Digital Games (FW2011 – Section 1)

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Okami MDA reading

During undergrad I was approached by a judge during a poster competition about the difference between being an effective game designer and being a talented gamer. The question was brought up when I foolishly started defending the game mechanics in my proposed game design on past experience as a hardcore ARPG player. I do in fact see the value in being able to separate game designer and game player because experiences we are deeply invested in will lead us to have some level of bias when working on projects with similar features.

It is crucial to step back and view the game through frameworks to base analysis around specific models to better organize the complex features of digital games.

The Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics framework applied to Okami provides a format to break down the game more effectively.

Mechanics
The game uses a combination of a wii-mote for attacks and a nun-chuck for direction control. The motions of the user are tracked through an IR camera controlling the paint brush, camera, and the buttons for atttacks. The  joystick affixed to the nun-chuck controls the movement of the character on screen.

Dynamics
The on-screen character is a mythical wolf in a 3-D environment. The user follows a story driven narrative exploring small worlds while defeating enemies and restoring life back to a damaged world. This is done by switching between directional control and simple button input based attacks to special motion tracked gesture based attacks with the celestial brush. As the user progresses through the levels the difficulty of puzzles, mini games, and enemies increases forcing the user to be more efficient with their attacks and to problem solve more effectively through tasks.

Aesthetics
The highly interactive nature of the wii is a result of the motion based controls and vivid Japanese visuals that match the gesture based drawing mechanics flawlessly. The sensation of painting symbols and shapes to trigger actions and switch back instantly to exploration adds to the fantasy of the Okami world and overall narrative while allowing players to express themselves in a very scripted but easy way through “painting” with the wii-mote. The adventure game type is inherently designed as an obstacle course or chellenge based game varying in granularity from simple mini-games and boss battles required to advance through the narrative to more time consuming searches for hidden items that require careful exploration and experimentation.

Using the MDA framework allowed me to breakdown Okami and to appreciate how the developers tied in the narrative to the game mechanics to provide an enjoyable experience while still being challenging and emotionally engaging.

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