Monday, 25 November 2013

On Gamification

Naturally, I've given a great deal of thought to the importance of potential gameplay within this project.

Last week I completed an informal case study which I made to compare the ways in which digital adaptations can be handled, and to hopefully better understand where they shine or perhaps fail to shine, and more importantly why.

The two adaptations I chose were The Story Mechanics' steam-available The 39 Steps, and EA's Alice: Madness Returns

The 39 Steps

It's seems to me that TSM are possibly testing the water with The 39 Steps. This adaptation is all about the original story. It is very much interactive, and there are gameplay elements scattered throughout, but ultimately there's a lot of respect paid to the original text. 

The 39 Steps is a digital story adaptation by The Story Mechanics

And that's cool. I like the idea of giving these classics a new filter. Especially if the artwork is strong and plays to the charms of the original prose.

 The artwork here really seals in the changing moods of the different acts and lends the whole experience a sort of torch lit under-the-bed covers reading atmosphere. That's the best way I can think to describe it. If you can't relate to that, well, your childhood sucked. 

Motion Graphics. 

I think I mentioned motion graphics in a previous post. Either way, I mentioned them in my presentation last week (which went fine) and how they're something that I didn't experiment with enough during honours, and as they work so effectively in The 39 Steps, would like to properly try out this year. 

Art Style(s).

This is something that I really didn't see coming. About 2-3 scenes in, there is a flashback/anecdote in the story. At this point the art style completely changes to a very simple, silhouette-based style. 

The way the shift in style plays to the literary technique here is very effective. It keeps the story fresh and emphasizes the flashback nicely. This is something that's been done in movies (and games) many times. I love the use of style shift here. 


The way this adaptation assigns itself is something to be noted also. In it, the player controls the narration, and other areas such as letters, locked doors, etc., and the characters' monologue and dialogue are subtitles at the bottom of the screen.

Alice: Madness Returns

Alice is an adaptation in the traditional sense of the word. I guess you could say The 39 Steps is a direct adaptation to a visual-interactive form. Alice takes the original story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and molds it to suit a desired audience and transports it into a fully realised game narrative and world. 

Alice: Madness Returns

Art Style.

(Aesthetically) The characters in The 39 Steps are (arguably) no more realised or fleshed out than the novel. And this is of course intended and relevant to what they wanted to achieve. I'm not trying to judge anything. I'm merely noting everything for my own practice. 

In Alice, the creators obviously wanted to create a solid 3D world and art-style synonymous with Madness Returns. The finished art style is very stylised and strongly expresses the psychological horror nature of the game. 

Concept Illustration - Joy Ang
In Game

Nothing special here, you play as Alice throughout the entire game (as far as I'm aware). I still have to play the game. But from the articles I've read, the Art of book, and play-through videos, it would appear this is the case. 

I can illustrate a point; We have the technology.
Moving swiftly on


...Is totally a word - and a great word at that. 

I stumbled across this video this morning - and it sent me on a tangent. I've not really gotten all that far with the thought yet, but bear with me. 

In the video, Chris speaks about the need for gamification in certain games. At one point he mentions Super Mario 64, and explains that players often had the most fun just running around the colourful environment as Mario in 3D. 

The nostalgia is tangible with this one.
The way the game felt and played to your senses was enough. By taking simple elements we are all familiar with and juicing them in certain ways, the player could enjoy themselves. No score/points. Just inherent pleasure within the way the game felt. 

Sand. Fun for the whole family.
Just like the way Journey takes advantage of the players' imagination with sand. In Journey you slide elegantly down the sand dunes as you cross them. This isn't what happens in reality. But if you asked eight year old you what should happen, it would probably be a safe bet to assume something along the lines of the above. (Somewhat paraphrased from a Jenova Chen presentation)

Basically all I'm getting at with this is that because it's easy to take an idea, run it through a gamification machine and hey presto! you have a game, I want to take elements from the story which would sing through clever gameplay. Don't just go for the obvious in adaptation for interactivity. Films certainly don't; rather, play to the stengths and tease these everyday things like playing in the sand and let your imagination run wild.

Bye for now, 

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