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.