Super Unique Top Down Puzzle RPG 9001

November 23, 2011

Documentation for Super Unique Top Down Puzzle RPG 9001, an experimental gaming experience created by Jonathan Seguin and myself.

Super Unique Top Down Puzzle RPG 9001 is a multiplayer video game installation that requires two players to cooperate while separated in physical and virtual space. Our work is driven by the idea that every medium is traditionally limited by the expected interaction it affords: for example, a video game carries the expectation of being seen and heard simultaneously. These conditions are similar in that either element is tied to one of the five senses – but if these “expected” attributes were to be fragmented, how would the end users cope with the changes? We plan to explore this “fragmentation of the senses” by distributing the primary sensory outputs of traditional video games across two very different playing experiences: one player will see the game, and one player will hear the game.

The installation is set up as a simple computer kiosk. The “seeing” player is able to view the game screen, as well as navigate the player character through our visual environment using keyboard controls. The “hearing” player has a set of headphones, attached to the same computer, as well as the ability to explore the game’s soundscape by turning a potentiometer. The players must act together to ensure their character survives and escapes the dungeon he has been situated in by communicating to each other.

While most games can arguably be navigated through and enjoyed with the sound turned off (relying heavily on visual feedback), we are designing Super Unique so that the seeing player is reliant on the proactive communication of the hearing player. Visual players are first handicapped in that there will be a spotlight with a small radius surrounding the hero, creating a limited vision of the game space. Many traps and puzzles are set up that communicate strictly aural signals, meaning visual players must consult with their hearing teammates to avoid landmines and pits, as well as to locate hidden platforms, switches and paths. Hearing players can “tune in” to sounds by turning a potentiometer. The visual player can see an arrow on screen that corresponds to the direction the hearing player has tuned in to, allowing the visual player to pinpoint the location of any sound the hearing player describes. The game is completed when the seeing player, with the assistance of the hearing player, safely navigates to the final room of the dungeon.

Our system deconstructs what is expected of traditional video games by compartmentalizing essential modes of communication that are typically synchronized and unified (visuals and sound). In our efforts to challenge the user’s expectations of media, we believe that video games lend themselves to our experiment by naturally inviting user participation. In an ever-changing technological society, it is important to continuously challenge the limitations of the mediums we use regularly; our project demonstrates this in an engaging and challenging interactive experience.

Process Work
Below you can see some of the graphic and visual experiments I worked through during the early development stages.

Preliminary character and level design sketches

Some early sketches of what the hero character and level designs might look like. This is where the “spotlight” idea came from.

Hero sprite process and hidden enemy animation

Here you can see the iteration process for creating the hero sprite. I’ve also included the hidden enemy animation (which isn’t shown very well in the video) for your viewing pleasure.