Friday, November 18, 2016

Game Design

Upon thinking about it all the games I've ever played, mazes have always been my favorite. A challenge that takes several tries that gives me the chance to learn the terrain. Depending on how long I've played the game I'll be intrinsically more advanced because I spent more time in the game, exploring that world, and learning more about how it's build, finding cheats and best practices.


One of the only computer game I've played and thoroughly enjoyed was called Winx. It was a very "pink" girly game with fairies who fought monsters with sparkling super powers. As silly as it sounds it was incredibly addicting to me because every challenge build up towards unlocking more levels that progressed the story. Beating a level advanced you to find out what happens next (with short cinematic sequences that told the story, describing the relationships between the characters). The design of the game is very controlled and offers a limited amount of options of what happens in the story, however, there were a few built in stages where I felt like I was the one making decisions. The freedom to choose and influence the game is satisfying and also being able to play the game again, choose a different option and play the game again  with a different outcome is fun as well! And thought that is the only PC game I've played I played it at least 5 times.


I don't know if this is a personal bias but it's incredibly boring for me. The design of the game from the visual perspective is simple. The UI is functional, the game can be played on a Tetris machine, on the computer, on the phone which is supposed to be a good thing... but it swings between "too easy" and "too frustrating" because the blocks start to fall so fast it's almost like I'm bound to lose every time. There is no way to compete with pieces that fall so quickly they start to look blurry and you just put down the game after having passed by some time but not really achieved anything . In the book the author talks about how the game is not the experience, it enables it, but it's not the experience in itself. Fairness and symetry plays an important role in the balance of the game " Players want to feel that the forces working against them do not have an advantage that will make them impossible to defeat". This game frustrates me, every time. I hate playing actually so I would say that not having an option of winning takes away from making the game enjoyable for me.

The Room

This is the only game I've actually purchased on the app store that was absolutely fantastic. Despite my dislike for Tetris, my love for puzzle games have been fulled from other places. This game was a mystery puzzle so a lot of the stages took exploring and observation of your surroundings, making connections to previous discoveries and examining the space. Though its not a murder mystery it has a very ominous feel and the music adds pressure. I used to sit for hours at a time trying ot figure out the game levels, dreaming about it and resisting to use any of the tips to be able to come to the solution myself. I did end up looking up the very last clue because it was the least obvious one but the look and feel of the game displayed a very interesting UI. There were instructions to the game that would need to be discovered as well (they'd be glowing) so it was easy to discover them. Your eye would be guided to the things that glow or look out of palce. Each piece fit somewhere else and the UI was very simple to use, and most importantly it didn't get in a way of the game and actually supporting all the necessary features.

Flappy Birth

This game has started my love for mazes and various fantastical obstacle courses that play with physics but don't necessarily make sense. I am using this as a bad UI example just because of how addicting it is. The only thing you have to do  is go through a crash course and fly through corridors without any guidance. I don't know if this is the absolute worse UI that could have been there but I didn't like it. I tried it out for a few weeks but got mostly frustrated. A lot of people were playing the game however, to the point that I believe someone has died in the process of playing it and the game was taken down.


Examples of interfaces between people and the real world

1) Headphones allow us to listen to music (tool)
2) A car allows us to travel the distance (vehicle)
3) Using a the keyboard we can input commands into a virtual space (tool)
4) An iPhone allows us to interact with virtual spaces (tool)
5) A dishwasher cleans dishes 
6) A dolly cart is an interface for lifting heavy objecst
7) A remote control switches on and off various gadgets
8) A light switch turns lights on and off
9) A tennis racquet people to play tennis
10) Telephone allows us to make calls

Give an example of a good and bad interface between player and game. Explain why it is a good interface.

I think that a very important indicator of good UI is the players ability to make use of the tools that you provide them and turning them into an in-game action. If there is too much or too little information that prevents the user from being able to effectively play the game (things get in the way, distract or do not provide enough options to complete certain tasks). If the tools that are programmed into the keyboard, remote or mouse controls are good then the game becomes intuitive. 

On page 284 in the book, the feeling of freedom is discussed and how it plays into user interface design. Instead of actually giving the user a thousand options that they have to spend their willpower on giving them just enough tools to play the game (and sometimes not giving them otpions at all) in fact builds the feeling of fear. Which is not synonymous with a myriad of options. That also plays into constraints and how giving the user options to choose from when they are asked a questions not only makes the choice a lot quicker, is easier for the designer in general (since he doesn't have to deal with ALL the possible options or even made up options) but saves the player's focus and remain connected to the plot and storyline of the game. Instead of breaking out of the loop and having to make a decision about something they simply shift gears, make a choice and move on. The tools become intuitive and aid with the play of the game instead of interrupting it. 

An example of a good UI: 

The interface doesn't get in the way it add's valuable information that aids you with playing the game. the choices are limited, there are only 1-2 tools that you can switch between which allows you to focus on getting better at mastering them instead of constantly switching between various tools and not getting significantly better using them (which can instead lead to frustration). Even through the designer wanted to give the player options to choose from that function ended up decreasing the experience of the game because the user wasn't progressing. So more tools doesn't always add more value. In the case of this game the stats are used to get better and getting used to using the remote to play the same tools increases your talent and accuracy, making you inherently more competitive. 

Example of a bad UI:

On page 287, the value of visual design is discussed. Anyone who works in an area of visual arts knows that layout affects where the guest will look. Without having ever played this game, from a perspective of a designer I can say that this is a terrible interface. The only reason I can think of as to why all of the menu options are so diverse is to show skill and consideration for the user to have options to create their own gaming experience. But building on the point above, too much freedom takes away from the experience because it hinders the game's flow. There is no reason to have this many options especially when they are not intuitive, take a long time to get used to, hard to read... Having worked backstage at theatres I've built many sets and know that the princeples of guiding the eye of the guest controls the focus is an important storytelling tool. This interface is distracting and doesn't offer useful options for the sake of them being useful. 

Blender to Unreal to Git (H8 follow up)

As discussed in homework 7, creating objects in Blender was incredibly difficult; I couldn't find tutorials that were simple enough to start at the beginning explain how to work in different modes (Object vs Edit) what tools and keys to press to perform functions (as simple as move, select or delete). And after being frustrated and set back by the complexity of the editing tools and lack of simple directions to help me get over the first stages set me back.

I continued working on the audio files (the soundtrack for different moods, cues, and stages of the game and updated that in the git repository). I also have met with the team to adjust our story once again and the objects that we were going to create and make considering our time frame and making a game that is still playable and enjoyable.

The decision that we came to was to use the labyrinth that I designed as the main level (instead of having challenges along the way). That would require us to design several different objectives and program the mechanics of the challenges that we simply don't have the time and expertise to do. The labyrinth however offered a playable challenger and would deliver a complete game (rather than a game that 's too complex and not playable).

1) After meeting with Mr. Erlebacher and following his instructions on how to design my level I created this in blender:

2) Then I imported it into Unreal 

The use of the object was described in post 7 but I'll give another short description. 

I drew on my personal experiences as a player in the few games that I've interacted with (Wii Sports and PacMan) as well as an inspiration from a movies (The Maze Runner and Indiana Jones) to build a game with similar objectives. Instead of having multiple challenges with the pyramid for the player to solve I thought that escaping the labyrinth in itself would be an interesting challenge. The same way the player has to train themselves to get better at playing the game (ex: wakeboarding) and get more points the player of the Pyramid Scheme will have to go through the maze a few times and start to memorize the way it's build. Though this is not ideal way to design a game that is playable after it's complete (since you would already know how to win and it wouldn't be a challenge) it will be fun and challenging enough to play for the objective of this class. 

The design of the maze is cinematic, based on the way Indiana Jones movie or the Maze Runner are designed. The places are fictional but have some truth to the way they are designed. Being in charge of the story line I made sure that the textures I found to use for our walls and the characters are accurate to what most people would expect to find in ancient Egypt (Pharaoh and Jackals vs twinkle fairies that wouldn't fit into the setting).  

My commits of the wall structure (wall.fbx) and labyrinth (maze.fbx)

Then I performed the pull request and  had the objects that we made in the same scene but I enlarged them because they are VERY small compared to my design of the whole structure (the scepter is like a tiny stick compared to the pyramid in itself). The objects are the pile of gold, scepter and the jackal's chest. 

Populating the Repository

Also posting an update for Homework 7 since it didn't have any actionable items to post on here (like a link or a screenshot), but I have been adding objects and to the git repository. Here's the summary of what I have done so far in ADDITION to optimizing the story and the direction that we are taking with the game to make sure it is feasible. That is my job within our team dynamic and I'm also responsible for working on the complexity of the levels (design of the maze and it's look and feel).

1) All my edited Music
2) Uploaded a pack of 20+ textures for everyone to use in the design of their levels
2) Beginning of a walled structure
3) 3 tiered maze
4) 3 split tiered maze
5) Currently working on adding textures to the hallways and building the pyramid.


The game's objective is to get obtain a coveted object and have the user escape the Pyramid unharmed by the Jackals that guard the Pharaoh's tomb. The design of the game above has an Indiana Jones feel as the character explores an ancient environment. The design on the walls draws on historical fact of various frescoes being found inside the pyramids as decorations. I compiled a packet of similar imagery as decoration for the walls varying from symbols to patters. The collection is diverse enough to make each hallway look unique.

I have not played many games in my life, in fact the only one I have ever played was Wii sports. The challenges are very straight forward and allow you to train yourself to pass levels with a higher amount of points than before. I really like the idea of training so I designed the level with the idea that you will not always make the right turn and will end up losing your life from encountering the Jackals. The game is also reminiscent of another game I've played - PacMan - where you have to escape the maze with predators who are chasing you. The encounter with them will take away one of your lives and if you have to pass the level by avoiding them and collecting all the points.

So considering that these are the only game experiences I've had this is how I decided to design our game. I also love the idea of puzzles and mazes and the movie "Maze Runner" had the same objective of running through the maze and escaping the predators that are after the player. The main character had to venture out into the maze and come back to his safe zone with more intel on how to complete it. I used the same principle of needing to play the game a few times to memorize the actual pattern of the hallways, where the predators are and where is the escape.

The hallway design is pretty challenging so I decided to make the maze tiered so that it is easier to complete each level and not make the player frustrated. (Constantly dying and not being able to win for a long time can lessen the enjoyment of the game). But having the right amount of challenge and an opportunity to have little victories along the way puts just the right amount of pressure, making the game exciting rather than "too complicated".

Here's the design of the Maze Runner game:

My Level Design:

I had to get instruction from the professor because online tutorials do not go over basic tools and just throw you in head first in the complex editing of games. I did find a good example of a flat maze build and followed Mr. Erlebacher's tips on how to turn a flat plane into an elevated maze. Using the textures from the packet I put together I will splash the walls with the design. This is the labyrinth design that I'm following.


Game Assets (H5)

The total game assets that I contributed thus far towards the game was: storyline, level design, Egyptian textures, and music score. I uploaded each respective item unto our joint github account (my latest commit being the music in the folder sounds at the top).

The songs range from ominous, to pensive and offer different breaks for different areas of the game.
1) Implementation: The music was selected specifically to match the theme of the game and have an Arabian Nights/Egyptian pyramid navigation kind of feel. I copy and pasted songs to create the desired soundtracks.

2) Description: Games are multisensory activities, and like most things throughout the day multiple sensory factors reinforce our memories (taste of the meal you were having, the scent in the air, the visuals, what you heard) and I believe that selecting the soundtrack that has the potential of becoming iconic is crucial for the playability and future success of the game - if it were to go on and become a full fledged game.

3) Images: Refer to the file above in addition to all the level files and textures that I already uploaded.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pyramid Scheme Balance Types

Homework 9:

1)    Fairness

This being the first balance type brought up makes me think it must be one of the most important once since that’s exactly where we started building our game. We thought a lot about preparing tasks, riddles and mazes that would be fair and allow the player to have a competitive edge against he supernatural forces of disrupted Egyptian afterlife.

Each maze has a degree of challenge to it but it doesn’t make the player feel inadequate. When facing a player of greater perceived power the player is given options to outwit them and have a shot at moving on to the next stage. It was important to include elements of asymmetry to create interesting situations provoking the player to come up with a strategy (Repetitive deaths at first encounter, learn how to wait and go on your next turn)

2) Challenge vs Success

Creating a game that can be equally challenging to a novice as well as a seasoned gamer in my opinion is the hardest balance to strike but is the one that makes or breaks the game. When structuring our game we lead the player in through a maze that responds to the players actions and gets progressively more difficult. A novice player can enjoy and feel challenged by the initial puzzles but not feel too overwhelmed by the play. While a gaming veteran can blaze through the first 2 initial steps and get to the next 2 that are more challenging than the first (being able to hold on to your lives while advancing is also a seasoned player’s attribute)

3) Meaningful Choices

In our game the player listens to their instinct by analyzing the surroundings. The clues are places in the properties of the object (ex: scepter hovering above the tomb) signaling to the player to get claimed. We give the player options in terms of figuring out the mazes/puzzles but they don’t have access to enough tool to switch between to accomplish the next task in a better manner. We decided to spend more time one the challenges rather than the options between weapons or having a risk between a low/high rewards. The objective is to outwit the opponents/complete challenges to escape alive, every lost live and bit of health is a risk in itself as the stakes get higher when passing the final (more difficult) stages.

4) Skill vs Chance

Making the character exceptionally skilled at something would have complicated the game where we would’ve had to negotiate the amount spend on other tasks. Giving the player the chance to take risks and examine what is the best way to get out of the game (most likely loose the first few times while figuring out the best approach and re-enter the game with better strategies and tactics). Keeping the randomness at minimum and observation to the max our game relies on the player to sequentially get better at completing challenges to save their health for bigger battles.

5)  Head vs Hands

Paying attention to a balance of physical and mental challenges Pyramid Scheme caters to the audiences that would prefer puzzles over action. However, we made sure to include physical aspects into the designed of the mind puzzles (ex: timing how to get past the guard to the next safe zone). Paying attention how the physical movements affect the outcome of the puzzle will is an important component of our game. That mix of the head and hands is what gives it a wholesome feel, with some action and mental challenge.

6) Competition vs Cooperation

Since our game is a 1 player first person game there are no additional players that can join the effort or rests the current gamer. Cooperation with others is absence and competition to escape the tomb with a coveted prize is the objective.

7) Short vs Long

This is something we’ve been thinking about and came up with some options to make the game more urgent. Instead of giving the player an ample amount of time to solve the puzzle we wanted to create a sense of urgency using auditory cues of a menacing character fast approaching. That way the player feels a bit more pressured but still capable of passing the stage in time.

8) Rewards

Completion of the game is of ultimate satisfaction (being able to safely escape the pyramid with a coveted prize) so being able to pass through all the challenges and escape is the objective of the game and there is no point in playing the game further.

9) Punishment

Our game definitely relies on punishment as a motivation to continue playing (to get better at avoiding it) and to signal to a player to try a different approach. We use a loss of health points, alluding to shorter play since there’s a risk that the player won't make it all the way to the end if he doesn’t last till the very end. Another method of punishment that pertains to our game are setbacks (in case the puzzle isn't solved on time the player dies and restarts the challenge).

10) Freedom vs Controlled Experience

Having a controlled experience in my opinion generally always enhances the play because it provides guidance. Without having a map to tell you where to go or an opportunity to take any action (though can be a point of interest if interjected into a game from time to time)is too ambiguous and leave the player bored. Rest is a good context to let the player indulge by taking a scenic route to the next challenge/finish line after an exhaustive feat or to start a conversation with any of the AI’s in a crowded scene.  Freedom breaks up the pace of the game but Control is a great guide that streamlines the experience. For our game there are specific things being asked of the player and it’s up to them how they arrive there; however, there are a set number of ways that satisfy the task.

11) Simple vs Complex

A game’s simplicity vs complexity balance often makes and breaks the game. Decided on the level of simplicity to keep things to the point and giving it enough action in detail by increasing the challenge levels is crucial to the gamer’s experience. We decided to make the plays and interactions more complex/challenging and kept the surrounds as consistent and minimal as possible, allowing the player to interact with the opponents/mazes more intimately rather than wandering around into corners that are not meant to be challenging or exploratory. Paying attention to detail that inspires imagination is a lot more valuable than trying to render things in great detail that won't live up to the players’ dreams and expectations. 
Homework 8:

This being my very first Game Design class, and learning in depth about what actually goes into making a game idea into a playable application, I realized that even the simplest ideas are difficult to bring to reality while navigating rather sophisticated software with lots, and lots of digital knobs. And what I've also noticed is that the tutorials focus on advanced techniques, tips and tricks rather than providing answers for "beginner's" questions and trouble shoot problems.

I've found myself useful streamlining our game's storyline, figuring feasible settings, plays and challenges.


From the sketch above I've decided to make an object for frame 2 which is a torch lit corridor inside the Egyptian pyramid. Figuring out how to import textures and position objects seemed doable but troubleshooting the software without fully grasping what might be causing the glitches was rather frustrating.

It would be used in multiple settings, making up the maze as well as the entrance and exit hall inside the pyramid. 3 of the 4 puzzles will be using this setting which makes this object rather valuable for the game overall.