I turned in my bachelor project today. Even assuming it’s passed, I still lack 45 ECTS before I have my BA, which I will attempt to acquire during the next semester (three exams! It’ll be fun!). I can’t say I’m entirely happy with how this project turned out – the module is probably perfectly fine for university standards, but it’s the smallest game project I’ve ever done and it still has some annoying bugs – most of which I think are related to changes made in Storm of Zehir, the second expansion pack to NWN2. In any case, if I do ever release this module, I’ll want to touch it up first, flesh it out a little, and fix the last annoying bugs.
The paper was alright. It’s a pretty thin cup of tea for a university paper, and for a bachelor project it’s woefully underequipped with references and the syllabus is barely adequate. But it’s done, and that’s all that matters to me right now. I stayed up ’till 5:30 last night rendering, encoding, and burning the video walkthrough, so I’m just happy it all worked out in the end. Of course in the chaos of everything that went wrong at the last possible minute, I forgot to include my executive summary. I sent it to the exam secretary by mail when I got home, but I haven’t received a confirmation yet so I have no idea if he’ll help me out by printing it and adding it to the paper for me. Fingers crossed.
Just because I finally got to write something in English for university, here’s my executive summary (faux-academic hyperverbosity warning):
The aim of this project is to examine and test the practical application of game theory on actual game development. By using a combination of practical design theory and more academic literature, I have analyzed an existing game (Neverwinter Nights 2) and subsequently developed a custom story (a module) based on the conclusions from my analysis. In doing so, I wished to demonstrate how a game analysis can act as a foundation for an expansion of the object of analysis or the development of similar games.
My analysis is focused on the structure of Neverwinter Nights 2’s gameplay and narrative. I’ve chosen to examine the core gameplay according to the MDA model of game analysis (LeBlanc, Hunicke & Zubek, 2004), identifying Challenge, Narrative, and Exploration as the game’s three primary aesthetics and deconstructing them into their constituent dynamics and mechanics. Following this, I’ve moved on to the structure of the game’s world and narrative, analyzing the implementation of its space, time, and characters with a special eye for the specific design decisions behind these aspects of the game.
Based on my findings, I’ve constructed a module for Neverwinter Nights 2 with the aim of recreating the gameplay and structure of the original game with a new story in a new setting. The module, which may be found on the attached DVD, takes approximately 45 minutes to play through and features 3 different endings. My production report summarizes the process of developing the module, describes the choices I’ve made, and explains the departures I’ve chosen to take from the original game.
It is my conclusion that many projects can greatly benefit from a thorough theoretical foundation, and that an analysis of existing games with similar aesthetics can streamline the prototyping process during the preproduction phase of a game project or even render prototyping unnecessary. Games that are explicitly based on existing products (such as expansion packs or sequels) will undoubtedly benefit more directly from applying the methods herein, but even the development of new intellectual properties can be focused more effectively by analyzing games based on similar concepts.