Title:
GAME DEVELOPMENT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
This application describes tools and methods for the analysis, interpretation and modification of games and for the development, design and construction of new games. A method of designing a unit of gameplay comprises making a choice about the properties of a number of structural elements of said unit of gameplay to be designed to give a plurality of candidate structural element properties; and generating a schematic representation of the unit of gameplay comprising a representation of each of the candidate structural element properties. The structural elements include a topology of selected points of interest to be included in the unit of gameplay; a rhythm of the unit of gameplay; a number of actions that will be available to a participant of the unit of gameplay; and a probability that an objective result will be achieved by the participant.



Inventors:
Mclennan, Andrew (Glasgow, GB)
Thomson, David (Edinburgh, GB)
Application Number:
11/674402
Publication Date:
08/16/2007
Filing Date:
02/13/2007
Assignee:
ITI SCOTLAND LIMITED (191 West George Street, Glasgow, GB)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
MCCLELLAN, JAMES S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MARGER JOHNSON & MCCOLLOM, P.C. (210 SW MORRISON STREET, SUITE 400, PORTLAND, OR, 97204, US)
Claims:
1. A method of generating a schematic representation of a unit of gameplay wherein said method comprises generating a representation of each of a plurality of structural element properties of said unit of gameplay, and wherein representing said structural elements includes: representing a topology of selected points of interest comprised in said unit of gameplay; representing a rhythm of said unit of gameplay; representing a number of actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and representing a probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant.

2. A method as claimed in claim 1 further comprising the step of: modifying the representation of one or more of the structural element properties comprised in the schematic representation.

3. A method as claimed in claim 1 or 2, further comprising the step of making a unit of gameplay according to the generated schematic representation.

4. A method of designing a unit of gameplay comprising: i) making a choice about the properties of a number of structural elements of said unit of gameplay to be designed to give a plurality of candidate structural element properties; and ii) generating a schematic representation the unit of gameplay comprising a representation of each of the candidate structural element properties chosen in step i), wherein representing said structural elements includes: representing a topology of selected points of interest to be comprised in said unit of gameplay; representing a rhythm of said unit of gameplay; representing a number of actions that will be available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and representing a probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant.

5. A method as claimed in claim 4, further comprising the step of modifying the representation of one or more of the candidate structural element properties comprised in the schematic representation obtained in the step of generating the schematic representation.

6. A method as claimed in claim 4 or 5, further comprising the step of making a unit of gameplay according to the schematic representation.

7. A method of visualising the properties of a number of structural elements of a unit of gameplay, wherein said method comprises generating a representation of each of a plurality of structural element properties of said unit of gameplay, and wherein representing said structural elements includes: generating a topology of selected points of interest comprised in said unit of gameplay; generating a rhythm of said unit of gameplay; generating a number of actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and generating a probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant.

8. A method as claimed in claim 7, wherein the generation of said topology of said unit of gameplay comprises: selecting said points of interest of said unit of gameplay and generating a plurality of nodes, each node representing at least one point of interest; and generating one or more path symbols, each path symbol representing the connectivity between at least two of said points of interest.

9. A method as claimed in claim 8, wherein each of said nodes comprise one of a necessary node and an optional node.

10. A method as claimed in claim 8 or 9, wherein a path symbol represents the ability of said participant to travel in at least one direction between at least two of said points of interest.

11. A method as claimed in claim 8 or 9 wherein a path symbol represents a line of sight or a line of fire between at least two of said points of interest.

12. A method as claimed in claim 7, wherein said points of interest comprise one or more of: an event in said unit of gameplay, a point of significance, a place of interest, and a player/participant/character/object of the unit of gameplay.

13. A method of analysing a unit of gameplay, comprising: i) receiving gameplay information about: a plurality of points of interest comprised in said unit of gameplay and the connectivity between said points of interest; a style and speed of gameplay; actions available to a participant of the unit of gameplay; a probability that a particular result will be obtained by a participant when taking part in said unit of gameplay; and ii) using said gameplay information to generate a schematic representation of the structure of said unit of gameplay.

14. A method of analysing a unit of gameplay as claimed in claim 13, wherein the step of using said gameplay information to generate a schematic representation of the structure of said unit of gameplay comprises: generating a topological representation of selected points of interest comprised in said unit of gameplay.

15. A method of analysing a unit of gameplay as claimed in claim 13, wherein the step of using said gameplay information to generate a schematic representation of the structure of said unit of gameplay comprises: generating a notational representation of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay.

16. A method of analysing a unit of gameplay as claimed in claim 13, wherein the step of using said gameplay information to generate a schematic representation of the structure of said unit of gameplay comprises: generating a notational representation of the number of actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay.

17. A method of analysing a unit of gameplay as claimed in claim 13, wherein the step of using said gameplay information to generate a schematic representation of the structure of said unit of gameplay comprises: generating a notational representation of the probability that an objective result will be achieved by a participant of said unit of gameplay.

18. A method as claimed in claim 13, further comprising the step of determining a difficulty metric for said unit of gameplay, said difficulty metric comprising a measure of the difficulty that a participant of said unit of gameplay will achieve said objective result.

19. A method as claimed in claim 18, wherein said step of determining said difficulty metric comprises receiving information about one or more gameplay conditions and using said information to derive said difficulty metric based on: i) said topology of the selected points of interest and ii) said notational representation of the probability that an objective result may be achieved by said participant within said unit of gameplay.

20. A method as claimed in claim 13, further comprising the step of displaying said schematic representation on an electronic display device.

21. A method as claimed in claim 13, further comprising the step of generating a hard copy of said schematic representation.

22. A method as claimed in claim 13, further comprising the step of embedding information about said schematic representation in an electrical signal.

23. A method as claimed in claim 13, further comprising the step of storing said schematic representation on an electronic storage medium.

24. An apparatus for generating a schematic representation of a number of structural elements of a unit of gameplay, said apparatus comprising: i) a topology generation means for generating a topological representation of points of interest in said unit of gameplay; ii) means for generating a notational representation of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay; iii) means for generating a notational representation of the number of actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and iv) means for generating a notational representation of the probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant.

25. An apparatus for analysing the structural properties of a unit of gameplay, comprising: i) a data receiving portion for receiving gameplay information about: a plurality of points of interest comprised in said unit of gameplay and the connectivity between said points of interest; the style and speed of gameplay; the actions available to a participant of the unit of gameplay; and the probability that a particular result will be obtained by a participant when taking part in said unit of gameplay; and ii) a data processing portion operable to use said information input to said data receiving portion and to generate a schematic representation of the structure of said unit of gameplay.

26. An apparatus as claimed in claim 25, wherein said data processing portion comprises: topology generation means for generating a topological representation of points of interest in said unit of gameplay.

27. An apparatus as claimed in claim 25, wherein said data processing portion comprises: means for generating a notational representation of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay.

28. An apparatus as claimed in claim 25 wherein said data processing portion comprises: means for generating a notational representation of the actions available to a participant when taking part in said unit of gameplay;

29. An apparatus as claimed in claim 25, wherein said data processing portion comprises: means for generating a notational representation of the probability that an objective result may be achieved by said participant within said unit of gameplay.

30. An apparatus for designing a unit of gameplay comprising: i) selection means for allowing a user to select the properties of a number of structural elements of said unit of gameplay to be designed to give a plurality of candidate structural element properties; and ii) means for generating a schematic representation of the unit of gameplay to be designed comprising a representation of each of the candidate structural element properties chosen in step i), wherein said means for generating said schematic representation comprises: a topology generation means for generating a topological representation of points of interest in said unit of gameplay; means for generating a notational representation of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay; means for generating a notational representation of the number of actions that will be available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and means for generating a notational representation of the probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant.

31. An apparatus as claimed in claims 24, 25 or 30, further comprising a difficultly determination portion operable to receive information about one or more gameplay conditions and to derive a measure of the difficulty of a participant of said unit of gameplay achieving said objective result based on: i) the topology generated by said means for generating a topology of said unit of gameplay; and ii) said notational representation of the probability that an objective result may be achieved by said participant within said unit of gameplay.

32. An apparatus as claimed in claims 24, 25 or 30, further comprising a modification means operable to allow the schematic representation of the structure of said unit of gameplay to be modified.

33. An apparatus as claimed in claims 24, 25, or 30, further comprising means operable to construct a unit of gameplay according to said schematic representation.

34. A schematic representation of a unit of gameplay comprising a topological representation of points of interest in said unit of gameplay; a notational representation of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay; a notational representation of the number of actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and a notational representation of the probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant.

35. A schematic representation of a unit of gameplay, comprising: a plurality of node symbols, each representing a point of interest in said unit of gameplay; at least one path symbol, the or each path symbol representing the connectivity of at least one point of interest; a notational representation of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay; a notational representation of the number of (different types of) actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and a notational representation of the probability that an objective within said unit of gameplay may be achieved by said participant.

36. A schematic representation of a unit of gameplay as claimed in claim 34 or 35, wherein said schematic representation comprises a tool for the analysis of said unit of gameplay.

37. A computer readable storage medium having stored thereon a schematic representation as claimed in claim 34 or 35 operable on a computer to control or direct development or design of a unit of gameplay.

38. An apparatus comprising: one or more processors; and a memory coupled to the processors comprising instructions executable by the processors, the processors operable when executing the instructions to: identify elements of a unit of gameplay, the elements including at least selected points of interest included in the unit of gameplay, a rhythm of the unit of gameplay, a number of actions available to a participant of the unit of gameplay, and the probability that an objective result will be achieved by the participant during the unit of gameplay; and output a visual representation of the unit of gameplay to be displayed, the visual representation characterizing the unit of gameplay using the identified elements.

39. The apparatus of claim 38 wherein the visual representation includes a topology of nodes to represent the selected points of interest and interconnections between the nodes to represent how the selected points of interest relate to each other during the unit of gameplay.

40. The apparatus of claim 38 wherein the rhythm of the unit of gameplay identifies whether or not the unit of gameplay is turn based.

41. The apparatus of claim 38 wherein the actions available to a participant of the unit of game play include shooting and walking or running.

42. The apparatus of claim 38 further comprising an input for receiving one or more inputted communications that are used to identify the elements of the unit of gameplay.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION DATA

This application claims priority from United Kingdom Patent Application No. 0602873.2, filed 13 Feb. 2006 and from United Kingdom Patent Application No. 0624204.4, filed 4 Dec. 2006, all herein incorporated by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to tools and methods for the analysis, interpretation and modification of games, and for the development, design and construction of new games. In particular, embodiments of the present invention utilise a visual aid to represent a number of the structural elements of gameplay.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

There are many individual characteristics of a game that contribute to the overall experience of playing that game. In the way that a piece of music has a number of structural elements, such as the rhythm, pitch, key, dynamics and speed, which dictate the sound characteristics of the work when it is performed, it is possible to consider that a game comprises a number of structural components that govern the overall experience of playing that game.

The design of a game is an established process beginning with a concept for a new game. Conventionally, the concept is captured by the designer as a script, with ideas and objectives being expressed in terms of lengthy statements or broad generalities. The game design is therefore represented as a collection of documents which become a manual to which the designer must refer during the implementation of the design. The practical implementation of a game design involves a number of choices to be made about the structural components of the game including, amongst other things, the governing rules of the game, the objectives of the game, the style and speed of play, the design of the play space, the ways in which objects of the game can move within the play space or interact with other objects and the intended difficulty level for achieving certain objectives of the game. Thus, turning an initial concept into a practical reality involves numerous decisions to be made about various structural variables which will critically affect the experience of playing the game once it is implemented. As the creation of a new game evolves, numerous documents are compiled which record information about the designers ideas, choices and decisions. With no means of notating this information, it is all too often that some of the original concepts, and intended psychological response to playing the game, are lost.

In view of this complexity, it is common practice for game designers to approach the creation of a new gaming experience by modifying or improving an existing game. However, even in approaching game design in this way, it is still very difficult for the designer to fully appreciate how the various structural elements of the game impact on the gameplay experience and, thus, how these elements could be varied to accomplish a new game experience.

The problem is particularly apparent in the field of computer games which are highly complex systems involving numerous structural elements each contributing, to a greater or lesser extent, to the resulting technical properties of the game.

There is therefore a significant need for tools and methods which would assist in the process of analysing and interrogating existing games, with a view to deriving an understanding about their structure. There is also a need for tools, methods and products which could aid the development of new games.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention seeks to provide tools and methods for facilitating the analysis, interpretation and modification of games, and for the development and construction of new games. In particular, but not exclusively, embodiments of the present invention are intended to be applicable to the development, modification and analysis of computer games.

The inventors have identified four main structural features which are considered to have the most significant impact on the experience of game play.

These are:

1) Topology—this relates to the arrangement and connectivity of significant/important points that are present in a given unit of gameplay or a collection of units of gameplay. By significant/important points is meant an abstract or physical space containing the probability of an event such as a conflict or challenge, an abstract or physical place of interest such as a region for improving or discovering abilities, a physical space or an abstract space with a probability of becoming a physical or an abstract space containing another player/participant/character/object/item in the game. In considering the topology of a unit of gameplay, each of these points may be conveniently considered to be a “node” of the game. The selection of important points to be considered as nodes in the intended topology may be performed according to a particular level of abstraction or complexity, for example, such that points of similar importance or of a similar type may be selected to be nodes.

Classically, topology is concerned only with the way objects are connected, and not with the actual shapes or physical locations of the objects themselves. This attribute is useful in the context of computer games, for example, since there can be certain times during the game where the character travels within the virtual world without encountering significant challenge points or conflicts. Thus, in considering the topology of such a scene, we show only the points of interest and how these are connected together, rather than how the player reaches them or how long it takes to move between them. Most usefully, topologies can advantageously be used to allow a vast majority of play spaces to be represented, whether the game design is 1D, 2D or 3D in nature.

Further, we are also interested in any constraints which may be placed on the connections. FIG. 1 shows a representation of a scene in a game where the goal of the game is to manipulate a character so that it reaches the top of the highest platform 3 in order to obtain a reward. The possible movements of the character between nodes n1 to n6 of the scene are shown by the arrows in FIG. 1. It can be seen that the arrows connecting n6 with nodes n5 and n7 are single ended, indicating that the character is constrained from travelling to and from node 6 if it is at node 7 or 5. If we were to remove the platforms from the diagram and just retain the graph of the connections between the nodes, the resultant topology would still inform us of every possible move at any point in the scene without needing knowledge of the real geometry of the scene.

2) Rhythm—the rhythm of a game is determined by the so-called “time-step” or frequency of play, the number of players and the time for each action within a game. These characteristics are often informed by the rules of the game. For example, a game may be turn based, meaning that each player must take turns to participate in the game, or it may be a game which allows more than one of the players to participate at the same time. If the game is turn based, there may be time restrictions on how long a player may spend before the right to participate switches to another player. For example, the game of chess is a turn-based game for two players, and the amount of time allowed to play each chess piece can be infinite.

3) Actions—Embodiments of the present invention are particularly concerned with the number of actions that a player may make in order to affect the element of chance or the route through topology in the game, i.e. the probability that a certain outcome will be achieved. For example, the ability of a virtual character to “shoot” or “run” or “fly” will each be classified as an action of the game provided that the performance of these actions alters the probability that the objective is attained. It should be appreciated that actions may not only effect the probability in a positive way, but may also introduce a greater element of risk. For example, if a player is manipulated to run at high speed, there is a greater risk that the character may fall from, or collide with, another object of the game and consequently fail to achieve the objective.

Operations which may be performed on game entities which do not alter the probability or change the route through topology in any way are not considered to be “actions” within the context of the present invention. For example, the ability of a character to dance may be provided purely for visual effect, with the performance of the “dance” operation having no impact on the outcome of probability.

4) Probability—the probability is the characteristic of a game which defines the chance of a certain result (e.g. success or failure) being obtained in any particular circumstance.

The first aspect of the present invention relates to techniques for schematically representing a unit of gameplay. Thus, according to an embodiment of the first aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of generating a schematic representation of a unit of gameplay, wherein said method comprises generating a representation of each of a plurality of structural element properties of said unit of gameplay, and wherein said structural elements include:

i) the topology of selected points of interest comprised in said unit of gameplay;

ii) the rhythm of said unit of gameplay;

iii) the number of actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and

iv) the probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant.

According to a second embodiment of the first aspect there is provided an apparatus for generating a schematic representation of a number of structural elements of a unit of gameplay, said apparatus comprising:

i) a topology generation means for generating a topological representation of points of interest in said unit of gameplay;

ii) means for generating a notational representation of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay;

iii) means for generating a notational representation of the number of actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and

iv) means for generating a notational representation of the probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant.

A schematic representation of a system can be considered as detailing the elements of that system in simplified or symbolic form. Thus, the schematic representation of a unit of gameplay that is derived according to embodiments of the present invention comprises a representation which details the structural elements of the unit of gameplay in a simplified, symbolic or notational form. The schematic representation could also be referred to as a notational representation.

The second aspect of the present invention relates to techniques for designing a unit of gameplay. Thus, according to an embodiment of a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of designing a unit of gameplay comprising:

i) making a choice about the properties of a number of structural elements of said unit of gameplay to be designed to give a plurality of candidate structural element properties; and

ii) generating a schematic representation the unit of gameplay comprising a representation of each of the candidate structural element properties chosen in step i), wherein said structural elements include: the topology of selected points of interest to be comprised in said unit of gameplay; the rhythm of said unit of gameplay; the number of actions that will be available to all participants of said unit of gameplay; and the probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participants.

According to a second embodiment of the second aspect of the present invention there is provided an apparatus for designing a unit of gameplay comprising:

i) selection means for allowing a user to select the properties of a number of structural elements of said unit of gameplay to be designed to give a plurality of candidate structural element properties; and

ii) means for generating a schematic representation of the unit of gameplay to be designed comprising a representation of each of the candidate structural element properties chosen in step i), wherein said means for generating said schematic representation comprises: a topology generation means for generating a topological representation of points of interest in said unit of gameplay; means for generating a notational representation of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay; means for generating a notational representation of the number of actions that will be available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and means for generating a notational representation of the probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant.

The third aspect of the present invention relates to techniques for analysing a unit of gameplay. Thus, according to an embodiment of the third aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of analysing a unit of gameplay, comprising: i) receiving gameplay information about: a plurality of points of interest comprised in said unit of gameplay and the connectivity between said points of interest; the style and speed of gameplay; the actions available to a participant of the unit of gameplay; the probability that a particular result will be obtained by a participant when taking part in said unit of gameplay; wherein said gameplay information is used to generate a schematic representation of the structure of said unit of gameplay.

Preferably, the step of using said gameplay information to generate a schematic representation of the structure of said unit of gameplay comprises generating a topological representation of selected points of interest comprised in said unit of gameplay. The step of using said gameplay information to generate a schematic representation of the structure of said unit of gameplay may additionally or alternatively comprise generating a notational representation of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay,

generating a notational representation of the number of actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay, generating a notational representation of the probability that an objective result will be achieved by a participant of said unit of gameplay.

According to a second embodiment of the third aspect of the present invention there is provided an apparatus for analysing the structural properties of a unit of gameplay, comprising:

a data receiving portion for receiving gameplay information about: a plurality of points of interest comprised in said unit of gameplay and the connectivity between said points of interest; the style and speed of gameplay; the actions available to a participant of the unit of gameplay; and the probability that a particular result will be obtained by a participant when taking part in said unit of gameplay, the apparatus further comprising a data processing portion operable to use said information input to said data receiving portion and to generate a schematic representation of the structure of said unit of gameplay.

According to a fourth aspect there is provided a schematic representation of a unit of gameplay comprising a topological representation of points of interest in said unit of gameplay; a notational representation of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay; a notational representation of the number of actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and a notational representation of the probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant.

According to a fifth aspect of the present invention, there is provided a schematic representation of a unit of gameplay, comprising: a plurality of node symbols, each representing a point of interest in said unit of gameplay; at least one path symbol, each path symbol representing the connectivity o at least one of said points of interest; a notational representation of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay; a notational representation of the number of (different types of) actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and a notational representation of the probability that an objective within said unit of gameplay may be achieved by said participant.

Embodiments of the fourth and fifth aspects may advantageously be used as a tool or visual aid for the analysis, interpretation, design or development of a unit of gameplay.

The schematic representation according to any of the above aspects may be advantageously modified or used to determine a difficulty or pacing metric for said unit of gameplay, said difficulty or pacing metric comprising a measure of the difficulty or time taken that a participant of said unit of gameplay will achieve said objective result. Preferably, a difficulty or pacing metric may be obtained from information about one or more gameplay conditions, the topology of the selected points of interest and the notational representation of the probability that an objective result may be achieved by said participant within said unit of gameplay. The “gameplay conditions” may be any conditions relating, for example, to the rules of success of each participant and the so called health or other indicative variable of each participant.

Preferably, means and methods are provided which allow a unit of gameplay represented by a schematic representation according to any of the above aspects to be constructed or implemented.

In any of the above aspects, the various features may be implemented in hardware, or as software modules running on one or more processors. The invention also provides computer programs and computer program products for carrying out any of the methods described herein, and computer readable media having stored thereon programs for carrying out any of the methods described herein. A computer program embodying the invention may be stored on a computer-readable medium, or it could, for example, be in the form of a signal such as a downloadable data signal provided from an Internet web site, or it could be in any other form.

Rather than considering the structural elements present in a particular playspace of a game, i.e. the abstract environment (real or virtual) in which a game occurs, it is often more appropriate for a game to be defined in terms of one or more goals or “objectives” which a participant strives to achieve. A “unit of gameplay” may be the whole, or part, of a game but must comprise at least one objective (also known as a point of significance), the achievement of which includes an element of chance (or variance). An element of chance is present in a unit of gameplay if the achievement of the goal does not depend solely on the skill of the player.

The most basic unit of gameplay, sometimes referred to in the art as a “ludeme”, is a directed set of game mechanics with a single goal, including an element of chance or variance. Complex games will include a number of ludemes each of which may be represented according to embodiments of the present invention.

Thus, in the specific example of a computer game, a unit of gameplay may be defined with respect to a particular objective or point of significance, for example to obtain an item or kill an enemy, with the parameters of space and time being defined with respect to the part of the game where a player strives to achieve that objective. In representing the topology of that unit of gameplay, consideration is given to all of the important points (events, places, players) within the playspace of that unit of gameplay and the way in which they are connected. The player will have the ability to perform certain actions which have a bearing on the outcome of probability that the objective of the scene is achieved. The rhythm of the unit of gameplay may be described in terms of the style and speed of play. For example, the scene may provide for a number of players to move around the scene simultaneously at variable speeds. Finally, the probability of success at any instance within the unit of gameplay may be governed by a metric, algorithm or probabilistic equation.

It is also possible to define the unit of gameplay as a single important point within a scene. This adds a further layer of complexity to the visual representation of the game design.

Conventionally, the term “player” is interpreted to be a human participant who directly controls and influences the game. The term “character” refers to the object representation of a participant or player within the game. Within the context of the present invention, the terms “player”, character” and “participant” should be considered to have the same, basic, meaning subject to the particular properties of the game itself. It will also be appreciated that a player may be represented by several object representations in one game.

The present inventors have developed a number of possible notational forms for symbolically representing several of the key structural elements comprised in a unit of gameplay. Examples of these notations derived by the inventors to represent these key elements in a symbolic way will later be described in more detail.

Thus, it will be appreciated that embodiments of the present invention advantageously allow the game experience to be transcribed into a symbolic or schematic representation of one or more of the key structural elements of the game. The ability to derive a schematic representation of a unit of gameplay has a number of important advantages. In particular, methods and tools for the generation of a schematic representation of a unit of gameplay will be highly beneficial to those involved in the development of games. For example, it enables the modification of existing games implementations to be carried out in a logical and practical way and facilitates the consideration of how an alteration in one or more structural variables of that game will alter the other structural variables and, thus, the consequences for the modified gameplay experience.

Critically, embodiments of the present invention provide the games industry with a visual aid or tool for allowing concepts to be captured during the early stages of game design in an efficient, cost effective, way and in a form which is easy to assimilate and understand. Furthermore, embodiments of the present invention facilitate the evolution of a game design.

The commercial and economic potential of embodiments of the present invention is enormous. The games industry is presently hindered by a lack of any formalised system for capturing the game development process. As such, embodiments of the present invention will advantageously provide a powerful technique for rapidly prototyping a unit of gameplay without the need for a practical implementation of the design in its early stages, thus saving time and money. Tools and methods embodying the present invention will advantageously allow an understanding of how a concept may be implemented in a practical sense by the structural components of the game.

It is also envisaged that embodiments of the present invention may be of benefit to the formal training of games designers.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

For a better understanding of the present invention and to show how the same may be carried into effect, reference will now be made, by way of example, to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 shows a geographical representation of a virtual scene in a computer game;

FIG. 2 shows a topological representation of a virtual scene in a computer game;

FIG. 3 shows a multiple participant topology derived for a unit of gameplay;

FIG. 4 shows a topological representation of a unit of gameplay which comprises different levels of abstraction;

FIG. 5 shows a notational representation of the rhythm of a unit of gameplay;

FIG. 6 shows a notational representation of the actions available to two participants of a unit of gameplay;

FIG. 7 shows an expression of the chance that an objective result of a unit of gameplay is achieved;

FIG. 8 shows a topological representation embodying the present invention for a unit of gameplay that is represented by the schematic representation shown in FIG. 9;

FIG. 9 shows a schematic representation according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 10 shows a topology for a unit of gameplay according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 11 shows the probability of success at each stage in the topology represented by FIG. 10;

FIG. 12 shows the probability of success at each stage in a topology generated from a modification of one of the topological sequences shown in FIG. 10;

FIG. 13 shows an expanded topological representation of a unit of gameplay according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 14 is a graph representing the difficulty of completing two different paths through a video game;

FIG. 15 illustrates an apparatus embodying the first aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 16 illustrates an apparatus embodying another aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 17 illustrates another embodiment of an apparatus embodying the present invention

FIG. 18 is a flow chart representing a method of designing and modifying a unit of gameplay according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 19 is a flow chart similar to FIG. 18, further showing sequentially the creation and modification of a schematic representation similar to FIG. 9.

A more detailed discussion will now be given in relation to examples of the specific notational conventions developed by the present inventors to represent each of the topology, the rhythm, the actions and the probability of a unit of gameplay.

Topology

The topology of a unit of gameplay can be represented to differing levels of complexity or abstraction. For example, there may be a number of so-called necessary nodes representing important points through which a player must pass, or events the player must encounter, in order to progress through the unit of gameplay. In addition, there may be one or more optional nodes which represent places or activities within the unit of gameplay that the player need not progress through to complete the goals of a level or game, but which may nonetheless offer opportunities for advancement, understanding or fun.

Thus, as an example, FIG. 2 shows the topology of a scene of a game in which a character must overcome a barrier in order to reach a goal. Thus, the starting position of the character is represented by node Nstart, the barrier is represented by node Nbarrier, and the goal is represented by Ngoal. In order to reach the barrier node, the player may travel directly to Nbarrier from Nstart. Alternatively, the player may go through one of two optional nodes, Noption1 or Noption2. Furthermore, the player has the option, from Nstart, to undertake an optional activity. This is shown by Nactivity.

According to the example shown in FIG. 2, each connection between two of the selected nodes is indicative of the ability of a participant of the unit of gameplay to travel between said selected nodes. The connectivity or path between two necessary nodes is represented by a solid line, and the connectivity or path to or from at least one optional nodes is represented by a dotted line. In other words, different line formats are used to represent a path of travel between different types of nodes.

Alternatively, it may be useful for the connections between two of the selected nodes to represent different types of connectivity, such as a line of sight, a line of fire, or a path along which a participant may travel. FIG. 3 shows multiple participant topology derived for a unit of gameplay which is termed “ranged combat” wherein each of the nodes represents a player or character in the game. Arrows in FIG. 3 which are formed from broken lines represent a one-way line of sight between two nodes, wherein the direction of the line of sight is indicated by the direction of the arrow. Arrows which comprise solid lines represent a two-way line of sight between two nodes. According to FIG. 3, the player represented by node O2 is in combat with four opponents O3, O7, O9 and O5. The player O2 is fully engaged in combat with players represented by O3 and O5 and is “in cover” with respect to O9 meaning that the player O2 has player O9 in its line of sight. Furthermore, the player O2 is “covered by” the player represented by O7 meaning that the player O7 has player O2 in its line of sight.

As previously mentioned, the topology of a unit of gameplay can be represented to differing levels of complexity or abstraction. For example, at a more simple level the topology may reveal only the connectivity between necessary and optional nodes of a unit of gameplay. At a second, more complex, level the topology may be expanded to reveal one or more “component nodes” which make up a particular node or optional node. Alternatively, the topology may be expanded to reveal a unit of gameplay, for example involving combat, wherein the nodes represent different players or characters in the game and different connection formats represent different types of connectivity.

FIG. 4 shows two necessary nodes N1 and N2, each of which is connected to an optional node N2A or N2B respectively. N1 is actually made up of three component nodes, each representing points of interest within the node N1. Furthermore, optional node N2A also comprises two component nodes, N2A.1 and N2A.2. According to the notation developed by the present inventors, the expanded topology representing the three sub nodes N1.1, N1.2 and N1.3 are separated from the first level topology by the notation S in order to indicate that they belong to a different level of complexity.

Rhythm

Rhythm denotes the number of players, the style and speed of play. It can be considered to be a representation of the conditions of interaction between the participants, players or characters with the game and the timestep of the game itself.

For example, this may be governed by the number of players, the time-step of play and whether the game allows more than one player to participate at the same time (simultaneous) or is turn based.

For example, a game unit which facilitates simultaneous play S of X number of players, each player for a time tn can be represented symbolically as:
X—S(tn)

This is also depicted in FIG. 5.

A game for two players which allows turn based play T, and each player being allowed spend a maximum of 5 seconds before the right to participate switches to the other player, could be represented symbolically as:
2-T(5)

Actions

Each player has a number of different actions available to them when participating in a given unit of gameplay which, if performed, will alter the element of chance in the game. For example, a game comprising of two players, represented by P and Al, each having 7 possible types of actions could be represented by:
P7
Al7

This is also depicted in FIG. 6.

If we consider the actions to be expressed as operations which can be performed on a game entity to thereby cause that game entity to perform the action, it is apparent that each action may be expressed in an algebraic form to denote the mechanics of that action and the result of carrying out that action.

Thus, the above notation may be linked or associated with algebraic expression of some or all of the available actions. It then becomes possible to modify the algebraic expression in order to manipulate the action in some way. A change in one of the actions available to a player may have a consequence on the other structural elements of topology, rhythm and probability. The actual consequence on one or more of the other structural elements may therefore be represented by an algorithm, mathematical expression or rule. Thus, during the design phase of creating a new unit of gameplay, or during a process of analysing an existing unit of gameplay, the consequences of changing or modifying one of the structural elements in some way can be considered with respect to one or more of the other structural elements.

Probability

The notational representation of the probability may comprise any metric, algorithm or expression which relates to the chance of a certain result (e.g. success or failure) being obtained.

For example, in the case of a game involving combat between a player and an opponent, wherein each of the player and opponent may fire shots to damage the other target, the following expression may be derived to represent the probability of killing the target:
X.M.II.D
where X is the number of combatants (on that side), M is the umber of chances to hit the target multiple times, H is the chance of hitting the target participant and D is the damage that can be inflicted on the target.

Thus, the probability of success may be represented notationally as shown in FIG. 7.

Example of Game Development

A specific example of how a schematic representation embodying the present invention may be used as a development tool will now be described.

FIG. 9 is a schematic representation of the structural properties of a unit of gameplay according to an embodiment of the present invention. The schematic representation has been named “Ranged Combat” and has been generated according to an embodiment of the present invention. The representation, which may be generated for visualisation on an electronic display device, stored on a medium for subsequent retrieval, embedded within an electrical signal or printed as a hard copy, comprises a notational representation 10 of the topology of the unit of gameplay, a notational representation 11 of the rhythm of the unit of gameplay, a notational representation 12a and 12b of the actions respectively of two participants, Al and P of the unit of gameplay, and a notational representation 13a and 13b of the probability that a particular result may be obtained by the respective player within the unit of gameplay.

The notational representation 10 of the topology of the unit of gameplay is actually a topological representation of an encounter between a player of the game P and a series of four snipers, each sniper being represented by Al. A different topological representation of the unit of gameplay is shown in FIG. 8, with each node C1 to C4 in part A of the topology shown in FIG. 8 representing an encounter with a different sniper. The topology can be expanded to a different level of abstraction, as shown in part B of FIG. 8, to represent possible states of engagement between the player and the sniper for each combat encounter C1 to C4. In each encounter, the player and the Al has two possible states of engagement, namely “cover” (wherein the player or sniper is not visible to) and “visible” (wherein the player Al is visible). Cover is represented by occupying nodes 1 (for the player) or 4 (for the Al) and visible is represented by occupying nodes 2 (for the player) or 3 (for the Al).

The topology shown in FIG. 9 represents a resolution of the topology of a single player encountering a pair of snipers simultaneously. Snipers occupy nodes 3 or 4 (each instance indicated by the subscript). The player occupies co-incident nodes 11,2 and co-incident nodes 21,2 with respect to each sniper (as is noted by the subscript). Thus either sniper may be in cover independently at any time with respect to the player and the player may also be in cover to one sniper, but exposed to the other.

Assume now that a games designer would like to provide a unit of gameplay which involves a series of combats and which is based on the structure shown in FIG. 9. He will decide on a number of initial gameplay conditions, such as number of snipers to be encountered on a particular path, the difficulty of succeeding on that path and the number of paths where sniper combat is encountered. Specifically, suppose the designer chooses to include 5 sniper combat encounters which are evenly distributed over two paths. The paths diverge after the encounter with the first sniper.

Suppose also that all weapons in the game are single shot and cause a damage D, worth 100 points, to the opponent (sniper or player). Snipers have a 60% chance of hitting the player. The player has a skill level which equates to an 80% chance of hitting the sniper. Both the sniper and the player have only one weapon.

It is possible to begin to analyse this scenario in order to find the specific difficulty associated with each of the two paths. FIG. 10 shows a topological representation of the possible points of encounter between a player P and each snipers Al. This has been resolved into two linear paths S1 and S2. FIG. 11 shows the probability of success at each stage in the sequences, based on the initial conditions of 60% and 80% hit chance of the player P and the sniper Al.

The initial analysis shows that the two sequences are identical. There is no notion of one of the paths having a greater difficulty which is not surprising from the initial conditions.

However, we can now use the notation to generate insight into how we might keep the same conditions, but instead change the behaviour of the snipers to see if that will make one sequence harder to complete.

Therefore, for sequence S2, suppose the snipers at point 3 and 5 can both fire at the player at the same time. Essentially we are unioning their local topologies. This gives us a new sequence S2′, as shown in FIG. 12. On first inspection this does not seem to be necessarily more difficult. This is mainly because the rule of success (i.e. the hit-chance or probability) as it is currently notated is not allowing a differentiation. However, if we could change the probability metric from a expression relating to the rule of success to an expression which relates to a rate of change, for example, the rate of change of the “health” of the player or the sniper as the number of endured rises, then we are able to see a clear differentiation between the difficulty of S2 and S2′.

The rate of change of the health of the player may be expressed as: Rate of Change of Health=Health/Rule of Success=number of actions to kill opponent

Thus, suppose at the outset of the unit of gameplay the player has 1000 Health points, and the Snipers each have 300. We also assume that the player has no way to recharge health (for the moment).

Then for sequence S1 and S2:

For the sniper 300/80=4 actions to ensure death.

For the player 1000/60=17 actions to ensure death.

So the player requires four actions to kill each sniper, suggesting that he will receive an average of 240 points of damage per encounter. Therefore in sequence S1 the player can expect to receive 720 points of damage. This is a high percentage of their health, but they are still alive.

For sequence S2′:

The player receives 240 damage points from the encounter of node 1, but at the unioned node 3,5 he has a different rate of attrition for at least the first four actions:

1000/120=9 actions to ensure death.

In this period he takes 480 damage points before he kills the first sniper at 3,5. He will then take a further 240 damage points to kill the last sniper.

In sequence S2′ the player receives an average of 960 damage points, close to the total health points available to the player. It is therefore considerably harder for the player to survive than sequence S1.

Now the designer has a real measurable choice. The structural representation has allowed him to consider the effect of difficultly, and the statistical outcome of success, by considering the outcome of allowing two snipers to attack simultaneously.

However, using the arithmetical example above we can show that the notation has clearly illustrated the choice, and allowed the designer to understand the situation and make an appropriate design choice.

Graphing Difficulty

We can use the previous example to illustrate how we might graph difficulty for a complex video game.

If we extend the length of the play space of the unit of game play, which could be named the sniper alley, simply to gain more data points for analysis, then we generate the topology shown in FIG. 13.

Using the same values from the previous example it is possible to generate a graph representing the difficulty of each sequence, as shown in FIG. 14.

With this graph we can gain some insight how the structure of the unit of gameplay may be adapted to change the difficulty of play. It is clear that the graph obtained for sequence S2′ represents a higher degree of difficulty of that sequence than the graph obtained for sequence S1. From this chart a designer would be able decide, for example, to adopt the difficulty of sequence S2′ by changing the topology of Sequence Si to match the topology of S2′. In other words he could decide to morph the topology of S1 to the topology of S2′.

Alternatively, the designer could perform a union of the two topologies to create a string of ten nodes and, furthermore, he would be able to predict that the graph would either have a steady progression at the outset then rising sharply upwards, or that it rises quickly then maintains a steady progression of difficulty.

In accordance with embodiments of the present invention, it is therefore possible to postulate how the structure of the unit of gameplay, in particular the topology of the unit of gameplay can be modified in order to change the difficulty of the game. Advantageously, this can be achieved without the need to write programming code or change the implementation of the game in a level editor. In particular, it is possible to modify a unit of game play by considering a morph or union of the topology of two possible sequences and to assess this with respect to the initial conditions, such as health of the player, in order to verify that the conditions are appropriate.

FIG. 15 shows an apparatus for generating a schematic representation of a unit of gameplay according to an embodiment of the first aspect of the present invention. The apparatus, generally designated 100, comprises a topology generation unit 101, a processing unit 102 for generating an expression of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay, a processing unit 103 for generating an expression of the number of actions available to a participant of said unit of gameplay, and a processing unit 104 for generating an expression of the probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant. The apparatus may be connected to a printer for generating a hard copy of the schematic representation of said unit of gameplay or to an electronic display device. Alternatively, the apparatus may be provided with, or connected to, a signal modulation unit for embedding information about the generated notational representation in an electrical signal. The apparatus may also be provided with, or connected to, a means for storing a notational representation generated by the apparatus on an electronic storage medium such as a CD-Rom.

FIG. 16 shows an apparatus according to an embodiment of the third aspect of the present invention. The apparatus, which is generally designated 200, includes the apparatus 100 shown in FIG. 15 and, additionally comprises a data receiving unit 201 for receiving gameplay information about a plurality of points of interest comprised in said unit of gameplay and the connectivity between said points of interest, the style and speed of gameplay, the actions available to a participant of the unit of gameplay and the probability that a particular result will be obtained by a participant when taking part in said unit of gameplay. The information is supplied to the data receiving unit 201 by means of a computer 300. The notational representation generated by the apparatus 200 is displayed on the electronic display of the computer 300.

FIG. 17 shows an apparatus according to an embodiment of any aspect of the present invention. The apparatus, which is generally designated 400, includes the apparatus 100 shown in FIG. 15 and, additionally comprises a difficulty metric derivation unit 401 for deriving a difficulty metric which is a measure of the difficulty of a participant of a unit of gameplay, for which a notational representation is generated by the apparatus 100, achieving an objective result of the unit of gameplay.

The difficulty metric derivation unit 401 derives said difficulty metric from information about the topology generated by the topology generation unit 101 and from information about the probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant generated by the processing unit 104. Furthermore, the difficulty metric derivation unit 401 may require information about the initial conditions of the unit of gameplay, such as the number of players, the number of opponents, the health of the player(s) and/or opponent, etc. This may be input to the difficulty metric derivation unit 401 by an electronic data input means (not shown). The apparatus may be connected to a printer for generating a hard copy of the notational representation of said unit of gameplay or to an electronic display device. Alternatively, the apparatus may be provided with a signal modulation unit for embedding information about the generated notational representation in an electrical signal. The apparatus may also be provided with a means for storing a notational representation generated by the apparatus on an electronic storage medium such as a CD-Rom.

FIG. 18 is a flow chart representing a method of designing and modifying a unit of gameplay according to an embodiment of the second aspect of the present invention. The method includes, at S100, a step in which a game designer, for example, selects the properties of a number of structural elements of said unit of gameplay to be designed to derive a plurality of candidate structural element properties. The structural elements to be selected by the games designer include: the intended topology of a plurality of selected points of interest to be comprised in said unit of gameplay, the intended rhythm of said unit of gameplay, the number of actions that will be available to a participant of said unit of gameplay; and the probability that an objective result will be achieved by said participant.

According to this embodiment of the present invention, at S101 a topology of the selected points of interest is generated, at S102 an expression of the rhythm of said unit of gameplay is generated, at S103 an expression of the number of actions that will be available to a participant of said unit of gameplay is generated, and at S104, an expression of the probability that an objective result of the unit of gameplay will be achieved by said participant is generated.

It should be appreciated that the steps S101, S102, S103 and S104 may be carried out in any order.

According to this embodiment, the method further involves, at S105, the step of modifying the representation of one or more of the candidate structural element properties comprised in the schematic representation. Then at S106, the consequences of this modification with respect to one or more of the other structural elements is determined. Steps S101 to S104 are then repeated to update the schematic representation or to generate a new schematic representation of the unit of gameplay being designed.

At step S107, the schematic representation of the unit of gameplay is displayed for visualisation on an electronic display device.

FIG. 19 illustrates the creation and modification of a schematic representation according to the method steps shown in FIG. 18. In steps S101 to S104, a representation of each of the candidate structural elements of the proposed unit of gameplay is generated according to the information input by the game designer at step S100. At step S105, the game designer is able to modify the candidate topology generated at S101 from the initial input data, to include two additional nodes. Then, at step S106, the consequences of the modification to the topology made at step S105 with respect to each of the other structural elements is determined and a schematic representation to include the consequential modifications is generated. Thus it can be seen that, as a result of the change in the topology of the proposed unit of gameplay, the number of possible actions available to each of the two players, P and Al, has increased from 4 to 7. At step S107 the schematic representation, before and after modification, is displayed for visualisation on an electronic display device.

Having illustrated and described the invention in several embodiments and examples, it should be apparent that the invention can be modified, embodied, elaborated or applied in various ways without departing from the principles of the invention. The invention can be implemented in software programs and data structures stored on portable storage media, transmitted by digital communications, or other transmission medium, or stored in a computer memory. Such programs and data structures can be executed on a computer, to perform methods embodying the invention, and to operate as a machine, or part of apparatus, having the capabilities described herein. We claim all applications, modifications and variations within the spirit and scope of the following claims.