FLAT LANDS Design Reflection

Posted by cms6 on Wednesday Apr 23, 2014 Under Design Reflection

Abbott’s Flatland is the inspiration for my team’s game – FLAT LANDS. Abbott’s Flatland is a satirical novel that revolves around a square. The book uses the fictional two-dimensional setting of Flatland to offer pointed observations on the social hierarchy of Victorian culture. Alongside Victorian social hierarchy, Abbott focuses on examining the physicality of dimensions, which is what FLAT LANDS mainly focuses on. Players must strategically traverse through levels by passing through different obstacles. To get around these obstacles, players must shift between the second and third dimension. For example, if a player is in the second dimension view then they will not be able to see that there is a hole near the bottom of a wall that they can pass through; so by shifting into the third dimension, the player can see the wall and pass through the hole to progress through the rest of the level.

For this project, the team was divided into roles based off of our skill set. As a result, I was put in charge of level design and art aesthetics. As we developed the core concept of the game we moved towards a game that Lazzaro calls “Serious Fun.” Serious Fun games have a meaning behind its story and mechanics. It brings excitement from changing the player and their world  (Lazzaro, N.). FLAT LANDS literally changes both the player and the world with its game mechanics from becoming a square to a cube and rotating the world such that the player’s camera stays in a suitable position. However, FLAT LANDS could also be describes as “Easy Fun.” It is sort of a novelty game that brings curiosity from exploration and gives off a creative feeling (Lazzaro, N.). Players can freely explore each level and the aesthetics of the game is uncommon to most games.

As we were discussing the game mechanics and level designs, we found it important that affordances were key in making the puzzles a little more intuitive, such that players won’t get stuck for long periods of time on one part of a single level. The word “affordance” was originally invented by the perceptual psychologist J. J. Gibson (1977, 1979) to refer to the actionable properties between the world and an actor (Norman, D.A.). However, for design, “perceived affordances” is a more correct term to use. Designers care much more about what the user perceives than what is actually true (Norman, D.A.). The most important thing must be achieved is whether or not the user perceives that some action is possible – or in the case of perceived non-affordances, not possible (Norman, D.A.). The team decided that the first few levels would be short tutorial levels, which meant that the last set of levels would be much more challenging. The tutorial levels made the game more usable because games require a mastery of features to achieve an objective (Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K.). As one of the two level designers, I focused on these more complex levels that involved a lot of different obstacles that players would have to get pass. These challenges would create enjoyment by taxing the user’s memory and performance limits (Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K.). However, due to time constraints a lot of the complexity was taken out.

In the construction of these levels, logical constraints were used to help the player complete each level. Logical constraints use reasoning to determine the alternatives (Norman, D.A.). For example, on level six, there is a hole where something must be dropped into it in order to open the wall that allows you to progress through the rest of the level. The only other movable object in the level is a sphere that the player must roll into the hole. The challenge is rolling the ball into the hole without the sphere falling off of the level.

As for art, different colored lighting helped create a really beautiful contrast of colors from the game objects. It provided a more appealing game space that really intrigued the audience and immersed them more into this world of dimension shifting. Signs were created to help guide and hint to the player of what they must do in order to complete a level. For example, there would be signs that have arrows on them that would depict the direction in which the player should try to go. There were also more descriptive signs that told the player an action that they would need to complete to get past an obstacle. For instance, there was a sign that depicts a ball falling off of the level. This sign warns the user of an action that they should try to avoid.

However, this design process of creating levels and making art did not originate from our initial plans. There was a lot of iterative design. Iterative design is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a work in progress (Zimmerman, E.).  Through playtesting, we were able to figure out that players had difficulty with player and camera movement. In regards to the elements that I produced, they were a bit too challenging for players to perceive. As a result, we cut down the complexity on most of the levels which ended in a less frustrating experience for players.

The final product of the game consists of six levels of increasing difficulty. Within each level, the objects that were purely there for visual appeal also changed. This change created senses of being in a new area and also added more of an abstract artistic feel to the levels. The audio throughout the game also became more complex as the player progressed from level to level.  As a result, the combination of the audio and colors added to the essence of each level which  created a more immersive game space for players. According to some of our playtesters, they deemed FLAT LANDS as an enjoyable and fun game. They receive satisfaction from accomplishing difficult tasks and take enjoyment from the aesthetics of the game (Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K.).

 

Resources

Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K. (2004). “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games.” In CHI 2004 Conference Proceedings, April 2004. http://www.xeodesign.com/whatsmymethod.pdf

Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.”

http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

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Flatlands Design Reflection

Posted by sfrazier7 on Wednesday Apr 23, 2014 Under Blogpost Assignments, Design Reflection

In building Flatlands I think I learned a lot about myself and definitely gained great insight into the creative process behind making a game with multiple people. I have only limited experience making games and never as the primary programmer. Past contributions to making games always made me feel like an outside to the process; with Flatlands I felt like a core component and driving force to getting the game completed. To see something take shape with contributions from multiple people with various talents is fun and a game in its own right.

As far as self-understanding grew, I came to the realization that it is ok and vital to share the workload for the production of something as massive as a game. There’s no way that a great title will be created – save for a few unique circumstances – without the input and work from multiple people. I suffer the weakness of wanting to take on too much work myself.

The process of creating the game benefited from lessons learned in class and with group interactions. I think the interim evaluations also helped focus and reignite the group’s drive toward finishing the game as well as increasing communication which was so key to finalizing the product. We undertook an ambitious game and while it is nowhere near where it might need to be to see “production” it is definitely a novel and compelling world which we have created and intend to extend further.

The Game

The game itself is called “Flatlands” and is based on the book “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” by Edwin A. Abbott. The book examines the nature of shapes and how an individual might react if he or she were to traverse dimensional boundaries. What sort of things would you see? What new affordances and knowledge would you gain? What knowledge would you lose? How do these shifts in perception alter the way individuals might interact, how physics would work and how society would function? Abbott addresses all of these points and we hoped to implement these ideas into a game which was all about shifting dimensions.

We had lofty goals at first with a multitude of dimensions planned but ultimately decided to boil down core gameplay to 2D vs 3D. Your view shifts from isomorphic to orthographic depending on your current dimensionality. Objects change as well: you are a cube in three dimensions and a flat square in two dimensions; this allows you to interact with things in various ways. Spheres which will roll and can be used as puzzle-solving components in 3D will become flat and lose their velocity immediately upon shifting to 2 dimensions. The world feels entirely different depending on your perspective and your perspective affords some very interesting puzzles.

Design Process

“In iterative design, there is a blending of designer and user, of creator and player. It is a process of design through the reinvention of play. Through iterative design, designers create systems and play with them. They become participants, but do so in order to critique their creations, to bend them, break them, and re-fashion them into something new. And in these procedures of investigation and experimentation, a special form of research takes place. The process of iteration, of design through play, is a way of discovering the answers to questions you didn’t even know were there. And that makes it a powerful and important form of design research” (Zimmerman).

We undertook Flatlands as an iterative process. Zimmerman describes this notion of reinvention and we definitely saw that in our design process. As we added levels and puzzle elements to the game, certain things made sense and other things had to be removed. Players and their feedback were core to making our levels less frustrating, our movement and camera mechanics more fluid and creating an experience that was “whole” by the end of the design process. It took a lot of work and alteration of art, level design, scripts and music to get it just right.

Emotion

In the “Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story” paper by Lazzaro we find elements of our game’s success. Of the four keys, we fulfill three: easy fun, hard fun and serious fun. Fulfilling easy fun is achieved by allowing the player to explore and understand two separate worlds. We give the powerful capability of shifting perspective to the player,  and the choice of when a player wants to be in one dimension or the other. Hard fun is achieved by puzzles of increasing difficulty. The flatland world is forgiving if you fail or fall, but some puzzles can stretch a person’s understanding of how objects will behave or should behave in various dimensions in order to achieve some objective. Serious fun emerges from a greater understanding of dimensionality, a sense that the player is learning more about the potential afforded by multi-axis movement. There’s a lot to be learned in Flatland and we convey that with no dialogue or personified actors.

Affordances

“…affordances are a relationship. They are a part of nature: they do not have to be visible, known, or desirable. Some affordances are yet to be discovered. Some are dangerous” (Norman).

An interesting component of our design process was figuring out how to theme the various dimensions. How could we make different perspectives and dimensions feel different? How could we let a player know which objects could be interacted with and which couldn’t? We did not have text or dialogue at our disposal, merely color and light. Through clever use of color, light and particles we subtly accentuated certain environmental features and retained constants through the game. Green meant progression. Red meant a roadblock of some sort. Neither necessarily meant good or bad or retained the same physical properties across various puzzle elements. This led to a sort of sense of “danger” and uncertainty in the player. This was of course coupled with the fact that you would never quite know how a plane or wall or sphere would act in 2D versus 3D. You really had to observe and interact with the objects and the world in both dimensions to discover their affordances. It was a delicate balancing act generating affordances which were curious but not frustrating to the player.

Works Cited

Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K. (2004). “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games.” In CHI 2004 Conference Proceedings, April 2004. http://www.xeodesign.com/whatsmymethod.pdf

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

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RA Light Design

Posted by cyarborough3 on Wednesday Apr 23, 2014 Under Design Reflection

Our game, RA Light, is a mummy themed puzzle game. In the game you are a mummy that recently woke up in his pyramid. As any good mummy knows the first thing you do when you wake up is to get out of the pyramid and take over the world. However, the builders of your pyramid wanted that to never happen so they put puzzles in every room to block your path to the surface. In the game the puzzles that the user has to solve are light based. We wanted to have an educational light based game targeting middle school students. Thinking about our target audience we wanted to teach the user about light but not make it too complicated. We decided to focus on two basic light concepts wavelength, which changes color, and reflectance. We had decided to add mirrors into the game to give the user the ability to reflect the light beams around the rooms solving puzzles along the way. In order to convey the frequency change of light we decided to have special gems in the game that would change the frequency of the light therefore changing the color of the beam. We were able to create a unique variety of complex puzzles using these two basic light concepts. We based our game on the ideas of Zimmerman, Lazarro and Norman in order to make a truly great game. While trying to actually design the game we followed Zimmermans definition of iterative design.

 

“Iterative design is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a work in progress. In iterative design, interaction with the designed system is used as a form of research for informing and evolving a project, as successive versions, or iterations of a design are implemented.” (Zimmerman)

 

Once the group had all agreed on the basic concept of the game the real hard work began, the iterative process. During the first meeting we decided to hash out all of the game mechanics that we wanted in our game and the various techniques that could be used to achieve them. After putting in the core concepts of the game all subsequent design meetings involved evolving the game. In these meetings we categorized each of the concepts into a few categories, what works well, what needs improvement and what gets tossed out the window.

 

When addressing the needs improvement category one of the main concerns was making all of the interactable objects seem interactable. “what the designer cares about is whether the user perceives that some action is possible (or in the case of perceived non-affordances, not possible)” (Norman). In the first few versions of our game the users were confused when trying to interact with objects that were intended to be pushable. At first the pushable mirrors looked like they were stationary on the ground. We alleviated this problem by changing the model of the mirror itself. We attached a heavy looking base with a flat bottom to give it the appearance that it should be pushed and not picked up. This halfway solved the issue of the seemingly pushable mirrors. The other issue was that users still were not understanding that you were able to push objects. So we decided to add outstretched mummy arms in order to convey the ability of being able to push. This process of improving, testing, discussing and repeating went on during the whole process of developing the game. This method was essential for making a great game. Another method for completing the game was the fact that during the entire process we had a completely functioning game. We decided to go about it this way so in the end if one of the aspects did not work well we still had a playable game.

 

After all of the core mechanics had been hashed out we decided to focus on the puzzle aspect of the game. We wanted the puzzles to be just the right amount of difficulty. We wanted to have Lazarro’s hard fun and easy fun in all of the puzzles. With hard fun players can enjoy the challenge, strategy, and problem solving aspects of the game. Players focus on the game’s challenge and strategic thinking and problem solving. Hard fun usually creates a sense of frustration and struggle in the player (Lazarro). With easy fun the players curiosity and intrigue are peaked. The player is sucked into the world and drug along on an adventure. Easy fun inspires wonder, awe and mystery (Lazarro). The lights reflecting everywhere inspired the easy fun. The players are able to really do any combination of reflectance that they want without actually solving the puzzles. The atmosphere of the pyramid also inspires the wonder, awe and adventure. Several of our playtesters seemed to initially not be interested in the puzzles at all but would rather explore the different rooms available.  The hard fun of the puzzles came into play when actually trying to solve the different puzzles. The first couple of rooms are there to teach the player how the game mechanics work and to get the player in the mind set for the final level. The final level is where the real challenge takes place. It has 4 different levels that all have to be working together to finally beat the game.

The game RA Light was developed with the principles set forth by Zimmerman, Lazarro and Norman. We used the iterative  design principles laid forth by Zimmerman and used the techniques for making a fun game laid forth by both Lazarro and Norman. Our intentions were to make a truly fun game that appealed to middle schoolers that taught them in a fun and unique way about the properties of light.  In the end we made a game that was fun, challenging, intriguing and I believe appeals to all audiences well beyond the age group of middle schoolers. As a lover of unique and challenging puzzle games I myself would play RA Light if it was a full scale game.

Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

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Design Reflection: Shadow Box

Posted by aledoux6 on Wednesday Apr 23, 2014 Under Blogpost Assignments, Design Reflection

by Adam Le Doux

Shadow Box is the murder mystery game my team made for Game Design as a Cultural Practice. While working on Shadow Box, I took on a variety of roles: game design, scenario writing, and programming. While everyone on our team participated in game design and writing, my specialist role was as a programmer. Within our two-person programming team, my further specialization was to develop certain key user interface elements: the notebook the player uses to add clues to the 3D environment, the start screen and introductory text that sets the context for the game, and the “decision mode” where players make their final conclusion about how the murder occurred. During the course we read about several design methodologies that influenced our team’s (and my own personal) design process, including those written about by Eric Zimmerman, Nicole Lazzaro, and Don Norman.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 2.24.20 PM

When the player starts the game, the camera goes through left eye, emphasizing that the game takes place “inside the mind’s eye.”

 

In the article “Play as research: The interative design process,” Zimmerman writes about the experience of developing a web game: SiSSYFiGHT 2000. In SiSSYFiGHT players take the role of schoolgirls who bully each other to gain the upper hand socially. Though the concept was intriguing, at first the game wasn’t much fun to play. However, by putting early versions of the game in front of players rather than keeping it to themselves, SiSSYFiGHT’s designers were able to quickly find out what was wrong and push it in a stronger direction. To me the strength of iterative design for games is that it lets players interact with it as fast as possible. Games don’t come to life until they have players, so you won’t really know how it works until you have players.

In our case, the initial design of Shadow Box was more focused on what we as designers were excited to make rather than what would engage players. By forcing us to play test multiple times, the structure of the course let us confront that and course correct before it was too late. A specific example is our “deduction mechanic.” At first we wanted to keep the clues as open to interpretation as possible, in order to allow players construct their own picture of the murder. However, the lack of direction only confused and frustrated players. We made numerous changes to address that: I personally added a feature to the notebook that let it pop up and give more detailed information about the inferences the detective is making while interpreting clues, flashing text when a new solution is discovered, and pages in the notebook with more story background about each solution. Other changes included limiting the number of clues in each solution to 3, and drawing lines between clues to visually suggest how they link up. In the end iterative design resulted in a much more engaging game that was focused on player experience rather than designer whim.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 2.27.04 PM

Adding lines between related clues visually reinforced that these clues could provide a solution to the murder.

 

Nicole Lazzaro explores several design methods that let designers create games that players can connect to. In “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games” she identifies three themes for producing engaging games: games must be usable, games must be challenging, and games must be fun. Our game started out quite challenging, but it was initially lacking in the usability and fun categories. My main contribution was to improve usability, which in turn allowed the players to discover the inherent fun in finding clues and putting together solutions. Beyond usability, a big complaint was lack of context to the actions in the game. My work adding to the notebook and the start screen helped put the clue-finding in its proper context, allowing players to feel their work had some meaning in the game world. In “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story,” Lazzaro identifies four different ways players connect emotionally to games: hard fun, easy fun, altered states, and the people factor. Our game was squarely aimed at the “easy fun” audience, who “enjoy intrigue and curiosity” and prefer games in which “ambiguity, incompleteness, and detail combine to create a living world” (Lazzaro). Therefore, the high difficulty of the first version of our game was a huge design problem. As I mentioned above, we overcame this hurdle by paying close attention to what confused players and providing greater visual feedback as well as more context.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 2.24.33 PM

Introductory text gave players more context for why they were hunting for clues and let them engage the game more.

 

Don Norman’s article “Affordance and design” explains the important design concept of “perceived affordances.” A perceived affordance is anything that a user believes they can do with an object or program based on its visual or physical appearance. As Don Norman explains, perceived affordances are particularly important in software, since the entire screen is essentially a blank canvas that affords “clicking on every pixel of the display screen” (Norman). Of course most of those potential spots to click on are actually useless, so you need to be very careful to draw your players to the right pixels and keep them away from ones that do nothing, lest you create confusion and frustration. A feature I developed in Shadow Box that directly benefited from this concept were the “clue links.” In the detective’s notebook, certain words were bold and if the user hovered the mouse over them, they turned red. To anyone familiar with computers, it was obvious that these words afforded clicking. Indeed, when you clicked on them a new clue would appear in the environment. The problem was that once the clue was summoned those links didn’t do anything anymore, BUT they continued to be bold and change colors. When I saw players trying to click on them repeatedly I realized that they still had a perceived affordance of clicking, even though in reality they no longer did anything when clicked. My solution was to un-bold those words after they’d been clicked one time – this neatly solved the perception problem.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 2.25.09 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 2.25.47 PM

In the top image, bold text affords clicking. Once the text has been clicked, un-bolding it lets the player know that it won’t respond anymore.

 

In conclusion, there are a lot of design pitfalls that you can fall into when creating a video game, but most of them stem from not properly taking the player into account. Writers like Zimmerman, Lazzaro, and Norman provide a road map for designers who want to involve the player in the process of making their games. In the end, however, it’s the responsibility of the designer to take the first step in inviting players to play. Then you need to step back, watch, listen, and be open.

 

 
Sources

Lazzaro, N. & Keeker, K. (2004). “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games.” In CHI 2004 Conference Proceedings, April 2004. http://www.xeodesign.com/whatsmymethod.pdf

Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://www.ericzimmerman.com/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

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Flatlands: Design Reflection

Posted by jshedd7 on Wednesday Apr 23, 2014 Under Blogpost Assignments, Design Reflection

Our game, Flatlands, is a puzzle platformer that focuses shifting between the second and third dimensions to reach and end goal. The original concept for this game came form Edwin Abbot’s novella Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. While my primary role as project manager was not particularly relevant to the readings, my experience working on the design team with my team was. After reading Zimmerman, Norman, and Lazzaro, I identified various similarities with the design methodologies, and unintentionally theories of fun described in Zimmerman, Norman, and Lazzaro

Our design approach followed Zimmerman’s example of iterative design. Zimmerman writes,

“Iterative design is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a work in progress. In iterative design, interaction with the designed system is used as a form of research for informing and evolving a project, as successive versions, or iterations of a design are implemented.” (Zimmerman)

After our initial conception of the idea for the game, we entered an iterative design process. This included two in class and our own group playlists throughout the development of the game. In these sessions we identified, what worked and what did not from a fun standpoint, bugs, problems with the controls and camera, and potential solutions. We would then implement the feedback we got from the playtests and subsequently test again, continue to iterate on Flatlands throughout its development.

Part the design of Flatlands was the player acquiring different abilities depending on the dimensional perspective. Norman writes, “what the designer cares about is whether the user perceives that some action is possible (or in the case of perceived non-affordances, not possible).” (Norman)  In Flatlands a player’s perception of and abilities in the world change depending on the dimension they occupy.  As designers we had to make what was useful and possible in each dimension clear to the player. We chose to do by drawing on conventions from other physics related games such as Portal and Antichamber to help guide the player. In addition, we used particle physics at the end point to show the player where the goal was.

The fun in Flatlands comes from the challenge the game poses to the player’s understanding of dimensional movement. Lazzaro writes “games must be challenging. Contrary to common usability conventions, games create enjoyment via by challenging the user; often taxing the user’s memory and performance limits.” (Lazarro & Keeker)  Most players notions of movement within a dimension ends at third because that is what we exist in. Having the player only be able to do certain tasks in the second dimension and not in the third dimension challenges players’ preconceived notions of movement within the dimension of which they exist.  This challenge to dimensional perception in combination with solving puzzles is theoretically what makes Flatlands fun to play.

Flatlands also contains three of the four keys to unlock emotion, Hard Fun, Easy Fun and Altered States. The first key is Hard fun. Lazzaro writes,

Hard Fun: Players like the opportunities for challenge, strategy, and problem solving. Their comments focus on the game’s challenge and strategic thinking and problem solving. This “Hard Fun” frequently generates emotions and experiences of Frustration, and Fiero. (Lazarro)

In Flatlands Hard Fun is fostered through the dimensional puzzles the player is tasked to solve.  The second key is Easy Fun. Lazzaro writes,

Easy Fun: Players enjoy intrigue and curiosity. Players become immersed in games when it absorbs their complete attention, or when it takes them on an exciting adventure. These Immersive game aspects are “Easy Fun” and generate emotions and experiences of Wonder, Awe, and Mystery. (Lazarro)

In Flatlands Easy Fun is fostered through the ability to shift between dimensions, the related questions about modes of existence in the universe, and the artistic style of the world itself.  These features inspire curiosity and intrigue for the player and thus foster Easy fun. The third key is Altered State. Lazzaro writes,

Altered States: Players treasure the enjoyment from their internal experiences in reaction to the visceral, behavior, cognitive, and social properties. These players play for internal sensations such as Excitement or Relief from their thoughts and feelings. (Lazarro)

Flatlands core mechanic of shifting between the second and third dimensions means that it is a game based on creating Altered States. Each time the player shifts from the second to the third dimension and vise versa he or she enters an altered state of the space.

The development of Flatlands contained similarities with the design methodologies, and unintentionally theories of fun as described in Zimmerman, Norman, and Lazzaro. For our design methodology our team used an iterative design process as discussed in Zimmerman and took design principles stated in Norman to make what was possible in the space clear  to the player. For how to foster fun in the play experience of Flatlands, we created a challenging game, which Lazzaro suggests is necessary for a fun game. Furthermore, we met three of Lazzaro’s four keys to unlock emotion in game play, which also suggests Flatlands creates a fun experience for the player.

Works Cited

Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K. (2004). “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games.” In CHI 2004 Conference Proceedings, April 2004. http://www.xeodesign.com/whatsmymethod.pdf

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

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Flatlands – Shapes

Posted by jshedd7 on Wednesday Apr 23, 2014 Under Final Design Documentaion, Final Game Prototype

Final Design Presentation

Flatlands Game

Flatlands Final Full Design Docimentation

 

Developers ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Spencer Frazier

Kristjen Kjems

Christal Sengkhamphong

Pedro Silva

Jesse Shedd

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QUO Final Submission

Posted by srich6 on Tuesday Apr 22, 2014 Under Game Design

Play QUO at Kongregate: Kongregate Link

Final Presentation

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Design DocumentGoogle Drive

GameKongregate

 

Game of Games is a retro-inspired educational RPG. Play as Sofia, a young girl who has to borrow her teacher’s time machine to learn about the history of games for her class project.

Developers:
Renee Blair
Malcolm Jernigan
Alexis Colon-Ortiz
Kyle McCaffrey
Derek Aldrich

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Design Reflection: Shadow Box

Posted by lschluckebier3 on Tuesday Apr 22, 2014 Under Blogpost Assignments, Design Reflection

Our game aimed to address the initial design goals set up at the beginning, which included undermining a traditional game mechanic. We did this mainly through undermining a traditional game and player goal. Shadow Box is set up as a murder mystery game. In this type of genre, players usually search for one right answer. However, we wanted to undermine this by allowing for there to be multiple plausible murder scenarios.

The key here was to set up the game in the proper way, to provide the expectation for players that there was not going to be “one” correct or right or true scenario. We set this up with the intro text to set up the expectation that the scenarios they found would be plausible or possible scenarios that they could explore.

Exploration was really our main goal, and with our incredibly diverse web of options to explore, we certainly achieved this.

We achieved our goals by really working with the affordance of our game platform and the medium of games. As Norman explains in his article “Affordances and Design,” perceived affordances of a media project are what truly matter.  A game allows for exploration of murder scenarios whereas traditional murder mysteries in books or movies do not. This is really where the strength of the medium of games is apparent. The game allows players to interact with the scenario which allows for the experience of exploration that static text or moving images does not.

Furthermore, Norman says that designed should “use words to describe the desired action (e.g., “click here” or use labels in front of perceived objects).” This was incredibly useful for us. In our playtests, we realized that our controls were not transparent to our players. We remedied this by adding explicit instructions to our game that better allowed players to interact with the game. For instance, many people didn’t know that they could click and drag on objects to change the inference of the piece of evidence. This was of course bad for us because one of the main interactions of the game was exploring these inferences and seeing what scenarios come to be when players decide that the champagne bucket was used as an ice holder instead of for holding alcohol.

Zimmerman’s Play as Research: The Iterative Design Process was also an invaluable source to us. One of our main issues that we encountered was our scope. We started with a large scope, wanting to have multiple victim identities, three acts, and 25+ clues. As our programmers began implementing the game, it became extremely clear that our scope was too big. Every iteration we went through, the game became better and more focused. We wanted our players to be able to explore the different scenarios, but that would have been almost impossible with the amount of clues and inferences we had planned. Iteratively designing the game allowed us to test ideas about what was possible and what was fun for the player.

As Zimmerman says, “Iterative design is a design methodology is based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a work in progress. In iterative design, interaction with the designed system is used as a form of research for informing and evolving a project, as successive versions, or iterations of a design are implemented.”

This was the method that we used. After the programmers would come up with a build, we would play through the model ourselves and then of course with playtesters. We would take this feedback and then go back to the design of the game and iterate on what was suggested.

This really helped the design of our game in several ways. As I stated, it really helped with our scope which was way too big. Additionally, it helped us clarify the goals of the game and the means of interaction with the players. This was absolutely critical to us. Because our game undermines murder mystery genre conventions of there being “one right and correct answer,” it was of vital importance to our game that we create ample set up in the beginning of the game to make sure that goal came across. We learned this when our playtesters told us that they weren’t sure what they were trying to do or couldn’t state what they thought the goal of the game was.

Additionally, this iterative design process is also was extremely helpful because when we were in the design process of the game, we as designers talk about what would be fun for us to design. We came up with complicated stories about what we thought would be neat to write and create. But as we were iterating on the design of the game, we realized that was what was fun for us to create wasn’t necessarily an ideal experience for the player. I think that this was probably the most important thing that I learned while we made this game. I had heard that theory before, but I hadn’t experienced in practice. As designers, we MUST be flexible to what will improve the player experience instead of holding fast to what we as designers think would make “a cool game.”

Our game also seems to have the Four Keys that unlock emotion, as described by Lazzaro. These include

“1. Hard Fun, opportunities for challenge, strategy, and problem solving.” Shadow Box absolutely requires strategy and problem solving in order to determine what inferences match with inferences of other objects.

“2. Easy Fun, intrigue and curiosity. Players become immersed in games when it absorbs their complete attention.” Shadow Box also has a balance of easy fun in that the players can explore the inferences of each of the pieces of evidence, which have explanations of what each of the inferences mean. This exploration can easily transfer the players into a state of flow as they are exploring the possibilities and making stories up in their minds.

“3. Altered States. Players treasure the enjoyment from their internal experiences in reaction to the visceral, behavior, cognitive, and social properties.” Players experience emotions such as “excitement” and “pleasure” when they are able to connect evidence and inferences to form a means.

“4. The People Factor: Players use games as mechanisms for social experiences.” Although our game is single player, Shadow Box can be played by multiple people by having people around one computer, trying to make guesses about what evidence comes together. Alternatively, if friends played the game separately, the game serves as a subject to talk about since there are multiple outcomes. Because of the different outcomes, the players can socialize and discuss why they think their solution is the most plausible.

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

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Shadow Box Final Design Document

Posted by lschluckebier3 on Tuesday Apr 22, 2014 Under Final Design Documentaion, Game Design

Game: Shadow Box

Team: Deerstalkers, Jordan Ashworth, Kyle Blevens, Gaby Granados, Adam Le Doux, Laura Schluckebier, Bill Tsikerdanos.

Link to final design document: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Ez0SkZqqEUjwPFP8GM9M47ZeJBGGQXKQ85ve21VyPoY/edit?usp=sharing

Link to Shadow Box on Kongregate: http://www.kongregate.com/games/sikori17/shadow-box

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