Game Design Document: Variations on a Dream

Variations on a Dream

Game Design Document

Variations on a Dream

1. Introduction

Variations on a Dream is a first-person music experiencing game, with music-based light gameplay elements from puzzle and platform adventure genres. The player plays as a dreamer travels across and explores the fantastic variations (levels)[1] of the dream teeming with music, looking for the entrance to the next level of dream under the guidance and challenges of the harmony, melody, rhythm, tempo, dynamics and music style of the music which is also of the musical form of variation and constantly playing in the background, but functioning as the core mechanics. The player doesn’t respond to the music directly but the music affects the environments in the dream as well as the player avatar’s properties, leading the player in the dark dream scenes; however tuneless, ominous sounds may lead the player to the nightmare and he/she might wake up. There’s no winning or losing in the game, but just the unique way of music experiencing as a journey.

1.1 Unique Selling Points

  • Unparalleled Interactive Music Appreciation Experience: The game features this experience that immerses the player in the game world and gameplay which are totally based on the game’s ludic interpretations and the player’s appreciation/perception of the music.
  • Puzzle and Platform Adventure Revolved around the Music: The game draws classic gameplay elements from puzzle and platform adventure genres and connects them with the basic elements of music.
  • Interrelated Level Design and Music Variations[2] on the Theme of “Dream”: Both the music and the essential game have one enchanting theme—”Dream” and based on it variations of the music and the interrelated levels of dream are composed, designed and unified.
  • Unlit Environments and Sparse GUI Highlighting the Audio: The environments of the game are largely unlit to emphasise the player’s own exploration with the avatar’s dim light under the guidance of audio clues in the environments and enhance the experience of the music.

1.2 Design Goals

  • Unified Experience as a Journey: The music will be unified with and integrated into the gameplay, creating a whole experience of music-driven adventure emphasising on the process itself but not the results.
  • Highlighting Audio Signals: In the game, visual signals will be properly reduced to highlight the audio signals which contribute to the music-oriented experience the game aims to convey.
  • Moderate Difficulty: The game’s difficulty, on both aspects of the perception/appreciation of the music and the gameplay will be moderate and with an immersive tutorial to appeal to a potentially larger audience.
  • Various Emotions: The music will vary to express and convey various emotions related to the levels of the dream.

1.3 Gameplay Overview

Variations on a Dream conveys a linear experience of variations of dreams, in terms of both the game levels and the associated music with each level. As the player travels across and explores a level of dream, the player will discover entrance to the next dream or the nightmare version of the current dream. The player, as well, can fall to the nightmare as the avatar’s light dims out or simply fall off from edges. See Section 2.1 for more detailed explanations.

In the dream, the player will experience these gameplay elements:

  • Exploration: The player explores the largely unlit dream scene with the avatar’s own light under the guidance of audio clues in the scene which produce different harmony effects together with the music to indicate the good or bad events/situations ahead in general. There will also be various consumable items distributed in the scene to be collected.
  • Puzzles: The puzzles in the game will be totally based on music, containing challenges of musical pattern (melodies, rhythms and music styles) recognition, memorisation and inference related to the music playing in the current dream. Puzzle solving rewards the player with light and unlocks passage or secret area.
  • Action Platform Adventure: There will be various traps activated by the rhythm of the music. Also there will be challenges of platform jumping and the player’s speed and height of jump are affected by the tempo and dynamics of the music.

1.4 Target Audience and Platforms

As a game focusing on music experience, Variations on a Dream aims to appeal to players who enjoy music games and potential players, including true music lovers (especially classical music lovers) and people who have some basic knowledge about music theory (e.g. music students). The game may also attract indie game lovers who would like to try out something new.

As a music game that requires hearing for directions, playing with headphones on is recommended. Therefore, the game aims to be developed for and released on platforms of PC, Mac, iOS and Android.

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Variations on a Dream – The Music

Variations on a Dream is a first-person music experiencing game. You travel across and explore the variations of the dream teeming with music, looking for the entrance to the next level of dream under the guidance and challenges of the harmony, melody, rhythm, tempo and dynamics of the music. The music leads you in the dark dream scenes, but tuneless, ominous music and sound will lead you to the nightmare and you might wake up. No winning or losing, but just experiencing.

Here to listen to the music, Variations on a Dream :

Game Prototype: Quantum Rose

As a tribute to Liu Cixin’s great science fiction novel The Ball Lightning, I wish to tell this interactive story through Quantum Rose, a game in an unconventional form of 2D platform and puzzle games.

About the game (click to view the original pictures)

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I pitched the game to my tutors, classmates and some other industry people.

Check out the prezi I made for the pitch.

The game prototype has been developed further since the pitch. Here’s the latest gameplay video:

Game Prototype: Quantum Rose from Ni Hu on Vimeo.

Due to the limitation of the game prototype (ludic sketch), the story cannot fully unfold in a continuous manner. But the designer’s comments will give brief explanations on the plots where necessary.

Download and play the prototype, and all feedback is welcome!

Game Prototype: Snowwhite

In Snowwhite, I tried to explore how to convey a light mood through the discrete connection of music and game.
The gameplay is sparse, and if without the music it’s just pattern matching. However, I’d like the player to feel they are playing along the music while listening to this beautiful piece.
The music here is Guillaume Lekeu’s unfinished Piano Quartet, the second movement.

Game Prototype: Snowwhite from Ni Hu on Vimeo.

Download the prototype

Game Prototype: Mine My Mine

This game prototype is my personal exploration on delivering repetitive pleasure with experiencing as little challenge as possible. When players mine with each click, the income increases so further investment can be made to upgrade the sensor (view range), prospector (mining range) and accelerate the growth of mines.The mines automatically grow after being mined, even if it is empty(grey).

Also, I tried to apply the typical freemium monetisation strategy here.

Mine My Mine from Ni Hu on Vimeo.

Download the prototype