Art Games: Smash Bros is Serious Business

Without much doubt, Super Smash Bros is a game series familiar to many people who are familiar with video games. Known primarily for crossing over characters from Nintendo’s franchises (and occasionally other third-party characters), the series pits these characters into a fighting-game context.

The series has also been known to have a notable competitive scene that has launched several gaming tournaments dedicated to the games. However, some of the game’s developers have expressed concern for these competitive communities, citing the skill gap between casual and competitive players.

A proposal I have in mind for bridging the gap between casual and competitive play, while maintaining a sense of communal gathering, is to host a version of the game in the form of a puppet show. Partially inspired by Isla Hansen’s Motion Capture America (2015), which also involved puppetry and motion capture in the video game context, the player characters are represented physically by hand-made puppets. The movements of these puppets would be captured to move the on-screen characters on the stages, and particular movements would trigger attacks while physically moving the puppet would move the character on the stage (walking/running/jumping).

The idea of using motion-capture puppets particularly comes from the story-world elements presented within the series itself. The fighting game genre as a whole tends to be built like a theater stage, in which the elements shown on the screen are arranged 2-dimensionally. The fighters themselves are “actors” in the digital productions; additionally, they are also like puppets in terms of having to be chosen and controlled by the player. The third installment of the series even hints at this with it’s story mode, in which the characters are represented as inanimate “toy” trophies that come to life when needed to fight. (Check out this advertisement for the Nintendo 64 version, which represents the characters humorously in costume) 

Additionally, this form of motion-capture gameplay is meant to be seen as an absurd and silly form of playing a game that is often seen as highly competitive. Players can attempt to master the controls to play this form of Smash Bros competitively, or they can chose to play casually for the novelty of the controls. Either way, I would want the experience to be silly and light-hearted, as the game series often present itself to be.

 

Art Games: Project 1

Or, the maze! This is my first Unity game, so I hope all goes well and bug-less.

The game (which currently has no title) is a maze for the most part. You navigate the game by walking/running, and running into certain cubes will take you to different places in the maze. The “end” can be reached through several means, but there isn’t a real goal other than to explore this enclosure you find yourself in. Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 8.13.09 AM.png

You can download WebGL folder here. Be advised that the WebGL version doesn’t work nicely with Chrome, so I recommend a different browser like Firefox.

The standalone version (for Mac) is here as well. (I have yet to create a windows version)

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Art Games: Teleporting Mazes

A couple days ago I started getting the hang of using Unity and managed to get a better hand on integrating scripts within game development.

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The objective I have in mind is navigating a series of “rooms” via touching objects that teleport the player to another location. The main area of inspiration comes from Osamu Sato’s LSD Dream Emulator, which is a game I have immense admiration for. One of the most striking aspects that I recall from LSD was bumping into otherwise ordinary objects (such as the walls of the various “levels” or areas) and having the scenery suddenly change. In my experience, this game element of surprise and the unknown was what made the game so interesting and memorable for me.

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(Sample “map” of gameflow, it is also totally subject to change)

For this “maze” game, I think it would be nice to reference this feeling of being lost and hopelessly confused in a world that seems to change so often.

Art Games: Modifying Part of a Game

As someone who plays games often enough to create art games, there can be some things said about imagining how an already-existing favorite could be changed. I personally find game mods to be a subject of interest, and I am moved mostly by how some mods are used to change how the game itself addresses the player as an entity that affects the events of the game (whether the game even has a narrative or not). I would like to write a possible proposal about changing gameplay mechanics of Touken Ranbu, one of my personal favorite games.

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Touken Ranbu is a browser-based game that is primarily concerned with collecting anthropormophized swords that appear as a variety of handsome young men brought to life by the player; said swords can then be arranged into teams to be used in combat in order to advance through stages, which can potentially yield new swords to obtain. In the context of this game, the player is assigned a role as a “commander” figure in charge of leveling up swords through grinding and managing resources. This intended role of the player also draws me into game, as the characters address the player directly based on their actions, such as giving them equipment or tasks to complete.

Despite the amount of player involvement story-wise, much of the game’s elements are fairly automated: during the battle phases, the most that the player has to do is decide which six swords will be fighting and what battle formations will be chosen for each sortie (and whether or not to proceed to further battle nodes for each stage). The order in which the team members attack is based mostly on individual stat numbers (attack power, defense, speed, etc); that, and which enemy the sword attacks is also random. However, to involve the player further in the battles, I would suggest creating an option in which the player could ignore these stats and decide themselves which swords attack which enemy, and in what order they see fit.

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Inspired by other tactical-based games (such as Fire Emblem) and team-based RPGs, this change in gameplay would give the player more control over the actions of the soldiers. The player will know their sword’s exact stat numbers, but the opponent’s numbers are hidden. From this, the player will have to decide which enemies to target based on their team composition, paying attention to possible elements such as the types of swords in the party, the amount of “armor”/troops each member has, and whether or not one sword will have an advantage over a particular enemy.

Additionally, it also brings the player to be more involved in fighting “alongside” with their swords. As the game assigns the player as a “commander” role, the player is essentially given a certain degree of responsibility over the swords. This is reflected particularly in the sword characters’ in-game dialogues, as they respond to whether or not you assign them to an expedition, repair them, refine their strength/stats, or take them out to battle. The mechanic of directly choosing battle commands could potentially emphasize the player’s involvement in the game as a character themselves as part of several game mechanics that encourage a closer connection with the swords that they are responsible for collecting and caring for.

 

(Images borrowed from the Touken Ranbu wikia site) 

Art Games: Analyzing an Existing Game

One of the earliest games that I remember playing and enjoying was an archival version of Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega, 1991) for the Nintendo Gamecube system. Most of what I remember is playing through the first two stages as I was hilariously bad at making much progression; however, the legacy of this character and subsequent games are also a part of why I enjoy this game in particular. While this game was not conceptually striking, it is recognized and remembered for its highly-detailed graphics for its time, the music, and gameplay.

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Sonic the Hedgehog, at its most basic description, is a 2D-sidescrolling platform game. The player controls the titular character through each “zone” or level (divided into smaller “acts”), in which the goal is to guide the hedgehog to the goal at the end of each segment. At the end of the last act of each zone, a boss battle with the villain Dr. Robotnik would start. After the player defeats him, they are able to progress to the next zone until the “Final Zone” boss battle with the doctor is encountered. If all stages are cleared and the boss battles are won, the game is complete.

Common gameplay elements throughout each level typically include rings, power-ups, and enemies. Rings are scattered throughout each zone and serve as a sort of protection for the player, in which collecting these rings allows Sonic to withstand one hit from enemies or harmful obstacles. Otherwise, if he does not have any rings he will die from enemy contact. Collecting 50 rings will allow the player to transport Sonic to a “Special Stage” that involves navigating a maze; collecting 100 rings will grant him an extra life.

What I found to be notable about this game is the particular attention towards building a stylized, detailed world. The appearance and details, such as a panoramic, scrolling background indicating depth, are completely appropriate for the game as a sidescroller; these kinds of games in general seem to have a particular focus on environmental details.