Tuesday, March 22, 2005

non linear design

previously I've asked students to use storyboards for their game design but I read a criticism of storyboards for games because they encouraged linear design

I found an alternative in a Gamasutra article by Ernest Adams, which recommended designing with gameplay modes and flowboards

A flowboard is a combination of flowchart, which is non linear, and a storyboard, which is an annotated picture

flowboard = flowchart + storyboard

I'm currently trialling this with year 11's and 12's and it seems to be working - today the student's were discussing different games they knew, one student said platform games were linear, another said more modern games like Warcraft branched - previously we talked about the movie Sliding Doors and the students corrected me when I said books were linear - we were in the library at the time and one student went and fetched a Goosebumps book of the shelves to correct my assertion!

one reason I'm mentioning this is that I'm still stuck in pencil and paper mode for representing this - although the flowchart part can be well represented with Inspiration or CMap I think it's still easier to represent the storyboard part with pencil and paper - it's quicker to draw a picture of game room challenges and action with pencil and paper

So, for the time being at least, even though it feels old fashioned I'm still using pencil and paper

One disadvantage of this is that I can't show you a picture here of what I am talking about, but I'll work on that and see what I can do

Clark Aldrich talks about 3 types of learning in his book about simulations - linear, cyclical and open-ended. What I'm talking about here is providing design tools for students to encourage open-ended game design. I don't like those games that have 25 levels of linear game play. I'm trying to encourage my students to develop games where there are alternative pathways from beginning to end, or failing that, at least some branching or ability to jump around levels in a non linear fashion.

Schools are mainly about linear (step by step) and cyclical (repeating, revising the same thing) content. I'm hoping that by planting the seed of how to do open-ended content that something interesting will emerge. (I'll write about game play modes some other time)


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