Update: I Can Haz Thesis Work

So, it’s been a while since I last posted, and that’s largely due to school starting back up and immediately being a terribly busy quarter. The first two weeks of both my classes were hectic endurance trials involving smashing through proposals and concept development in order to quickly get into the bulk of the production we have to be doing for the rest of the quarter. It’s intense and exhausting and doesn’t leave a lot of room for writing outside of the proposals.

Here now, with Week 3 coming to a close, I find myself awake way too early and thus able to squeeze in some time to write about it. So this is the first in a set of thesis-related ramblings.

Killing Babies

No, not literally! This is a frequent phrase used around ITGM to describe discarding ideas that you’re already invested in when they’re not working. In my case, my front-running proposal at the start of the quarter was one of these. QuestGen is something I’ve mentioned before—I spent two quarters doing some preliminary studies and work towards the idea of turning it into my thesis project.

The problem, however, is that as an undertaking, QuestGen is large and ambitious, even if you start to knock it down to more manageable goals. The problem with setting out to come up with a design for a procedural narrative system is that you have to demonstrate it, which means not only developing the system, but also writing a game that showcases it. Ultimately, this proved to be WAY to much to have a good chance of getting done in the time allotted, so I ended up killing the project(for now). I also ended up killing two or three other possible choices. One was also too large-scope, one wasn’t fleshed out enough, and one was rather impractical.

QuestGen and the others aren’t dead, but they’ll have to wait for a better time. If by some fantastic occurrence I manage to get hired to teach at SCAD after I’m finished or the pipe dream of getting hired out at Microsoft to do interesting things with XNA and/or Surface or what-have-you comes through, I’ll probably revisit all of these areas. For now, I have a specific project to work on.

TouchWar

The totally lame(but descriptive) working title for my thesis project is TouchWar. TouchWar explores the adaptation of the existing RTS genre to the interaction paradigms of the increasingly popular multi-touch interfaces. In so doing, it will illustrate how multi-touch allows for engaging game experiences specific to the technology, rather than replicating more traditional digital game interfaces in a new form.

The idea here came from one of the commercials Ubisoft put out for their most recent RTS, R.U.S.E. For those that haven’t seen it, the video follows:

I’ve played a bit of RUSE, and wasn’t terribly impressed with it—and wasn’t terribly impressed with what I’ve seen of its multi-touch support, either, which seems to be replicating mouse commands rather directly. The commercial, however… the commercial is very interesting. Ever since I saw it, I’ve wanted to play that game. the one on the table with two players and a really cool touch interface. And that’s basically what I’m going for.

Naturally, of course, it isn’t possible to do it just like that. There’s a number of gestures used in the commercial that just wouldn’t work in a practical setting; a number of issues that crop up when you have two players sharing a display, and so on. So no, I haven’t gotten this overly-ambitious idea I’m dead-set on. But I do have a direction I’m trying to take it.

TouchWar is going to be a space game, because I like starship RTSes and there aren’t many of them. It also simplifies all sorts of issues that crop up, like terrain negotiation and pathing. it’s also a pretty exciting setting to work in.

Going Forward

That’s enough for this morning. I’ll be continuing to talk about thesis as I have the time and interesting things come up. Next on my list is some thoughts on the game design direction I’m going in, and some of the challenges with working with a single touch display both from a technical and design standpoint. And maybe I’ll get a chance to talk about playing some stuff soon.

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