Links between Ideas and my Research

It was suggested that I revisit my work and see how my research has linked together with our current ideas. I understand why this would be beneficial but it also means that I ground myself and don’t get too carried away with the prototyping phase; instead, this should help me understand and possibly refine the ideas that we originally came up with. 

In order to get to these seven ideas, we used our three themes: Dreams, Infrastructure and AI/Cyborg and used one of Andy’s workshops from last year in order to mash them together with a mechanic and a setting. We originally did this as a team in order to see what we could come up with as three brains are better than one, however, due to our meeting having to get cut short due to James and Millie having to travel home, I felt it could be worth having a go at doing my own examples of this exercise to see what I could come up on my own as it could give me more inspiration. (See Sketchbook 2, blue tab labelled Individual Idea Gen, pages 53 – 60 for this).
I definitely found this useful as it helped me to loosen my creative skills by brainstorming and smashing ideas together that you wouldn’t necessarily consider. I will try to apply this technique to my own personal projects as it has been so useful.

Using our research that we had been collating over the weeks, we tried smashing all three of our ideas together to see what we could form initially through brainstorming. I had originally made a list of areas of my research that I was interested in using; I used this to help inform the team of what topics I favoured.
We then used another technique called Sub-Umbrella. This is where you take your theme and then split it into elements as a category, for example, Sports – health, fitness, football, stamina etc. Once you did this for two themes, you then smash the ideas together. As we had three themes, we tried to do it with the three instead and it worked surprisingly well. 

See Idea Generation Document on my memory stick in Idea Generation folder inside Phase 3 for full explanations of the games.
Below is how the games related to my research:

100 Wishes.
Everyone seemed interested in using an AI character or theme within the game idea as it is something that we thought was current and also just pretty cool. When researching into AI, I was looking into how they are programmed to learn new algorithms and the such like. We all felt that AI has been shown to be a negative thing in the media, such as in films like Ex Machina and therefore wanted to challenge this perception. Hence the idea of what if we made the AI into something likeable? This is where we came up with the charming idea of an AI that doesn’t understand grilled cheese. Something light-hearted and fun to accompany and balance the sad story of terminally ill children dying. 
The idea is that the child is simulating the life that they should have had by being uploaded to a simulation where they can live their full life expectancy and learn new skills and experiences. This was influenced by the article that I found in my research to do with uploading your brain to a network and then potentially being able to download it to a system, body, robot etc. The team thought this was a really strange but an incredible concept and so we used this within our game idea process.

City Sleepers
From my list of research areas I was interested in, I mentioned to the group about how developers had succeeded in creating a ‘Matrix-like’ experiment where they could upload new skills to people’s brains – it was tried with training people to be pilots; their test scores increased at an average of 33%.
We discussed how this could be used for good and for bad and that’s where we paired up the idea of dreams. What if you could upload dreams, so you pay to dream? What if someone abused this right and uploaded nightmares? What if someone could upload messages and send them to people using this technology? This is where we started to think about the idea of high-tech war.

Delta
In my research, I found that by programming AI, we could reach a time where they are smart enough to run themselves and program themselves etc (this was mostly speculated by people opposed to AI but it was still an interesting theory). There seems to be a sort of negative partnership between AI and humans – possibly because some humans are scared of becoming inferior, so I thought about how they could work together in harmony.
I told the team about this and about the Zurich cyber Olympics that I had found – an idea of man and machine working together. This is where the idea of a tag-team race came from where you can play alongside an AI who acts as your map and eyes to help you navigate the city’s assault course. With its shifting surroundings and the ability to take down oppositions AI’s so the Human can’t ‘see’ where they’re going, it means that the player and the AI have to work together in order to win the tag-team race. I felt this could bring a new angle to AI and maybe make people see it in a different light. 

5 Days
Throughout my research, I had been really quite invested in the idea of prosthetic body parts and implants and how they’ve helped people’s quality of life. One interesting thing was how costly they are, I mean, I understand you can’t have stuff like this for free but with the cost being so high, only the rich and elite can afford it. This lead us on to the idea of a black market for synthetic body parts.
We referred to this as the idea of body farming as people could end up literally farming society for their synthetics in order to make some money – especially if times are dire. We questioned what would drive us to do such a thing and one idea that cropped up was debt; something we are all in a lot of right now…
From here, we progressed to having the protagonist who has 5 days to pay off their debt otherwise ‘x’ would happen. Since discussing the idea, I have gone on to use other research from the previous phase where I looked into bio-hackers. This is where people go under the knife, but not legally, in order to have implants etc to improve their body, whether it’s a case of vanity or progressing body development.
I had an idea about the protagonist being a bio-hacker as this could be a way that they seek out their targets. For example, they could have advanced their bionic eye so that they can scan people and retrieve data on their synthetics etc. This could also let me use more of my research that I worked on to try and use prosthetics and implants that science has experimented with into the game.

Lucidity
This idea was very dream focused. I didn’t use any of my research as such in this idea however there are links to similar principles that I found. For example, we looked at one of James’s points where you confuse dreams with reality and this made me think about how with AI, they don’t dream. If we programmed them to be able to dream, would they confuse it with reality? It was just a thought that I had although it wasn’t completely relevant to the idea process we were going through for the Dreams theme.
We had an idea that people might not need to work due to AI taking over jobs to make life simpler for humans, so they turn to dreaming simulations. This was loosely based off of the idea that if AI became super intelligent and they were programmed to do certain jobs, you wouldn’t have a use for people to work anymore. What would they do in their spare time? This was partly influenced by the film Wall-e.

Bell Jar
For this game idea, my research of being able to upload something to a network was taken forward, in this case, dreams. We thought about how we could incorporate that into an interactive experience, where we came up with the idea of creating your own dreams through mini-games similar to what Millie made in Year One.
Alongside this, the idea of procedural generation came from my research – making data through algorithms rather than doing it manually. We are going to use proc-gen in order to plant and grow seeds in the shop. We thought this would be a nice way to incorporate good AI subtly. 

The Sleepers
This was again, more dreams and infrastructure focused than AI/Cyborgs. The idea was primarily that dreams could power a city or society which could be uploaded through a network. This is where the Sleeper comes in. It powers the city with dreams and once woken will cause devastation – think about how grouchy you are when you’ve been woken up from sleep…
The idea of uploading people, brains, skills etc to a network has really influenced the team in our idea process so I’m glad that my research has come in handy.

After looking back through the games, it’s been quite reassuring to see that I have included a fair amount of the research that I liked from the previous phase. There are a few pointers that I’ve realised we didn’t use but maybe I can use these areas in future games that I use as a prompt.  

Game Ideas that I am NOT interested in developing:

It was suggested that I focus on the game ideas that I actually enjoyed and favoured rather than trying to whack out prototypes for everything. By focusing on what ideas I like, it should help me develop them into better ideas through the prototyping and proof of concept stage. 

  • Lucidity – unfortunately with this one, I felt like it was too similar to that of We Happy Few, a game set to come out soon. Having played the demo, the way that they’ve shown the idea of this blurry line between something that is reality or not is very close to our concept. I understand that nothing is original anymore, however, we have to draw a line somewhere and this is pretty close. I do like the sorts of dark imagery we could convey, however, I feel that that isn’t enough to continue on with an idea.

  • City Sleepers – I feel that with the idea of doing an RTS, it’s pushing into XCOM’s territory. We would in this instance need a strong, stand-alone story to make it worth people playing. I feel that this just isn’t strong enough. I like the concept of communicating to people through dreams, and maybe we can incorporate this somewhere, however, this game doesn’t seem worth continuing with its wishy-washy story.

  • 100 Wishes – I love the concept of a child being able to live their life to the fullest through a network simulation after they die as it gives such a sad topic a little glimpse of light. The idea of there being an AI companion along the way to accompany you and for you to teach opens a wide range of possibilities. However, I feel that the story could be beautiful but maybe this shouldn’t be a game. It should be something else like a telltale narrative or something. After discussions with the team earlier on in the idea process, it is clear that after last year with Little Greyton, a branching narrative is out of the question. I understand it would be difficult to do and would be very hard to nail so this is why I feel we shouldn’t ruin this lovely idea and leave it as it is – a concept.

  • Delta – I did really like the mechanic of having two players as you rarely get any good couch co-op, or just any couch co-op at all nowadays. You have to have another console or copy of the game to play with your friends and unfortunately, as great as this idea could be, we’re doing exactly just that. Assuming people have access to a console AND an Ipad. Increasing the amount of tech will often lead to people not being interested in investing into a game.

Game Ideas that I AM interested in developing:

  • 5 Days – The story to this could be considered by people to be gruesome, however, the sort of style we’re thinking is for it to not be scary and realistic. I see it as being a cartoon-like in order to make the game less ‘nasty’. I wouldn’t say pixel based style but something that inhabits a similar feel. The mechanics are one of my favourite things about this game as you have to be strategic in how you play. You have to be stealthy in order to complete your contracts by avoiding CCTV cameras, observe your victim’s walk patterns and think about your body disposal without alerting others. I feel that there are a lot of mechanics here which would be great to do as we could formulate some great AI to make the game more unpredictable and engaging.
  • Bell Jar – This game is sort of my dream game to play. You get to design your High Fantasy character, run a business by making sure you take care of all of its needs and earn money to upgrade your shop; essentially a shop tycoon for dreams. The imagery, setting and sounds would be amazing to work on, and there’s no shortage of love for High Fantasy games in our target audience. We need to make sure it’s just that little bit different to any other game out there is the only issue, yet I feel it’s a strong idea that I would feel comfortable with trying to make. 
  • The Sleepers – Environments – the game idea itself is quite intense and very long-winded however I really do have some great ideas for the environment it would be set in. I won’t be working on the game itself but I hope to create some thumbnail environment sketches for this as I feel the setting could look visually quite impressive. It also gives me a chance to further improve my Photoshop skills as I’ve never worked in monochrome before so this will be a nice challenge for me. 

Now I have an idea as to what ideas I like and want to take forward, I now know what I can and will be discussing with Millie and James on Monday when we reconvene for a group meeting to discuss presenting our three game ideas. I feel that it would be a good idea for us all to say what our top three games would be and see if there is any correlation. From here, we can correlate the results from the survey with our own personal choices and go from there to making a presentation. It may be an idea that we work on one idea each to present seeing as there are three of us. We will discuss this on Monday once we have our group meeting. 

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