Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Digital Difference

Question #1:
Try to find an example of a digital game which truly takes advantage of the traits of the medium, and could not be successfully implemented in a non-digital form. In particular, think about the traits of digital/computer games as listed by Crawford. Describe the game, and identify the core gameplay mechanic. What is it about the core mechanic that makes the game truly a digital game?

For my digital game of analysis, the first game that i can think of that is unique to the digital medium would have to Katamari Damacy. Yes yes, it has been demoed in class and all, but hey... i did play, enjoy and complete the game (with all the little presents, mind you.) Core mechanic of the game, to roll up and accumulate stuff till your katamari is big enough to complete the level.

One factor that katamari boasts, like most other digital games is the ability to be able to provide immediate response and feedback to the player. In short, player sees an item in the world, rolls his katamari towards in and it is immediately picked up and accumulated in the katamari (which is supposed to translate to "soul blop" or something like that btw.) However, this is not very different from giving yourself a time limit, and placing things on a board and then trying to use a sticky ball or something to try to accumulate items isn't it?

What makes this game truly a digital game is the use of the digital medium for its computation and dynamicity. In terms of computation, the goal of the game is to reach a target size within a targetted time limit. All this, while being able to be done manually, when you think about it as individual tasks, actually really requires the power of the computer. As it is somewhat impossible to be able to measure the size of the ball in real time with the clock still constantly ticking away, hence, to quote from the sage "The computer is so fast that it can handle the administrative matters faster than the humans can play the game." What i am saying is that i think it is impossible for humans to be able to perform these administrative procedures manually and create a real life version of Katamari Damacy.

But the main juice of it being a truly digital game does not lie in the power of computation, but rather in the ability to be able to create a virtual space for the players to play in that interact with the player's actions on a dynamic scale, and this, i feel is the main draw in videogames, and what makes them so immersive in the first place. In the case of katamari, what is impossible to duplicate in a real life game is having the world scale up and down according to the size of your katamari, increase in scope and in size at the same time as the katamari, which is controlled by the player, does. Yes, the core mechanic is accumulating stuff as you go along to reach the target size, but it is also an implicit rule of mechanic that the world scales along with the size of your katamari, i mean, wouldn;t it be weird if you were rolling up rats and erasers all the time even if your katamari reflects a size of 300m or something. Hence, the power of computation in creating a digital, living, breathing world for interaction is the main factor in what makes katamari damacy a game unique to the medium of the digital kind.

But it is interesting to note how games, no matter how unrealistic or weird, are rooted in the physics of the real world, i mean, in the case of katamari, it is like the world is made to scale up with the size of the player's katamari cos "size" and "scale" are real life concepts, but being applied in a totally make-believe world that has things sticking to a ball, just so that players can relate to it in some sense. Maybe i can try exploring this concept in NM2218 or something.. but i guess.. for this part.. as again.. i have digressed.

Question #2:
The third and final assignment is to design a digital game. Blog about your initial ideas for the assignment, ready for discussion in the workshop this week.

Well, when we were brainstorming for an idea for assignment 3 this week, it was really kinda tough, cos in order to design a unique digital game, we had to firstly, consider what makes a game uniquely digital in the first place.

My initial idea was to use the networking aspect of digital games and came up with this idea of a massive multiplayer version of DDR. which could allow players from all over the world to log in at any time and participate in dance sessions. It was to be like this whole virtual club environment, playing songs all day long, and players could enter and dance and leave whenever they wanted. As in most MMORPGs, there is no fixed goal in the game, but probably to obtain a ranking, or to be able to perform mass dances, or outdance another player, or maybe even duet dances. In the end, this idea was shelved cos of the lack of objective i guess.

So we went back to the drawing board, and we decided to try to come up with an idea of a simple core concept that yet, could only be produced in a digital medium. Donny brought up katamari damacy (hence the choice for the first part), and immediately, it got me thinking. I wanted to have a game that takes the property of the small scale to big scale kinda thing, cos like i mentioned in part one, that is only achievable in a computer-generated virtual space. Then we got further to thinking, and i thought of trying to implement the ability to take multiple personas simultaneously, another concept only able to be realised digitally.

Then it struck me, to make a game based on the eco system, i mean the eco system is a defined system that scales itself up from every prey to hunter, and it perpetuates (somewhat). So we came up with this idea of playing a bacteria of alien of some sort, and starting from a small species, the player has to guide it to an environment of choice and set himself/herself up to be eaten by a prey of choice, and then, taking control of that hunter and make it the prey for a bigger animal. Kinda like a katamari damacy meets spore, but not like any of them at the same time, cos the mechanic is to get eaten and take control of something else. So from now on, all we have to do is fix the objective of the game, we kinda know we want passable traits as the bacteria is passed from one prey to the next hunter, but we are still not sure about the main objective of the game, so what if we become the biggest hunter.. then what? well.. more brainstorming i guess...


Blogger alex said...

Katamari is a good example of a digital game. And your observation about the "realism" of the game is really interesting - yes, it would definitely be a good subject to discuss, perhaps a final essay topic for 2218?

The assignment idea is also very interesting - a combination of Spore and Katamari? I look forward to hearing more about it in tutorial!

12:27 AM  

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