The Game Developer's Journal: The Great Outdoors!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Great Outdoors!

How do you, as a spectator, think I want this game project to turn out? Do you
suppose I want to end up with a product that's fun for me? Am I just aiming to please the players?

Let me answer those questions for you. I myself want to enjoy "The Amoeba of Light." The concepts for the game are ones that excite me personally; yet I also want the consumer to be very happy.

Freedom to make choices has always been central to my ideal of pleasing gameplay. It probably stems from the longing--the intrinsic desire--to do something spectacular. With the autonomy to explore a world* where so many outcomes are possible, I can feel like I'm writing my own destiny...albeit in a virtual *reality that is obviously separate from real life.

Presenting, the U.A.E! No, not the United Arab Emirates. I'm referring to the "Use Anything Environment," (I made it up). Amoenu's journey and the majority of gameplay happens in the natural world, as I've stated before. You can utilize almost any object you see to conquer obstacles.

The pervasive theme for the entire game is realism, and the U.A.E. fits hand in hand with this goal. Allowing the player to use anything in the game offers a degree of freedom as seen real life.

Trees, rocks, moss, vines, stones, sponges, seaweed, sand, snow, caves, fire, water...imagine for a moment all of the things you could do with these objects. They aren't too exhilarating, as some are everyday phenomena. Now, can you take a step further and imagine what these objects could cause? Wildfires, avalanches, mud slides, floods, white rapids. Add thunderstorms, wild creatures, night and day cycles, caverns. And add to that the ability to can break, create, or shatter a variety of objects, and you suddenly have an overwhelming number of ramifications in a single game environment.

I presume this concept may still be somewhat vague in your mind. Let me give you a real example.

Do you see that strange thing that looks like a big pinecone on bulgy legs? That's a waterbear, a creature that is microscopic like the amoeba. Let's assume it wants to eat Amoenu. The player has many ways to avert this beast. Hey, there's a rock; you could throw it at the monster and see what happens. Behind Amoenu is an exploding fruit tree, which yields--you guessed it--exploding fruit. That's another option. Maybe try to feed it a fruit? Break off a tree limb and shoe it away? Find another route?

Of course, explosive fruit isn't a natural phenomenon, and so one could tell that "The Amoeba of Light" has some expressions of creativity. Actually, I don't like the idea of "as real as possible" because it seems too dull. It could still be a joy to play, yes, but I'd like to tap into my right brain to create this game. So there's some deviation from reality in the game. I'm looking to make the game real to life, yet also creative.

I call a game "institutionalized" if it has some unrealistic aspect about it, like life meters, menus, or timers. Such aspects require the player to work within a "policy," if you will, that determines the outcomes of the game. The keyword is "unrealistic."

Start with any game that replicates a real-life activity, and then find some procedure in the game that spoils the realism. I'm specifically thinking of on-screen stats, but I suppose it could be anything that has this effect. The game isn't going to be ruined itself, it's just that we know the institutional feature is something we wouldn't find in the real world.

A boss battle is typically an institutional thing, since you have to defeat it in a prescribed way. Real life? Guns, guns, guns and it'd be done!

If a game had none of these, you may forget you're playing a game! I want a certain degree of institutionalization in my game (even if it's just for the comfort of tradition--though I mustn't let that hamper my success).

My goal is to create a fun experience with freedom and pleasure from having so many choices before you. Games where you decide--those are the most meaningful games for me. The U.A.E. is one way this is accomplished.

Screenshot of Ratchet of Clank: Up Your Arsenal from Insomniac Games,  (C) 2014 Insomniac Games, Inc. The rights to the image are not mine.

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