe you lovely readers an explanation, so here's what I've been up to:
  1. I'm working on 3 games.
  2. I'm writing 2 screenplays.
  3. Phase 2 of Player's Delight is being prepared.
I'll elaborate, starting with the first two points.

College has been a pain in the you-know-what, and this year I began not only a gamedev course but also a screenwriting course, in addition to other classes. Those two disciplines take up heaps of time if quality and sufficient learning is the goal.

Game Development

In the course, I am basically the director of my group, and our game was originally one of my ideas, so most of the work has been on my end. The game is called Frenzy, and it is a single room 360 degree shoot 'em up like Asteroids, Luftrausers, and Geometry Wars, but with a twist...

Every time you miss an enemy, your projectile will ricochet around the stage's borders until it hits an enemy, another projectile, or you. Over time the player will miss shots which add to the amount of hazards on the stage, which means the  player has to dodge more, which means they have to balance shooting accurately and dodging stuff, which makes them miss more, which adds more hazards, until the stage is a frenzy of bullets going every which way and the player finally gets hit.

It's simpler than it sounds, but with embellishments such as aesthetics, powerups, multiple stages, enemy types, multiplayer and whatnot, including me doing most of the work (admittedly, it's something I'm used to and am totally fine with), it's quite a load for someone like me who is just starting out with Game Maker and can't code.

In addition to the class, I'm also in the gamedev club, where we are in the concept stage of making another game separate from the class. Everyone pitched in ideas and another one of mine got the most votes, so I'm writing up the initial design doc to explain how it works. Like Frenzy, it's a traditional genre game but with a delicious twist:

It's a 2D side scrolling platformer like Mario, Super Meat Boy, Sonic, etc., but you don't play as the hero who does the platforming, you play as the stage.

Yeah, it's kind of vague, and doesn't have many analogues (at least none that we could think of). Imagine moving platforms, spike traps, enemies, swinging blades, and any other trap, obstacle, a.i., and nuisance you see in classic side scrollers, and put those in the player's hands. The hero is trying to beat the levels, and you have to stop 'em.

It's not tower defense – you don't set up an autonomous defense. The hero character has to platform through an obstacle, and the player has to utilize the individual elements of the obstacle in the right way (right order, right intensity, right timing, etc.), to set them back until their lives equal zero, in real time. It's a platformer from the hero's perspective, but from the player's it's a puzzle game.

Finding out how that works in a fun way that we can actually program rattles the noggin', but that’s why I like to think about, at least for me.

These aren't story based games, but that's fine. I actually have a lot of game ideas (and some I plan to make) that haven't a thing to do with story. The priority is still interactive narrative, and to help me with that is the second thing I'm doing:


I'm working on two scripts because when I get frustrated with one it's easier to just work on the other than hash it out then and there. There is a lot to study, a century's worth, including literature on just screenplay format. I'm on a mission to turn in drafts with zero errors, so I can't slouch here. Coupled with the game deving, it's a time sink.

Wait, isn't there a third game?

Well, this one is for the future. It may happen, it may not, but you bet I'll fight tooth and nail so that it does eventually. It's all of my ideas about interactive storytelling applied to one interactive story. Most of which are not in any other game. My philosophy on the best way to create a cutsceneless playable story is in this game. Everything, and I mean everything, even walking, has been been given ludonarrative steroids here.

Speaking of ludonarrative, that's a mouthful, so I've shortened the term to Lunar (Lunar Design specifically) for use in my most recent essay. Speaking of Lunar, that's the code name for this game. Project Lunar is my idea, and as such, I am proud of what I came up with. Everyone is proud of their ideas, so I don't know how much these words are worth, but I truly believe it innovates in a worthwhile fashion. It's the kind of thing I want to keep secret else somebody copies it...

...or so I thought.

As the document gets bigger and bigger, more of Lunar Design gets fleshed out. I now have a lot of organized material to draw from for the new video series. Project Lunar was the kick in the butt I needed to realize that I don't have to let Player's Delight die. In fact, I shouldn't hog all the stuff I've developed and learned over the course of writing Project Lunar.

Hold the phone, did you say video series?

Yup. Phase 2 of Player's Delight is underway. I can't do Lunar Design justice in just writing and pictures. We need moving examples and just as important – accessibility. My essays are too big. They scare people away. Videos will be easier to digest and possibly reach a wider audience.

Player's Delight will become a Youtube show with the sole purpose of analyzing and teaching all about interactive storytelling. My so-called “innovations” are gunna be put to the test for all to see and experiment with.

The show's design has many influences, but the goal is for it be like the lovechild of Extra Credits and Good Eats. There will be game footage, drawings, and live action for each lesson. I'll start out by making episodes for each essay that is already on the blog, but they will be updated and rewritten with what I've learned since I first wrote them.

Here are some of the episodes I have in the pipeline:

Compare and Contrast – Heavy Rain and The Walking Dead
Redesign: The Last of Us – If We Played As Ellie
What Not To Do – Beyond: Two Souls
Cutscenes And How Not To Use Them
Reinterpreting classic mechanics for story play
A game that has a story / A game that is a story
Compare and Contrast – Hotline Miami And Spec Ops: The Line
Redesign: Bioshock – If It Wasn't A Shooter
How To Use The Quick Time Event
In-game Cinematography
How Gameisms affect story
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (analyzing Uncharted 2 and 3's train and plane sequences)
Writer, Director, Designer
Animation, and why it's important
Stories with a single mechanic (Gone Home, Paper's Please, etc)
Bosses as Characters (mgs)
Innovation And The “One Cool Thing” Principle
Twine as a blueprint
Replay value
The Importance of Behind The Scenes

Originally, I didn't intend to have a regular series of essays, and I especially didn't think anyone would read them. After the Beyond: Two Souls piece went viral and got featured on sites like Giant Bomb and Penny Arcade, and blew up on gaming subreddits, I was excited to change people's opinions on the game and spark discussions about player choice, but I also felt bad because now there were a ton of readers who probably expected me to keep this work up. The blog was made to be a casual place for me to vent the kind of analysis for certain games I was not seeing elsewhere, but then there was real pressure to provide content. I continued with the 13 Cutscene Tropes and then with the Story Idea essay, but unfortunately there hasn't been anything since. I feel super bad for being absent for so long.

The show is where I'll continue. The blog will still be here for a variety of things, but not the main essays. The main stuff will be in the show, and the blog will be reserved for smaller things, whatever they may be. The first run of lessons based on the essays I've already written should be good starting points, and we'll see how it goes from there.

I just started to gather materials and such, so it will still be some time before the channel is up and running. In the meantime I'll be updating the blog with those smaller things I mentioned at least once a week. I'll be updating with progress on the show on Twitter.

And of course, thank you for being a fan!

P.S. If anybody wants to offer suggestions or tips for filming, editing, etc, that would be greatly appreciated, as I'm a noob at this stuff.

P.P.S. I changed the template of the blog and it caused a few glitches with the essays, most notably the Beyond one with all the highlighted text. Sorry about that.

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