Saturday, March 3, 2012

Gap Analysis V

And the final one! So, I really didn't get started on coding yet, but I did a lot of cleaning up of my presentation and got a great start on the paper. I think the presentation looks extremely sharp and well -organized now. I needed to explain my game a lot better, and reiterate my purpose. I will be adding a little more text and reiteration, as well as some well-placed screen shots, and I think we are about good to go with the presentation! Onward to coding and testing!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gap Analysis IV

Reaching week 8, I think it's safe to cross off Research. Research is complete. My sources for my paper have been chosen. I'm open to more sources, but I have basically completed my bibliography, my research on  aesthetic and design influences. Documentation is not quite finished... the website is still a work in progress, and I think I will add my findings which are found in the books I'm reading for my paper, in my Research section on my website. That will probably give the committee a better idea of why I am doing my project.

Thoughts and Feelings on my MFA Thesis Project

The project is coming a long wonderfully, and it is just the coding and programming that seems a little daunting. However, I believe I will have plenty of time, and I have chosen such a simple aesthetic choice and limited space that I don't think the UDK file will crash my computer. I feel that a finished product is within reach. I am looking forward to focusing on mechanics and feel prepared for programming. The UDK documentation found on the site is very thorough so  it should be a fine resource as I make my way through the meat of the creation of Skylab Vimana!

Recently I have found the Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken would be an excellent resource for my paper and it would be right along the lines of what my thesis explores. I have also put in an order for The Warcraft Civilization, which should be an especially interesting read. The paper is off to  a great start and basically just needs to be refined and developed a bit more. It should make for a great paper.

As I think about graduation, I feel prepared, able and optimistic about finishing my work and being proud of it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gap Analysis III

Still on schedule here, chipping away at progress. Hi-fi prototype and modeling finished. Giving myself plenty of time for coding.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Rough Draft is here!

Catherine Gutierrez
SuAnne Fu
Studio II : Unit 5
Project A, Part 2 : Thesis Paper Draft

Games are becoming more socially prominent as they bridge the gap between distances and bring strangers together in collaborative or competitive gameplay. Contemporary games of today often take on the typical structure of competitive gameplay, such as freelance battle, a race to reach a common goal, or to see who succeeds and gains the most. Games sometimes designate the players as allies, and players work together on a common goal. Most often, social games such as those on Facebook, allow players to coexist, gift items and resources to each other, and view each other’s work for inspiration.
In any case, gamers most often exist in the game world, fairly independent of their fellow gamers. The most common scenarios in which they are susceptible to the influence of their peers are when they are engaged in combatant gameplay, or when they are on a team together and their success is positively or negatively affected by the performance of their teammates.  The types of interaction of players through the roles given to them by typical games are rather limited, and fall into the strict role of “friend or foe,” which are officially or unofficially designated at the start of the game.  
In Ravenwood Fair, players co-exist with their own separate worlds where they each build their own fair and visit those of their friends. Each player continually cuts down forests, gains more money, and builds more property on the land. This is a seemingly endless cycle of collection and gain, which affects no one but the woodland dwelling creatures, who are quickly destroyed to make way for more buildings. Noam Chomsky describes the effects of endless gain without regard for resources or neighbors in Hegemony or Survival. While I theorize that it makes way for redundant and uninteresting gameplay, he determines that the pursuit of endless gain inevitably results in poor relationships with others.
The common theme is that players are not often brought to think about the impact that their actions could have on their environment or on their peers. One might object with the claim that, in a game, one should be able to do whatever one wants! This is a valid viewpoint. However, as games become more social and more prominent in our culture, a theme of awareness about personal influence and power would be relevant for diverse and innovative gameplay.
Relationships formed in games between players can be related to the dynamic relationships that we form in real life. According to Jeremy Rifkin in The Empathic Civilization, “more complex social structures, then, promote greater selfhood, greater exposure to diverse others, and a greater likelihood of extended empathy” (42). After all, the usability of games is directly linked to its level of human-centered sensibility and personal relation to the audience.  World of Warcraft is a massive, global game that certainly inspires some exciting relationship dynamics between players. However, WOW subscribes to the typical framework of competition and collaboration. Players choose their group affiliation and from that point, their teams are chosen for them. Each player co-exists with their teammates and strategizes with their teammates in battle. Collaboration takes place between teammates and competition takes place across groups. As a player, it’s easy to know who is on your side, and who is not. As far as collaboration, the only thing you have to do is pull your own weight. When not in battle, teammates can practice with each other.
Little Cave Hero is a game that exists on Facebook, the world’s largest social network, but the game does not bring about a very social dynamic. Each player exists in their own version of the overworld, having made their success in slightly different ways but visiting the same stages. The only way the players collaborate is by sending gifts, that they can unlock during their own progress. This gift does not come out of their own inventory, and is completely “free.” They may or may not know what their peers actually need, so the gift may or may not be of value.  They may also visit their friends to “help,” but this entails obtaining more free goods at the expense of no one. With the advent of gifts that are provided for free and given away without care, it becomes apparent that part of the value of a gift is that the giver made a sacrifice in order to give it. With this aspect missing, the game does not create much of a sense of collaboration. In both these ways, Little Cave Hero begins to create lifelike relationship dynamics, but fails to follow through with the consequences and misses the mark.
Some notable games come to mind that seem to go a little deeper with forming a different and strong dynamic between players.  The first example is Super Mario Bros. 3, “Battle Mode,” which is simple in principle, but its very candid, up-close-and-personal, real-time battle dynamic creates a strong sense that each move made will affect the other teammate. It is also not totally restricted to competition: there are many opportunities for players to collaborate. In a desperate scramble, Mario may be tempted to let Luigi get eaten by the ghost, but may later do him the courtesy of warning him when a red turtle shell is coming his way.
Portal 2’s collaborative mode involves two players in collaborative strategy challenge in which there is a specific division of roles and responsibilities between two players, and a space that is uncompromising in the area it allows based on the collaborative potential and careful communication between players. This has been a slightly better type of collaborative dynamic than other games where the typical experience that the teammates share is that of simply attacking things together.  In this game mode, players chat and brainstorm their tactic for solving each puzzle. Similarly, my thesis project, Skylab Vimana, involves players in a limited space where their future depends on their ability to strategize together. They also form their own roles, rather than being told who is on what team, and there is an incentive to move ahead without their peers.  
Skylab Vimana will aim to break the boundaries of oversimplified collaborative and competitive social dynamics between players. By aiming for more complex roles through experimental gameplay, Vimana will attempt to create gameplay in which players form relationships, rather than receiving roles that are assigned to them. The game industry needs new game mechanics as games become more global and make a broader impact on society. Not only will new game mechanics create a more realistic and healthy social dynamic but they will move gaming forward, instead of wearing out the same predictable constructs. Vimana achieves this by placing players in a restricted space, where they are given a common goal (exiting the ship) and also an incentive to work against each other (because of limited resources and time constraints).
We’ve seen throughout history that situations can bring people together, or pit them against one another. Well-designed spaces and systems, from government regulations down to shopping mall parking lots can facilitate good keep things running smoothly.  Games are places where we can observe the impact of design mechanics on the people who play within a given system. We’ve seen how prominently games have made their presence in today’s media and yet they are shortcoming at engaging multiple players in meaningful gameplay.  Creating mechanics that are more complex and realistic may seem like an attempt to simply engage players to a further extent, but I believe that it will also teach players to interact in more complex ways. Since games are inevitably becoming a highly immersive medium, the progression of game design is imminent and will move us towards better quality in social games.
As digital media develops and evolves, interactivity in digital media is increasingly in demand. Therefore, games are moving past their previous role of “toys for boys” to global entertainment for all ages, whether at home or during travel. Just as visual technology has moved us from print to television, so has interactive design moved us from passive watchers of television to active players of games. We have seen the way that massive multiplayer games have created online communities and made an impact in popular lingo and collective memory. Because culture has moved this far, so should our design and development strategies. In Rules of Play, Zimmerman and Salen discuss how games create stories by allowing us to become part of a story, whether that story is within the game or without our culture. It is the goal of my thesis project to experiment with social dynamics in order to break our thought process out of the norm and into new possibilities for forming relationships between real people through a virtual gamespace. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Unit 4: Updated Timeline (Gap Analysis)

I have updated my schedule to show that I have completed the outline, and the low-fi prototype. I have put the things that I am currently working on in dark grey, which helps me focus on what needs to be worked on now, versus what I can begin to work on later.