Every design I work on is helped by my having a varied palate, by being a wide consumer of media and experiences, by rarely saying no to spicy foods or foreign movies. This week I did more level designs, as well as expanding on a game design document for Monochrome.
While this effects all my work, I felt this especially when working on the GDD. The “big picture” view of the game forced me to think broadly about how I want players to feel when they play the game. I spent a lot of time trying to set all the parts of the game to act in concert and enhance those emotions.
Overall, it was a good week. The writing I’ve done thus far about Monochrome is instructive in how my thoughts about the project progress from this point.
In his GDC talk, “Creating a Standout Action Game”, game director Hideaki Itsuno spoke about how important his experiences are to the design of Devil May Cry 5. He cited the thrill of skydiving as an example of his life’s most dramatic moments. Then, he uses these moments form emotional arcs for his games.
To borrow a paraphrase from a Kotaku article, “New situations provide opportunities for designers to consider what they think an experience will be like and then compare it to the real thing. Formative situations or pieces of art give insight into the feelings and emotions that can be created.”
This is a vision of a game designer’s lifestyle that’s appealing in more ways than one, I’ll admit. I love to try things out, and to live broadly. A world where my lack of focus and cavalier attitude can be an asset is one I could thrive in.
I recognize that it’s a little self indulgent of me to prescribe “having fun” as my homework. But Itsuno wasn’t lying, it does help. Even just this week, I’ve seen positive effects of having a wide and varied palate.
When writing about Monochrome, I always find myself coming back to this phrase: “disparate inspirations”. The game almost requires a discussion of the forces that pulled it together. Cuphead, Steamboat Willie, Epic Mickey, and Undertale are all immediately visible to a player as a part of the fabric of the game.
It’s the quieter inspirations that are more interesting to me though. This week, one of my level designs is inspired by Charlie Bucket’s household in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
Monochrome and Willy Wonka don’t have much in common, but what’s important isn’t where they’re different, but where they’re similar. The Buckets’ house is tiny and cramped emphasizing their poverty. Four family members share a single bed, and they all share a single room. In my design, I upped it to two beds, but two beds in the same room. Since social stratification is important to Monochrome’s world, I wanted to show that difference in the design.
In the design for the Dock House, I wanted to emphasize the difference in class by taking inspiration from old films. The 1936 comedy, My Man Godfrey, is about a homeless man becoming a butler for the hyper-wealthy. The home they show off in that movie has lots of hallways, and space for leisure. Necessary functions like laundry or dish washing seem nonexistent. This bacchanalian architecture tells you more about the people who live here than a conversation with them can.
While both these examples are films, I find myself taking from every aspect of the world. I thought a lot about the The Breakers while working on the Dock House, a famous Beaux-Arts mansion of the Vanderbilt family in Newport, RI.
A benefit of a varied palate is being able to choose your inspirations. Between The Breakers and My Man Godfrey, I found Godfrey more useful, as it pertains to visions of wealth and not necessarily material requirements of owning a grand home.
Catch me on the blog the same time next week. Peace.
I’ve also written about the America that rubber hose animations come from, and how that effects Monochrome’s design. Feel free to read that blog post here.