Experiencing Environments

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The slides accompanying my lecture on environmental storytelling and player navigation.

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  • 1. Experiencing EnvironmentsIntroduction Introductionwww.gamearch.comPage 1 / 40

2. Experiencing EnvironmentsIntroductionMartin NerurkarLevel Designer & Game DesignerDiploma-Ingenieur (Architecture)Making games since 1997Started with modifications for the Quakeseries and other FPS gamesJoined the games industry in 2008Currently employed as Lead of GameDesign at GameforgeTeaching Game and Level Design3 years as Level Design teacher at the Games Academy FrankfurtMultiple lectures as a speaker on game conferences and eventswww.gamearch.com Page 2 / 40 3. Experiencing EnvironmentsIntroductionWhat are Game Environments?Are made up of many different elements: Textures Lighting Entities GeometryThese properties have many uses orgoals: Limit progression Hide information Provide challenge Trigger emotionswww.gamearch.comPage 3 / 40 4. Experiencing EnvironmentsIntroductionWhat Experiences is this Talk about?This talk focuses on two very specific usesof game spaces:Environmental StorytellingThis is the art of using a pre-designedenvironment to inform the visitor. It iscomparable to set design in movies andtheater or to theme park design.Player NavigationUsing cues in the environment to subtlyguide the visitor or his gaze in the desireddirection or to help him orient himself.www.gamearch.com Page 4 / 40 5. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental Storytelling Environmental Storytellingwww.gamearch.comPage 5 / 40 6. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingWhat is Environmental Storytelling?Environmental Storytelling is the telling of stories through a space andits contents.This is the art of using a pre-designed environment to inform the visitor.It is comparable to set design of movies or to theme park design.For video games this is done using all the tools at the Level Designersdisposal. This includes: Textures Characters Geometry Sound effects Visual effectswww.gamearch.comPage 6 / 40 7. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingExample 1www.gamearch.com Page 7 / 40 8. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingExample 2www.gamearch.com Page 8 / 40 9. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingExample 3www.gamearch.com Page 9 / 40 10. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingWhat can Environmental Storytelling do?There are three primary ways toenvironmentally tell stories:Macro StorytellingSupports the larger story of the game byproviding subtle context.Micro StorytellingPresents small story vignettes within the spacefor the visitor to interpret.Player StorytellingProvides a playground for the players to createstories.www.gamearch.comPage 10 / 40 11. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingWhy do We need Environmental Storytelling?There are a few differences to classic exposition storytelling:Exposition (audible, textual or visual) Requires concentrated attention from the audience Often creates a break in the game flow Tends to be explicit: It makes it obvious what its about Audience is only passive, can only consumeEnvironmental Storytelling Audience can soak up peripheral information without interruption Often seamlessly integrated into the game experience Tends to be subtle: Information is not directly told Audience is required to actively interpretwww.gamearch.comPage 11 / 40 12. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingReading Environmental CuesHumans are trained to take cues from theenvironment: We recognize patterns We compare them to learned patterns We come to conclusionsThis happens within microseconds. The subconscious auto-pilot canregister a lot more information thanfocused attention can. It only alerts our active thoughts ifthere is something of special interest.www.gamearch.comPage 12 / 40 13. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingInformation InterpretationOnce the pilot has been alerted theviewer will focus his attention on thestimulus and actively investigate it. The visitors curiosity is piqued He wants to solve the puzzle, tounderstand the situation If he is not interested, he can simplyignore the informationThis will lead to the players version of thepresented information: his own storycreated at his own pace.www.gamearch.comPage 13 / 40 14. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingWhat can Environmental Storytelling tell Us?Environmental storytelling providescontext to the visitor:About the Place What is this location or its purpose? What happened here? What is the history of this space?About the People Who are the usual visitors/inhabitants of this place? Who are you in regards to this place? At home? An intruder?www.gamearch.com Page 14 / 40 15. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingMacro StorytellingPaints a picture of the entire space in broad but subtle strokes.What can it do? Sell the reality of the environment as presented in exposition. Support the larger story of the game by providing context. Provide a visual reward through variety or special unique scenes. Reinforce the player identity by clarifying the relationship to this place Set up expectations for the location and its contents (affordances)www.gamearch.comPage 15 / 40 16. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingHow is it done? Spatial sequence: Progression from room to room Coherent use of subtle cues, both small and big Establishing a fitting moodwww.gamearch.com Page 16 / 40 17. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingMicro StorytellingPresents the relics of specific events within a space.What can it do? Add character to the individual scenes. Provide warning or examples for player to learn from. Give hints to game functionality Can be used as breadcrumbs to focus visitor attention Support the larger setting through fitting vignettes. Give insight into specific events in the history of this place.www.gamearch.com Page 17 / 40 18. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingHow is it done? Handcrafted scenes showing the remains of previous actions Remains can be coincidental evidence of these actions Or they can be a conscious expression of previous visitorswww.gamearch.comPage 18 / 40 19. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingWhat does it need to work?The information has to be noticed Create contrast to clearly highlight your scene There are many ways to attract the visitors attention Movement and strong light & color contrasts work well Redundant information makes finding the clues more likelyInformation needs to be understood The player will interpret the information based on his perceptual space Intuitive understanding is necessary to avoid confusion Use familiar objects or carefully introduce new oneswww.gamearch.comPage 19 / 40 20. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingPlayer StorytellingProvides methods and opportunities for player-created stories.What can it do? Players are able to express themselves directly in-game. Or the game simply records the evidence of their actions. Players can find out what has happened in game based on this.How is it done? Actions change the environment and its contents, be this bullet holes, a paintbrush or enemy corpses.www.gamearch.com Page 20 / 40 21. Experiencing EnvironmentsEnvironmental StorytellingStorytelling ExerciseA small exercise to help you understand how to tell stories through theenvironment. You have 30 minutes to: Take a game or setting you know or make one up on the spot. Think of a specific place, a Macro and a Micro Story within that world. Write your stories down, dont show them to the others. Come up with concrete ways in the environment to tell these stories. Take some time to list these methods or make some sketches. Outline the game and setting so we know the larger context. Describe your scene to the group, dont explain the story! The rest of the group tries to come up with their own interpretation. Compare this to your original story ideas. Do they match?www.gamearch.com Page 21 / 40 22. Experiencing EnvironmentsPlayer Navigation Player Navigationwww.gamearch.comPage 22 / 40 23. Experiencing EnvironmentsPlayer NavigationWhy Player Navigation?Players need help finding the right path or important spots withoutbeing frustrated by an apparent lack of options. Constant increase of complexity of spaces in games Early games were perfect information: all on one screen Then we introduced multiple screens, creating a need for maps With the step to complex 3d simple maps become unfeasiblewww.gamearch.comPage 23 / 40 24. Experiencing EnvironmentsPlayer NavigationWays to Help the Visitor navigate?Immersed ToolsThese methods are created by the Level Design within the space. Attract the visitor to specific spots Help the visitor identify different areas Provide concrete guides and signsDiscrete ToolsThese options are a part of the interface and not the world itself. A map provides an overview over the space Markers are useful to highlight specific, possibly mobile, spots The compass provides information in relation to the visitor positionwww.gamearch.comPage 24 / 40 25. Experiencing EnvironmentsPlayer NavigationAttractThe goal of this method is to attract the players attention to a spot. Useful for linear level design to keep the flow In non-linear levels it can highlight areas of interestThere are many ways to achieve this: Contrast Composition Weenies Motion Cutscenes Pickups Characterswww.gamearch.com Page 25 / 40 26. Experiencing EnvironmentsPlayer NavigationContrast Visual contrast attracts the eye Color, shape, brightness are all good ways to create contrast Light usually works really well on a broad but subconscious level Try the squint test to see what stands out in a certain viewwww.gamearch.com Page 26 / 40 27. Experiencing EnvironmentsPlayer NavigationComposition Environment subtly points toward the target Lines are oriented as desired Lines crossing boundaries have a stronger effectwww.gamearch.comPage 27 /