This is no exception, even more so because it will be relevant to my current work. Two posts by Dan dos Santos about basic image composition, the first one about value structure, the second one about temperature structure.
Those two posts struck a chord with me, since they clearly explain what I already plan to do in the therapy game I'm working on.
When it comes to games, adding depth to the composition is seemingly less of a problem, since the movement already provides you with that information. However, discerning objects you can interact with from the ones that act purely as set pieces is another question.1 The higher the player's velocity within the 3D space, the faster he has to parse the environment for clues – especially when the players are not able to influence their own velocity, which is the case in rail shooters. As it happens, I'm exactly making one of those, thus the need for an environment that can be parsed instantly.
Actually, this is quite old and Janina told me about it a long time ago, but it remained in my little box of ideas that still need to be processed.
So, Disney actually produced an iPad game for their Cars franchise – using actual toy cars, that can be dragged over the iPad screen, controlling the game.
Probably best to have a look at it:
What's interesting is the fact that the idea is not entirely new. Infocom had a similar concept named feelies, packing physical artefacts with their video games, some of them even necessary to solve the puzzles, acting as a sort of copy protection.
What fascinates me is the combination of a video game and a physical artefact. Not necessarily just a special controller, like Guitar Hero and co., but actual objects that are relevant to gameplay in some other way. I haven't exactly have an idea how to pull it off right now, but it is an idea I'd like to explore further.
Given the fact that I've produced a game that is all about bullying as my bachelor's thesis, I'm now more aware of the topic. Even more so given the fact that the game in its current form is still more a proof of concept rather than a proper game. Since I plan to finish and release the game at some point, I keep an eye open for any developments and insights on the field.
It is therefore extremely interesting to stumble on a recent study by Alice E. Marwick and Danah Boyd called The Drama! Teen Conflict, Gossip, and Bullying in Networked Publics. The authors argue that teenagers are wary to call bullying what it is. Instead, they opt to call it "drama".
Using drama, the teenagers are able not to get pushed into the role of the victim, instead staying above the situation:
Dismissing a conflict that’s really hurting their feelings as drama lets teenagers demonstrate that they don’t care about such petty concerns. They can save face while feeling superior to those tormenting them by dismissing them as desperate for attention. Or, if they’re the instigators, the word drama lets teenagers feel that they’re participating in something innocuous or even funny, rather than having to admit that they’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Drama allows them to distance themselves from painful situations.
Obviously, this does not solve the underlying problem. Bullying still happens, just by another name. Feelings still get hurt, and this needs to be addressed. Yet, it is something that I will have to keep in mind when developing the story further.
When there is actually something happening it the Swiss games' scene, it should be noted. Even more so when the game is
- available for free
- based on a clever idea
- and released without much fanfare.
Well, here comes the fanfare.
Roman Schmid (likely known to you as @bummzack on Twitter) created a Tetris clone for two, playable on your iPad, named Block Duel. It's not just your normal 1v1 game you know from the GameBoy version. You play on the same screen, one player with white blocks, the other with black ones – and whatever your opponent drops on his side becomes a hole from your perspective. It is, in short, a clever play on negative space – but what else could you expect from a person well thought in the arts of graphic design?
Apparently a common choice, as proven on various occasions (okay, okay, on two couples I know of). ↩
If it weren't for developers like [Defiant Development], you'd easily believe that creativity in the games industry is nearly extinct.
But those guys actually manage to take a really old and tired concept – i.e. a first person shooter – and spin it in order to make something else entirely:
A first person shooter.
Seriously. Hear me out.
Warco is a first-person game where players shoot footage instead of a gun. A work in progress at Brisbane, Australia-based studio Defiant Development, the game is a collaboration of sorts; Defiant is working with both a journalist and a filmmaker to create a game that puts you in the role of a journalist embedded in a warzone.
The game itself — the title of which is actually short for “war correspondent” — follows the story of journalist Jesse DeMarco. Players will experience the process of filming conflicts, going into dangerous situations armed with nothing but a camera. They will then edit the footage into a compelling news story. The scenarios range from intense bursts of action to quieter moments as you discuss the events of the day with fellow journalists in a hotel. Though the main mechanic will be filming the action, Warco is also very much about choice.
Well, this is how [WIRED] puts it, anyway. The developers obviously make it [sound a bit more dramatic]:
WARCO lets players shoot and record what they see ‘through the lens’ – framing shots, panning and zooming, grabbing powerful images of combatants and civilians caught up in war. They’ve got AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades – you’ve got a flak jacket, a video camera, and a burning desire to get the story.
The praise that Bioshock has received from other critics is – after having played through the game – definitely well earned. Even though I'm usually not exactly a very good FPS player, I managed to get through the whole game. And it definitely was worth it. The world building in Bioshock is excellent, be its embedment into the historical background, or the rich story that shines through at every corner, or finally the beautifully captured art deco architecture, which simply is a joy to explore and walk through.
Gameplay itself is reasonably varied as well. While some parts leave the player wondering whether they were just added to draw out game length1, the "magic" abilities one receives over time offer enough variation and allow the player to change his tactics over time.
Later in the game, some near-failure states are added: at one point, one continually looses maximum health, forcing the player to react faster. At another, the player isn't able to choose his currently activated plasmid. Not only is the game randomly cycling between the equipped plasmids, but between others as well, allowing the player to test out previously unavailable plasmids – and requiring him to change his tactics to deal with splicers every minute or so.
With Bioshock having distinct horror elements as well, sound plays an important element as well.
Even though they might leave this impression, all parts are able to tell some part of the background story, allowing the player to dive deeper into the world. ↩
Hidden deep in the trenches of Instapaper I found this little gem – as a matter of fact, this should be required reading for all game design students.
Over the last few years, I've been collecting examples of metagames — not the strategy of metagaming, but playable games about videogames. Most of these, like Desert Bus or Quest for the Crown, are one-joke games for a quick laugh. Others, like Cow Clicker and Upgrade Complete, are playable critiques of game mechanics. Some are even (gasp!) fun.
Since I couldn't find an exhaustive list (this TV Tropes guide to "Deconstruction Games" is the closest), I thought I'd try to pull one together along with some gameplay videos.
It contains such classics like Desert Bus, First-Person Tetris or You have to burn the Rope, all of which you should check out at some point.
Clearly, Fable II has to tell a story. Unfortunately, the designers are so intent on telling this story that everything else becomes secondary.
Fable II is the first game I finished after my vow to actually finish games I started playing. I thought it would be a good idea to write reviews of those games as well, as a way to analyse its strengths and weaknesses, as well as strengthening my own analytical eye.
Fable II is one of the games my brother left me when he gave me his Xbox 360. Since most games by Peter Molyneux are highly praised, I decided to give it a go. And indeed, the first impressions are marvellous. The world is lush and richly coloured. The game features a day-and-night cycle, resulting in breathtaking sunsets and sunrises. You clearly get the impression of a world of wonders, made for you to explore. This first impression is not entirely wrong; in fact, it is wise to keep remembering that later on.
Robert Yang kindly asked me to translate the article about my level design considerations for my bachelor's thesis game. I'm slightly afraid that he is going to be disappointed, since this is not so much a theoretical approach to architecture and level design in general, but rather my thoughts and motivations for creating the specific level architecture for my own game.
When starting to design the level, I considered the following points to be the main guiding lines:
With the game being a serious game and a bachelor's project, I have neither the time (now) nor the money (in the future, when, hopefully, I'll be able to finish and publish the game) to create a large, open world.
I seem to lack the skills to express myself currently, it seems. Looks like I have to explain myself after my previous post on female characters.
She has a point there, of course. It was never my intention to suggest that in the end product there should be gender neutral characters. My thought was more along the lines that writers should maybe care more about the goals and wishes and flaws of their characters instead of attempting to write a token "strong female character" (which usually fails).
If those goals and wishes and flaws relate to the character's gender identity, then yes, gender becomes important, and needs to be a part of the story.
Again, the example of Ellen Ripley is interesting. Ellen Ripley in the first film is indeed gender neutral to a degree. She has her own character, her own goals and flaws, but there is hardly anything that makes her more woman-y than the rest of the crew.
It's only in Aliens, the second film, where the character of Lieutenant E. Ripley has already been defined as being female in the film before that the plot actually deals with it – and in my opinion in a meaningful way. Ripley gets a new goal and is established as being a mother. A mother that at first loses her child (because of her being 57 years in hypersleep, her daughter has since become an old woman and died) and then finding a surrogate daughter in the form of Newt, the lost girl on the space colony.
So you know what I say? I say screw Strong Female Characters. What we need now are some Weak Female Characters. My arguments below the fold…
The arguments are solid, indeed. So-called "strong female characters" are usually1 perfect human beings: physically strong, clever, intelligent, incredibly good looking – but in the end, they need to be rescued by the dorky everyman, and then we are back at the damsel in distress.
It is incidentally also where Metroid: Other M went – unfortunately.
What the author of the article calls for are believable characters.
Good characters, male or female, have goals, and they have flaws. Any character without flaws will be a cardboard cutout. [...] They don’t have to be physically strong, although they can be (The Bride, the women from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Ripley, Sarah Connor, and even the half-naked Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop are strong Strong female characters).
In this article: In action flicks. ↩
There seems to be a new trend in town: games that found a way to deal with all that nasty, unpredictable human intervention in games – they do away with it.
There is Cory Arcangel at the Barbican, letting bowling games play themselves. (Nothing new, really, there has been a Lego Mindstorm robot playing Wii Bowling on its own for quite some time now).
Then there is the Figurine Mode of Super Street Fighter IV on the Nintendo 3DS, where you collect virtual figurines, and they will battle those of other players. All without the player doing anything – the fight actually happens while the Nintendo 3DS is in sleep mode.1
And finally, there is a new edition of Monopoly, where a computer tells you what you have to do. The reason why Hasbro chose to do so are rather hazy. Maybe American players are too dull to grasp the rules? Jesper Juul should be pleased – finally someone put an end to all that discussions about rules and inventing house rules and stuff that makes games so un-gamey ...
But seriously – Hasbro is clearly doing anything to take the player out of the equation. The game is played by the weird thingy[^batman] in the middle of the board, and the player is degraded to moving the pieces, because it's just a a computer chip, without attached robot limbs. Humans are better at moving small finicky things for their robot overlords anyway.
Some people are still waiting for the singularity.
So where is the fun in that, exactly? ↩
One of the reasons why getting into game design right now is so interesting is the fact that part of the business, of the creative process and of the production is still forming – and in a constant state of flux.
While on one hand, game production teams have grown larger in order to produce even more content (after all, many AAA titles boast to have 50+ hours playtime – which is 25 times as much as a normal action film), other people reduced their teams and are producing awesome games with teams of three or four people.
Jason Schreier over at Wired's Game|Life argues as well that games need auteurs: a single person with a vision for a game, as opposed to "design by committee":
Most games, like most movies, are a massive undertaking involving the work of hundreds of people. But many films — the best, some would argue — are driven by the central creative direction of a single auteur. No matter how many other people work on a project, auteur theory holds that it is possible for a single, strong creative vision to shine through. Bringing such a dynamic to videogames could result in stronger stories, more compelling gameplay — and fewer artistic and commercial failures that result from that well-established enemy of the creative process, design by committee.
And, which is even better, the industry is slowly adapting that as well.
The parallels and disparities between videogames and movies are endlessly debated, but there's one certainty: they both return, routinely, to the architecture of New York City. The most frequently filmed city in the world is also the most frequently modeled.
The canyons of New York are as useful for game designers as they are for film directors. If the decision is arbitrary, then New York represents a kind of go-to alpha city: the logical choice if you need a city at all. For film directors it's a grand and familiar backdrop, and the same bold geometry is relatively straightforward for game technologies to render. The grid-like topology, an added bonus, is easy for gamers to understand and navigate, too.
It seems New York is not just the alpha city, but some sort of blueprint for any western city, both for films and games.
I wonder whether Tokyo or Hong Kong serves a similar purpose in the east – any research on that out there?
Unfortunately the report was not satisfying at all. It was like looking for an intelligent crime story and ending up with CSI Miami. The whole show was just a show. [...] Panorama simplifies the Game-Scene to problem-kids and how they corrupting their family or social life.
Of course, the journalism is bad, the conclusions hackneyed – but it shows mostly one thing: games do make their way into (mainstream) culture, and just as with any new medium (like radio or TV or films or pop music, to name just a few), they are met with resistance and fear from the current generation that has not been socialised with that new medium. Even more so with games. After all,
[it's] a tremendous difference between watching games or playing them,
and that makes it even more scary.
No one denies that games can be addictive, and no one denies that games may be built upon such mechanics – but then again, even most board games use those mechanics, and no one complains.
The same goes with alcoholic beverages: obviously, it can be addictive; yet the times when politicians demanded a complete crackdown are long gone.