Adding Weight to Your Game Design Part 11: Solid Drawing
by Michael Jungbluth
Applied to Animation
This one directly ties to hand drawn animation, but the core of the idea translates to computer animation as well. It means, know your subject. Before you can make it move, you must understand what it looks like standing still. You have to know the form, the structure, the purpose. It means you must know your tools. You have to be comfortable with a pencil, before you can bring a character to life. This is obviously the same with a rig or software package. But on a deeper level, it also means, KNOW THE CHARACTER. Know their personality, their background. Know what they would say, and when they would say it. Get inside their heads, and get into character. This is how you convey not just their physical weight, but learn to understand and express their emotional weight.
This is known as being a method actor and is responsible for some of the most powerful performances ever captured. The actor becomes the character, both on screen and off. They live their life as if they ARE the person they are pretending to be. And while taking it to the extreme can be dangerous to the health or emotional well being of yourself and those around you, the results of method acting can bring about some of the most honest depictions of life ever seen.
Sure it is extreme, but in both cases you entirely BELIEVE Chrisitan Bale is the character he plays.
Applied to Game Design
So I believe we should become method game developers. Act out your scenes. Become the character you want the player to control. Try and wield a tool or weapon in real life to get a tactile feel of that object. Try and recreate the scenarios for yourself, in a room somewhere, and see how you would react. See what you would want to do when presented with a similar problem. Do this before you even take the time to design the full level or game. Because when YOU are in the thick of it, you will see what the character would want to do in game. That in turn will translate to what the player wants to do. And that is where you will get a beautiful harmony of character, player, and narrative.
If you are creating a war game, get the entire team together and stage airsoft or paintball scenarios, so that they can feel what it is like to be in the thick of it, whether they would be running full steam or crouching and walking slowly. Find out what it feels like to be ambushed and shot. Go to a shooting range to understand the weight and feel of a real weapon. If you have a character with a big backpack, wear a giant backpack to see how you react with it on. If you are creating a tense, horror game, go to a haunted house and see how you react and move. Observe the actions of those around you to see how they move through the rooms. All of these moments and experiences will add to your understanding of the situation, and while they might not be 1 to 1, you can at least sympathize with the characters in the world. Everything you create you should try to have some touchstone in real world experience. Because that is when you will bring your own personal touches, which will make it feel unique and honest.
Not being comfortable or knowing your scene can quickly lead to losing believability.
If you do this alongside playing early prototype, greyblock levels, you will know the form and the character of the level to its very core. You will be aware of how it feels both digitally and physically. And that is going to be felt by the player. So get out of your chair when trying to solve a problem or devise a new action. Experience as much of the digital world as you can in real life, because it is those experiences that will give you something of your own to say. Something with some real weight behind it.（source:gamasutra）
Adding Weight to Your Game Design Part 12: Appeal
Applied to Animation
Appeal is the last principle and ultimately the culmination of every one that comes before it. Characters have to be relatable. They have to emote, and they have to appeal to the emotions and sensibilities of the player. This is all done by creating visually interesting designs, shapes and physical features. A big key to this is knowing when to employ the use asymmetrical vs symmetrical designs and actions. All of this is done in an effort to create virtual charisma for your character. And this isn’t just used to create characters that are likeable. You need to do this when the player should dislike the creations. It is your job as the creator to make them dislikable, not because you created an uninteresting character, but because you made them a genuinely flawed being. It all comes down to the player investing themselves emotionally and mentally into your creation from first sight. Because if it is appealing to the eye, the player will be opening themselves up for continued emotional investment.
Every part of the character is designed to make the player feel a specific emotion. Design your games with the same attention to detail.
Applied to Game Design
Appeal is what games are all about. We are connecting the player into our world, into our characters. Into our gameplay scenarios and problems. And if we can’t appeal to them, to make them fully invest their minds and hearts, beyond just their hands, then we aren’t living up to the full potential as creators. What good is creating a visually appealing world, and satisfying gameplay sequences, if the characters fall flat? If we let the player’s mental and emotional connections lapse when it comes to story and character growth, we are reducing their experience down to a monkey pressing a button that flashes a light. And personally, I can’t think of anything more insulting to both the player, and the developer.
Asymmetry in any action or pose will quickly add appeal to any movement. Asymmetry in your levels or gameplay mechanics can make each feel unique and appropriate in different situations.
The first step towards creating an appealing experience is for you, the game developer, to be excited about your creation. If you are passionate about what you are working on, you are injecting that excitement into your creation. And that will be felt by the player, and appeal to THEIR passion. But if you are just churning out another game, that will also be felt. Your lack of enthusiasm will show in your creation, just as much as your enthusiasm will. And while spending weeks, months, and years on one creation can be draining, it is up to you to find ways to keep up that initial excitement. Be it taking a vacation, finding a new band, a box of legos, some silly string or lame t-shirt contest, find something to inspire your inner child. Because when you are excited, you are more willing to take on new challenges, and that is when you begin to create something truly appealing.
To achieve appeal on something specific, you have to use all the other principles as the ingredients. There is no perfect recipe, but if you have all the principles in use and then just go with what feels right, you will be on the right track. You will create an experience that sticks with the player and has that “it” factor that they keep coming back to. But the biggest thing to remember is that you can’t fake appeal, just like you can’t fake charisma. No matter how much else you add on top to try to cover up a general lack of appeal, it won’t fool the player. If you don’t have any appeal built into whatever it is you are creating, they will feel uninterested and put down the controller. No matter how flashy your creation is, if there is no appeal then the player will check out. And all it takes is one unappealing aspect of the game to drive the player off. One action without follow through, one puzzle with poor slow in and slow out, or a level with terrible timing, and the game can lose its appeal for the player.
But with enough pre-planning and exploration, you can find the appeal in almost anything. Take the time to use all the principles when creating something new. Study and research it to become a method developer and become what it is you want to create. Be aware of the staging, contrast, and exaggeration of the character or mechanic to know where it fits into the rest of the game. Know when and how you want the player to anticipate what will happen next and where all the element’s arcs fit together. Find places to build in secondary actions to help strengthen and flesh out the core experience. These are all how you convey a sense of weight and truth in your creation.
Think and then create. Otherwise you are just breathing air into your creation, not life.（source:gamasutra）