Designing with PGDI: Answers to Some Questions

I’ve had a bit of a lapse in posts on My Childhood on the RS Anthony, mostly due to going to the Queerness in Games convention this weekend, and a general amount of work getting in the way. I’ve been thinking a lot about the game, though, and about some decisions I’ve made about the questions I posed in the last post. Here, I’m going to take those questions and write out some answers or some attempts at answers. This is going to really reflect how I think about design and what I think about in this phase of the process. In the end, I’m going to come up with some deeper questions, which should be addressed by next week.

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Designing with PGDI: My Childhood on the RS Anthony

Over the last week I have come up with concepts for three games (game 1, game 2, game 3) that were made using components from PGDI as a backbone to inform design. This is part of an ongoing, transparent design process for my work this quarter. Yesterday, I decided on one of the design concepts to work on for this project. If the title didn’t give it away, I’m going to be working on the third concept, which I am titling “My Childhood on the RS Anthony”. Here, I’m going to outline what the game is about and what I am going to work on right now. Note that this is a transparent design process, so I will be discussing things like the way the game ends, and any surprises the player might encounter. I have been kind and have decided to try out a highlight to reveal method of hiding anything surprising from general view. If you see an area of blank text, highlight it. You were warned, though.


The Concept

My Childhood on the RS Anthony (short title: Childhood) is a game about a child on a space research station where the children have begun developing superhuman abilities. The player controls one of these children, and customizes how the child looks, and ideally their starting ability (let’s call the abilities Psi). The research station is fraught with problems, and other characters in the game will present their problems to the player, and the player is allowed to help, hinder, or ignore the characters and their plights. Whichever choice the player makes, the player will need to navigate the station, using Psi to access areas and to find a mcguffin, which will provide a new Psi for the player to use. As the game progresses, the player will acquire more Psi, and the route to acquire new Psi will require more from the player. Also as the game progresses, the consequences of the player’s choices will be shown, and none of them will be entirely positive outcomes. The game will end with the player discovering that the child they have been controlling was manufactured by the research station, perhaps in an effort to weaponize children.

The Questions

I have a bunch of questions that I still need to answer:

  1. What am I going to build this game with?
    1. Options are Unity, GameMaker, Inform 7 (text game),  or something else
  2. What is this game going to look like?
    1. What will the characters look like?
    2. What will the environment look like?
    3. Do we need a font? Which?
    4. Do we need a GUI? What will it look like?
  3. What will the controls be like?
  4. What perspective is this game going to use?
    1. Options are top-down, first-person, over-the shoulder, follow behind.
  5. What options do players set for their characters?
    1. What appearance options will the player get to set?
    2. What personality options will the player get to set?
    3. What ability options will be available to the player?

I could go on, but that’s enough for this week. I already have some ideas. First, to accommodate my project being displayed in a studio setting, it would be nice if I could get the game to work with a game pad. This can be easily done, though, if I use Unity, since game pad functionality is built into the engine. If I’m using Unity, then I’ll probably do 3D, since Unity is good at doing 3D, and I don’t want to learn the 2D functions in the next few weeks. If the game is 3D, I don’t want to have to make very complicated models, so I’m probably going to do something with cubes for characters, perhaps stacking some cubes on top of each other. I’ve also been curious as to how it would look as a first-person game, but the game would probably do better with a third-person camera, probably following behind, so the player can see their customized character at all times.

That’s already a bunch of questions answered. Now just a dozen or so more before I get into the deeper questions, like what content is in the game, what the narrative is like, how does the gameplay work, etc. You know, trivial stuff. That come next week. Maybe with some mockups.

Designing with PGDI: Set 3 Conceptualization

I’m back again for the third set conceptualization that I laid out in a previous post. To recap, this series of three posts is my taking three sets of PGDI components and coming up with general designs that emphasize those components. I’m writing these posts to be transparent in my design process, since this is essentially a test of how useful PGDI is for driving design. This post will largely be unstructured freewriting, with me just wrestling with the components at hand.

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Designing with PGDI: Set 2 Conceptualization

A bit ago, I proposed three different sets of randomly-generated components for designing a game with PGDI. In the last post, I worked out a concept for the first set of components, a game about a minor god trying to gain a following among both the people and the larger pantheon, in order to ascend into greater divinity. In this post, I’m going to work through the second set of components, in order to find a concept for that game. The eventual aim is to select one of these concepts to be made over the next eight weeks, as part of my first quarter in my MFA program.

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Designing with PGDI: Set 1 Conceptualization

In the last post, I randomly generated some PGDI components to use in driving the design of a game from blank slate to playable game. To do that, I polled a social media network for numbers and assigned them to the components. I got three sets from people, and so I’m going to examine each set of components individually. The aim with these Set conceptualizations is to come up with a good idea for something to explore. This will be pretty freeform. A lot of this is freewriting, rather than structured writing. By Tuesday, I’m going to be selecting one of these design ideas for going forward.

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Designing with PGDI: Selecting Components

This quarter, I am expected to present something at Open Studios, an event that showcases Digital Arts & New Media student work (plus a few diligent people), in various stages of completion, in a gallery-like setting. I went through a number of possible projects before I finally settled on Designing with PGDI. Designing with PGDI is a project that follows game creation from blank slate to a working game, using the Player-Game Descriptive Index (PGDI) as a tool for design. PGDI is a model I developed, over the past three years, for describing digital games (and apparently doors) and their players. Follow the link if you want to know more. The first part of the process is selecting some components to focus on for the game I’m going to design.

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Experimenting with PGDI: Doors — Part 2 of 3

Continuing from last time (Part 1), in this post I’m going to continue describing my front door using PGDI. This time is going to be a bit rough, because we’re looking at the Mastery and Immersion components. I’m just going to jump right into this.

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