Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Assignment 6, Research Paper Draft

Since you said we could do it, I chose to start on the beginning of my mini-thesis paper. I've done a lot of research (see my bibliography) but I just need to compile my notes and write the actual paper portion.

It's also questionable as to why I'd write a paper for a project I haven't completed yet; I might have to throw out a lot of research when it turns out to be irrelevant.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Assignment 5, Conceptual Prototype

A short single player FPS where you design a short single player FPS.

(a) distribution; played in your browser for free
(b) interface; hardcore WASD interface regresses seamlessly to "mouse-only" waypoint interface
(c) content; narrative and gameplay that isn't just about male power fantasy.

CREATION, anyone can write or draw or paint (maybe not well), but very few people make games. How can I make a fake virtual game design tool more intuitive?

NARRATIVE + ARCHITECTURE, player-controlled architecture (the level) results in different responses / experiences, couple it with a fragmented narrative.

AUDIENCE, is it possible to make something that both hardcore gamers and my mother would enjoy? (If I have to have a separate "casual mode" then those are actually two different games.)

* * *

For my final project, I want to build some sort of artistic first person game for web browser deployment using the 3D browser plug-in Unity, targeting some notion of "accessibility" through distribution, interface and content while still pursuing my interests in architecture / narrative / interactivity.

Here are my goals in more detail:

Accessible distribution = it is widely available and easily accessed from a computer. Using Unity, I am able to upload the game files to a server -- players must simply visit the web page to play, and content is streamed through the plug-in and into their browser, much like a Flash game. The difference here, however, is that Unity is a high-performance professional-grade 3D game engine.

Accessible interface = the controls are intuitive to use and players can meaningfully express their actions / intentionality in the game. Some players find it very difficult to navigate spaces with typical FPS controls, so I will do research into alternative control schemes. (This is a software approach because I don't have the expertise to solve it in hardware.) There are several precedents to alternative FPS control schemes: "Grotto King," "Epic Citadel" and "Fatale."

Accessible content = the mechanics, narrative and architectural context do not cater to a hardcore teenage male market but rather a wider, more casual market. The test for this will be if I can get my own mother to play it and engage with it meaningfully, i.e. understand the aesthetic effects.

Stuff will happen = there will be a gameplay mechanic and things will happen. There are many artistic first person games where you merely walk around. I think that's boring and doesn't fully leverage interactivity -- it's pretty much just an architectural walkthrough.

It'll be single player.

It will favor poetry over prose, and mood over plot.

It'll be short. Typical playthroughs will last about 5 minutes.

It'll be suitable for a gallery setting. Some of my previous FPS work has been displayed in galleries, and I can't possibly imagine such installations being effective. They're usually designed to be played alone by hardcore gamer audiences who are incredibly familiar with FPS conventions.

... so the core structure, tech, implementation and design constraints are in-place.

Now I just need an idea.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Assignment 4, Paragraphs on Readings

Salen, Katie and Zimmermann, Eric (2003): Rules of Play, Ch 3
I read this book a while ago, so it was nice to re-visit it. (I pretty much chose MFADT based on the fact that Katie Salen headed the program for a while and is faculty here.) What I find most compelling about this chapter is the idea of "transformative play" -- that gameplay can perform a sort of recursion back onto the structure of the game itself -- and I hope it's evident in my work so far, where the gameplay consists of modifying the game board. However, I find their analysis of Callois to be less useful than they say. Analyzing and labeling and classifying games does not necessarily yield anything constructive. To a degree, you just see what you want to see; these structures we assign to games don't necessarily exist.

Norman, Donald: Design Thinking, A Useful Myth
I'm really sympathetic to Norman's critique of design culture here: the idea that there is a higher ideal of design, of some perfect Platonic ideal form of an object, and that perfection is (perhaps) an Apple product or something. Yes, sometimes the products are genuinely better designed and function better, but many people buy into it because it confers social status and class privilege. When I see someone with an Macbook Pro, I can instantly make generalizations about their income and education level (middle class, college educated at the least) that are generally correct. Norman's right; it's a cult. But I also agree with his latter conclusion, that maybe this cult isn't so bad.

Norman, Donald (1988): The Design of Everyday Things, Ch 1
Norman's work on usability and HCI has been a big influence on me, especially when considering how it's currently used in video game development -- as a weapon against players, to "enslave" them and test to see which aspects can create an addictive mechanism that compels them to continue playing. Games like World of Warcraft, Halo or even Farmville exploit this work on usability to make something that crosses the line from "accessible" to "hyper-accessible" to "addictive." I believe this is unethical design practice. Unfortunately Norman wrote this at a time when HCI and usability weren't so commonplace, so I'm not sure what his philosophical stance is on "using accessibility for evil." His writing and thinking seems to be generally amoral.