Portaling, Finger Puppets, and Custom Hands

Written by on 7th March 2012 in Portals, Thoughts with Leave a comment

Portals turned away from each other to test the user experience when you can only see your own screen. A couple of long-ish videos of Portal activity with Chiao and Jeremy. I think the interesting part is seeing what type of stories people sort of just randomly come up with when playing.:

Also another thing I had been meaning to test, using the finger as an input to control some animation. There’s something sort of fun about just making my little person just dance around with the music, although it sort of looks like the little person is just punching and kicking my hand:

I think this quote from Will Wright is really relevant to the stuff I’m interested in (I also use to play a lot of his games when I was younger which I think plays a part in my project):

A game is structured quite differently. The paramount constructs are the constraints on the player. As a game designer I try to envision an interesting landscape of possibilities to drop the player into and then design the constraints of the world to keep them there. Within this space the landscape of possibilities (and challenges) needs to be interesting, varied, and plausible (imagine a well-crafted botanical garden). It is within this defined space that the player will move, and hence define their own story arc.

My aspirations for this new form are not about telling better stories but about allowing players to “play” better stories within these artificial worlds. The role of the designer becomes trying to best leverage the agency of the player in finding dramatic and interesting paths through this space. Likewise I think that placing the character design and development in the player’s hands rather than the desiger’s will lead to a much richer future for this new medium.

I’ve also been thinking a lot more about custom markers and things. When I asked Chiao and Jeremy for some user testing feedback they both mentioned it would be nice to have the back side of the marker be a different image. I’m really into this idea of having different personas on the markers, which could trigger different contextual animations. I’m also into the idea that the user gets to design the different sides.

In addition to customizing the little markers I’ve begun to think about the universe these Portals would live in, and I imagine that if people were to use it frequently they would begin to customize their player avatar, by which I mean their actual hand. The word avatar is a little confusing, since I was calling the little illustrated character an avatar. In virtual online games you customize your virtual avatar because it’s the only visible abstraction that represents you. But in Portals you are represented by your own body. I think people would customize their hands to reflect their own personality as well. As a self-test I tried decking out my own hand. (The bunny in the moon is the symbol of my parent’s hometown in Thailand, and the top right is a gemini symbol).

Of course after I was done and put it in the Portal I realized that you can’t really see past the fingers most of the time, so that whole back half doesn’t really matter. So the prime real estate would probably be the fingers.

I think what I really like about this idea of “player customization” is that in this case when you customize your Portal Hand for the virtual world, it has a direct affect on your real physical body in the real world. And even when you’re not in the Portal, these marks could be tell tale signs to other people that you are part of the virtual community. And maybe you recognize someone in real life by their Portal Hand. People getting tattoos or henna on their hands is already pretty common, or at least common enough that the idea of people going around with this sort of bodily adornment doesn’t seem that far fetched or unusual.

Also, it turns out my markers don’t wash out terribly easily… so I’ll get to see what it’s like to have the marks with me in my normal life.

I also asked a few people how they might customize their own hands for the Portal, some people had pretty good ideas already. I’ll let them think about it tonight and then document tomorrow. I’d like to collect a really wide range of customizations from various people.

Goals for the next few days:

- Multi-faced markers with different animations for different rotations. (Happy, Sad, Angry, etc)
- Mock up human-view camera and integrating photos into system.
- System diagrams and things.
- Put together the pecha kucha presentation for Friday, which will hopefully be good prep for the reviews on Monday.


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