Tuesday, December 27, 2011

WRITING: Enjoying the quite season...

I am writing...

Right now - well, I am not referring to my blog, but my next tale.

It is a curious thing, as these new heroes unfold their characters and traits to me, their wishes and sorrows. They come alive with each line I am writing.

Sometimes, those things work out, sometimes not. Sometimes I have to erase a line, altering they fate, their characters, their destinies...

However, what helps me most, is the quite nature of the season between the years. Shops closed, people are more friendly. There is no rush, no pressing matters, no phone calls - except from dear friends.

Do you remember Bilbo, sitting in his study? Somehow today I feel like him, sitting at my desk, staring at maps and notes, preparing my next adventure...

Bilbo writing, Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson, 2001

Well, I wish all of my dear readers to have a great season merry X-mas and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

GAMES: Game Design, Simulations and 3D-Worlds

Game Design, Simulations and 3D-Worlds: Technological challenges meet Conceptual Excellence

About creating worlds and the trends of development issues
Games are a media form of their own, coming in several genres. As a sovereign media form they can be used to create and display any type of story and theme using interactive devices, formats and methods. Thus game mechanics are a structural method only – like montage in a movie – to create a recognizable system of (inter-)action.
A game developer must understand that there is more to a game than just game play. Current game design dogmas must be neglected and games must be considered as a media art form to unfold their potential, which are currently not fully used.

Games are not toys and they are not (solely) about playing. Games simulate, but as simulations they don’t display reality. Games display a system of believability by presenting methods of interaction (note that the degree of simulation exceeds the so-called game play genres of “simulation games”). They can be found in all forms of interactive experience.
To display a believable system the options sophisticated technology provides are often ignored and remain unused, as the industry’s focus is currently on casual games and AAA-core games only. Casual games provide a high ROI (return of investment), while AAA-titles focus on long-term playability. Both production lines try to present believable game worlds, from Farmville to World of Warcraft.

To create a believable world, the composition approach must be considered: As an example, in-game opponents and “cardboard”-backdrops are not independent parts. Items and level elements define a setting and tell stories about the world. Here the need for more complex and adaptable objects for items and elements in “libraries” shall provide an economic option to focus on the development of more or even true interactivity instead of “reinventing the wheel” over and over.
As a result, to create believable worlds the same dramaturgical elements apply as they do for film, TV and literature. Conflict builds the essence of story telling, be it linear or interactive. Each conflict needs to be defined (setup), driven to its highest peak (confrontation) and must be solved (solution).
In an interactive setting the uncertainty principle of time and space applies: What action will be performed by the player to what point in time? Game play and story mechanics must react to that principle to master chaos, which is a natural part of complex interactive systems of narration.
In years to come the need for more and true interactivity will have to be established and explored. Games as a form of art are a composition of all elements, thus they require a leading creator to transfer them from vision to publication.

A new role of the game designer/ director
Currently most game development companies in Germany still have “grown” structures or try to apply the matrix system of software development to the art form of game making. A more efficient approach derives from the independent movie makers of the ‘New Hollywood’ era: A structure which creates a leading and creative ‘spearhead’, defining the author as the creative mind, providing the concept from a functional and dramaturgical point of view, the producer to set up a production framework and the game director to communicate and supervise the development of the defined vision to the development team.
Thus game documents are explicit task orders, not a compendium of ideas. As programmers, artists, QA, musicians and sound technician speak their own “lingo”, game design documents must be “readable” by that specific audiences, using different techniques, from pseudo code via artwork and sound libraries to animated prototypes.

How to achieve this in three years using the bachelor course of studies?
A good director needs to be interested in every topic, be it history, art, going to theater or musical, reading science facts, researching geography or physics or biology. Therefore interdisciplinary studies are required to provide new and academic points of views to journalism, TV- and film production as well as media management.
Along with studying the theories of media and interactive arts, practical approaches must be used. Students shall develop their own experimental game projects as writers, producers and directors, while they network with the existing industry.

This is my approach on teaching game design at the MHMK, Munich.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

GAME DESIGN: The Dramaturgy of the Playground...

The Dramaturgy of the Playground – or why we can display the life of Anne Frank within a ‘game’

Games have become objects of interest not only for players, business, but also for scholars from the fields of ludology and narratology. But to be able to talk about the ‘nature of the player experience’ it is vital to understand the ‘nature of games’ as well as the ‘nature of game development’. Thus questions shall be raised like: ‘Can a game make you cry?’, ‘How do we use chaos in the dramaturgy of the playground?’ or ‘Are we willing or able to produce true interactive stories?’.

Still games are perceived as objects to play with, therefore placing a high value on the mechanics of the gameplay structure, so they provide a product which offers the emotional experience of fun. And unfortunately that approach has crippled the evolution of emotional game design over the last decade.

First we must understand that the term “games“ leads to a severe misinterpretation about the true nature of the object, because games can be more than things to play with: They are a new media form of their own (Cf. Bhatty, 1999). Thus like film, literature, theatre or TV games can be used to provide narrative interactive experiences.
Using this approach we will understand why game mechanics – though they are important for the game design and therefore for the player experience – are ‘just’ a structural element, like the montage in a film. But the narrative conflict of the interactive experience is the driving force of that approach and therefore dictates the necessities of the dramaturgy to be designed.

To bring true interactive story telling to life, the game designer must be capable of administering ‘chaos’. The ‘chaos paradigm’ (Cf. Bhatty, 1999) describes the conflicting forces of unstable and over the time expanding elements, while the ‘alpha-plot’ is the tool to control that time of native chaos in an interactive story. We shall the examples in games like FarCry (2004) or SACRED (2004).
It is vital to understand that absolute dramaturgical control in interactivity is an illusion, but using the adequate methods of ‘directing the experience’ the designer is able to provide the input of impulses to lead the player through the interactive experience. But while the player may be able to choose space or time of his actions or inactions (within the provided limits of the playground defined by the game designer), the reception of the experience of the designer-defined ‘alpha-plot’ is always linear, after all.
Using the ‘Uncertainty principle’ of space and time during an interactive game experience we shall see, that each player experiences a very personal and individual story – the projection of the ‘alpha-plot.

Unfortunately for the advancement of the interactive arts game developers have been unable to do or unwilling to do what would be necessary to create more emotional experiences, focussing more and more on ‘selling’ fun only. But like the other media forms game developers can create more emotions than just being happy when mastering the next structural challenge (Cf. Koster, 2005). That it has been possible before, we can see in the few exceptions where developers were able or willing to create emotional experiences, like Wing Commander III (1994) or Heavy Rain (2010).

To be able to create emotions in the player we need a development process which allows the production of true interactive story telling, even if this means that the player won’t see and experience every part of the developed content. Of course this requires new and economic approaches of the development process, starting from the usage of collective libraries of adjustable assets to the vital need to provide more creative freedom for the leading role of the game designer – or the game director as the author prefers the new role of the game designer as author, executive producer and director in a non-matrix development environment (Cf. Bhatty, 2007).

But to be able to go this way, we need to strengthen the importance of the story in the media form called game. Story isn’t something that shall be ‘pulled over’ an existing game mechanic – it is the driving element that influences every aspect of the game, ranging from art, character development and interactive musical score.
And like Koster (2005) showed how Tetris can be ‘dressed’ to become a game of mass murder during the holocaust – a point which proves that not the gameplay mechanics must be allowed to dictate terms of the narrative experience - , the author shall point out, how game directors will be able to provide an emotional experience on every theme and motif with the adequate ethical approach, even when displaying the life of Anne Frank.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NOVEL: Meeting with my readers...

This year I did not only received Emails from my novel-readers, but also gifts - which is pretty cool. Thank you very much.

Then one Runes-of-magic-fan asked for a signed version in the novel she had actually read and when I would be at a certain place. Ironically we already had a flight booked to her location and so we met (see image).

Why I am telling you this? Because I like to learn more about my readers and I like to interact with you, as I have more stories and projects in my drawer and it helps the creative mind to know whom I'm writing for.

Looking forward to hearing from you, be it as mail or comment ony this site.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NOVEL: Talking to my heroes...

Do you know Ducky from NCIS? The Medical Examiner who talks to his dead patients?

Well, when I start designing a story I do the same. I need to know them and so I have to profile them. 

Most of the time I use photographs of actors as a substitute. Right now a stern looking Michelle Pfeiffer from 'Wolf' (1994) captures my gaze, helping me to learn where my next hero will go.

Yes, writing Fantasy is mor than just adding orcs, dragons, shiny armor or magical swords. I wonder where this quest will lead me this time...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

NOVEL: Next round...

I am diving into my next tale by now and I am deeply looking for inspiration. By now, the wall of my office are lined with new characters and I am currently outlining the structure.

Fantasy it is, featuring lots of magic and physical combat. But what kind of drama shall it be this time? Love? Hate? Treason? Or something else?

How do I work? Well, I try to follow this rule... by writing!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

GAME DESIGN: From the SACRED-Archives

I rediscovered about 200 original skribbles, sketches and concept notes from the production for SACRED (1) and my version of the AddOn. Parts of it were used (though they missed to put my name in the later games)... well, bad style.

Anyway, have a look...

The upper image shows my notes on the connection between the dark seraphim and the dark elves, a level setup and instruction s for the level designer, to create more organic looking environments. Also - to the lower right - you see my concept of how to create the platforms over the treetops, used in the AddOn.

The lower image introduces the dwarf, new areas like the pirate island and the woodelves realm as well as interface optimizations.

SACRED was important for the concept I am teaching at the MHMK. Due to a lot of experiences I made during that production (well, and lots of others), I realizes that the game designer must have ore rights (and responsibilities). This led to my interpretation of the role of the game designer as GAME DIRECTOR.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

GAME DESIGN: Dummy-Score for SACRED-Intro

By accident I stumbled over some older memorablia from games gone by, among them Wing Commander from 1990. Wing Commander was a title that had a great influence on my professional work and there is even a connection to SACRED. 

Which one?

The Intro of SACRED!

Well, during those days you had not a big orchestral score - if you were lucky you had MIDI beeps... very electroni - and so I used to fly to James Horner's STAR TREK VI - The Undiscovered country.

As I played WC for over a year or so (sweet times as a student), I memorized the score completely (we used parts of it later for the editing patterns on Flashback, as well).

Later, when I was redesigning the intro sequence of SACRED, there is a sequence, where the demon walks through the chamber, approaching the magician Shaddar. And immediately I had a pattern of the score in my mind (Enterprise vs. Chang's Bird of Prey) which fitted the pattern of the cinematic sequence.

It became the dummy-version composer Dag Winderlich used for the score he created later.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Back to the roots: Looking for inspiration...

The recent weeks have been quite as I was looking for inspiration. Now I feel that 'the critical mass' will be reached soon and I'll continue with something thrilling.

Right now I am checking OLD IMAGES of mine to see where I started. These have been posted ages ago on elfwood. During that time I had no clue about anatomy etc. Therefore you'll notice that hands and feet are to small... among other things. 


Inspired by the Marada comics, this image led to Shareena about 20 years later. Interesting...

Stay tuned. Soon I'll post more about my origins.



Monday, July 25, 2011

NOVEL: Runes of Magic - Podcast featuring my novels in English

I am thrilled!

Frogster produced a podcast wherein my novels - SHAREENA and ASIYA - have been presented.Check out this video. My novels will be discussed at time index 15:30 (approx.).

BTW, Check out my other RoM-posts: there is a short transscript available in English by now:-)


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Games: My student's games - Making of PTG: Pigeons

My student's created a jump and run game in an awesome time. From what I saw at 'professional' companies in games business they were up to 50% faster that some of those 'pros'. 

Why ist that? Well, I train them to be GAME DIRECTORS, the creative and leading spearhead of development, making fast decisions and knowing what will advance their vision and what would not. Combine this with talent and personal love each of those creative minds bring into a project and you know why we can do thing faster at the MHMK game design programme in Munich.

Yes, I am very proud about my studen'ts work; this is what they did after being in their second semester in my game design programme. Think about it. 

Now, enough idle talk, check it out here (it's in German only, sorry folks)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Games: My student's games at MHMK, Munich, on Facebook II

My student's did great. After an extraordinarily well executed Master phase - they were up to 50% faster than several 'professional' teams I meet in the business - they delivered PTG: Pigeons The Game.

Check out the latest shots on FACEBOOK...

I am very proud about my student's achievements. Also this shows that my concept of teaching the Game Director works more efficiently than I thought. I always said we can save up to 30% development costs with it, but now I realise that we can save up to 50%... think about it.
In the end this can also mean that we could use money more efficiently to reate better art, games, media... whatever...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Photography: My images at DeviantArt

As photography stays a passion of mine I just set up a second account at DeviantArt. Here you'll find my gallery, and yes, several images are also for sale;-)

Have fun,

Monday, June 20, 2011

RELAUNCH of my website: michael-bhatty.de

It has been overdue for some time, but being a one-man-show has it disadvantages regarding time-issues. As my focus turned during the last year more and more to teaching as games professor and writing my fantasy novels, I considered it prudent to visualize this new direction on my company's page.

The major change: it's in English only from this time forward.

This is the first version, as I'll add more links for photography as well as my novels and maybe screenplay in the future. 
The general idea behind this new web appearence is this: On my portfolio you'll find general information, here - on my blog - you'll find the trivia.

Why am I doing that now? Because I am - together with most wonderful artist Amy - something new and thrilling - and the new page will support it...

Well, have fun!