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.

To get things started, here are the components for the third, and final, set of components:

Category Number Component
Participation 3 Power
Immersion 2 Emotion
Progression 1 Ability
Mastery 5 Skill
Customization 4 Uniqueness

It is interesting that this set of components contains the same participation and progression components as the first set, but I feel like the inclusion of the other components will make for a very different game. I promised in the last post that I wouldn’t make this set revolve around a monarch or sovereignty. Although we have the Power component again, I don’t think that this game will be one where the player is in a place of power, but rather possesses power intrinsically. So while there may be a fantasy setting, the game won’t revolve around a character who leads others.

So first, let’s go through each of the components and see what these components require. First, with Power and Ability in the mix again, this is going to be a game where the player needs to acquire something in order to progress in the game, and as the player progresses, they get a sense that they are particularly powerful in some way. The immersion component in this set is Emotion, which means that the game mainly wants the player to feel something on the emotional spectrum, sadness, happiness, anger, even betrayal or loss. The player should be able to tailor their identity in a game, for Uniqueness. The easiest thing to do this is to let the player choose their appearance, but because of the Emotion, Power and Ability components, this will probably extend to making interesting choices that reflect a personality. Finally, the inclusion of the Skill component suggests that this game will need to require the use of actions efficiently, and perhaps that a large number of actions are possible. Additionally, the complexity of using those actions will vary.

I’ve come up with a basic sketch of how a game like this would work. This game would start a player out in a low social role, probably that of a child, and as the game progresses, the player gains new abilities through some mechanic. The player will use these abilities in fulfilling (or not) the requests of other characters. These actions will have consequences where the player can see that their interference (or not) affects the story of those characters. It’s important to give the player a choice as to whether to help or hinder, as this will help the player feel like they can form their character into an identity. The route to helping or hindering will be by circumventing a system of laws or rules, i.e., breaking into a house to get something, stealing, maybe even more drastic. I would like for the player to get to choose what abilities their character gains, but in such a way that each new scenario of helping will require a new ability to accomplish.

Replay will bleed into this game a bit, but the ability choices should be on a more moral standpoint. Perhaps, the way in which the player helps someone will determine how their character grows. I don’t like this idea as it removes from the player the control of their customization of the character’s identity. I would also like to have a growing emotional component to the game that surrounds betrayal. I would want the player to feel like they have been used in a way, or for the player to feel loss. Although helping people could contribute to the Emotion component, the consequences for the player’s actions should contribute to a feeling of guilt, embarrassment, or doubt. To this end, it is important for the consequences of any action to be strong.

So, to turn this idea into something less than abstract, let’s give this a setting. Specifically, I envision this game being set on a research space station. The player controls one of the children who were born on the station. Children born on this research station have developed abilities beyond normal human capability. As the player, you get to customize a lot about the character, including appearance, personality and other traits that could be referenced by characters in the game. During play, the player moves about the station, encountering people who need help and chooses to help or hinder them, or do nothing at all. The game will not advance until the player gains a new ability, regardless. Whatever the player does, future scenes will show how the characters involved are affected by those actions, usually in dire ways.

The player progresses the game by gaining abilities, which will unlock areas, for players to be able to address the problems of other characters. As the player progresses through the game, too, there should be some slow indication that the children, who have these abilities, were manufactured as weapons, or some other story, which will lead the player to feel betrayed or to feel loss. This should be a strong, emotional feeling that is evoked in the player. In fact, I would love for this to have an option for players to destroy their own character as a way of ending the game.

The player will have access to abilities, which are self-selected. These abilities are generally to provide access. Some abilities could be to hide, some to open doors, some to distract. In general, these are superhuman abilities, and are designed to allow the player to bypass barriers. As the game goes on, the player will need to use more and more abilities to bypass more and more barriers, in order to complete more complex tasks. The target for each portion of the game is to gain more abilities. This is subversive, as, narratively, the environment is designed to get people to grow their power, as part of an indoctrination or weaponizing program. I don’t want to get too far into this idea, but this is the gist of it.

Some possible titles for this game: “Awakened Minds”, “Beyond Human”, “The Next Step”, “My Childhood on Research Station Heta” (this one is more appealing to me, though the name of the station is still in the air), or “Therefore We Must Exist” (this is another reference).

That’s the last set of components! Please feel free to tell me which one of the three sounds interesting, if any sound problematic, or if you are concerned about any bit of my design process. Next time in Designing with PGDI, I’ll select one of them and go through my design proposal.

P.S., The other idea I had was, instead of a research space station child, the player was an apprentice wizard or sorcerer of some kind. I eventually went with the futuristic idea because it allowed me to create a confined space, give plausibility for a basis of betrayal, and it got me away from monarchies.


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