This blog post is the second on Kubrick Project. It presents some of the iterations the game has gone through, and the works behind designing the player experience. Please make sure to read Kubrick Project | W1 before reading this post.
After telling my game idea and showing the basic concept art to the MA tutors, I was to create the first version of the game. I was going to make a simple prototype, and iterate my way up. I got a lot of help along the way, the tutors explained to me how to transfer the ideas I had to the code. Moreover, I found out how to execute some of the simple things on Unity by searching online.
To begin with, I built 6 walls by using Unity cubes to construct a large hollow cube, and created the 3 monoliths again by using Unity cubes. Then I realised that I needed to replace some of the Unity cube walls with Unity planes, in order to be able to see inside of the hollow cube. I added physics material to the walls and the monoliths to make sure the monoliths stay within the walls and thus within the hollow cube. I applied upward force to the monoliths, whenever the space key is pressed, to make them float as if they are inside water. To give the water effect, I needed to play with the gravity and drag features. Then, I added the planets by using Unity spheres, and placed them inside the hollow cube. The planets received a code which made them whirl around. I added collision, so that the console would alarm me if any of the monoliths hit a planet. Later on, I added another code so that whenever the monoliths hit a planet they would stick on it, and the planets would stop whirling around themselves. I also added code to the hollow cube, so that it could be rotated on Y and X axises, pressing the arrows on keyboard. The player goal was to stick one monolith to Jupiter, one to Earth and one to the moon, as the monoliths were located in the film. If a monolith hit Mars and was stuck there, the player had to shake off the monoliths and start over. At this step, I had a very basic prototype of my vision. In order to move closer to the experience I wanted to achieve by this game, I strived to create two things: 1- A Hollow Sphere, which would replace the hollow cube I made from Unity cubes and planes. 2- Water.
During my discussions with the tutors and online research, I learned:
1- Hollow physics objects needed to be modelled in such a way that they could embody collision; Unity did not include these within the software.
2- Built-in Unity physics could be challenging, e.g. game objects passing through each other or getting stuck during collisions.
3- There is no digital water, I needed to fake it. Meaning, there was not water as a physical material. I could have water as graphics, but the water effect (the physics) needed to be an illusion given by tuning applied forces, mass and gravity.
Herein after, I started to make priority lists and to-do lists, updating them everyday. It was a 3 week project, and I was aware of that not everything I wanted to have in my game might have been possible given my limited skills both for coding and creating game art. Thus I decided on what were essential for me in every step of design, and executed those in development. I moved “nice to have” elements to the later stages on my to-do lists.
Having a hollow sphere, i.e. an orb was very important for the game, not only because it ensured a connection to the transfiguration scene of the film, but also because the tactility of a spherical shape is much higher than a cubic shape. I also thought, making it spherical would resemble a glass snow globe with floating particles inside which is an object very familiar and pleasant to the eye. On Blender I modelled a cup, which was a rectangular prism with a half sphere carved inside. When 2 of these cups were joined together on Unity, they created a cube with a hollow spherical space inside. The concave surfaces made by the carved spheres would work as colliders in such a way similar to the walls of the hollow cube. Since the joint two cups looked like a cube from outside, the mesh renderer was turned off, so they only served as colliders. Later, I created a Unity sphere with same size as the spherical space for only graphic purposes; it did not include any physics material.
As I proceeded improving the game mechanics, adding features and creating assets, I showed my prototype in a job interview to receive some feedback. It was actually a very helpful feedback which led me to make important changes. The mentality of the game changed along with several features. The game developer who interviewed me advised me on only selecting only one game aesthetic to fulfil, and make sure the mechanics the game has do not contradict with my chosen one aesthetic and the emotions that I desire the player to experience. I wanted to create an experience of sensory pleasure, but at that stage my game also included challenge and one of the emotions it led the player experience was frustration due to the nature of “challenge”. Feeling of frustration was contradicting with what I wanted to achieve with the overall experience. The attention of the player was focusing on winning the game, and the sensory pleasure was not really achieved. So I needed to give up either the challenge aspect and focus on delivering the sensory pleasure, or give up the sensory pleasure aesthetic and focus on making the challenge much better. After stomaching the feedback, I decided to re-think and re-design certain parts.
I thought about my intensions with this game, and how could I embed these to the game:
>> What experience do I want the player to have?
- I wanted the player to be the alien, which we do not see but know they existed in the film.
>> What is essential to this experience?
- Aliens have influence, so should the player.
- Even though the aliens have influence on the state of things and the future, they are not acting controlling and invasive but rather they act mysterious and discreet. The only visible evidence they show off is the monolith. Therefore, the player actions should have some effects, but the player should not have the total control.
- The aliens are suggested to be higher beings, much more developed then the humans. Accordingly, I image that they should not possess the human defects such as greed and competitiveness, and they should be wiser and more peaceful than us.
>> How can my game capture that essence?
- The player can change the state of things by controlling the monoliths and also effecting the whole game world from outside. Meaning, the player can rotate, shake and spin the orb, but he cannot directly touch the objects inside the orb (cosmic dust particles, whirling planets and orbiting moons).
- The player cannot harm or destroy any of the game assets.
I analysed the emotional side of the current game: “Emotion I want to achieve" vs. “What emotions it generates now?”.
I thought about how could I bridge the gap between these two. Given that sensory pleasure could be best realised through joy, ease and comfort, “Feeling of Lightness and Contentment” was what I was going for, but instead there were 3 groups of emotional responses: Group1- irritation, frustration; Group2 - surprise, joy, comfort; Group3 -determination, ambition. For the first step of the fix, I decided to keep Group2 and free them game from Group1 and Group3. For the second step, I decided to add the “feeling of relief” to achieve lightness.
I decided on “no goal”. I imagined the player of my game would say in his mind: “I don’t know what I am doing exactly, but it is fun.” I eliminated challenge from the game all together; there would not be a pre-determined win-loose situation. The player actions would have had no given meaning, but the player could draw his own meaning. The game would be quite responsive with visual and sound effects. The player could only press buttons without any purpose and enjoy shaking the orb with music as self-expression, or he could create his own challenge, if he wished to do so.
In order to the eliminate the goal of the game, I changed the mechanic “if one of the monoliths touches a planet, they stick together and the planet will stop whirling”. I decided to loose the featuring of real planets (Mars, Jupiter, Earth) and make the planets anonymous celestial bodies. Then I added more orbiting moons to the planets. I added a code to the planets and moons, which changed their colour and texture randomly whenever they were touched by a monolith. In the new version, when a monolith touched a celestial body it would not stick to it nor cause it stop moving; the planets always kept whirling, and the moons kept orbiting the planets. There were 5 colour and texture combinations (green, orange, purple, yellow, red), all the celestial bodies would start the game in colour grey, and they could randomly change to one of these colour and texture combinations when hit by a monolith. As a consequence of these changes, most of Group1 and Group3 emotions mentioned above were eliminated. The “feeling of relief" was also achieved since there were no stopping an object in motion any longer, which had been causing a static and restrained feeling within the game, now it felt more flowing.
Photos of notes: