Communication Lab 2
Due: Thursday, February 11th at 11:59 pm
Your concept document
will be due at the end of the week. This is your first major document, and without it
you cannot procede further with your idea. In particular, we will reject ideas that are
not feasible or interesting.
You already did some brainstorming in the previous lab.
And while many of you came up with interesting themes, the games themselves are not yet
compelling. That is because you have not thought enough about your mechanics yet. Your
actions are either too vague or too generic. Therefore, you should spend this entire lab
trying to understand your game mechanics. Once you think you have at least one solid,
new mechanic, you can start work on the
due at the end of the week.
You do not need to understand all of the mechanics in your game. That is the point of
which comes after the nondigital prototype.
However, you do need to know enough to prove that your game something original and interesting
If you are stuck on coming up with your mechanics, please call on a
staff member to come over and
help you. They have all been through this process several times and they can help you
when you are stuck.
The biggest problem that people are having are the actions. Most of the actions are
either too vague, or they are generic actions like move, hide, and shoot, found in
many other games. Actions are the core of your game, not the theme. So you most work
on improving them.
In part, this activity is a repeat of mechanics
portion of the previous lab. You should have received some feedback in CMS about your
initial ideas. If you have not read the feedback yet, please read it now.
In this section we expand the activity a bit to give you some more help and improve your
ideas. We also highly recommend that you review what we talked about
game mechanics in class
when thinking about your actions.
Brainstorming a Unique Mechanic
The first thing we want to do is for everyone to take their theme and come up with a
unique mechanics for that theme. Remember that a mechanic is either an action, an
interaction, or a combination of both. So that mechanic could be a unique verb that
the player performs, like shrinking or growing. It could also be an unique interaction
such as two laser streams crossing over each other. Combinations are also good, but for
now concentrate on an action or interaction.
To figure out an action, take the player avatar and think about what that avatar
can do. For example, what unique things can a teddy bear do? Does the fact that it is
a stuffed animal make it different from a person? Is it harder to kill? If you remove
stuffing can you kill it or just slow it down? Is there a reason the teddy bear might
want to remove its own stuffing? What could the teddy bear do if it removed a body
part like an eye, or an ear, or even an arm?
Another strategy is to think about a challenge, remove your most obvious way of
overcoming that challenge, and then brainstorm a new way. For example, suppose I need
to hold off a hord of enemies. The obvious way to do this is to kill them. Suppose I
cannot kill at all. What else could I do? What makes your new idea more interesting
In building on your actions, the other thing we want you be aware of are the
limitations your actions might have. For example, the teddy bear only has two
arms, so it can only remove two of them. And does it suffer any ill affects when it
does not have any arms? You do not need to be too detailed about the limitations;
just give us a high level idea of the restrictions.
This is hard challenge and should be taken seriously, as it is the key thing that will
matter in whether or not your concept document is accepted. Generic games are not
acceptable. Story-heavy games with no mechanics are not acceptable. If you have to
change theme to fit the mechanics, then do so. Themes are place to start, but they
are not the most important part of your game.
Build Upon the Mechanic
Once you have your unique mechanic, build upon it. If it is an action, add interactions
that can combine with it. If it is an interaction, add an action or two that can can
combine with or affect the interaction. You also might want to think about how two
interactions might combine with one another. For example, if a collision produces a
sound (one interaction), might this sound alert someone (another interaction)?
Let us return to the teddy bear example. Suppose the teddy bear can remove an eye. Does
the game have a fog of war that only allows the bear to see what is around it? Perhaps
the eye allows the teddy bear to look at two places at once. What would be the advantage
of that? Or better yet, suppose the bear left an arm attached to a lever. Could the bear
the pull that lever no matter how far away it is from the arm?
Ignore any mechanics that do not immediately combine with your core idea. You may
need some basic actions like movement or shooting. You can assume you have those, but
keep them to the bare minimum. Focus on the more interesting things you can do.
Show Off the Mechanics
Finally, we want a player mode diagram showing the player using your core mechanic
to overcome a challenge. It does not have to be a fancy illustration. It can be a
quick sketch with stick figures. It can be a picture taken of a whiteboard. Whatever
the case, it should clearly show the player in action, as covered in the
first design lab.
This diagram is not supposed to be something that your designer spends hours working
on. We want something drawn in no more than 15 minutes. Save the good art for the
If you have time left over, we recommend that you spend class time on the following
two parts of the concept document.
Follow the links above to read the instructions for each of these. The unique mechanic
that you have decided upon should be the central feature of both of these. It should
be clearly spelled out in your high concept statement. For example, look at the following
high concept statement for Forgotten Sky
Eons after a forgotten catastrophe drove mankind to take refuge deep within the earth,
a young man has the audacity to dream of the sky. With nothing but a thin, swaying rope
preventing an untimely end, guide Caelum through the ruins of past shelters as he
ascends to the surface.
This was a game where the character used a rope like a grappling to move everywhere.
This immediately obvious when you read the second sentence in the high concept statement.
Your core mechanic should be the very first feature in your feature list. Your feature
list should also contain any of the mechanics you have built to combine with your core
mechanic. Finally, your theme is also a feature, for those of you with a unique and
If you come with some ideas, ask for Traci Nathans-Kelly
to come over and she will give you feedback on them. We also want you to turn in what
you have on Thursday, so that we can comment before the concept document is due.
Due: Thursday, February 11th at 11:59 pm
We want you to turn in whatever you came up with during lab. We want your unique
mechanic, and any additional mechanics building upon that. We want your quick player
If you have a high concept document ready to go, we want to see that as well. That
way we can give you feedback before the document is due.
With that said, we only want you to turn in what you have completed during lab.
If you did not finish all of the activities in lab (particularly the player mode
diagram), we do not want you working on this outside of class. Spend your time
on the concept document instead.
Because of the player mode diagram, we ask that you submit your work as a PDF. You
should do that even if you did not get to the player mode diagram. Create a file
called mechanics.pdf which addresses all of the
points above. You only need to submit this file once for the entire group.