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									Better game characters by design:
    A psychological approach


        Katherine Isbister, Ph.D.
           Rensselaer (RPI)
                     Overview

•   Motivations
•   Approach
•   Findings
•   On measuring effectiveness
•   Some concluding thoughts
•   Q/A




             Better game characters by design
Motivations
Primary motive: despair
lemons and oranges…




Better game characters by design
What makes game characters so much
             better?!
Approach…
                   Approach

• 2002-ongoing…
• Analyzing characters in a wide range of game
  genres, looking for design patterns grounded
  in social psychological* principles.
• Student research team and course projects
  magnified efforts and evolved pattern
  descriptions.
• Presentations at GDC 2004-2006 elicited
  input from industry experts.

           Better game characters by design
                    Approach

*Why social psychology?
  – Applying human-human responses to human-
    character dynamics makes sense and is
    experimentally justified (The Media Equation)
  – Game industry had relied heavily prior to this on
    linear media (film, writing) for guidelines, but
    games are inherently interactive.




            Better game characters by design
                  Approach

• End result: book!
• Meant for game
  developers, game
  design students, and
  the HCI/believable
  character community


          Better game characters by design
Findings
            Example Patterns

• Astute use of first impression cues
• Clever automation of nonverbal cues
• Emotional expectation management
  through social roles




          Better game characters by design
            Example Patterns

• Astute use of first impression cues
  – Baby faces
  – Stereotypes
  – Dom/sub and friend/foe




          Better game characters by design
       Baby faces




Better game characters by design
       Baby faces




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Better game characters by design
      Stereotypes




Better game characters by design
      Stereotypes




Better game characters by design
Dominance and Friendliness




   Better game characters by design
            Example Patterns

• Clever automation of nonverbal cues
  – Gaze
  – Social body language




          Better game characters by design
              Gaze




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Better game characters by design
Social body language




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Better game characters by design
           Example Patterns

• Emotional expectation management
  through social roles
  – Minions
  – Arch enemy




         Better game characters by design
            Minions




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Better game characters by design
       Arch-enemy




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Better game characters by design
On Measuring Effectiveness
     How do you know if it worked?

• Game industry folks do not typically
  make use of benchmarks/advanced
  usability testing.
• They rely on some combination of
  – Design vision
  – Astute developer management and Q/A
  – Market (evolutionary selection)
  – Informal user feedback/folklore

          Better game characters by design
     How do you know if it worked?

• They can benefit from shared
  terminology, well-grounded in research.
• My book focuses on giving them a
  common language to help calibrate their
  informal (but rigorous) process of
  evaluation.



          Better game characters by design
 How does this help believable character
             researchers?
• Researchers can learn from best practices of
  industry--the structural framework based
  upon psychology provides scaffolding.
• Sub-areas usually have accompanying
  measures that can be leveraged to test
  particular effects in isolation (e.g. baby face,
  dom/sub and friend/foe).




            Better game characters by design
Some concluding thoughts
      Some concluding thoughts

• Perhaps oranges come from orange
  trees, not lemon trees…




         Better game characters by design
       Some concluding thoughts

• Perhaps oranges come from orange
  trees, not lemon trees…
  (process and contextual pressures
  profoundly shape outcomes)




         Better game characters by design
        Some concluding thoughts

• Perhaps oranges come from orange
  trees, not lemon trees…
  (process and contextual pressures
  profoundly shape outcomes)
  – Emphasis on biggest impact on user experience
  – Extreme time pressure + rich resources
  – No need for theoretical rigor or implementation
    elegance



            Better game characters by design
      Some concluding thoughts

• Can we make lemonade?




        Better game characters by design
       Some concluding thoughts

• Can we make lemonade?
  (setting valuable and meaningful
  research agendas)




          Better game characters by design
        Some concluding thoughts

• Can we make lemonade?
  (setting valuable and meaningful
  research agendas)
  – Addressing industry issues with respect
    and seriousness
  – Finding ways to translate and re-translate
    other areas of theory between domains


           Better game characters by design
                  Thank you

• http://www.friendlymedia.org
• Isbisk@rpi.edu




          Better game characters by design

								
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