Christmas has now come and gone, and after a good week’s break it was time to get back to the Untitled Space Game Sequel (patent pending!) and continue the design work for it. Week Fourteen was a rather busy one, but things are now really starting to come together.
At the beginning of the week, Josh and I met up for a voice chat via Discord and discussed where the project was at and where we wanted it to go before the semester was up. We each had our own tasks to do (that we set in Week Twelve) and each seemed to be going rather well. The narrative side of things (my end) was almost finished, with the final event of the game just needing a detailed write up before I could call it a day. My main goal for the week ahead was to get on with the other document subheadings that I had been assigned – Goals and Sound Design. Josh had mostly been continuing with his documentation of the semester for the past couple of weeks, with his specific document task of Visual Style bringing up the rear.
The conversation then moved on to what we were going to do for the presentation at the end of Week Fifteen, where we present the design elements of the game to our fellow classmates and essentially show off and talk about how wonderful it will be. Given the reception to our “narrative event” video that I created last week (see here) I then suggested that we could perhaps use a version of that for our presentation (as trailers are always a good way to go to show off a game). Josh expressed his enthusiasm for this, and we decided that he would improve the assets involved a tad (by making them look a bit more cinematic) and I would then edit them all together in a trailer-like manner. This and a brief talk about what the game was about formed the basis of our presentation, with the specifics to be worked out later on.
The next day, I began work on the Goals section of the game document. Due to the overall theme being this idea of “pushing through the fear of the unknown”, the main goal of the game of course needed to reflect that, so I began the section by describing where the theme came from (taking notes from my Trepidation Research – specifically the Apollo/humanity exploring the biggest unknown there is bit) and the specifics behind its role in the game. I then went on to describe a scenario in which the theme would likely feature:
The player approaches a dark, ominous-looking planet. Their fuel levels are low, and they have been in the System for a long time. Looking down on this scary-looking world, the player considers their options. The darkness of the planet reveals absolutely nothing about its contents, so there could be literally anything down there. The player has come so far, they do not want to die. The fear begins to build inside them. They know they will be risking it all if they decide to land, but if Sci-Fi movies have taught them anything, it’s that the interesting stuff is always in the scary-looking places. The alien life they are so desperately searching for could be down there, and the game will be complete if they find it. Fuel levels are low, they cannot go much further anyway. Perhaps there’s fuel on this world too.
So despite their fear of what might be, the player decides to push through it and land on the mysterious world anyway.
This is an example of how the overall “pushing through the fear of the unknown” theme would likely work in the game, as these random thematic occurrences combined with the Narrative “Events” will likely instill a fear in the player, but the idea is that they will want to keep exploring and complete the game so as a result they will push through this fear and keep playing. Actually getting this idea of fear and “pushing through it” successfully across to the player is likely going to be the biggest task of the game’s development (due to having to get certain elements exactly right – lots of fine tuning involved) but if in the end we are successful in doing this, then we will have hit our Goal.
Josh and I then met up for another discussion, this time centred around names; specifically what the ship in the game should be called, and a little bit of what the name of the actual game is going to be (after all, it can’t be called Untitled Space Game Sequel forever – no matter how great that name is). We focused on the ship name first, with discussions involving each of us throwing in a number of names we found cool as well as spending a fair amount of time on thesaurus.com looking for cool-sounding synonyms for various interesting/space-related words.
After much thought, we settled on a group of six names (listed above) and then further narrowed them down to a final three, these being:
- Fortitude – meaning “courage in pain or adversity” – a word that fits the game and its overall theme rather well.
- Sputnik – the first man-made object in space – a rather apt title for a ship sent out to explore the unknown.
- Avasarala – the name of a rather outspoken yet righteous character in tv show The Expanse – a rather cool-sounding and semi-relevant name for a ship (given how much The Expanse featured in both Josh’s and my research).
However, Josh and I could not decide which name we should then take forward. I rather liked Avasarala, but Josh was keener on Sputnik and we were both not massively bothered by Fortitude. Josh then had an idea; we should construct a poll on Twitter with each of the three names, and let other people decide which name they liked best. I agreed, and we then ran the poll for a day. These were the final results:
It was settled then. After a bit of discussion and fiddling with it, we then officially named the game’s ship the N.E.V. Fortitude (N.E.V – NASA Exploration Vessel). While I did like Avasarala, While initially hesistant, I found myself warming to Fortitude after a while as it does fit the game very well (since “courage in adversity” is basically the overall “pushing through the fear of the unknown theme) and is also just a cool-sounding name for a starship – Josh also reflected these thoughts.
We then began thinking about the name of the actual game. Naming things is always the toughest part of development, and neither one of us could come up with a name that we were both really pleased with – even after a couple hours on thesaurus.com and various name generation websites. Here is a list of what we came up with:
Despite how cool some of these names sounded, a lot of them we found were either game names already or just didn’t really fit with what we were going for. Like the game, we wanted the name to be rather minimalist (i.e. one or two words) and kind of mysterious, but also expressing a little bit of what the game was about. Names like Obscurity and Distant Worlds did this quite well, but both were unfortunately taken. The names in red at the bottom reflect the ones we liked the most, with Delta-v being the current favourite (as it is quite ambiguous – and is also to do with space) but we couldn’t make a final decision as we were both still a bit unsure (and the name is rather important so we didn’t want to rush the decision) and so decided to hold off on game names for the time being.
For me, Sound Design was up next. Being something of an enthusiast when it comes to film music, I was particularly excited for this section of the document. Josh and I had had a few discussions previously about how the music in the game would be, so with this and my own opinions in mind, I then began the section:
The music for the game will be minimalist, primarily because of the overall “fear of the unknown” theme. We want the player to be influenced by their feelings about the environment and events going on around them, and so adding in particularly intense or emotional music would likely take away from that as it would force the player down a particular emotional path, and we want the player to experience the game as they see it. For example, when seeing the surface of a planet for the first time, one player might feel excited to explore while another might be wary of what could be lurking there. Adding in any particularly striking music here would take away from that effect. With this in mind, the game will for the most part have minimal, quiet, primarily ambient background music.
However, there will be certain narrative events that we want the player to experience in a certain way, and so for those there will be background music. For example, click here to see a sound design experiment we conducted; a prototype of the “Rogue One Appears In The Sky” event, and how the sound design for this particular moment in the game could work.
As stated above, the music in the game will largely be minimalist, both for atmospheric as well as practical reasons (basically, there’s not a lot of time for musical composition during development – especially since neither Josh nor I have any experience in that particular field). The exception to this will be during events, where the music may ramp up to reflect the events unfolding on-screen.
Here are a few examples of what the music in the game could be like:
Blade Runner 2049 – Mesa –
Subnautica – Into The Unknown –
First Man – The Landing –
Alien – The Skeleton –
More selections can be found in the design document (link now in the menu in the top left) but these tracks give a pretty good idea of the themes and atmosphere we’re trying to get across. Low level electronics/synth for the more ambient side of things, and moving up to faster paced orchestra and more noticeable motifs during main narrative events. Most of these tracks came from my own collection (as I have already done extensive research on the subject – it’s one of my hobbies), but I also did a bit of research into ambience in score, and how certain musical elements such as synth and electronics can be applied for atmosphere rather than more noticeable motif-based music – essentially getting across a mood rather than a particular theme for a character or place.
It was then Friday, and having not spoken for a couple of days, Josh and I spent most of it in a Discord channel working on various things and talking about the project at the same time. I decided to look into the Potential Issues section of the document, and then subsequently spent most of the day working on it. The first thing I added was the vector prediction prototype issues we had in Week Eleven (as recommended by Adam) and how they might affect the game during development. I then went on to discuss how the scope of the game as a whole might end up being a potential issue, as we had designed the game based on how we wanted it to be, and had scaled it based on our limited knowledge of development and how long various elements of it take to do.
Due to the fact that creating an entire game (not to mention a space-related one) was something we have never done before, we were assuming a lot on how actual development may go, so we might reach stages during it where certain aspects or mechanics may have to be either drastically altered or even cut from the game, for whatever reason. Due to how large the game is (we are creating an entire Solar System after all, in addition to mechanics and a short narrative) this may happen frequently, so I was keen to emphasize this as one of the Potential Issues.
A small sample of the Potential Issues section, where I may have gone a tiny bit Optimus Prime/President Whitmore at points –
This document represents the game as we want it to be, not as it realistically will be. Time, coding expertise, scale – they could all affect the outcome, and likely in ways which we cannot predict. All we can do is be prepared for whatever issues may come, and be not afraid of changing our vision in order to make this project the best it can be.
I then ran the section past Josh, who agreed that it reflected the project and the problems we may have/have had with it rather well. We then finished up the discussion with talking about our various tasks for next week, and then went our seperate ways.
Reflection On The Week
Week Fourteen has been a very busy one, with a major focus on the development of the game’s design document. As a result however, Josh and I now have a much clearer idea of what the game will full entail when it comes to making it as well as a good indication of how various elements of it will function. Now that we have the primary Goal of the game written down and properly described (i.e. this idea of making the player push through the fear of the unknown) and the Narrative section finished, the game design side of things is looking nearer and nearer to completion every day.
We also made major headway for the likes of Sound Design, giving the game a particular musical style as well as deciding to go for a more minimalist rather than really noticeable approach in order to give the game the atmosphere that we feel most represents our vision. Naming the game also got a fair bit of development, and I think as a result of those discussions we are now rather close to a final decision.
Designing this game has not been without its problems, but we are definitely now getting to a stage where it is all starting to come together. Next week, my plan is to look into the Audience side of things (we do have a rough idea of who the game will be for, but nothing concrete yet) as well as design the presentation for the end of the week and generally wrap things up before hand-in in Week Sixteen. Things are and will continue to be rather busy, but as a result we are making pretty great progress, and now more than ever I feel that I am working on designing a game that might actually be quite good.
Until next time.