Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Visual Game Experience

In Lecture 8 of Game Design and Production, we talked about the visual game experience. Now before we get into the knowledge keeping of this post, I got a confession, on the day of this lecture, since this class is at 8am, I opted for an extra hour of sleep over actually going to class. But because of the awesome hybrid of in class and online awesomeness of this course, I was able to watch the lecture online and catch up no problem. So shout out to in class online hybrid courses, here’s to hoping more classes in the future start doing this.

So what is the visual game experience? It’s what you see. When you are playing a game it is the data that your eye sees and processes. Is that simple, but creating and designing visually appealing data for your eyes can be quite the challenge.

Is this a tree, person and town...or is it a face!?

We talked about optical impressions, which involves:pattern recognition and motion tracking; Optical art (pictured above) and visceral reactions. Visceral reactions include aesthetic sensibility “does what I’m looking at make sense?”, primal reactions, dark = scary and taught reactions, reactions that we have learned from life for example, guy walking towards you with a hokey mask and knife at night, chances are he’s not going to give you a cookie and you should probably run.

The bulk of the lecture was spent talking about Alexander’s 15 Properties of Living Structures.

Alexander’s 15 Properties of Living Structures

1.    Levels of scale – The visibility of goals, scoping of the level to accommodate the current objective.
2.    Strong Centers – Strong areas of focus for example depth of field to add emphasis on what you should be focusing on.
3.    Boundaries – The ability to see the limitations, so instead of having invisible walls, place an obstacle..
4.    Alternating Repetition – “Repeating elements to give sense of order” for example in Super Mario Bros. when you have the grey brick tiles with the black background, you know theirs a boss fight coming up.
5.    Positive Space – Keeping focus on objective, backgrounds that do not detract the player from their current goal.
6.    Good Shape – Keeping things simplistic
7.    Local Symmetries – Keeping things small for example in Portal several smaller rooms are easier to grasp than one big room.
8.    Deep Interlock and Ambiguity – The phenomenon that occurs when things are so dependent on each other, you cannot have one without the other.
9.    Contrast – Using strong opposites to achieve difference. For example in Portal, white tiles = portalable and black tiles = not portalable
10. Gradients – Things that change gradually. For example in GTA V there is a transition between the city and the country side.
11. Roughness – Imperfections that are put there on purpose. This could prevent things from looking weird for example a room where everything is perfectly packed away may lead you to think “Is anyone actually living here or is this all set up for show?”
12. Echoes – Involved using previously discussed proprieties but modified a little. For example two objects that are different but perform the same function, for example the cubes in Portal the pink and blue cubes do the same thing but the variance allows for a breath of fresh air.
13. The Void – Calm contrasts, large empty spaces can create the feeling of calmness. For example the church in Bioshock Infinite.
14. Simplicity & Inner Calm – This involves using only the essential objects for a scene. No additional props or anything, just what’s required for the player to play.
15.  Not Separateness – How all elements of the game come together. Why are these object here?

This was a very informative lecture, especially as a guy who’s into graphics programming this gave me a real sense on where I should spend resources for maximum visual appeal.