Category Archives: Game Design

Dreaming a Game

So I haven’t really had much to write about lately, hence why there hasn’t been much written. I wanted to keep this blog going as much as I could but I’m also desperately trying to keep it from being filled with nonsense. I won’t report every little detail about my life, if I hurt my foot or that I had to put down my pet. Not what I had for dinner or what a wonderful time I had with my friends the day before.
I don’t know what this blog is supposed to be about, there’s no immediate theme other than me, myself and I. It’s my thoughts, yes, and sometimes they’ll be somewhat unfiltered but in general I’m just throwing what I have at the wall and seeing what sticks. Sometimes I’ll be watching a ton of movies, other times I’ll be playing a lot of games, sometimes I’ll be reading a lot of comics so I’m kind of limited by what I do in my life when it comes to what I can write about.

For instance, I just read a fantastic comic called The Twelve. It was a brilliant work of art that really deserves to be acknowledged more. However, as I just finished it, I still haven’t had the time to collect my thoughts on it other than the fact that it was great. Seriously, go read it, it’s worth it.

But I did figure there was something I could write about. A dream I had that evolved into something much more than that. See, I’m a game designer at heart so I’m always designing games whether I know it or not. I have since the day I knew what games were, back when I thought gluing together pieces of cardboard to resemble a NES cartridge and writing Mega Man on it would allow me to create my version of my favorite game.

And I never really stopped. I got into RPG Maker hot and heavy back when I was a teen, could spend hours in front of the program, just creating. I actually discovered the game on the SNES first then on the Playstation and ultimately on the PC. I’ve always been on the lookout for things that allow me to create my ideas and believe it or not, to this day I still use RPG Maker, now in the form of VX ACE.

I also recently learned how to use Adventure Game Studio and I’ve worked some in the Unreal engine as well as coded my bit in C#. And, of course, I’m always writing design documents for games I want to make.

So I design games consciously. We’ve established that. So let me tell you about a dream I had.


 

It’s late, meaning dark and I remember being home with my family. Our dog was tied just outside the window so we could keep an eye on him. We sat in the kitchen talking when I suddenly looked outside and notice the dog is missing. I walk outside, flashlight in hand, to find him when I suddenly hear someone messing about in our shed. I turn to my sister and say it’s probably our cousin that’s come to mow the lawn for us.

At this point I’d like to take the time and remind you that it’s a dream. Cousins can mow the lawn in the middle of the night if they want to.

She goes back inside and I decide to continue looking. It’s very, very dark and the only thing that’s actually visible is the area outside the kitchen where the lights were on and where ever my flashlight shone. I notice something in the corner of my eye, up on the roof of our house so I point my flashlight directly at it and shout all that I can, the wind drowning out most of my words. It’s barely visible but I can tell that it’s small, no bigger than a child and it’s looking in through the windows when it hears me shouting. I can also tell that even though it’s about the size of a child, it most certainly isn’t human.
It runs and at first I only follow it with my flashlight but as I realize it’s climbing down on the far side of the house, I set after it. When I come closer to the area where we park our cars, the area I estimated the creature would be in, my flashlight falls upon something at the far end. Something similar to the creature I chased but much, much bigger, far bigger than an adult human. It quickly dodges out of the light from my flashlight and disappears into the darkness.

I run. I run as fast I can back to the house and in through the door and start barking orders to my family to lock the doors, board the windows and start praying. And that’s when we start hearing someone or something running across the roof, starting to break in.

End of dream because that’s where I wake up.


 

“But that doesn’t sound like it has a lot to do with game design…” I hear you say. Ah, no, it doesn’t. Psych!

 

Just kidding. You see, upon having woken up I check the time, realizing I have a full half hour of sleep left before the alarm goes off so I quickly go to the bathroom then return to sleep. All while thinking “Man, that was a cool dream. I wonder what it would be like if it was a game…”

And then I was back in the dream but this time as an overlord, a God hovering above it all as I design the situation to make a great opening to a great game. The locale is different, our house is in the middle of the city and the proportions were all kinds of wrong. Our house is decently sized but what I saw in my dream was a mansion in size. So I scale it down, make it something closer to an average house on the country side. Your typical American farmland house, complete with patio and one of those big, metallic windmill things that always whine when they spin.
My cousin is removed from the equation because why in reality would my cousin come mow our lawn in the middle of the night? Especially since we didn’t have much in the way of a lawn anymore, more farmland and dirt roads. Dog still disappears, though… sorry. I should note that the dog in my dream was our old Sprollie I had growing up but as a puppy so it was doubly sad for me because I loved that dog. *sniff* But hey, I suddenly realize that I’m the master of this game still so he could come back later.

Of course it’s still pitch black, this being out in the country then the lack of light makes more sense. There’s also a storm whipping up something fierce, the trees tossing themselves from side to side as if struggling to get free and walk away and the air is slowly becoming soaked with rain, battering what little grass there is into the ground.

And it’s out into this you have to go with nothing but a torch to light the way and the light spilling out from kitchen windows to guide you back. The player is free to go where he wishes within the confines of yard but the game won’t progress until you do certain things like check the shed where the ruckus was coming from (in reality, we don’t even have a shed so go figure) and eventually finding the creature up on the patio roof. You follow him and get to where the cars are parked round the back of the house and that’s where you see that big creature from my dream. Cue rushing back inside the house.

This is unfortunately where a cutscene takes over, tearing the control away from the player… trust me, there won’t be a lot of that in this game. Once inside the house, the game plays out much like in my dream, you bark orders to your family but before you have any time to explain anything, the creatures break into the house on the top floor and it doesn’t take long before they’re on you. Cue madness, fast cuts, death and destruction… only when it’s all over do you regain your consciousness but you can’t move. You’re lying on the ground, your dead father in front of you. Something moves behind the corpse of your father and you see it grabbing a hold of his legs and starting to drag him away… only his upper body stays where it is, his eyes staring right into yours. You remain on the ground, just staring in the same direction while hearing something, multiple things, moving around, breaking things. And then someone grabs you and yanks you around, lifts you and tosses you over their shoulder like so much dead weight. You pass out again.

Up until then it’s just been a reconstruction of my dream in game form with minor changes for mood, atmosphere and playability. And up until now you’d be excused if you thought I was going down a pretty standard horror game route with this but see, I’m clever. Subconsciously I knew that was what you were expecting so instead I designed a sandbox horror survival game… yeah, taste that delicious twist.

The game then continues with you waking up in the middle of a forest in the tattered remains of your clothes. The game takes you through a short tutorial on how to survive, finding new and better clothes to keep you warm from the cold, finding or creating weapons to defeat the creatures still after you and how to fight back. The tutorial will point you in the direction of an abandoned cottage where you find an old, torn coat and a weapon you can craft (knife on a stick to make a spear, for instance) whereupon you’re attacked by a creature. Then the game lets you go.

As in “Piss off, I got better things to do than hold your hand.” After that the player is tasked with not only surviving but figuring out what happened to him and if any of his family is still alived, what the creatures are and how to find a way out of there. During his travels the player will come across roads so civilization can’t be too far off but he’ll always find his progress blocked. Eventually he’ll come across his home which lies in ruins and the surrounding area looking like it’s been left unattended for years. Is he in a post apocalyptic world? Is it all a dream? Is he in limbo? The player never needs to find everything either, there’s a definite point everything leads up to but not all roads must be traveled to get there. And who is to say the previously mentioned creatures are the only thing you come across in your journey?

On a practical level the game would be played from a third person perspective but the dream didn’t divulge which platforms it would be available for.