Two initial puzzle demos for Project Tesla (The Tesla Files)

The original idea of “first person actor” was abandoned for its practicality for a small development team and limited budget. The project then turned to the idea of  a FBI agent’s detective discovery of Nikola Tesla’s life and work.

To demonstrate the possible game mechanics of the game, which are supposed to be related to the Tesla theme, two puzzled demos were created.

The first one is a general acoustic puzzle, which introduces the player to the puzzle mechanics of audio pattern recognition. The player will hear a sequence of electric current sound and three shorter sounds that make up the sequence. The puzzled is solved when the shorter sounds are clicked/tapped in the correct order.

puzzle1_1puzzle1_2

Now, the second puzzle takes the pattern recognition further by introducing the visual patterns.

This puzzle features Tesla’s early and most applied invention, AC motor (three-phase), requiring players to choose three stretch cables from the boxes of AC power sources of different phases and connect them to the corresponding terminals marked “1”, “2” and “3” on the AC motor. Players have two ways of identifying the matches:

1. Acoustic: By moving the mouse to or tap the central gear and the three boxes with curve patterns, players can hear a sequence of electric current sound and three shorter sounds that make up the sequence respectively. This approach has been introduced to the player in the previous puzzle.

2. Visual: Next to the number marks of the terminals there are three coloured curve patterns (representing the wave form) and each of them is a complementary vertical inversion to a curve patterns on the box.

Players can click/tap on a box to choose a cable of AC power source and then click/tap again on a terminal to apply the match. Signal sounds are played to indicate whether the match is right. The puzzle is solved by completing all three matches.

puzzle2_1

When the puzzle is solved, the player can get some related source information about the puzzle as a reward of the Dossier system. Also, since the AC motor is powered up, it functions to interact with other contraptions and becomes part of the whole room puzzle.

puzzle2_2

Demos Download:

For Windows: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zrfib0hwovwhzjs/4jW2OOqsoj

For Mac OS: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/muwbbjlh5p9prbh/IxJ_n9wX3z

The Original Idea of Project Tesla

What if you were the mysterious genius, master of lightning, Nikola Tesla? What would you do to with your inspirations and talents for inventions? Would you be able to realise Tesla’s dream of world wireless power transmission, death ray and even more…as a different Tesla?

Theme: You as a possible Tesla

Genre: Point-and-click/tap-and-drag (touchscreen) graphic/puzzle adventure, alternative history simulation, RPG

Narrative: A narrator narrates while the player plays in first person perspective; the story is in a chorological order with multiple endings

Core gameplay: The player plays Tesla in his view (with his acute sense of hearing and sight), from his early career on.

  1. Role-playing: Put in the historical scenarios, the player may either follow the indicated path of Tesla or make different choices to alternate the history in critical events such as the decision of charging for his AC generator patent.
  2. Career simulation: The player has to raise and manage funds for invention projects in which the player also need to balance time and energy between work and social activities.
  3. Inventing: The player collect inspirations (represented by graphic symbols) from daily life through puzzles (ref. Myst, Machinarium) and then assembly them in a certain logic way to create a new invention. This process takes time can energy.
  4. Key variables: fund, time and energy

 

Close Textual Analysis on Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes (PC)

Unlike the early exemplary role playing or the traditional turn-based strategy titles of the same franchise, Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes (Ubisoft, Capybara Games, 2011) stands out as a distinguishable spin-off which combines match-three battle puzzles, strategic role playing and fantasy adventure gameplay together (Todd, 2011). The recurring theme of the game is heroes’ conflicts in a fairy-tale-like version of fantasy world Ashan, a full-realised secondary world with inner consistency of fantasy-oriented reality (Tolkien, 2001: 71), contributed by the gameplay, aesthetics, graphic/ audio styles and the typical good-versus-evil story, which all revolve around this theme from the very beginning, conveying a meaningful gaming experience to the player.

The single player game begins with a cut-scene introducing the general background story of the five factions in Ashan with a history of demons invading the other four. As the narrator implies, the story of the game centres on the Blade of Binding—the plot device of the game and the demons’ covetousness for it is the source of the conflicts in this story. The real adventure (campaign) unfolds thereafter with a brief tutorial on the gameplay.

ClashOfHeroes 2012-11-14 18-20-55-50

Figure 1. A scene from the prologue of Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes (Ubisoft, Capybara Games, 2011), showing the start of the adventure.

The gameplay consists of two major parts: the adventure and the battle within it, with role-playing making up essential experience in both. The adventure is the medium that carries the theme and drives the game flow, in which the player plays the five protagonists to experience the game in ways of immersive storytelling and gameplay elements of fantasy adventure genre such as exploring, accomplishing quests, hero development, resource collecting, army management, engaging in the inclusive puzzle-form battles, etc. The player’s gameplay experience starts with Anwen, the elven huntress and her first few non-optional dialogues and adventure moves (see Figure 1). Notably, the finite routes which adopt the movement nodes in the adventure scenes confine the player’s exploration; nevertheless the limitation doesn’t reduce the player’s view on the whole adventure scene and also channels the player more into the highlighted story of the adventure rather than the exploration which in this particular story-driven world is less emphasised. Therefore, the game is mainly a game of progression (story-driven adventure) with certain emergent play (choice of quests and strategies in hero development and battles) (Juul, 2002). Before further adventure is on, the player is confronted with the first battle in the game.

ClashOfHeroes 2012-11-14 18-16-00-59

Figure 2. A battle scene from Chapter 1 of Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes (Ubisoft, Capybara Games, 2011).

The turn-based puzzle-form battle is the process of resolving the conflicts between two rival heroes (see Figure 2) and is encounter during the adventure. Based on variations of match-three puzzles, the battle requires the player to form offensive (vertical stack) and defensive (horizontal row) formations of troops by removing any unit or moving the unit at the bottom of a column in limited moves in each turn. To win a battle and then proceed to further adventure, the player must defeat the opponent’s defences and inflict damage directly to the opponent’s heath until it is reduced to zero. The puzzle form of the battle abstracts battle strategies from reality to create a unique combat system that accords with the fairy-tale theme, lessening the intensity. By gradually introducing combat rules such as same-colour attacking chain and fusion, more combat units, Anwen’s spell and bonus moves rewarded by completing multiple actions in one move, the battle starts to involve certain depth of strategies which also increases in complexity and difficulty as the adventure progresses. In the meantime, the player learns as he/she plays Anwen in a reasonably progressive learning curve, practicing new skills and being rewarded by achieving new goals (Sweetser, P. and Wyeth, P., 2005). However, to some degree the randomness of the positions the troops spawn renders the battle a bit more relying on luck as the complexity of the battle rises and decreases the player’s sense of choice and agency; but meanwhile the randomness also results in the variety of the battle, enhancing the player’s feeling about the impact of the decisions on the game’s outcome (Salen, K. and Zimmerman, E., 2004: 174), here, through the process of resolving the conflicts. Heroes play a very important role in the battle because they are the actors of the conflicts and specifically the player can utilise their special attacking and defending abilities along with various battle bonuses provided by artefacts equipped by heroes to alter the strategies and even the whole battle. From battle to adventure and then to another battle, the player plays through the recurring process of the encountering and resolving of conflicts, in which the hero as well as the combat units gains experience points while the player becomes more experienced with the battle puzzles. Therefore, through the puzzle form of battles and the role-playing as heroes that engaged in them, the player experiences heroes’ conflicts in an active way.

ClashOfHeroes Magic Portal

Figure 3. A cut-scene from the prologue of Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes (Ubisoft, Capybara Games, 2011), showing the protagonists being separated by the magic portal.

The overall fairy-tale-like cartoonish graphic style of the game is in accordance with its expression of violence of the conflicts in a non-violent way for its intended wide, especially young target audience since the game was rated as E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) (ESRB, 2011) and PEGI 12 (PEGI, 2011). From the title scene on, the game is presented in a visual style of relatively small scale, smooth texture, and mild colour palette achieved using cartoonish rendering techniques with soft lighting and simple shadows. In the prologue and the first chapter specifically, the adventure scene is set in a mysterious and harmonious elven forest where little golden magic sparks float in the air and exquisite tents are set up among lush trees, depicting a typical territory of elves (see Figure 1). Characters, their dialogue avatars and combat units all appear as hand-drawn fairy-tale-like cartoon figures while in the static cut-scenes they and the adventure scenes remain the same style but appear in different perspectives (see Figure 3). These visuals differentiate from those of Heroes of Might and Magic V (Ubisoft, Nival Interactive, 2006) from a more realistic version of Ashan. The game was designed to be immersive in a fantasy context as these graphic elements are still presented as explicit symbols with conventional links (Sebeok, 2001: 55) to the traditional western fantasy even though they are in cartoonish style. For instance, the delicately depicted forest scene (see Figure 1) indicates the good elves while the red burning skins are of the evil demons (see Figure 2). In contrast to the static adventure scene, the battle scene appears more dynamic as the actions of heroes and troops are expressed by using smooth and slightly exaggerated animations but the adventure and the battle are generally in consistency as the graphics of the battle environment are in accordance with the location where the battle takes place.

The game’s audio as well is in a fantasty style. The incidental orchestral music tends to be non-diegetic so that the music functions more vividly. It can be divided into three categories: narrative (theme) music, scene music and battle music. Narrative music appears when critical plots occur as an essential part of the narration. For example in the prologue, when the inferno army launches the sneak attack on the elven camp, the music suddenly becomes intense to cohere with the sinister turn. The title music also is of this category for it acts as the heroic “overture” of the whole story. Scene music plays along with the player’s adventure and in the beginning of the prologue specifically, is a soothing forest nocturne that implicitly immerses the player in the harmonious ambience. The highlighted battle music creates the major tension for the battle, in spite of the relaxed atmosphere created by the cartoon graphic style. Apart from the music, the abundant sound effects permeate the game and contribute to the completeness of the game world. Above all, the audio and the graphics work together in constructing a convincible fairy-tale-like fantasy world where the player engages in conflicts as heroes with active immersion.

In the aspect of story, the game is a prequel to Heroes of Might and Magic V (Ubisoft, Nival Interactive, 2006), which sets extra-diegetic narration (Wolf, 2001: 101) for players who are familiar with the latter. As mentioned above, the story begins because of the Blade of Binding and is supposed to be developed and resolved by it. Thus by setting the game’s action in a specific narrative context and by giving the player, through the protagonists, the motivation (the main quest), the secondary world gains diegetic depth and the meaning to play (Wolf, 2001: 101). In the game, the narrative is conveyed mainly by characters’ dialogues, game plot and the cut-scenes. Being non-optional, the dialogues narrate the linear story in a most simple, direct and effective way and are mostly in approachable fairy-tale narrative form. While the cut-scenes seem to be non-interactive, they serve as narrative episodes for exposition, causation and tension (Newman, 2004: 98), linking the diegesis (narrative) and non-diegesis (gameplay). The plot in the prologue rises to the climax, as shown in the second cut-scene, when the camp is destroyed and nearly all heroes are defeated by the inferno army in search for the Blade of Binding, which sets up the major conflicts between the protagonists and the daemons that lead the overall storyline. Anwen and the other four orphaned protagonists then have to evacuate to the magic portal through tough fights and finally it comes to a temporary resolution that they get separated by the portal (see Figure 3). Scattered across Ashan, their fate will be totally different now and handed over to the player, together with the hook: the whereabouts of the other four and the Blade of Binding.

Now, as the fairy-tale-like fantasy world Ashan and the on-going heroes’ conflicts are just beginning to unveil before the player, why would he/she click “Exit Game”?

 

References

ESRB (2011) Might and Magic Clash Of Heroes Rating Information, [Online], Available: http://www.esrb.org/ratings/synopsis.jsp?Certificate=26953&Title=Might%20and%20Magic%20Clash%20Of%20Heroes [17 Oct 2012].

Juul, J. (2002) ‘The Open and the Closed: Game of emergence and games of progression’, Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference Proceedings, Tampere, 323-329.

Newman, J. (2004) Videogames, London: Routledge.

PEGI (2011) Might and Magic Clash Of Heroes Rating Information Search Result, [Online], Available: http://www.pegi.info/en/index/global_id/505/?searchString=Clash+of+Heroes [17 Oct 2012].

Salen, K. and Zimmerman, E. (2004) Rules of Play, London: The MIT Press.

Sebeok, T.A. (2001) Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics, 2nd edition, Torronto: University of Toronto Press.

Sweetser, P. and Wyeth, P. (2005) ‘GameFlow: a model for evaluating player enjoyment in games’, Computers in Entertainment (CIE) – Theoretical and Practical Computer Applications in Entertainment, vol. 3, no. 3, July, pp. 3-3.

Todd, B. (2011) Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes Review, [Online], Available: http://uk.gamespot.com/might-and-magic-clash-of-heroes/reviews/might-and-magic-clash-of-heroes-review-6308736/ [17 Oct 2012].

Tolkien, J.R.R. (2001) ‘On Fairy-Stories’, in Tolkien, J.R.R. Tree and Leaf, London: HapperCollins, pp.3-81.

Ubisoft, Capybara Games (2011) Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes.

Ubisoft, Nival Interactive (2006) Heroes of Might and Magic V.

Wolf, M.J.P. (2001) ‘Narrative in the Video Game’, in Wolf, M.J.P. (ed.) The Medium of the Video Game, Austin: University of Texas Press, pp.93-111.

Game Pitch: Ludic Sketch-Seconds Count

Seconds Count (Inspired by JFK Reloaded and 10 ^ 16 to 1)

Seconds Count Design Sketch 1Seconds Count Design Sketch 2Seconds Count Design Sketch 3

Seconds Count Design Sketch 4

High Concept

Transformation

From JFK Reload, a historical simulation “game”,

Through Sci-Fi transformation inspired by 10 ^ 16 to 1,

To Seconds Count, an alternative/future history and co-op/competitive action game.

Genre and Platform

The game is a multiplayer first person “shooter” (Less intense FPS + motion sensing mini games).

It is about assassin and counter-assassin (Competition between roles of assassin and counter-assassin while cooperation among roles of counter-assassin).

The gameplay requires unique individual interface that is only available on Wii U.

Target Market

The target market includes mixed hard-core and casual gamers and so-called “mid-core gamers“.

Key Features

Sci-Fi Settings

The Sci-Fi settings come from the question: What are the motives of the assassinations? Imagine that when time travel becomes applicable, secret organisations invest in assassinations. Are they time crimes or true justice?

Introduce two rival factions: The Assassins & the Time Defenders.

The game consists of Operation Scenes of both real historical events and fictional history/future events, each lasting about 2-5 minutes.

Asymmetric Gameplay

The gaming experience varies according to the player’s role:

The Assassins The Time Defenders
Goal To assassinate the target To neutralise the assassination AND subdue the Assassin
Control Wii U GamePad Wii Remote / Nunchuk /

Wii U Pro Controller

 

 

Diverse Roles

The Assassins (1 player) The Time Defenders (1-4 player(s))
        Assassin (H)         Sensor (C)
        Protector (C)
        Interceptor (C)
        Enforcer (H)

(H) More Hardcore Role

(C) More Casual Role

The absent roles will be filled by AI

Seconds Count

The game runs on the concept of “seconds count”. To prevent an assassination, the Time Defenders developed a technology that can detect critical events by 5 seconds at most in advance. Thus they have an Operation Window of 5 seconds to take requisite measures before the Assassination Point occurs.

Presentation

Graphics & Audio

The graphics are in cartoonish style in order to ease the violence.

The audio includes scene themed music (e.g. 1960’s American music in JFK’s scene) and Sci-Fi sound effects (e.g. sound effects of future weapons).

GUI

The GUI differentiates on Wii U GamePad and split screens on TV.

Gameplay—An Instance

Phase 1

After operation briefs from their own HQs, two teams start time travel to the operation scene. In this stage, two teams are invisible to each other and the world of the scene.

The Assassin has 2-5 minutes (in this scene, just 2 minutes) to choose the assassination spot, prepare the weapon, evasion/self-protection equipment and plan the evasion action.

Meanwhile, the Time Defenders should determine the ideal defense positions, just before the Assassin pulls the trigger.

Phase 2

The Assassin acts. When the trigger is pulled, the Assassination Point (AP) is created. Although the Assassin takes action now, the Sensor can automatically detect this action by 5 seconds in advance in the same timeline. Thus this forms a turn-based-like mechanism. By now, the Assassin’s all actions are unknown to the Time Defenders.

Phase 3

The Sensor acts. The player should identify the Assassin and the details of the attack (e.g. weapon types, direction, etc.) quickly according to the visuals, sounds and his unique sensor screen and then use the Wii Remote to point out and mark the Assassin on the sensor screen to make him visible to all team members. Finally, the player sends signals to other team members about all the information he has got (through party/voice chat etc.). Suppose it costs the Sensor 1 second to complete all the actions above.

The Assassin, in the meantime, should act out evasion procedures to travel back to the HQ. Suppose it costs the Assassin 1 second to complete this action.

Phase 4

Other Time Defenders act simultaneously. Now the AP will occur in 4 seconds (the Sensor spent 1 second in his action) they have at most 5 seconds (4 seconds of Operation Window + 1 second of the Assassin’s time for evasion) to do everything to accomplish the goal.

The Protector plays mini games (e.g. picture matching), to choose the right protection measures accodring to the Assassin’s weapon type (e.g. force shield for kinetic weapons) and deploy them.

The Interceptor intercepts the incoming “bullet” (can be energy beams or any other weapons) at the AP by acting out the right moves (e.g. slash the bullet from the opposite direction) in the bullet time with the Wii Remote/ Nunchuk.

The Enforcer tries to apprehend or take down the Assassin either before or after the AP and before the Assassin successfully evades. (Note that subduing the Assassin before the AP will prevent the AP but the Protector and the Interceptor will not get more Scores and Credits form their actions.)

Time UP!

The Assassin wins if the target is successfully assassinated.

The Time Defenders win if the assassination is neutralised AND the Assassin is subdued.

Players can view the statistics of their actions in the game and replay the game scene.

Scores and Credits are rewarded according to the specific role and actions.

Irrelevant actions (e.g. killing commoners) will lower Score and Credits.

Credits can be spent on various equipment and items.

PDF: Seconds Count Design Sketch

PPTX: Seconds Count Pitch

Character Sketch-Kongphan, the man who has no face

Character Sketch – The Man Who Has No Face

Name Kongphan (known as the man who has no face)  Kongphan
Age Around 20
Gender Male
Character type Hero/Protagonist/Dynamic
Biography Kongphan, whose name then was unknown, used to be the young almighty God of Black dwelling in the heaven sphere. His elder brother, the God of White, somehow went through a drastic change of mind and cast him out of heaven for a secret reason in the constant war against the inferno sphere. When he fell to the earth sphere, his being of ego was split into several lesser beings together with his personalities and virtues, scatter across the earth and other worlds. Being only one of the shards, he lost almost all of his divine powers and became a mortal. With both the perplexity and vow of vengeance burning in his heart, Kongphan embarked on a journey for convalescence (rehabilitation) beyond and the answer to the fate of him and his brother.
Appearance Before fall: Pure being of black and maybe seen in humanoid shape

After fall: A young man about 1.73m high wearing a black thick robe with his face always concealed in the shade of the hood.

Personality Being mortal, Kongphan appears to be cold and indifferent, but he has a warm heart hidden deeply. He never says too much and always chooses to act on his own. He prefers solitude but also yearns for friendship and others’ affections. In a mortal way, he is truly a perfectionist and a romanticist.
Relationship Like pillars in a temple, he is the central one. Befriending with his other lesser beings, he then gets closer to his wholeness.
Combat style Depending on the player’s choice, Kongphan will vary in his profession, but always remain in a dark-oriented combat style.
Abilities Kongphan is initially deprived of his divine powers. As he convalesces and gets complements from his companions, he will rediscover his lost powers of black and darkness, varying according to his determined profession(s).