Updated: Jun 4, 2019
In order to create this game to its best ability we must explore game models that Enchanted Kin could fall into. Most obviously, Enchanted Kin is a game developed for the Alexa. I should explore some of the most popular Alexa Game Skills to understand what creates a good interaction.
I played though each of these games to understand more:
This game sees you take on the role of a medieval lord. In each round you must answer yes or no to make decisions from proposals. These decisions affect your wealth or influence, for which you must stay under the radar from the king (not too high and not too low). The game creates a choice based story with many, many decisions. It utilises pre-recorded clips to remain in the medieval role. However playing this through with friends we quickly became bored listening to the scenarios. The game requires an interest in the medieval theme.
Feel the Pressure:
Feel the Pressure is a quiz game, that uses randomisation from Alexa. The questions state which letter the answer begins with, however the questions become progressively harder throughout the game. The game uses humour well to engage the players, by creating dramatic pauses with SSML and silly sound effects. The atmospheric noise really intensifies the pressure of the gameplay. Although this was simple quiz game, the use of audio particularly stood out.
Escape the Room:
Escape the Room was by far the most interesting game to play mechanic wise. The players are given a narrative passage and are expected to explore a room, find items and use them to escape the room. This was achieved by using key commands in a specified order. It is quite easy to understand and pickup but the use of specific words at times was frustrating.
The Magic Door:
In this game, you go on an interactive adventure exploring locations through an option based. The game had good sound effects which really added to the theme of the game. However the narrative elements very much did drag on.
In terms of interaction I feel that Yes Sire, Escape the Room and the Magic Door, align better to Enchanted Kin as contain narrative elements. However all of these but Escape the Room read to players, which quickly became boring and was hard to hold the attention span of players. In Escape the Room, the step based exploration system kept the game interesting, It required some sort of logic to navigate and used problem solving skills. I feel that an exploration system would be a good place to start interaction development for Enchanted Kin.
The 'Escape the Room' game relates well to text-based adventure games. Common from indie game developers today, these games have travelled from platform to platform over the past half century. The see players make options through text, either responding with a text based interaction or graphic. This enables the players to drive the story. They create independent decision trees within a level based system which enables players to take numerous actions. The Monkey Island series is of particular note here, they have a very similar explorative system through text. Other commands are also available in this option menu. The player must explore then use another interaction (such as pickup and use or push) to have chance of chance of moving the narrative on. I could use this type of explore system to link spell-casting to Enchanted Kin
Interaction model idea
By looking at these game models, I have thought of a solution to linking the mechanics and the narrative in Enchanted Kin. This has seen the development of an interaction system where the players communicate with Alexa. The idea is that a short narrative statement will set the scene, specifically an environment, for the players. From this, the players will explore the environment, they will be told what there is available and explore them items further. Some of these items contain ingredients which Alexa will prompt the player to pickup in real life. After collecting multiple ingredient the player will be able to ask to cast a spell. The spell will either be successful, moving the player onto another narrative scene setter and moving to a next level, or be a failure and see them have to continue finding ingredients.
This core idea for this picking up of the ingredients, came from the initial playtest. When combined with an explorative mechanic, inspired by Escape the Room and The Monkey Island series, the game becomes more interactive and purposeful. It will also add further engagement to the narrative, with less dictation and more participation. The players live the story as opposed to being told.
From here I should establish how the players will interact through voice with the game.
Creating the interaction commands
With the flow of the game set as a communication between Alexa and the player, the game requires key command terms to prompt an output. However we want the experience to fit well within a script. As the narrative see's players on a quest and the designed mechanics include gathering and creating, the words need to insinuate the mystery. To create this, I have looked at a thesaurus to establish variances of key of words which could be possibly used for the game.
Explore- this will see the interaction options of direction.
explore- lends itself to an exploration as opposed to specifically focusing on a direction.
search- this does not work well with the directions following it.
look- it simply implies the action and can be easily picked up.
turn- this does not insinuate a following interaction (the following inspect).
go- this does not flow well off the tip of the tongue.
move- this does not insinuate the detection purpose.
Inspect- this will see the interaction options of an object/thing
inspect- this lends itself to a problem being established.
analyse- this seems more scientific than magic based.
examine- this lends itself to a problem being established.
search- this doesn't flow well when followed by an object.
Investigate - this implies that the may find clues and works well with the looking interaction.
Spell-casting- this will be the phrase needed to invoke spell casting
we've got it- this would be frustrating to be repeated if wrong.
we want to cast a spell- this simply states the function of the spell casting, differentiates the mechanic interaction of spell-casting compared to looking and investigating.
to the cauldron- this seems quite gimmicky.
try a spell- this seems to week.
lets mix the ingredients- this does not fit the magic theme.
hocus-pocus- this seems quite gimmicky.
It was important not to simply use the commands from Escape the Room, as we want the interaction to be immersed within in Enchanted Kin's narrative. The chosen commands were chosen because of how well they worked together, if they can be easily picked up and if they insinuate the detection element of the game.
Level 1 creation
With the commands created and the narrative base, I can now create the level design for the game. The levels will be a series of locations to be experienced, followed by spell casting opportunities.The levels will stem from the narrative that Rubi created, however I feel that some of the locations will have to become more fantasy based.
The initial level takes places in a kitchen. By creating a top down visual I am able to identify areas that could be investigated by players and areas where ingredients will be located. As the ingredients need to be split across levels, I will start off by including 4 ingredients in the first level. I thought specifically about what of the ingredients would be found in a witches kitchen along with scene scenarios. The ingredients include: Tears of a Donkey, Fragment of a Mystic Ball, Eye of Newt and Dino-Bites.
The item design of the kitchen includes the following. I have also thought about the description that the Alexa can use to intrigue the players into investigation. Additionally amongst the objects, I have distributed the ingredients.
the dining table - noticing the Alexa's cleaning. 'Tears of a Donkey'
the window- insinuating a break in with smashed glass. 'Fragment of a Mystic Ball'
the work surface - highlighting Alexa's cleaning again. 'Eye of Newt'
the broomsticks - prompt about flying.
the pots and pans cupboard - encourage not to investigate, lots of stuff in there.
the food cupboard - dusty, empty cupboard. 'Dino-Bites'
the fridge - empty, someone needs to go shopping.
the washing machine - frustrated as someone has left their clothes on the floor.
the work surface - a note to go food shopping.
the utensil cupboard - unique utensils such as a spork.
the oven - empty and off.
the sink/tap - tap dripping.
I feel that at this point, I should fully develop this into a script so that it can be play-tested to see if the interaction works well.
Spell Casting System
In order for the level to be completed the player must cast a successful spell. This will be invoked with, "Alexa, We want to cast a spell". With all the gameplay changes, since the first semester, the spell casting needs to be simplified. For this reason, there will be simply two modes, success or failure. To make things easy on the development the spell-casting will include only two ingredients. Players will place the ingredients into the cauldron and prompt Alexa, notifying the Arduino to take a reading. After discussing with Rubi, we believe that the word 'Stir' best suited this role. This provides an alternative meaning for the player, with the Arduino being fully functioning. With so many ingredients in the game there will be many combinations for successful and failed spells. By decreasing the possible successful spell combinations between levels, it will create a progressive level difficulty.
A script has been developed to establish all of the possible interactions for players, as well as the spell combinations. This will come in handy for playtesting as-well as referencing developments.
In particular the spell established how the Alexa will talk. The Alexa acts as a narrator throughout the game, however to become fully interactive I have established the Alexa as a character. As she is revealing to the players what is where and what to do, I designed to character to be already integrated into the characters environment. This was through a sorcerering maid type role. The specific development of this character can be seen in the script and in the initial audio development.
This stage has very much established the interaction model for the game, its core purpose has been established and further interaction design will be modelled around this. From here I am going to conduct a playtest of the first script to see how the players interact with the game.