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Old 06-20-2008, 08:47 AM   #21
iL DuCe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MessiahSimple View Post
That depends, in my opinion, on what the larger scenario is - working with the prison motif you still have motivations, overall story, demeanors to write about - writing (literature) might be the best influence here, because you can generally get good ideas about the how and why (intent) of where and who you are playing, and from there 'appropriate' cues will become apparent.

For instance (because I haven't been able to share anything on the forums before ) I am very fond of a story I'm writing that involves an oppressive, homegrown religious regime. So in the scenario I am using to showcase level design skills, my character is imprisoned across from a guy modeled on bradd pitt from 12 monkeys, and the guards are volunteers - effectively sunday school leaders. There's a morality play that becomes central to escaping, along with me wanting to let the player feel what it is to be imprisoned against their will. So there won't be an immediate way out, despite the necessity of working on a way out the whole time.

If you get creative enough with your writing, you can put very obvious or necessary pieces of the puzzle on the walls in the cryptic scratchings of a previous prisoner, for example. OR, as is my favorite piece of my puzzle, you can give false clues and dead ends - the psychological aspect of putting someone in a prison cell is your most fertile ground.

Messiah, I was thinking along the same lines with etched passages on the walls. I like your idea about the 12 monkeys character. He would be an interesting addition. Maybe he babbles incoherently about information that could lead to a dead-end while maybe some of the information is useful. The player may be able to discern one from the other through observation.
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Old 06-20-2008, 12:28 PM   #22
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MessiahSimple - I liked both the idea of writing the cues on the walls and the idea of giving false cues along with the real ones, the question is how do you keep the player from getting frustrated or bored in this situation? how long is he supposed to be in the prison cell? maybe I missed this - what is the proson cell part in the games' story?
In general I really loved the setting of the prison being in some cult (and not a "formal" prison) and the 12 monkeys reference to me it sounds like a good setting for a horror game
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Old 06-20-2008, 12:50 PM   #23
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Default The Oubliette

this is the idea I'm currently working on, it's still in the "brain storming" bullet form, but it will be nice to hear what you think about it. I actually just had a different idea, coming from a different interpertation for a prison cell, and was also inspired by a scene from the labyrinth (I really love this movie ). the second idea is about the player not even knowing that he is imprisoned.

anyway, this is my first idea:

• Based on the Labyrinth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labyrinth_(film)).
• The game will be 3D, 3rd person adventure game; during a time after the original movie story (the main character is not Sara).
• The goal of the game is to reach the castle at the center of the labyrinth in order to save the character's son.
• The game will feature areas based on scenes from the movie as well as new areas and characters.
• According to the movie (and Wikipedia) an Oubliette is kind of a prison cell with the hatch at the ceiling where you put people in order to forget about them.
• The Labyrinth is riddled with Oubliettes
• The player can get into one at different parts of the game, by making certain choices or by getting caught by the goblin guards
• The first time the player gets into an oubliette Hoggles' character (one of the original movie characters) will show up and show them how to get out (The first oubliette will be the same as the one in the original movie) in order for the player to have a general idea what needs to be done the next time they get into an Oubliette.
• The exit from an oubliette is always hidden and requires the player to move certain objects or do certain actions in order to find the door (for example, like in the movie – picking up a wooden board from the floor, attaching it to the wall and opening it from left to right. the number of actions required will be from 1 action (the easiest ones) to 5.
• The more times the player gets into an oubliette the more difficult it gets to get out of it.
• A cross hair will be used as an initial cue mechanism – when the cross hair goes over a movable object the icon changes.
• Several NPCs in the game will give audio cues –for example it can be a guard from outside the oubliette shouting: "Don't touch that!" when the cross hair goes over an important object. Or Hoggle showing up saying: "I'm not helping you out this time; Jareth will kill me, but remember what I did last time".
• The longer the player is in the oubliette the more cues they will get. Eventually they will be able to ask Hoggle to show them the way out (that will cost the player 1 plastic jewelry, which are collected in the labyrinth)
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Old 06-20-2008, 01:07 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TG1 View Post
picking up a wooden board from the floor, attaching it to the wall and opening it from left to right.

A cross hair will be used as an initial cue mechanism – when the cross hair goes over a movable object the icon changes.
Just to give you all a point of reference, this part above, in all its simplicity, would have been enough of an answer.

There is a cue (the cross hair changing to an icon), and an action (the player using the board as a key). The reference to Hoggle showing an example of how to solve the puzzles is also useful (see original post). The context is helpful, too, BUT you might make more explicit fact that "exploration" is a theme of the game, and so the player knows to explore his or her space using the cross hairs.
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Old 06-20-2008, 01:31 PM   #25
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On a side note, I hope no one minds the 'thinking aloud'-style posts I end up making on this site.


I'm having a lot of trouble with this one. I can think of many cues, but I can't think of any that are so great that they will stand out among the other submissions (or job candidates).

Quote:
Even if you have a minimum security prison, how does the player know where to go to escape? How does the player know that her next step in the game is to escape? What are the cues and clues?
How does the player know that her next step in the game is to escape?

Let's look at this for a Human Geography standpoint: the player is in the jail cell, and immigrating to _____. The end result of the escape is not part of the prompt. Other than the prison cell itself, the beginning location is not specified.

Human Geography tells us that Human migration is caused by two main factors; push factors and pull factors.

Here is a list that I pulled off Wikipedia, with comments:

Push Factors

-Not enough jobs: In prison, the play could potentially not have a job. Some prisons do provide work with wages, so that would negate this effect, unless there were not enough jobs to go around all the prisoners, and the player doesn't get one. What cues must show: There is clearly no money, or way to make money, within a time frame, and there is a need for the player to have money, in the prison.

-Few opportunities: This is kind of broad, but the point of prison is to limit a individuals opportunities, so this is a a must. What cues must show: That opportunities are genuinely fewer. Most cues are self-evident to most players, i.e. walls, bars, guards, chains, prison-like things.

-"Primitive" conditions: This will likely show up in most submissions, as many prisons in fiction are primitive compared to the outside world. What cues must show: It must be designated that the prison is, in fact, primitive compared to the outside world. A shot of the outside world may help (flashback, a scene of arriving at the prison), pictures of the outside world, or conversations about it.

-Political fear: The prison, the region the prison is located in, or a prison gang could be undergoing a regime change that the player finds undesirable, or a violent conflict. What cues must show: once again, a comparison has to be made to show the player that it is, or will be, worse under the new administration, or the conflict is violent.

-Poor medical care: This is another one that will likely show up a lot. Most prisons in fiction have bad medical care. What cues must show: Once again, that the medical care in the prison is not as good as medical care outside the prison. Most players will simply assume worse medical care, or that medical care depicted in the prison is worse, so this really is only important if it needs to be shown that the medical care is actually better in prison.

-Not being able to practice religion: As most modern prisons in developed nations allow freedom of religion, this is a rather powerful image. It works in almost any time frame, but a modern one would have the most impact. Using a religious motivation for the main character is a bit risky, especially in a violent game of any kind, and, if it is the sole reason for escaping, requires another motivation for events past the escape, if there are any. What cues must show: Once again, that the player's religion is not allowed, and the character wants to practice it. This one does not need a outside comparison, as it is perfectly reasonable that their religion is not allowed outside the prison as well.

-Loss of wealth: A bit of a The Count of Monte Cristo vibe, this one will likely not show up very often. It also runs the risk of making a unlikable character, if it is shown as the primary or only motivation. What cues must show: That the player has wealth, and will somehow gain it after escaping.

-Natural Disasters: This one is interesting. It could serve as the cue itself, for example, if an earthquake breaks open the player's cell, or is could even turn this whole premise on its head. The player could be escaping from prison to escape the earthquake, without a previous desire to escape the prison. What cues must show: That a natural disaster is occurring, or has occurred, and it makes leaving the prison more desirable than before it occurred.

-Death threats: A good cue in and of itself. Will likely show up on may submissions. What cues must show: That staying in prison will result in bodily harm.

-Slavery: Doesn't really need an explanation.

-Poor housing: Rather prevalent in most prison fiction. What cues must show: That the housing in the prison is undesirable compared to housing outside the prison, although this will likely be assumed in most cases.

-Landlords: The overbearing/sadistic warden is always a good choice. What cues must show: an overbearing/sadistic warden, and that staying in his prison is less desirable than leaving it.

-Bullying: The sadistic prison-mates are another good choice. What cues must show: In this one, it is important to really stress that the prison-mates are more undesirable than leaving the prison. Mean bedfellows are assumed in prison, and the consequences for escaping are usually harsh.

-Poor chances of finding courtship: I find this unlikely to be enough to warrant a jail-break, unless the game is comedic in nature.

Pull Factors

-Job opportunities: as above
-Better living conditions: as above
-Political and/or religious freedom: as above
-Enjoyment
-Education
-Better medical care: as above
-Security: as above

-Family links: kind of weak justification for a jail-break, unless it can be designated as more desirable than serving ones sentance. A dying family member perhaps? What cues must show: That whatever family links implies (perhaps family links in a area outside of the prison-runners jurisdiction?) is more desirable than staying in prison.

-Better chances of finding courtship: Or missing of ones loved one. What cues must show: that there is someone to escape to, and that escaping to them is more desirable than waiting out one's sentance.


Even if you have a minimum security prison, how does the player know where to go to escape?

Well, this can also be broken into push and pull factors. Visual cues can push the character to locations (for example, a boulder rolling down the hall towards them will likely make them run the other direction), or pull them (if there is a doorway to hide in, even if it means running toward the boulder, the player will go there, provided there is a cue (such as the door locking behind them as they enter the hallway) that makes it more appealing than running the other direction).
A player will more from a less desirable location to a more desirable location. The cues must then make the location they are intended to go more desirable than their current location, or other locations they can go to.

Of course, the hard part is making good cues. I doubt the interviewer would be impressed if I simply replied 'I would make the areas required to progress more desirable than other areas,' and that doesn't address the other questions.

As a reminder to myself:

Quote:
"You're designing a level. The level is a prison cell, and the player has to escape. How does she escape? What cues do you place in the environment that tell her to how to progress forward in the game?"

Part of the answer requires you to invent the surrounding context. Are there guards? Is there a key? Are there windows? What is the prison cell made of? What objects are in the room? What objects can the player move, pick up, throw? What year is it? What country are you in?


How quickly do you want the player to solve the problem (it should be challenging, but not so hard as leave the player feeling bored or frustrated at being stuck in one room too long)? Are there any audio cues? Has the player learned a skill in a previous level that she should use here? Does the player possess any special powers or lack any basic abilities?
This requires the design of an entire game (or, perhaps more apt, due to the small scope of 'escape from a prison cell,' a vertical-slice), not simply a level. I have always been interested by the top-down vs. bottom-up Game Design debate. Some interesting ideas, related but not exactly part of the debate, have arisen: Thief II: The Metal Age had all its levels created before the story, and the story was made to fit the levels, and Unreal Tournament 3 had its levels created out of geometric shapes, and the justification of them (rocks, buildings, ex.) was added later. What I'm looking to do with this Challenge is to see if a game (or vertical-slice) can be designed from the escape from prison premise and cues alone, with everything else put in place to justify them. If it is to work, I'm going to have to come up with the best cues ever. Cues are usually largly based in the games context, so this will be interesting.

On a side note, I will likily have trouble meeting the under 500 words guidline.
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Old 06-20-2008, 01:48 PM   #26
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I wanted to throw this out there as one of my favorite sources for morality-play inspiration in writing (games).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

There's inherent confrontation in someone being imprisoned, on several levels. And conflict is always good for bringing about change, right?

While this isn't so much great for figuring out cues to get out (nevermind, yes it is), it will also help get the juices flowing about a larger context...and context, being necessity, is the mother of (gameplay) invention. Right?
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Old 06-20-2008, 01:50 PM   #27
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also, I think that it is motivation and intent that would be best focused on if you're developing an overt context , ronnoc -not a whole story. The story-at-large is not nearly so important as identifiable motivation - suspension of disbelief is what you get, which leads to much more believable and/or creative solutions.

Complex isn't best, but surprising-yet-sensical might be.
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Old 06-20-2008, 01:55 PM   #28
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sorry to seem like I'm spamming, but in regard to the top-down/bottom-up debate:

Most bands write the lyrics to a song, and then build a song, and adjust them.

Maynard, from Tool/A Perfect Circle/Puscifer, near-perfect as his writing may be, develops the song first to establish the tone, and then explores themes that fit the "unspoken" emotional content of the song when writing lyrics.

So, without oversimplifying, it's a matter of preference, like right vs. left hand. The advantage of this forum is that you can figure out what you usually do and try it a different way, both to round yourself out and try to hit on something original.
So I guess I'm saying I think you're on the right track, ronnoc - while trying to say that there is no wrong track. I think.
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Old 06-20-2008, 05:00 PM   #29
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Some interesting ideas I had were POW escape and Prison Riot. I am thinking the variation would be Easy-To-Escape & Hard to Survive or Hard-To-Escape & Easy to Survive. I will not pursue either of those in favor of another idea.

Last edited by MattyGamer : 06-20-2008 at 10:10 PM.
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Old 06-20-2008, 07:08 PM   #30
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In a nutshell, the challenge is to create and explain a prison level.

This leaves so much freedom that I really don't think it's necessary to deviate from the prison restriction.

Personally, I'm looking forward to trying to portray a game through a single prison level.
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