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Game Design: Fram B

Alistair Knock // 2007-03-30

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[Note - numerals in square brackets indicate the affinity of the statement with Gee's 36 learning principles 1. The referencing is not exhaustive. The nomenclature is included in the appendices]

Game Name: Fram B

Game Objective:

Rescue a dispersed team of six superhero individuals from different locations and bring them back together, using a combination of acquired third-person (god/design) and first-person (character/testing) skills.

Intended Game Learning Outcomes:

  1. (If necessary) to coerce the player into accepting a new cultural model [35, affinity group principle]
  2. To gain a greater level of understanding of societal barriers which arise as a result of individual's impairments and disabilities [32, cultural models about semiotic domains principle - the player may have no previous experience in this domain, including having a directly opposed attitude toward disability]
  3. To develop constructive and flexible thinking techniques in order to remove/smooth these barriers
  4. To consider direct transfer of knowledge/techniques into real life environment [34, dispersed principle - since the game is an abstraction of reality, the intention is that having learned from the game, the player re-applies this to reality and in turn shares some of the outcomes with others directly or indirectly]

Backstory:

¥Hamish, deny them this privilege. You of all people know of our core aims. You cannot allow this patronising beast to take control of our circumstance. The mission remains as we agreed in Jooal 4483. You will detract from these infidel conversors in public and disable their ability to mobilate the masses.

Eaten any good books lately?

We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile. We are the Swarm.

Hamish, I can see you. I know who you are. I watch you... I KNOW. I am what you see. I am what you watch. I am it. I am the hands. I am the feet. I am the eyes. I am the body. I. AM. ROSEBUD. ROOOOSEBUUUD... THE WATCHER. THE FEAR. THE ETERNAL. THE SAINT! You are nothing.

The year is 4507. Society has progressed far since the olden days of exclusion, now that humanity has technivolved to being 'born' with four wheeled limbs, widened the limits of aural and visual sensitivity, and risen beyond context-based language where words require correct positioning within a stream. So-called nationally treasured buildings were laughed at and immediately razed following the Shift. The planetoid was terraformed as part of the Great Development to meet our requirements. We now live in the new age, a neo-Communistic enterprise where the collective is integrally bound and where weak and strong have equal influence and power - both of which are miniscule and utterly influence-less.

I am Loviatar, daughter of Tuoni. I am one of the Chosen Ones. A special breed of humanity, slowly evolving from the days of exclusion, where to be impaired by one sense was somehow seen to be impaired by them all. Somehow the Chosen Ones - there now are 18 who are known to us - survived ridicule and disregard, and have seen it through the Shift. Now, they are Kings. The loss of one sense heightens the sensitivity of the others. The loss of two - well, their power is beyond comprehension. We are the superhuman, sustained through the chemfarms and deployed to specific incidents and eventualities where 'normal' (hah!) humanity with all their knowledge and robotic dreams cannot extend their grip. My breed is of pain: long afore, my ancestors had to manage their pain, to separate it from their lives and treat it as a separate entity. Not now: I feel and know pain, but I can refocus it. Like the other Chosen Ones, the mirror effect gives us new strengths. I am stronger through my weakness.

I am also lucky. I was not taken. Three days ago, six of the Chosen Ones were somehow vanished from this place, an unforeseen and unimaginable event. The infogrid is positively pulsating with fear. 'What will we do without these heroes?' 'Is Armageddon nigh?' Such colluded innocence and ignorance. The Swarm does its best to keep spirits high, in its own malevolent and misguided way, but there is not stopping the worry. Can we cope with a whole third missing? Where have they gone?

I hear via my contacts in the grid, a suspicion of kidnap to a K-dimension. K-dimensions are notoriously difficult to pin down once they've been created; unlike the glowing wormholes of normal space, the temporality of K-dimensions is skittish at best, adopting its own stationary position across a breadth of even 7,000 centons in the 4th. To be blunt, unless we happen upon some MacroBible™ within the fabric of the grid, we shall not find them. They are alone. Again.

Game Type:

The game will immerse the player in a series of different environments and characters with the aim of showing how people with different disabilities/impairments can fully engage with the 'world' once societal barriers are removed [4, semiotic domains principle - real experiences and solutions are communicated via the game, inducting the player into the field of disability awareness]. The core activities are design, and testing. The game as planned is single player.

The game will be directly educational, intended as a staff development / self-paced training module which is not designed around repeated play, other than when the player wishes to refresh their knowledge [1, active, critical learning principle - in this case, overtly]. In contrast to most disability awareness training, which is delivered traditionally by a speaker to listeners using verbal case studies, the fully experiential nature of the game is expected to provide a more lucid understanding of the problems and solutions faced. Crucially [6, psychosocial moratorium principle] the player can use the entire game as a training game in advance of often inevitable real life experience. This can be done without fear of damage to individual's feelings or being frowned upon by peers, allowing players of different disability awareness to train and retrain.

The game will be achievement-based, where completion of a particular level delivers a 'trophy' which contributes to overall progression in the game, and may be required in order to unlock other parts of the game. [11, achievement principle] In a similar vein to many platform games, such as Legend of Zelda, Crash Bandicoot, etc., at any point during play, the player can choose from several different levels. That is, they are not bound into a linear and fixed progression and can choose to tackle the levels/tasks they find easiest - or hardest - first. [16, multiple routes principle]

Game Audience:

The player will essentially require extrinsic motivation to play the game. It is a training material, rather than entertainment in itself - the motivation will come either from the player, through peers, or through a statutory requirement (education or employment) to participate. However, the game will offer enough challenge and development opportunity that, once immersed, it will not 'feel' like a simulation or training theatre, but will be enjoyable and self-motivating in itself.

Characters:

Each character is present in one level in the first phase of the game; the second phase involves combinations of players in order to further illustrate the strengths of specialisation.

  1. Brahma. Deity; the unnamed (to the player) god perspective, in which they spend much of their time tweaking, idealising, and deploying new designs to maximise the potential of the current character. The god perspective has a wide - but limited - range of tools at their disposal. Unlike other progression-based games where the god is the sole character (e.g. Populous) this does not change throughout the game, in order to provide a comforting environment to the learner. The skills of the character are the focal point, rather than the tools available to the god.
  2. Stevland. One of comparatively few, a Rothko. Has no 2nd and 3rd dimensional vision - does possess 1st (X) dimensional sight but application of this is severely limited to vague linear colour discernment. Primary heightened sense is hearing, with frequency range doubled and perception of modulated transients significantly faster.
  3. Anubis. A Lotus. Immobile quadruped - mobility is available solely through inertia rather than motion (various solutions; Anubis uses multi-directional (xy planar - no vertical motion) fermium-jets). Primary heightened sense is logic perception.
  4. Ludwig. Descendant of Satie. Now entirely void of hearing. Primary heightened sense: having being able to hear in the past. (Memory remains).
  5. Leon. A Ryu. Lacks ability to read and write, but speaks lucidly and was a protagonist in developing the contextless language. Primary heightened sense: speech recognition.
  6. KaZy (née Kajun). A Zymergy. Once fully paralysed, now a fully rotoformed amalgam of pico-programmed tissue. His interior is dead but provides flex for the exoskeleton. Primary heightened sense: spatial awareness.
  7. Marvin. Unusually, a proto-tensoid who burned out and was refurnished. Chemical imbalance leads to perma-depression and de-motivation. Actions are apparently sluggish but in fact are well calculated, taking into account a multiversal anticipation which at times extends 30 centons futurist, with near 98% accuracy. Primary heightened sense: social disconnect/apathy (non-excitement allows logic to permeate).

Sample Scenarios:

  1. Anubis's 'easy' scenarios could involve being faced with only one route out of a room by stairs which are too steep to ascend. Brahma can smooth the steps into a ramp - however, simply applying a smooth tool will be insufficient, since the angle will remain too great. Anubis must test the angle at different points, so that both can eventually identify the maximum angle at which Anubis can ascend. This could involve completely reshaping and extending the egress area - the actual aesthetic design of the ramp is largely irrelevant to completing the task.

    Anubis later runs into a pitch dark room. By now the player will have encountered a similar scenario with Stevland, and so may be tempted to deploy the same tactics. There could be several solutions, based on Anubis' observations: he may have acquired tools to create light, which will enable him to move onto the second objective; if not, the two characters must identify that lights do indeed exist, along with switches, but that the switches are too high for Anubis to reach. [28, discovery principles - allowing for the possibility of non-discovery] A simple re-form will allow Anubis to access the lights and proceed; the player is required to bring real world experience and innovation into the game to first identify what the puzzle is (the difficult part), before completing it (relatively simple).

  2. With Leon, the level's puzzles will have strong written linguistic requirements. Brahma must uncover devices which can convert the texts / allow Leon to write and spell (i.e. assistive technologies) and apply them to Leon in the correct way so that they are effective. In the same vein as existing games such as Deus Ex, the devices located can augment Leon: they will remain active in future levels, meaning the impairment is largely accommodated and 'removed'.
  3. A conceivable scenario is one which is detached from the known impairment of the character, but instead projected onto that of a sub-character via the plot. Consider Marvin, in a ballroom with 300 people. A sub-character, previously unknown, begins to panic and exhibit strange qualities. The sub-character is experiencing mass social-phobia. Marvin - who himself is not entirely in tune with his emotions - as a superhero must respond to this as best he can and probably attempt to isolate and comfort the character to alleviate the symptoms. To the player, this abstraction may come as a surprise, but actually illustrates the greatest eventuality in real life: encountering and supporting a disabled character is far more likely than being a disabled character.

Technicalities:

The game switches between two standard game models. The 'god sim' model positions the player in an 'up above' view where the god is looking down on the character and their environment. In this mode, the player is able to design, build, amend, and destroy parts of the environment within parameters which are prescribed for each level. This mode is where the player deploys their knowledge and experience. The second mode is in the first-person-shooter vein: a three-dimensional perspective where the player becomes the character, and interacts with the environment in accordance with their character's abilities (and disabilities). This is the testing mode, where the game provides substantial feedback to the player about their knowledge and experience, enabling them to improve their play and learn.

The interplay between these two modes of design and test/play allows the player to extend their own competence at their own speed - the successful feedback and progress by the character gives the designer confidence, and the achievement by the designer encourages feedback/play from the character. [14, regime of competence and 8, identity principle: this is complicated by the dual mode in some ways, but in others actually helps since the projective identity is essential the god model; the virtual entity is the current character]

If developed the game would run most cost-efficiently using an existing 3D engine, e.g. the engine from Black and White2, a god-game which runs in the third-person in a design/delegation mode, but which also allows the player to take control of particular central characters.

In theory, a person well versed in real life disability awareness would only need to master the particular controls of the game (and may already recognise them from the genre), since they could conversely deploy their own experience to immediately guide the characters. Essentially, the ease and speed to which the game could be completed by experts would provide an ideal pre-release testing environment. [no particular principle; to my reading, Gee does not adequately explore the likelihood of players being superior to game designs in expertise. In mainstream life, this is unlikely since the pre-game materials should dissuade players from beginning, but with targeted and purposeful training games, inciting boredom and apathy in a player who already knows the material is reputationally dangerous]

Scatter

Nomenclature:

Word Count

~2137 (excluding headings, explanatory/footnotes and miscellany)

Footnotes

  1. Gee, J. P. (2003, Palgrave Macmillan), What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning And Literacy
  2. The creator of Black and White, Peter Molyneaux, has a pedigree of god games including one of the first examples, Populous, a historical civilisation based game; Syndicate, a game with a futuristic gang-warfare style identity, which (personally) enforced a cynical sentiment toward formal organisation; and Theme Park, a funfair and rollercoaster simulator which is less successful than others in its genre due to the limited realism of the interpretation of physics.