Saturday, 5 December 2009

An opinionated and long-winded rant! ENJOY =D

Games. Games, games, games. What makes a good game? The plot? The game play? Graphics?

As far as the plot is concerned, I hardly think it’s as black and white as: plot = good game, no plot = bad game, or vice versa. There are plenty of amazing titles out there which have little or no plot and keep people playing them time and time again. However, these games tend to be all but: RPG, action-adventure, first person and in some cases horror. Games that get their success without plot are usually fighting, or non serious games. Take street fighter and mortal combat for example. Although, both have manga and an anime series behind them, as games, their background plot is completely irrelevant. Yet both have given me, my friends and many others countless hours of entertainment and laughter through competitive game play alone.

With non-serious games like the Overlord games, the Guitar hero/rock band franchises, plot is also completely irrelevant. In the Guitar hero/rock band games, plot is completely nonexistent, but the co-operative play and through the number of games the player clearly enjoys playing and listening to, the game is endlessly replayable. Although Overlord is an RPG style game, the pure stupidity and dark humour in the game make the game hilarious to play and quite addictive. Although the plot is there, it’s rendered completely pointless and easily forgotten in your mad rush to bash the next thing remotely cute.

On the other hand, which kinda threw a spanner in the works in my opinion, was in World of Warcraft how plot managed to actually spoil the game. Although I never really got into the game, I was a big fan of Warcraft 3, and rather enjoyed the story. For then the sequel game, as an MMORPG, a genre which I usually live on, to have a new story completely contradicts Warcraft 3 and its expansion was a big disappointment. Even people who claim to be the biggest fans of the game, just can’t explain the oddest of twists to me.

Thankfully, most RPGs and FPS games have a decent plot which I have come to love. Games which I just must mention and stand out way above the crowd for me would be Final Fantasy VII Abe’s Oddysee and the Original Fable. Both FFVII and Abe’s Oddysee had deep and completely original story lines in Fantasy and completely held my imagination. Despite the fact that FFVII’s typical Japanese fighting system is probably my least favourite of all time, that wasn’t enough to put me off from playing it over and over. Another thing which gripped me to this game, and also to Fable, was my connection to the characters. I didn’t realise the extent to which I felt like the characters where real until, Aerith in FFVII and your avatar’s mother in Fable died. When both of these characters died not only was a shocked, but I actually felt upset...sad much? Lol well it’s true. Deal with it.

On the plus side though, this kind of connection and depth of plot has been achieved in FPS games. For me, particularly the Halo franchise. Ever since Halo: combat evolved, I’ve been addicted to the plot, trawling through books, chat room theories and shedding tears of laughter with friends in the endless amounts of multiplayer game play to be had online. In addition, I noticed by the release of Halo 3, that I really didn’t want Cortana to die. For all I cared master chief could have died and Earth be destroyed, as long as she didn’t die I was happy. But gladly it didn’t come to that, but equally it didn’t have a clich├ęd ending that made me want to vomit, leaving my pleasantly satisfied after decades of war with the Covenant.

Even strategy games CAN benefit from an amazing plot, as previously mentioned, Warcraft 3 and also by Blizzard, Starcraft and its expansion Brood war. Though, equally, strategy games don’t really need to be fuelled by plot. Games like the Total War series are vaguely historical and have no plot as the game played different with every new game started. Equally however, games such as Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium wars, *shakes head* can have a plot so bad and pointless it destroyed a potentially good game.

To draw this thesis to a close, in conclusion I don’t think that plot is the be all and end all of a successful game by any means. It is completely subjective to the intended audience and genre. However, a poor plot can easily destroy what could have been a good games, just as much as boring and monotonous game play can.

Would Frodo still have taken the ring if he knew how "easy" it would be?

The title Art Director itself is somewhat deceptive. It’s about as simple as strolling into Mordor and casting the ring into the lava. Initially I imagined that an Art Director’s job, rather jobs, would involve managing a team of artists, assessing their work and progress and basically leading them to produce the final look and style of the game. In fact, in addition to that, they must: work with the project art manager to ensure goals and projects are hit within a budget; directly recruit a team, communicate art direction with overseas teams, personally resolve technical issues, monitor less-experienced artists, present the project’s progress to seniors and 3rd parties, on top of working on the development of the game himself. All of a sudden its quite a responsibility. I can imagine that unless you have a very compromising personal life, you wouldn’t have one.

Personally I’d much rather be in a less stressful position, maybe “intermediate” or “senior” Artist at the highest. I wouldn’t want phone calls, continuous meetings, reviews etc, to take over my creativity. I think if Art director was a position you wanted, then you would have to be willing to, live to work, so to speak, as appose to working to live. Primarily, the person would have to be patient, completely confident in their skills, a good leader and have the up most time management... something I haven’t exactly perfected.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A day in the life of a Game Designer

Though the role of a game designer is vital to the development of a game, and as interesting as it might be to come up with the plot for a game and the basics of its world and everything in it, the prospect of writing a 500 page document of my heart and soul for then the team avoid reading it at all costs and my superiors deciding whether to keep or chuck my book based on its weight made me oh so grateful that I choose Game Art!

However, although game designer’s write the basic components of the game, which artists’, animators and programmers need to skim read to know what they’re doing, the issues that arise by their work ultimately mean that the game designer’s document must be re-written several times in order to correct these issues. In a sense, once the designer has written the initial design, the team go on to lead each other.

Initially in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was possible for one person to design a game all by themselves. Though as games have become more complex, and the basics of level design are no longer basic: larger levels shrouded in plot tying in all the levels, difficulty changes and what goes with those changes . Thus specific levels designers are needed for this job alone. Game design now is no longer a one man operation.

As important the design and development job in the games industry is, it’s obvious to me that I would much rather have the pressure of scrawling character designs, concept sketches and 3D modelling than prodding a room full of people trying to make them make a game how I want it.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Yey for reviewing stuff

Today the biggest issue facing game reviewers has to be their leniency towarss the status quo. Traditional games journalism, although clinical in nature, serves the purpose of informing the intended audience of the facts behind the game: levels, character playability, items and plot outline, with or without spoilers. Having grown all too comfortable in taking appart a game trying to understand how it works, the introduction of the pivotal example of New Journalism "Bow Nigger", though highly offensive in title, was a well written and captivating example, though not necessarily appreciated by classic journals.

Although, traditional methods of review had been successful in magazines over the past decade, their objective and often over-zealous judgements under the pase they must work at, their popularity has begun to dwindle due to the growing popularity of gamers wanting to express their own experiences of games through the internet. With the internet now the number one source of information, New Journalism has become increasingly popular and threatans the standardised ways of assessing games.

New Journalism rejects the traditional means of breaking down the aspects of how a game is composed and how it came to be. It is less about the same and the experiences it creates for the gamer. New Journalism is linked in with the term "travel journalism". The idea that as appose to a journalism making a physical journey, their minds are taking a mental journey through a vertual world. The result is far more narrative, descriptive and more importabtly, includes the term "I" making the reviews subjective as appose to objective. Naturally New Journalism is far more opinionated, but gives a better insight to the gaming experience and the emotions invoked by decisions made by the player.

Thogu, if a reviewer was to combine both techniques of journalism, together with a standardised scoring system with which to mark each game, reviewing would serve both as a form of factual information and delightful reading which surely would appeal to a wider readership and help slow or stop reductions in game magazine sales. =)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Giygas

Its interesting how a discussion about an old game and its boss can snowball into hate filled controversy. In keeping with our blog subjects, a game for the Super Nintendo, Earthbound came up as topic of conversation, particularly the final boss, Giygas, dubbed as one of the most disturbing game bosses of all time, particularly for a children’s’ game. It’s pretty much a floating heat which giggles and makes funny noises upon strike and eventually warps into this translucent skull with a foetus inside.

After my own dark and emotional history of abortions, the Giygas discussion lead to probably one of my most hated pieces of art work. Me being me I keep all my internal instabilities to myself and express myself outwardly through my art. This time was no different, Giygas took my back to a place I wanted to forget, so in my haste I scribbled down what was in my head and referred it to the old chums at home. Think it’s safe to say that I pretty much took for granted how well they know and understand me. Not only did they know what I was getting at straight away, they knew how to cheer me up and not let my past get to me. One thing I’ve since realised I miss so much about home.

Clearly my big mistake was assuming that people here would take the same understanding, pretty much no one here really knows me, let alone had any exposure to my style of expression. I guess if I was in any rational state of mind I would have realised how over-zealous I was being by uploading it upon a single request to my DMU facebook profile. As much as I enjoy being on the receiving end of other people’s the contempt and being told I’m going to burn in hell by class mates, I think it’s safe to say that my ‘personal work’ file on facebook is going to stay pretty barren.

Think I’m gonna take this opportunity to thank the people who understood the concept of the image and didn’t just assume I was trying to get a reaction out of everyone. Oh how I look forward censoring myself in future.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Game History overview & Personal Gaming experience

History of Computer & Video Games.

As early as 1951, a TV engineer, Ralph Baer had the idea to add a new concept to TV: playing games on the television set. Finally some light entertainment releif after the past half a century of war, economic depression and growing communism. Thus the video game concept was born, but could not be implemented since his half-witted boss refused the idea. In September though 1966, Ralph came back to his 1951 idea of playing his games on TV sets and started building the first video game prototypes. Thank God! Rightfully so, Baer is accordingly credited as the inventor of the video game.

Although, Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann. designed the first game on a Cathode Ray Tube in 1947, graphics couldn't be drawn electronically, nor was there a video signal. So unfortunaytly, this doesn't count as a video game boys, but a vallient attempt as the first game designed for the CRT screen.

Taking a hop to 1959 and 1961 the majority of games were made in the United States by individuals with a lot of spare time on their hands as a hobby. As a result, several graphical programs for the TX-0 machine: mouse in the maze, Tic-Tac-Toe etc. where invented. Plus in 1961 a group of students programmed a game called Space War! on the DEC PDP-1, an flashy new computer at the time.

Stepping forward to the 1970s, we saw the first and second generation of consoles. Impressive. 1971 saw the creation of Star Trek, for all the Trekkies out there, on the Sigma 7 minicomputer. And then came Maze War and Spasim which became pioneering examples of early multi-player 3D first-person shooters in 1974. Over in ’75, the first role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons was made on PDP-10. The birth of two of my 3 favourate genres within a year of eachother, ooo rah. .

Jumping towards 1980s saw rise of gaming computers, early online gaming, the third generation games consoles and a mahoosive new range of gaming genres . Due to its user smiley user friendly interface, being cheap as chips and compatable with existing console joy-sticks, gaming computers had initial success with the launch of the Commodore 64 in 1982. Tho introduction of 16-bit machines, along with dedicated sound cards in the late 80s saw a rise to a host of, lets face it, technically top-notch games at the time. Unfortunatly, their success was more limited than the 8-bit machines, but its not so bad because it was due to the acceleration in which games and their machines developed. In ’85 Nintendo went ahead and released the NES along with Super Mario Brothers which was, once again, mahoosively successful in the U.S. Equally Sega gained popularity in Europe, getting rid of joy-sticks, key pads and paddles with gamepads.

Personal Gaming History

I guess that brings up to the 90s, where my lovely little gaming life began. Though I didn’t really get into gamming until 1997, the first game I played would have been one of the Super Mario games, for the Nintendo (NES), around 1994, but being 6 years older than myself, it was pretty much dominated by my brother. Gladly I discovered the Saga Mega Drive, and Sonic the Hedgehog, which was released in 1991. Thankful for increasing popularity of household consoles, it was in the houses of friends that found other consoles and games and hand held consoles like the Nintendo Game Boy, that i began to develop my passion for games away from the risk of having the control pad wrestled out of my hands and locked outside by the brother. With the release of the PlayStation in 1994, it was like my holy grail. Through some conjoined nagging my both me and my brother, by Christmas 1995, by which point my brother was 'growing out of games', so I had a PlayStation which I fueled my new insatiable lust for games. But it was mainly due my being introduced to two games in particular which made me realize that I wanted to be a part of the gaming industry. The shifting of the Final Fantasy from Nintendo to PlayStation in 1997 with Final Fantasy VII, along with the creation of Abe’s Oddysee for PlayStation was what caused my reaction. Although, at the time of release I was far too young to understand let alone finish the game, it was the passion which these two games had sparked which caused me to return to them time and time again.

In contrast, the most recent game I have finished is Halo 3: ODST, released 22nd September 2009 for Xbox 360. The fifth but not the last in Bungie’s Halo franchise which spring-boarded Microsoft’s Xbox to massive success in 2001. Between now and then, mobile games have rocketed onto mobile phones reaching 1/4 of all video gaming software revenues in 2007.
In 2001, Sony went on to release the monumental PlayStation 2 which became the top selling 6th generation games console. I mean come on, we all had one, it was the console to have. Plus Nintendo released the cute little GameCube, which pretty accurately suffered the reputation of being a child’s console and lacked serious games. But a bit of a bash on SuperSmash Brothers: Melee was always fun. Yet, before the end of 2001, Microsoft released its first games console, the Xbox, which shortly after Bungie Studios released Halo: Combat Evolved, which went on to be one of the most successful console shooters of all time. (thumbs up)

Casual PC games and online play also became much more of a feature with Xbox live particularly Halo 2 which was massively successful and the growth of MMORPGs and Battle Net for RTS games such as Blizzard’s Starcraft and the Warcraft franchises.

In todays gaming generation, Nintendo has released their Nintendo DS and Sony had premiered its PSP in 2004, both within a month of each other. But Nintendo has continued to dominate the hand held industry by updating the DS in 2006 and releasing the Dsi in 2008. In 2005, Microsoft took the first step with the release of the Xbox 360, (hurah!) of which I only acquired in 2006, and Sony followed with its release of the PlayStation 3 (booo hiss) in America 2006, Europe 2007. These consoles were in fact the first consoles to challenge personal computers in power, at launch, and were considerably cheaper. What a golden age of gaming we live in

Although Nintendo was not expected to compete credibly at all, It surprised us all with the release and success of the Wii. The Wii was more powerful than previous Nintendo machines but has seriously lower technical specifications than both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Yet despite this, the console completely sold out over the 2006 Christmas season and for the next 18 months, becoming the fastest selling console in most of the worlds gaming markets. Nintendo then went on to capitalize on casual gaming with the release of Wii Sports and Wii Fit and continued the Super Mario Franchise with Super Mario Galexy which reached the “Best-of” list in 2007.

Both Sony and Microsoft have both been quick to notice how motion had revolutionized the way in which games are played and at E309, Microsoft presented Project Natal, inserting the gamer into the game itself. Boy how i look forward to Powning noobs with that. Then Sony presented their own motion controls similar to that of the Wii remote and nun-chuck a day later. *rolls eyes*