Sketchbook for Games Design and Art BA (Part 2)
Design To Game is my personal research in order to come up with an idea for a game. This research will then be used to create a games design document, which will lay the foundations of how the game will be made.
Along side this are my own notes from workshops which are designed to help us create assets and ideas for areas of games design.
I felt WordPress would be a better way to collect my work (rather than a sketch book) so that my work can be public (please comment!), but also for ease of access, a wider variety of digital formats and cheaper printing costs.
As a class we were given prompts to help start our research process, these were 8 Short Stories:
- The Gernsback Continuum – William Gibson: The visual nature of the book was very appealing with it’s streamline and futuristic style. The way narrative where you could see things which you wanted to see, also seemed like a great games mechanic.
- Animal Farm – George Orwell: Having read 1984 over the Summer, it was interesting to read it’s pre-cursor, which had many of the same themes. Although nothing immediately interested me in furthering research here.
- Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka: Another book I was going to read over the summer, but never got round to. The book presented a lot of unique ideas as something crazy was presented in a rather mundane way. This intrigued me to continue researching.
- Peter Pan – JM Barrie: Very different from the Disney Version which is commonly told, it is still full of myth and lore. Would be a good book to research into fairy tales.
- The Variable Man – Philip K Dick: A great read and superb science fiction, this could very easily be turned into a human’s vs aliens game.
- The Pit and the Pendulum – Edgar Allan Poe: A book which plays with your sense, with a focus on darkness, it would be difficult not to make a horror game out of the research!
- A Sound of Thunder – Ray Bradbury: Another sci-fi, where time travel is involved again and how past decisions affect future ones, this could make some great game mechanics.
- James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
After reading the 8 books, I settled on Metamorphosis.
I then went onto the next stage of the process, Research, where I gathered as much information around Metamorphosis, while also trying to get as far away from the book as possible.
In order to quickly get into researching I identified a couple of themes which stood out in the book and that interested me: questions, cockroaches, Kafka (behind the author) and the title.
- Questions: To start my research I looked at all the questions in the book, this helped me understand some of the structure. I wanted to uncover what Kafka was trying to communicate, and the questions really stood out when reading. There were over 50 questions in such a short story and I highlighted some of the more prominent ones. There seemed to be a lot of anxiety and confusion mixed into the characters feels and insecurity.
- Cockroaches: Although it is never written Gregor turned into a cockroach, the description in the first sentence strongly resembles that of one. I always wanted Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches as pets and thought this could be a good time to get some… so researched a little more into how they live and what cockroaches are like. The most interesting point was the type of cockroach Kafka would have been used to couldn’t fly but only glide. These were called German Cockroaches, but in Czech they were called Russian!
- Behind the Author: Metamorphosis wouldn’t have existed without it’s author Franz Kafka. Kafka was formed and influenced by the time period, location of writing and personality which all fed into his work. Kafka had a unique background and lived in a time of social upheaval which greatly explains aspects of his work. Notably: his Jewish background, his location in Prague, World War One and the independence of Czechoslovakia.
- The Title: As the book was written in German, I wanted to find out if translation changed the meaning at all of the title.
From looking at these 4 headings, I was most inspired by Kafka and who he was and how he saw the world. It seemed relevant to focus on Prague, as he always lived there and seemed as this was key to what inspired him.
- Prague: I booked flights and started researching the key locations of the city
- The Good Solider Svejk: During my research of Franz Kafka, this book was recommended as it was written shortly after Metamorphosis and was a good summary of what is was like to live in that time period. It was a great satire. And really commented on the upside down-ness of the society Kafka live in.
- Kafka’s Residence: I researched into the main places in Prague that were associated to Kafka and found he grew up at the edge of a Jewish Ghetto, but had many apartments in the city throughout his life, studied workers insurance and later worked as an insurance broker in the city. He is also buried in Prague next to a plaque for his sister who died in the concentration camps.
- Getting Ready to Go: I then spoke with one of my course mates who had lived in Prague and asked for advice on where to go and what to look at.
- Final Fantasy Kefka?: Before leaving for Prague, I was taking to another of my course mates about Kafka and they mentioned a Final Fantasy track had been named after him. Although it isn’t quite the right spelling, it’s an interesting music track.
- Concepts: I reflected on what I knew so far and what I wanted to look more into, mainly: what influenced Kafka, Macro-Micro histories and the narrative structure of Metamorphosis. I was caught on the idea of large events happening at the same time as mundane events.
I then left for the Prague Trip where I sketched and took as many photos to soak up the atmosphere as possible. I also visited the Kafka museum which was hugely informative and helped build up a broader picture of who Kafka was.
- I took character sketches as I waited in the airport lounge.
- On the bus ride into Prague from the airport I sketched and took photos of the buildings as I got there.
- The cobbled streets were really interesting and the height and detail of the buildings.
- I then walked across the bridge to the other half the city, reaching the Kafka museum.
- The Kafka museum was really informative, it started with Kafka’s family tree, and what it was like to grow up.
- Things that stood out were the: overbearing presence of his father and the city on his life, particularly the Jewish Ghetto.
- The museum moved on to the middle of his life and how he felt confined within the city and trapped in a job he didn’t enjoy, but rather wanted to be an artist. He drew expressionist styled sketches.
- This fueled the feeling of duality and his double life of artist vs lawyer.
- And finally his death fro tuberculosis and how he was also slowly starving to death.
- My favorite quote from the museum as you existed was the comment made by the curate that Kafka “Reveals the hallucinatory nature of what we call reality.”
I left the museum and continued around the street of Prague for a couple more hours, taking in more buildings and noting how oppressive they couple feel. I made my way to the cathedral and to the area which was the Jewish Ghetto (now full of top end fashion boutiques). Past the Jewish museum and to the synagogue with Kafka’s statue outside. I found some back streets and more buildings. Then summarized they key thoughts from the trip: Exaggeration, Invisible Lines, Mundane Tasks.
Upon arriving back in the UK I took these key themes and looked at them in more detail, I started with exaggerate which lead me into High Rise, and a Trip to London:
- Exaggerate: I started by defining and expanding on the meaning of the word. Using google I took the first couple of images. Then looked at art movements which exaggerate and came to Expressionism, which tied back to the art movement during Kafka’s lifetime. Expressionism had interesting takes on urban life, they either sang praises or mourned it’s coming. Using photo’s I had taken from Prague and influenced by the expressionist painting of urban life, I manipulated the images into an expression of how Prague felt. Imposing itself onto others and rising up in bold colours. As I had exaggerated the buildings higher, they started to look like skyscrapers, or high rise.
- High Rise: I used flikr to collect images of skyscrapers and drew from them, looking at structure and shape. The more images I found the more intimidating the structures became, particularly the more concrete the buildings were. As I continued into the concrete I started to think how modern day ghetto’s are normally found in these places.
- London Trip: As I was already going to London I took my own photo’s of the skyline, skyscrapers and concrete buildings. The video of arriving into Waterloo is really interesting as the closer to the center of London you get the taller the buildings are.
After a Workshop on how to generate ideas and creative process I learned a couple of new techniques. I used these techniques to create a Word Cloud, Lotus Blossom and a Picture Brain Storm:
- Word Cloud: Taking all the words from Metamorphosis and putting the visually in a box in order to find interesting combinations and analysis what the key words were. This showed me Gregor the main character was a word most said as well as: Room, Sister, Mother, Out, Time and Himself.
- Invisible Lines: Using the lotus blossom technique on the word invisible lines (taken from key points of the Prague Trip) I expanded upon the term. This was a useful technique for broadening ideas but a little confusing as there were now 72 new ideas to use, which was a little overwhelming. So I took all the words from the Lotus Blossom and create a Word Cloud. This made much more sense, as I could then take 2 words from the cloud and join them together to get something new. This resulted in Moral Wall, Grey Tribe, Gravity Pets, Rainbow Momentum and Quantum Appearance.
- Mundane: Taking a word and drawing as many associations from it as possible. ( I used mundane as it was the last key point I had from the Prague trip.)
I then had a meeting with my tutor to talk through my work and he suggested and some course mates suggested a couple of areas to look into such as architecture, moral walls, grey tribe:
- Friedensreich Hundertwasser: An organic architect in Vienna which resembles the photo manipulation down for Prague.
- Jerusalem Wailing Wall: An example of a moral wall as it is used for prayers.
- Faceless Tribe: An episode from a pod cast which talk about a faceless tribe of people which could be what the grey tribe looks like.
Research Grey Tribe
I really liked the imagery associated with a Grey Tribe, and nothing appeared when I googled so I started researching my own I looked at Fashion, Advertising and Architecture:
- Grey Tribe: Going through the current seasons fashion on Vogue I tried to find as many grey outfits as possible, it surprised (and upset me) how many there were. It seems the grey tribe will hit the market soon!
- Grey vs Colour: The adverts from Dulux talk about a grey tribe where there is a hidden colour conspiracy and have some beautiful videos which demonstrate a grey world. Is this what the grey tribe would be?
- Rotating Building: Talking with a class mate about the grey tribe and concrete structures, and interesting art pieces which have used buildings. This one rotates, and the best part is the public reaction as they walk past – they just don’t notice!
From looking at all this research I start to generate my own ideas using some of the techniques from the generating idea’s workshop:
- Idea Generating: Taking previous words I have and putting them with a random mechanic selected from a list (with the help of classmates). My favorite ideas included: rotating buildings using rainbow colours, walking up and down the same corridor, pushing things into one another to create wind, teleportation by rainbows and shadows can get through doors.
Grey Tribe Research
I then went back to some research after combing a couple of phrases, looking again at:
- Tribes: Quickly googling tribes led me into the historic tribes of the UK, which was really interesting as they all had different traits and associations. I then found a formal definition and tried to further define what a tribe was. This lead to the work of a charity which is trying to protect tribes and where natural tribes are located. I found some great photos of tribes from the national geographic. This was useful research in understand traditional tribes, but I felt the grey tribe could be something more modern, as was part of society rather than rural.
- Commuters: A modern tribe could possibly look like the London commuters, where they all act and look in a certain way and move as one body. I found an interesting blog article whic interviewed commuters. This was really inspiring as collectively they look grey and boring but individually they are so diverse and interesting.
Combining Ideas – Visual
I then went back to creating ideas mixing imagery:
- Grey Commuting Tribe: I wanted to combine the imagery of commuters and that of the grey clothing I found in Vogue. Creating a particular look of a different culture. I then worked over the image to add smog and grey effects. I also added a little colour to show the difference between the individual and the crowd, as mentioned in the commuters post. This looked really striking a little colour in a grey environment.
After showing and explaining my work to another course mate, the grey tribe made them think about Office Sci-Fi where, during a mundane day, something extraordinary happens.
We the had another workshop where we worked in groups to combine more words to create the most imaginative ideas we could I looked at, but before we started we had to dump all the ideas we had in our head first:
- Dumping Ideas on Paper: This was really useful as it allowed yourself to think of new things as you didn’t have to hold them in your brain.
- Grey Tribe + Collapsing Mechanic: Some of my favourite ideas is the changing time as you move from different floors in a office block and a group of people jumping in harmony to get to the ground faster.
- Grey Tribe + Ladder: This was done in a smaller group, my favourite ideas was where each member of the tribe had a ladder on their back which they had to combine together to go up. Also, the aesthetics of Chinese character being ladders.
Generating Ideas Fiction
I wanted to look at a way to generate more ideas and felt by writing short stories, or interactive fiction it would help me to clarify and combine to make something interesting. We previously had a workshop on writing interactive flash fiction and want to continue this in my own work. So I started researching:
- Non-Linear Ficiton: I found a really helpful blog which broke down the different types of structures usually found in Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) stories, which are the most common forms on non-liner or interactive fiction. This helped me right my own.
- Jeykell and Hyde: The book the lecturer doing the creative writing workshop wrote for his PHD, shows how you can read stories in different ways.
- Grey Tribe Non-Linear: I started writing a looped piece of fiction to highlight the mundane repetitiveness of the grey tribe, this helped me think through a situation which changes each time you go through it but it is repetitive. This would not be fun to play unless there was a strong plot.
- Grey Tribe List of Ideas: List of ideas of which the grey tribe could be for narrative.
- Grey Tribe Flash Ficiton: List’s of ideas which could be used to make a narrative – who/what/where are the grey tribe favorite ones: School Children and Automated Messages:
- Grey Tribe Flash Fiction – School: The grey tribe could also be school children and exploring what this could look like as a narrative. I enjoyed the imagery of colour and routine.
- Grey Tribe Flash Fiction – Automated Messages: Automated messages are things which come in multiples but have little personality. This was a really interesting exercise as there is a variety of resources which show you how to manipulate people to 1)Take you message and 2)To go on dates with you.
- Branching Fiction Grey Tribe: I wanted to generate a story in small parts and see how many different ways to take it, although I really only completed one narrative (out of 27)
- Hosting Flash Fiction: In order for the files to be published and accessed online I had to create my own website from github.
Broadening The Grey Tribe
- Grayson: Batman reference to a ‘Gray Tribe’ the difference between black and white, rich and poor.
- Grey Tribe 100 Ideas: It is said you need 100 bad ideas to find 1 good one. By combing random words with grey tribe I’m trying to find the one good idea, so far all I’ve managed to get to is Freddie Mercury doing the hoovering…
- Eyes in Darkness: A little side track from watching Queens video and noticing the the headlights people were wearing, which looked like they were searching together.
- Grey Path: Reflecting on the batman quote where the character was named Greyson as they felt part of neither world, isn’t that the path most people take, a grey one where it is not wholly white or black.
- Dementia: I thought the imagery of hoovering darkness from the corner of your house was really interesting. This led me to consider a house with was invaded by grey, like a loss of memory which you wanted to fight out of your house. Like a mental illness.
- Vacuum Cleaner: I really liked the imagery of hoovering up grey and dust, so thought a couple of old adverts would inspire me… they weren’t as interesting as the dulux (grey vs colour) ones though.
- Loneliest Place: Breaking through the grey mist into reality – talking about Cancer. How the grey mist fogs reality until you find a familiar face.
After looking at more research I tried going back to the basics and started Combing Research, by putting the best ideas onto a page. This didn’t really give me any more ideas until.
Showing my work to my class mates one mentioned Splatoon was a great game where you start with a grey environment then turf war style cover it with colour.
I then spoke with my husband about the ideas I had for the game I started to narrow down what I wanted to communicate. I wanted to focus more on the narrative than mechanics and have a sense of ‘I want to break free’ coupled with ‘Only you can be the best version of you.’
- Fixation: Is on of my favourite games which is lead strongly by narrative of working out how to get through your own problems. I really liked the simple mechanics which allow you to play but express the narrative as well.
- Air Pressure: Another game which brings you to an understanding of a mental battle which personifies the illness. This is an interactive narrative but requires several play through to fully grasp the situation. You have to work to gain understanding.
- Choose Your Own Adventure Categories: I quickly looked at different narratives and generic settings and plots.
- Processing Research: Looking at ways to define what I am looking at and combing up with a concise idea. I wanted to have 4 intersecting stories revolving around one person who you are try reach out to/look after/ find out what is wrong.
- Game Genre: I wanted to see what type of mechanics where used in mobile game’s which had a strong narrative.
- Refining Ideas: The basis for my game is a narrative from 4 different perspectives. I then took the key themes of my research to try and work out content. There are 4 ways at looking at the world – Exaggerate, Trapped, Boundaries and Mundane, which could be used as the different perspectives. Although I am still stuck on what the subject of the narrative is. I think when I’ve decided everything else will come from that… hopefully.
Writing a Narrative – Greyton
Having looked at the content I though it best to start writing the ideas for the narrative down. Choosing a narrative based route rather than art or mechanics. I wanted to focus on having 4 people who influenced the city but didn’t necessarily interact.
- Grey Narrative: Committing to an idea of a narrative driven game where 4 peoples stories overlap. Trying to flesh out the characters and locations.
- Sketchbook Pages Narrative: Plotting out more details of the Greytribe.
- Day 1 Chris: Taking the first character I have from the grey narrative post I start to write what Chris’s day will be like.
- Links for Narrative: Planning a narrative I use a couple of links and references to help to start writing.
- Greyton Pitch: A page with the key details of what I want to achieve.
- Narrative Timeline: I plan out more of the 4 stories I want to use.
- Plotting Backstory: I still can’t quiet work out how these 4 stories slot together so try and figure out the backstory.
- Narrative Timeline v2: I expand on the narrative adding more detail to the plots of each character.
A little bit of research to help focus me and inspire my own work
- Year Walk Development: I find a really interesting blog on how simogo made their ipad games, which I’m using as influence for my own work. I partiularly like the map and the way you can move between year walk.
- A Duck has a Adventure: A really good game which visually shows different paths you can take in an branching narrative. The goal becomes finding all the endings.
Writing a narrative – Down the Grey Path
When looking at how Year Walk was developed they had a simple idea then built upon it. As I was struggling to pull the story together with so many different elements I tried to simplify then narrative down to one character with 3 branching narratives.
I focused just on Lottie who is an older version of Emily and changed the context to she was arriving back to Greyton and noticed something had changed. Rater than all the characters living in Greyton and one stumbling upon a change that was happening.
- Greyton Diagram: Starts to explore this idea of one person arriving into a place that has changed.
- Transferring Ideas: Writing flow diagrams and scribbles trying to show the narrative from one perspective.
- Greyton Time: Writing the daily routine of the characters to see where they could interact. Although I found this far to difficult to pull the narrative together and come up with something that worked.
- Idea of Change: If something in Greyton has changed I was always thinking about what had been added, rather than taken away. Which was suggested when talking to my course mates about it. If Lottie’s Mum had died then there would be something and I could have emotions to right about. I also breifly looked at the 5 stages of grief.
- Lottie Diagram 1: I then tried to map out what the choices would be.
- Lottie Backstroy: So thought it would be easier to write if I knew who my characters were. I wrote Lotties backstory.
- Grey Path Plan: I was still finding it hard to write so tried to make a prototype and write bits of the narrative.
- Down the Grey Path Plan: I planed 3 of the narratives,
- Down the Grey Path Realistic: I then planned the content of 5 chapters for 3 stories and started to write the first.
- Grey Path Flow Diagram: I couldn’t see how the stories could interact so tried to write the first chapter in the form of a flow diagram.
I had gone to far from my original point where it was multiple stories crossing over one another. So taking what I had learned through all these tests I looked at how to write sometime simple with lots of characters decisions. Just to prove my concept worked.
- Simple Group Narrative: I found that it was very easy to write group narrative around short time frames with dramatic events where the smallest of changes can impact the out come.
- Arriving Home Plan: I took the event where Lottie arrives home and expanded upon it.
- Twine Arriving Home: It was also easier to make and write the game at the same time, I tried to write it in sudo code, but it was just as easy to write actual code in Twinery.
- RoboTribe: Looking at my drawings and research I wondered if the overarching theme could be people turning from Robots to humans, I started this by collaging a narrative.
- I was listening to a speaker at a Christmas carol service explaining the allegory of the cave and thought that I could use this as a base theme for my narrative – a kind of Matrix crossed with 1984.
- Notes for Narrative: I expanded on this idea and started planning the narrative structure.
- Documentation of Code: And started writing in Twine to see files go here and look at RoboGrey Version 1-8, the documentation kept track of my variables I was using to move the story onwards.
I was happy with the narrative structure I was writing, basing the mundane life style on the routine found in 1984 and started to bulk out some of the content so I looked at:
- 10 minute work out: To make my routine more realistic I looked at the nhs recommended daily exercise.
- Family Meal Reference: The BBC website has a good section for standard family meals which I used in the code so that no matter how many times you played it you would have a variety of different meals to eat.
- Robot Rights Movement: The more I got into the story the more I realised it needed a larger over arching plot, I didn’t want to go down the Robots are evil route so instead what would they want when they realised they could be equal to humans. A looked back in history into rights movements, and settled on women rights over colours as there was much less aggression. A lot of the time women wanted to prove themselves by being an asset and making a statement rather than riots.
Games Design Document
After laying the foundations for the narrative I started to bulk out the games design document.
- The Document: The main page with links coming of, this gives you the broad over view.
- Maximo: The background to the company where the characters work at
- Names: Introduction to the type of character and how Maximo named them
- Greyton: The town where the story is set
- Maximo’s Facoty: The work place where the story starts and is set
- Base Coding: How the robots are programmed and are to behave.
- Serenity: The first character you play as.
- Chapter 1: The structure of the chapter 1
- Chapter 2: The structure of chapter 2
- Shop Keeper: A close look at how one of the npc characters will react.