Company Name: Red Arc Enterprises
Our game is about a young man of questionable sanity named Kricks who is imprisoned within Blackwood Hospital, an insane asylum that has become overrun by dark, ethereal entities. Kricks must use his ability to control his own shadow in order to defeat these monsters and escape the asylum alive.
II. Audience Analysis
a. Target audience
There is no intended target audience for our game. As seen lately with the success rates of games such as Little Big Planet (4.5 million copies sold), Mario Galaxy (4.09 million copies sold), Super Mario Bros. Wii (15.8 million copies sold), Mega Man Nine, Braid and recently Limbo many platformer style video games are able to bridge the gap between casual gamers and hardcore gamers. This is in-part due to the relative simplicity of the control system which appeals to casual gamers and the sense of nostalgia that many hardcore gamers (most of which are 34 years old and have played during the SNES era of video games) are drawn to. Additionally, the game’s central focus will be on storytelling, aesthetic and player choice all of which are qualities that can be appreciated by any demographic. However, given the darker imagery and relatively mature nature of the game we believe that it would appeal slightly more to the hardcore demographic.
b. Required entry behaviors
In order to connect with the game my audience will not necessarily need any prior knowledge about video games. They must be able to navigate through the game environment, overcome obstacles such as enemies or puzzles and make in game decisions about upgrades and the character’s courses of action throughout the narrative. However, any previous experience playing the Wii as well as other platformers such as the Mario or Mega Man franchises, Little Big Planet and other similar games will greatly ease the transition into it.
III. Game Design
a. Top-level issues
Title: The title of the game is Shadow Land Chronicles. We’ve decided to call it this because it involves the main theme of the game, shadows, and suggests an adventure component to it with the word “chronicles”.
Hardware requirements: The only necessary equipment that the game Shadow Land Chronicles will require is the Wii video game system, a Wii Remote and a Nunchuck. The Wii is a seventh generation game console distinguished by its ability to detect the movement of a player in three dimensions through the Wii Remote. As the primary control device of the Wii system, The Wii Remote (or Wiimote) is a device that uses motion tracking technology, allowing the player to interact with a virtual environment through hand movements and other gestures. The Nunchuck is a basic attachment for the Wii Remote that provides the similar functions that traditional gamepads seen on many other control systems offer.
Game Genre: Shadow Land Chronicles is essentially an action-adventure platformer which utilizes the Wii motion control system as a core game mechanic. Adventure platformer games are characterized by a fusion between traditional platforming mechanics such as navigating through various obstacles and enemies with aspects of action-adventure games such as level exploration in which access to new areas is controlled by gaining different abilities or inventory items, situational puzzle solving and complex story elements. This genre includes games like The Zelda franchise, The Metroid franchise, the Castle Wolfenstein franchise, the Assassin’s Creed games, the God of War games, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Ico and many others.
Game rating: Shadow Land Chronicles will be a game without graphic depictions of blood, gore or sexually. However, some adult themes will persist throughout both the narrative and the gameplay such as death, madness and some level of violence. The game will also have a substantially dark storyline and aesthetic that at times may be frightening to smaller children. That is why we have decided to give the game a “T for teen” rating for violence, suggestive themes and possible infrequent use of strong language. T rated games are also the second best selling group of games by rating with 22.3% of the market in 2009. This is, of course, much lower than the 48% generated by E rated games however, we believe that making the game rated E would severely restrict the game’s story and aesthetic which is the main draw for the hardcore demographic.
b. Game Mechanics
Core game-play activities: Throughout Shadow Land Chronicles players will be afforded a multitude of activities to engage in as the story unravels. The primary mechanic around which the game is based is player choice and customization. Within the game players will be faced with various choices which, based on their decisions, will impact the gameplay in different ways. This concept is illustrated through the character’s in-game personality compass which is divided between four different poles: willpower, faith, hate and love. Based on the player’s choices their character will gain ground in either of these areas, resulting in alternate gameplay. For example, at one point in the game the player will encounter an NPC (Non Playable Character) that is about to be consumed by one of the shadow enemies. At this point the player can choose rather to ignore the person and walk past them, earning them willpower points, to attack the person before they have a chance to turn into a monster, earning them hate points, or to try and heal the person with their shadow, earning them love points. NPCs often hold valuable power-ups or can reveal secret pathways within the asylum if they are helped, however it is unknown to the player rather this person will turn into a monster or not. If the player simply walks past then they forgo any potential benefits of helping the NPC but also avoid being attacked. If the player decides to make a preemptive attack and the person is going to turn into a monster they will receive the benefits of defeating a monster (acquiring new abilities, higher stats, ect.) without having to battle one, however they also run the risk of killing an innocent person if the NPC wasn’t going to change. If they decide to heal the person, the player may be rewarded if the person remains human however this healing process may also fail and make the monster that emerges from the NPC even more powerful. These decisions affect the character’s abilities as well since each category in the personality compass determines the specific stats of the player. Willpower determines the durability of your shadow and how long it can hold a specific shape. Hate determines the power of your shadow possesses and how much damage it can inflict upon an enemy. Love determines the amount of health your shadow has and how much damage it can take. Faith determines the flexibility to your shadow and how many shapes it can assume. Based on these four attributes, the abilities of the player’s shadow will shift depending on the actions that the person takes and allow for a wide range of gameplay.
The other main aspect of gameplay will involve combat with the various shadow enemies within Shadow Land Chronicles. There will be a great variety of these enemies throughout the game, each of which will possess distinct abilities to use against the player. The battle itself will take place in real time, during which the player must use the various abilities that their shadow has acquired to defeat the enemy before they take enough damage and run out of health. This will involve the player selecting a particular power from their arsenal and waving the Wii Remote either over the monster if it is an offensive power or over their character if it is a defensive power. Depending on the players personality attributes, the types of attacks, their power and how often you can use them will change. If the monster appears to be using an ability which the player’s shadow does not already posses, than the player can choose to capture it after weakening it beyond a certain point. At this point a certain number of glyphs will appear on the shadow monster’s body (the number will depend on the difficulty of the monster) and the player must guide their shadow with the Wii Remote and connect these glyphs. The ease at which this is done will vary depending on the shadow’s flexibility status. Once absorbed, though, the player’s shadow can now include this monster’s power as part of its own arsenal of abilities.
Core game dynamics: Basically, the core dynamic of Shadow Land Chronicles is a combination of collection and decision mechanics. As we mentioned above most of the game is based around the acquisition and management of various abilities which the player must utilize to overcome a range of environmental obstacles and enemies that they encounter throughout the narrative. Two prime examples of this type of core mechanic are found in both the widely popular Mega Man and Kirby franchises in which the main characters must absorb certain powers from their enemies in order to advance through each level. Such a mechanic has an incredibly broad sense of appeal because the inherent need for frequent character customization and diverse tactical options continually reinvigorates gameplay, preventing the game from becoming dull and repetitive with continual play.
The decision based mechanic, however, is relatively unexplored in video games. While many popular games such as Fallout 3, Mass Effect, inFamous and Red Dead Redemption use a type of morality gage to measure the actions of a player, we believe that adding a more complex sense of morality which directly influences gameplay will create a much more visceral gaming experience for the player. These games often use an arbitrarily primitive good and evil dichotomy that has relatively little affect on gameplay outside of giving a few select powers or rewards to either side. As such, the players of these games rarely have to think about the ramifications of their actions and instead pursue whichever side gives them the most benefits. We believe that there is an incredible amount of untapped potential for both the narrative and gameplay value that these systems could provide for videogames if they are simply expanded beyond their current limitations.
User interface: Shadow Land Chronicles will leverage the Wii Remote and Nunchuck as the primary control mechanism behind the player’s character and his shadow at the same time. By being able to control the fluid nature of the shadow’s shape and external movements alongside that of the solid nature of the character’s movements through the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, the player will have to manage their own movements and interactions with the motion tracking technology in order to play the game.
The only potential limitation that we could see with the use of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck in Shadow Land Chronicles is the inconsistent position of the pointer. By relying on the human hand instead of a control stick to guide the shadow, select abilities and other important functions within the game, the natural unsteadiness of such a control system may affect gameplay. However, we doubt that it would be a major problem as all Wii games are able to function under these circumstances.
Even though Shadow Land Chronicles will be made for the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, the gameplay mechanics could be transferred to other more traditional control systems that incorporate joysticks into their design such as the GameCube controller and Wii classic controller.
c. Other Design Considerations
Graphic inspirations and artistic style: Given the graphic limitations of the Wii in comparison to the X-Box 360 and Playstation 3, we believe that Shadow Land Chronicles should pursue a more two-dimensional, highly stylistic approach. Such a style would involve the use of over exaggerated facial and body features, sharp lines and angles, high contrast shadows and simplified shapes. An example of a similar style would be found in the art for the recent Legend of Zelda games such as The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Wind Walker, Phantom Hourglass and The Minish Cap (examples below). However, we believe such a stylistic take on the characters and game environment should not imply a childish or silly atmosphere, but rather provide a stark contrast to the darker characteristics of the narrative. Indeed, instead of the highly saturated color palate of the Zelda games, the color scheme of the Shadow Land Chronicles should be dark and muted, reminiscent of a world encased in shadows.
Although Shadow Land Chronicles will have a substantially dark atmosphere, it will not depict any excessive blood, gore or violence. With so many first person shooters and other gritty-realistic blood baths glutting the market, we wanted to make a game that focused less on the spectacle of death and more on the unique narrative and aesthetic experiences that video games are able to grant the player. We felt that unnecessary bloodshed would only cheapen the gameplay and substantially narrow the potential audience for the game.
Sound effects and music: We think that orchestral music would best fit the atmosphere of the game. As the player makes their way through the halls of the asylum, a faint and haunting echo of various orchestral instruments could play in the background, changing in tone and intensity with each different environment and level of danger that the player is facing. The role of these instruments could even be expanded and used for sound effects throughout the game, such as a sharp violin note if the player lashes out with his shadow in the form of a blade.
Shadow Land Chronicles is an action-adventure platformer game that attempts to bridge the gap between the hardcore gaming demographic and casual gaming demographic through its focus on simplistic controls, minimal violence, player choice, aesthetics and narrative structure. By implementing a complex morality system that incorporates player choice as the main determinant in gameplay, the game creates a far more diverse and personalized gaming experience for the player which compels them to think about their in-game actions. We believe that this requirement to think about the meaning of the game in terms of your own actions and their consequences within the narrative will be the next great leap forward for video games as a medium from their place as a relative novelty to their complete recognition as an art form by the public.
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