September 2010 Archives

Rewind: Back To Inform 7

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I actually never thought I would be returning to Inform 7 anytime soon.  However, in EL405 I am understanding that experience really is most important.  

The setting of my game is strictly on a boat and the tone is adventure.  Is it morbid?  Well, maybe a little...but the choice is up to you!  I was hoping people would be drawn into this game because it is something familiar. Everyone knows (hopefully knows) the story of Titanic, so they can probably start to picture what the game might be like.  I like to play games having to do with books or movies that I already know, so I wanted to go ahead with that approach.  

Some of the factors that influenced my choice were the games that I had mentioned in an earlier blog.  These games, such as Shade, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and Broken Legs, influenced how I would invent my game to starting off as a familiar story to the player.  It also led me to put my player in the position to make a choice based on morals.  After I looked at the Broken Legs game and saw the difficulties of being the villain, it interested me enough to put that into my own game.  

The opening of my IF game, already states where the person is and what they have to do.  To better explain, the person is supposed to retrieve a key to get out of the room they are in, so that means the player is informed of their first task.  The opening screen also mentions their overall objective (to get out of the ship and onto a life boat), so the player knows what they are aiming for the rest of the game.  What I enjoyed about the opening is that it does not specifically say that the boat is the Titanic.  The player has to look at their inventory and examen their boarding ticket to find out that they are third class on the Titanic.  I think this affects the tone of the game and it challenges the player.  If the player does not examen the ticket then there is a risk of the game not having as much affect on them...but I'm not worried about that.  

As for creating the game, there were many different codes I tried to look up in the guide.  Most of them were tricky or impossible to find, or waste my time trying to find.  However, I came across fitting some codes to work in my game.  One of the codes I am proud of finding is the very first one I did on my own:  Creating another character in the story.  I didn't want the player to feel completely alone on the ship and I wanted the chance for them to interact and make "difficult" decisions involving another character.  I looked up the codes but I couldn't use the exact code that was in the guide so I had to make it work for my game and it did!  I was proud of myself, because I didn't actually think it would work, but my goodness was I excited was I clicked GO and the broken clock did NOT appear!  That was a good day.  

During the middle of my game, the player gets to find a life vest (very important) and hopefully find the staircase that will lead them up to the deck.  They are rewarded on the deck as long as they have their life vest.  However, they are also rewarded right before that, if they give their life vest away (tricky, I know).  

There are two endings in my game but one can occur earlier than the other one.  I always intended the story to play out in this fashion but I wondered how I could get it to work through codes.  For a while it was almost hard for me to even begin to think of codes to start with to try and get the outcome of the game that I wanted.  However, Dr. Jerz helped me step by step to come up with some codes that helped my ending.  And it worked!  The ending (both of them) happen exactly how I want them to happen so I am very happy with that accomplishment.  

While creating my game, I would give credit to the Inform 7 documentation guide that helped me get through some tough coding.  Dr. Jerz helped me out with codes as well as Kiley Fisher.  I didn't get any codes from other games (though maybe that would have been helpful).  

Usability Testing  

1.  Roommate who was willing to take the test because she loves Titanic.  She went through the game and thought that the first section was a lot more difficult then the middle and end.  I had not intentionally made it that way, but I started to make the game with less obstacles purely so I could just finish it.  If I had the time to go back then I would certainly make it more challenging later on.  She did get through the rest of the game and kept the life jacket for herself, so she lived!  And she thought it was a great start to the game.  

2.  My second tester was a guy friend from home.  He had never played an IF game so I had to give him that little sheet that comes with the terms and phrases.  This game took forever for him to play, mostly because he could not get past the first part of the game.  After this and the first user test I realized that I did make that first part a little too difficult.  I should have put something like that in the middle or more near the end.  However, I did help him along and then he got through the rest but he did want to talk more to the other character that I put in the story.  He was disappointed that I had another person in the game but he couldn't talk to her.  So that is another thing I would do if I had more time.  He ended up keeping the life vest for himself too (selfish people) so he was also alive in the end of the game.  

3.  My third user test was female and I kind of begged her to do it when she was just planning a short visit.  However, it was funny and she enjoyed the game because she had never tried a text adventure game before, which is why she needed the little cheat sheet as well.  The first part of the game was hard again, and she was the only person who gave the life vest away to the other character!  But then when she died she wasn't too happy about it...  

I did learn a lot from the user testing.  Mostly because I got to see people's reactions, which were mostly funny and they were always smiling.  I learned what I need to fix and what I should enhance if I were to work on this game more intensely.  I am excited at the prospect of it because I think it would be an even better game!  But I still don't know if this is the project I will choose for my final.  We will just have to wait and see.  

Let's Talk Adventure Shall We?

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As the class starts to look at Inform 7, it is beneficial to get an idea for the games we want to create by looking at other IF games.  The first one I looked at was Shade.  We looked at this game together in class and I thought the concept was interesting.  I had no idea there was going to be so much more than just trying to find the tickets.  It was exciting but frustrating, although I think most IF games have to be.  The second game I looked at was Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.  At first, there wasn't much description.  But I liked how it played like the actual story.  This is where I got the idea to think of a a real event that has happened.  I know this story isn't real, but it based off of a real book.  The third game I looked at was Broken Legs.  I thought it was hilarious.  I wanted to play a game where you had to be the villain but it was actually kind of tough!  You want to get to the stage and take anyone down who gets in your way or DO anything it takes.  I obviously had to laugh at it instead of being repulsed by it.  This game gave me the idea that I would have the player choose to help others or fend for themselves and see what happens!

The genre I chose to do for my game is adventure; obviously.  To me, an adventure game is the most exciting type of IF game.  The setting is in the bottom steerage floor of the Titanic.  You heard me correctly: The Titanic.  The object of the game is to make it out of the bottom floor and up to a lifeboat before the Titanic sinks.

The PC is the person playing, there won't be a concrete character with a name and life story.  When the person says "Inventory" or "Examine Me" they will find that the only thing they are carrying is their Titanic boarding tickets and possibly some money (which won't do them any good).

Some of those concrete actions my PC will do is find the key to unlock the room they are trapped in.  Search the floor's for an extra life-vest.  Make the decision to save others that they will find, or to keep going on their own.  Break down a gate to get to the staircase.

The opening will go something life this:

"It has not been the greatest of evenings.  You had just gotten ready for bed, and you chose to read a little before you went to sleep when you felt a disturbing jolt.  People started screaming on your floor, but before you could wonder what was happening you looked out the window and noticed the boat stopped moving.  Now, a stream of water is flowing in under the door and you can't seem to locate the key you used to lock yourself in."

PC: Look

"Your room is not the neatest of rooms.  You kept your bed clean and without wrinkles but that is the only thing not covered in grime.  This isn't completely your fault; a third-class ticket gets you this kind of room.  You have a closet and a dresser in the corner as well as a desk!  If you can call that a desk.  The door is before you, but without the key it is kind of a mute point.  Near your bed is a small round window where you can see the water starting to cover.  Yikes."

The player will figure out what to do when they continue to move through the tasks given to them.  The game will always remind them of what they have to do next whether it be swim through a flooded room, find the nearest staircase, or steel some clothes to make them look first class.  The game will get harder when after each tack is complete there will be a harder task.  I could make finding the key a lot more difficult, but since it is the first thing they need to do, I'll make it go more smoothly.  The player will be rewarded by getting to higher ground and having more items to help them reach the deck.

At first, I thought about the multiple endings, but when you're on the Titanic, it is pretty much concretely a win/lose situation.  So, the player will either make it to a life boat or go down with the ship...(I hope that's not too morbid).

If I don't have enough time, then I would get out a level and make getting to the deck a faster approach.  If there is more time than I would work on each level and make it seem impossible for the player to get out before the rooms get flooded.

Usability Testing: Portfolio 1

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Scratch ended up being a fun experience for me.  At first, it looked like a kids game or something that I would understand very quickly.  It turned out to be a lot more complex than I imagined but not impossible to understand.  I can now say that I have successfully completed a Scratch interactive story game.  I am mostly proud of it because I drew all of my own characters and backgrounds and coding.  I felt like I had really achieved a fun game.  More than that, I know if I had more time I would be able to create an even better game and expand the codes (through trial and error) to give a more adventurous experience for the user.


Two Scratch projects I looked at were A Close Shave because I thought it was adorable, and Space Hunter.  The reason I chose these 2 games to watch and learn from was because they both held my attention.  Neither of these games were games that I chose to model my own after, but I wanted the same idea of holding the attention of the user.  Both of these Scratch projects were primarily "games" instead of narratives, which is what mine turned out to be.


The opening screen on my Scratch project clearly states that it is an interactive story, so the user can be ready to play with it and not just watch.  The reason I added that was because there are a few seconds of story that play without the user doing anything and I didn't want people to think that it was not an interactive game.


Section 1:  The point of the game is to help Henry the puppy with his adventures after he grows up.  The story opens with a few seconds of the story to explain how Henry wants to go on an adventure (and hopefully that the user will say "aw, that's a cute puppy").  They get to help the puppy grow up before the adventure even starts.  I wanted this whole beginning to draw in the user.


Section 2:  The story builds by starting the adventure that section 1 talks about.  The user get's Henry moving and get's him interacting with objects (such as a blue ball that he can take into his possession.)  The blue ball leads Henry to a jungle, which further expands the elements of the game into these odd and unexpected places.  Who knew a dog would grab hold of a portkey?


Section 3:  Henry collects a bug, which leads him into space.  This further builds on the other sections by letting the user see how far Henry can go and that this really was a cool adventure.  I chose such locations such as a forest and space to catch the user off guard.  It worked for the most part.  Finally, Henry is able to come home and back to his bed.  This ending allows the user to feel satisfied with what they have done.


Explanation:  This game is a way to interact with a computer generated story.  There are no mind boggling trivia questions or areas of difficulty.  It is simply a game to satisfy a user and maybe get them thinking about a game of their own.  The story is friendly and the scenery is exotic and unnexpected.  Henry is a puppy that just wants to grow up and explore the world (and even further).



I used all of my own drawings, backgrounds, storylines, and coding.  The only thing I can give credit to is Scratch itself for letting me expand my imagination.  Some related sources would be the games I had mentioned before, since they caught my attention of "thrilling" the user. 

1.  A Close Shave

2.  Space Hunter


Usability Testing:

First User:  The first user of my Scratch game was a female and I didn't tell her anything about it.  She started the game with an "aw" at the puppy, just as I had hoped.  She continued the game and read the directions thoroughly while following them just as closely.  The game went a lot slower than I had expected, which I realized was because I was the only person who had played it before and I knew all of the commands wihtout having to read anything.  That incident made me happy though because originally I thought the game was going to sweet and short but it DID lengthen out.


Second User:  The second user was also a female.  She thought the puppy was adorable, although I didn't get an "aw" out of her.  She also followed the directions clearly and accurately.  The only problem she had was accidentally clicking on the background at a time when she wasn't suppose to, which messed up the screen.  This was actually my fault because I wanted the background to be clicked in just one screen but I couldn't find a way to make it so nothing would happen if the background was clicked on a different screen.  It was okay though, I set the game back up and she was careful, so it worked well.

That glitch ended up being the only glitch I had in my game that I just did not have time to succesfully fix.  I was able to work on it but it ended up messing up other parts, so I resulted in letting it go and hoping that none of my other testers would notice.


Third User:  The third user was a male.  He actually said "aw" at the puppy, which I was very pleased with.  He followed the directions and helped Henry on his adventure, but the only comment he made was that it needed more.  He was the only one that said that, I could make the assumption that it is because he is a guy.  Of course, I know the game could use more but I told him that in the time I had, it was as good as I could make it, and he accepted the answer.


I learned a lot from my tesing that directions are very important.  My testers commented that if I hadn't given certain directions than they would'nt have known what to do.  I'm glad I was able to evolve my game into something that is playable.


See what games my classmates came up with! 

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