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Game Design Considerations for Alternate Controllers Greg LoPiccolo Ryan Lesser Harmonix Music Systems Who is Harmonix? Spun out of MIT Media Lab in 1995 Focused on Interactive Music Innovation Our Mission: to bring the experience of musical performance to non-musicians

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game design considerations for alternate controllers

Game Design Considerations for Alternate Controllers

Greg LoPiccolo Ryan Lesser

Harmonix Music Systems

who is harmonix
Who is Harmonix?
  • Spun out of MIT Media Lab in 1995
  • Focused on Interactive Music Innovation
  • Our Mission: to bring the experience of musical performance to non-musicians
  • Led to video game development
why does harmonix make games using alternate controllers
Why does Harmonix make games using alternate controllers?
  • By accident!
  • Mandate to pursue music software 
  • Frequency/Amplitude required 
  • Focus on design innovation
  • Led to . . .
what is an alternate controller
What is an alternate controller?
  • Dance pad
  • Eyetoy / camera
  • Microphone
  • Light gun
  • Drum, Guitar, etc
  • Steering wheel
why design games with alternate controllers
Why design games with alternate controllers?
  • Underappreciated area of game design
  • Controller has HUGE impact on
    • Mechanics of player abilities and constraints
    • Player role expectations
  • Provides access to new game experiences
why design games with alternate controllers9
Why design games with alternate controllers?
  • Lowers barrier to entry – more potential players
  • Conventional controllers canbe intimidating
  • Physical interactioncontributes to immersive experience
harmonix alternate controller design
Harmonix Alternate Controller Design
  • Undertake two simple steps to figure out what game to make
  • Don’t pre-judge the process, but follow where it leads
  • Most importantly…
early prototyping and iterative refinement is crucial
Early prototyping and iterative refinement is CRUCIAL
  • Build
    • Test
      • Revise
        • Repeat
  • But that is a different talk . . .
designing for alternate controllers use these two easy steps
Designing for Alternate Controllers?Use These Two Easy Steps!
  • Step 1: Identify the desired player experience
  • Step 2: Evaluate and/or develop the controller
step 1 identify the desired player experience
Step 1: Identify the desired player experience
  • Prerequisite for an effective design
  • Isn’t this obvious?
  • Yes, but implicit for most genres
step 1 identify the desired player experience14
Step 1: Identify the desired player experience
  • Alternate controllers imply fundamental shifts in player experience.
  • Think about the experience, NOT the game mechanic
step 1 identify the desired player experience15
Step 1: Identify the desired player experience
  • Incomplete understanding of gameplay at beginning of process
  • Clear understanding of experiential goals helps to evaluate ideas effectively
  • Easier to identify and kill off dead ends
  • Provides space for good ideas to flourish
step 2 controller evaluation development
Step 2: Controller Evaluation/Development
  • Needs to support play experience unachievable with a conventional controller
  • Alternate controller provides unique data
    • What opportunities does this data provide?
    • What limitations does it present?
step 1 what is the core karaoke experience
Step 1: What is the core Karaoke experience?
  • Singing (drunk)
  • Performing in front of an audience (drunk)
  • Singing with other (drunk) people
step 2 evaluate controller
Step 2: Evaluate Controller
  • Controller = Microphone
  • Everyone knows how to use one..which is a huge step forward!
  • What data does it provide for us to evaluate?
step 2 evaluate controller24
Step 2: Evaluate Controller
  • Pitch
  • Volume
  • Lyrics (Phonemes)
step 2 evaluate controller26
Step 2: Evaluate Controller
  • Pitch detection – unique, intuitive, technically feasible
  • Volume detection ? – too variable to be useful
  • Phoneme detection?
    • Computationally expensive
    • Unforgiving
    • Time-consuming to develop
shipping mechanic
Shipping mechanic
  • Player sings vocal part of familiar song
  • Game grades on pitch accuracy
  • No attempt at speech parsing
conclusion karaoke revolution
Conclusion: Karaoke Revolution
  • Desired player experience = Karaoke performance
  • Usable controller data = pitch analysis
  • Outcome: decent (4 sequels and counting)
step 1 what is the player experience
Step 1: What is the player experience?
  • Tougher question than for Karaoke Revolution
  • Possible player experience limitedby (as yet) unknown capabilitiesof controller
  • On to step 2 --
step 2 evaluate develop controller
Step 2: Evaluate/develop controller
  • Controller system =body + camera + scene analysis code
  • Scene analysis is highly configurable:
  • Um, what do we want to accomplish?
  • Back to step 1!
step 2 evaluate develop controller35
Step 2: Evaluate/develop controller
  • What have other Eyetoy games done?
back to step 1 what is the player experience
Back to Step 1: what is the player experience?
  • Mapping limb or body motions to character control could be immersive and intuitive
  • Control unmediated by handheld controller
  • Forward to Step 2!
step 2 evaluate controller38
Step 2: Evaluate Controller
  • What control data can we get from Eyetoy?
  • 2D Face-tracking
  • (After lots of work) 2D Hand-tracking
  • Nothing from feet
flash of insight
Flash of Insight:
  • Head is firmly attached to body
  • If body moves, head moves with it
  • Head tracking = body tracking!
where does that lead
Where does that lead?
  • Steering, jumping, ducking with head/body
  • Er, something with hands
snowboarding
Snowboarding?
  • It’s been done
  • How about . . .
control set
Control Set
  • Left-Right Steering
  • Jump/Duck
  • Accelerate/Brake
  • Target-smashing with hands
  • Trick system gestures
antigrav conclusions
AntiGrav Conclusions
  • Desired player experience: intuitive physical control of hoverboarding character
  • Useful controller data: head & hand positions, gestures
  • Outcome: mixed…works great in ideal setup,but fragile
step 1 identify desired player experience
Step 1: Identify Desired Player Experience
  • GH was not a Guitar Simulator, but rather a game about being a Rock and Roll Guitar Player
step 1 identify desired player experience52
Step 1: Identify Desired Player Experience
  • The thrill of Live Rock n Roll guitar performance boils down to:
    • Reproducing guitar parts of songs
    • On Stage Showmanship
    • Firing up the “crowd”
    • Soloing/self-expression
step 2 develop controller
Step 2: Develop Controller
  • We got some input from the very start!
  • Harmonix/RedOctane collaboration

Destroyed prototypes

step 2 develop controller controller appearance
Step 2: Develop Controller- Controller Appearance
  • The Guitar must look cool and not like a cheap toy
  • Must be inviting to both young PS2 players and old, jaded rockers like us.
step 2 develop controller controller size
Step 2: Develop Controller- Controller Size
  • Big enough to feel like a real guitar
  • Small enough to be stockable at retail
step 2 develop controller virtuoso play support
Step 2: Develop Controller- “Virtuoso” play support
  • Fret buttons and Strum bar
    • Smooth feel
    • Short throw for speedy playing
    • 5 buttons to allow multiple playing positions
    • quiet
    • sturdy
step 2 develop controller showboating features
Step 2: Develop Controller- Showboating Features
  • Tilt sensor
  • Whammy bar
  • We didn’t know how these would work when we requested them
step 2 develop controller the guitar hero gibson sg
Step 2: Develop Controller- The Guitar Hero Gibson SG!

The final version of the Guitar Hero Controller

step 2 develop controller iterations
Step 2: Develop Controller- Iterations:
  • Button feel
  • Button switches
  • Neck
  • Paintjob
  • Cord
  • Tremolo bar (whammy)
  • Tilt sensors
game side design implications
Game-side design implications
  • High level goals:
    • Support as many aspects of guitar wizardry as possible
    • Varied toolkit to support range of songs and difficulties
    • Obvious, intuitive play even for non-gamers
game side design implications chords
Game-side design implications:Chords
  • supports 3 “power chord” positions
game side design implications sustain
Game-side design implications:Sustain
  • Sustained notes are big in rock guitar
  • Co-existed well with chords
game side design implications vibrato whammy
Game-side design implications: Vibrato/Whammy
  • Simplest approach worked best, limited to ½ step detune
  • Gives player a bit of expression
game side design implications hammer on pull offs
Game-side design implications:Hammer-on / Pull-offs
  • What are they?
  • Extremely guitar-y
  • Very difficult to display graphically
  • Very difficult to teach
game side design implications improvisation
Game-side design implications:Improvisation
  • Conceptually awesome
  • Experientially sucky; too easy for inexperienced players to sound bad
  • Hard to fit into game and visual design
  • Ran out of time
star power
Star Power!
  • Added some strategic depth
  • Provided gameplay justification for guitar tilt and whammy
guitar hero conclusions
Guitar Hero conclusions
  • Desired player experience: Rock and Roll stardom
  • Usable controller data:frets/strum bar/whammy bar/tilt switch
  • Outcome: wow!
predictions
Predictions
  • Music games
  • Eyetoy games
  • Nintendo Revolution
conclusions
Conclusions
  • Alternate controllers imply a fundamental shift in player experience. Embrace it!
  • Identify desired player experience
  • Develop a clear understanding of controller capabilities
contact us
Contact Us:
  • Greg LoPiccologreg@harmonixmusic.com
  • Ryan Lesser

ryan@harmonixmusic.com