With the deadline for submitting the research board getting closer and closer, it’s time to get some basic designs done, so I only have to worry about filling it in with content.
First off: what do I want on the research board?
- Short, concise description of what the board is about
- A scale of 5-or-so games based on how well they integrate story and gameplay. I’ll probably come up with short titles for each “category”, and these paragraphs are not final.
- Gameplay and Story strengthen each other – Spec Ops: The Line – Both elements have been thoughtfully created to serve a singular purpose. The story and the game mechanics are set up in a way to present a false sense of security to the player. It’s mediocore “bro-shooter” gameplay with the usual “USA saves the world” plot. Then the game turns all of this on its head, and in the process criticises the entire genre of action games by being one.
- Gameplay and Story integration – The Walking Dead – The story bits are regularly interrupted by short gameplay sections, but the actions the player has to do during the latter always make sense in context. If the objective is to get a train started, the player has to find the instructions by exploring the area, turning the differnt handles and switches in the train, etc. If zombies attack, then the player character has to fight, either by shooting a gun by pointing a crosshair, or by pressing the appropriate action keys in hand to hand combat.
- Gameplay and Story coexist, but don’t interact – Call Of Duty series – The story is told with voiced cutscenes between missions. During the gameplay missions the narrative only advances very slightly and only through the dialogue of present characters. The only interaction the player has, is to move around and shoot enemies, and occasionally press “E” to interact with a preset object, like starting the upload on a modem. The gameplay doesn’t contradict the story or the other way around, but the two exist parallel to each other.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation – Borderlands 2 – The main antagonist of the game is Handsome Jack, the CEO of a corporation called Hyperion. Hyperion is also the manufacturer of the so-called New-U stations scattered around Pandora, which let the player respawn for a price. If taken at face value, this creates HUGE plot holes in the game, like why doesn’t Hyperion just turn off your access to these machines, or why doesn’t their own leader use them. The only way to make sense of it, is to consider the New-U stations gameplay abstractions. They simply don’t exist in the story and are only meant to serve as a game mechanic.
- Ludonarrative dissonance – Tomb Raider (2013) – The story is about Lara Croft slowly becoming the hardened adventurer we know from the other games. To facilitate this, the cutscenes (especially early on) mostly show Lara as a helpless, inexperienced girl, who is lost and confused. Then comes the gameplay in which the Lara (so the player) skillfully and mercilessly massacres enemies, with an arsenal of weapons she has never used before. This creates a strange duality where the narrative of the game mechanics thematically goes against the themes the plot presents.
- Text talking about the whole gameplay-story problem in general.
- A part about WHY this is even a subject worth discussing.
- Another section about techniques developers can use to have the two elements link together meaningfully.
- I kinda want to have a section with quotes I found interesting and relevant.
So that gives me some idea of what sort of elements I should put on the board. But how should it look? The stereotypical video game poster would either have an NES or SNES controller and some pixelated artwork. But since I’m talking about more modern games, I want to have something that resembles things gamers see everyday. Which is the console dashboard. Here are some images from the Xbox 360, Playstation 4, and Steam Big Picture dashboards:
With that in mind, I went into Photoshop, and made this:
Most of the text is just placeholders, but this is sort of how I want it to look like. I should play a bit more with the font sizes, to see what works and what doesn’t for an A2 poster, because right now most of it is a bit too large. And if I can cut back on the text size, that would mean I could either free up some space to make the whole thing less cluttered, or add some more imagery to make it more appealing to look at. I dunno, I’ll figure it out in the next two week.