Update: I have finally come to my senses and realised that what I really want to do is to to simply create a fun and entertaining game, which has some exciting notches to mathematics, without taking itself too seriously. I want people to enjoy this experience, to have a fun time, to go on an adventure through its gameplay, to immerse themselves in its world. This project will be a subtle love letter to mathematics, incorporating its principles into its mechanics and structure, while also letting people have fun. With this new mindset, I look forward to going into Phase 3, and exploring dozens of ideas on how to achieve all of this. Now, moving on to the Game Research Document.
The Practice-based Research Game Project Document is meant to be an evolving document of research, thoughts, and design decisions on our game idea, and it will be developed throughout the course of the semester. This is my very first version of the document, and I was only able to actively fill out three main sections of it, the Abstract, the Goals, and the Target Audience. As we progress through the year, the documentation will hopefully continue to be filled and flushed out in more detail. However, for now this is a very brief summary of the key points of my research so far and why I find certain aspects of it rather exciting. Without further ado, enter v.0.1.
Mathematics is an incredibly diverse and exciting topic with an infinity of intricacies, principles, patterns, proofs, all with a watertight underlying logic. It is the essential basis of all other sciences and it finds its way even in fields such as art and design. The abundance of information in the subject meant that I needed to choose a few key focus points within the field to explore further, which was rather difficult as there are numerous topics of interest to me. I am absolutely fascinated by the idea of Chance, Probability, and manipulating seemingly random events through certain rules and principles. That’s why I greatly appreciated looking into things like the Binomial Distribution Formula, Matrices, Markov Chains, and Fundamental Calculus in our Tech Workshop sessions, which I then went on to research and examine further (many thanks to James Stallwood for bearing with me). All of these different methods directly relate to how one can manipulate probability and how to make accurate predictions about the likelihood of certain events from occurring. I find this absolutely incredible, as this means that one can utilise the results from the methodologies listed above to better their decision-making process both in a game and in real life. It’s essentially a way of looking into the most likely future through mathematics. Not only can we peak into the possible future, but we can also alter it through the way we structure data. Maths gives us the power to make decisions based on the results we want, we can transition from the current state of affairs to a desired one with certainty. For example, with Matrices and Markov Chains, one can calculate exactly how much to invest in a marketing campaign in order to get the most optimal boost of clients. This means that Mathematics can help a business flourish through a few simple equations. The same logic can be applied within an interactive environment, it can give users control and hindsight into any seemingly random situation. It’s all about representing data, controlling data, seeing where we are at, where we want to be, and how we shift those probabilities in such a way that we obtain the desired outcome.
In the discussion of Markov Chains, and Matrices, I have explored the logical methods by which one can control chance and probability. However, these methodologies require a fairly sophisticated level of understanding of both Mathematics and Functions with Matrices. Based on that, I wondered how one would actually visualise complex data structures in a clear and concise manner. Answering this question lead me to the wonderful world of Data Visualisation, which is an entire field dedicated to these problems. Data Visualisation is about clear communication and ensuring the untrained eye can easily tell what the information is and what the intertwining relationships between its variables are. This is an essential link to the study of Chance and Probability, because once those can be visualised, then they can be altered and manipulated by anyone, even those unfamiliar with the specific mathematical rules. Additionally, Data Visualisation involves thinking about problems from different point of view and perspective, which is entirely what mathematicians do when solving problems. It’s about presenting solutions to problems by looking at them in a different light, about showing those solutions in a comprehensible manner, and about educating on the issues presented. Although the field is quite well-researched, I do believe that more can be done, specifically in three-dimensional Data Visualisation and Data Visualisation in VR, which is largely unexplored.
Finally, what makes Mathematics incredibly exciting is the idea that the same problem can be looked at from a variety of equally valid fields and perspectives, which could all work together to bring up a solution. Geometric mathematicians may focus on the volume of a coffee mug, those interested in algebra might consider how all of its dimensions relate to each other, the Calculus bunch might want to calculate the instantaneous rate of change on the curve of the handle, while topologists might loudly explain that “This is the same as a donut!“. All of these different professionals offer a very different angle on the same problem, and are all perfectly sound in their logic. I find this diversity, this variety in how you can go about the solution of a problem truly inspirational, and I would love to incorporate that sort of thinking into my design practise. Specifically, this sort of thinking could be well-incorporated into level design and mechanics, so there is the potential for my FMP to turn into a purely mechanical experience. Overall, I am very excited to begin work on a specific project and to carry on with ideation and actually solidifying a game.
As I have not quite made up my mind on what project to go forward with, I have listed a series of goals I would be happy to achieve this year.
To create a fun game, simply for the sake of fun and entertainment. I would love to create something that people can come home to and enjoy, relax to, and maybe even feel powerful in. I want to create a piece that will that will get people happy and excited, that will form friendly and competitive discussions.
To demonstrate that chance and probability can be manipulated through the use of mathematical formulas and principles. Individuals can predict seemingly random events and incorporate that knowledge into their decision-making process within a game.
To come up with a better way of visualising data and manipulating variables in the third dimension in order to help people better understand information and and its incredible predictive power.
To challenge modern notions of level design and to provide an experience with a series of possible solutions based on the idea of controlling chance events within an environment. To challenge people to think critically about problem-solving and to analyse the level and environment in order to solve it. Hopefully, this would lead to an incredibly satisfying experience.
To improve my own skills in the fields of Level Design, 3D Modelling, Programming and to efficiently incorporate Mathematics into both the mechanics and narrative elements of a game.
User Experience: Audience
Although it is a bit early to say for certain, I would like the Target Audience of the project to be quite wide, possibly Teens and upwards. As I previously mentioned, I want to create a genuinely fun experience with a series of exciting levels that involve or are based around a variety of mathematical principles. The reason I am setting a minimum age of teen/pre-teen is because I do not believe younger children will necessarily be able to appreciate the mathematical logic and principles involved in certain aspects of the game. Additionally, creating a game suitable for everyone means that I would have to restrict myself in some capacity as to the content of that game, which I would not like to do at this stage. If the game happens to involve violence to a certain degree, I would like to have that option available and not tie myself to a universal ranking. However, coming back to the beginning of this paragraph, I believe it is far too early to tell for certain who this project would be most suitable for. All that can be said at this stage is that I would love it to be open to as wide an audience as possible, people from both genders, all sexuality, ethnicity, geographical location, etc. The beauty of mathematics is that it is universal in its logic and it can be appreciated by anyone around the world with basic knowledge of it.