Though I was not involved in the programming or gameplay aspect of Sad Robot, the beginning of the project had us all collaborating together to determine the scope, play style and narrative. Being given the stipulation of not allowing killing of anything allowed us to rule out a great deal of possibilities for the game, which eventually led us to deciding on a maze style game. In our prototype, we drew out a maze on four pieces of paper taped together to form a larger sheet, but throughout the maze there were colored walls blocking some of the paths. These colors represented five power-ups that allowed the player to cross through the walls if they acquired the totem of that color. However, instead of the common game trope of gaining powers over time, we decided to employ the opposite and have the player lose powers each time they complete the maze, making it harder to get through. The affordances, as Norman describes them, that the player has by being able to go through certain obstacles is taken away over time, thus making the constraints to get through the level more apparent. The narrative of the story also represents a robot who is already powered up trying to become a regular human, reversing the common theme of a human or protagonist becoming more skilled over time. While the prototype only resembled power-ups with colors, we decided to give I/O, the robot, five skills to help advance through the level; dash, double jump, laser, barrier passage, and increased strength.
These powers, while some may feel a little more useful than others, have been balanced over play testing sessions of our game to several different people, in and out of the class. At first, some of the powers even felt as if they weren’t needed, which was adjusted by changing the maze so that all powers would be used in some way, unless in the final stage where all powers have been depleted. Dash is a power that surpassed the others, due to its nature to allow the player to move faster, where double jump came in second in usefulness. The other powers, while useful, were only useable in certain scenarios; the laser to shoot through a specific type of wall, the strength to move a specific block, and the barrier access to move through the electrified walls. When testing, our solutions were set to solve both productivity and game goals which are the same kind outlined by Lazzaro and Keeker. The entertainment and challenge value of the game became more apparent with the introduction of a more complex maze, while the narrative and power-up loss made way for improvements to make players want to keep moving through the game. Though we did have a story integrated into the game with pop up conversation and cut scenes, our game focuses on the ‘Hard Fun’ aspect of invoking emotion through play, as the player must be very strategic as to which power-ups they lose and how they will explore through the maze. Sad Robot is a game which you can only really go through once and is only a one-player game, but the trials to get through the maze provides entertainment and challenge enough to provoke the player into intently finishing out the full experience. Within that experience we were able to make a game that reversed general game aspects however, by making it so that over time the player loses abilities, increasing the challenge as it goes, and providing a narrative with a main character who does not want to become better, but desires to lose all of their skills and become an inferior being. My main contribution to this game did not involve gameplay as much, and was to create background music and sound effects that complimented the game’s aesthetic and flow.
For Sad Robot’s background music, my intention was to make a song that was easily loop-able, did not become a tired tune through a full game’s play, and was moderately upbeat due to the flow of the game while also representing the sad, longing feeling that I/O portrays. These stipulations led me through the creation a sixteen bar loop with several instruments encompassing between twenty and thirty seconds of music, which I then duplicated and transposed to different key signatures by moving the notes up or down the scale to remove the repetitious feel that could be possible. The drums during the first two repetitions of the pattern have a more upbeat drive, while the second two provide a half-time groove in the percussion, which is followed by a bridge or build-up type section to lead the song back into its beginning. The song’s instruments were: a texture building longer chord patch, two fluctuating arpeggiators to give the music more movement, and a subdued lead patch soaring through the background to provide the emotional feel. For the cutscenes and intro music, I merely took the chords and elongated the notes to twice their length, and for the tutorial level I used one of the arpeggiators alone with a new drum pattern. The sound effects had me think in more creative terms of production. Some of the sounds I had already obtained through previous works, such as the laser and the jump noise which took on added modulation to sound robotic. The other sounds came from different types of sources. The box activation or click sound was taken from a recording of the switch of the air conditioner in my room being flipped, which also doubled as a time ticker when placed with more repetition. The jetpack sound and the moving block sound were taken from random Youtube clips, which I then modified to fit the game in a more appropriate fashion. The sound of I/O being shocked by a barrier he couldn’t surpass even came from a well-established Atlanta producer named Must Die, who used an electrocution song in a remix he did of my own musical project’s songs. Though my contributions to the game didn’t quite represent what we talked about in class as much, I was able to use my past expertise to help make a game bending the stereotypical game traditions that we touched on in lecture.
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. http://www.xeodesign.com/xeodesign_whyweplaygames.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://www.ericzimmerman.com/texts/Iterative_Design.html