Wednesday, 24 December 2008

I was forwarded this video today and thought it had to be posted on my blog. This shows how big an influence games are in the world today. Imagine if Hiltler played video games and got banned, well you don't have to imagine here it is..........

Merry Christmas

Sunday, 21 December 2008

F.E.A.R Pac Man

What is Game play? Well it seems that many people have their own perception of game play therefore there is no singular definition of it. The basics of game play are actually playing the game. My take on the definition relates mainly to the overall experience, game play is simply what makes the entire experience when playing a game.

Majority of people consider it to be the actual playability of the game. In most games, this would be something like:

• How does the character get from the start of the level to the end?
• What does he/she have to go through?
• What are the challenges and how does he/she overcome them?
• What happens at the end?

Part of this is correct but I believe that when discussing game play, attention has to be paid to the overall experience instead of what the player has to do. Rather than simply looking at say “How the character gets from start to finish?”, thinking about what the character sees, hears, feels and finds would affect the game play.

Taking Halo and F.E.A.R as examples;
In Halo, at the beginning of most levels Master Chief is thrown into a scenic landscape, level design involves having to explore which sometimes leads to having to find transport just to get through, battling enemies on route and solving story related issues. The player can choose how they want to play and can decide whether or not they want to skip past sections of the game or stay and fight the entire battle. The music in Halo constantly changes, at the beginning of a level there tends to be livelier music that makes the player want to jump in to battle. The middle portion of the game tends to fluctuate between calm to thrilling music and the End becomes tense and finally fulfilling. This is an example of a game that has considered all aspects of game play to achieve a constant gaming experience.
F.E.A.R is a good game but tends to follow a linear pattern and doesn’t consider music or visuals to be completely part of the game play. The character is thrown into a standard office building and has to fight enemies that lurk around the corridors. The graphics and environment are really well done but do not adapt to the rest of the game play. The environment doesn’t change and starts to become repetitive. The music tends to be eerie and chilling but after a while gets faded out since it remains with the same constant theme. It does change at times but only very subtly. F.E.A.R is good but repetitive and therefore the experience is always the same. Players generally want to experience more out of a game for however long they play and however many times.

Effective game play is down to the game design. The design documentation has to be perfect for the rest of the project to work. A good game designer can set the difference between an unsuccessful game and a successful game. Cliff Bleszenski or “Cliffy B” (as many know him), is a good example of a good designer. Cliffy B has almost revolutionized the way 3rd person shooters are played. Generally most shooters involve people running into battle shooting lots of enemies and trying not to die. Basic principal as simple as baking a potato, that’s until you put into a microwave and things just go down hill from there. Gears of War is just that, not a micro waved potato but a complex 3rd person shooter. Cliffy B introduced a new cover system by which players are forced into a large battlefield with tough enemies and are forced to take cover. The only way to defeat an enemy is to move in cover while slowly picking the very life off them. There are faster ways of killing enemies ranging from long ranged methods to up-close gear grinding methods. Gears launched the 360 back to the top with its release and was the most played game over live, this taking over halo 2 at the time. Other game designers such as Kim Swift have also changed gameplay using innovative methods. Kim’s Portal uses Valve’s Source Engine to create a challenging physics puzzle game. Its one of the first First-Person puzzle games to be successfully created that uses a new physics engine to its maximum capabilities. The design of the game is based around a simple Start and Finish, start the level and simply make it to the end. The challenging feature is trying to get past obstacles and navigating through the correct portal that you create. It’s like ignoring a GPS system wishing for it to just flip out on you. The game is rewarding since the challenges can only be solved by using common sense making the player feel smarter, that and the notion of getting cake. From what I’ve experienced from new games recently, majority of what is churned out seems to be the same as before. It feels like the game designers have picked up old design documentation and ‘sharpie’d’ up some changes.

Game designers have to be good at what they do but its still down to the rest of the team. It’s like having a good football coach only to have bog standard players, you need to have consistency within a team. A game designer has to trust that the art director understands what is needed and that the art director trusts that the art team also understands what is needed. Since majority of games today have exhausted most of what we can do, I feel that the next step is to take old game systems and change the way they’re played. Portal is a good example of this since it takes an old arcade puzzle genre and blends it into an FPS genre at the same time. I suppose it also works with games such as Wii Sports by which simple sports games are created but have the twist involving a new method of playing. I personally am fed up of playing games that are wrapped in new wrapping paper and would rather see new innovative games. I want a good solid experience that makes me feel like I’m playing a totally new game but a genre I can comprehend with. Mirror’s Edge recently did this for me since it’s an FPS (which I’m familiar with), but focuses mainly on the free-running aspect of the game. It relies on escaping rather than confronting enemies. Bye-bye WW2 games and hello styles like Mirror’s Edge.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Games Journalism

A new game is coming out in two weeks and I’m a student who’s practically broke but wants to play a new game. How do I justify buying a new game..?

Well usually people resort to a vast collection of text, reviews, commentary and video on games to decide whether or not a game is good to buy. Over the past few years, games have become a massive entertainment industry resulting in many people interested from different backgrounds. I remember when I was young and people considered me to be either geeky or a nerd for playing video games. Today it’s not so much since many people from famous to a kid in a basement are playing them. You can therefore imagine how much media can be churned around the very topic of games. Games journalism has become as popular as music and film journalism.

Who writes game journalism and why?
Well to put it bluntly, everyone can write games journalism but for different reasons. Magazine companies and websites are the main body of people who seem to contribute the most to journalism on games. As mentioned before, people don’t rely on the front cover and back brief on a game. For me, the front cover will only make me want to find out more about the game before I buy it. Where do I look? Well the Internet is one of the main places to find reviews for games since many websites are dedicated to presenting correct information about a game. Some websites do however exaggerate the overall perspective of a game just to make the game sell, but then again these are only a few sites that are mainly written by the general public who are usually fans of the game they are writing for. What I have noticed in the past is that games magazines tend to try and sell the games they are writing about where as magazines for teenagers and entertainment tend to give an overall review on the game without trying to over sell. The only problem with entertainment magazines other than the small section for game reviews, is that they mainly write about games that have reached media attention e.g. Gears of War, Call of Duty, Fallout, Brain Training, Nintendogs, Wii Sports and Halo. These games captured media attention and were displayed on bus stops, bill boards, buses, taxis, magazine pages, newspapers, websites and some even had a TV commercial. It’s very difficult to find a good single source for reviews since they will always portray an individuals singular opinion. I find it better to find other sources that are usually readily availible over the internet.

The New Games Journalism concept is a good concept when it comes to entertainment. Generally they make good reading material but don’t often sell the game or affect the overall outcome of the game. The content is loosly based on games and deviates onto other topics. Certain examples of journalism have proved to be effective for getting more people to play the game in topic but there are too few of them. Other forms such as Zero Punctuation from “Yahtzee” for the Escapist Magazine, break the boundary between selling games and just entertainment based journalism. Zero Punctuation release a short video on the latest game and review the good points and mainly bad points of the game. It’s done in a harsh way but often the points made are relevant to gameplay, visuals and storyline. This can affect wether or not you buy the game. Over all the best form of journalism for me is video jounalsim, similar to zero punctuation but also including interviews with gamers and design teams, demos and gameplay footage.

Remote Control My Brain

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic considering that it was deep and quite thoughtful. The other week i watched an interesting video from Horizon on Human 2.0. It talked about Moore’s law and how the law principle can be applied to the advancement of the understanding of the human mind. Moore’s law is a basic understanding of the trend in technological advancement (specifically computing) and how the advancement doubles every two years.

The program was setting a similar trend to the understanding of the human brain. It was said that the trend for our brains doubles every 20 years and in about 20 years from now we will have an almost complete understanding of our brains. With this understanding we would be able to achieve countless possible things some of which were mentioned. We would be able to create a computer that was as powerfull as the human brain, one that can think for itself. I found this almost fascinating but at the same time unnearving. A computer that can think for itself and relate like a human would be a powerful thing. It would be able to do many things a human usually finds impossible or too stressful and therefore be more reliable within a working environment. This sounds like a good idea for a business but what does it do for every day people who are now going to be out of a job. If a computer can think like a human and have emotion, what would that do for creative people who would currently have job security.

A powerful computer that can think for itself would be potentially dangerous since it would be able to form opitions and thoughts about certain things. What would happen if it went rogue, humans are flesh and bone where as machines are scrap metal. Would we be able to cope in a world run by free thinking almost sentient beings. Is the future going to be I-Robot, Matrix or Terminator? The program went into detail about research about effectivly simulating the brain to make it do what you want. They demonstrated the effects using a remote controlled rat that would be able to move in the direction the scientists wanted. The remote controlled rat is just stage one, we could always take it a step too far and start introducing them as the new Christmas Present for this year to even the next advanced fighting soldier. In relation to the title of the program, “Human 2.0” refers to the way in which we will be able to create a better version of ourselves once we know more about the human brain. But with new technology and knowledge comes a big price to pay and we have to be ready to accept it.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Wii fun or Wii lame

Nintendo is as far as I am concerned one of the best games companies that has ever existed. It has released some of the most groundbreaking characters in gaming history. Majority of the mascots we now see today are loosely based off of characters like Mario, DK, Samus (Metroid), Link and many others from Nintendo. Most of the mascots created by legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto (yes we should all know of him)………

but since the release of the Wii, the targeted audience for new games is now set to the casual market. Most gamers are finding that there aren’t many games aimed at them. Just look at Red Steel. I know Nintendo are making a load of money just by advertising for the casual market but it would be nice if they remember who their real fans are. I was looking forward to playing the Wii before it came out. I remember researching everything about the console and games. The moment I had my first go on it I was amazed the Wii mote. I remember playing Warioware Smooth moves and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Zelda was amazing, had a lot of fun playing it. It was entertaining, storyline worked well, game play was thrilling and well its Zelda. Wario however was fun for about two hours. It followed a repetitive pattern, which only got harder because the time limits decreased and each task had to be repeated more often. I found that the same principle followed through with Wii Sports as well. The games are good for a casual player who would spend a few hours a week playing rather than a gamer who would play for more that ten hours a week. Nintendo need to make more games for gamers, we need a new Golden Eye and Perfect Dark. The Wii needs new games that don’t just monopolise the Wii mote.
Anyways, here’s a good video of Shigeru.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Gears Of War 2
I must confess, I was bored during the weekend and decided to go round to Flat-19 (the flat above mine). We usually hang around up there seeing as it’s a bigger flat and the three who live there (Ben, Steve and Chris) are really good friends of mine. As many of you probably know, Gears of War 2 came out last Friday on the 7th of November. A friend of mine, Matt Thomas bought the game on the day. He spent most of the weekend playing it at Flat-19. So when I was bored I went there and found the copy lying there, seeing as we all share games anyway I decided to start a new game on a different file and see how far I could go. I love Gears and finished the first game on insane mode, so I started on hardcore (insane wasn’t unlocked). Eight hours later I completed it and felt so bad seeing as Matt hadn’t finished it, so I do apologize.

I do have to say that Gears lived up to its hype. I had bought Fable 2 two weeks before and thought it was a bit of a let down. What I felt was promised was not fulfilled. A new, larger range of weapons and clothing was supposed to have been included but I have only found the generic weapons and four full sets of clothing. I also found that there weren’t any new bosses in this version compared to the enemies in the last. I am hoping that the new fable will be better and have more to do in terms of fighting, I am fed up of fighting Hobbes all the time. Coming back to Gears of War, the storyline to the game has carried through well and is very engaging. The second game has fully matured and reached a new level that borders realism. The characters have individual story lines that make you care and Dom is finally a better AI companion, although he still runs straight into your line of fire.

Looking at the way the game ended, I am hoping that the film is going to go through and be as good as the games. I know there’s a large debate on game movies and movie to games. So far there hasn’t been a good transition between the two. Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butchers Bay has been the only successful movie to game so far and I suppose some would say that the Lara Croft movies were successful as well, but generally the two don’t seem to work. Look at Doom if you really want to compare. Gears of War looks like it will be the game that will break the transition between film and games. Seeing as Cliff Bleszenski is the executive producer for the film as well as being game designer for Gears, I think this time the film will take the game in consideration and follow the game path. Resident Evil is a good example of a movie franchise that does not follow the game franchise and although it was ok, it ruined the story. All in all I hope that the future Gears film brings as much success as the games. I will now leave saying play Gears of War it is amazing. I will now finally eat and play Horde on Gears of War 2.

Saturday, 1 November 2008



Well the final part to gaming history is the present and future. The largest change in the gaming industry today is the advancement of technology. During the mid 80’s up until today, the industry has become a global consumer market filled with all the possible ways to play video games. Considering that games first came out on arcade machines, today we can play video games on a range of different devices from the internet, consoles, PC’s and laptops, handheld devices and mobile phones. The industry is now at a level at which it can compete against other entertainment industries such as movie, music and magazine.

Looking at gaming today, the advances today have changed the way in which we play games. Remember how ten years ago when we wanted to play games with our friends, we had to see if they were available to come round. Today however with Internet and online communities we are able to play with our friends and other people around the world while sitting comfortably at home. As far as gaming goes we are now able to work in big teams formulating tactical ideas to overcome the challenges we face, all that instead of simple point and shoot.

Back in 1994, I remember playing on my friends’ NES fascinated by the square controller with a D-pad and four buttons. It was different to the keyboard and mouse used for PC’s. Looking at it now we have controllers that are ergonomically designed (excluding the original Xbox controller, it was far too big) with analogue sticks rather than a four way D-pad. The Wii provides a new way of input using the motion sensor allowing for a totally different experience. We also make use of microphones and cameras and other devices such as musical instruments (Rock Band) and dance mats.
With the new advances in technology comes a heavy price to pay. Looking back twenty years, a development company could finance a game on its on budget using one programmer or a very small team to make the game in a few months. Today it requires a large team of around fifty to well over a hundred to produce a game in more than a year’s time on a large budget of around £20 million. Developers have to outsource for staff and now need a publisher to fund the development of the game. Technology such as High Definition has made it harder for developers since games now have to be highly detailed which requires more time and resources. All in all it is becoming very expensive to make a game and publishers have to take a big risk when faced with a totally new game idea. Majority of publishers today are settling with sequel games and games based on movies, comics and other licensed property. Originality is being thrown out the window in many cases.

For me personally, I think the technology used today is at its prime. Graphics can get better and processors can run faster, but with the cost of having to make a game to meet the standards of the hardware, I think its going to become very expensive and companies will not see it as viable. I would like for the industry to go back to its roots and find better, more interesting ways to play and make games. Originality is the key to success and although it is a big risk, publishers should spend more time investing in new ideas rather than make a quick buck with spin offs. Braid was a game released this year for Xbox Live Arcade. It was designed by an independent software developer and was highly recognized for its simplicity and game play. The game is like any other Platform game but differs due to the environment and time control system. It really has to be played to understand its brilliance. It’s a good example of how an original idea can be developed using a small budget and team. I would love to play more games like this in the future. Games that are mentally stimulating and intuitively designed are more appealing than a generic FPS. I would love to have a system by which we were able to enter the digital world as a character and play a game as if it were real however I know they are considerable negative outcomes of a system like this. I think with games, they don’t allow a player to use what he already knows from reality and put it into a game. Majority of the time a game simply teaches you through practice only. Anyway before I get too deep into future technology I best leave it here and get a subway and play some guitar hero….

Middle Ages for Video Games

Homeward Bound

Well we know where games originated from my last post, but what happened next? What would define the “Middle Ages” for video games? It seems that before the mid seventies, most of the games created were made for arcade machines. If you wanted play video games, chances were that you would have to find a place with arcade machines. The games designed were mainly multiplayer games or games that didn’t really have a storyline. In 1972 the first video games console “The Odyssey” was created, which could be played at home. It was designed by Ralph Baer and released by Magnavox. At about this time, during the mid seventies the Personal Computer was also introduced. The concept of home gaming spun off and changed the gaming industry. People were now able to take gaming slightly more seriously and were also able to game more often. Single player games were becoming more popular and genres such as First Person Shoot’ em’ up, 3D shooters and Strategy games were being introduced. From 1977 to 1993, the games industry was dominated by single player games. ID software released Doom in 1993; it was the first FPS (First Person Shoot’ em’ up) to include a multiplayer system that allowed for several PC’s to link up over LAN. It was about the same time that the Internet became available outside of academic circles. Together with LAN gaming and the Internet, games were more versatile since the single player experience was present along with the multiplayer aspect. In my opinion I would have to say that the “Middle Ages“ for video games would have to be the period in which games moved to a single player experience up until the time at which they were combined with a multiplayer environment.

I remember the first time I played Doom, I was eight years old and it scared the living daylights out of me. It wasn’t the creatures that scared me but more the fact that they appeared from hidden areas and were able to sneak up on you. It wasn’t until Half-Life that I became extremely interested in games. I loved the way the game made you think in a logical manner. You would be stuck on a small part in the game for a while until you figured out a logical manner in which to solve the problem, which made the end result even more satisfying. Half-Life also had a good storyline that was easy to grasp and had interesting characters. What was up with G-man. The guy was everywhere but you couldn’t kill him or talk to him. Console gaming for me only really began with the Game Cube since my parents thought gaming was just a distraction and that it would not benefit my future career. I managed to get them to get me a Game Cube after playing on it at my friends’ house. The first games I got for it were Metroid Prime, Super Smash Bros Melee and Timesplitters 2. I loved Metroid due to its graphics and game play. It made you constantly move around while fighting and forced you to change weapons as fast as possible during a fight. Timesplitters was just a fun game and the challenges kept me playing. I nearly completed all challenges and still have only completed 72% of that game. A few of my close friends also had the game so we constantly challenged each other to see who could accomplish the most. Super Smash was more of a multiplayer game for us so we would play it when we all got together. I loved the way the game brought all of Nintendo’s best characters together. I loved being Link, Captain Falcon or Kirby. Anyway I think I’ve rambled on for ages now so I best leave it here and eat some junk and play some Fable 2...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Brief History of Video Games


Computer games are a part of modern culture, but does anyone know where they came from? I’ve been on many websites to try and find out where the origin of video games lies. It seems that many sites portray “Pong” to be the first video game but after a great deal of research it appears that the first concept of a video game came from a Cambridge University masters student. A.S Douglas was writing his PHD degree on Human-Computer interaction. He created a version of the classic game “tic-tac-toe”. The first game considered to be the first computer game was “Tennis for Two” since its was deigned on a oscilloscope. After Tennis for Two, many other games were created, such as “spacewar!” and “pong”. Pong was portrayed as the initial game since it was the first game created for commercial value. It seems to me that the initial concept of computer generated entertainment, surprisingly came from scientific background aimed towards breaking the boundaries of technology rather than commercial value. I always had it in me that it would have been for commercial value since I could not imagine a bunch of scientists deciding to design games for fun.

My beginning was far from many other gamers. Games were not seen as a beneficial part of my life, that being in the eyes of my parents. It was by chance that I stumbled on to games. I remember the first computer my dad got for the house. He needed a simple computer to run office. But seeing as I was in Kenya at the time, the only computer we had was a windows 3.11. It brings back memories. The computer had over a hundred games on it. The first game I played was chips challenge. It was a simple challenge based game by which the character found his way across the map picking up any essential items such as; flippers and heavy boots. I remember moving on to Prince of Persia, I really got into it due to the fact that my mum loved playing it as well. We challenged each other to see who could get far in the game. Well got to go get some Chinese and play Timesplitters 2 (classic)……

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Behind Pwning Noobs Online...

Blog....Well this is my first blog so not used to the concept. I would never have thought that I would be writing a blog. I’ve always been a more forward, face to face person and therefore I conveyed all my thoughts and opinions in person. I hope I can treat this more as if I were talking to a person rather than someone reading my thoughts. One way conversations feel like a dark cave that traps an innocent explorer and forces his emotions to spill out. I feel that I’m already creating a slight negative vibe towards the blog concept, so I guess I’ll start with who I am. I’m a first year Game Art student at De Montfort University. I think that explains a bit about me. I like art and video games, well that’s not all. As I’m sure all creative people are, I like things to do with culture, the arts, media and society as a whole. I prefer to draw and illustrate rather than to write. That’s why I’m not comfortable with blogs just yet. I like to be open and appreciate new experiences. The course i study seems to fulfil those desires.
The reason I’m writing this blog is because of my course. I was told that blogging would be an ideal replacement for essays. I suppose it’s to do with the overall personality of people who do a course like Game Art. I can’t imagine any arty gamers to like essays, they feel more like a chore. I will be posting more of these every week. Mainly to do with games and pwning noobs coz that’s just great. I think that’s all for now, got to go get hammered and play some halo.