This is the second of many posts that I will be making that will outline my responses to the practices and exercise questions at the end of each chapter in the book Fundamentals of Game Design by Ernest Adams.
The following are my responses to the questions and exercises posed at the end of the first chapter of this book. You can also download the Word file directly here: Chapter 3 . I am still working on the questions and exercises from Chapter 2 of this textbook and it will be posted next. Please leave any comments if you agree or disagree with anything that I have said in this post!
Fundamentals of Game Design | Chapter Three
Design Practice | Questions
Once you have a game idea in mind, these are the questions you must ask yourself in order to turn it into a fully-fledged game concept. You don’t have to be precise or detailed, but you should have a general answer for all of them.
1. Write a high concept statement: a few sentences that give a general flavor of the game. You can make references to other games, movies, books, or any other media if your game contains similar characters, actions, or ideas.
a. It is tornado season once again in the state of Kansas and it is your job to defend your small farm from the force of Mother Nature. Taking advantage of various debris types and the construction of different defenses, protect your farm at all cost.
2. What is the players’ role? Is the player pretending to be someone or something, and if so, what? Is there more than one? How does the players’ role help to define the gameplay?
a. The main role that the player has is to construct different types of defenses around their small farm in order to prevent any damage from incoming tornadoes. The surrounding area around the farm is littered with different debris types that the player can use to fortify their defenses or sell to earn money to upgrade their current defenses. In this game, the player is pretending to be a farmer, (either male or female can work in this situation) who must protect their farm from the incoming tornadoes. The players’ role of being a farmer helps to define the gameplay because the main gameplay is to fortify the defenses surround the farm in order to protect it from any damage by incoming tornadoes.
3. Does the game have an avatar or other key character? Describe him/her/it.
a. The game has a total of three different characters, but only one represents the avatar for the player while the remaining two are NPC’s that assist the player. The avatar for the player can be customizable in terms of the name, gender, skin tone, hair color, eye color, and clothing. I would also like to see pieces of clothing that can be unlocked through achieving some sort of challenge through the gameplay. The player doesn’t actually see the entire body of the representative avatar, but the avatars’ face is used as part of the GUI as feedback for how well the player is performing based on the damage dealt to the farm from tornadoes in a Doom sort of fashion. The second character featured in the game is named Patrick Lightning who is the famous weatherman of Kansas. He is a handsome, typical television persona who streams live information about incoming tornadoes through a ticker at the top of the screen. The information provided by Patrick Lightning will relate to the type of tornado that is incoming, the direction the tornado is moving in, and the time remaining before the tornado hits the farm. However, like a lot of weather predictions, the predictions made by Patrick Lightning may not always be accurate, for example, he may predict that a tornado is closing in from the northwest, but it actually comes in from the northeast. This will add a dimension of unpredictability that will keep the player on their toes and force them to make quick decisions constantly throughout the game-play. The third and final character in the game is Michael Barnes owner of the Black Sheep Parts Shop. His role in the game is to buy/sell different types of materials to the player as well as offer upgrades to current fortifications over time.
4. What is the nature of the gameplay, in general terms? What kinds of challenges will the player face? What kinds of actions will the player take to overcome them?
a. The nature of the gameplay in general terms is using debris and materials left over from previous tornadoes and from the Parts Shop to construct defensive fortifications around the players’ farm in order to protect it from waves of incoming tornadoes of unique varieties. The first type of challenge that the player will face in the game is the different types of tornadoes that attempt to destroy their farm; each tornado based on a natural element. A few examples of the different types of tornadoes would be fire, water, ice, etc. Each type of tornado has a debris/material type that is strong against and weak against, so the player must change the different types of fortifications surrounding their farm based on the type of tornado/tornadoes are approaching the farm. The second challenge is the management of the farm itself, making sure that is remains as undamaged as possible, as well as the management of the different debris materials and fortifications. The primary actions that the player take to overcome these challenges are the scavenging of debris and materials from the surrounding environment and use those parts to construct and upgrade fortifications to protect the farm. Players can also buy and sell parts through the Parts Shop as well as purchase fortification upgrades and farm upgrades to make them stronger.
5. What is the players’ interaction model? Omnipresent? Through an avatar? Something else? Some combination?
a. The players’ interaction model is a combination of omnipresent and through an avatar. In a Doom-like fashion, the players’ avatar will be shown on the screen in order to display the status of their farm house as well as the players’ overall performance. To be clear, the avatar’s face will be shown on screen and will change facial expressions real-time based on player performance. The omnipresent aspect of the game is that the player will be interacting with the game without using an avatar to represent their actions. The player will be able to scavenge for material through the environment, construct defensive fortifications, and purchase upgrades without a need for an in-game avatar to represent those player actions within the world.
6. What is the games’ primary camera model? How will the player view the games’ world on the screen? Will there be more than one perspective?
a. The games’ primary camera model is an isometric one where the player will be viewing the game world in a “God perspective” as seen in games such as The Sims or Civilization. The camera model will only change when the player is purchasing/selling items at the parts shop in which case only the menu/GUI for the shop will overlay the isometric camera model so that the player can view it head-on.
7. Does the game fall into an existing genre? If so, which one?
a. This game falls into the existing genre of tower-defense; where the goal of the player is to keep the “tower” safe from enemy harm for as long as possible taking advantage of resources to create offensive and defensive structures. In this game, the “tower” is the players’ farm and instead of both offensive and defensive structures to protect the farm, the player will only take advantage of defensive fortifications to keep the farm safe for as long as possible from the incoming waves of tornadoes.
8. Is the game competitive, cooperative, team-based, or single-player? If multiple players are allowed, are they using the same machine with separate controls or different machines over a network?
a. As of now, the game will be a single-player experience only with potential plans for multiplayer in the future. The most important/critical task for this game project is to ensure that the game-play is fast-paced and enjoyable for single-player experiences and from there, experiment and expand to the realm of cooperative and competitive multiplayer.
9. Why would anyone want to play this game? Who is the games’ target audience? What characteristics distinguish them from the mass of players in general?
a. Gamers would want to play this game because of its fast-paced actions and for its style of player; tower defense. In todays’ market, the most popular games are shooters and action games, at least for AAA game development, and for mobile platforms the most popular genre is puzzle games. Creating a unique and interesting tower defense game will allow for gamers to become reintroduced with the genre and want to share it with others. The games’ target audience is casual gamers between the ages of 12-30, the largest audience within the mobile gaming market. These gamers enjoy games that have simple controls and the flexibility to possess gameplay that can be both complex and simplistic. These gamers are the ones that enjoy games like Angry Birds.
10. What machine or machines is the game intended to run on? Can it make use of, or will it require, any particular hardware such as dance mats or a camera?
a. The intended hardware that the game will run on is mobile/handheld devices such as the IPod, IPhone, IPad, and Android devices. Since the game will be a part of the mobile market, the visuals need to be simplified, but should still be pleasing to the eye. The game will not require or use hardware such as dance mats, but does have the flexibility to use the camera found in most mobile devices in order to create the in-game avatar based on a photo.
11. What is the games’ setting? Where does it take place?
a. The games’ setting takes place in the state of Kansas in the United States; a farm country that is plagued by the high amount of tornadoes/twisters that cause massive destruction. As for the time period, the game takes place in the early 1900’s much like the Wizard of Oz and will be bright and colorful like the nation of Oz and not in sepia tone like the beginning of the movie.
12. Will the game be broken into levels? What might be the victory condition for a typical level?
a. The game will be broken into different waves that will serve the purposes of levels. Each wave will contain a certain amount of materials that the player can find in the environment and will also contain a certain amount of tornadoes of various types. Each wave will get even more difficult by decreasing the availability of resources in the environment and increase the amount of tornadoes that move towards the players’ farm.
13. Does the game have a narrative or story that it goes along? Summarize the plot in a sentence or two.
a. The game has a very simple narrative/story that goes along with the gameplay. The player is a farmer located in Kansas during tornado season and must protect their farm/farm house from the onslaught of tornadoes in order to stay profitable.
Design Practice | Exercises
1. Create a high concept document for one of your favorite games or one that your instructor assigns.
a. To answer this question, I will be creating a high concept document for the Pokémon franchise, and in particular the first generation games Red and Blue.
You are a young boy who has been thrown in the mysterious world of Pokémon; creatures found throughout the world with unique powers that humans capture and train to battle one another. Your goal is to become a Pokémon Master by finding and capturing all 150 known Pokémon and recording their data in a Pokedex. In addition to capturing all 150 Pokémon, the player must defeat all 8 Pokémon Gym Leaders scattered across the region, all of which possess a specific Pokémon type. When a Gym Leader is defeated by the player, they will receive a badge that represents their victory over a certain Gym. Once the player defeats all 8 Gym Leaders they are qualified to challenge the Elite Four; a Pokémon Battle marathon that challenges the player to battle the strongest trainers and become the champion.
Pokémon are categorized by type(s) such as Fire, Water, Grass, Bug, Normal, Fighting, Flying, Dragon, Electric, Rock, Ground, Poison, Ice, and Psychic. Each type is strong against another as well as being weak against a certain type. To provide a few examples: Fire types are strong against Ice and Grass, but are weak against Water, Rock, and Ground. Water types are strong against Fire, Ground, and Rock, but are weak against Electric, Grass, and Poison. Lastly, Grass types are strong against Water, Ground, and Rock but are weak against Fire, Flying, and Bug. The player can only carry a maximum of 6 Pokémon in their party, although other Pokémon caught are kept in a PC where they can be withdrawn/deposited by the player, and so the player must be strategic in terms of the different types of Pokémon that they carry. Possessing six of the same Pokémon type is very ineffective as compared to possessing six Pokémon with unique types. There are some Pokémon that possess two different types such as Grass/Poison, or Water/Flying so carrying Pokémon with two types can lead to more advantages, as well as significant disadvantages that need to be weighed against one another by the player.
The player must train their Pokémon by battling other trainers or defeating Pokémon that are found in the wild within tall grass. When the players’ Pokémon defeats another Pokémon, they earn experience. When a Pokémon earns enough experience, they will level up to the next numerical level such as level 12; the highest level achievable level in the game is 100. At predetermined levels, Pokémon will be able to learn stronger and more strategic moves, but can only have the ability to use four moves. As a result, players must pick and choose the four moves that they want each of their Pokémon to know in order to have the most effective Pokémon possible. Pokémon can also be taught moves through the use of TMs and HMs, though HMs once taught to a Pokémon cannot be removed whereas TMs can. HMs is used as a necessary part of the game in order to reach certain locations or to reach a certain path. Cut, for example, is a HM that must be learned by a Pokémon in order to cut down a large tree in the players’ path.
In order to capture Pokémon in the wild, the player must use different types of Poke balls. There are a total of 4 Poke balls; Poke balls, Great Balls, Ultra Ball, and the Master Ball which the player only receives one of in the game. The Master Ball guarantees a capture while the other Poke ball types still hold a percentage of the Pokémon escaping capture, though some are higher than others.
There are two versions of Pokémon on the Gameboy platform, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. Each version of the game is missing specific Pokémon that can only be found in the other version, as well as having Pokémon that can only evolve when traded. This promotes the use of the link cable and playing with friends in order to capture all 150 Pokémon in the game. The use of the link cable also allows players to battle one another in a Coliseum, though no experience is earned from defeating a Pokémon through link cable battles.
2. Write a short paper contrasting the players’ roles in a Tomb Raider game and in a Civilization game.
a. One of the major aspects that separate games from one another is the set of tasks given to the player and how the player interacts with the game to complete those tasks. The players’ role within a Tomb Raider game and in a Civilization game are vastly different from one another due to the type of tasks that the player must complete in each game as well as how the player interacts with each game. In order to effectively establish the major differences between the players’ role in a Tomb Raider game and in a Civilization game, we must first do two things. First, we must examine the players’ role as Laura Craft in Tomb Raider, what tasks the player is given, and how the player interacts with the game world to complete those tasks. Lastly, we must explore the players’ role within a Civilization game, what tasks the player is given, and how the player interacts with the game world to complete those tasks. Once those two objectives are met, the major contrasts of the players’ role in Tomb Raider and Civilization will become clear and distinct. Let us begin by analyzing the players’ role as Laura Craft in Tomb Raider.
In Tomb Raider the player controls Lara Craft, an English female archaeologist in search of ancient relics. The game presents a world in 3D full of tombs located throughout the world in which the player must guide Lara through. Within tombs, as well as the overall game-play of Tomb Raider, the player must kill dangerous creatures or other humans, collect objects, and solve puzzles in order to gain access to a powerful artifact. Tomb Raider uses a third-person camera and third-person shooter mechanics. Many of the puzzles featured in Tomb Raider games involve the 3D environment that the game takes place in so that the player can discover a new room or area to explore. In the most recent Tomb Raider game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, Laura Craft is depicted as a younger, much more vulnerable version as compared to the rest of the series where she is shown as an older, more powerful figure. Tomb Raider games are also more linear in terms of how the player can actually play the game in comparison to the Civilization series because players in Tomb Raider are pushed from room to room where puzzles can only be solved in very few different ways and the final results are always the same.
In Civilization the player takes control of an omni-present God-like character that controls the action of people through an isometric view-point. The goal of the game is to advance a civilization from pre-historic or primitive origins, to a near-future utopia of power and wealth. The game-play involves turn-based strategy where each turn the player is given tasks that involve exploration of the game world, warfare with computer controlled civilizations, and diplomacy efforts with other civilizations. In addition to these tasks, the player must also make decisions about where to build new cities, which improvements or units to build in each city, which advances in knowledge, should be pursued, and how to transform the immediate area surrounding player controlled cities for maximum benefit. The game takes place over the course of thousands of years and the game can be won by having the highest score by 2050 AD, taking control over other civilizations’ capitals, getting the most diplomatic votes, or by winning the space race by reaching the star system of Alpha Centauri. Civilization as compared to Tomb Raider is more of a non-linear game in terms of how the player can reach their goals and how unique each player’s experience is with the game. The number of available choices given to the player in Civilization is vastly larger than the presentable choices given to players in Tomb Raider, and as a result each player can cater their play experience to how they want to play. For Tomb Raider, players play the game more or less how the developers want them to play, whereas Civilization provides flexibility in the gameplay to allow players to create their own experiences.
The major difference between the roles of the player in Tomb Raider and in Civilization is the available options provided to the player to complete the task(s) at hand. In Tomb Raider, the tasks involve the player shooting enemies or solving puzzles in order to discover artifacts, whereas in Civilization there are more tasks available to the player and the player also has the choice to pursue certain tasks over others. As a result, the gameplay involved in Civilization is vastly more complex and player driven and the gameplay involved in Tomb Raider are limited and more story-driven.
3. Certain genres are more often found on one kind of machine than on another. Write an essay explaining which machine each genre works best on and why. How do the machines’ features and the way that is used in the home facilitate or hinder the gameplay of each genre?
a. Instead of answering this question in a typical essay format, I am going to be breaking down each major genre individually in its own set of paragraphs and discuss which gaming machine works best for that specific genre and why.
First-Person Shooters: This is one of the few genres in video games that work well on both home console platforms and the PC; each with its own set of pros and cons. After discussing the pros and cons of the first-person shooter on each platform, I will come to the conclusion that either the home console or the PC is the superior gaming machine for this genre. Let us start with the home console, in particular the Xbox 360 platform. Unlike the PC, playing on an Xbox 360 is easier in terms of simplicity of set up for localized multiplayer play. LAN parties do exist and are a lot of fun, however plugging in an extra controller to enjoy localized play is much easier than setting up your gaming rig. This next argument can be seen as either a pro or a con for either side, but the idea that Xbox 360 platform, as well as the games developed for it, are all on the same playing field by means of power the machine possesses. PC is a very customizable machine and the games developed for the platform need to make sure that it can be played smoothly across different specs, whereas games developed for the Xbox 360 only need to make sure that the game can run on the manufactured specs of the machine. The point here is that for a very competitive gaming genre like the first-person shooter, it is nice to know that all of the participating players are on equivalent playing fields based on the hardware they are using, whereas with PC, a stronger computer can perform the game systems faster than a weaker machine and that may lead to unfair advantages for players with a better PC. One of the more popular gaming modes that are available in almost all first-person and third-person shooters is online multiplayer. In this respect, the PC has the Xbox 360, as well as the overall label of home consoles, beat. One of the main functions that a PC serves is connectivity to the internet, with or without a game attached to that connectivity, and as a result the PC platform has stronger online play. Online multiplayer for home consoles involves connecting all of the players within a match-making session to the player with the strongest internet connection. For the PC, there are different games connected to the main server hosted by the developers that the player can pick and choose to join, instead of being brought to one automatically by the game as seen in most home console first-person shooters. The freedom of choice, allowing the player to choose which game to join is the main reason why the advantage of online multiplayer is more in favor with the PC and not home consoles. Another advantage that the PC has over home consoles in the realm of first-person shooters is the input devices used to the play the actual game. The PC uses a combination of mouse and keyboard; most times the mouse is used to look around the game world/aim the players’ weapon, as well as fire the players’ weapon and the WASD keys on the keyboard are used to move throughout the game world. The main input device for home consoles are the manufactured controllers shipped with the console itself; the inputs varying from each console. The PC has a huge advantage over home consoles in respect to input devices for a few reasons. The first being the sensitivity of the input devices for the PC is much higher than those on a home console. With the first-person shooter genre, this sensitivity is key to victory because the player relies on their reflexes to succeed. The sensitivity of the mouse increases aiming precision and accuracy, and the use of mouse-clicks increases the amount of weapon fire used. The joy-stick is not nearly as accurate as the mouse in terms of aiming precision and the use of trigger buttons for firing are not nearly as fast as mouse button clicks. The other advantage of input devices that the PC has over the home console platform is that the PC is very customizable and allows the use of multiple different input devices to fit the needs of the player. If the player wanted, most PC games allow the use of home console input devices instead of traditional mouse and keyboard to play the game. This doesn’t work the other way around where home consoles allow the use of mouse and keyboard to play their games instead of the controller.
Overall, the PC possesses the following advantages and disadvantages:
+ Customizable input devices
+ Sensitive input for increased weapon aiming/precision and fire rate.
+ Stronger online multiplayer services.
- Weaker/Inconvenient localized multiplayer.
- Ranged hardware specs can lead to unfair advantages/disadvantages in play.
Overall the home console possesses the following advantages and disadvantages:
+ Stronger/Convenient localized multiplayer.
+ Universal hardware allows for fairness in a competitive environment.
- Weaker input devices lead to weapon inaccuracy and drop in weapon fire rate.
- Static input devices, no customization.
- Weaker online multiplayer services.
The winning platform for playing first-person shooters is the PC over traditional home consoles.
Overall, the strongest platform for fighting games would have to be the home console, with the exception for arcades themselves, for the following reasons:
+ Localized multiplayer capability for tournaments.
+ Arcade sticks peripheral compatibility.
+ Online matchmaking capability.
Action/Adventure Games: Action/Adventure games are one of the few genres that can work on any platform because of its gameplay. This game genre focuses on single-player experiences, with certain exceptions that include multiplayer such as the Uncharted series or Assassins Creed, and as a result can be played effectively across all platforms. The only question the player has to ask themself is what kind of experience they want from the action/adventure game. If the player chooses to play the game on a PC they are saying that they enjoy the use of mouse and keyboard as input and depending on the power of the PC, the player is also stating they enjoy amazing graphics and smooth frames per second. If the player chooses to play the game on a home console they are saying that they enjoy the console controller over the mouse and keyboard. Home consoles are only slightly behind PCs in terms of graphical capabilities, so generally speaking players on home consoles receive the pretty graphics from their titles as do PC players. The mobile platform is the really unique contender in this argument for a few reasons. The first being that mobile devices have nowhere near the graphical power of home consoles and PCs, and as a result the art of the game suffers. The lack of graphical power in mobile devices also leaves some wiggle room for innovation; to find new ways to make the game look good while still allowing the game to run smoothly. The second unique quality of mobile devices, in particular the Nintendo DS or the iPad, is the form of input from player to device. For the Nintendo DS, the use of the stylus and the two screens can lead to innovative puzzle and quest design. The same can also be said for the touch-based input of handheld devices such as the iPad.
Overall, the action/adventure genre doesn’t possess any unique gameplay mechanics that would benefit the game being played on a specific platform in a general sense. This genre has the ability to be designed to be played on a specific platform and to make use of the unique features of the device, such as the Nintendo DS. It is really a decision of preference by the player to choose what platform they play the action/adventure genre because it works well across almost all devices.
Racing Games: The Racing genre, in my opinion, can be effectively played on almost all platforms and it is up to player preference to which platform they play it on. Both the home console and the PC possess the ability to use steering wheel peripherals to allow for more “realistic” experiences. These steering wheels have the ability to provide vibrational feedback and realistic pull and tug of the steering wheel during game-play to provide a different experience than a player playing with a console controller or a mouse and keyboard set up. Mobile platforms though can provide fun racing experiences, lack the ability to use effective peripherals to increase the intensity of the experience and as a result fall behind consoles and PCs. If arcade cabinets are a viable option in this discussion, my vote would be that arcades are the strongest platform for racing games in general, even though they lack online multiplayer and the graphical capabilities that PCs and home consoles possess.
Horror Games: Horror games, like the racing game genre, can be effectively played on almost all platforms and it only depends on player preference to which platform to play the game on. The horror game genre is a very personal, story-driven experience and as a result, any platform that supports single-player capabilities can host an interesting horror game, which is all gaming platforms. Some players may enjoy the enhanced graphical capabilities of the PC or home console platforms to exaggerate gore or gruesome details of the environment or the games’ characters, while others may enjoy keyboard and mouse over the console controller for their input. There are many external factors that slightly enhance the experience of horror games on specific platforms, but do not overall change the genre itself.
Real-Time Strategy Games: Real-time strategy games, in my opinion, is a video game genre that works best on the PC platform for one main reason; the control scheme. Real-time strategy games require a lot of different inputs from the player within small time windows and the precise and quick controls from a keyboard and mouse set up allow doing just that. Games like StarCraft emphasize the need for swift, precise, and numerous player interactions and this type of interaction has not been well integrated into the home console platform. An example of a poor transition of real-time strategy to the home console is Halo Wars because of its lack of strategic depth and the need for over-simplification of the control scheme due to the use of a controller and not the mouse and keyboard combination. Some gamers appreciated the simplification of strategy and controls, but hardcore real-time strategy games did not. In terms of the mobile platform and real-time strategy games, the only way I can see the genre working is through the Nintendo DS interface and stylus-control scheme. The dual-screen set up of the system would allow for more information to be displayed to the player and the use of the stylus could simulate the precision of the mouse. Overall, the PC platform is the superior platform for the real-time strategy genre because of its large array of inputs and the precision and swiftness of the mouse. A majority of mobile platforms would not be able to effectively create an accurate real-time strategy game without the need to simplify certain tasks or procedures, the Nintendo DS being the exception, and the home consoles have to take advantage of simplification due to the input devices of standard controllers.