Tag Archives: game design

Arcana Manor: A Ceremonial Magick Simulator

Arcana Manor: A Ceremonial Magick Simulator

Arcana Manor is a game-in-progress that features a magic system in which players cast spells through a symbolic language of syllables, gems, and cards. Players control Arcana Manor through input processed by various alternative controllers, including the Kinect and the Emotiv EEG headset. My goal in Arcana Manor is to create an immersive magic system that lets players feel like they are casting spells through their mastery of arcane correspondences, expressed with ritual authenticity through gesture, word, color, and thought itself.

This footage showcases the following features

1) Two flash-based interfaces, consisting of

a) An interactive kabbalistic tree of life with ten sephiroth and twenty-two paths on which players can place tarot cards, gems, and letters from the Enochian angelic alphabet of John Dee. Placing elements according to a matrix of correspondences yields multimodal feedback as paths light up with appropriate colors and emanate musical tones derived from traditional occultist attributions.

b) An interface for recognizing magical gestures or sigils, based on Didier Brun’s Actionscript 3.0 gesture recognition library.

2) A 3d environment built in the Unity game engine, representing a magician’s temple viewed from immersive first-person perspective. The temple contains ritual implements—including an altar, a skull, swords, and pantacles— that can be used to help cast spells.

3) A Kinect interface that allows players (who have prepared themselves with rituals through the other interfaces) to summon and control the movements of a demon within his summoning triangle.

Arcana Manor is a work in progress that I have been developing interatively over the past three years through several prototypes in various engines and tools, including the Torque Game Engine Advanced, Flash, and UDK. The current build consists of a combination of Unity 3d, Flash, and the Kinect. More footage and details will follow soon.

1st Annual Workshop on Integrated Design in Games

Name/Name of Organization: Dakota State University

Contact Email: jeffrey.howard@dsu.edu

1st Annual Workshop on Integrated Design in Games

2011 Theme: Horror

Conference Dates: November 3-6, 2011

Deadline for Abstracts: extended to *July 15th, 2011*

Call for Presentations, Workshops, and Activities

The Workshop on Integrated Design in Games is offered in conjunction with Nanocon IX, the ninth installment of the game convention sponsored by Dakota State University’s Gaming Club. The Workshop will be an annual event, and every year’s workshop will feature a different theme. This year, the theme is horror. Integrated design means that all aspects of design come together to create a single experience, unified by a common theme. In relationship to horror games, integrated design means that mechanics, visual art, audio, and narrative converge to allow players to confront and perhaps overcome fear.

This year’s keynote speakers are Chris Pruett, architect of famed website Chris’ Survival Horror Quest and Senior Games Advocate at Google, and Dr. Bernard Perron, acclaimed scholar of horror games from the University of Montreal.

The category of horror games is intended to include survival horror videogames, more recent action horror videogames like Dead Space 2, indie horror games like Amnesia, as well as tabletop RPG’s, LARPs, and board games. This theme is an opportunity for anyone who designs, develops, or studies horror games to give a presentation on any relevant topic of his or her choosing. The proceedings of the conference will be published electronically, so submissions should include a written component. At the same time, we strongly encourage presentations with a participatory and hands-on component involving exercises in game design. Submissions will be selected by a program committee with expertise in game design and horror, including members who have worked in the M.I.T. Gambit Lab, White Wolf, Red Storm Entertainment/Ubisoft, Irrational Games, Fantasy Flight Games, and Wizards of the Coast.

Acceptable formats for submissions include:

· Traditional academic presentations

· Panels

· Short design workshops

· Presentations with an accompanying hands-on activity or exercise

Please submit abstracts of no more than 500 words to the Program Committee Chair, Jeff Howard, by no later than July 15. The contact email is jeffrey.howard@dsu.edu.

Topics include but are not limited to:

· Designing the mechanics of horror

· Narrative design and horror

· Concept art

· 3d modeling/animation/character design

· Audio (voice acting, music, sound effects, interactive sound design)

· Classic survival horror franchises like Resident Evil and Silent Hill

· Action horror (Dead Space 2)

· Particular horror themes or monsters (the Gothic, haunting, exorcism, ghosts, zombies, vampires)

· Indie horror games (Eversion, The Path, Amnesia)

· Transmedia horror (game design in relation to film, comic books, and literature)

Quest syllabus

Please click here to download a syllabus for a college-level class based on my book Quests.

I wrote Quests with many audiences in mind, and two key audiences are students and teachers within a college-level class about new media and literature, with an emphasis on game design and interactive writing. In fact, I wrote Quests to be sufficiently accessible and wide-ranging in its approach that teachers of many different classes could potentially use it as a textbook by adapting it to the needs of their students. Teachers of classes with titles like “Writing for Games,” “Writing for Interactive Media,” and “Introduction to New Media” could all use the book in different ways by putting varying degrees of emphasis on its theoretical and practical components, including its tutorials and exercises.

With these classes in mind, I have put together a syllabus for a class that would incorporate Quests as a textbook. The class has the same title as the book, but any of the course titles listed above would work equally well. In a syllabus divided into a the fourteen weeks of a standard college semester, I’ve assembled a set of discussion topics for each week, as well as accompanying assignments in reading, playing, and designing.

I’d love to hear back if anyone finds this syllabus useful in putting together his or her own course, and I’m very willing to discuss ideas for adapting this framework to the needs of particular teachers at the college, high school, or middle school level.

Reviews and Mentions of Quests

Below is a list of reviews and mentions of Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narratives. They were graciously collected and excerpted in this format by my publisher, AK Peters.


Slashdot (External Link)

September 2008

Jeff Howard’s Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narrative is an exploration of … quests in both literary and gaming contexts, comparing and contrasting their appearances in each medium and striving to bring the two worlds closer together by imbuing game quests with more meaning. … I look forward to the dialog his book will inspire. He would have us re-examine the game quest in terms of the narrative quest, and apply those lessons to gaming. The book is well worth a read, both as a lesson plan for making the activity of questing more meaningful, as well as a first step towards giving games that rely heavily on quests—especially MMOS—more meaningful goals.

A reader at GoodReads.com:

“A must-have for every game designer or anyone who wants to understand questing in a more sophisticated way. This book has it all – mythology, Joseph Campbell, Carl Gustav Jung, some tutorials and a lot of wisdom :) Another shining piece in my bookshelf.”

Included on the amazon.com list “Must Read Books for Aspiring Game Designers” by Sean M. Baity, Senior Designer at Electronic Arts

Jill Walker Rettberg at jill/txt (External Link)

August 2008

If you’re doing work on role-playing games of any kind, or planning to teach a course [on RPGs] of your own, this is a great resource.

Clay Spinuzzi (External Link)

May 2008

“It’s an unusual book, but an illuminating one within these areas.”

Andrew Dobbs at Design(ish) (External Link)

May 2008

“According to Jeff Howard …, “a quest is a journey across a symbolic, fantastic landscape in which a protagonist or player collects objects and talks to characters in order to overcome challenges and achieve a meaningful goal.” The most important part of this definition comes at the end, as I believe the foundation of the quest journey is “to overcome challenges and achieve a meaningful goal.” Developing a successful quest means creating a meaningful interaction for the player.”

Michael Abbott at the Brainy Gamer (External Link)

April 2008

“Certain scholars like Jeff Howard … and Matt Barton … have written rich, analytical, and well-annotated books on the subject, and I will use both in my course.”

Games Across Media (External Link)

March 2008

“This unique take on quests, incorporating literary and digital theory, provides an excellent resource for game developers. Focused on both the theory and practice of the four main aspects of quests (spaces, objects, actors, and challenges) each theoretical section is followed by a practical section that contains exercises using the Neverwinter Nights Aurora Toolset.” (Barnes & Noble)

Gameology (External Link)

February 2008

“Quests is an excellent tool for teachers … for teaching games, media, writing, or other areas that include theory and application. Many other books exist that are excellent for game studies classes and for game creation classes …, but Quests fills the particular niche of classes that often have titles like ”introduction to media studies,“ ”writing for new media,“ ”first (or second, or later) semester writing across the curriculum.“ Quests would also be an excellent choice as a supplemental text for more advanced classes, helping graduate students or faculty connect their research areas to new ways to represent, research, and teach using games.”

grand TEXT auto (External Link)

February 2008

“Jeff Howard’s Quests is an incisive and highly accessible book that leads the reader on an exploration of literature, computer games, and a connection between them.”

Daniel Erickson, Principal Lead Writer, BioWare Austin

February 2008

“Howard impressively handles bridging the gap between interactive fiction and classical literature with a thoroughly researched and well-argued treatise that focuses itself squarely on the two mediums’ connections and similarities.”

Nick Montfort, Assistant Professor of Digital Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

February 2008

“Jeff Howard’s Quests is an incisive and highly accessible book that leads the reader on an exploration of literature, computer games, and a connection between them. Howard includes valuable tutorials and exercises which draw on literary works, including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, while also dealing with the specifics of how to use tools to create computer RPG modules. The book offers useful discussion of the history of adventure games and detailed analysis of quest elements using concepts from narrative theory, poetics, game studies, and other fields. Quests equips students and scholars as they journey onward to read, play, and fashion games and narratives.”

Dr. Susana Tosca, Associate Professor, IT University of Copenhagen

February 2008

Howard is a true Renaissance man in these electronic times. He merges his knowledge and love of literature with his enthusiasm for computer games and the unexplored possibilities of the new medium. Human intellectual activity has a common base, be it expressed in the form of poems or computer games, and Howard shows us some of the most stunning connections between the old form of quest literature and the new challenges of games.“