Thursday, August 02, 2012

Game Design Challenge: The Return Of R.O.B.

Please check for more details. You can red this blog post here.

The latest's Game Design Challenge is about R.O.B., aka Robotic Operating Buddy, an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System released in 1985. The challenge is to design a game that uses Nintendo's R.O.B. peripheral somehow. I decided to give it a go and create a Game Design that would not only use R.O.B. as a peripheral, but also gave him the leading role in the game itself. I came up with the idea described below and it would be awesome if you could provide me with any feedback you might have. It would mean the world to me as it would help me to become a better Game Designer! Thanks!

Also, I would like to give due credit to Nuno Barreiros (X-Tense) for the fantastic in-game screenshot he made just for my idea. It was exactly what I had in mind, fantastic work! On to the idea...
Game Title: DJ R.O.B.

Background Story: After several years playing secondary roles at different games, R.O.B. decided to take a vacation and travel around the world. Paris, Rome, London, New York, you name it - R.O.B. was there. But when he came back, there was one place that didn't get out of his mind: Ibiza! Oh boy, did he party in Ibiza, met a lot of interesting people, danced all night long... That was the life! R.O.B. felt that the time has come to make a change in his life. And that was it, he was going to be a star: R.O.B. was going to be a DJ!

Basic Concept: In DJ R.O.B. the player plays R.O.B. himself, trying to become the best DJ in the world. To accomplish that, the player must help R.O.B. put together different music pieces to create one masterpiece mix!

Gameplay: The player must help R.O.B. put together pieces of music that are literally coming down on his DJ plates.

These pieces are represented by colored blocks that, when matched in groups of 3 or more of the same color, will be added to the mix increasing the mix's quality and granting R.O.B. music score (points). The higher the score, the better the mix is.

R.O.B. has 4 plates and every one of them has a bonus color, meaning that everytime the player matches 3 or more pieces of a specific color in the plate with the same color bonus active, he will get combo points, increasing the music score.

To be able to do this, the player is able to move the colored blocks right and left while they are moving down to the plates, but as soon as they hit the plate or another block under them, they will stay in that position and will be unable to be moved.

R.O.B. would have two new accessories that should be put on the left and right side of him. Each accessory would have two colored plates, just like the image attached. The player would have to use his controller to tell R.O.B. to turn left of right and touch one colored plate, activating bonus score. The plate R.O.B. touched would grant extra music score. While the player could play alone using his controller, if he used R.O.B. he would be able to have a better score.

Game Objective: For each level, R.O.B. will have a limited amount of time to produce one mix and he has to achieve a certain amount of music score (points) to progress to the next level, otherwise, he will fail his goal of becoming the best DJ in the world.

Score would accumulate on each level and in the end, the player could submit his high score to be able to compare with other DJs around the world.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Surprise your players and they will love your games

Please check for more details. You can red this blog post here.

I just read this article about how introducing surprise events improves the gamer's learning process. This is the result of a study led by Erik Van der Spek and his colleagues at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands who used a mod of the game Half Life 2: Episode Two to create a training scenario in which students undertake the role of a medical first responder. The study was published in the British Journal of Educational Technology.

The whole idea was to determine what would be the reaction of players to the introduction of surprising events and how would that affect their learning experience in dealing with the challenges presented to them. Seems like those elements of surprise do improve the learning performance. According to the above mentioned article: 

"It appears that when we are engaged in a scenario we construct a situation model through which we seek to understand and act. For example, the relationships between individuals, what objectives and roles individuals have and how this may change. This situation model is updated as we work through the scenario.

However, as humans we are strongly wedded to our points of view. We will look for information that confirms our view of the world. When we receive information that does not fit with our situation model, we may often choose to ignore it, or even use it to polarize our view. This has been shown in experiments featuring individuals holding extreme political views on the left or right of the spectrum.

When we encounter a surprise in a scenario it grabs our attention and forces us to question the situation model that we have formed. In performing this action, the leaner must go beyond surface learning activities. Instead they must engage in deeper learning processes to compare, contrast and synthesize information presented with this event (Graesser et al, 2009).".

Most forms of art that I have strongly embedded in my mind and that I consider to be the best pieces of art I've been exposed to, are those who surprised me somehow. I remember the first time I saw movies like The Exorcist, Schindler's List, The Ring, The Sixth Sense or Inception. It was the fact that they didn't have a regular story line and had impressive and surprising events that led me to conclude that they are among the best movies I've ever seen. Same thing applies to when I read "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera. Might not be the best book ever for you but it totally knocked me off my feet as I have never had someone telling me a story that way before. It was surprising! Same goes for music, painting, etc. and, of course, games.

Hence, I would have to agree that this is an important tool for Game Designers. Being able to create engaging and compelling stories around a game will obviously make the player want to play more. But adding surprising events will not only improve their learning process and performance while playing the game but will also improve their satisfaction and increase their willingness to play more and more of it. Now, isn't that what we all want?

I believe that it is not always possible to include those kind of surprising events, but whenever it is, Game Designers should go for it.