Sunday, 13 December 2009

The elements of Game Design - Story and Character

Characters are essential to all books, TV, games and films as they drive the stories/action forward. Since we cant really be a part of the experiences especially in books we have to
rely on "viewing" it through the eyes of a character who we can relate with. Any character in any film or book relate mainly towards the "Human experience" suggesting what actually makes
us human. Its mainly done through the use of what we understand to be emotions, seeing a situation and a character behaving appropriately. Even films involving robots, animated kiddy animals
all still have this element in some form or another, things that we can relate to are the most important things making us respond to these characters.

Any medium of storytelling is all about the 3 major elements of the script, the actions and how the actors look/are described. To view the internal "feelings" of the character one of these 3 elements cannot be ignored, how they speak, how they act/respond and also what they look like - there isn't an all important element to a character. My personal preference of a story are those that have an amount of action, a section of mystery, nothing that is too clich├ęd and predictable and that makes you "feel" like you are in a believable world. Books/TV/Films that when I have finished viewing them that fill me with ideas and questions are the ones that I like the most yet there isn't a specific genre that covers all of that. Stories are the drive of all our lives, its just impossible for anyone to not have heard/ be interested in since our Lives are stories in themselves.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Looks like a fish, moves like a fish, steers like a cow

The gaming platforms that I have used are the Playstation 1/2 Dual Shock controller,N64 gamepad, Gamecube Controller, Xbox, Xbox 360 and a Logitech Joystick.
I cant say which of them was the best/easiest to use, from all games that I have played the controllers seem perfectly fine in my point
of view. The one which is questionable is the Playstation controller, the original (ignoring the dual shock) looked quite awfull in my oppinion. It seemed
quite lacking a *feel* of a gamepad and was quite "weak" compaired to the Dual-shock. During the summer I dug out my old Playstation and looked and felt the old controller,
I was quite suprised by it. I hadnt actually used or touched it for quite a few years and it was actually quite a lot smaller to how I remembered it. As a Child
the controller felt fine but If I, at my age tried when the PS1 was releaased I dont think I could have used the controller too well. It actually felt a bit too small and your
hands/arms were quite compact in a *gamer* position. Also the N64 one is also questionable since in most games people dont actually hold it the "normal" way and usually
have 1 hand on the half and the other on the right of the controller, the d-Pad I never really touched. Since Gamecube however most controllers felt the same, they wernt too bad to handle,
there wasnt a problem pressing the other buttons. The Xbox Original pad seemed the best when I got one, it was bulkier and just felt
quite comfortable and the Xbox 360, although smaller still has a similar feel to the original one.
And following from that I also think the Xbox 360 looks the nicest with its "hi-tech" shape and design.

The future of interfaces is hard to say really, Im sure there is some talk about a "Matrix" system where it takes part in a persons brain. Im unsure what to think of that because that
way it can mess with the most powerfull system of a body leading to medical problems. Of course there is also the argument that this may cause problems where people choose this
virtual world rather than the real one and decide to live in it, which can be understandable at these recent times but I wouldnt like this idea that much. It would be interesting what
could be possible but there is the fear of something going wrong which botheres me a bit.
I cant say if the gamepad/joystick is actually dieing but perhaps its reached its limit, they have evolved and grown over the years but generally they are looking quite similar, its like
cars now-a-days.

Abbey Pump station

Today I went to the pump stations event where they have the actual pumps steamed up as well as other gadgets from yesteryear. It was quite interesting and the thing that I liked the most was actually seeing these old pieces of technology working and moving. Seeing the pumps rotating in that room was a good feeling, the sound, the speed and the rumbelling/vibrations of these machines was a good experience. It brought so much life to it rather than being dormant and non operational as many museum pieces are. There was only 1 wheel in operation which was unfortunate, I would have liked to have seen it all going at once. Eitherway I liked this day out and it helped me artistically if I was to do another drawing of it, seeing how it all works together. It was a good sight and although I knew that it was quite a powerfull piece of machinary I was suprised at how fast It was actually moving.
It was a good experience and was also nice to see the other relics from this time period on display, in good condition and WORKING!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

"Max.. Dearest Of All My Friends.."

I believe that storyline is the most important aspect of a game, something to get you interested,
keep you playing rather than just for the sake of gunning down your next opponent. I like to think of the games that I play to focus on
a story as a film/book. The main thing that you can accomplish with games is to be part of an existence that you can choose what aspects to
look for. If there is an awful story it really degrades my experiences with the games, its almost as if I need a point for playing
rather than getting excited about getting a head-shot. However how the story is told is also greatly important which is where animation, sound,
music and emotional senses come into it. As iv mentioned before about you choose how you play based on a set of rules and events so in that sense the player
makes their own judgements on a story and so play accordingly. Not all stories exist in games that we play, the typical example I can think of is for example
Wii sports games where its purely based on skill as well as Pong, Tetris and similar ones. I haven't actually played World of Warcraft or really want to but the
MMORPG that I have played is Guild wars. There is actually a story that is told with a series of cut-scenes involving the character you created but it is not
one of the most "involved" plot line. I would imagine World Of Warcraft is similar in this sense where a lot of effort is put into cut-scenes but don't have a guidance
system moving from 1 thing to another and another as a book would do. I guess its all down to what the genre of the game is, Sport/puzzle doesn't have much of a story
3rd Person shooters and 1st person have a bigger impact on telling stories and so do RPG but not so much MMORPG.
I recently did a review-presentation on Call of Duty 3 and in that the point I was trying to make about it that it was an experience, almost like a "documentary-game"
which does have a story - based on actual events.

A strong storyline in a game does make a better game but what makes it or breaks it is also dependant on the way it is told and its technology for animation, models
and sound effects.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

"Enemy at the gates" Film

I thought this was quite a good film and a bit ironic since today I did my presentation on Call Of Duty 3, discussing about the time period which is where this film was also set. Followed a journey of a soldier soon to be destined as a sniper and the challenges that he and other soldiers go though. Soon it turns into a battle of the snipers, "Vasili" as well as a german general trying to find ways to take out each other. One thing that this film does well is that it clearly suggests threat, fear and the feeling of hopelessness with soldiers. There is a lot of noise which clearly emulates what would have happened during this awfull time in history.
I thought it was quite good showing the "Sasha" character killed/hanged, although it was an awfull thing it shows that war (even to the lesser involved) is full of tradgedy and lacks mercy which is a realistic scene during this period.
Was a good film I thought.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

An Introduction to Art Managers in Games

In industry the job title of Art Director mainly consists of a person to be the "visionary" in a game who's job is to maintain its visual standards and styles. (It also includes technical understanding). Their main responsibilities tie in with the entire style of the game as well as getting together and leading an Art team. It seems to be more of a managers role so their duties are put towards the entire aesthetic sections of a game. Its very much so a creative role indeed, from the extract that I read from 1 art director inparticulary its quite a stressful career needing a lot of effort, time and work.

It basically seems to be a career where again its deciding the game aesthetics but also about management skills. I would say that there isn't that much of a difference between being an Art director for a game or a film, its the same principal where its about whats seen and designed. With films its viewed in a set perspective dealing with camera angles and shots where-as Games are less restricted, where players can move around freely. It does depends on the game of course, I have seen some where the camera angle is set where the player must be in that specific area. Managing art is equally important in both areas.

It seems to be a very tough job to aim for, it takes a specific person I think to be able to actually consider going for this career. If I was to become one it would need continued sketches, drawings over a long period and experience from working with other companies. Its hard to specify exactly what would need to be done to get to that stage but defiantly drawing/painting and all the other master techniques are very important.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

From Pong To Next-Gen

For me gameplay (in video games) is specified by the controls, the interface, the virtual environment and how the actual game engine/models and textures work together to make the actual game. It varies with each game, some gameplay can be really tedious where its hard to control the characters or if there is use of a "game camera" that follows the player that doesn't work brilliantly. I think "good" game play depends on the person playing it, people have preferences for how things are done. Its strange that i have mentioned video games first subconsciously but there is of course all the older traditional methods of gaming with cards etc. Another thing that can be added to the list is also the rules of the game.

I dont think there are any major "leading lights" in game design, there are many genres in games now and there are many players who buy different sorts of games, I dont believe that there can actually be a "Best" games design company. There are certainly a lot of them, especially in America and Japan who all do different sorts of games. I dont even have a particular preference to a company.

Typically people would say that all games design happens in an office full of people who are allergic to sunlight or what ever nonsense, it may have been the case with the early games like Pong but I think that in this modern world, especially now it takes more creativity (unless your doing Programming) where you need to go out and research things that are true to life. To be in an office all the time just leads to a lot of stagnation in games design.

Its just impossible for 1 single person to work or lead a commercial game, there are so many sections of it for 1 single person to take all the responsibility for. These different genres that I mentioned earlier would need different design principals, no genres of games are exactly similar and yes different gameplay would be involved and need to be considered.

When im playing the main thing I look for is the gameplay over the other technical parts such as graphics, just how it works, and if the controls and other sections are logical.

Blitz Lecture

Blitz Lecture
Important of drawing in the game industry,

We had the chance to have a talk with a person from the Games industry about the techniques they use when producing games as well as artistic abilities.
Was interesting to see work which was submitted by the games company as well as students portfolio pieces which was good to see since even the work we have been doing on this course so far its developing quickly and its training us to have the understanding of shape,form and shading. This talk quickly gave me the insight that this was the right course that I am on as it teaches all the good sections in which employers and commercial look for and work towards.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

German Expressionist Exhibition

In the exhibition in New Walk there were many interesting pieces using different techniques to suggest form and contrast. A lot of the ones that I seen were solid black vs whites as if just quick sketches which technically give an rough impression anyway.
There was even a piece done by Kandinski, an artist I reviewed during my Foundation Art course, again it was only black and white but I still didn't understand exactly what the impression was of originally. It was interesting though since it would draw you to it asking you the question "now.. what am I?". Kandinski's style is quite technical but also abstract and I like this combination even though the actual image doesn't immediately shout out what its a representation of. (I still don’t quite understand what it was meant to represent)
This was the only Artist that I had heard of in that exhibition but there were also some other good pieces. One of them was done using oil paint of a scene in early 1900's in a forest walk with quite a few people walking around. The way that it was painted was quite roughly done and had quite a texture of its own with the paint. It was certainly a painting that you had to step back and look at to understand the form but it was there and it was well done I thought.
Another piece that I found quite interesting was "Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, Harbour at low Tide” which was a Lithograph that has the effect of watercolor and washes. Its form was quite curvy suggesting the wateriness of the scene. It easily gives the impression of 3 ships and the actual harbor itself, as its title suggests.

All in all it was an interesting exhibition with some good pieces.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Game Reviewing

As anything in this competitive world loads of work needs to be done in an increasingly shorter amount of time that also affects reviewers. If you think about how many games are brought out monthly, weekly gaming magazines and so on it’s an incredible amount of work and difficult to keep up with. These reviewers are there to give gamers an idea and grading on the game, graphics, sounds, game play, features and so on. They don’t have a lot of time to write about the games, not to mention playing them and so the reviews can give gamers the wrong idea about the game.

I don’t tend to look at gaming magazines or reviews that often, I would rather play the demos and make my own conclusions based on what iv seen/played. However rather than a gamer downloading loads of demos/looking at games themselves to judge, reviewers filter between the good aspects and the bad so the gamer doesn't need to.
(But reviews may be bias)

But anyway, reviewing is quite a big section involved in releasing a game and there are many games magazines produced with a huge number of games featured. The question of who pays their wages is difficult to say exactly but my idea is that the actual magazine company pays the reviewers for their contribution rather than the game companies.

For these reviews I think that having an actual ranking section for each element of the game is quite useful for a general summary for what the reviewers thought of the game. For me reading them this is one of the main points that I look at, then the main text then my conclusions brought up as I look at the screenshots/videos. This "New Games Journalism" examples are quite interesting its like typing up someone's journal of a day, reminds me of during my Foundation Art course where you are encouraged to write about everything that you thought about with research and the final pieces.

This style of games journalism is quite similar to how I written in my art sketchbooks and I quite like its style. It makes everything seem a bit more personal to the person, but for other readers it greatly depends on which person is writing it for it to affect them.

There doesn't seem to be anymore variations of game writing, its quite limited really to general reviewing as well as NGJ as I suppose its more popular to just comment on the game and leave it like that rather than having little fiddly bits scattered around. People who read things about the games generally want to have information describing it as well as some sort of system rating the elements of the game.

In my writing I prefer writing subjectively but in terms of game reviewing this isn't really fair as for someone to be bias all the time will not be to some peoples liking.

Monday, 26 October 2009

The 2000's

We are now in the 2000's and games have come along way since the very first console/game. There has been a growing market, many new consoles with more graphical and processing power allowing
more things that can be added to games and how many things it can handle. From the beginning of 2000 games have entered its "sixth" generation - each generation lasting about 5 years which makes
games at present (after 2005) the seventh Generation. During this period companies such as Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft spawned a new race of consoles; the PS2, Gamecube and the Xbox. I actually owned
a Gamecube and the Xbox since I was mainly interested in the Star Wars games which I seen on the Gamecube such as "The Clone Wars", "Rogue Leader", "Bounty Hunter" and "Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast".
(I also got a Zelda Game pack for the the Gamecube which contained Zelda Ocarina Of Time which I played for the first time and thought it was very well done). The Gamecube could handle quite a lot considering
that the game discs were quite small and its small stature made it unique and like the PS2 it used Memory Cards where-as the Xbox had an internal Hard Drive.
I bought the Xbox quite cheaply of Ebay in approximately 2004 which was A year before the Seventh Generation of consoles were released again mainly for the Star wars Games such as Knights Of The Old Republic, Halo and Fable.
With me nothing much changed and with Gaming I was mainly using the Xbox, Gamecube and The PC for the online game "Jedi Academy" which I still continue to play now with my Clan.
Games of this period were well done compared to the earlier consoles where It was basically "Pong" with 6 different backgrounds, the Genres were carried on from the 90's which allowed a wider range of different games and for
a Variety of ages and interests.
We are now in the Seventh Generation, close to the Eighth Generation which has spawned the Xbox 360 (which I bought), the Wii and the PS3. Main reason for the Xbox 360 was for Halo 3 but also some other Games which I had an interest in.
The Market for games is at its peak so far and there are many game companies spread throughout the world that deal with the production and programming of these newer games. There is now this pressure on game creation since a lot of people are going into it
who are learning similar skills and more and it is a very competitive area (but so are other things in this era..) but I believe that there will always me this demand for games as its attracted more people of different ages/Backgrounds into playing games
and the amount of games you see advertised on TV daily is quite incredible. The Game industry is moving with everything else in the world, forever growing and advancing and will always continue to. In the future its difficult to predict what could happen,
with technology changing and upgrading all the time we could see things like Virtual Reality, Sensors or objects to create sensations in our brains making the Game environment seem ultra realistic as though you were living what's happening and going on.
Similar to what'ss seen in the Star Trek series with the "Holodeck" feature which raises questions like peoplebecomingg so addicted to it that they choose the games over their career/families and even that is happening right now.
Its an exciting time but also there is the worry for how far the new technologies go and its consequences on us.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The "Middle Ages" Of Games

From the first ever games that were released developers have been gradually trying to enhance and advance the idea of computer games. For a fairly long period nothing much happened with games this could have been a "fear" or uncertainty in this new idea with what is and could be possible. As I have mentioned in my previous week about Ralph Baer and his experiments with a gaming system working with a television set, one of the most significant changes would be for these games to be played at home rather than at an arcade center. The technology being better understood allowed the developers to fit computer equipment into smaller spaces which even now is continuing with all these new iPhones, iPods and other gadgets. The first actual “consol” being able to work with a TV set is the “Odyssey” released by Magnavox and in 1976, 2 years later the “the first programmable home game console called the Fairchild Video Entertainment System” which started to use the Microchip. Games during this time could process more data and information and in a smaller system.

Then the new consol which was apparently quite popular the “Atari VCS 2600” which had games such as a ported version of the Arcade Game “Pac-Man” as well as “Adventure” which looks very similar in style to the Legend Of Zelda yet made earlier on and simplified quite considerably. This period was known as the second generation of games consoles and used a Cartridge based system, similar yet earlier on than the NES. Even so things were starting to quicken their pace in producing games and consoles, the 80’s were when things started to kick off. The creation of game systems such as the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and later on in 1985 the NES was finally released during the “3rd Generation of computer games”. Every 5 years the games consoles kept advancing and a new generation would be formed, the 5th generation consoles occurring between 1995 – 2000.

The first consol that I ever actually got was the Playstation although around other people’s houses I was playing a few games on the SNES. And the next consoles that I got were the Game Boy Colour, a N64 (which someone gave to me) followed on by the Xbox that I purchased several years after it was released.
I cannot specify exactly what has kept me interested in computer-games; during school and other things it seemed to be the thing to “look forward to” when I was back at home. I believe it was an area where you could go into this space that was a retreat from the real world and also where my friends and I could discuss and invite each other to their houses, making this small community with similar interests – Video games.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Computer Games began when?

Its a fact that information on this is limited as there are no official records stating everything exactly, I would say the formation of games was during a period where other things were being invented and discovered around the same time. From even the early 1900’s it seems that more of an effort was made to create and enhance humanities technical understandings and abilities to create.
From the sources a man named Ralph Baer was apparently the man who worked and created the first computer-based game. Reading through his history he went through quite a lot during the time periods he eventually came to the point where he was part of a Television company who was asked to build the best TV. He wanted to add the concept of playing games through television which his boss refused putting his idea on hold. He did come back to this and started building videogame prototypes. The question that comes to mind is the “why?” why would someone suddenly decide to make games to be played on television? It must have been quite a daring move but that era was based around neo-technology and its advancements, just to prove that it is possible.
Baer was German and Jewish and had an interest in technology, became an engineer and as an engineer his leading code was to create, test, repair and experiment with technology.

First games are listed yet I am not entirely sure about the first official one, as “computer games” is a large matter, the first in date;
1952 A.S Douglas – version of “Tic-Tac-Toe” on a computer.
1958 William Higinbotham – “Tennis for two”
1962 Steve Russel “SpaceWar!” (I would class as the first one)
Pong came after in 1978.

These are the main ones but others have been ever advancing.

For me the first game that I actually played was Crash Bandicoot at a friend’s house (yes I didn’t even play Super Mario first!) and since then iv come to play quite a few different things, moved onto games on the PC, Gamecube, Xbox then Xbox 360. The most recent “new” one, which I have played, is Fable 2.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

What is this thing called "Blog"?

In my opinion the people who write blogs who would like to show their skills/abilities and thoughts in a specific area as a constantly updating and changing log based on recent events and things created/discovered. These people as those who wish to speak to an audience (and to themselves) recording things for later use, I see them as individuals wanting to get their thoughts/ideas and comments across to other people. The people who enter things in blogs I would think that its only an individuals point of view but I'm sure there are blogs where its a discussion between a group, these people are those who are confident writing to an invisible "relative" audience and want others to view quite often keeping track of the life of the person. Its a personal space where people can share everything and anything that they experience and want to share with others.

I find it to be quite a strange thing really as its something that I haven't really done before, only in sketchbooks during projects but not posted so that everyone and anyone will read and see. It is a good opportunity to keep a record of thoughts even if they are not read again for a while, writing to me seems the best way to add current thoughts and ideas as mentally to record them helps justify them and can inspire questions like "Why do I think that?" which can then be explored. I'm not sure if I like the idea of anyone and everyone reading my thoughts but its just chance that people will be able to read and see them and if not for an invisible audience for myself it would be useful.