RISD Intro to Game Design
Jan '20 — Feb '20
experience design // user research // art direction
In "Intro to Game Design" —a Wintersession Industrial Design class at RISD— I learned a variety of game styles and methods for playtesting my own games. For my final, I designed "A World Away", a cooperative game where players navigate an abandoned town in search of tools that will help them fix their broken down car.
Some of the work from my Experimental Short Fiction class that I used as reference.
For this game, I wanted to explore collaborative game play through an embedded story experience. Around the time this class started, I had just learned about Dungeons & Dragons, and I was intrigued by the concept of improvisational play defined by both chance and rules. The previous semester I had also taken an experimental short fiction class, and I was curious to see how the narrative media I created then could be extended to game play in this class.
For this game, I wanted to explore collaborative game play with an embedded story experience. I had learned about Dungeons & Dragons around the time I started the class, and I was intrigued by the concept of improvisational play that was defined by chance and rules. The previous semester I had also taken an experimental short fiction class, and I was curious to see how the narrative media I created could be extended to game play.
A mood board using images pulled from Pinterest for visual inspiration for the game design. I was strongly inspired by vintage board games and wanted to convey a sense of retro mysticism in my final design.
Playtesting + Ideation
Snapshots from a playtest session of the first version of "The Generic Game", which served as part of the foundation for my final game.
Unfortunately, I had a personal emergency come up halfway through the class, and it impacted my ability to test multiple iterations of my game. However, I was able to pull observations from other playtests I had conducted earlier in the class.
One of the games I worked through several iterations of was "The Generic Game"— a game set in A Small American Town where the Good Guys battle the Bad Guys over ownership of local landmarks. Notable mechanisms in this game included randomly drawn cards that grouped players as either Good Guys or Bad Guys, a board that can be explored in any direction, and Object Cards that had special properties which could only be activated by rolling a certain number on a die.
When I playtested this game, the main feedback I received was that the stakes did not feel high enough and the Object Cards did not have a lot of narrative tie to the rest of the game. I decided to focus on this feedback while developing "A World Away", which was my final game.
Prototypes for the final card designs. The goal of these prototypes was to determine the different types of cards that would be needed and the essential information each one should convey.
When I decided to shift away from an RPG game to a tile-based game, I looked to Carcassonne for inspiration. I was captivated by the countless ways the land tiles could be arranged while still abiding by a set of governing rules. I also thought the design of the land tiles would be a fun challenge to replicate. While I wasn't able to explore extensive narratives and hidden storylines, I was still able to embed some of the elements from my fiction class by focusing on game material presentation. The tile-based game mechanism I chose also shared some commonalities with the open-ended board experiences I explored in my initial concepts. I was also very excited to experiment with the visual design of the game cards, especially since I didn't have a lot of opportunities to develop my graphic design abilities. Capturing a strong sense of mystique was integral to the narrative I wanted to create, and the visuals were going to help make up for what I was not able to accomplish through storytelling.
Overall, I loved this class and I wish it had continued on for more than five weeks. While I wasn't able to accomplish everything I had hoped for with my final game design, it was still a game that elicited positive responses. If I were to continue working on this game, I would develop the Sad Spirit encounter mechanism further by trying out some more RPG-styled mechanisms. The visual design also received a lot of positive feedback, with the only criticism being that sometimes is was difficult to tell the different figurines apart.
One aspect of this class that I truly appreciated, however, was taking work from other projects and redefining and redeveloping it further. I loved pulling from my fiction writing class, and working on this case study has resurfaced those feelings. I plan on taking my experiences from these two classes to the next level by creating an interactive web-based story. Keep your eyes on this website for more updates in that regard...