Heaving a Huge Sigh of Relief

Goodness it’s been a while. These last few weeks have been nothing but rush to get significant work done on three projects that plagued be throughout the semester. But they are done for now and I can relax for a little bit. What I’m going to do today is recap the last four months or so, and explain what I am going to be doing this Summer. I’m going to do this in the following way:

  1. A list of the games I played or watched plays of (via roommate or YouTube)
  2. An update on the game project for the semester (The Doors Are Frozen Shut)
  3. An update on the narrative project
  4. An update on the player types project
  5. My plan for the next 3.5 months

I have made links so that you can skip past things like the lest of games. If the more link is showing below, then you’ll need to hit it to use the links. So without further ado.

Games I Have Player or Watched Since January

Title Reason
Aquaria* Research
Bastion Enjoyment
Battletoads* Enjoyment
Beneath the Waves Enjoyment
Canabalt Research
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night‡ Research
ChatChat Research
Cry of Fear* Enjoyment
Dark Cloud‡ Research
Dark Souls‡ Research
Deadly Premonition Class
Deus Ex: Human Revolution‡ Research
Diablo II Enjoyment
Donky Kong‡ Research
Dragon Age II* Roommate
Dragon Age: Awakening* Roommate
Dragon Age: Origins‡ Roommate
Dungeon Defenders* Research
Fable 2* Roommate
Fable* Roommate
Façade‡ Research
Fez† Enjoyment/Research
Final Fantasy XIII-2* Roommate
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest‡ Research
Flower* Research
Freedom!* Research
From Dust* Research
Heavy Rain‡ Research
How to Raise a Dragon Research
Ilomilo‡ Research
Kinect Adventures Fitness (Really)
Kingdoms of Amalus: Reckoning Enjoyment
Kirby Superstar Ultra‡ Research
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland* Research
Legend of Mana‡ Research
Mass Effect 3* Roommate
MegaMan 2‡ Research
MegaMan 3‡ Research
MegaMan 4‡ Research
MegaMan 5‡ Research
MegaMan 6‡ Research
MegaMan 7‡ Research
MegaMan Ultra Enjoyment
MegaMan‡ Research
Minecraft‡ Enjoyment
Morrowind‡ Research
Nier‡ Research
Noby Noby Boy* Research
Persona 3‡ Research
Phantasy Star* Roommate
Phantasy Star2‡ Roommate
Pokemon Black† Enjoyment/Research
Portal‡ Research
Silent Hill: Homecoming Class
Skyrim‡ Research
Soul Calibur III‡ Research
Space Channel 5* Research
Super Kaizo World* Enjoyment
Terreria Enjoyment
Words With Friends‡ Research
* – Games I have only watched
† -Games I watched and played for different reasons
‡ – Games I have played before, but only watched this time

This totals 60 games. I have probably missed some along the way. Most games were played/watched in the last two months. The games marked as research are because they were being considered for going into one of my projects, or they are actually cited there.

The Doors Are Frozen Shut

I turned in my game project last Tuesday. I am utterly done with this thing. Really, trying to go through and use the principles in Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling to make a game turns out to be fighting with systems. I still think that my original idea, 30 Cycles to Jubilee, is an interesting idea, and I may revisit it. The biggest problem I had with that project was the graphics. I am not very good at manipulating 3D Studio Max to be able to make the ship I want. Not in any reasonable length of time anyway. It may en up as a 2D project in the future, or I might be better able to make the graphics in something other than 3DSMax. I also found a huge disparity between what I created in 3DSMax and what got imported into Unity. It was getting to the point where I needed to build whole levels in 3DSMax, and then use the whole model and hope it didn’t get distorted in Unity. This is what I did for The Doors Are Frozen Shut.

The Doors Are Frozen Shut is, in it’s current state, an apartment handyman/sadist simulator, since the only thing players can do is repair lights to make people like them, or break lights to make people hate them. It is, in its own way, boring. The whole scenario of the game is boring, and I feel like the way I have it set up is not the way that I’d want to go about doing it. Currently, I’m faking global variables in Javascript by passing around a Unity object that just holds common variables. Working with Unity has felt both liberating and confining. It’s easy to do things with 3D objects in Unity, certain things in Unity, like global variables and object snapping, seemed out of reach. It was hard to get objects to talk to each other, often I was searching for an object, grabbing its game object, getting one of its scripts and then directly calling one of those scripts functions to communicate. This is probably a convoluted way of doing it, but it was the easiest I found.

Needless to say, I will not be revisiting The Doors Are Frozen Shut. It is a project that I don’t enjoy working on anymore, and one that is unimportant to me, as I feel I’ve gleaned all I can from Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling. Still, after giving it such a bad rap, you can download it here for Windows and try it out.

Narrative in Video Games

Last week, I marked this down as ‘next-to-the-last draft’ and I’m going to look at it again in a few days or so. Once I fix up what remaining problems it has, I will be looking to send it out to something like Games in Culture or Game-Studies. The goal for the independent study and this semester was to craft a publishable, scholarly article, and I think I’ve done that. Of course, it’s up to the reviewers and editors to decide what’s wrong with it.

The paper underwent a strange transformation from discussing video games and their narratives via case studies to developing a framework based on another. The original structure was described here, and much of that structure is now gone. Currently, the paper takes a stab at exposition in video games, attacking the modern market on relying on cutscenes and dialogue to explain the events of the game. It calls for video games to more readily harness the nature of the medium (that of requiring action from the player). Two models of describing/designing narrative in videogames are examined and a push for being able to describe the narrative of a game through the actions that a player performs was suggested. I then built a framework based upon one that I found, in which I used examples from Mega Man games, Flower and Dark Souls to explain how the actions in the game elicit narrative. Eventually, I might make a game that tries to make narrative sense of the player’s actions. It’s not an easy task, because it is basically Façade, which was difficult to create from what its creators say in a number of publications.

I will be sure to let everyone know if this paper gets accepted anywhere.

Player Types

12,000+ words. Still lacking a conclusion, an abstract, references pages, and any semblance of a single style, this project represents the most I have written about a single, non-fiction subject, all in the same place. I am well over the page limit for this now, and I apologize to both my professor, who had to bear with me as I forced this project upon her, and my editor, who has to tell me what to cut out of what I expect is a tightly packed chapter. Yes, it is a chapter, and that’s how I’ve been referring to it mentally for the last couple of weeks.

I’ve told a number of people by now that I have been working on a book chapter submission for which my proposal was accepted in December. For the longest time, I had a lot of trouble thinking of this project in these terms. But as the word count grew and as the initial deadline approached, I came more and more to grips with the fact that, indeed, this is what I am doing. I’m sending my working draft off to my editor tonight, so that he can slough through the pages and determine what needs to be cut, what isn’t rigorous, and so forth.

Some features of this paper are that it attacks genre. It attacks genre pretty hard from a popular (marketing) standpoint, an academic standpoint, and a design standpoint, problematizing it on all three fronts. I have some discussion of genre systems that currently exist. Then the paper launches into a discussion of player personality and develops a synthesized model of player preference in video games that doubles as a genre model. There are 26 components among six groups. Each component uses a second-person prose example from a game to help describe the component. The paper cites 27 games total, many of which are indie games.

The Next 3 and a Half Months

This leads us into the next few months. In a few days, I will start the submission process on my narrative project, after cleaning it up a bit. My deadline for my chapter on player types (and genre) is I think June 1st, but it might be July. I’ll need to make sure I have my revisions done by then and that the chapter is presentable. I will certainly be sure to tell people when it is out. It’s one of the most exciting opportunities for me.

Finally, over the summer, I am embarking on a new game project. Specifically, I am putting all game projects on hold indefinitely, and focusing on this one project. The reason for this is that I need to work on a project that focuses on the game, and not so much on the graphics. As such, I am going to be making a top-down game that uses minimalist graphics. There will be solid-colored squares for tiles. People will be circles. Enemies will be some other shape. There will be jumping action and the biggest graphics problem will be dealing with representing depth in a fully top, down game.

For now, the game will be called “The Epic of Sadko the Street Performer” but this may get shortened as I feel it’s just too long. I am making this game for me. I want to make it, I think it will be fun to make, and it’s something I can get excited about. I’m not trying to show off some theory in this either, it’s just to show to myself that I can make a game that is longer than a half-hour of gameplay. It’s a way to get my programming skills up, too. There I am strongest, but have little to show for it.

So that’s that. This is what I have been working on, and this is what I’m going to do. That list of games alone makes me wonder just where I got the time to do it all.


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