Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Four Pitchy Tasty

Still working on the pitch document. This one is trickier than the 'Palette Battle' one, because the style isn't so clear. Palette Battle the feel was 'dull industrial combined with bright chibi and lots of paint splatters'. This one is more 'chic, suburban hipster lifestyle with hint of nostalgia for retro games'. Aaaaaaagh.
Luckily for inspiration today, Scott Pilgrim vol. 5 finally arrived...This is probably why the cover art came out looking so Scott Pilgrim-esque. If I can say one other thing, it's that Manga Studio is the best inking program in existence. I wish there was a plugin for Photoshop that made it ink like Manga Studio! I've been drawing the characters in pencil, scanning them and inking in MS, then using Photoshop for the colour to do all the character art for this.

It's fun writing the pitch for the tongue-in-cheek tone of it. The art takes much longer though, because it's higher quality than the little chibis from Palette Battle. In general, this game has a lot of 'me' in it. It's very much to my personal style and taste. Basically I'm trying to go for a look that's really a lot more 'hip boutique' or 'indie comics' than 'video games'.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Dedicated follower of fashion

Kirsty Lang, Carrie's luvvie housmate.
Something good about an episodic game is that you could feasibly change the characters clothes every story arc to keep up with current fashion trends. For this reason, I've deliberately gone for making Kirsty's clothes pretty 'ala mode'. With most games, characters seem to wear quite timeless styles rather than following fashion trends. As I've mentioned before, since games have such a short lifespan, you don't really have to do this, unless you expect the production time to be more than a couple of years. I haven't gone way overboard here, since this is not so much a 'this year' look as a 'this decade' or 'this five years' look, but even when it's not in fashion, people probably won't hold it against the game, since the game will be old news by then and it'll be expected.
After all, the PHS in Final Fantasy VII was based on a trend at the time (1997) for a certain type of mobile phones in Japan. But even without knowing that, you can enjoy the game.

Another difference here is that as well as not being timeless, the game isn't placeless either. The fact that it's based in the UK means that the fashion is very much what's in in the UK right now. Again, making something universal by making it very specific is something that I'm interested in.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Carrie Wu and her spoon

So, Carrie Wu. Our heroine.
I have no idea where the name came from really, it just popped into my head. I've noticed that British born people of Chinese extraction tend to have very traditional, often quite old-fashioned English first names. Her name sounds vaguely like 'Carry you', I guess, which kind of works for this reliable character who solves everybody's problems. Wu also sounds a bit like 'Who', which is quite funny due to a bit of a Doctor Who vibe to the character and series in general.
Drawing asian characters is enjoyable because they have such dark eyes, little noses and very flat, open faces. It's a very cute look, particularly when drawn in a pared-down style. I guess living in Japan made me acutely aware of how comparatively deep-set the European face is, I had some rather bizarre conversations revolving around how 'high' my nose is and how white my legs are that year ( it is rather a nice change to be complimented on one's lack of a tan!). There seem to be a lot of game heroines at the moment with veeery wishy-washy ethnicity. Elika from Prince of Persia wins for the most ridiculous example of a mish mash of Natalie Portman and Halle Berry resulting in (and I quote the designer here) "That 'ambiguous tan' you gamers are so fond of", man, does she look bland! Alyx Vance from Half Life is another example. Her dad appears to be half black and half white, and his daughter looks...er...I dunno, part black, part white and part asian? Again, ambiguous tan and very...I dunno, I guess I'd describe her as 'safely pretty'. If you combine the features of several pretty film actresses of different ethnicities, the result is aparently pretty blandness. Games Industry; PLEASE STOP DOING THIS, okay?
So, yeah. Carrie is of Chinese extraction. Definitely. No wishy-washy-ness about her. Though she's of Chinese extraction though, she has a strong streak of British whimsy to her. She's a witty, deadpan character with a mastery of comic understatement. The flat and open face really kind of lends itself to a blank expression for deadpan statements. Dead pan, of course even means 'straight face'.

Identifying the market

Doing a little research into social groups, I found oddly no description to match the group I know to exist that I'd aim this game at. This social group which makes up a large chunk of our society, yet we never apparently notice?
Okay, for sake of argument, I'm calling this rarely seen or noticed social group Geeksters. Hooray, it's half ten in the morning and I just coined a new word!

So, what's a Geekster? Geeksters could also be called 'Nu Geeks'. Mostly they were born into the 'Millenials' generation, which is the generation that comes after the notorious 'Generation X', (though older geeksters may hold a little more of Gen X's cynicism and liking for copious amounts of black clothing) this generation is worldly, but optimistic and very comfortable with technology. Geeksters are mostly white or asian, particularly east asian, and nearly always middle class. They tend to be either students studying up to University level or already have degrees or higher. Nearly all Geeksters have some sort of creative hobby; writing, drawing, sewing, making music, creating digital art or programming, and many either work or aspire to work in creative fields. They like to use new technology, particularly the internet, to share their work with the world.
This creative streak is largely what seperates Geeksters from plain ol' geeks. The Geekster tends to appreciate technology and culture on a less technical and more aesthetic level than the Geek. They often have a strongly defined personal 'style', which with female geeksters may well be influenced by the clothes of Japanese Harajuku fashion, incorperating gothic lolita elements. Geeksters love video games, but they have to be appealing either on a simple 'fun' level, or have rich, involving visuals and plot. They also love games with 'iconic' elements. Japanese games are particularly favoured in this group for their stylish, colourful visuals, clean gameplay and convoluted plotlines, as well as their cosplay-able characters. Having grown up with video games, the millenial generation see them as an everyday entertainment medium, not a child's toy.

To put it simply, the Geekster is the person who you see walking around 'New Look' carrying a 'Game' bag. They're equally as likely to buy video games as clothes, like comic books (particularly manga and indie titles) read webcomics regularly, like a few select sci-fi and fantasy shows and like to interact with their fandom creatively through cosplay, paper craft, fanart, fan fiction, websites, as well as creating their own original works.
I was going to post a selection of pictures here, but in the end I found just ONE picture that sums up 'Geekster' so perfectly I don't think any more could ever be better:
The twenty-something female members of small press manga group Sweatdrop wearing clothes with fanciful asian culture and manga inspired cosplay elements combined with general indie/hipster style hugging a Dalek. Sweatdrop:

Thursday, 5 February 2009


Choosing how the player will interface with the environment in a text adventure is tricky.
There has to be enough choice for what to do with an object or person to allow for complex puzzle solving, while avoiding a cluttered feeling or 'hunt the action' gameplay.
Text parsers can be good for rewarding players for doing exactly what it needed, rather than, by sheer luck, clicking on the right things. But text parsers are also a pain and can leas to 'guess the verb', where the player tries to 'use the switch' only to be refused because they were meant to 'throw the switch', trying to guess every eventuality for what a player may type, including common spelling errors, is a bit of a pain (believe me, I've tried my hand at text adventure writing in the past!)
The most comfortable interface I've found is the 'verb coin', where clicking on an item or area in the inventory or the world brings up a menu of a few basic actions. I've seen a lot of good games that stick to three actions: Look, Speak and Use/Touch. Since I'm trying to be simple here, I may stick to these three.
For now, I'll assume that when you click on an object, the 'hub' with the actions appears and the player chooses which one.

...Oh! Idea! Okay, so as I've said, the spoon is a frequently used item in this game. Would it work to make 'spoon' part of the verb coin, so it becomes, 'Look', 'Speak', 'Touch/Use with hands', 'Use Spoon' symbolised by simple icons.
The bottle may not work here, because it will often change state, being filled and emptied.

Monday, 2 February 2009


Right, so what I know so far:
The game is an adventure/puzzle game.
(ie. It revolves around exploration, solving environmental puzzles and is largely linear and storyline focused rather than sandbox. Problems are not solved with reflexes, but cerebrally)
Solving problems, unlike some adventure games, revolves more around using an inventory of a few set objects, sometimes supplemented or combined with other objects found as you explore.
It's set in a modern magical realism setting with a comical tone.
(I'm thinking of setting it in a very typical modern English town/suburb except when extraordinary events happen, they are taken as if relatively normal, common occurrences. This juxtaposition is common in cult series like 'Spaced', 'Greenwing' and in comics like 'Scott Pilgrim' and 'Scary Go Round' but is rarely seen in video games.)
The game is made to be released serially as shot 'episodes' which would perhaps be an hour's worth of play. Each episode is a short, but complete story, but perhaps some will link into an overarcing story, much like a TV series would.
I'm assuming this is a PC game, with a point-click interface for now. Point and click can also work on the Wii, however, which is a possibility. A text parser is also possible, but these are generally widely disliked, also would not translate between systems well.
Some puzzles could be solved using minigames which use a slightly different gameplay style. For example, a sequence where the player must play chess or must play some kind of minigame to pick a lock etc.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Wittling it down

So, as stated in the previous post, the character in this planned adventure game will have certain multi-purpose objects which they are always carrying. Many puzzles will rely on the player remembering that certain objects are used certain ways.

When trying to come up with a single iconic, multi-use item, I stumbled on the idea of...A SPOON. I had asked some people, and one suggestion that came up was 'screwdriver', it can be used to prise open things and screw or unscrew...er...screws, to poke things too. BUT I then realised, you can do any of these things with a spoon. Additionally a spoon can be used to scoop and carry things, eat things, dig, scrape, conduct an electrical current, make a sound when hit on things, as a catapult to fire small objects, as a mirror to see around corners and behind you or to signal people by reflecting light...
...Man...I need to start carrying a spoon around with me.
No other video game character I can think of carries a spoon, making it a nice, iconic object. Plus it's believable you could have a spoon in your bag, like suppose you like yogurts and sometimes buy one for lunch at the shop to eat at work? You'd carry a spoon around, right? Then in later installments, it just becomes a sort of running joke that the protagonist always carries Edward the spoon. Why Edward? Because Edward is the "spoony" bard from Final Fantasy 4. That means it even ties into a geeky oldskool gaming joke, further cementing it's place in this game!

Let's also assume the character has a pen and paper, so we can have a journal function, as well as other functions of paper and pen, and an empty plastic bottle, which is a multiuse item and also a Legend of Zelda reference, since in the Zelda series, the bottle is one of the rarest and most useful items in the game, functioning as a health or magic powerup, extra life, means of carrying quest items etc.
Finally a mobile phone. Firstly it's hard to imagine a twenty-something with no phone, secondly it doesn't kill dramatic irony since a phone doesn't always work, not everybody knows everything and phones don't always work, thirdly it facilitates amusing spoofs of Metal Gear games.

So, the inventory is:

Weird research

I'm currently researching things a person can carry that have multiple uses. This way I can set up the character in my game with a basic inventory of useful everyday items rather than having them pick up everything that isn't nailed down and have everything with just one use.

These crazy Swedish people seem to like coming up with new uses for everyday objects. Most of them involve dismantling the object in some way though, which I'd rather avoid, the thing needs to be able to go back to its original state really for this game. Still interesting:

Hey, this looks interesting...

...Come to think of it, I think I may have an old book on this kind of thing somewhere about the house. Mainly on domestic uses though.

Some things I know to be useful:
A bandanna
A sewing kit (needle and thread)
A tube of glue
Pencil/Pen and paper
A knife (but I would rather not have the character carry a knife with all the ruckus about knife crime lately, despite the fact that they'd be using it practically and not violently)
A lighter
Plastic bottle
A spoon
a magnet
Rubber gloves

....I think if it wasn't obvious before, it just became really obvious that I spent about ten years in the girl guides...
Still, a character who carries a spoon, a plastic bottle, some paperclips, a lighter and a bandanna and solves problems somehow seems way more badass than somebody who carries a load of special gadgets. I guess they'd be like a pacifist Jason Bourne hahaha!