Portage Game

Idea Development Sketchbook Pages 1-12

This was my flagship idea that came to me as soon as I had started researching portage back in phase 2. Of course, the idea has evolved as we have discussed it and researched more but the premise has pretty much stayed the same. Below is an initial mind map for the game idea:

Premise – The game is a minimalist journey through the forest via portage routes and has an emphasis on small but meaningful interactions – usually visual. It would be a side-scroller going from left to right but not focusing on the destination.

Essential experience – To engage in a personally unique journey in an environment that inspires mindfulness through subtle, optional encounters

Gameplay – There will be very little in terms of mechanics and gameplay; focusing instead on sensory immersion through encounters. Simplistic controls would be imperative for this game as to not distract/overwhelm the player – at this point for we are thinking of having buttons for movement and interacting as a minimum with anything else having to be absolutely vital to be utilised. The player would be able to move left and right (primarily right as the game would be side-scroller) and interact with objects and points of interest in the environment. Since portage is a key part of the journey, the player will be required to use the canoe to cross water and will have to carry it over land sections. The player can always place their canoe down in order to explore more efficiently. Some examples of interactions:

  • A rustle in the bushes in the background. If the player stands still and waits for a few seconds a deer might pop its head out. If the player ignores it or makes too much movement then the deer will be missed.
  • A place to sit (tree stump, rock, etc). If the player sits down the character will pull out a harmonica and start playing. The first few times they do this, the tune will be played poorly in that it will have incorrect notes and rhythm but the more time the player tries to do this, the tunes will get better until they are played correctly.
  • Because of a day/night cycle, different interactions will occur at different times.

Process – At first we saw this game having a system in which the player would manage an inventory of collectable items but we decided, after some prototyping (see prototype), that this was too overwhelming and didn’t fit with the minimalist approach we were aiming for. We went back and fourth about how we could implement an inventory system or just an array of tools to use but ultimately we felt this was an unnecessary layer of complexity.

Inspirations – These are some existing games that do some things that we hope to encompass with our game.

  • Kingdom

We have taken a lot of inspiration from this game in that it has minimalist approach to a side-scrolling experience. Whereas Kingdom focusing on building up one location, our Portage Game involves the player constantly travelling through a forest. We liked how Kingdom only has a couple of buttons but is still able to do a lot with it and uses visual indicators to demonstrate what can be indicated with. The game doesn’t hold the player’s hand either, there is a lot of uncertainty at first which encourages experimentation.

  • A Short Hike

A short Hike set the player of with an initial premise and then lets them run wild to do as they please. If they so choose, they can run straight to the end however they are highly incentivised to explore the world and interact with the characters and the environment. We all liked this about the game however we wanted to approach this concept from a more linear perspective.

  • Sword and Sorcery

I am a big fan of this game for its minimalist approach to storytelling and exploration and how it instead focuses on visuals, sound, tone and dialogue. I got Bill to play the game however he was not so keen on it as he couldn’t connect with the tone of the storytelling or the purpose of the game. He did however appreciate the setting and how the visuals make use of 2D assets in an environment with depth. Since our game won’t focus on narrative, the main takeaway from this game for us would be the visual style.

  • Pilgrims

Pilgrims is a simple game with its main mechanics being the acquisition, using and trading of items. This game was recommend to us by our lecturer as at the time we were planning on implementing similar features. We wanted to have characters throughout the game that the player could interact with and possibly trade with if they possessed the right items. It would differ from Pilgrims as they would all be optional interactions rather than required to progress. Even though we have now decided to remove the option to collect and trade items, it was still good to experience how it could have functioned.

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