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Designing Aesthetics from Experiences : Riley Rocket
by Jamie Aisthorpe on 07/04/14 07:30:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I find games are an interesting and exciting media to work on. The user intractability with the game’s systems can lead to some interesting results. When designing an interactive experience, I would create some cool mechanic idea and experiment. These often ended up as a weekend prototype that probably never see the light of day. However this changed when I started the project “Riley Rocket” as I wanted to create something special with meaning.

In the early stages of planning Riley Rocket, I couldn’t decide on what sort of experience I wanted to create. I was experimenting with a few ideas where the mechanics felt interesting but the overall experience were flat and users stopped playing after a few minutes due to lack of interest. After researching ways how to improve the experience, I found the article MDA: a Formal Approach on Game Design and Game Research. This was one of the key moments in the project’s design, the article discusses a way to formalize the consumptions of game design by breaking the game into its base components with the use of Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics.  

The article describes that Mechanics are the base components of the game functionality, Dynamics is how the Mechanics interact with each other from user interaction and Aesthetics is the emotional responses that are invoke by the player from the Dynamics. The part I found most beneficial is where they discuss is how the user and designer views this framework. Designers would view the framework from the Mechanics and build from there to the Aesthetics, however the user view it from the Aesthetics and work it towards the Mechanics. From this, I decided to focus on creating the core aesthetic of the game first then design and the mechanics and dynamics to focus and reinforce the core aesthetic.

The aesthetics as describe in the MDA article are models for gameplay. Using directed terminology to describe the aesthetic, they provide a list of 8 core aesthetics the provides a taxidermy of describing games and how games provide interest to the player. When deciding the core aesthetics I wanted to use in Riley Rocket, I researched what other games used and how they affected their audience. At the time I didn’t have a specific target audience I was focusing on and still no aesthetic to build towards. Then I made the decision to build the entire project to something I have experienced which had a great impact on my life.

When I was younger, I had a bad experience with bulling. It had a massive impact in my life and the effects lasted even though school had finished. I hid from the world and years of hard work and a good group of supportive people in my life, I have managed to overcome those problems. Using this expeirence, Riley Rocket now had a firm direction by using the experience as a control. To ensure that the experience could be an effective control, the experience became a concise statement so any content relating to the project could be critiqued and used to reinforce the game. Riley’s original statement became “overcoming bulling”.

When the game had the statement, the design questions and decisions became easier to make “Who should be our target audience? – children would benefit from this” “how do we appeal to them? – how about a rocket that is cute and capable of emotions” “how do we depict “overcome” bulling? – lets use the environment as the main antagonist that tries to stop the player at every turn”. We could quickly prototype and test these with the target audience and refine the project.

Using this in the development process, we could test and make sure that the experience retained interest in our target audience. Using the MDA article to view the experience from the perspective of the player allowed us to build the mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics refine the experience to best suit the target audience. Using the projects statement as a control for designing and reinforcing the overall aesthetic of the game.  i posted this origionally to Aisjam and if you would like to see Riley Rocket, Check it out at rileyrocket.net


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