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1 The Construction of Ludic Spaces a short lecture by Ernest W. Adams

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1 1 The Construction of Ludic Spaces a short lecture by Ernest W. Adams ewadams@designersnotebook.com a member of thedesign group

2 2 Some Disclaimers n I am a designer of commercial computer games. n I am not an architect. n Most game artists have no architectural training. n I know little about formal architectural theory. n I will probably use some terminology wrongly. n I know how game designers design buildings, and why. n This will be an extremely pragmatic lecture!

3 3 Human Perception of Architecture n Visual Perception n Sound n Touch n Smell n Other senses n Taste will be ignored!

4 4 Visual Perception n Viewing a building: n 120-140º visual angle n Fully stereoscopic n Huge light intensity range (10 16 !). n Total darkness possible. n Steady image n 250 million receptor cells in both eyes n Automatically-changing focus n Viewing a monitor: n 45-60º visual angle n Not stereoscopic n Low light intensity range (255). n Total darkness impossible. n Flickers at 50-100 Hz n 250,000 elements in ordinary TV picture n Fixed focus

5 5 Sound n Listening to a space: n Fully 3D n Viewer-created sounds (footsteps, etc.) audible n Infinite mixing of ambient sound n Echoes created by space & materials n Person can speak or sing at will n Normally no soundtrack n Playing a game: n Approaching 3D n Player-created sounds (gunshots, etc.) audible n Ambient sounds limited by number of channels n Echoes nonexistent or simulated inaccurately n Player cannot usually speak or sing n Musical soundtrack to enhance atmosphere

6 6 Touch n Feeling a building: n Texture of materials n Hardness of flooring n Ambient air temperature n Reflected heat n Air currents n Humidity n Playing a game: n Extremely limited n Vibration from handheld game controllers n Associated with game events, not with spaces

7 7 Smell n Smelling a space: n Construction materials n Wood, concrete, stone n Decorative plants n Earth, flowers, etc. n Relation to function n Toilets, laboratories, kitchens, machinery. n Playing a game: n Non-existent!

8 8 Other Senses in Games n No feeling of gravity pressing feet to floor n (And no feeling of zero-G in space, either!) n Movement and climbing are not tiring. n We can create someclaustrophobia, but… n We can create some claustrophobia, but… n … no agoraphobia n We can create worlds with bizarre physics, demonstrated visually.

9 9 The Costs of Architecture n In buildings: n Design costs n Land costs n Infrastructure materials n Decorative materials n Construction labor n In games: n Design costs, but less n No land costs n NO materials costs n We can build the Vatican out of solid platinum! n No construction labor (design IS construction).

10 10 The Costs in Games n In 3D games the primary cost is detail n 3D spaces are constructed from polygons n There is a limited number of polygons available n 3D buildings in games tend to look rather sparse n Curves are expensive, straight lines are cheap n In 2D games the primary cost is variety n More architecture requires more artist time n More images require more disk space

11 11 A Sparse Hotel Lobby

12 12 A Cheap Boulder

13 13 A Cheap Boulder

14 14 The Rules are Different in Games n Normal engineering considerations do not apply n mass, strength, volume n Normal habitability considerations do not apply n Toilets, fire safety, fresh air, temperature control n Scale is irrelevant - a thing is as big as we say it is. n We can put a palace in a matchbox. n We can build spaces that are physically impossible. n Infinitely-long staircases, Escher rooms.

15 15 The Functions of Real Buildings n To protect people/goods/animals from the weather n To organize human activity efficiently n Factories, theaters, offices, sports arenas n To conceal and protect goods/animals from theft n Warehouses, barns, shops, storage facilities n To offer personal privacy n Toilets and private houses n To protect people from other people n Fortifications, military installations, prisons n To impress, commemorate or simply decorate n Civic monuments and religious buildings

16 16 Real-World Functions in Games? n Weather is irrelevant; normally it is only cosmetic n Organizing human activity is useful in multi-player games. Buildings not necessary, but a metaphor. n Theft may or may not be possible; if possible, buildings offer a convenient metaphor for protection n Privacy is normally irrelevant n Military protection is a very common game function n Impressiveness and decoration are also common n Buildings in games mimic the real world when necessary. There are no buildings in chess.

17 17 Outdoor Spaces are Problematic n It is hard to make sweeping vistas or panoramas, because of screen resolution and size limitations. n Players can often move fast, so it is difficult to create meaningfully large spaces. n Natural objects (trees, etc.) require far more detail than man-made objects. Games avoid them, which makes many games feel sterile. n Aerial perspectives reduce the impressiveness of any structure or space. n The Great Pyramid isnt a big deal from 5000 feet up.

18 18 The Primary Function of Ludic Space n The primary function of a ludic space is to support the gameplay. n Ludic space is NOT analogous to real buildings and spaces, but to movie sets. n The function of a movie set is: n a) To create context by mimicking the real world n b) More importantly, to support the narrative n Movie sets often diverge from the real world for narrative purposes. n They can make NY seem cleaner, or dirtier, than it really is.

19 19 So What Is Gameplay? n Sid Meier defined gameplay as A series of interesting choices. n The rules define the gameplay, specifically: n The challenges the player(s) must face before they can achieve victory PLUS n The actions they are allowed to make in order to overcome those challenges.

20 20 Types of Challenges - 1 n Physical challenges n Speed and reaction time (twitch games) n Accuracy and precision (steering and shooting) n Timing n Learning special moves (fighting games) n Races - achieving something first n Puzzles n Should be based on a hidden principle n Trial-and-error solution is a sign of bad design

21 21 Types of Challenges - 2 n Exploration Challenges n Locked doors and traps n Mazes and illogical spaces n Teleporters n Conflict n Strategy, tactics, and logistics (logistics rarely seen) n Survival & reduction of enemy forces n Defending vulnerable items or units n Stealth

22 22 Types of Challenges - 3 n Economic Challenges n Accumulating wealth or points n Achieving balance or stability in a system n Caring for living things within a system n Conceptual Challenges n Understanding something new n Deduction, observation, interpretation n Detective games offer conceptual challenges

23 23 How Space Creates Challenges n Constraint n Limits the movement of the players avatar n Limits the influence of weapons n Concealment n Hides players from one another n Obstacles or Tests of Skill n Players must pass around obstacles, avoid traps n Exploration n Players must learn the shape of the space.

24 24 Designing a Ventilation Shaft Text reads: Shutters that open and close. Must jump down when open and fan is on. When closed you plummet and shutters are electrified. Have 2 sets of fan/shutter. Must land on ledge above fan. Blades will kill you. Equipment room with ducts and access doors to labs. Image copyright by and courtesy of Peter Lok.

25 25 This is Architectural Idiocy! n This building consists of an equipment room and a ventilation shaft. The remainder is undefined. It does not exist in the game. n The fans apparently blow OUT, not in (if they are not on when you jump, you plummet). n The shutters are electrified. (Why?!) n Two fans may be needed to move the air, but why two sets of shutters?

26 26 … but Sensible Game Design. n Constraint n The player starts on the roof and the only way in is through the ventilation shaft. n Obstacles and Tests of Skill n Must land on the ledge and avoid fan blades and electrified shutters. n Exploration n The player does not know what lies below the bottom of the shaft until he gets there.

27 27 Another Example Note the strange and wasteful design of this building complex. This space is designed to be explored, not used.

28 28 A Combat Space This space consists of an oddly-shaped valley with a 2-story building at one end. The green line is an underground tunnel. The building is architecturally fairly rational, but the structure of the valley is optimized for combat challenges.

29 29 Analysis of Sniping Areas Notice that the red team (defending the building) can cover much but not all of the valley, while the blue team can cover much but not all of the building.

30 30 Guard Positions Two of the entry points ( ) for the building can be guarded by snipers in protected positions ( ), but the third cannot be: an excellent example of game balance. Gropius, however, was not consulted! Unguarded position.

31 31 Secondary Function of Ludic Space n The secondary function of ludic space is to inform and entertain in its own right. n Familiar locations offer cues to a spaces function and likely events there. n Allusions and homages carry symbolic meaning. n New worlds require new architectures. n Surrealism warns the player not to rely on logic. n Atmosphere carries an emotional message. n Comedic effects offer pure amusement value. n Clichés set a scene rapidly.

32 32 Familiarity A hotel room is a space we fully understand. Gabriel Knight is waiting for the maid to finish her work and leave so he can search the room.

33 33 Allusion Grim Fandango borrows from the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead. This building is the Department of Death. Note the combination of Aztec and Art Deco elements.

34 34 Allusion Soul Reaver is about a vampire who eats souls, so a cathedral has powerful connotations.

35 35 New Architectures for New Worlds This one aerial- perspective view in Planescape: Torment includes a wide variety of buildings in many styles, from tents to large edifices.

36 36 Surrealism Myst had a strong surreal element that contributed greatly to its sense of mystery. It also warned the player that things would not be as they seemed.

37 37 Atmosphere A dangerous city street in The Longest Journey, reminiscent of New York. The rose window of the cathedral, mostly hidden on the right, suggests a place of sanctuary nearby.

38 38 Comedic Effect Note the Disney- esque bulging walls and off-kilter windows in Escape from Monkey Island. This isnt so much a building as an architectural joke.

39 39 Architectural Clichés Many games, like other types of popular culture, rely on cultural clichés and stereotypes to set a scene quickly.

40 40 The Construction of Ludic Spaces a short lecture by Ernest W. Adams ewadams@designersnotebook.com a member of thedesign group

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