Games as a medium – issue of stylization? 2D RPGs and Visual Novels

The past week I’ve been playing with RPG Maker VX Ace, a game developer software that allows you to create your own rpg (role playing) games.

As you can see from the above, the graphics are 2D and look very old school. The objects and sprites in the game are actually separated as square “tiles” , which may act as collision, activate a script, etc.
You can actually get away from the default tiles if that’s not the appeal you’re going for, but all in all it will still be a 2D top down game.

Systems of encourage / Achievements

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The above image is a photo which I took at my little brother’s Kumon Center. It’s a chart that shows the students’ progress , however it does so in a way as an achievement system that encourages the students to work hard or continue to do so. The two columns on the left display if the student is working at a bronze,silver, or gold level – with bronze being 1 grade level higher, silver being 2 grade levels higher, and gold being 3 grade levels higher. The two columns on the right show the various milestones – such as whether they have reached C level before grade 3. The columns to the left edge show the number of years they have been a Kumon member and whether or not they are a “rising star”, meaning that they are on their way to earning a medal.
Finally the column to the very left is their current grade.

Single player vs Multiplayer designs – how they’re similar, but mostly : how they’re different

If you haven’t already read my short thesis paper on the Application of Game Theory within Online Gaming Culture and Institutional Education, I highly recommend you check it out (it’s a short read, I promise!).

In it, I discuss how video games have become a social norm in today, that modern video games often contain complex themes and obstacles that parallel to those in reality, and that online virtual spaces within video games possess many elements of choice making and problem solving that mirror Game Theory. 

Right off the bat – I’d like to make the distinction that single player video games are vastly different than multiplayer video games. Even in the case of most video games, where there is a single player “campaign” , alongside either a multiplayer arena/pvp (player vs. player) or co-op (play with a friend) game mode, the two need to be seen as two separate entities within the same family – almost like brother and sister. 

The main reason for this is that the design that goes into each has a totally different objective.
Let me start with the single player objective:

In the single player campaign of a game, a player usually begins by being given an introduction as to the identity of the player as in the character they are playing as (usually the protagonist), the “scene goal” of the character (as in what they need to achieve at the moment to progress further through the game), and the “life goal” of the character (what needs to be accomplished to win the game).

So for example, using the most simplest and perhaps most well known of video game characters: In the classic Mario games, Princess Peach finds herself kidnapped by the main antagonist Bowser, and it’s up to the player, identified as Mario, needs to conquer each castle (scene goal) in the mushroom kingdom until he finds the castle that Princess Peach is held in, and defeat Bowser to rescue the princess (life goal). 

Continued…

The Final Chapter – Finding the Ending

With my latest user test with Steve as the player subject, he made various comments of the existential nature of my game.

From the big picture, it indeed feels as though the concept of individual free will as the player in the game, identity, and ambiguous goals are the core themes in the game.

While in it’s individual chapters the play through is consistent, the overall arc of the game is not. The user is led to discover who they are as the player, however nothing is explicit; the player is never described physically and no background or backstory is given.

While the game begins with a clear goal that needs to be achieved, this “tutorial room” merely serves as a test for the player to pass in order to prove that they are familiar with the grammatical syntax required to play the game.