|The First Annual Game Design
Project Horseshoe 2006
Group Report: The Creation of Radically New Game Experiences
|Participants: A.K.A. "Playback to the Future"|
Andrew Tepper, eGenesis
|Mark Terrano, Hidden Path Entertainment|
|Daniel James, Three Rings||Joshua Howard, Carbonated Games, Microsoft|
|Eric Zimmerman, Gamelab||Nicole Lazzaro, XEODesign|
|Bob Bates, independent||Tony Goodman, Ensemble Studios, Microsoft|
|Thom Robertson, Aggressive Games||Facilitator: Van Webster, Webster Communications|
The creation of radically new game experiences that:
In an effort to bring experiences generated by games much further then they have gone today we considered a variety of new or different approaches to game design; approaches which are not currently well understood within game design circles. By presenting these approaches we hope to enable further discussion in an effort to expand the tools available today. We believe that better tools with which to tackle game subjects are necessary to deliver games that offer "more". More what?
Our desire to find new and different approaches stems from two main concerns.
These approaches are not wrong – they are merely insufficient, in our opinion, to result in the broad set of new experiences we believe games are capable of delivering.
Here is one way to build a game that delivers the experience of tasting
When considering this design and asking the question of how did we get this, we realized that a new approach was implied. Upon further consideration we came to understand the approach better and were able to name it – in this case we call this approach “Sense Tunneling.” Sense Tunneling then, is the transmission of a sense that is not possible on our device (in this case taste and texture) through a sensory pipe that is possible on our device (sight and sound). Having defined Sense Tunneling we can then consider how other game ideas could use the same technique - and the designers can use this technique to come up with ideas that fall far outside the currently expected results of our discipline.
So we have defined a new approach, Sense Tunneling. Will it change everything? Likely not. But it's a new tool, and now that it has a name it can be applied broadly, resulting in deeper understanding of its potential.
Having described in great detail the example of the Peach, let us now summarize several other new approaches, using the following format.
Using this format, each new approach will be grounded by hooking it to a sample game and design, as opposed to simply defining an esoteric new theory with no application.
1. NEW APPROACH: DIGITAL TELLS
Poker as a game can be considered as a math game or probability, but a deeper appreciation of it shows that it's also a game of people and subtle communication. Deliver poker with a set of features that allow the subtle non-verbal communication that happens in a real table game to be communicated on the computer, like looking at your cards, studying someone's chip count, playing with your own chips, etc.
The methodology used to convey this extra information is called Digital Tells. Digital tells – the preservation of information that does not change the traditionally defined game state) or "merely social" information – is a new and powerful approach to game design.
Note that Digital Tells have actually been shipped, as best demonstrated by Texas Hold'em on MSN Games. It belongs in this document because it is an example of an approach that is new and still not widely practiced.
Game Example: Dance Club
You are at a virtual night club. The music is blaring. You see someone you'd like to dance with, but the music is too loud, and typing is un-cool. In the absence of verbal communication, how can you find out if he or she wants to dance with you, or whether they are interested in interacting on a more meaningful level? The answer is through the correct interpretation of all the non-linguistic cues we send each other all the time. Things like facial expressions, body posture, physical gestures, and the distance we maintain between each other. The game takes the player through the five phases of courtship, which is "the means by which two people close the physical gap and emotional distance between them to become a loving pair."
In current games we either do not have the tools to faithfully display these cues, or in many cases, we throw away data that we do have. Understanding and refining these "digital tells" are the basis of the gameplay in Dance Club.
There is a social bandwidth of information present in our lives that normally isn't included in a game. By understanding what these are and finding ways to include them, we can make our games richer interpersonal experiences.
After playing this game, we expect players to remain hyper-aware of the body language and signals we use in the real world, and we expect body language to evolve as people become more aware of the signals they consciously or subconsciously send, in the same way that "computer speak" is working its way into contemporary English.
Distorting Physical Objects to Convey Emotional Weight
The wild west game Truth of the Gun reflects the relative importance of the guns by representing them as huge, ponderous weapons, Far larger than is realistic. The guns would not just be large; they would be heavy, slow to move, thunderous, and dangerous, even devilish and capricious.
This presentation attempts to ascribe a meaningful emotional weight to the objects of the game through relative scale. Thus we create a new vector of authorial intent, a way of injecting a point of view into a game. This point of view could be impressed upon the player, and carried by her into her life.
A further extension of the technique could be to dynamically scale objects over time; your house would be huge and important when you buy it, but small and inconsequential if you never visit.
2. NEW APPROACH: EURYTHMY
Game Example: Eurythmy
Eurhythmy takes a slow song and has a number of movement experts - ballet dancers, karate masters, original writers or performers, and have each do interpretive movements to the song while holding two Wii controllers. These parallel movement tracks form a catalog of ideal patterns that players are ultimately trying to match - not by watching, but by feeling.
The player holds two Wii controllers and does his own interpretation of the song. It's important that no expert's movements are shown to pattern after - the player is simply instructed to do their own interpretation.
The screen displays an image of that expert who is most closely being matched based on comparing the most recent 5-10 seconds of the player's movements to the catalog of tracks. Score is the closeness of the best match integrated over time.
The approach then was to take one form of physical motion and transforming it into a form of motion that the given device is capable of, but without attempting to directly simulate the original physical motion. The resulting interpretation of the original motion captures the essence of the motion better than a an attempt at a more literal simulation would have yielded.
3. NEW APPROACH: ECHO AMPLIFICATION
Game Example: Chanting
In The Beginning, the Ambient sound is made of many chaotic voices. You introduce a chant (microphone) , a cadence, or a riff, other individuals nearby resonate ,picking up your rhythm, tone, or phrasing and pattern; By adding subtle additional influences with voice, the chant is picked up by others and propagated through the group; building to unity, crescendo, and finally silence.
Echo Amplification is the application of subtle but well timed influences to unleash powerful energies or tendencies that are already present in the subject. This resonance can be musical, ideological, physical or something entirely different. Amplified Echoes can arise spontaneously from chaos in drum circles, "the wave" in a stadium, or the start of applause.
4. NEW APPROACH: TEMPORAL GAMES
These games are examples of a design approach that explores time on several levels:
We all inhabit space and time, and though space has been explored as an important component of games and gameplay, the form and content of time is something rich with possibilities for an interactive medium like games.
Furthermore, by playing with the pace of a game, the frequency with which players make moves in a game, and the duration of a game, this design approach also plays with the ways that games intersect with the lives of their players. Rather than creating a separate time in which a game is played, some of these games will interweave with the lives of their players, creating new social experiences, and finding new avenues for the games to create deep meaning for players.
Game Example: TREE: the single player game
In this game, the player takes the role of a tree. The passage of time occurs relative to the life experience of the tree, meaning that the life outside of the tree passes as a constantly shifting and moving blur. As the player, you inhabit the tree, stretching out in particular directions, reaching roots down towards water, stretching up and out to accommodate nests and spread seeds.
This might seem like a boring and non-eventful game, but nothing could be farther from the truth. With a constant whir of tree-dwelling inhabitants, passage of the seasons, encounters with human culture, insect swarms and disease to fight off, there are more options, encounters, and events with which to interact than a human player could ever hope to handle.
Game Example: FOREST: the multiplayer game
This worldwide, massively multiplayer game is perhaps the slowest game ever designed. An intense strategy game of resource management and territory acquisition, FOREST is a game that takes place in real time, with each player managing the gradual growth and life of a single tree. As a player's tree grows, tiny adjustments can be made to the way that the tree develops and grows over time. Most players log in occasionally to check in on the progress of the game and tweak their trees' development. Trees can drop seeds, which can sprout new trees, but if a player takes the role of a new sapling, they so as a very weak and vulnerable tree, which will take many years to grow strong, so seed-hopping as a form of movement across the map is a dangerous way to play the game.
There is a strong social component to the game. Players can form and re-form teams at will, and trees on a team interlink their territories to form a larger set of occupied land. The game weights success based on team size, so that small teams can do as well as very large ones. Over time, the game evolves as teams not only (very very) slowly move their trees around the map, but also as teams form, re-form, merge and splinter, in a highly political and contested process.
Players take their participation in FOREST seriously, and trees are passed down within a family from generation to generation over time. The game does have an end state, when a single team acts together so successfully that they control virtually the entire game world, but given the slow pace of the game and the squabbling nature of the player teams, this end state may never happen.
Game Example: MAYFLY: a community game of annual resolutions
Players belong to a web community. Once a year, they summarize their life from the past year. Another player reviews their year summary, and then evaluates whether the player kept to the previous year's resolution,. Then the evaluating player chooses a new resolution for the player. In this game, players make a very personal decision that affects the lives of other players quite directly, making one game move per year.
Tool Example: TEMPORAL EMOTION ENGINE: a development tool
This technology, developed by the Temporal School, has been used by game developers that are creating more conventional games – meaning, games that feature 3D characters walking around in 3D environments.
The Temporal Emotion Engine "reads" the emotional content of a scene, based on generic parameters like rapidity of user input or density of movement and characters in a scene, as well as custom-designed input factors which can be scripted by the developers using the tool.
The engine uses this "emotional reading" of a game to affect the speed at which the game plays out, slowing down and speeding up time – not necessarily for strategic effect, but to help express the subjective experience of the passage of time as one way that the game creates emotional experience for the player.
Engine Example: TIMELINE: an expressive game engine
Allows players to mix and match timelines from different geographical
places and historical periods, literally mashing them up. Control uses
a DJ-style turntable, on which timelines can be placed, and sped up and
slowed down. Less of a what-if simulator than an expressive, aesthetic
tool that uses time as its content, TIMELINE nevertheless has been used
as a "serious" game experience for learning about history.
Game Example: Chiyogami Psychedelia
Chiyogami Psychedelia is a game that will exist within the context of a forthcoming massively multi-player game built for user-created content. It seeks to create an entrancing experience between two players.
Chiyogami Psychedelia attempts to combine the following design patterns;
Action Items: Chiyogami Psychedelia will be created by Daniel James' company Three Rings as a part of its forthcoming game, due 2007.
Note: Chiyogami Psychedelia was not presented, but it is included here for completeness.
6. NEW APPROACH: THE ZOO OF POST-SINGULARITY HUMANITY
Game Example: Playground of the Giant Brains
Preamble: The Singularity Awaits
Some believe that humanity stands on the brink of the Singularity, a time when the rate of change of technology becomes exponential. It is theorized that computers will become intelligent enough to be able to design new iterations of computers, that in turn will design the next iteration more rapidly. Incredibly rapid progress in science and technology, specifically molecular nanotechnology, will remove any practical restrictions on the computing power available to these superhuman intelligences. Post-singularity the new dominant life form on Earth will have super-human intelligence, capable of cognition beyond the understanding of our little human minds. Many believe that humanity will evolve itself through augmentation into these intelligences, or we might hope that as their teachers and creators, they emulate some shred of human consciousness.
Whether thought of as post-human or robotic, these Giant Brains will have nothing better to amuse themselves but the Playing of Games. This is a certainty; that is how they will spend their vast parallel processing cycles, especially as they look ahead to immortal billions of years in the vastness of space.
What Games will they play? What will their playground be?
The Playground of the Giant Brains invites us to imagine the almost inconceivable; consciousness that resides within the computer's virtual embrace, without any clumsy user interface to mediate. The concept of personality and individual will be mutable; with no barrier of poor communication between minds, total communication and sharing of consciousness might be possible.
It is the author's belief that Mathematics, Music and Banter will be the core parts of the playground;
Some other interesting prospects, although the author believes that these rely too much on the vestiges of humanity remaining in these robotic minds;
The Interests of the Contemporary Designer
The author believes that the question is relevant because, as Dorks and Game Designers we are most likely to be the intimate parents of these future cyclopean intelligences. They will emerge and be trained to interact with poor old humanity in virtual environments. As human beings augment themselves, they will do so primarily in order to engage in more sophisticated simulations – to play games. If we teach them nicely they might look after us as nice pets.
In addition it is interesting as a conceptual experiment; what would entertain a God?
Action items: we should all await the coming of our Robot Overlords and practice being cute pets.
7. NEW APPOACH: CREATE A HIT GAME THAT TEACHES VALUABLE REAL
Become a Real World Rock Star
A game like Guitar Hero but ultimately teaches you how to play an instrument. The game also helps you form a band, perform concerts, and write hit albums.
No music skill required, just a love of Rock and Roll and a desire to be rich, famous and oversexed.
8. NEW APPROACH: THE WONDER OF COMMUNION
What we believe: The experience of wonder connecting between all living beings. Gazing into each other's eyes and actions, as if seeing each other for the first time. Exploring the distance between them from their different beings. Finding a way to close the gap between them.
Game Example: Dragonfly and the Mother Ship
A game that creates the sense of wonder and communion between players from two different realities. The game progresses as they find a connection and explore the possibilities between them.
Each player start separated in different worlds. They have different playing pieces and physics. The players at this point explore their independent realities how they work.
Then there appears a connection a shared element in their worlds. They cannot see into the other realm, in terms of the other's reality, but they see a shadow, a portion of this reality projected into their plane of existence like Plato's shadow cave or flatland. The players explore this unusual behavior that results from the intersection between their worlds. Going beyond what they can do on a basic level, they explore how they can interact w/the phenomena. Eventually they can use their basics and the shadow projections to interact with the other being on the other side of the phenomena. They can continue with Easy Fun or look for Hard Fun such as building a bridge between.
Later the basics form into symbols like word or math where one side has all letters and the other all vowels or all numbers and all operators. The gravity works differently on each side.
Later they can form meaning where the meaning gets translated differently on each side and they have to interpret what the other side is trying to say or achieve a goal where one side's move appears as an opposite on the other side like an antonym engine.
A Story board
Curiosity Wonder Surprise
Going for hard fun. By working together the blocks can create a bridge to move over a gap
The properties and actions of the pieces are transposed increasing interest and gaming opportunities.
Inputs and objects are rewired to come out differently.
Sense of expanded or contracted scale.
Feeling of a build up of what you'd like to be able to, what would be possible to do. The implication of a vastness of the intelligence and much larger world on the other side of the gap.
1. Create list of action items and responsibilities - group
select a section:
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