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Brainstorming the game

We brainstormed Playing Southend with Zara, Max and Suki at the Tiltfactor game research lab, Dartmouth. Ruth participated via Skype.

but first…the problem

Planners report that the most difficult challenge of public consultation and deliberation about the future of a place, is to encourage people to think beyond their own individual needs/wants to the common good.

In order to allow players to consider this in Playing Southend:
- play must change the game (the appearance or the behaviour of the environment).
- the game needs to represent the connection between what the player does in the moment, with changes to the future environment.

brainstorm game building

We add a layer between drawing and playing where the participants create levels from a menu of drawings (stitched together) and control the behaviours of elements of the drawing. They choose different elements annotating their games.

Step 1 – Drawing
artist draws a picture of an environment and adds it to the game

Step 2 – Game Building

Level designers select from a pool of drawings (on screen) to construct a series of 20 images(like exquisite copse). A level is 20 images.

Level designers may also create clusters of 5 images (for use in others’ complete level designs)

Designers name their levels eg. ‘our future park’, ‘my street’, ‘our underwater shelter’, ‘our future school’ // this rewards designers with ownership of their constructive. ‘It is my sequence even though I use others’ drawings or clusters of drawings’.

Game builders can select a variety of ‘obstacle’ and ‘reward’ attributes from a menu. The can be dragged and dropped onto elements in the drawings which have already been highlighted. eg drag a ‘jump’ or ‘bite’ obstacle onto a drawing of a dog. Other examples of ‘obstacle’ attributes might be ‘bounce’, ‘explode’, block.

Players could play with or without visual hints. eg they may guess that the dog bites because it’s a dog or they could turn on ‘visual hints’ to see an icon to represent biting or “look out! she bites” text. //this actualises the issue of hidden forces.

Level designers can specify the size of the player avatar in each drawing. In this way the avatar changes scale as it moves through the level. We might want player credits (optional)

Scaling the character to the environment - Skype screenshot


- a token on each drawing or on each level?
- each sequence contains a star. Level ends when the player reaches a gold star?
- the position of tokens could be ascribed to drawings using yellow stickers
- It matters what the gold star and/or token is.
- These could mark places or obstacles that need to change eg ‘this person’s loneliness’. It makes visible something that might otherwise be hidden
- could hitting the token change the environment?
- create pairs of alternate drawings (before and after). You hit the point to reveal the alternative.



- do we need to template the drawings to scaffold the game design?
- to create parallax we could produce drawing templates of 3 different sizes (in booklets) for 3 layers as follows: -
sky – eg. clouds, birds
background – eg. homes, offices, trees
foreground – eg. cars, obstacles

A way to create parallax - Skype screenshot

- there are a whole set of quests around the aesthetics of the game and how to work with the variety of drawings and still have it look compelling (without pushing against the medium).
- Simple solutions could be to work with cut outs (green-screen).
- looping repeatable backgrounds (think mario clouds).

Panels contain the drawings and are assigned positions: background, foreground etc - Skype screenshot


- levels are made of a sequence of panels
- each panel is a container for a drawing // the uniformity of panel sizes will ensure some coherent and pleasing visual design


Can/should we crowd source the level design?
How does moderation work?
Do we need a second set of workshops – to create the game?


- each level can be rated and commented upon by users
- algorithmic rating would calculate how good the author was at communicating what they wanted in level design

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This work by Local Play (based on a collaboration between Ruth Catlow and Dr Mary
Flanagan) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License

The free software, that enables anyone to draw, make and play their own platform game levels, developed with Soda was first published to Github October 2013