For the last project that I’ll ever be doing for this class (bittersweet), I have created a joint-presentation with my buddy Melson ( http://conductr.tumblr.com/ ).
Speaking with a friend from Naughty Dog Productions (yes, the same guys who made the Uncharted trilogy), one of the most common things about designing video games is leaving the some of the most critical stuff last. What stuff is this? Sound effects and music. We take for granted the sounds that appear in games; the subtle shuffle of feet slipping on sand, the grunt from the character as he grasps a ledge, the simple stumble after landing a jump.
So too is music. Musicians must create all the ideas and emotional content, embodying the heart of the game with the least amount of information available. To keep things simple, musicians create loop tracks, the most famous being from the Mario and Pokemon games; whether it’s exploring the underworlds of the mushroom kingdom or just taking a nice bike ride, the music is catchy and respective of the action on screen.
As games become more cinematic, so too must game music evolve. In Metal Gear Solid 4, most commonly described as a “movie-game,” Hideo Kojima has captured the essence of the scene excellent camera work that is accentuated by the music by Harry Gregson-Williams. From the raging battlefields of the Middle East to the cold reaches Shadow Moses, each moment is exquisitely presented with a befitting soundtrack.
Finally, as the user, we have the choice in music that we listen to. I have plenty of friends who play music that they enjoy listening to while playing games; most recently in DOTA2. Music and game can be fitting in any situation, the most apparent example in Robot Unicorn Attack. Here, we will present the actual music and how some music can fit, while others won’t. It is important to recognize immediately what does and what doesn’t work. It is our hope that people will see this in our presentation.
As a follow up to my last post, I have played another set of games by Auntie Pixlelante, aka, Anna Anthropy.
A game taking place on Mars, you are the astronaut, stranded on the red planet until you can find a way to go home. At its purest form, it is a fully immersive exploration game. Many who have played the game have said that it is fairly reminescent to Metroid, another game that forces you to explore large levels with minimal outside assistance. With only your fits and your reflexes, you must traverse these levels, earning achievements along the way.
The game itself is again an 8-bit production, but done so well that it may rival some of the portable games of today. It is also quite forgiving - there is almost a checkpoint in every level screen. The music adds a layer of ambiance that gives off an omnimous feel of foreboding. Perfect a sci-fi inspired platformer - from this perspective, one can call to mind the original red planet shooter/fear inducer - Doom.
Lesbian Spider Queen of Mars
Released by Adult Swim, LSQoM utilizes a set level design. Unlike the other games that I have discussed so far, this game has level progression - meaning that the levels have a start and end. The challenge is to try and recapture all the slaves as the LSQoM, using spider-web like weapons to ensnare them.
Another facet of this game is its choice of subject. Upon seeing the character models and the brief narrative at the beginning, one can that this game follows the trend of BDSM. One not shy of sexuality, Anthropy has made a game that explored the carnal nature of man, while at the same creating something highly addictive.
A point must be made.
The character is again something of the sort that we would not discuss openly. However, we often find that players will embody the main character in other games. While the apprehension of this subject? Is it too taboo for games? Well, if that was the case, I’m sure the game would have been taken off sites long ago. By have a main player that exhibits the “negative” or “extreme” ideas of society, Anthropy has presented to us a society choice. We can enjoy this game: whether or not your morals or character agree with what is in the game is up to you. But if you cannot play the game simply because of the way the character is designed, should you not also feel that way about other characters? Why is it okay to play a womanizing British secret agent? Why is it okay to play turtle-hating Italian plumber?
Today I’m going to talk about Anna Anthropy, game designer and inspiration for those determined to beat the odds.
The first game that I would like to talk about is called Dys4ia (Dysphoria). An autobiographical game, Dys4ia is for players a simulation about the trials that Anna faced before considering gender-reassignment and subsequent estrogen prescription. While not challenging, the game provides a wide variety of hurdles to perform, while visually describing the sights, the sounds, and the time spent in what probably was the most challenging part of her life.
Gameplay itself is linear - it has moments that you feel like your in control, but ultimately, the end result is the same no matter what outcome you wish to achieve.
Visually, it reminds us of games of the 8-bit era; level design and character models.
When Pigs Fly
This game is a stark contrast to the aforementioned game above; it is completely non-related to her personal story.
In all likelihood, you may have heard the expression of “when pigs fly;” a statement that denotes an idea as rediculous. With this game, you indeed see this superfulous pig. However, you get to play the game as this pig. It is truly a lighthearted experience, and a forgiving game on that end.
It is also an 8-bit style game, but the level design, while linear, is indeed challenging enough. Rage-inducing, the game play is simple: make it to the next screen.
These games are a form of self-expression that has not been commonly found before in the medium of video games. Should these games exist? Are they using the medium correctly? These are questions I hope to answer.
However, we must also applaud Ms. Anthropy for her courage in creating games that essentially are games she would want to play. They are personal, they are simple, yet oddly enough, equally addicting as any other game you may have played before. The games still have the same principles of many of today’s games. They explore the issues of man, many of which we would not openly discuss in public. But as games, the message reaches a wider audience; the ultimate intent that this game maker wished to achieve.
More than just a simple platformer, Limbo reminds us that not all games in the market today must meet the graphical expectations of competing games.
A darker game to be sure, with death literally lurking in almost every imaginable shadow, the gameplay itself suffers purely from it’s linearity; therein lack of variety as to how to complete tasks or transversing the level.
Waking up in the middle of a forest, the main protagonist of the story must find a girl, later implied to be his sister, encounter a host of characters and creatures along the way. However, the lack of direct narrative has been criticized and praised.
Some reviewers have praised that point for its freedom in metaphorically telling the story, while others felt that the lack of characters to drive the plot forward during the second half left much unanswered till the game’s conclusion.
While playing the game, it was a challenge as well as a frustration to complete certain challenges. A bit unforgiving, the game restarts your character at a reasonable distance away from the spot where you died, but does not give you any hints as to how to complete the challenge. This leads the player to rely only on their wits, and subsequently trial and error. A good choice, but a confounding point of development.
All and all, the game was thoroughly enjoyable. Dealing with the concept of death was an interesting choice of subject matter, and one that went well with the film-noir style game art.
People in the world these days are bound to watch, read, or participate in an art form. In video games, that is very much the case.
If you haven’t already, a man by the name of James Rolfe, AKA The Angry Video Game Nerd, has posted rage inducing videos about the worst of the worst of video game history. While originally satirical, his series has taken on a new role as an informer to younger gamers about the ups and downs of the industry.
One series in particular really chewed on the gaming community in the wrong way was the Back to the Future video games. It is my hope to actually remedy the colossal mistake that the games had (Seriously? You never get to use the car? THE DeLOREAN?).
For this intro project, Donmelson and I will be experimenting with 2D platform design via GameMaker8.
The game will consists of 3 levels; most likely the 3 eras that the movies took place in. In each stage, the player will be collecting items (ranging from movie related bonuses to trash for the Mr. Fusion reactor).
At this time I have not decided if the titular characters Marty and The Doc will appear, and to what capacity; nor have I decided on what the car’s role will be.
As stated before, it is merely an experiment in design, so look out world for a sampling in the near future. Or is it past?
Sorry for the delay of posts.
Been a hectic couple of weeks.
Blitz posting for the next couple of weeks XD
Finally having a chance to write a post, I must digress that I did not have a chance to read this article, published 2 weeks ago, until this week. According to Ben Silverman, writer of the ‘plugged in’ column of Yahoo! News, 5 video game franchises of the last few decades deserve a hiatus.
Quoting Don Marquis, “a sequel is an admission that you’ve been reduced to imitating yourself.”
Inserting that quote was quite effective; it gives credence to Silverman’s argument, though hardcore gamers around may stress that some of the games on this list don’t belong here. Here’s my take:
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sega’s undisputed mascot for the last 2 decades, Sonic has come and gone, teasing his fans as much as his arch nemesis Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Dr. Eggman). The original formula of running through stages while collecting rings and power-ups was grip-inducing, eye-straining, but definitely fun. However, his last few games, among them one where Sonic has a werewolf persona, have been a bit of a headache. It’s been bad enough that Sega went Nintendo on it’s own franchise, making racers to counter the ever popular Mario Kart games.
Yes, we can rebuild him. Yes we have the technology. But just like the Dark Knight, people don’t need Sonic right now. Let him take a vacation, and come back refreshed in a year or two.
Quite honestly, if I had not played this game at my cousin’s house, I would never have laid a finger on the franchise.
Based loosely on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Japanese developed game has continually evolved in each installment. The first game of the series featured different warriors from the period in the one-on-one fight formula of fighting games. Later iterations of the game incorporated central characters to lead armies across China in an effort to unite the country.
The series has recently made it to it’s 7th edition, with another being developed for the PS Vita.
I’m in the same boat as Silverman, the game hasn’t really changed that much in the last few editions, with only graphical differences, interface changes, and different perspectives of past battles. When I played the game, it was nothing special; running around a giant map fighting hundreds of enemies with seemingly limitless strength.
If you have a God complex, then maybe this game is right for you, but I’m out.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
Maybe because I was never good at any real skateboarding, or maybe because I found games like this to be strangely isolating. I’ve never truly enjoyed these games. I’ve no problems with skaters or Tony Hawk. I just find going up and down a halfpipe to “nail” a trick leaving something more to be desired.
Final answer: It doesn’t matter to me if this game has another sequel. I won’t be playing it.
In many ways I felt this series married what I loved about stealth games with the open sand-box design. Most importantly, the story of the game itself, blending the Templar Order, Religion, Politics, and Technology, excites the mind with plot twists and “oh, wouldn’t that be cool if it really happened” moments.
Alas that this series too would need a brief retirement. I remember playing the first game of the series, and loving every moment of it until I got stuck on one particular mission, in which case I had to talk to the same individual repeatedly, hearing the same dialogue over and over again. Still, it was a memorable experience.
However, when the sequels started coming out, it seemed that the developers would turn this jewel into a trilogy, giving players 3 games to savor and delight over the slowing unfolding plot. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Instead, we’ve been given small stories here and there (Chronicles, Bloodlines, Discovery, Brotherhood Project Legacy, Lost Legacy, Revelations, and Multiplayer Rearmed), constantly teasing us for the conclusion of the story, which may or may not truly come to a close. Talk about milking a cash cow.
As much as I am excited about the release of the final installment, I resent the fact that the games have not innovated past animation changes and weapons. I suppose had the games not come out so often as they did, there may have been more hope for this series.
Yeah, I’m a bit jaded, but I don’t think the series can take a break (unless of course the company went dark about it for 3 years and churned out something amazing). I agree Silverman’s opinion that the series could use a break, but the conclusion is just around the corner.
I never really got into the hype of The Sims. For as long as I can remember, all I have ever heard about this game is the way people treat their character. From not feeding and bathing, to having excessive amounts of sex and parties, the characters of the game long ago stopped resembling people in reality.
In actuality, I thought this game was going to be another Sim City, and boy was I wrong. It’s interesting to see what people want to do with their lives, but I don’t see much differences in the way people have played these games. Again, it’s the graphics, interface, and sound that have changed; the formula hasn’t.
Another one for the hiatus mill for sure.
Wobbegong (Carpet Shark): 1
Bamboo Shark: 0
Over the week, I’ve had the chance to evaluate what I would like to dub, “The 8-Bit Gem.” With all the advances in technology, it’s nice to be able to play a game in the old style every once in a while.
Following tradition, Passage by Jason Rohrer is a game constructed around the basics of 8-bit game design (music, graphics, character and level design, and color scheme). However, unlike it’s predecessors, the game has a narrow field of view (approx. 1 inch high and 7 inches across). Much like how the early Zelda games encouraged exploration, so to does Passage push players “…to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Initially, players playing the game will travel to the right of the game screen. What players do not realize is the ability to free roam the map (dependent of course on the conditions that the player encounters). Eventually, you encounter a companion (a female character) to join you during your travels. Continuing on your journey, you notice that the characters are slowly shifting from their default screen position. Character design also shifts; your character begins as a vibrant young adventurer, but slowly he shows signs of aging, in addition to a slowly arching posture.
Eventually, you realize that the game is a reflection of life; if you just stay in one spot, life takes off even if you don’t play. There are hundreds of possibilities and decisions you can take (for example, you don’t have to take the companion with you), demonstrating that just like real life, the player can explore “life” as a single person (opens up the entire map), and as a pair (certain paths are restricted).
The game lasts only 5 mins, no matter how you play (nope, you can’t get an extension on life), but it is interesting how free the gameplay is . What can you do with your chance at life? Don’t waste it.