Hey, Matheus here.
For the third entry in the dev log, i think i should write about the design and concept behind this game.
Before i go further, i would like to clarify that i am not a designer. I am a programmer. I’m trying my best to become a good designer though.
When i think about design, i think about manipulation. For me, at least to this day, design is the art of manipulating the player into doing – and feeling – the way you want them to.
I want people who play HASH17 to feel like hackers. To feel in control. To feel that behind that terminal, they can do anything and they fear nothing. I also want them to feel like the action they take in the world of the game have an impact. I want to give the player the chance to change the world – at least the game’s world.
In order to accomplish that, i am taking a few things as guide-lines, to put myself into a creative box and focus my feeble creativity:
- Everything the player do in the game has to be grounded on reality – every program, device, technology, hacking, everything that the player sees and does – has to be possible in the real life. The player may not know that it’s possible, but the fact that it’s makes it more easy to create something believable.
- Every happening in the game is a consequence of a player’s action. Even the first dialog is triggered only after the player types help. The player has the option of delaying the dialog or just refusing it. (In the end the dialog will happen anyway, but the player still feels like they had control over it). The player needs to feel in control of the world. This opens opportunity to create moments that they are not in control, which will create a panic feeling that may be useful for some puzzle/decision.
- All the images on the game have to be real photos – not art assets. That’s because i want the player to feel like they are still on the real world. They are not on some game, they are sit behind a computer, typing stuff on the keyboard – much like they do everyday – but at the same time they are in another place. They are at a place where they can change the world, where they can hack into computers, crack encrypted files and do things that they cannot do on real life.
- No tutorials. No directions. Drop players into a box and let them explore the box. If they hit a wall, tell them that they hit a wall. Do not turn them to the right direction. They will get there, eventually. This way the player feels like it’s them doing all the work, figuring out how to do something that they never did before. They feel smart. And they are.
- The first dialog – and probably all of them – have to be almost surreal. That’s because i want players to feel like something so amazing is happening to them that it’s almost unbelievable. I want them to feel like Neo on the first Matrix. When he is scaping the office and say “Why me? I am nobody.”. And a surreal dialog communicates that feeling. Who doesn’t want to be called and told: “I can give you a chance to change the world?”. And what are the changes of that happening in real life?
- Every action the player takes has to be rewarded in some way. I am still figuring this one out.
- I read an article on Gamasutra that said “The player is the one supposed to do cool stuff, the NPCs have to watch the player do cool stuff”. And i am taking this very seriously. The player is the one doing the hacking and breaking and all that. The NPC is just watching.
These items above are my design guide line s ofar. They might change in the future. And they might not even work at all. But i am sticking with them so far.
I would also like to do a exercise here and answer some questions found on this article about the development of Deus Ex:
What’s the core idea? Can you describe the core of the game in 2-3 sentences?
You are a hacker choosen to be part of the most notorious and dangerous group of hackers there is. Being part of this group comes with difficult moral decisions and responsibilities, but with the potention to change the world.
- Why do this game?
Because i see a lack of story-focused hacking games. Most hacking games are focused on hacking and getting money and game. I want a hacking game that is not about hacking, but rather about the impact your actions have on the world and on people. The hacking is just the tool you use to impact the world.
- What are the development challenges?
Time, which i don’t have much. Experience, wich i also don’t have much. And the usual: design, story telling, etc…
- How well-suited to games is the idea?
Very, i think. The idea is that your actions and choises shape the world you live in. Games are the only media that the consumer has the ability to choose and do things that change the flow of the experience.
- What’s the player fantasy? (If the fantasy and goals aren’t there, it’s probably a bad idea)
The player fantasy is to be a powerful hacker. To be someone that can do anything as long as they have a computer (a common object in most places). To feel like they can change the world. (Who doesn’t want to change the world?).
- What does the player do? (What are the “verbs” of the game?)
Hack. Kill. Sabotage. Talk. Save. Discover. Choose.
- Has anyone done this before?
There’s a few hacking games out there. But none of them is a totaly text-based, story driven game.
- What’s the one new thing? (“You can always find one thing that hasn’t been done before [in games], even if you’re making a My Little Pony game.”)
Meshup between story/choise-driven gameplay and hacking gameplay.
Do you have something to say? (“In Deus Ex I wanted to explore all sorts of big issues,” said Spector. “And I wanted players to explore those things in ways that only games could do.”)
I want to say that anyone can change the world – if they have the opportunity do so.
Just to finish: i want to say that i have no idea of what i am doing. I never designed a comercial game before, so all i said here might just be garbage. So, please, if you’re reading this and know something i don’t know, disagrees with me or wants to say i am right, please do so through comment or contact me on the contact page.
That’s it. Thank you for getting this far.