Field Notes for Catherine

For my class on understanding games and impact, we have to describe 60 minutes of gameplay. As I mentioned in my last post, I have chosen to analyze gameplay from Catherine, a game about a man who has a supernatural nightmare that mirrors his real-life dilemma of choosing between a life of marriage or a life of fun. I chose to record my playthrough from start to finish and have divided the video into digestible chunks. In this post I will be providing the video and then following each video will be a description of the mechanics described and used in the game, as well as how the game progresses through its narrative. A side note on the structure of Catherine, as I describe in a previous post, the game is divided into three parts. The first part is a climbing block puzzle, the second deals with narrative decisions that affect the resolution of the game, and the third is a section of narrative feedback, which describes the results of the player’s performance in the first two parts. Keep this in mind when viewing the videos.

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Making the Epic of Sadko: Using Mindmaps and Making Changes

This is an overall update on the work I’ve done for the Epic of Sadko over the last week. This one will be a bit less technical than usual, as I’m still mostly in the planning phase and haven’t started really writing any code specifically for the game. Instead, I’ve been spending a lot of time getting all the details worked out, and changing some things that weren’t quite working when I was designing the game the last time. I’ll detail all of those changes here today, and explain my overall planning process. I’m going to start with the process first, and then go onto the more specifics. Future posts might focus on one of the topics discussed below.

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Platformer Prototype: A Design Literacy

So, for the past month I have slowly been working on a game project for a class I am taking.  The class is Language and Learning in a Digital Age, and a lot of it is about literacy, or how we as individuals morph and understand language, particularly in this age where language is everywhere and is evolving in new media.  That being said, I approached this project a bit in the wrong direction.  Today I’m going to try to wind it back to something that fits with the class I am taking.

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You Can Only Use the Scissors to Cut the String

One of the things that most annoys me in a number of games is when I have a great idea that should work, but the game doesn’t have any special coding for the idea and so my great idea is null and void.  One expects this if you’ve come up with a convoluted idea that would only work in The Incredible Machine, but when it’s as simple as, “I have a knife and I want to cut that string, but no matter how I try I can’t cut the string with the knife,” is when it gets frustrating and takes you out of the game.  Most modern games don’t quite have it this bad, but there are still some situations in modern games where this happens and you start thinking in terms of gaming, rather than terms of existing.  The phrase “Of course it won’t let me do that” comes to mind.  When players utter this or similar phrases, we are now talking about the game as a separate entity, distancing ourselves from the immersion set up by the game.

Of course, there is a problem here.  The game designers who make a game have no idea who their players will be as an individual.  They can only fathom just so many combinations of possible actions.  This is where emergent gameplay comes from, as players discover unexpected ways to use the actions created by the designers.  Emergent gameplay is generally considered a good thing, but it points at the problem.  As the designers cannot predict everything that a player may want to do, they will unintentionally close off actions that, to the players, seem like a perfectly viable thing to do.  This is only natural.  If a game designer tried to make every combination of actions possible for every situation, games would never get made.  It would be unrealistic to expect a game to do everything that a player would want it to do, as the vast number of permutations would not only delay the making of the game, but also make it less accessible (owing to the games increasingly larger size on a hard disc).  This unfortunately causes a gap between the player, the game and the game designer.

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