past 15 years I have worked as a designer for many theme park, computer
gaming, and software companies. In every project I undertake, I am faced
with the same challenge, "How do I draw my audience into my imagined
world and make them want to stay?" Whether it's a 100 million dollar
Disney ride, a 3D shooter, or a kid's entertainment title, it is my
objective to tell a story through the experience of traveling through
a real, or imagined physical space. Unlike a linear movie, my audience
will have choices along their journey. They will have to make decisions
based on their relationship to the virtual world I have created, as
well as their everyday knowledge of the physical world. Most important
of all, their experience is going to be a "spatial" one.
I have an all encompassing desire for any computer game I play or themed
attraction I visit, it is this:
me to a place that:
me go somewhere I could never go.
me be someone I could never be.
me do things I could never do!
Evolution of 3D Gaming
the past decade we have been witness to the evolution of the 3D gaming
universe. In games such as Wolfenstien, Doom, and now
Quake 3 Arena, we can visit and explore worlds on our computer
screens that are increasingly dramatic and realistic. The notion of
walking through theatrical environments like those found in Cyan's Myst
and Riven, real time, are not that far fetched. Yet, despite
our staggering leaps in technology, the game play remains relatively
unchanged. We may be transported into ever engrossing and elaborate
theatrically lighted cathedrals, but the fact is, we are still simply
killing each other. Please understand, I have nothing against 3D shooters.
I have spent countless hours with a rocket launcher in my hands and
know the glories of a low Ping rate. This doesn't change the fact that
on many occasions I have been blown to bits because I dared hesitate
to admire a beautiful piece of virtual architecture.
demonstrates the increasingly dramatic and realistic nature of
these technological miracles, the audience that experiences these worlds
are relatively small. Bloodshed and mayhem rein supreme, with many a
computer savvy cyber gladiator having to wrestle a 3D accelerator card
into the guts of their increasingly obsolete PC. But, times are changing,
and it seems that we are on the brink of an untapped market potential.
With more PC's coming onto the market with 3D accelerators built in,
it is quite possible that your everyday Joe will have the power to visit
increasingly realistic worlds from their desktop.
Parks and the Virtual World
to the mid-1990's, my experience and interest in the computer gaming
world was marginal. Not until the release of games like Myst
and Doom did I fully see a potential bridge between the theme
park world I was working in and the world of the computer on my desktop.
As my professional computer experience has grown, so has my belief that
the two worlds are not that far apart. True, their audience demographics
may be slightly different, but in many ways they face the same challenge:
How to bring people into their created worlds and keep them immersed
and entertained. Now with the growing popularity of multiplayer and
internet games, computer environments are treading on a realm, until
now, reserved for the physical world. Many thousands of people are connecting
and participating in these virtual worlds with total strangers for one
reason.... namely, the allure of the "shared" experience.
A chance to make a human connection in these new worlds and to be able
to say, "HEY! Did you see THAT!?"
of the trade secrets behind the design of entertaining themed
environments is that the story element is infused into the physical
space a guest walks or rides through.
of this, there is a lot of knowledge that should be shared between these
two seemingly different industries. Amusement parks have been entertaining
people for over a 150 years. In the past 50 years theme parks like Disneyland,
have taken the art of spatially entertaining people to new heights.
No longer are rides simply a short lived thrill, now guests are fully
immersed in stories, where they play the main character. Over the years
these designers have developed tricks and trade secrets that (from experience)
they know will work.
of the trade secrets behind the design of entertaining themed environments
is that the story element is infused into the physical space a guest
walks or rides through. In many respects, it is the physical space that
does much of the work of conveying the story the designers are trying
to tell. Color, lighting and even the texture of a place can fill an
audience with excitement or dread.
of this is done by manipulating an audience's expectations, which they
have based on their own experiences of the physical world. Armed only
with their own knowledge of the world, and those visions collected from
movies and books, the audience is ripe to be dropped into your adventure.
The trick is to play on those memories and expectations to heighten
the thrill of venturing into your created universe.