February 1, 2013 | Comments Off
Thinking about the best design practices of platform games has turned into a remarkable discovery of the passion and care that many within industry bring to this classic genre. My thesis project will extend current research into playability and level design of platformers while providing a tangible realization of the concepts. This custom-made platform game level within Unity3D will provide critical experience to students of game design and developers of platform game types alike.
Extending research of scholarly articles such as the Smith-Sandbox on platform games and others will aid in distinguishing great game design from poor design. Additional industry thoughts on successfully designing platform games can be found in this set of articles that looks specifically at designing levels. Not to be outdone, the following blog post looks at platform game design from an incredibly succinct and condensed framework.
Thinking about the use of platform games for the purpose of showing the importance of design principles and game balancing seems a natural fit given the rich history of successful games in this focused area.
One article that presents an excellent history of arcade platform games provides an oft over-looked area of the early days of platformers.
Not to be stuck in the past, an article with a roundup of iOS based platform games shows a robust development and continued interest of platform games even on our newest mobile smartphone devices. Another article shows the best of the platform games offered on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) which many people mistakenly think of as the beginning of the platform game type.
Just as a fun sidetrack, this article gets into the intricacies of design practice for breakout style games in much the same way I hope to present information on platformer type games.
January 20, 2013 | Comments Off
Successful Platformer Game Design through Game Balancing
Game balancing refers to the effort of creating consistent and enjoyable gameplay within any genre of game. A video game must not be too difficult for a player’s experience level, nor too easy so as to be without challenge. While much has been written about the impacts of game balancing, few tangible examples exist to demonstrate the outcomes of the level designers’ decisions on the perceived success of gameplay. This thesis researches the current understanding of good level design and applies it the platform genre in order to more fully develop an approach to creating balanced game play.
My primary reasons for having selected this thesis topic are the following:
- The platformer game genre provides specific, known and measurable game design elements, thus allowing for definitive assessment points and feedback.
- Game balancing is a topic that continues to gain much attention and yet, in most cases, only reverse engineering of players’ experience has been studied.
- This project allows for active engagement of concepts with direct measurability of the impacts.
- Game implementation is inextricably connected to good game design, this project allows for that connection to be a central focus of research.
January 20, 2013 | Comments Off
Successful game design in the platformer genre is intrinsically dependent on thoughtful, conscious, and well-articulated game balancing.
January 13, 2013 | Comments Off
Thinking about pulling together an MFA thesis project that not only provides an opportunity for exploration but also leverages some of my existing skills is a true challenge. The MFA degree and my intended work/career after completion represent a shift for me from a concentration in music and audio to a more broad scope of planning, production, and development of interactive experiences.
As a composer and audio artist I have a lot of practical skill and perhaps even more importantly an ability to work within boundaries/limits while still expanding my own art. In addition, my work in film, TV, and video games has afforded me a very important recognition of collaborative efforts. One of my strengths is my capacity to understand a broader more global effort and fit in the individual pieces that will aid in that effort.
My skills are varied and as such, they span a few broad categories.
Many of my musical compositions have been directly impacted through collaborative work with visual artists. Some of my favorites are pieces that I never would have written had it not been for the collaboration.
In no particular order here is a sampling of my music.
For visual work most of what you see is drawn from coursework. I’ve learned a lot in my semesters on campus but still have a long way to go to consider any visual art as a standalone pursuit for me.
In a storyboard class I challenged myself to develop a visual style consistent across four frames.
Working with motion video, this clip was a fun few days trying to weave together an emotion with no dialogue.
This is one of my first attempts at overlaying motion graphics to live action.
Finally, the beginning of a level in a game called Pink Gloss, game design document follows.
A game I hope to one day flush out and finish!
January 13, 2013 | Comments Off
Game Design and Game Balancing in Platformers
What are the impacts of game design and game balancing on the player experience? Through the controlled use and presentation of current best practice theory as detailed in books like “Rules of Play – Game Design Fundamentals” by Salen and Zimmerman, or “The Art of Game Design” by Schell, this thesis will provide implemented gameplay designed to highlight current thinking in game balancing and design. Through this project, key aspects of game design theory and game balancing will be demonstrated within a playable level.
Utilizing the Unity 3D game engine and a prototype platformer type game, the user will be allowed via the use of adjustable parameters, to modify components of a game’s balance and design within a single, demo level. This will highlight the experience of game play connecting it to tangible player experience while presenting the impacts of theoretical and practical game design practice.
The Unity 3D project will also contain links and tips to current theory on games in order to connect the experience with the presented topics. Research into industry stated expectations of platform games as well as academic articles on effective game design will be coordinated within the level design of the prototype game.
For this thesis, the prototype game will show the currently understood concepts of platform game design and impacts of good versus poor implementation.
January 13, 2013 | Comments Off
Interactive Art, Sound, and Music Exhibit
This proposal intends to look at human nature as it engages with representations of emotion. Given visual and audio feedback, will viewers of an interactive exhibit tend toward aggression or joy (or somewhere in between) when given the opportunity to drive/trigger a closed system?
The junction of interactivity, visuals, music, and sound has been something I have been interested in all of my adult life. It started with an intense study of the music of John Cage and transformed on my first viewing of the film Koyaanisqatsi with the score by Philip Glass. It was also what drew me into wanting to compose music for film and as technology evolved, extended into interactive sound.
The experience of immersion created though the combination of visuals and sound has a long history, but with the current set of tools even more control and experimentation is afforded to the artist.
This proposal is focused on an exhibit that combines user interaction with shifting visuals, sound, and music. This exhibit will utilize a motion sensor input from the participant(s) as the trigger to adjust animation and/or film clips displayed on a number of screens throughout the exhibit.
These visual components will ‘evolve’ through basic human emotions, triggered from assessment of basic body motions. Directions to guide the participants through how to perform the recognized motions will appear randomly on the screens throughout the experience. In addition, interactive and adaptive music will transition to complement the emotional content of the images. Sound design will be generatively created utilizing the same motion sensor input(s).
Data on what types of body motions are more prevalent will be collected, providing an opportunity to assess the inclinations of the participants when engaging with a closed system driven by human interaction. How will the participants respond when multiple people are engaging with the system as opposed to singular participants? Will there be peer pressure to complete motions similar to others in the room?
Should this exhibit be successful in its implementation and assessment, a second phase would provide different versions of the system feedback to investigate the connection between different styles of feedback on the viewer’s actions.
January 13, 2013 | Comments Off
The Influence of Quality in Video and Audio on the Perceptions of Gameplay
This proposal focuses on the impacts of visual and audio quality on the perceptions of gameplay. Understanding choices made in the creation of art and sound for video games has previously been determined through application of technology bandwidth and project timelines. This thesis will look at the sacrifices frequently made in the development process of video games to assess the impact on player perception of quality.
A few decades ago, there was an MIT study which attempted to quantify the value of a live orchestra of musicians recorded for a soundtrack as opposed to a synthesized, computer generated score being used. In this study, the same animated clip was shown twice to the same person. One time with the live, recorded, orchestral score and a second time with a digitally generated synthesized score. Overwhelmingly, the participant viewers, not knowing what had been changed, commented that the picture quality had been diminished when the visuals were accompanied by the digital, synthesizer music.
This study has always intrigued me and I would like to develop a similar test, whereby either visuals and/or sound and music are swapped in order to assess the efficacy of current video game industry workflows and asset implementation on the final user perception.
Possible focuses could be on animation frame rates, color resolution, or polygon counts in the visual realm. In the audio realm the focus could be on sample rates, compression schemes, sound file variability, and music system approaches. The assets would be delivered through a web-based game level using the Unity 3D engine and would be adjustable within a controlled environment.
January 10, 2013 | Comments Off
About me – I’ve lived now in Boston for over 25 years. My kids call it home but they like to remind me that I am from Iowa, they find that incredibly foreign as I’m sure you can imagine for three city boys! I started my undergrad at Northwestern University, at the time there was no such thing as “music technology” so I was enrolled in a dual degree program with music and computer science. (Completely unconnected) I transferred to Berklee College of Music because they had an honest to goodness music technology program.
I spent about 15 years freelancing as a composer fulltime, during which I also had the opportunity to work for several software development companies. In the beginning, working on PC games, any type of sound was intrinsically technical to include, so that’s really where I think I got this “bug” called ITGM!
Technology has always been a part of my DNA and remains so in a big way today. Fast forward and I’ve returned to my alma mater, first as a part-time professor, then full-time professor, and now as an administrator, Vice President for Curriculum and Program Innovation. Games however, continue to draw me in and my hope is to begin making games again after I finish the MFA.
As an ITGM student I’ve had a fantastic opportunity to learn more deeply about what it is that makes a great game really great. I’ve also become more and more interested in the future of video games and what their societal impact/use will be/become. So it is truly a combination of both of those areas that continues to motivate me today.
I spent a large chunk of my professional life working on films where working on a blockbuster is great fun and the entertainment value is worth the effort you put in. In parallel, working on a documentary is very personally satisfying, it is intense work and highly emotional at times. This is the dichotomy, or rather really the range, that I see in video games as a discipline. We haven’t quite gotten there on the equivalent of a documentary (I don’t think) but we all know the blockbusters will continue coming out and getting better, for entertainment, as they progress.
So my personal goals reside in diving into interactive development and design. What I’ve found over the years is that I personally need to be in a creative and collaborative environment in order to feel my work is of value. My goals then are to re-enter the game development industry in a new role, in the role of a producer or designer. At this point I can’t say whether I’d prefer to work for a company or whether I might just start-up an indie house, but I do know that I will again be engaged on video game projects in one way or another.
Through my thesis project I hope to be able to build more competency as an interactive innovator, looking at games through a lens that can extend some part of what we know or perhaps connect knowledge in a way that might reveal how things come together via the interactivity.
Exciting times indeed!