Character-Driven Game Design: Characters, Conflict, and Gameplay

Petri Lankoski
Staffan Björk

In GDTW2008 Proceedings, Liverpool John Moores University, UK (12th – 13th Nov).

ABSTRACT

Contemporary computer and video games utilize characters in large extent. However, game research literature says only little about how to design gameplay so that it reflects characters’ personality; mainly focusing on the narration and graphical presentation of the characters.  This paper presents a character-driven game design method, which uses ideas from dramatic character design to include gameplay into the design process. Based upon previous work on NPC design and a new analysis, several design choices regarding gameplay are identified. These choices are described as gameplay design patterns and related to how specific features in a character design can support gameplay. In conjunction with the patterns, the concepts of recognition, alliance, and alignment are used to introduce the method and provide examples. The paper concludes with a discussion on how the method can affect the overall gameplay in games.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K.8.0 [Personal Computing]: General – Games.

General Terms: Design, Human Factors.

Keywords:Gameplay design, game design, player character, non-player character.

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Gameplay Design Patterns for Social Networks and Conflicts

Petri Lankoski
Media Lab
University of Art and Design Helsinki

Staffan Björk
Interaction Design Collegium
Chalmers University of Technology & Göteborg University

In GDTW2007 Proceedings
Fifth International Game Design and Technology Workshop and Conference
Liverpool John Moores University, UK
14–15 November 2007

ABSTRACT
This paper explores how games can be designed to make the social networks of characters as part of the gameplay. We start with a premise that game characters and social relations between them are import in games. We examine several games and derive gameplay design patterns from those games. Models from social network analysis, actor-network theory and Egri’s model for dramatic conflict is used to focus the analysis. In addition to isolating design patterns from existing features of the games, we look situations where game structures do not support social networks or conflicts as proposed in above-mentioned theories. Patterns identified include Competing for Attention, Gain Allies, Social Dilemma, Internal Conflict, and Social Maintenance.

Keywords
Gameplay Design Patterns, Gameplay, Narration, Non-player Character, Computer Games, Gameplay Design

1. INTRODUCTION
As social creatures, humans easier to engage in a game and narration when characters portrayed in these have social relations to each other, or in other words that the relations between characters form a social network. This is common knowledge within scriptwriting theories for theatre and film (see, e.g., [6, 7, 17, 19]), and these theories are also applied to creating games. However, social relations in games are typically part of the storyline (see, e.g., Thief II: The Metal Age [34], Dead or Alive 3 [44], Silent Hill 3 [45], and Half-Life [48]) and games typically do not let players directly act to influences those relations, instead letting them be consequences of other (most commonly physical) actions that are shown through cut-scenes. One example of this can be found in Quake 4 [22] where the relation between the player character, Matthew Kane, and the other characters in the Rhino squad are only changed in the cut scenes. No possibilities to do so are available during gameplay, including making it impossible for the player to terminating the relationship by killing the other team members. When players are given direct choices to influence the relationship this is typically done as explicit choices between a limited set of alternatives, and the effects of these are localized and seldom have the complexity of nuances of real social relationships, including how one change in a relationship can propagate through a whole network. Although these limitations typically make sense from gameplay or storytelling point of views, we think that the above-mentioned ways limits the design space of games, and having further alternatives would expand the expressive design space of games.

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Gameplay Design Patterns for Believable Non-Player Characters

Petri Lankoski
Media Lab
University of Art and Design Helsinki

Staffan Björk
Interaction Design Collegium
Computer Science and Engineering
Chalmers University of Technology and Göteborg University

Situated Play, Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference
(c) 2007 Authors & Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA). Personal and educational classroom use of this paper is allowed, commercial use requires specific permission from the author.
Definitive version is be available in conference proceedings and http://www.digra.org/wp-content/uploads/digital-library/07315.46085.pdf

ABSTRACT
Descriptions of humans require several qualities for people to experience them as believable: human body; self-awareness, intentional states, and self impelled actions; expression of emotions; ability to use natural language; and persistent traits. Based on these we analyze non-player character Claudette Perrick in The Elders Scroll IV: Oblivion to detect how these qualities can be created in the interactive environment of a game. We derive the gameplay design patterns Awareness of Surrounding, Visual Body Damage, Dissectible Bodies, Initiative, Own Agenda, Sense of Self, Emotional Attachment, Contextual Conversational Responses, and Goal-Driven Personal Development, which point to design choices that can be made when designing believable non-player characters in games.
Author Keywords
Gameplay design patterns, non-player character, game design, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

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